Default with Spaces: 105896
Transposal: Helpful treatments (9) / Introduction to a bit of helpful advice (5 1 3)
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I had some ideas this afternoon for reorganizing some Default scoring categories. One idea, concerning entries in the 30-40 range, would be to separate the poor entries that are obscure from the poor entries that are inferrable but contrived. Entries in the latter category include morpheme formations with re-, -er (verb to noun), -ness, and some -ly adverbs and nonstandard comparatives and superlatives. Neither set of entries is desirable in a puzzle and the effort the separate the two categories is barely worth it, but I’d still like to set the standard for fill scores going forward.
Default with Spaces: 105324
Transposal: Enjoys ironically, as a novel (4-5) / Show sadness (4 1 4)
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My current word-list-sharing community includes some puzzlers who are not bound by the standards of the mainstream crossword venues. Some are indie constructors and some are simply wordplay enthusiasts who have no particular interest in constructing crosswords. These non-standard sensibilities mean that I am collecting some R-rated entries that wouldn’t fly in a New York Times puzzle. If the entries are in-the-language then I’ll add them, generally with a 10 score (re-evaluating the entries in the 10s remains a future project). Sometimes I’ll elevate an entry into fill range if I think it’s borderline. DICKISH is too crass for the Times, but it would easily run (and may already have) in an alternative puzzle and maybe a handful of mainstream markets. I bet Mike Shenk would be okay with it; it wouldn’t be the first time something DICKISH appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
Default’s current entries matching the pattern *JOKE are a bit scant. I should work on a theme list that covers humor genres in the form ___ JOKE. Any suggestions?
Some Facebook friends have been evaluating the various year-end mash-ups featuring prominent pop songs. I’m too ignorant to offer an opinion, but I like the fact that these mash-ups — essentially lists of songs and artists — are made available as data for word-list purposes.
I proofed a print ad last week for a lake resort that rented utility task vehicles. Apparently UTVs differ from ATVs in that they have side-by-side seating and are built similar to trucks so that they can be used for work as well as recreation. It’s a decent 3-letter addition to the word list.
Default with Spaces: 104132
Transposal: Flight school installations (10) / Midwestern NFLer (2 5 3)
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A while back I wondered if it would be worth it to sign up for Amazon Prime in order to see episodes of Alpha House. Now I think it would be fun to sign up just to see if one of those delivery drones could make it to the front porch entrance of my condo.
In a recent conversation about word lists, I was telling Trip Payne that I had received data from a number of colleagues and also had mammoth lists such as Ginsberg and Wikipedia to sift through. His concern was that the majority of my new entries would start with the letter A. Trip’s concern is a valid one: you have to shake up the methodology in order to prioritize the data processing and to keep the project interesting. I’ve read that dictionary publishers usually start in the M’s, rather than the A’s, to alleviate the psychological burden of compiling all of the words in a language. I filter my work lists in a number of ways, but lately I’ve been isolating all entries in a list that contain any instance of a particular letter. I’ve started with the rarer letters (Q, Z, J) to keep these filtered lists manageable, and also to include some interesting entries (in a Scrabbly sense). Oh, and on the topic of DWEEZILZAPPA, I want to add Duckman to my Netflix queue for re-watching — to see if the series still holds up.
Default with Spaces: 102921
Transposal: General who creates a spy ring in the upcoming AMC historical drama Turn (10) / Failed as a spy? (3 7)
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I read an interesting article this week about AUTONOMOUS SENSORY MERIDIAN RESPONSE (70), which is the clinical name for a pleasurable tingling sensation in the body that is often focused in the neck and head. Psychologists have been unable to make any empirical conclusions about this phenomenon, but anecdotal reports suggest that the sensation is triggered in many people by monotonous, whispered voices. It could explain, in part, the allure of Bob Ross’s old painting instruction program, and has inspired a series of calmly narrated YouTube videos. The clip below is an example, and was clearly posted to offer relaxation more than napkin-folding tips.
I recognize the sensation described in the article; I usually experience it while getting a haircut. I’m glad to know it has a name and surprised to learn that it has baffled scientific inquiry.
I added some holiday song titles to my Notepad this week. I started with Wikipedia’s List of Christmas Carols article to get some foundation. Then I checked out the article List of Christmas hit singles in the United States. I ended up picking and choosing songs in this article rather than adding them all. I did add Yogi Yorgesson’s IYUSTGONUTSATCHRISTMAS, which I remember hearing on Dr. Demento, as well as his Scandinavian-pronounced version of “Jingle Bells.” What are some of your favorites listed in that article?
Default with Spaces: 102413
Transposal: Invariability (9) / Sufferers of satyriasis (3 6)
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Because I’m poorly versed in contemporary music, I have trouble evaluating the volatile performing names of musicians for crossword use. Is SNOOPDOGG now a less attractive entry because of the creation of SNOOPLION, and, if so, is it better than SNOOPDOGGYDOGG? These entries are less likely to crop up due to their lengths, but PDIDDY is a reasonable candidate for a puzzle and requires a bit of qualification in the clue. It’s similar to the cable channel problem I’ve written about before.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was having a conversation with my sister about roller coasters; I think the topic arose from the Hersheypark-themed trivia game I’m running on Facebook. She told me that once, when she was teaching an ESL course, she brought up the subject of amusement parks and learned that most of her students referred to a roller coaster as a Russian Mountain (in their respective languages) except for the student from Russia who called a roller coaster an American Mountain. I had never heard of this, but checked the Wikipedia article and found an article on Russian Mountains with a cultural usage paragraph almost identical to what Martha told me. Always great to learn something new.
Many of my puzzle friends in L.A. are fans of strategy board games. When I take a trip to California for a minicon I often have an opportunity to stay up late and sit around a table with a beer, some chili-lime pistachios, and the latest offering from Hans im Glück. It’s an enjoyable novelty given that my normal diversions at home are word puzzles and trivia games, and even if I feel at sea with the nuances of the game I relish the company of the other players. The strategy game sessions are highly ritualistic, opening with a setup of the board and distribution of the pieces. The rules are discussed in detail, though when I hear something I don’t understand I generally forgo the clarification and opt to play by my intuition. The game play is contemplative but always full of witty side comments. The recent episode of Parks and Recreation featuring Ben Wyatt’s game invention Cones of Dunshire captures the experience in brilliant satire.
Default with Spaces: 101817
Transposal: Toric desserts (5 5) / Beach toy (4 6)
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The word lists I’ve recently received from friends of the Project contain a fair amount of science and mathematical terms. I’m happy to balance the sports and entertainment additions that I get from published indie puzzles with academic content. I Googled the phrase DIVERGENTSERIES to do a quick check on its appearance as a dictionary entry, and found that the earliest hits favor the book series by Veronica Roth. So here’s a phrase that works in both academia and pop culture
I came upon this phrase years ago when I was looking for transposals of world nations (the nation is question is an exercise for the reader). I added the phrase to a shared Google spreadsheet of transposals, and now it comes back in a shared word list as a candidate for Default. It’s sort of funny in the right context, but it’s green-painty, non-breakfast-test, and somewhat dated as the word “video” suggests videotape rather than modern media. I’ll add it for the sake of wordplay nostalgia, but at a low score. I’ll also see if including the entry in this blog posts generates some new readership via search engine.
I learned of this item after reading a recent article on infomerical products — it is apparently a hot seller. I can think of a fellow wordplay fan and maintainer a math puzzle website who would find the name of the product interesting.
Default with Spaces: 100711
Transposal: Spools used for bandaging (6 5) / Went into a skid, e.g. (4 7)
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Crossword constructor Matt Gaffney used this word to describe himself when he was recently interviewed on public radio (here’s a link if you’d like to hear the interview). I jotted the word down because I thought it might not be in Default. I also thought about the fact that I enjoy puzzles and games, and I seek the company of those who also enjoy them and play them very well, but I don’t consider myself to be very competitive. I feel I’m something of an anomaly in that regard. Obviously, millions of people solve crosswords and the like on a daily basis with no competitive fervor whatsoever, but I’m a person who makes puzzles and travels several times a year to tournaments and puzzle events, and yet I don’t really care about winning or losing. It could be a sour-grapes psychological reaction to my fair-to-middling showing in most puzzle contests, but I’m happy just getting my participation credentials in this wonderful community.
Peter Broda recently joined the group of puzzles with whom I have traded word lists. Peter’s “Cross Nerd” blog was suspended almost a year ago, but he has intimated some interest in future crossword-related web projects. In the meantime, I’m happy to reap some benefit from his excellent storehouse of word data, though it just increases the elevation of the Sisyphean hill I’ve been climbing.