APH Accessible Crossword Puzzle App Review

Update 9/4/2019

APH recently updated their APH Crossword  web-browser game. There are several noteable updates, including:

  • Letters are larger -  match the size of each grid square
  • The ability to open puzzles from free websites by simply supplying the URL to the puzzle
  • The ability to open New York Times puzzles directly (requires a subscription to the New York Times Crossword puzzles and previously logged in to the site)
  • Bug fixes

Screenshot of Crossword puzzle "5th grade state capitals by Rachel Bishop" with printed text that fills the square. "Sacramento" is 1 across.

Previous update includes:

  • Option to check the puzzle
    • Check a single letter
    • Check a single word
    • Check the entire puzzle
    • Check each letter as you type it
  • Hotkeys for many operations (desktop only, not mobile/tablet)
  • A menu that replaces all of the top buttons
  • Bug fixes

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APH has created a web-based app for digital accessible crossword puzzles! These puzzles are fully accessible on your preferred device - the puzzles can be navigated and solved using a screen reader. There are existing puzzles with academic content for 5th - 12th grade covering topics such as Science, Social Studies, Literature, Math, The Arts, Us History and World History. There are currently over a 100 existing puzzles available!

The crossword puzzle is laid out in a grid format, with rows and columns, similar to the traditional paper crossword puzzle. When focused on a box in the grid, the screen reader will announce the column and row number, along with the character if available. If the screen reader is focused on a black area (no box), then the screen reader will announce "black". With iOS, double tap on a box and a popup will appear with information the question associated with that specific box. The screen reader focus will be on the textfield. If you want to hear the clue again, swipe left. To hear the row number (across) or the column number (down), swipe left again.  To answer the question, make sure the textfield is editable (double tap if not), then type in the desired answer and Enter. The answer will automatically be entered into the puzzle, and the VoiceOver focus will move to the next question. 

As you begin to fill in the puzzle, there will be overlapping answers. If characters are already available, when you open the textbox, those characters will be announced. The screenshot below shows an iPad with the 5th grade Baby Animals II puzzle open. The word "puppy" has been entered into 1 Across. The 1 Down popup shows:

1 Down

Boar (6)

(editable text field) P____T

Ok button, Cancel button

This indicates that 1 Down's clue, 'What is a baby boar called.' There are 6 characters in the answer, with the first letter is P and the last letter is T. (Just in case you are wondering, a baby boar is a Piglet!)

Note: The square that was double tapped is highlighted in yellow until the answer is added.

Screenshot of Crossword puzzle with textbox popup 1 down, Boar (6), P____T.

With an iPad, you can drag your finger or set the rotor to Rows and swipe up, down, left or right to navigate the crossword puzzle.

Teacher Hint: If exploring the puzzle, the student can locate a specific row or column. If looking for a specific row, drag or down swipe, while listening to the screen reader announcing each row. If looking for a specific column, navigate left to right be dragging or swiping right while listening for column announcements. Being able to navigate a grid and understanding the spatial concepts is an important tech skill! With crossword puzzles, it is not as important to really understand the detailed layout of the puzzle, but it is important to understand a grid, column and rows and that the numbers such as 1 Across begins with the letter P (Puppy) and that then makes 1 Down begin with the letter P.  Note: The APH user guide suggests disabling row and column number announcements; however, these announcements are critical for understanding digital grids - which is a critical math tech skill for students!

Students can also access one question at a time below the puzzle. Just below the puzzle is a Previous button, then current question on the left side of the screen and the Next button on the right side of the screen. The screenshot below shows the popup for 13 Down, with 13 Down, Eagle (6), (textbox) E_____. At the bottom of the screen is the Previous button, (13 Down) Eagle (6), Next button.

Screenshot of Crossword puzzle with 13 down textbox popup and 13 Down question displayed at the bottom of the screen.

APH's user guide provides additional information, including how to navigate and solve the puzzles when using different devices along with screen reader tips. The User Guide also provides good hints for solving crossword puzzles - be sure to check out these hints!

Crossword Puzzle User Guide

The video below demonstrates the APH Crossword Puzzle web application on an iPad running Voiceover.

Accessibility

Screen Reader Accessibility: The Crossword puzzles are fully accessible with screen readers! This review specifically used an iPad running Voiceover. There was a small bug when a previously opened crossword puzzle clue was announced instead of the current question for this crossword puzzle. However, there is a simple work around if that happens. The wrong clue was given when the textbox popup appeared. Simply navigate off and back to the textbox (left swipe then right swipe).

Low Vision Accessibility. The crossword puzzles are black and white and the blocks are a nice size. However, the numbers (labeling the rows and columns) and letters that are added to each square are very small, taking up only a tiny piece of the available space in the box. The letters should take up all of the available space within the box. The next and previous buttons have a blue background, making them easier to find, but the buttons are very small.

Create New Puzzles

Also included in the User Guide is information on how to create new puzzles. This is a fantastic opportunity for teachers to take those crossword puzzle worksheets and make them accessible! These digital crossword puzzles also teach and provide opportunities to strengthen tech skills and digital grid math skills! Unfortunately, the tool to create new puzzles is not accessible.

Collage of Crossword Puzzle app review

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