Crossword Puzzle with Hot Potatoes

Hot Potatoes is a great software group out of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Their software products - Hot Potatoes and Quandary - are desktop applications that make it easy for teachers to create interactive learning games and publish them on the Internet. The Hot Potatoes program creates quizzes (multiple-choice, matching, short answer), Cloze exercises, sentence jumbles, and crossword puzzles. The Quandary program creates "branching" simulations (also known as "mazes"). Check out the Evil Landlady ESL Maze to see how it works!

You don't have to know anything about web design or programming to use Hot Potatoes and Quandary. Both programs create ready-to-use webpages that you can upload to D2L, or publish at the Hot Potatoes website, if you prefer. You can also cut-and-paste the games into existing webpages. Hot Potatoes is free for educational users, and there is also a free version of Quandary (although for the full version of Quandary, you have to pay a license fee of $50).

GET STARTED WITH HOT POTATOES: You will need to download and install Hot Potatoes version 6 from the Hot Potatoes website. The version that you will install is not registered, which limits the number of items you can include in any game or activity. In order to get unlimited use of the software, you will need to register your version at the Registration area of the Hot Potatoes website. Registration is free for educators, provided that you make all your activities freely available to all on the Internet (the guys at Hot Potatoes are also champions of the open Internet!).

BUILD A CROSSWORD PUZZLE. The following provides step-by-step instructions for creating a crossword puzzle using Hot Potatoes. All of the activities use a similar interface and step-by-step process, so you can use the crossword puzzle instructions as a good way to get introduced to the Hot Potatoes system.

1. Start program. This will introduce you to some of the basic features of the Hot Potatoes website, which are very similar for all the activities):

  • Open the Hot Potatoes program.
  • Click on JCross.
  • Give your puzzle a title by typing something in the Title box. Enter this title:


2. Create grid. You can manually arrange the words, but probably you don't want to do that, right? So choose Manage Grid and then choose Automatic Grid Maker.

For example, here is a list of rivers that you can cut and paste into that box. The default size of the grid is 20x20, but you can adjust that if desired.

Huang He

When you are done, click Make The Grid.

3. Add clues. Now you are ready to add clues, so click the Add Clues button. You will see each word on its own line, with a box below the lines. What you type in the box becomes the clue for the highlighted word. Click OK for the clue to be accepted.

Notice that you can also insert weblinks, images, and other material as a "clue" by using the Insert menu. If you choose one of these options, Hot Potatoes will convert the information you enter in the dialogue boxes into HTML code. You can also type the HTML code directly into the box yourself if you prefer.

Clues can also be very simple! For example, you can use a single-letter prompt, so that the clue for "Mississippi" is just the letter "M". To create these simple letter prompts, highlight the down-item or across-item (e.g. Mississippi), and then type the letter (M...) in the box and hit OK. You have to enter the clues one by one for each item in the puzzle.

When you are done entering all the clues, click OK.

4. Add reading text. You can include a Reading Text that goes with this activity - just choose File: Add Reading Text. You can import text from an external HTML file on your computer, or you can type the text into the box. Note that the reading can be something simple, like a link to another website. So, for example, in this case, you can create a "reading text" that links to a webpage about rivers.

For the Title you can type: Learn About Rivers!

Then click inside the box and choose Insert: Link: Link to Web URL. Enter this URL into the box:

and use this as the link text:

Major Rivers of the World

Click OK to close that dialog box, and then click OK to finish with the Reading Text (notice that Hot Potatoes has created the HTML code for me and inserted it into the box).

5. Save your work. That's basically it - you are done with the puzzle, the clues, and the reading text. Now save the file before you go any farther. Choose File: Save, navigate to the folder where you want to save your Hot Potatoes materials, and give your file a name:


Notice that Hot Potatoes is going to add a "jcw" extension to the file. This indicates that it is a JCrossWord file. As you edit and change the crossword puzzle, it is this "jcw" file that you will be working with.

Now you can create the webpage. Choose File: Create Webpage: V6 Browsers. Make sure you are saving the file in your Hot Potatoes folder, and give this file a name (a short name is good, since this will be part of the URL for this page when it is published on the web):


This time the file will be saved with a "htm" extension, because it is being saved as a webpage. Choose View the Exercise in My Browser to see how it looks.

6. Doing the puzzle. To enter an item on the puzzle, click on the number, and you will have to option to enter the across and/or down word. Notice that a "Hint" button is provided by default. This is something you can change in the Output Options.

7. Configure output. Now go back to the Hot Potatoes program, and look at the Options: Configure Output options.

Notice that there are some buttons at the bottom of the dialogue box: Load, Save, and so on. This is because an output configuration file is a type of file that you can save and use for more than one exercise, which is very handy. Usually you will "Load" an existing configuration file that you have saved, but since you have not got a standard configuration file that you are using, we will enter some options now, and then save the output configuration file when we are done.

  • Titles/Instructions. In order to get rid of the Hint option, you need to edit the Instructions to remove the reference to the Hint button.
  • Prompts/Feedback. You probably do not need to make any changes here.
  • Buttons. Here is where you can turn off the Hint button. You can also turn off the Index, Forward and Back buttons, since you are creating a single puzzle here, not connected to other files or activities.
  • Appearance. You do not need to make any changes to the Appearance here, but if you were publishing this at a website where you wanted to use a particular color scheme, you could make all the adjustments here.
  • Timer. You can set a timer, although, nothing happens when time runs out, except that the student is notified that time is out.
  • Other: This is where you can choose to have all the clues displayed below the puzzle, among other options.
  • Custom. This is for people who are "hacking" Hot Potatoes to add java scripts and other special HTML code to the webpage.
  • CGI: This allows results to be sent to you via email, using a script that must already exist on a web server.

Now you need to Save this set of configuration information and call it MyHotPot. It will automatically be given a "cfg" extension. This will allow you to reload and use the same basic configuration for other exercises if you want.

8. Save this new version of file. Now choose File: Save to save the current version of the Rivers crossword file in your Hot Potatoes folder.

9. Create new webpage. Then choose File: Create Webpage again and Preview. One thing that needs to be fixed is the way that the Reading Text scrunches the puzzle. There is a good trick for fixing that! Here's how:

10. Edit file again. Go back into the Hot Potatoes program, and choose File: Add Reading Text. You can then turn off the Reading Text.

Then go to the Options: Configure Output, and just insert the link here! You can click in the Instructions box and then choose Insert: URL in order to create the link using this web address:

and this text for the link:

Read about rivers online!

11. Save your work and create new webpage. Now choose File:Save and File:Create Webpage again, and Preview in your web browser. That looks much better!

12. Upload the webpage. Now that you have a webpage (HTML file), you can upload it to D2L. To do this, first, click on MyDocuments on the desktop, or use MyComputer to navigate to your Hot Potatoes folder. You should see the files you have created there: the jcw file, the htm file, and the cfg file. Once you have found the files, put them into a separate folder, zip the folder, and upload the zipped folder to the D2L File Manager. Then, create a topic which you connect to your Hot Potatoes file

This exercise courtesy of the University of Oklahoma.