You Should Play: Crosswords

[These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.]

It’s a nine-letter word for “gridded, lexicographic puzzle.”

I never really got into the Sudoku craze—probably because I’m a word guy, not a number guy. Instead, my pen-and-paper brain teaser of choice has always been the crossword puzzle, though I certainly make no claims to being anything more than 7 on the Shortz scale.*

But I don’t always have a newspaper or magazine handy. Or sometimes, as is wont to happen, someone’s already filled out the puzzle in the in-flight magazine. For occasions like that, I don’t five-letter-word-for-freak-out: I’ve got Stand Alone’s fantastic Crosswords.

Yes, Crosswords is, as the name suggests, an app for doing crossword puzzles. But it’s also among the best apps for doing the puzzles on your iOS device. It supports a number of different puzzle sources, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Onion, the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday puzzle, and, of course, The New York Times (both classic and, if you have a premium subscription, current puzzles).

Crosswords also includes an optional timer, a specialized keyboard (with a Rebus key for those tricky multi-character answers), Game Center integration, leaderboards, integration with Facebook and Twitter, and more.

In case that’s not enough to convince you to take up the cruciverbalist arts, here’s some other things that Crosswords has going for it.

Pencil it in: Not sure about an answer? You can toggle to the pencil mode, which instead puts your letters in light gray. That way you can remember which answers you’re sure about, and which ones you’re only so-so on.

Hinterlands: When you just can’t figure out a clue, Crosswords can step in with some hints.

Need a hint?: Look, sometimes you just don’t know an answer—there shouldn’t be any shame in that. While you could forage via Google for the correct solution, Crosswords includes a number of tools that can gently help you out. You can check either a clue or the entire puzzle for incorrect letters (which are then highlighted in red) or reveal a letter, clue, or the entire puzzle. You can also peek at the whole puzzle's solution, or—if you just need a jumpstart—get hints from the crossword puzzle dictionary OneAcross.com.

Go paperful: I know, filling out puzzles on the screen just isn’t the same as doing it on paper. Fortunately, Crosswords supports iOS’s AirPrint, letting you print out puzzles directly from your iOS device to a compatible printer (or, using a utility like Printopia, to any printer or even a PDF).

Syncing sensation: My favorite feature of Crosswords is that it can actually sync puzzle progress between your iOS devices. So if you’ve been working on a puzzle while out and about on your iPhone, you can seamlessly switch to your iPad when you’re back in your living room. If you pick up the Mac version of the app, it’ll even sync with that too.

Puzzles-a-plenty: It’s nearly impossible to run out of puzzles in Crosswords. In addition to there being new puzzles every week, the backlog from the various sources means that you have hundreds, if not thousands of crosswords to choose from at any time. So the next time you’re prepping for that cross-country—or transatlantic—flight, just fire up Crosswords, download a dozen puzzles or so, and you should be pretty much all set.

* That, of course, being a scale of crossword solving I just invented, where I am at 7 and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz is at infinity.

Developer: Stand Alone
Platforms: iOS (Universal), Mac
Price: $10 (iOS), $20 (Mac)

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