...making Linux just a little more fun!

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The Geekword Puzzle

By Ben Okopnik


This month, in the spirit of "Making Linux a Little More Fun", I decided to try my hand at a Linux crossword puzzle. This presented a number of interesting challenges: for one thing, using a crossword compiler requires having a large list of words as well as a grid that matches that list to some degree (i.e., word length, common letters in appropriate positions, etc.) The Answer Gang kicked in several hundred Linux- and computer-related words; unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough for the hungry compiler beast - even though I spent a lot of time bending my brain around various grid designs. Perhaps that approach will pay off later; in the meantime, I decided to design a crossword manually, since I'd heard that some people consider this a fun activity.


The random twitching and the screaming in the middle of the night have abated somewhat by now, and the doctor assures me that, with a year or two of therapy, the other effects will decrease to a manageable level as well.

Originally, I had considered writing a bit of CGI to allow readers to solve the puzzle on-line, but rejected the thought very quickly; one of the most important guidelines here at LG is keeping the content static, and thus available to everyone. I also couldn't just crank out a nice JavaScript-enabled version, since those of our readers who use Lynx would be left out (other text-mode browsers - links, elinks, and w3m all render tables quite happily, although they will not allow puzzle completion on-line - you'd have to print the page and write your answers.) In fact, given the way that Lynx treats tables, it wouldn't even look like a crossword. On the other hand, to those who have a modern graphical browser, a simple ASCII-art layout would look - well, rather crude. Hmm, what to do?

I decided to get the best of both worlds by doing both (my wife and I share a common characteristic: when offered a choice of two good alternatives, as in "do you want to do X or Y?", we will usually respond with "Yes".) However, since I'm too... let's just call it efficient... to spend time laying out two different puzzles, I wrote a Perl script that reads a single input file which creates both. Thus, the Javascript puzzle is what you see below; the "printable version" link provides access to the (nearly) pure ASCII layout that is viewable with any browser. This solution satisfies my persnickety sense of The Right Thing, and should provide access to everyone (anyone left out for some reason I may have missed should contact me and let me know the details, and I'll do my best to include them as well.)

In any case, the result of all the cogitation, agitation, and meditation is presented here for your enjoyment; I hope you have as much fun... yeah, that's the word... solving it as I had designing it!

[ The solution to the current puzzle will be provided in the next month's issue. ]


* *

[ Crossword formatting and JavaScript via Alon Altman's cwd. The ASCII-art, printable version is available here. ]



1. Distro for over-50 women who wear purple
8. Encrypted, secure window glue
9. Systems group in charge of Linux (abbrev)
10. Igpay-atinlay anslatortray
12. Package converter from another planet
14. Abort TCP connection (abbrev)
15. Grave-robber's toolkit
16. The emergency virus response team, for sure
18. A very quiet CLI

2. PS in a capsule
3. The heavy-metal method of estimating disk usage
4. A computer language that's all show
5. Non-cron command scheduler
6. Set shell variables on a newspaper press?
7. A Free privacy guard
9. Where everything starts
11. C header file for interrupt handlers (without ".h")
12. A beautiful sound system for KDE
13. A party line protocol (abbrev)
17. Transmit (abbrev)

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang


Ben is the Editor-in-Chief for Linux Gazette and a member of The Answer Gang.

Ben was born in Moscow, Russia in 1962. He became interested in electricity at the tender age of six, promptly demonstrated it by sticking a fork into a socket and starting a fire, and has been falling down technological mineshafts ever since. He has been working with computers since the Elder Days, when they had to be built by soldering parts onto printed circuit boards and programs had to fit into 4k of memory. He would gladly pay good money to any psychologist who can cure him of the recurrent nightmares.

His subsequent experiences include creating software in nearly a dozen languages, network and database maintenance during the approach of a hurricane, and writing articles for publications ranging from sailing magazines to technological journals. After a seven-year Atlantic/Caribbean cruise under sail and passages up and down the East coast of the US, he is currently anchored in St. Augustine, Florida. He works as a technical instructor for Sun Microsystems and a private Open Source consultant/Web developer. His current set of hobbies includes flying, yoga, martial arts, motorcycles, writing, and Roman history; his Palm Pilot is crammed full of alarms, many of which contain exclamation points.

He has been working with Linux since 1997, and credits it with his complete loss of interest in waging nuclear warfare on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright © 2006, Ben Okopnik. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 129 of Linux Gazette, August 2006

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