Puzzle Creation and Management Guide

Table of contents:

  1. Ten tips for creating a successful puzzle
  2. Multimedia
  3. Language support
  4. Advanced tips
  5. Editing a puzzle
  6. Managing your puzzles
  7. Publishing a puzzle
  8. Publishing a series of puzzles
  9. Terms of use

Ten tips for creating a successful puzzle

PuzzleMe makes it really simple to generate high-quality, engaging and interactive multimedia crosswords, wordsearches and quizzes. However, your clues and answers can follow some simple rules to ensure that puzzle solvers have the best possible experience.

  1. For word puzzles, keep your answers short, preferably 12 characters or less. This leads to a balanced puzzle. You can often shorten answers by asking for acronyms, last names, etc. You can also split multi-word terms into 2 answers, and cross-reference one clue from another. (See Advanced Tips below.)
  2. Use photos, videos or audio files in as many clues as possible. Experience tells us that including multimedia in at least a third of your clues creates greater user engagement.
  3. Respect copyright. Fair use permits limited use of copyrighted material without permission. But it's wise to use a creative commons search engine or apply a copyright filter when doing a Google image search. Wikimedia commons is an excellent and free resource for images. See this page for more tips. Make sure you credit all copyright holders in the attributions field.
  4. Be consistent. Make sure the answer matches the clue. For example, if the clue is singular, the answer should be, too. If the clue refers to the past tense, so should the answer.
  5. Be precise. For example, a clue asking "Where were the 1972 summer Olympics held?" could be answered Munich or Germany. If Germany is the expected answer, ask "Which country hosted the 1972 summer Olympics?"
  6. Be clear about which names of individuals you expect in response to a clue. First and last? Last? A simple approach is to outline your approach in your instructions at the beginning of your puzzle.
  7. Make sure media files are a reasonable size. Players may be on a mobile device with a weak connection. A good rule of thumb is to keep image and audio files under 500 Kilobytes and videos under 1-2 Megabytes.
  8. Ensure that Youtube videos are embeddable. You can find out by playing the videos after the puzzle is created.
  9. Theme the puzzle. Choose a strong image for the backdrop. Pick some nice sounds for correct and wrong answers (Free Sound and Sound Bible are good sources.) Choose a custom image for the empty cells so that it represents the logo of your publication or brand.
  10. Proof-read your text before making your puzzle public. The best approach is to have someone test-solve it for you.

Multimedia Clues

If a clue has hyperlinks embedded within it (http: or https:), the interactive puzzle will directly link to those pages when the clue is selected. Images, Youtube videos and audio clips are treated specially and played in-puzzle, as described below. Other types of links can be reached with a click.

If a clue includes an image URL (gif, png or jpeg), the picture pops up in the browser when the clue is clicked. For example, the line
Clue: Identify this university.
Media1: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cd/Stanford_Oval_May_2011_panorama.jpg/800px-Stanford_Oval_May_2011_panorama.jpg
Answer: Stanford
results in the clue: Identify this university. (Picture)

Common gotcha: You must ensure that the link points directly to an image URL; not an HTML page with controls for the image. For example, this is not a direct JPG link; even though it has a JPG extension, it points to an HTML page that contains the image. To get a direct link to the image, right click on the image and select "Copy Image URL". This will give you a direct link like this.

You can use embeddable Youtube videos in clues, which will be played when the clue is clicked. The title of the video is not displayed. You can also specify start and end time offsets to get to the interesting part of a video quickly, and to avoid revealing portions that give away the answer. For example, this Youtube clip will start playing 75 seconds into the video due to the trailing #t=75 and stop at 85 seconds due to the &end=85 //www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0&end=85#t=75
You can also use mp4 and other formats supported by HTML 5 and similarly specify start and end times for the video.

Watch out: Use the format #t=<seconds>; not #t=1m15s or &t=75

Update: Youtube seems to no longer support the &end parameter. You may have to truncate the video yourself if you need this feature.

Audio links (mp3, m4a or ogg) will be played with a native audio player on the solver's platform. For example, the input
This speaker's last name. https://https://ia800207.us.archive.org/29/items/MLKDream/MLKDream_64kb.mp3
results in the clue:
This speaker's last name.
with the following audio control when the clue is selected:

Audacity is a good tool for editing audio files if needed.

Hosting media

If a multimedia file you reference does not have a stable web URL, you can request us to host it for you. Audio from public youtubes can be extracted by sites like Youtube-mp3 or Listen to Youtube. Please ensure that the content is in the public domain or available under fair use. Also, keep the size of media files as small as possible. Keep in mind that your solvers could be on a mobile device in a remote area with a weak connection. The puzzle creator will provide warnings if your media files appear to be unreachable on the public web, or are too large.

Language Support

PuzzleMe support multiple languages in various ways:
- Clues can always be written in any language, and can even include emojis.
- The puzzle playing interface is currently available in several languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Hindi and Italian. We also support right to left languages like Urdu, Arabic, and Hebrew. New languages can be added easily.

PuzzleMe also supports multiple languages in the grid, including languages (e.g., Indic languages) in which a grapheme in a single cell needs multiple Unicode characters. However, you cannot use emojis inside the grid.

Multiple characters cells in answers

PuzzleMe allows multiple Unicode characters in a cell. This is also useful to specify "rebus" cells in American crosswords. To indicate multiple characters in a single cell, embed the characters in curly braces when writing the answer. For example, an answer written as FA{THE}R occupies only four cells (with the third containing "THE") instead of six.

Multi-character cells can be intersection points as usual. For example, if another word MO{THE}R is present in the grid, the cell containing "THE" is allowed to be the one where they intersect.

Multiple-character cells are very likely to be required in some scripts and languages, such as the Indic ones. PuzzleMe will automatically detect that the answer word is in such a script, and split up a word like माता into the graphemes {मा}{ता} spanning 2 cells. If you edit such a puzzle, you may see the word written as {मा}{ता} in the puzzle creator form, to indicate the way the word was split. You are free to change this split if you prefer a different one (but let us know if you see such examples, so we can improve PuzzleMe's automatic grapheme inference).

Multiple scripts can be embedded in a single world. For example "Shyamशामಶಾಮ್" writes a name in 3 different scripts, occupying a total of 9 cells; 5 for ASCII, and 2 each for Devanagari and Kannada.

Answers with multiple characters can be cross referenced as usual in other clues (see below). A reference to the the answer FA{THE}R can be written as $FA{THE}R$ in another clue. Multi-character cells with only 1 character are converted to normal cells; for example, FA{T}HER and FATHER are effectively the same.

Advanced tips

Improve Fill

You can improve the density in your puzzle grid by using words that intersect with multiple other words. The Improve Fill option on the preview screen provides candidate words for PuzzleMe to fit in an existing grid.

Formatting clues

Clue text enclosed within the tags <i>...</i> is italicised, and within the tags <b>...</b> is rendered bold. Parts of the clue text can be rendered as superscript or subscript with the ... and ... tags. You can use this to make certain parts of the clue sentence such as proper names (people, books, movie names, etc) stand out, or to emphasize a part of a clue. These are the only HTML formatting tags supported.

Referencing other clues in crosswords

You can cross refer to one clue from another using the notation $answer$. For example if the puzzle has a clue with the answer "Clooney", another clue with the answer "George" might be: First name of $Clooney$. If the first clue is placed at 3 Down, the second clue is displayed as: "First name of 3 Down". This technique can be used to break up long, multi-word answers into 2 or more clues. However, you should ensure that the layout does not change once these cross-references have been filled in, or you will have to enter them again.

Rebus puzzles

Please see the section above on "Multiple character cells in answers".

Creator warnings

To help you avoid mistakes, PuzzleMe will sometimes issue helpful warnings. While it is not necessary to fix all of them, it is best to address as many as possible. A common type of warning is related to unnecessarily large media resources: To ensure the best experience for all users, including those on a poor connection, use versions of the media that are under the recommended size.

Editing a puzzle

While PuzzleMe will generate a puzzle layout automatically based on your given answers, you may wish to edit the puzzle to improve the density of letters in the grid, refine the clues, etc. You may also need to manually transcribe a printed puzzle by entering it directly into an empty grid. In either case, you can edit the puzzle on the preview screen after logging in.

Here are five ways you can edit a puzzle on the preview page:

  1. Edit the grid and enter letters to form new words and improve the puzzle's fill. Try to add words especially in unfilled sectons of the grid to make it look balanced. To add words, choose "Edit Grid". Clicking on a cell allows you to change the letter in it. You can also click on and enter letters directly in the empty cells. While you are editing the grid, the clue area is blurred because the clues and clue numbering may be inconsistent with the words in the grid. Save the grid when done and PuzzleMe will recompute clue numbers and reassign clues for you. Any new words that have been formed in the grid will be initially assigned an empty clue. Note: You will lose any clues for words that are removed due to grid editing, so review your grid carefully before saving. It is also useful to keep a copy of your original clues handy.
  2. You can delineate words by assigning right or bottom bars on cells. A horizontal word ends when it meets a cell with a right bar; the next cell begins a new word, even if it is immediately adjacent. Similarly, a vertical word ends when it meets a cell with a bottom bar.

    Using bars can improve the fill of your puzzle because space for an empty cell is not needed between words.

  3. You can decorate cells in two ways: marking the cell with a circle or assigning it a background color of your choice. Some puzzle creators use this to mark a few cells with a meta-answer for the puzzle. If you do decorate the cells, be sure to indicate their significance in the puzzle's start message.
  4. You can mark a cell as void to indicate that its borders should not be drawn. This can be used to make a rectangular grid appear non-rectangular, or indeed to turn it into any shape. Empty cells that are void are not filled in when the puzzle is drawn. If you have a lot of black cells in your puzzle (especially at the edges), consider using this option to mark some of the cells void. Your grid may look appear prettier, and the number of black cells on the page is reduced. You can mix black and void cells in your puzzle as you wish. However do not mark as void any cells with letters.
  5. You can edit the clues. Choose "Edit clues" and click on any clue to change it's text, media URL or related link.

Important: If you have edited the grid, avoid going back to the Q&A screen and changing any of the answers. If you do, an entirely fresh layout may be generated and you will lose your painstakingly entered layout! However, you can go back to the Q&A screen to edit the puzzle metadata, theme options and settings, and then click the "Update Puzzle" button.

Pro Tip: To save a copy of your puzzle before editing, clone the puzzle with Puzzle Menu → Clone and work on the copy. You can always delete versions of puzzles you no longer need from the puzzle dashboard.

A limitation: You currently cannot enter rebus letters, i.e. multiple letters in a single cell, from within the editor.

Managing your puzzles

On the dashboard, you can see all the puzzles that you have created, preview and edit them and see detailed analytics about individual puzzles. You can also delete puzzles that you no longer need.

The dashboard displays one series at a time. If you have multiple series, you will see options to switch to other series. Normal accounts have a single puzzle series. Approved constructors (email us at puzzlemaster@amuselabs.com for approval) can have multiple series under a single account. Multiple series are useful when you want to separately manage and embed a family of puzzles, say, daily puzzles, Sunday puzzles, contests, puzzles by different constructors, etc.

The analytics accessible from the dashboard page include statistics and graphs on number of plays, score distribution, which words were answered/revealed, reference links clicked, etc. This information can provide useful feedback on user engagement. It also lets constructors know how people are solving the puzzle.

For puzzles in contest mode, see the play-by-play analytics for a ranked lists of all puzzle plays and identify the winners.

Publishing a puzzle

Once you create a puzzle, you can get an embed code to publish it on your website or blog. You need to login to the dashboard to get the embed code. The embed code is the form of an iframe, similar to how one might embed a Youtube video or a tweet.

Note: You can edit the embed code parameters according to your needs. At the least, the iframe size (width and height) must be set appropriately. The frame can also communicate with the page containing it (for example, to integrate with site advertising). There are many ways to customize the embed code with URL parameters. Contact us for more information.

Publishing a series of puzzles

You can also get an embed code for a series of puzzles. In this case, the embedded frame displays a puzzle picker and allows the user to choose which puzzle to play.

You can access series analytics from the dashboard page to see aggregate performance of all the puzzles in a series by hour, day of week, etc. This will give you a good sense of how users are playing the puzzles in this series.

The embedded puzzle picker only displays puzzles that are past their publish time (set up under the Settings tab in the puzzle creator). If you have embedded a puzzle series embed code in a public website, make sure you set a time in the future for new puzzles that are being edited or that are experimental; otherwise, the puzzles will be immediately visible in the picker on the website.

Pro tip: Do not edit a puzzle after it has become public and some people have played it. Doing so will confuse users, and cause problems for those who have played it partially. It will also make the analytics inconsistent.

Still have questions? Just drop us a line at support@amuselabs.com and we will reply to you shortly.

Terms of use

Non-commercial use

PuzzleMe is free for creating and playing puzzles for non-commercial use. As a puzzle creator, you retain copyright over your puzzle and it's your responsibility to ensure that any multimedia content that you host or use is under fair and legal use. (If not, the puzzle will be taken down.) You also grant Amuse Labs the rights to use and distribute the puzzle created on its platform for any purpose, with author attribution. Puzzles that are created without being saved into an account may be deleted after 30 days. Please see our full Terms of Use, which apply to all use of the platform. They do not apply to customers who have a separate contract with Amuse Labs.

Commercial use

To negotiate other terms, or for any form of commercial usage (including by non-profits), please contact us first at partnerships@amuselabs.com. We offer:
- An embeddable puzzle player for syndicated puzzles that you may already have from other sources
- Customized, white-labeled versions of PuzzleMe to serve your needs
- Premium support, API access and print-friendly formats
- Monthly subscription plans for you to create and run customized puzzles
- Puzzle creation services where we create puzzles for specific purposes or brand promotion.
- Per-puzzle subscription plans to keep your puzzles alive for longer than 30 days
- White-labeled, native iOS app to create and solve puzzles
- Services to create puzzles from custom data sources