Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Crosswords for my foodie friends

At last, there's a crossword app just for us foodies! My new Gourmet Crosswords app has just been launched, for all iOS devices (apart from very old devices, as Apple no longer supports them in new apps, unfortunately).

There are 25 crosswords, all 15 x 15 grids, for only 99¢. As with our QuickBreak apps, the crosswords are completely customisable: you can change the backgrounds, grid colours, letter colours, highlight colours, and choose between five different fonts. We've added a nice new script fancy font.

The graphics feature one of my watercolours, a still life with figs.

So — just how good a gourmand are you? Test out your knowledge of cooking techniques, international recipes, ingredients, wines, and spirits on the Gourmet Crosswords to find out! Can you score 100%?! 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Gemini 6441

It's been a while, sorry! Anyway, here is the analysis of the Gemini Cryptic from The Canberra Times, Monday 19 November.

The definition is underlined, except in double definition and cryptic definition clues.


1) Oversight the foreman's responsible for? (11) = SUPERVISION
Cryptic definition. 'Over sight' is sort of a coined definition for 'super vision'. What the foreman is responsible for is the definition.

9) Threatens to finish in bad spirits (7) = IMPENDS
Container. Finish = END. Put it in IMPS (bad spirits). IMP(END)S.

10) It limits the field to insure against betting losses (5) = HEDGE
Double definition. A HEDGE can limit the field (as in bordering a garden or field), and a HEDGE fund is one that insures against betting losses (speculation losses, rather than race track betting losses).

11) Rent is said to have been raised (4) = HIRE
Homophone, indicated by is said. As is common with homophone clues, it's not very clear which word of the homophone pair is the definition and which one's the wordplay. The letter count count helps here ... Rent is HIRE, and to have been raised is HIGHER. HIRE is the only one with 4 letters, which will fit in the grid.

12) Distribute or secure aid (8) = RESOURCE
Anagram, indicated by distribute. The fodder is or secure.

14) The wrong time's right for him (6) = MISTER
Anagram clue, indicated by wrong. The letter to be jumbled up (the fodder) are time's (ignore that apostrophe) and R (abbreviation of right).

16) Present causing pain (6) = TENDER
Double definition. TENDER meaning to formally offer or present something, and causing pain.

18) Scandinavian of manner so strange (8) = NORSEMAN
Anagram clue. Manner so is the fodder, and strange is the anagram indicator.

19) Bird in difficulty (4) = KNOT
A tricky one for us Aussies! Double definition - a knot is a British wading bird, as well a term for a difficulty.

22) Throw out or reject right away (5) = EJECT
Subtraction / deletion clue. Take reject, and take R (abbreviation of right) away! R-EJECT.

23) Review on thug's weapon (7) = SHOTGUN
Anagram clue, indicated by review. On thug's is the fodder, and they certainly do create a weapon when muddled up!

24) Anyway it's where papers like to have reporters (2,3,6) = AT ALL EVENTS
Nice double definition clue. Anyway is the first definition, and it's where papers like to have reporters is the second one.


2) Superior kind of cut (5) = UPPER
Double definition. Superior is the first definition, and a kind of cut (UPPERcut) is the second. What a blow!

3) A girl from Aden (4) = EDNA
Unfair anagram clue. I always think that clueing any name as a girl (or a boy) is rather unfair on the solver. So the definition in this clue is a girl. Which means that any 4 letter girl's name could be the answer. Yeah. There's a lot of them. Anyway, on to the rest of the clue. From Aden is the wordplay. It's an anagram of Aden, but there is no anagram indicator, which is also unfair.

4) Container ship (6) = VESSEL
Double definition. I bet you can figure out which are the two definitions, seeing as there are only two words in the clue!

5) Vessel sunk at the bar (8) = SCHOONER
Oooh cheeky ... using vessel in this clue, directly beneath the clue where VESSEL was the answer! Double definition clue. A SCHOONER is a vessel (sailing ship). And it's also a type of glass for alcohol, served and maybe drunk (or sunk) at the bar!

6) Regulated as instructed (7) = ORDERED
YADD! Yet Another Double Definition. Something that is regulated can also be said to be ORDERED. And if you were instructed to do something, you may have been ORDERED to do it.

7) Just a privilege objected to (5-6) = RIGHT-MINDED
Charade, not a frightfully good one. Just, as in fair, is the definition. A privilege = RIGHT, and objected to = MINDED.

8) Discerning writer and French sailor (11) = PENETRATING
Charade clue. A writer is a PEN. Add on and in French (ET), and then another word for sailor (RATING - a British term for a non-commissioned sailor in the navy). Discerning is the definition.

13) It gives the sculptor's work some standing (8) = PEDESTAL
Cryptic definition. A sculpture can definitely stand on a pedestal!

15) Fit and sure maybe but altogether too much (7) = SURFEIT
YAA! Yet Another Anagram! Maybe is the anagram indicator, and the letters to jumble up are fit and sure. An anagram of FITSURE is SURFEIT!

17) Lashes out in a quarrel (6) = HASSLE
Anagram, indicated by out. Lashes is the fodder. I wasn't sure about quarrel as a definition for HASSLE, but my Oxford Dictionary tells me that HASSLE can mean a disagreement or quarrel in the USA, so fair enough.

20) Dark disturbing thing (5) = NIGHT
Final anagram clue, indicated by disturbing. Thing is the fodder, and dark is the definition.

21) He does keep talking well (4) = BORE
The tenth double definition clue in this crossword — what a lot! He does keep talking is the first definition, and well is the second one (as in a well in the ground!).

How did you get on?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fuck yeah - Quick Break 2!

Because I've written so damn MANY crosswords over the last few years, we've already got Volume 2 of our Quick Break app up and running!

So - same awesome interface - 50 new crosswords - with a supercool red look, instead of purple. As with Quick Break 1, you can customise the interface in roughly a trillion ways.

Check it out! It's shiny!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Clever reCAPTCHA

Thank you! Thank you so much for helping to correct thousands, if not millions, of pages of scanned text!

What? You aren't doing anything of the sort? Oh, yes you are ... read on!

Optical character recognition (OCR) is the method used to digitise printed material — old newspapers and book, for example, can be scanned using OCR technology, and then we can access them online. The National Library of Australia uses this technology for its massive Trove database, for example.

The problem with OCR is that it's not always that accurate, especially from older printed material with yellowing paper and faded or smudged ink. It is a lot better than it used to be, but is still far from 100% accurate — 80% accuracy is more typical. So the resulting scanned texts have a lot of errors!

Here's an example:

We can read the top sentence of scanned type (This aged portion of society were distinguished from ...), because us humans are fucking brilliant, but a computer has a lot of trouble distinguishing the letter patterns. The human eye is just better at seeing those letters!

So, there's a problem. We have millions of pages of inaccurate scanned text, with 20% errors. Which makes it damn difficult to read and use, needless to say.

Now, you'll be familiar with CAPTCHA technology already. CAPTCHA stands for 'Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart'. It's those range of 'verification' boxes that pop up when posting on a blog or registering for something online, for example. You might need to type in some letters, deciphering a mangled or warped picture, or do some sums, or something which proves that you're a real person using the site, and not a computer being used by spammers to abuse online services. You're doing something that a computer can't do.

Some bright lads over at the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (PA, USA) came up with a clever tool to help solve this problem of old OCR-ed texts, called reCAPTCHA.

This is a variety of CAPTCHA entry box, where one of the two 'distorted' words presented for you to retype is a word from actual scanned texts, which was unrecognisable by OCR. The other word is a 'control' word, to assess how accurate you are when typing in entries. Readings for these distorted words need to be agreed on by several users before they are cleared as being accurate.

In their Science paper reCAPTCHA: Human-Based Character Recognition via Web Security Measures (which you can download from this page)the scientists say that reCAPTCHA is used by more than 40,000 websites in 2008 (and presumably many more by now), and is proving to be highly effective and accurate.

You can read more about reCAPTCHA on Google and Wikipedia.

So whenever you enter text into a word verification box with this logo on it, you're helping to correct the vast quantities of old scanned texts, for all! I think it's so bloody clever; we're all helping to improve information and assisting in a massive complex process. And every one of us is contributing, whether we know it or not!

Images from http://www.google.com/recaptcha/