It was a bit of a man versus machine competition at the recent American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in New York City, and this time around, man won. More precisely, 140 humans did better than a computer program designed specifically to solve the mind-bending puzzles. It sped through some, but others, like one where competitors had to spell given words backward, threw it for a loop.
If anyone would know how to construct a science to figuring out crossword puzzle answers, it’s Ginsberg. He constructs puzzles for the New York Times. He decided to create the software algorithm because “I figured this would be a way for me to become a better solver,” he said. The program is called Dr. Fill and it aims to understand human writing style and crunch it into a bunch of 0′s and 1′s.
Ginsberg described Dr. Fill as saying “its understanding of the constraints that come from the crossing words is much stronger, and it’s doing much more sophisticated numerical analyses.” Think of it as a very rudimentary version of IBM’s Watson. And while Watson was able to best two of the best Jeopardy trivia champs of all time, Dr. Fill wasn’t able to do the same in his field of expertise. Maybe next year.