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£1000 IT Challenge

A Computer Program for a 3D Crossword Blind Solver

This is a working document

Towards a Specification

The £1000 IT Challenge is to produce a FREEWARE computer program to enable a totally blind crossword solver to tackle a 3D crossword puzzle at no cost.

The 3D crosswords in question are those presented for free download at

There will be media interest in a successful project (see background). This is an opportunity to showcase problem solving and programming skills.


BBC Radio 4 In Touch 30.09.2008 featured an item on the 3D crosswords. Presenter, Peter White, asked the natural question of whether a blind person could access them.

The problem was partly solved by finding the wonderful Ian Humphreys in Albany, Western Australia and working with him as program consultant to produce the BG Crossword Puzzle program which gives a totally blind (and partially deaf) crossword solver full access to tackling conventional flat, 2D crosswords. The program is free to download at Spoonbill Software:

BBC Radio 4 In Touch 9.11.2010 ran an item on this first, free electronic access for blind crossword solvers


Ian’s program is brilliant. You can do puzzles with your eyes closed!
The purpose of this IT Challenge is to extend this fantastic facility to 3D crosswords. And that is the task perhaps for an IT student or young professional somewhere. The way forward could be to develop the Spoonbill program. It could also be to take a completely fresh approach. I would be very pleased to discuss this with any entrant to the competition and stay in touch throughout the developmental stages.

Our 3D crosswords are freely available to all. All we ask is that solvers consider doing something extra for a person or group of people in need. Our past and future puzzles will be made available to the new computer program that we hope will be produced by this competition.

Some factors to consider:

The new program could operate on a PC or iphone on its own. The program could be web-based.

3D Crosswords come in different forms and sizes. Will the program be able to adapt to these differences?

Can the program be used by sighted solvers as well as blind? Does there need to be a visible 3D crossword grid?

How will the blind solver communicate with the program?

Will the program allow wrong answers to be entered?

How comfortable is the program to use?

How easy is it to learn how to use it?

You will identify many other issues!


As much as is possible I will be available for consultation on 3D crossword issues and will be happy to discuss matters arising during development. But I am not a computer programmer.


The deadline for the competition is the end of the current year at midnight on December 31st 2012.


Judging by an expert panel will take place in January 2013 when selected entrants will have the opportunity of presenting/demonstrating their software. The panel will include an IT expert to evaluate programming; a 3D crossword expert; registered blind crossword solvers. 

The prize money is held by solicitors Thrings LLP of Swindon.
If the challenge is not met, the money will be passed to RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning. The prize has been gathered by anonymous private subscription and is quite separate from funds raised through the 3D puzzle calendar sales.

Should you require further information, there will be a new webpage at Alternatively I would be delighted to discuss this.

Eric Westbrook
Registered Blind RNIB Member & Volunteer
3D Crossword Designer
024 76727683

PO Box 4823