The Ultimate
Crossword Helper Library

I've scoured the Web and surveyed experts to find
the best crossword helper tools on the internet.
Here are the winners!

I've included a brief description of each tool so you can decide if you want to pursue any of them further.

Across Lite

Across Lite is a crossword helper application that allows you to view and solve crossword puzzles on your computer. It is the most popular choice for online crossword-solvers. Not only because it is so user-friendly, but also because it is absolutely FREE.

When you open a crossword puzzle in Across Lite you'll see a screen like this...

Across Lite - Crossword Helper

You fill in entries by simply highlighting the relevant slot in the crossword grid, and typing letters on the keyboard.

To speed up the process, when you select a clue in either the Across or Down panels, the relevant entry is automatically highlighted in the grid, and vice versa.

Across Lite can be used to solve crossword puzzles distributed in a special format recognized by a .puz extension. It is so widely used in the crossword industry that you'll find most websites offering online puzzles distribute at least some of their puzzles in the .puz format.

If you want to create crossword puzzles that others can solve using Across Lite, the online help has detailed instructions showing you how to format your puzzle as a text file, which can then be processed in Across Lite and output as a .puz file.

NOTE - Formatting a .puz file manually like this is a very tedious affair - the advantage being, of course, that it's free. If you are using the industry-standard Crossword Compiler to construct your puzzles, you can output to the .puz format automatically.

You can download Across Lite here, or read a little bit more about Across Lite here.

Crossword Compiler

Crossword Compiler is used to create the crosswords for most of the biggest American newspapers. It is also used to create the feature crossword puzzles here at Word-Buff.

Crossword Compiler - Crossword Helper

Crossword Maestro

Crossword Maestro is a very high-powered crossword helper dedicated to solving cryptic clues. It was built by William Tunstall-Pedoe, who is the Artificial Intelligence guru behind the widely acclaimed Anagram Genius, which I've talked about elsewhere.

NOTE - Actually, Crossword Maestro is also capable of solving standard, American-style, crosswords, however cryptic crosswords are its forte.

Here's a sample screen for the cryptic clue...

Laugh at round ends? It's tough (4)

Crossword Maestro - Crossword Helper

As you can see from the analysis window, the reasoning by which Crossword Maestro arrives at the correct answer, HARD, is un-nervingly human. Just in case you can't read the text in the screenshot clearly, here's the sequence of steps it uses to arrive at that conclusion...

HARD Confidence: 97%

  • 'It's tough' is the definition.
  • 'laugh at round ends' is the subsidiary indication.
  • 'laugh' becomes 'ha'.
  • 'at' means one lot of letters goes next to another.
  • 'ends' means to remove the middle letters.
  • 'round' with its centre removed is 'rd'.
  • 'ha' + 'rd' is 'hard'.

I find this is a great tool for learning how to solve cryptic crossword puzzles, because every step in the solving process is outlined for me (btw. it gets the right answer 75-100% of the time).

If you're a setter of cryptic crosswords, you can use Crossword Maestro to test the clues you've come up with to see if it can arrive at the right answers, before you inflict them on an unsuspecting human!

If you're into cryptics, Crossword Maestro is probably the best crossword helper you'll find.

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