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I have to admit to really enjoying word games. I also have to admit that I'm not necessarily all that great at word games. Crossword puzzles are something that have been a great time waster for me, in days of old I could be found with the puzzle section of some newspaper folded up and a pencil in my hand - because everybody knows that it's futile to attempt trying a crossword puzzle with a pen - trying to figure out some arcane clue. Thankfully, those days came to an end with the arrival of my first smartphone and the purchase of Standalone Crossword. It took quite a long time before I was able to find something on Android that could live up to the high expectation that had been set by that excellent application. For me, that void has been filled with wonderfully named Shortyz Crosswords.

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Shortyz has been around for quite some time, I first recall using it a couple of years ago and it has somehow eluded my radar for an application review most likely because for me it has become a utility rather than a diversion. The developer for Shortyz Crossword, Robert "kebernet" Cooper, has released the game as GPL'd licensed software so the sourcecode is available for download from Google Code. As it has been around for awhile, Shortyz has been through quite a few version changes - some have not been all that popular. Namely, those that remove crossword puzzle sources. I'll get into that here in a bit.

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After you have installed Shortyz from the Google Play store and launch the app for the first time, it will go online and download the first installment of puzzles for that day or week. This does initially create quite a number of notifications in your status bar, but you do have the option to disable those if you would like. When I first tried Shortyz out, the list of puzzles that it would download was quite extensive; this list has, over time, shrunk considerably due to the wishes of those that create these puzzles. Which I suppose speaks volumes for the popularity of the application.

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Once you have downloaded a pack of puzzles, you are presented with a basic list of puzzles to solve. Along the left hand side of each entry you will find a vertical progress bar delineating how much of that particular puzzle you have finished. Tapping on an entry will open up that crossword puzzle, as expected. You can zoom in and out on the entire puzzle using pinch and zoom, with the caveat that the current version of Shortyz does have some quirks in doing so - it is very, very touchy. If the resolution is high enough on your device, then you can zoom all the way out to get the entire puzzle on screen.

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Selecting which entry to fill in is as simple as tapping on it. Tapping on the same entry will change the orientation of the word to fill in, centered on the letter that you tapped on. There are an abundance of options to choose from for how to enter the solutions, from choosing your keyboard to whether you want to skip letters that have already been filled in. If you are like me and aren't extremely confident with your ability to solve some of the more difficult puzzles, there is an option to display whether or not each letter is correct via a red highlight. This option is only available if the answer key is contained within the puzzle file though, which not every one has.

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There are quite a few puzzle sources contained within the application, separated out between those that update daily, weekly, and other "special" types. This list is not as extensive as it used to be, in fact one of my favorite puzzle sources is the Houston Chronicle, which was removed quite some time ago. There have been other removals, all of which are usually explained by the developer in the change log. Usually it is at the request of the provider, sometimes because said provider would like to monetize their puzzle - which is absolutely acceptable. You can usually tell when a puzzle source has been removed by reading the comments posted on the Google Play store, at which point you make the decision to upgrade or not. The "special" puzzle sources are experimental in nature and currently include a pair of cryptic crossword puzzle contributors. The developer does have plans in the future to allow users to add their own sources, although that has been the plan from the beginning so there is no telling when that will happen.

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Crossword puzzles are a classic way to pass the time and a great way to keep up with some of the more popular current events, of course depending on where you get them from. Some are more difficult than others, some are downright cryptic. But if it's one thing that I can definitely get behind, it's that I do believe that Shortyz Crosswords is a great way to scratch that crossword puzzle itch.

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Shortyz Crosswords is available for free on the Google Play store​