Puzzles by Jeff Davidson


Who are you?

I’m a software engineer who enjoys puzzles of all sorts. I love speed solving and competing in crossword tournaments and puzzle events. I’ve tried my hand at constructing puzzles over the years, and while it doesn’t come as naturally for me as solving them, I hope I can make some enjoyable puzzles for others to solve. At the very least, I hope to write useful software and improve the software that’s out there for other solvers and constructors.

How do you construct these puzzles?

For variety crosswords, I use Qxw, which supports defining custom word paths for each variety puzzle type. It’s not perfect - it doesn’t support scoring words, and it doesn’t have a great way to enter two or more words in a defined sequence (e.g. a band in a Marching Bands puzzle), but it’s still quite helpful. I also write scripts to tweak my wordlist to make certain variety puzzles easier. For example, I have a script to generate all valid permutations of nine-letter words for the Turns in Twists and Turns puzzles.

My word list is built on top of Peter Broda’s and Mark Diehl’s (requires Facebook account and membership in the “Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory” group). Thank you to Peter and Mark for sharing these resources and to the administrators and moderators of the Facebook group for putting together such a great resource for new constructors!

I’m still a far more experienced solver than constructor, but if you have any questions about constructing, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

How do you create JPZ files for these puzzles?

JPZ is a flexible file format that can be used to represent many different types of variety crosswords. I’ve written web-based tools to generate JPZ files for each type of puzzle posted on this site which can be accessed here. The source code for these tools is available on GitHub.

If you have any suggestions for how to make these tools more useful or if you run into any bugs, please report them here!

What apps can you use to solve these puzzles?

I use XWord, an open-source cross-platform crossword app which supports JPZ files. It’s very customizable, supports all kinds of puzzles, looks sharp on high-density displays, and since it’s open-source, I’ve been able to contribute bug fixes and new features over the years to (hopefully) make it even better.

You can also try the Crossword Nexus solver if you don’t want to use an app - this is what I use to embed puzzles on this site, and the source is available here.

The original app for JPZ solving is Crossword Solver, which should be mostly functional, but is a bit antiquated and has some bugs.

How did you create this blog?

This blog is hosted on GitHub Pages and uses the Lanyon theme. You can view the source repository here - feel free to fork it to start your own puzzle blog!