The TimesDigital Revolution of an Old Favourite

News UK (previously News International) is a giant of the UK publishing sector with newspaper titles such as The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun under its umbrella. Digital Marmalade was invited to replace the retiring legacy applications that powered the world famous Times and Sunday Times Crosswords.

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Crossword Generation Tool

The bespoke crossword generation solution focuses on the entire process of creating crosswords either via intuitive manual tools or via imported XML feeds from third party ‘crossword setters’ that auto generate the grids, questions and gameplay. The application streamlines the editorial approval processes and manages the distribution of the generated digital puzzles to all customer devices and platforms.

Powerful API

The platform has been further enhanced via a powerful API, allowing third parties to develop bolt-ons to the puzzle solution. The API provides secure, direct access to puzzle data, brand information and publishing settings as manged by the editorial team.

The first to benefit from this feature is The Wall Street Journal who feed their native tablet app’s daily crossword puzzles directly through the API.

Screenshot of The Times Crosswords Content Management System

Multiple Crossword Types

The platform has been further expanded to cater for different types of crosswords and now manages, generates and publishes six crossword variants including Standard, Quick Cryptic and Jumbo blocked grids, as well as Mephisto (barred grid), American and Two-Speed.

The entire platform and gameplay has proven to be so successful, both from the editorial management side and from customer feedback on gameplay, that Digital Marmalade has become News UK’s preferred partner for puzzle development.

Image of iPads with The Times Crosswords on screen
I have worked with Digital Marmalade on a number of projects over the last year and a half and have found them to be extremely capable, dedicated and helpful. The platform that they designed for us is a very effective tool for organising and delivering the vast number of files that flow through our department, and they have also produced a suite of well-made and attractively designed puzzle templates. I would certainly recommend their services to other companies.
David Parfitt, Puzzles Editor, The Times & The Sunday Times

Cross Title Branding Tool

Although the project was commissioned by The Times and The Sunday Times, the crossword application was designed as a brand agnostic white label solution that features a set of comprehensive branding tools. This allows News UK to generate and publish crosswords from a single platform to all its publications.

Logos, colours, fonts, icons and publishing settings are managed by the editorial teams to generate puzzles for The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun amongst others. Moreover, new titles can be introduced to the platform and benefit from these branding features without any further development.

Screenshot of The Times Crosswords Content Management System

Highly Responsive and Innovative Gameplay

Crossword puzzle players are challenging people to please. For the project to be a success we had to make sure the gameplay across all devices was providing the best possible experience.

The generated crosswords are built using a combination of HTML5 and JavaScript. They are designed to be fully responsive across desktop web, tablet and smartphone, resulting in a consistent cross-platform experience. In addition there are clever design innovations targeted to the particular device the puzzles are being played on such as shortcut keyboard interactions on desktops to flipping between ‘grid’ and ‘list’ mode on smartphones.

Images of The Times puzzles in multiple device screen sizes

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