How To Solve Crosswords

By | October 6, 2004

Italian computer engineers have come up with software that will crack crossword puzzles, according to Nature.

The program, called Web Crow, reads crossword clues, surfs the web for the answers and fits them into the puzzle. Computer engineers Marco Gori and Marco Ernandes at the University of Siena in Italy say a prototype should be available by the end of the year.

It’s not the first program to solve crosswords, Nature says. That was Proverb, developed in 1999 by researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, which uses a variety of databases to solve puzzles. Web Crow is the first to solve crosswords in any language.

The way it does this is analyse “the crossword clue and turns it into a simple query. Then it plugs the query into the internet search engine Google and uses a certainty score to rank the possible solutions in a candidate list,” according to Nature. It then “uses an algorithm to figure out which candidate words provide the best fit for the grid as a whole”.

Some of the technology behind this could be used for extracting information from the web, or organising schedules and shifts, Nature quotes Gori as saying. And of course he’s careful to stress that he’s not trying to take away the fun of solving a crossword.

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