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Word Puzzles User Guide

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Copyright 2018

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

May 1, 2018

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The mobile version of the app is not ready. Please test with a desktop browser.

Introduction

For decades, many have enjoyed enhancing their intellectual skills and relish challenges from crossword puzzles. Consisting of a grid of squares in which the solver enters answers to clues that go either across or down, crossword puzzles stimulate the intellect through, among others, clever clue interpretation, research, and learning interesting facts.
A typical puzzle includes two lists of numbered clues, one for answers that go across the grid, and one for answers that go down.
The grid contains blank and black squares, typically in a 15 X 15 pattern. The blank squares are where the answers go. The beginning of a clue is denoted by a blank square with a number indicating the clue for that answer. The number can refer to either an across clue, a down clue, or both.
In addition to the two lists of clues, every answer intersects with another, so common letters provide additional aids to the answer.

On paper, crossword puzzles provide portable, instant distraction, enlightenment, and stimulation. On a computer or mobile device, they become easier to obtain and more convenient to manipulate, and supplementary tools and connections to other aficionados or clubs for the serious solver abound. Best of all, the interface includes the possibility of accessibility.
The APH Word Puzzles web app employs universal design concepts to provide effective tools for solving crossword puzzles no matter the users abilities.

Feedback

To provide feedback and participate in discussions about puzzles, universal design, and related matters, consider joining the email list for this product.
To subscribe, send a blank email to pz-subscribe@tech.aph.org. To send messages to the list, use pz@tech.aph.org.
If you want to participate in early testing, subscribe to the beta list by sending a blank email to pz-beta-subscribe@tech.aph.org. Send messages to this list by addressing them to pz-beta@tech.aph.org.
There is also a Feedback button in the About dialog you may use.

Start

To start solving puzzles, open a browser on the platform of your choice and type the following into the address bar:
wordpuzzles.aphtech.org

When you point your browser to wordpuzzles.aphtech.org, the browser shows you a puzzle ready to solve. To select another puzzle, activate the Available Puzzles control and select from a number of common ones to get you started, or use the Open button to add a puzzle you obtained elsewhere.

Notice the screen features a few buttons, a pair of lists of clues, one each for Across and Down, and a grid of squares in which to type the answers to the clues. There is also a combo box letting you select one of the included puzzles.
If you use Word Puzzles on a desktop with a screen reader, put the screen reader into the mode where you can interact with the web app. Some screen readers call this forms mode or application mode. Narrator calls it Scan Off.
Turn off the row and column announcements in your screen reader while using Word Puzzles. Crossword puzzles don't use these elements, and they can become distracting.

Available Puzzles

Word Puzzles comes with a selection of puzzles ready to use. The Available Puzzles combo box shows both the included puzzles and ones you add via the Open button. It shows the last 100 puzzles on which you worked with the most recent ones at the top of the list.

Clue Lists

As you move the selection in one of the lists of clues, the app highlights the appropriate place in the grid where the answer goes. (Activating one of the clues in either list also moves focus to the grid on the first letter of where to type the answer for the selected clue.)

The Grid

Note: to navigate the grid effectively, VoiceOver users on iOS should add the Rows option to the Rotor.
Once you add Rows to the Rotor, set the Rotor to this option when you start Word Puzzles. Rows lets you flick up and down to move vertically through the grid.
Flick left or right to move from square to square horizontally.
As you move from square to square in the grid, Word Puzzles announces the square number (if there is one) and any letter that may be in the square. It also highlights the clue associated with that square. To review that clue or any other, move to a numbered square on the grid and activate it. Word Puzzles responds by moving focus to one of the clue lists and selecting the clue associated with that square. Activate that clue to return to the grid ready to enter the answer or continue exploring.

Tips

At first, crossword puzzles can seem intimidating, but here are a few tips that can help make the experience enjoyable.

Number of Letters

Many clues include the number of letters in the answer. This feature depends on the individual that constructs the crossword. Even if a clue does not include the number of letters, you can determine this critical piece of information by counting the squares in the grid for where that answer goes.

Clues

Notice how clues are worded. If they use a tense or a plural or single, the answer follows that queue.
Some clues include a blank. These are often the easiest to solve. Most people, for instance, will know the answer to a clue like "Huckleberry _". You know it is not Finn, because there are five letters in the answer.
Screen reader users may wish to turn on punctuation announcements, so they catch these kinds of constructs in the clue set.

Answers

Some answers contain multiple words. In those cases, run the words together--do not add a space between words. The answer to a clue like "Ready" might be "fire away" but you write it in the grid as "fireaway."

Building on Success

Once you answer one or two clues, start working from the letters that intersect that answer. When you get additional letters in an answer, the clue can become clearer.

Another Person

It is incredible how two minds can think so differently. Try running a stubborn clue by someone you know. You'll be surprised how often they pop off an answer obvious to them that you never even considered.

Obtaining Puzzles

To add additional puzzles to solve, either create them with any tool that generates filetypes of PUZ or XWC, or download them from online sources, then open the file with Word Puzzle’s Open button.
New York Times crossword puzzle page features a number of free puzzles or you can subscribe and obtain access to their daily puzzles plus 20 years of archives.

Create

To create your own puzzles, use a program like "Across Lite": http://www.litsoft.com/across/alite/download/

Unfortunately, there seem to be no options for accessible interfaces to any of the creating tools. The next stage of the Word Puzzles project is an accessible creation tool.

Strategy

Screen reader interaction can vary slightly, so use the following as a guide to behavior:

The typical crossword puzzle includes a grid of squares. These squares are either blank or black. Blank squares are where you type answers. The answer can either go across or down. Some blank squares have numbers in them indicating the beginning of an answer space. Use the arrows to move from square to square in the grid. Select squares with numbers to move to the list containing the clue for that number. Select again from the list to move back to the grid.

When using a screen reader to navigate the puzzle, it is important to maintain awareness of the relationship of intersecting words. As you move through the grid, look at adjacent letters in the direction of existing words to find points of intersection. The letters from words already solved provide significant additional hints to unsolved clues that intersect with those words.

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