(Version 8 – October 2009)



The ENIGMA program may help you when creating your new Crossword puzzles or solving those found on newspapers and specialized magazines.   The program is delivered with three dictionaries (base.diz, encic.diz and various.dic) but the user may increase the available words adding own Dictionaries.




*     File

*     View

*     Tools


*     Black or White CELL

*     Write ACROSS

*     Write DOWN

*     Clear CELL

*     Search ACROSS

*     Search DOWN

*     Search CROSS

*     Undo and Resume last Action


*     Anagrams

*     Thesaurus

*     Spelling


*     Running Actions and Results

*     Change Search Extension

*     Enable/Disable Dictionaries


*     Quick Switch between Across Down

*     Set Free Length

*     Set Standard or Extended Search

*     More on Mouse usage

*     Quickening the Search Cross

*     More on Dictionaries usage











The New… entry of the File menu allows you to create a new empty Grid, with the desired number of Rows and Columns (max 25 x 35).

Save and Save as…  entries allow to save the puzzle to an *.eni file. That crossword file can be later reloaded clicking the Open… choice.    

A click on Exit closes the program.



The Show Clue Numbers entry of the View menu flips Y/N the showing of red Clue numbers into the Cells.
The other three entries allow reducing, increasing or restoring the Grid dimensions on the screen (zoom). Notice there are some corresponding keyboard commands.


For the Free Cue, Extended Search and Search Reset of the Tools menu see ADVANCED NOTIONSIDH_LUNGHLIBERA.

The Dictionaries entry opens a secondary menu with two choices: Enable/Disable, which lists the available dictionary files and permits to select those you want, and see content… that lists their respective words.

The Enable MS Word functions, disabled for default, allow you to call directly from ENIGMA two Microsoft Word functions, if installed: Thesaurus andIDH_SINONIMI andand Word SpellingIDH_ORTOGRAFIA.




The following buttons, on the right side of the standard Tool Bar, are enabled only if any crossword Grid is displayed (from File menu, New or Open). When you click a button it appears “depressed” and the mouse pointer shows a corresponding shape when it stays on the Grid.


Black or White CELL

You will fill black the clicked Cell; if black already, then you will clear it. You can black both empty and occupied (with a Letter) Cells.



The clicked Cell takes a red perimeter and receives the first keyed Letter; any subsequent typing goes into the next Cell on the right, and so on.  Any existing Letter is overwritten.
The Grid border and Black Cells stop the writing; Black Cells may be skipped using the mouse or the keyboard arrows keys.


Write DOWN

The same function, but with top-bottom vertical advance.


Clear CELL

If you click a Cell, it becomes an empty white Cell both if contains Letter or a Black shape.




When you click a Cell, a red rectangle appears which extends over the adjacent horizontal Cells and the program fires a Suggestions query on the running Dictionaries for words that meet those written Cells and fulfill the empty ones. The current “SEARCH SUBJECT” is shown in the specific text box (where the question marks correspond to the white Cells).

Suggestions, if any, are displayed in the “SEARCH RESULT” list (with the identity number of the Dictionary each comes from). With a click you can transfer the suitable one to the corresponding area of the crossword Grid. And you can repeat the clicking as many times you want, until you are satisfied.

Instead, if the “SEARCH RESULT” list is empty, you can use the small buttons on both the sides of the “SEARCH SUBJECT” box: Free HEAD and Trim HEAD (to look for Suggestions that don’t use every starting white Cell or to try without just the first one) or Trim CUE and Free CUE (to try without the very last Cell or to look for Suggestions that don’t use all the ending white Cells).

The “Trim” operation can be done both on white Cells and on Cells showing a Letter; instead, the “Free Length” operation considers the white Cells only.

When you “Trim” a Cell the red rectangle is resized accordingly; when you try with “Free Length” (at head or cue side) the red rectangle covers the bounded Cells, while the released ones assume a green border.

The ENIGMA program doesn’t allow freeing both head and cue at the same time.

The Free CUE option may be automatically activated from the Tools menu (standard choice).


Search DOWN

 The same, but referring to vertically adjacent Cells.



Search CROSS

When you click into a white Cell, this function lists in the SEARCH RESULTS any Letter that may satisfy both the across and the down clues that cross the Cell.

A Letter can be transferred from that list to the Cell with a click, and then the across and down words can be queried using the Search ACROSS/DOWN buttons.

If the “Free Cue” option is activated (from the Tools menu), and there is no Letter that meets the entire length, the program will investigate gradually, shortening empty Cells on the cue side. In this case the SEARCH RESULTS list shows the solving Letters with the correspondent number of cue Cells to trim.


Undo and Resume last action

Using these buttons, any change on the crossword Cells can be revoked (Undo) and restored (Redo). The program is able to maintain a trace of the last 100 actions, and then a message informs that this buffer will be cleared to restart from zero.




These buttons act on the typed or already present word of the "TEST” box. Three kinds of search are available and their outcome will be shown in the “SEARCH RESULTS” list.



This function is not related to crosswords but can be useful for that sort of puzzles.  The ENIGMA program uses the Dictionary nr.1 (base.diz) only. The “SEARCH RESULTS” lists any existing anagrams of "TEST".



This function is useful to solve existing Crosswords.  The program uses the Thesaurus of Microsoft Word that must be activated from the Tools menu (it must be installed obviously).

The “SEARCH RESULTS” lists the existing synonyms and antonyms of the "TEST" content; a click on a list entry updates the “TEST” content and the search can be fired again.



This function requires that Microsoft Word should be activated too. The program asks Word to control with its Dictionaries the spelling of the “TEST” box content. When wrong, the “SEARCH RESULTS” lists some possible correct alternatives.


(not available).




Status Bar panels provide a trace of the running or possible operation, and allow aborting some one. Sometimes they duplicate menu commands.


Running Actions and Results

It is possible to abort the Suggestions Search clicking the panel showing "searching..." or "cross …” which traces the search progress.

When the Search ends, both regularly and aborted, the same panel shows the found Suggestions number.


Instead, when you are using the left side Tool Bar buttons, that panel informs about each Function result as in these samples.


Change Search Extension

The ENIGMA program can search Suggestions in two ways:  Standard (the search if stopped when the Suggestions number reaches 50) and Extended (the search examines all the enabled Dictionaries, completely.

The Status Bar allows to migrate from Standard to Extended Search, and vice versa, directly, clicking the panel that shows a single book (Standard) or more books (Extended). Otherwise you can use the Tools menu.


Enable/Disable Dictionaries

The Status Bar allows to activate/de-activate each Dictionary, directly, clicking the correspondent panel D2, D3, … (the activated ones appear marked). Otherwise you should use the Tools menu. The D1 Dictionary is a standard prerequisite and cannot be de-activated.




Quick switch between ACROSS/DOWN

When you are using the Write (Across or Down) function or the Search (Across or Down) one, and stay on the Grid, you can quickly change from Across to Down and vice versa without accessing the Tools Bar buttons: click the mouse right button.


Set Free Cue Length

If you activate the Free Cue option from the Tools menu, the ENIGMA program, when doesn’t find any Suggestion and, if the queried area ends with some white Cell, automatically fires new searches, disregarding one by one the last white Cells, gradually, until a possible Suggestion comes out.

If the Free Cue option is not selected, the “Trim Cue” small button, already seen on the right of the SEARCH SUBJECT box, lets the user to command searches on right-trimmed areas.


Search Reset

This entry of the Tools menu may help, if accidentally the program hangs-up during a faulty searching.


More on Mouse usage

You can use the mouse to define a Search Area different from the one the program builds, automatically, considering the clicked Cell and the limits from borders and/or Black Cells. You have to left-click and drag the mouse until a drawn blue area includes the desired Cells.


Quickening the Search CROSS

It may happen that the Search CROSS function requires long time. But you can tell the program to Try the Vocals only: keep Ctrl down while clicking the queried Cross Cell.


More on Dictionaries usage

Dictionaries: the ENIGMA program includes 3 Dictionaries. The Tool menu has an entry to explore the Dictionaries content; from that entry or, better, from the D2, D3, ... panels of the Status Bar you can temporarily enable/disable some Dictionary (nr.1 is always mandatory).

The Dictionary nr.1 is the base.diz compressed file with a basic English vocabulary (more than 45,000 entries).

The nr.2, encic.diz (about 15,000 items) compressed file, is a rough, simple encyclopaedia dealing with history, geography, animals, plants, medicine, and arts.

The nr.3 various.dic (very few items, about: world currency names, some literary terms, newspaper/magazine heads) is a text file that can be increased or used as a model for other additional user Dictionaries. The rules are: make alphabetically ordered lists, in upper-case, without numbers or special characters; store them into the ENIGMA same folder; give them the *.dic filetype extension.

The total amount is six Dictionaries (including the two with *.diz extension).



This easy samples guide you to the usage and understanding of the main Tool Bar buttons and Status Bar panels: try them, following these steps.


N1) From the File menu, select New and the GRID DIMENSIONS window pops up. Write: 10 (for ROWS) and 20 (for COLUMNS), and click OK. The program will display the entire Grid with empty Cells, but some red numbering is shown anyway.

To change the Grid dimensions select the View menu or, more quickly, keep Ctrl down and type + as many times as necessary, to enlarge (or - , to shrink or 0 , to go back to the original Grid size).


N2) Now you can start writing the first words you have decided must appear in the Crossword you are creating. A click on the Write Across button of the Tools Bar, one click into the first Cell of the first row (notice the mouse has changed its shape), and type “example”:  the writing will result upper-case and automatically will proceed from left to right.

To close the word, put a Black Cell at its end: one click on Black or White Cell button, one click into the appropriate Cell (notice the different mouse shape).

Now, make the word “enigma” to appear in the first Column: a click on the Write Down button, one click into the start Cell of the second Row, then type “nigma”.  As done before, you must fill a Black Cell where the word ends. You can notice that whenever you add or remove Black Cells, the program updates the Clues red numbering.   

In the same way in the 5th Column type the word “paint”, with its Black Cell at the end.

Suppose that “example”, “enigma” and  “paint” are the only three desired words you want to appear in your Crossword; is so, now you can continue trying to fill all the other Cells, using the program Search function and its Dictionaries.


N3) So click the Search Across button, and click on the 5th Row to fire the searching. The SEARCH SUBJECT box, just above the Grid, displays the content of the involved word area (that is the red rectangle in the Grid), showing the Letters already existing and as many question marks as the current white Cells. In the SEARCH RESULTS list, on the right of the Grid, two Suggestions appear: MEDITERRANEANCLIMATE and MEDITERRANANIZATION; the related numbers -2 and -1 mean the Dictionary each item comes from. Notice that the Status Bar (in the second panel) shows a “=2 too, to confirm the number of found items. Suppose you like the first suggestion: click it in the SEARCH RESULT box and it will be copied by the program into the red area of the Grid.


N4) Now click on the 2nd Row. This time something is different, because only the left cells (from N to A) are red surrounded, while those on the right , let us say the “cue”, have a green border; correspondingly the SEARCH SUBJECT box doesn’t show any question mark but only one asterisk.

It means that because the program hasn’t found any Suggestion filling the whole length (20 Cells), it has attempted a new search respecting all the existing Letters and question marks (the first 5 Cells), but filling optionally the green area (le right 15 Cells) with any length. That happens because the Tools menu displays “V” for the Free Cue choice; but you may change on/off the option whenever you like.


N5) In this case the Status Bar says =50 Suggestions. In fact 50 is the maximum number of items that you can get using the Standard Search; but when you wish to read all those derivable from the current enabled Dictionaries, you must work in Extended Search. To try that: click the fifth Status Bar panel that shows a yellow book: the picture changes to many coloured books; if you repeat the search click on the 2nd  Row, the SEARCH RESULTS list will be longer and the Status Bar will display more than =50.

Now suppose you to click on NIAGARA, to copy it to the Grid, but, when you look as it fits there, maybe you are not satisfied; no problem, you can try another one clicking something else in the SEARCH RESULTS list as many times as you like; try, but at the end choose NONTASTER; when you put the Black end Cell the SEARCH RESULTS list is cleared.

The item now chosen means “non-taster” (a person who has a lower perception of flavours, and taste sensation) and comes from the Dictionary nr.2, the simple encyclopaedia.


N6) Now go back to the Standard Search, either from the Status Bar panel or from the Tools menu.

For this sample purpose make Black the Row=4 Col=10 Cell (control the position displayed in the Status Bar fouth panel).

Now try your Search Across for the 4th row and apply GUYANA.

Click the Search Down button, click the 3rd Column that shows AN.YD: the program gives you 2 Suggestions. Among those choose ANHYDRIDE (name of a chemical compound, coming from the Dictionary nr.2). Click it and put its ending Black Cell.

For the 4th Column, you can intuitively imagine that there is no word suitable for all of it: so put another Black Cell following the couple MT and try a Search Down for the remaining part, starting wit AI: among the program suggested items choose AIRPORT (the picture here displayed corresponds just this moment).


N7) If you now click the Status Bar Undo last action: with the first click all the additional Letters RPORT disappear; with a second click clears the Black Cell added below MT and so on, respecting the last events sequence. And clicking more times the companion button Resume last Undo you can go forward the steps number you like. Try to restore AIRPORT into the right Cells and then go back again to AI alone.


N8) To change some Cells one by one you can also use the Tool Bar Clear Cell button; so cancel U and the first A from GUYANA and let G.YAN.


N9) Now try the Search Cross button: suppose you want to discover if there is any Letter to satisfy both the 30th Across and the 26th Down (i.e. Cell=R6C4). Click that button and click the questioned crossing: the Search Results list prompts “S (Dwn-2)”. It means that the Letter S fully satisfies the Across item but requires to shorten the last two positions for the Down one.  So click the “S (Dwn-2)” line in the SEARCH RESULTS list to transfer S to the Grid; try the Search Across and you’ll get AIRS, try the Search Down, select AISLE and put its Black end Cell.

To better understanding repeat with another crossing: try 23Acr/20Dwn (Cell R3C8): you get a rich list of possibilities (A, B, G, etc.) with and without shortenings. At the moment do not click the list.

If the searching implicates Across/Down with missing initial Letters, the Search Cross event may take a bit longer time. It is the case of 23Acr/8Dwn (Cell R3C9); try it and control the search Progress on the 2nd panel of the Status Bar. During the searching a click on that panel Aborts the action.


N10) It is time now to understand the SEARCH SUBJECT commands. Select Search Down and click in 24Dwn;  no matter now the list of Suggestions but look at the Search Subject box that shows ??N?????. Every click on the small < (Trim HEAD) or > (Trim CUE) button on the right and left of the box produces the trimming of a position of the corresponding side of the shown text; accordingly, on the Grid the red area is resized and the SEARCH RESULTS prompts a correspondent new list. 

When the shown text starts or ends with two or more jolly ? you can use the * (Free HEAD) or * (Free CUE) buttons to make the program display the results for any number of those ?; the question marks  of the affected side are replaced with a single * and, on the Grid, a corresponding green area appears (the two Free HEAD/CUE cannot be used at the same time).

Please note that the mentioned “Free Cue” Tool menu option (seen at N4), automatically calls the “Free CUE” command, so it is now clear the reason because an * at the right of the SEARCH SUBJECT text and a green rectangle on the Grid may appear.

NB – The Trim/Free functions are provided for the case when the Search with “full length” has no results.


N11) You have seen that when, in Search Across/Down, you click into a Row/Column, the program expands horizontally or vertically the search area until it finds the Grid border or a Black Cell. But, if instead of a simple click into a Cell you clic and drag the mouse through more Cells (a blue rectangle shows the involved Cells and the rectangle changes to red as soon as you release the mouse) the program fires a search for the drawn red area.

So, try with different pieces of the 24Dwn at will (the existing N must be always included, because the program does not work with only blank Cells); and have a look at the SEARCH SUBJECT box, as well.


N13) The rest to your fancy. No matter if you should change any part of the current content, to try new ways.



E1) For creating a file with the suitable Grid see the step N1) of NEW CROSSWORD CREATION. The following sample supposes you should copy a puzzle with 10 Rows and 10 Columns, coming from some newspaper.


E2) Then, as shown at N2), N7) and N8) above, you have to use the Black or White Cell Tool Bar button to fill all the existing Black Cells; then, using the Write Across and Write Down, you will fill whatever item you know by yourself. If necessary, you can correct and change everything with Clear Cell, Undo last action, Resume last undo (ax explained above).


E3) And now: how to answer what you don’t know?

A first help may come from Tools menu, and Enable MS Word functions. It is available if MS Word is installed and activates the Tool Bar Thesaurus of TEST button.

Suppose that 8-Acr asks “Spoken, verbal”. Write “spoken” into the TEST box and click on the Thesaurus of TEST button. The Search RESULTS list will show some synonyms (ORAL, VERBAL, VOCAL …) and it’s easy to understand that “oral” is eligible, because it respects the O and L existing Letters. So, click the Write Row button and fill the Cells to complete ORAL item.


E4) Otherwise, or in other cases, you can directly click on the Search Across or Search Down buttons and look into the SEARCH RESULTS list box for any item that fits with the puzzle Clue.

For instance, consider 1-Acr asking “Floor show”; when you use Search Across you get only one reply, CABARET that fits the meaning perfectly and can be transferred to the query place with a simple click.

More: if 1-Dwn asks “Odd fellow” and you use Search Down you get just two items, CRANE and CRANK, and the second is the right answer.

Using the E3) and E4) tecniques you will have a strong help for your Crosswords solving. 


E5) The Spelling of TEST button (activated at the same time with the Thesaurus of TEST button), may be used to control and give back the right spelling of any word you write into the TEST box, when you want to be sure about its orthography, before putting it in the Grid.


E6) Etc, etc.


E7) Finally, not related with crosswords solving but linked with word puzzle area, the first left button of the Tool Bar, “Anagrams of TEST”, may help you in those kind of games. For instance, write “name” into the TEST box and click the Anagrams button: you’ll get 3 words, AMEN, MANE and MEAN.


Have fun!


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© Copyright Giorgio Altichieri - 5/2004, 9/2009. All rights reserved.