Meet Antony Lewis
Creator of Crossword Compiler

If you're familiar with the immensely successful crossword puzzle maker known as Crossword Compiler, you might be a little curious about the guru behind it. His name is Antony Lewis.

Antony was a bit shy about showing us his photo, but he was kind enough to set aside a bit of time from his busy life to answer a few of Word-Buff's questions...

I would like to do an interview with you about your very popular crossword maker for my visitors.

Sure, I'd be happy to answer a few questions.

Can you give us a quick personal description of yourself so we have a glimpse of the face behind the software?

I'm a 30-something British academic.

[Well, I guess I did say quick ... Word-Buff]

How long have you been interested in crossword software?

Since my last year of school (US: high school) - we had loads of time off to revise, and long holidays. Some aspects like grid filling are quite challenging programming problems.

Are you good at crosswords yourself?

Not really! I struggle to get anywhere near finishing a standard British cryptic, though I've never really had a go at American-style puzzles.

When and how did the Crossword Compiler project start?

I'd been amusing myself writing puzzles with the traditional way with pencil and paper. I tried out a few programs around at the time but wasn't at all impressed, so I decided to teach myself proper programming by writing a better crossword program.

Do you develop the software yourself, or manage it?

I developed almost all of Crossword-Compiler myself, though I had some freelancers working on the Crossword Solver, solving applet and website.

How many people are involved in your software development projects?

Usually only me and sometimes one freelancer, plus some helpful volunteer testers.

What spin-off products, if any, have come out of Crossword Compiler?

The WordWeb Dictionary/Thesaurus was originally aimed mainly as a dictionary add-on for Crossword-Compiler - now there are several million users of the free version.

What are you doing when you're not working?

Mostly eating, watching films or on holiday.

Do you work full-time on your word software, or do you have to hold down a normal job like the rest of us?

I'm an astrophysicist in my day job.

[So it looks like making crossword software really is rocket science ... Word-Buff]

Who are some of the big names (people, papers, websites, institutions etc.) using Crossword-Compiler?

I can't really give names, but almost everyone who makes published puzzles for the main papers in the US uses the program.

[When Antony says he "can't really give names", he means he's not allowed too. It's a competitive crossworld out there ... Word-Buff]

What is the most frequent criticism of Crossword-Compiler?

Not sure, if I get to hear anything that's easily changed I usually change it - the main reason why the program is so good now is because I've incorporated lots of really useful feedback.

[There's a forum set up just for Crossword-Compiler. Antony regularly gives advice and picks up suggestions there ... Word-Buff]

What is the biggest single advantage of Crossword-Compiler over competing products?

I guess that depends what kind of puzzles you want to make and what you want to do with them, though mostly that it now does almost everything people might want.

Got any exciting future plans for Crossword-Compiler?

The product is quite mature now, so it's mostly a case of incremental improvements and supporting new variations.

What else in your product range might interest the visitors of

WordWeb, Crossword Solver, and iPhone apps.

Great, I'll check them out and review them as soon as I can. Thanks so much for your time, Antony. And well done on a great piece of software!

No problem. I hope it helps.

If you'd like to receive more interviews, tips and techniques from the world of word games, just let me know below...

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