About Qxw

Qxw is a program to help you create and publish crosswords. Here are some mini-screenshots to illustrate the kinds of crossword you can produce using it.

Get full-size versions of these screenshots here. Get the complete manual (PDF, 1.3 Mbyte). Download Qxw here.

Using Qxw

Step 1: create a grid

  • Make a grid in any shape and size from mini to jumbo, rectangular, hex or circular, on a Möbius strip or on a torus
  • Create grids with holes and irregular outlines
  • Use bars or blocks—or even a mixture of both
  • Dozens of types of symmetry including simple rotational symmetry and mirror symmetries as well as ‘left-and-right’ and ‘up-and-down’ types

Step 2: fill it in

  • Interactive or fully automatic filling of whole or partial grid
  • Use standard plain text dictionary files, several at once if you like
  • Choose words from the continuously-updated list displayed, or enter one letter at a time
  • Use letters or digits or a mixture of both
  • Apply any of the built-in answer treatments (ciphers including Playfair and Caesar, misprints, ‘letters latent’ and many more) or make your own by writing a simple plug-in
  • Put multiple letters in cells, and add ‘free lights’ for hidden messages
  • Have lights entered forwards, backwards, cyclically permuted or jumbled
  • Use the ‘hotspot’ feature to guide you to the areas of the grid that will be trickiest to fill in, and warn you if the grid becomes impossible to fill
  • Use statistics window to show distributions of light lengths, checking patters and more, updated as you edit
  • Highlight lights violating user-defined checking criteria

Step 3: publish it

  • Export the blank grid or the solution grid as EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) or SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), suitable for professional publication and easily printed, imported into other documents or converted into other formats, or as PNG (Portable Network Graphics) for web publication
  • Export the puzzle or the solution as HTML, ready for you to write the clues using an HTML editor or any text editor
  • Export the answer list as a plain text file ready for you to write the clues using your favourite editor
  • Save the crossword in Qxw’s native plain text format

How does it work?

Qxw screenshot

Qxw’s main window is divided into two parts. On the left it shows the grid being constructed, while on the right it shows a list of the words in Qxw’s dictionary that will fit where the cursor (the grey triangle in the grid) points. Clicking on one of these words enters it into the grid; alternatively, you can simply type a word in using the keyboard.

As you build the grid, Qxw continuously attempts to find words that fit. If it turns out that there are only a few possible letters to go in a certain cell, a red square appears to indicate a ‘hotspot’. The fewer alternative letters available, the bigger the red square. This helps guide you to the parts of the grid that will be trickiest to fill in. If there is only one possible letter for a certain square, Qxw automatically adds that letter in grey. The grey letters can be confirmed in the grid with a click of the mouse, eliminating huge amounts of trial and error.

The word list on the right only shows the words that are consistent with the rest of the grid built so far. For example, in the picture here, only five possible words are shown even though there are hundreds of seven-letter words in the dictionary starting with ‘T’. This is because the only across possibility in the third row is ‘ICIER’, forcing an ‘R’ in the third position; in the fourth row, only ‘NODDED’, ‘NODDER’ and ‘NODDLE’ are possible; in the fifth row, only ‘UPSEE’ and ‘UPSET’ are possible; and so on.

Statistics and rules check

Qxw statistics window
Qxw statistics window: entry histogram

A statistics window can be called up at any time. It shows the distribution of light lengths and checking patterns along with other general information. You can also see the distribution of letters in the grid. If not dismissed, the window will update dynamically as you edit the grid.


Any combination of lights or cells can be selected. This can be done via menu items (or their keyboard shortcut equivalents) or by holding down the shift key and clicking on or dragging over the desired cells with the mouse. Various of Qxw’s functions can be restricted to selected lights or cells.

The selection function can also be used to highlight any lights that violate user-defined checking criteria.

Automatic fill

At any point an ‘auto-fill’ function can be invoked that will attempt to complete the grid. Filling can be either deterministic (always producing the same fill) or randomised (producing a different fill every time). The auto-fill function can be restricted to a selected region of the grid. The auto-fill function is based on the same technology as Crux.

These features make creating a grid a very quick job. A grid like the one above can be constructed and filled in just a couple of minutes.


Qxw preferences window

The ‘preferences’ window allows you to configure various aspects of Qxw’s behaviour, including how it defines the notions of over- and under-checking.

System requirements

Qxw’s system requirements are modest. The Linux version should work on any reasonably modern Linux system; it is tested and the distributed 64-bit binary built under Xubuntu 12.04 LTS. A Debian package is available.

The Windows version should work on any machine running Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later. This includes Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

How do I get a copy?

Download here

Examples of crosswords created using Qxw are welcomed for inclusion in this website; sources will of course be credited.

This page most recently updated Thu 26 Jul 08:28:26 BST 2018
Word Matcher

Type a pattern, e.g.
into the box and click ‘Go!’ to see a list of matching words. More...

Qxw screen
Qxw is a free (GPL) crossword construction program. Answer treatments, circular and hex grids, jumbled entries, more besides. Release 20140331 for both Linux and Windows. More...

Practical Signal Processing front cover
My book, ‘Practical Signal Processing’, is published by Cambridge University Press. You can order it directly from them, or via amazon.co.uk or amazon.com. Paperback edition now also available. Browse before you buy at Google Books. Wydanie polskie.

If you find this site useful or diverting, please consider a donation to NASS (a UK registered charity), to KickAS (in the US), or to a similar body in your own country.

Copyright ©2004–18.
All trademarks used are hereby acknowledged.