RISC World

Pseudo Clues

Mike Battersby

Around 12 years ago I wrote a little utility called !Blokmaker which was designed to provide an easier way to make crossword puzzles and other such word games. It was programmed using Helix Basic which enabled the production of WIMP programs using an extended form of BASIC. For all its quirks Helix Basic did some things very well. !Blokmaker itself is quite limited in what is does but may be useful for some purposes.

Now with the emerging popularity of Sudoku I have updated it slightly to enable it to help construct the grids and given numbers for these puzzles. Because the output is a drawfile there is always the ability to modify it to one's own requirements using !Draw or !DrawWorks or one of the similar drawfile editing programs. The new version is included on this issue of RISCWorld so there is no purchase cost involved.

Basically !Blokmaker provides a 32 x 32 grid of squares which can be drawn to have an outline or be filled in, or left blank. There is the choice of doing a single "cell" at a time or a row or column. In the original version wherever you clicked to do a row it meant the whole row was made that option across the entire grid. Similarly clicking in a column, with the column choice set would cause the entire column to be that choice e.g. a column of filled squares. The newer version causes a row to be filled only from the point of origin (where clicked) to the right. Similarly a column is only filled from the origin to the bottom of the grid. This modification helps the production of a Su do ku grid as will be demonstrated later.

There are also options to enter a number or letter and menu options bring up dialogue boxes to select the number or letter.

The number option previously only put a small number in the top left corner of a square in the style of a crossword. The new version offers an option box which when unticked puts the number "full size" in the box Sudoku style. The letter option puts a similar size letter in a box. The font used is Trinity Medium but this can be amended later using !Draw if desired.

Below are examples of the kind of designs that could be made with !Blokmaker. There are some aspects of !Blokmaker that may not be initially apparent e.g. it is possible to have an outline box with a number in it (as needed for a crossword) but normally choosing an option for a box will replace anything previously there. There is a help file provided with the program which covers the basic functionality.

Above is a sample crossword

And a 9 letter trackword; there is one nine letter word made from consecutive letters and then the aim is to find as many words as possible of 3 letters or more made from consecutive letters in any direction.

And a wordsquare. Note: that !Blokmaker does not calculate any contents it is only a utility to help draw them.

Making a Sudoku grid

This example is to make a 9 x 9 grid with 28 numbers as the base of the puzzle. To make the grid, choose the row option from the toolbox and the outline square option. Click in 9 consecutive rows at the left hand edge where you want the grid placed. Then choose the empty cell option from the toolbox and move ten columns to the right and click in 9 consecutive rows down to leave a 9 x 9 outline grid.

To enter the numbers choose "Enter number" from the menu to get the "number" dialogue box (see below) and take the "Crossword" option tick off (if it is on). Enter the number you want in the entry field and then click on the grid to enter it in the cell(s) you want. Once this is done for each number you can save the grid as a drawfile and make any amendments you want in !Draw.

Because of the "features" of Helix Basic you will need to save it to disc and then load it in to !Draw (or whatever) rather than use RAM transfer. Once in !Draw you can change the font or font size by choosing "Select all" from the menu and then Style Font name etc. You can also add the thicker lines to make the subsections of the grid more distinct.

The example above shows a finished Sudoku puzzle with the font amended to Homerton Medium and extra lines put in to clarify the sub groups. Now all you have to do is solve it!.

Mike Battersby