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Success of firm’s crossword software is no puzzle

SHARE Success of firm’s crossword software is no puzzle

A New York City couple received national attention last month for the puzzling fashion in which they got engaged.

With help from the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, Bill Gottlieb encoded a marriage proposal for Emily Mindel with answers such as her name (18 Across), her boyfriend's name (14 Across), "This Diamond Ring" (38 Across), and "Will You Marry Me?" (56 Across).

While filling out the puzzle, Mindel recognized the series of coincidences and, of course, said "Yes" (57 Down).

As one Provo couple can attest, it wasn't exactly a novel idea. Variety Games, a Provo business, has been customizing puzzles for all types of occasions - birth announcements, parties, showers, and, yes, marriage proposals since 1995.

But Peter and Rachel Rehm, a husband-and-wife team who run the company, noticed the publicity generated by the recent Times puzzle and knew it might entice others to create their own puzzles, romantic or otherwise.

"That made our day," Rachel Rehm. "That's what we do:help people design puzzles to give to others. It's right up our alley."

A registered patent attorney and president of Variety Games, Peter Rehm invented Crossword Weaver, a software program that creates newspaper-style puzzles with user-provided words included in the solution. With the assistance of Crossword Weaver, the user can pick the shape of the puzzle, give it a title, enter a list of words related to a theme and, in a matter of minutes, the program will assemble a personalized puzzle.

The Rehms have turned fun and games into a growing venture. Peter received the first U.S. patent ever issued for crossword puzzle software in September of 1997. Crossword Weaver retails for $49.95, but for those who don't want to own the software, the company will tailor a puzzle for a fee.

Peter Rehm says his program makes creating crossword puzzles even easier than solving them.

"Creating these crossword puzzles is incredibly difficult. It makes chess look like tic-tac-toe," he said. "Millions can play chess and millions can solve crossword puzzles, but only a few dozen gifted people worldwide can make newspaper-style crossword puzzles." That is, until Crossword Weaver was born.

The idea, he explains, was hatched while sketching out his own puzzle as he waited in line at a photocopy store.

"I'm bored by other people's inventions," he said. "I've done patents for others, but my personality type is not that of a lawyer. My heart is in crossword puzzles. And I've always liked creating puzzles more than solving them."

Rachel Rehm, the company's vice president, was never a big crossword devotee until it became a matter of business. "Then I started doing crossword puzzles," she said. "I spent days doing them for research."

She is credited with painstakingly putting together the voluminous 60,000-word dictionary used in Crossword Weaver. "It took me a calendar year, working part time," she explained. While pregnant with the couple's first child, she would sit in a chair and tap information into her notebook computer.

"I started with a database, a list of words and clues and went through the list one word at a time," she said. "We wanted to make sure each was appropriate for our audience, which is family oriented. On some, we wrote our own clues. In the end, it was much different from what we started with."

Crossword Weaver is most popular among doctors, lawyers, publishers of newsletters, teachers and Sunday School teachers because, Peter Rehm says, the software has the capacity to both instruct as well as entertain.

"When a puzzle is made just for someone, they'll solve it, even if they're not a big crossword fan. It's a tool for someone who wants to create crossword puzzles for those who have never done them."

Variety Games advertises in publications like WordPerfect for Windows and Games Magazine. Cross-word Weaver is purchased via mail order from locales throughout the country. Reviews from customers and those in the computer industry have been favorable.

"I've used similar programs in the past, but this is by far the best," wrote Stan Tishler of Computer Con-nection. "If you like crossword puzzles, this program is a gem."

A free demo puzzle on the Internet can be downloaded from the Variety Games Web site at (www.custompuzzles.com).