Acrostic 3.0 Beta-Testers' Page

Newsletter for June

New features added:

New bitmap feature

Acrostic3 can now make a bitmap of your puzzle grid in almost anysize and with any font you want. This is a great help when it comes to sharing your puzzles. You import the bitmap into a Word file, for example, or use it on a website. (Example).

Pruning the dictionary

Another new feature is the ability to prune the dictionary of unwanted words before each "heuristic search." Each time you enter the search you are able to check words off which you know you will never use in a puzzle.. thus, over time, the dictionary files become fine tuned.

Along with this a new feature has been added to the Wordlist manager. This will take a sorted list of words and add them to the dictionary files. 


Acrostic Puzzle File Info Extractor program! 
Keep track of your puzzle files!  
Click Here!

Acrostic 3.1-beta Major Update!


Thanks to all beta-testers! Major Update has been sent out to all beta-testers.  All of your comments, reports and suggestions have shaped the continuing development of what I think is going to be the finest Acrostic puzzle maker on the planet! A great number of the new features in this update are directly the result of feedback I got from all of you! Keep it coming!

New Features in 3.1

1. Makes legal puzzles! You can now "legalize" your puzzles by making sure that no Quote word has more than one link to any Answer word. If you ever hope to publish your puzzles, this becomes very important. More about this later...
2. Precision File Save and Load - The program now saves ALL puzzle cell data and retrieves it accordingly. This serves the user's new complete control over letter distribution and cell mapping, and there is no longer any random function in the loading of a puzzle file. I made sure that you can still load all your puzzle files from 3.0, and when you save them they will be converted to the 3.1 format.
3. Letter Distribution feature - The puzzle grid (in "Grid" view) now functions as means by which you can swap the links of the Quote letters anyway you want. This can be used in many different ways. In can help to satisfy another preference of puzzle editors, that there be good (even) letter distribution.

This means, essentially, that each Answer word is contributing as much as it can to the solution of the Quote, and likewise each word in the Quote is contributing as much as it can to the solution of the Answer words. This could be called "balancing" the letter distribution. Bad letter distribution could make a puzzle frustratingly difficult to solve. Now you can swap the links around at will!

In version 3.1 you can see the mapping (throughout the quote) of all your Answer words. You can make sure the word is not all bunched up in a short region of the Quote and spread it out. And you can see the mapping of the Acrostic, making sure no word in the Quote has more than one letter from the Acrostic text. This means guessing the Acrostic contributes evenly to the solution of the Quote.

Another thing I have been thinking about lately is ways to make a puzzle easier to solve by selective cell swapping. The first theory I came up with might be called the "Bootstrap" technique. This involves linking the some easy answer words to the easy quote words. This would be help the solver get started quickly. The difficulty of getting started on most Acrostic puzzle is I thinks what puts a lot of people off them. Acrostics would be more popular if constructor's would map out in this way the opening links to give the solve a quick feeling of accomplishment. Most people think Acrostics are just too difficult to do: they are no fun for them. The cell-mapping tool can it possible to make your puzzle easier to solve, and you will have a happy solver! (And if you have made a puzzle which is just too easy to solve, you can likewise make it a bit more difficult by changing your cell-mapping)

4. Letter Frequency Setting

You can now set the letter frequency table to anything you want. This determines what are considered the most common letters, and the least common letters. This suggestion came from a beta tester in Wales who was making Acrostics in Welsh! That language of course has a totally different set of "common" and "least common," so this feature was added. The classic string is of course "ETAOIN SHRDLU" which was the letter order used by typesetters, with the most common the nearest to their hand. But as we see in constructing acrostics "W" and "H" show up more often in written text than they do in dictionary words. So I moved "W" and "H" into the "Problem Chars" category (the 11 least common letters). That way the program always reminds me to use up W and H.

5. There is a new item in the Tools menu "Reload Word Lists" - This used sometimes after doing the Heuristic search, which takes over the word lists.

I have begun work on a solver program which be part of the eventual package. This will allow the puzzles you create to be solved by someone. I am trying to think of the nicest way to do that. I just want it to be easy to use and intuitive. More on that later.

That's about all for now....