Sunday September 8, 1996.
Crossword fans get clued into Internet

BY CHARLES BREWER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

My father, the retired septuagenarian, spends most of his evenings with a crossword puzzle. Often, several crossword puzzles.

He gets the local newspaper almost solely for the crossword and buys those pulp puzzle magazines to supplement his addiction.

Too bad he hasn't discovered the Internet, which is becoming a crossword puzzler's paradise.

If you don't believe me, take a look at the crossword puzzle links (more than 130) on Ray Hamel's home page (http://www.primate.wisc.edu/people/hamel/cp.html)

Mr. Hamel, a librarian at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Center, is also a free-lance puzzle creator whose work has even made it into The New York Times.

Two flavors

Crossword puzzles on the Web come in two flavors: static and interactive. The static kind my father would enjoy: Print them, sharpen your pencil and get to work.

The interactive puzzle allows you to work on the screen, either using a Java applet or separate software that runs the puzzle after it's downloaded.

Probably the most famous crossword is that in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/partners/xword). The online version is interactive (although you can print it and pencil in the answers). The nice thing about the NYT puzzle is the software is right there for downloading (Mac or Windows) and interfaces nicely with the puzzle. If you're using the latest version of Netscape or Internet Explorer, you can set the software to run the puzzle as soon as it's downloaded.

The Times puzzle software offers hints and a verify mode that tells you if you've input a wrong word. You can also download puzzles to do later.

The less adept can visit Crossword Crossroads (http://www.polar7.com/cc/index.html) for 10 simpler puzzles with themes ranging from Dr. Seuss to Baby Boomer TV. The puzzles are rated beginner, skilled or expert - but are generally easy.

Dell, a publisher of pulp crossword magazines, has its own site for a daily puzzle (http://www.bdd.com/puzzl/bddpuzzl.cgi/puzzl). The puzzles are stored in Adobe Acrobat format, but there's a link to download the Acrobat application. The site offers only a daily puzzle, but surfers can find dozens of Dell's puzzles archived in an open directory at the site (http://www.bdd.com/puzzl/puzzles).

Paper puzzle

Many online editions of large newspapers offer an online crossword; the links can be found on Ray Hamel's page. One interesting, if not outright arcane, puzzle can be found on the online edition of The Hindu (''India's National Newspaper''). The easiest way to find the puzzle is link to http://www.webpage.com/hindu/search.html and search for ''crossword.''

You might need to brush up on Indian culture and history before tackling this one.

There are also commercial gaming sites that include crossword puzzles that you can play - sometimes for prizes.

One can be found at Riddler (http://www.riddler.com). Unfortunately, to join Riddler you must fill out two surveys listing both personal and marketing information. And this glitzy site has more ads and commercials than late-night cable TV.

Serious puzzlers can delve into crossword arcana in the FAQ archive of the Usenet newsgroup rec.puzzles.crosswords. The archive (http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/crossword-faq/top.html) covers everything from recommended crossword dictionaries to discussions of cryptic clue writing competitions in the newsgroup.

No discussion would be complete without mentioning the interactive Scrabble games that pass under the name ''public crossword games'' so as not to infringe on Hasbro's copyrights. See the DOoM FAQ file (http://sushi.st.usm.edu/~jjchew/doom/faq.html).