So you want to make a crossword blog but you don’t know what your options are for embedding crosswords into it? Or maybe you have a crossword blog and the embed method you’re using isn’t working for you? Follow along as we go through the various options so you can decide what’s best for you.
The Juggernaut: AmuseLabs
AmuseLabs is the dominant player in this space, and with very good reason. They have the slickest interface, the most customization options, and the best analytics. You can embed images in your clues and in your grid, have shaded cells or barred puzzles, and you can create it all in an impossibly slick interface. You can upload puz files or jpzs, and even make a favorite of ours, coded crosswords. For most crossword creators, this is your answer.
However, AmuseLabs does come with its limitations, most notably in what types of puzzles you can upload. For a website that allows JPZ uploads, it’s a bit surprising that they can’t handle puzzle types where words go in non-standard directions (like, say, Marching Bands puzzles). Their option to print puzzles is surprisingly bad. AmuseLabs is also missing the social features of Crosshare, if that’s a thing you’re into. Overall very good, but certainly not a one-size-fits-all option.
The Social Butterfly: Crosshare
Crosshare doesn’t quite have the market share of AmuseLabs, but it’s the only one that’s close, and it’s completely understandable. Because Crosshare puzzles are shared on their site, smaller constructors who may not have already made a name for themselves can get more eyeballs on their puzzles than they otherwise would. What’s more, Crosshare makes a blog for you so you don’t even have to embed the puzzles anywhere else! The “commenting on the puzzle” feature is a brilliant one that encourages interaction between the solver and constructor. And their analytics can also be helpful for constructors looking to hone their craft.
So why isn’t Crosshare as big as AmuseLabs? Well, for one, their solving interface is not everyone’s favorite. Customization options are not quite as robust, and the analytics are not quite at AmuseLabs’s level. The other downsides of AmuseLabs are also here: printouts aren’t as nice as you might like, and non-standard puzzles are a no-go. All this said, Crosshare would probably get my vote for a newcomer without a blog wanting to get eyeballs on their puzzles.
The Swiss Army Knife: Squares.io
Squares is probably best known as a puzzle-solving site, but they offer a surprisingly good option to publish your puzzles and embed them on a blog. It’s kind of hidden, though. In the sidebar, click “Publish”, then follow the steps. Once a puzzle is uploaded, click the (i) button for more info, then the “Embed” link at the top.
Let’s start with the negatives here: Squares’s solving interface isn’t as slick as AmuseLabs, with no social options and very few analytics. You can’t customize a puzzle after it’s uploaded, so if you want custom colors or bars or the like you’ll have to do that from within the JPZ or iPuz file before you upload it. All this can be somewhat daunting, especially for someone just starting out.
So why use Squares despite all this? If you’re comfortable getting an iPuz or JPZ file the way you want it, Squares can show just about any puzzle type you throw at it. Words that go backward? Only one clue list? Clues decoupled from entries? Diagramless? No problem. If you know how to make the file, you can solve it on Squares, and it is your only option if you want to embed such a puzzle on your site.
DIYers only: Crossword Nexus
Don’t use the Crossword Nexus embedder. Zero customization options, no analytics, a solving interface that isn’t as good as AmuseLabs. We don’t even have a terms of service! Who knows what we’ll be doing with your files! (we won’t do anything, but why should you trust us?) As of now, though, we’re your only option if you want to embed an acrostic on your site.
If, however, you have your own webserver and know a little about coding, you should definitely consider grabbing our code and adding it to your own site. This will allow you to do some customization on your own side, letting you do things you literally can’t do anywhere else. Plus, this will reduce your reliance on third-party websites, which can go under or use your data for their own purposes. We think the solving interface is pretty slick and the print option is the best one out there. And while we can’t handle all the puzzle types Squares can, we can handle a whole lot of them.
- Exet has none of the advantages of some of the above solvers, but it can do 3-D crosswords, which is pretty dang amazing.
We hope this helps. Happy embedding!