Four Down: a crossword app for iPad, and now iPhone too

iOS & iPadOS

I'm the developer of Four Down, a crossword app for iPad. During development I spent a lot of time trying to make it as accessible as possible using VoiceOver. I'd love to know what the AppleVis community thinks of it, particularly if there are areas where the accessibility could be improved so that I can try to address them in a future update.

If you'd like to try out the app, here's a few promo codes that you can use. First come, first served:

Thanks for your time.



Submitted by Siobhan on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hi. Just wanted to offer sincere thanks, for asking how to improve your app. I have an iPad two, so a little older in the I device market, and I look forward to testing it, I love crosswords anyway. I hope it is accessible. Unfortunately I saw that all the promo codes are used, so I'll just spend the cash for it. I mean you offer something free to the blindnes community and it's snapped up like a large mouth bass. ;) Seriously again, thanks for wanting to improve your app. Siobhan

Hi again. I took the shot, and bought the app, it was a buck. absolutely, without fail, amazing job. I don't think there's anything else you could do, with the exception of, if you don't want to cheat and fill the puzzle, I did ;) you could have it say correct if you got it right, or something like try again if it's wrong. Only other thing I'd request is can you make an iphone version? ;) Absolutely wonderful.

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hi, Siobhan. Thanks very much! Both for taking a look and for the kind words about my app. I like your suggestion to announce whether you got things right or not. Would you do that as you complete each clue, or just once you've finished the puzzle? I don't want to over do the announcements as I imagine they can be quite distracting if there's too many of them. I'd like to make an iPhone version, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to squeeze a crossword into the smaller screen while still making it as usable as I want. Hopefully it's something I can do justice to in the future. Thanks again for taking a look and for the lovely feedback. If you'd like to leave a review on the app store or add Four Down to the AppleVis app directory, I'd really appreciate it.

Submitted by rquan on Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hi Andy, I am a self-declared blind crossword enthusiast; the blind part came from circumstances beyond my control but the puzzle part is something that I've had an interest in all my life. I have been hoping for an app that would allow blind people a chance to do crosswords independently and with a degree of mobility like our sighted peers. I hope that you do come up with a way of making it work for the iPhone as I do not have an iPad as of yet. About 4 years ago, a retired computer programmer from Australia, Ian Humphreys, created a windows-based self-speaking program called BG-Crossword which allowed blind persons to do puzzles on a PC. Across Lite formatted puzzles and other puzzle constructs could be imported into the program and the clues and grid were audibly described to the user. Without getting too off topic, I must tell you that this program was one of the big events in my life and I've been around for a while; being able to do puzzles that others did from newspapers etc., it was and still is a game changer for me. His program is offered up free of charge for anyone interested. Here's the contact info for Ian and Spoonbill Software: CONTACT INFORMATION The Spoonbill Software website can be found at: The Blind Gamers page can be found at: Andy, I'd love to check out the program one day and I'd love to be able to talk puzzles any time you'd like. I think the ability to import puzzles from newspapers etc. so users can do the same ones as oothers around them would be a great feature to strive for in your development of the Four Down App. I look forward to hearing more about how things are progressing. I would also like to ask for some latitude from the Applevis team for going a bit off topic. Thanks, Richard

Submitted by Dave Nason on Thursday, July 4, 2013

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
Hi Andy. I've just bought the app and my early impressions are that you've done an excellent job so thanks for making such an effort. I can see myself spending many hours at this! I've been hoping to find a useable crossword app for a while now. When it comes to announcements, personally I would say we should only be told if and when something is correct or not when sighted users are. In other words, if sighted users don't know for 100% certain that they've answered a clue correctly, then neither should VoiceOver users. My two cents for what it's worth! Out of interest, are you planning to add more puzzles down the road beyond the 12 in the app? Thanks again, Dave.

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Thursday, July 4, 2013

Richard, thanks for your thoughts. A few people have asked about an iPhone version now so it's something that I'm going to spend some time experimenting with. I'll let the AppleVis community know if I do release an iPhone version. I wasn't aware of Ian Humphreys' work. Unfortunately, I don't have access to Windows so I can't try it out myself, but it sounds incredibly useful from your description. Dave, many thanks for buying the app and taking the time to write up your feedback. I do plan to add more puzzles in the future. 12 was just a starting point and now that I know that people are enjoying using the app, I want that to continue. Thanks again, Andy

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Thursday, August 15, 2013

In reply to by Andy Wilkinson

I'm really pleased to be able to let you know that I've just released a new version of Four Down that works on both iPad and iPhone and includes 24 puzzles. The iPhone version should hopefully be just as accessible with VoiceOver as the iPad version is. As ever, any feedback or suggestions for improvements are most welcome. Thanks, Andy

Hi. Do I need to purchase the app again if I want to use it on the iPhone? I'm not in the position to buy it right now, because of Mac being replaced somewhat suddenly. I'm not asking for a free code, I'm just asking if I have to buy the app a second time. Thanks andy for your positive help and feedback. Looking forward to trying the app.

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Friday, August 16, 2013

In reply to by Siobhan

Hi, Siobhan. It's a universal app now so as you've already bought Four Down for your iPad, you can install it on your iPhone without having to pay again.

Submitted by Clare Page on Friday, August 16, 2013

In reply to by djolney

Hi! I've just read this forum thread about the Four Down app with interest. As a fan of word games of many kinds, but not being the owner of an iPad, I am glad to know that this app is now available for iPhone: in fact, I just found it in the French app store and bought it. English is my native language, so, even though I'm resident in France, I play lots of word games in English anyway, and I'm glad to see that this one is very accessible with VoiceOver on my iPhone 4S.

Submitted by John W. hess on Friday, August 16, 2013

Good morning. First, Andy, Really! Thanks for including the blind and visually impaired community in your developement. It's sincerely appreciated. Also, Thanks for making an iPhone version of your game. I am gather this will work on the iPod as well? I don't have it but will definitely add it to my folder of games. I work for an agency that as a tech specialist and get lots of questions about games. WE also serve the senior population who I am sure! would love this game. Thankfully defelopers like you have made many games accessible on iOS and I sincerely hope this will continue. It's wonderful to have something to play on a bus ride. Thanks!

Submitted by Dave Nason on Friday, August 16, 2013

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
Hi Andy. Great job with the app. I do have a suggestion though. I wondered if when reading a clue, VoiceOver could also tell you which other clues it crosses. eg. Instead of saying "1 Across. Part of a dress. 6 letters. B, Blank, D, Blank, C, Blank.", VoiceOver might say, "1 Across. Part of a dress. 6 letters. B, Blank, D, Blank, C, Blank. Crosses 1 Down, 2 Down and 3 Down." I think it'd be useful info anyway. :) I've also just noticed a bug on iPad (I haven't tried the iPhone version yet). If I open Puzzle 1 for example, and then close it and open another Puzzle. When I open eg. Puzzle 2, VoiceOver still speaks the clues from Puzzle 1. When I zoom in I can see that the correct Puzzle has loaded, but VoiceOver doesn't see it. Can you or anyone else reproduce this? Thanks, Dave.

Hi Andy, I just bought the app and I am very excited to play with it. I am wondering if, one day, you have plans to allow for importing puzzles from other sources such as newspapers etc. or from current puzzle formats out there i.e. across lite or crossword compiler. As well, would it be possible to manually enter puzzle information data so as to have fresh puzzles. I don't want you to give away all your secrets but I'm curious, are these puzzles of your own creation? Now I'll go and play with the game. Looking forward to your answers and continued development, Richard

Submitted by AbleTec on Saturday, August 17, 2013

Andy, I just bought your app based exclusively on the fact that you've come to us seeking our feedback. I like word games, too, but for me, when a developer does that, if at all possible, I show my support & appreciation in a very tangible way. 1 commenter mentioned Ian Humphreys. He wrote this game called CodeBreaker. Each letter is represented by a number. You're given 3 letters--1 vowel & 2 consonants--& from that info, u have to crack the letters assigned to each of the remaining numbers. I think I'd pay 10 times what I paid for Four Down if you'd write that--maybe even 20 times more! I should do it myself, I guess, but... Sad there are only 24 hours in a day. Thanks for including us, & I hope to see what other cool things you come up with in future--maybe even an IOS version of CodeBreaker. Now that would be beyond awesome! Good luck & many blessings, Andy.

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Saturday, August 17, 2013

In reply to by AbleTec

All, Many thanks for the feedback and kind words about Four Down. It's very rewarding to hear that you're enjoying the app. John, Yes, Four Down will work on any iPod touch that supports iOS 6. Dave, Thanks for the suggestion. I agree that would be useful information to be announced by VoiceOver. I've tried to strike a balance between supplying the necessary information and keeping the announcements reasonably short. If it was added to the end of the announcement, I guess you could move on to the next element if you didn't want to hear it. I'll look at incorporating this in a future update. Thanks, too, for reporting the bug. Please accept my apologies for it being there. I've reproduced it and, thankfully, it was easy to fix. I've submitted an update to Apple. Hopefully it won't take too long for them to review it and for it to be available to you. Richard, Yes, the puzzles in Four Down are of my own creation. I do plan to add more puzzles in the future; either of my own or from other sources, I'm not decided on that yet. Thanks again, Andy

Submitted by Maya on Saturday, August 17, 2013

In reply to by Andy Wilkinson

Hello. please is there anyone who would be willing to make a poddcast how to play this game? I love word games, but I have never figured out how to do crosswords. Thank you very much in advance.

Hi Maya. Let me explain as best I can how to play. It's easier then you're thinking. Select the puzzle. then move your finger to a clue you know the answer too. Like name of apple computter, three letters. it then says three blanks. to put in your answer, double tap, it says first letter, M second letter, A third letter, c then move to the next clue and go on. There's a check puzzle which I think tells you what you have right or not. I admit to filling the puzzle to read a few answers ;) but hey how was i supposed to know how to spell aberdene or however it's spelled? ;) hope i helped a little. Sorry when I said M that was you writing the letter m, because your keyboard comes up.

Submitted by Chelsea on Saturday, August 17, 2013

Crossword 101 question Hi Andy and all, I have bought your app and like it very much. It continues to amaze me how we can do spatial things on our iPhone s and iPad s that we either were not exposed to before or were harder to do. For me, crossword and logic games were some of those things. Thanks for including the community in your app and its development. I have one question and one suggestion. Since I've never played crosswords spatially before, what do the clue numbers signify? When a clue is filled in, do we still need to know how many letters the answer was? I like how you have the different views for the clues. Thanks again for the app. Can't wait to try it on my iPad. Chelsea

One other idea Hi again, I forgot to say this last time: you were looking for a quick way to verify puzzles and individual answers. Something that I think might work is already implemented in the game I associate ii. In this game, when VoiceOver is running, a small ding tells you if you've gotten a letter correct, while a different tone tells you if you've gotten the whole word. If people didn't want this option, perhaps you could put a toggle in the help section that only vo users could see? Just trying to give you ideas :sometimes certain sound effects can illuminate verbal chatter while still providing the same information. Sorry if this step is too complicated for the app you're developing. Wink

When you're doing a crossword on paper, or using Four Down without VoiceOver, the clues that you're trying to solve and the grid that you're filling in are separate. There are numbers on the grid that match up with the numbers assigned to the clues so that you can cross-reference from one to the other so that you know where on the grid to enter the answer for a particular clue. I think you probably make a good point about not needing to know how many letters the answer was when you've already answered a clue, although if you think you've got it wrong and are looking to correct it, knowing this might still be useful. I certainly think I could do something to make it clearer that you've already solved a particular clue. There are some visual indications but I could do better with VoiceOver I think. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll give it some more thought and hopefully make some improvements. Andy

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Thursday, August 29, 2013

I just wanted to let you know that version 2.0.1 is now available on the app store. It fixes the problem with VoiceOver that Dave reported above. Thanks again for your interest in Four Down and for all of the feedback. Andy

Submitted by doreenT on Friday, November 1, 2013

Using an iPhone 5 with IOS 7.3 Since upgrading to 7.3 I I am having problems with 4 Down which previously ran great on IOS 6.3 The check puzzle, clear puzzle and fill puzzle buttons do not seem to be working correctly, particularly the Check Puzzle button wherein the player can discover if all answers entered are correct. Hope this bug can be fixed. Love the game.

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Saturday, November 2, 2013

In reply to by doreenT

Doreen, Sorry to hear that you've found a bug with VoiceOver in Four Down on iOS 7.0.3 and many thanks for taking the time to let me know. I've been able to reproduce the problem and I'm pleased to say that I believe I've fixed it. I've just submitted an update to Apple so, all being well, it should be with you within the next week or so. Thanks again, Andy

Submitted by clbastian on Sunday, November 3, 2013

Love the app, and there soo many things you could do to make it both appealing to the eyes and ears. I am a programmer but don't have experience with apps, but is it possible to give it a newspapery feel by adding a home or front page that has an integrated newsfeed with real time updates to world news or something? Really cool, thanks!

Submitted by Andy Wilkinson on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hi, all. Thanks for all your interest in Four Down and for the very flattering nomination for 2013 game of the year. I just wanted to let you know that I've released an update to the app. It adds a new setting for VoiceOver users that's intended to make it easier for you to build up a mental picture of the crossword grid. With the setting enabled, the app will tell you the row and column in the grid when announcing a location. For example, "1 across" might become "Row 1, column 2. 1 across". I hope this proves useful. The update also makes another 24 puzzles available via in-app purchase. I hope you're all continuing the enjoy Four Down. If you have any more suggestions for improvements to the app, I'd love to hear them. Thanks again, Andy

Submitted by Hey-June on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hi Andy,
Kudos on creating a great app. I've been playing with it ever since you offered it for freee recently.

I do have a few suggestions/questions:
1. Give some instructions for play in the Help section - especially describing the Fill functions. These may seem obvious, but, until I read this forum, I thought it was how the word moved from the clue section to the grid.

2. Part of my confusion in #1 is due to the fact that, for a blind user, when you click "Fill answer" you are sent to the next clue. There is nothing telling you what just happened. Could you please add something like, "1 across. A thorny flower filled with R-O-S-E"

3. I am having trouble when I want to move between letter boxes. Sometimes it says it says it has moved to the next letter box and sometimes it moves to the next letter on the keyboard. If I tap in the top half of the display to make sure the focus is on the boxes, I often end up in another clue altogether. Is there a special swipe for the boxes?

4. When I enter a clue answer incorrectly, I can't figure out how to empty one or more boxes. Keeping in mind, that I don't want to empty any boxes that are filled by another clue.

5. I like the way it tells me what clue the correct letters are from, but it would be even MORE useful if it told me where the WRONG ones are from so I can correct them.

6. As I move down the list of clues, I can't tell which clues I've checked and found correct and which are still wrong. Could the be a setting for "Clear incorrect letters afterCheck Answer"?

You're doing a great job - not only technically, but your customer service ethic is to be admired.