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Old 01-23-2008, 10:03 AM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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My theory on why the same word pops up in different crossword puzzles

I haven't noticed any recent threads addressing this matter, but if I'm offering a theory someone else here - or elsewhere - has already advanced, I can only plead ignorance.

Part of it comes down to the fact(?) that many of the finer puzzle constructors are composing under their own names and aliases as well. So, when you see a relatively distinctive word in one puzzle and see it again soon after in another puzzle, it just might be that both puzzles were done by the same person. And with a bit of a twist.

When composing, let's say the PC (puzzle constructor) chooses to use PROFLIGATE as a DOWN word in his grid. Going across he can intersect with words like APE, PERISH, LOST, etc.

So he completes that puzzle, but to increase his output (and thus more efficiently increase his $ intake), he takes the same PROFLIGATE turns it ACROSS in another grid, makes some adjustments of intersecting words and he's taken a big shortcut to getting another puzzle off to a different publisher.

Then, to avoid being obvious, the PC uses a different name.

Of course the PC can use the same distinctive word as an ACROSS word in two grids. Maybe we wouldn't notice. But if I were a PC I wouldn't want to risk it.

Anyway, that's what I think is going on.

I won't be surprised if Twickster pooh-poohs all this.

Last edited by BarnOwl; 01-23-2008 at 10:06 AM.
  #2  
Old 01-23-2008, 11:31 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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I'll pooh-pooh it if Trickster doesn't.

I doubt if very many puzzle constructors use more than one name. It's a small field and everybody knows everybody else. You make your name by your puzzles; using a pseudonym doesn't help your reputation. Maybe the small-time puzzle mags get second-rate puzzles by big names using an alias (maybe; I doubt it, but maybe) but the major newspapers are going to credit the right person.

Much more likely is that certain words are good for puzzling because they contain letters or patterns that are useful.

Next most likely is that the puzzle editors have certain favorites that they use when they redo puzzles to make them work better.

Also likely is that you are noticing certain words and not noticing others used just as frequently.

Where are you seeing these duplicates, BTW?
  #3  
Old 01-23-2008, 11:34 AM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Some part coincidence, some part the paucity of words that have good noun vowel combinations. When a name shows up in the news with good characteristics, everyone puts it in.

BTW, there used to be a column in a Baltimore independent paper commenting on comics. They also tracked the use of "oreo" in the Sun xword and the Times crossword. It showed up at least once a week.
  #4  
Old 01-23-2008, 11:39 AM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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Do you honestly think I'm thinking of words like Oreo, erst, ute and all the other crap words used in puzzles?

I used PROFLIGATE for my example. That ain't no Oero.
  #5  
Old 01-23-2008, 12:09 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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There are people who use pseudonyms -- but they are used with the full knowlege of the people buying the puzzles. Since it is a financial transaction, the buyer needs full, legal name, SSN, etc., of the seller. Pseudonyms are used for other reasons, such as to make it slightly less clear that the same constructor wrote 20 of the 60 puzzles in one issue of a magazine.

Exapno's various theories are all good -- esp. the "good vowel/consonant combo" theory. Note for PROFLIGATE, for instance, that the pattern is CCVCCVCVCV -- a very workable pattern. SHRINKPROOF, for instance, would be CCCVCCCCVVC -- much uglier.

The question "where are you seeing the repetition" is relevant. Seeing the same word twice in one week -- once in a daily puzzle and once in a collection or magazine -- I'd have to call that coincidence. Twice in the same collection or magazine -- if it's not a theme word, the editor may or may not notice; may or may not care (if the use in neither case is a theme entry, e.g.); or may or may not be able to do anything about it.

And sometimes it's just sheer, raw coincidence. Once I spent about 20 minutes putting SUPERMARKET into a puzzle to solve some other problem -- and then noticed that it was elsewhere in the grid. That also happened to me once with DIPSTICK. In neither of these cases was this a theme word -- just something fun and (I thought, mistakenly) different.
  #6  
Old 01-23-2008, 12:15 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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I do the NYT and the local paper (Danbury, CT) News-Times.

I see the dupes in these two publications. Not recently, but often enough, involving words that one would not expect to crop up to suspect the absence of coincidence.

That's a cumbersome sentence, but I ask your forgiveness. I have to go do my photography class homework assignment.
  #7  
Old 01-23-2008, 05:21 PM
descamisado descamisado is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarnOwl
. . . . That ain't no Oero.
I'm gonna take a needle from my etui and stitch that on a pillow.
  #8  
Old 01-23-2008, 07:13 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 5-4-Fighting
I'm gonna take a needle from my etui and stitch that on a pillow.

LOL!!!!!!!!!! And be sure to Oero it! I love it.
  #9  
Old 01-23-2008, 07:31 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Personally, I've had the suspicion for a while that if one were to construct a letter-frequency chart for a large sample of crosswords, that the crossword frequencies would be proportional to the square of the dictionary frequencies. Letters like Q or Z that are rare in normal usage would be even rarer in crosswords, since you'd have to fit them into two different words at once, but common letters (like all the vowels, or S or T) are easy to cross, so they'd be even more over-represented.

Of course, this in turn means that words which have common letters more heavily represented (like "Dunkable cookie", or "Butter substitute") would show up often.
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  #10  
Old 01-23-2008, 07:40 PM
BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed is offline
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If I see one more puzzle with obi in it. I know it's a short, oddly constructed word that fits into places other things wouldn't. But goddamn it, "Sapporo sash," "kimono closer," and "geisha bow" are not clever, challenging clues when they've been used approximately 500 bagazillionthousandhundredeleventy times. Christ people, maybe it's time to retire that clue's number and hang it in the gym. It was good, I admit, it's a strange word that people didn't know before you started sticking it into your puzzles. But there's a reason no one asks why the chicken crossed the road expecting people to laugh anymore (unless the punchline involves being stapled to dead babies).
  #11  
Old 01-23-2008, 07:49 PM
descamisado descamisado is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed
If I see one more puzzle with obi in it. I know it's a short, oddly constructed word that fits into places other things wouldn't. But goddamn it, "Sapporo sash," "kimono closer," and "geisha bow" are not clever, challenging clues when they've been used approximately 500 bagazillionthousandhundredeleventy times . . . .
Would they still be allowed to use ibo?


Last edited by descamisado; 01-23-2008 at 07:50 PM.
  #12  
Old 01-23-2008, 09:26 PM
MagicEyes MagicEyes is offline
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twickster, I'm still not convinced that it's a coincidence. It happens much too often that two puzzles in the same week have the same word. I'm going to go do two crossword puzzles and see if they have a matching word. I'll check back with you when I'm done.
  #13  
Old 01-23-2008, 09:50 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicEyes
twickster, I'm still not convinced that it's a coincidence. It happens much too often that two puzzles in the same week have the same word. I'm going to go do two crossword puzzles and see if they have a matching word. I'll check back with you when I'm done.
And that will prove what, exactly?
  #14  
Old 01-23-2008, 10:23 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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This is why I quit doing crosswords: the 187th time I came across the word "eyrie," I decided that, in order to become a "master" crossword puzzler, all you had to do was memorize the extremely limited lexicon of the "professional" crossworder. Where's the challenge in that? That's when I became bored with it.
  #15  
Old 01-24-2008, 12:58 AM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
This is why I quit doing crosswords: the 187th time I came across the word "eyrie," I decided that, in order to become a "master" crossword puzzler, all you had to do was memorize the extremely limited lexicon of the "professional" crossworder. Where's the challenge in that? That's when I became bored with it.
I was doing some of an old Margaret Farrar S&S book. Those puzzles are full of obscure geographical locations, animals, Polynesian gods and all sorts of crap. Usually crossing. Now I know why my mother-in-law had a crossword dictionary by her side doing them. I need a dictionary maybe twice a year for modern puzzles. Yes, there is a small set of words with odd letters, but it is nothing like what it used to be. All hail the modern constructors!

Really, get a book of old puzzles and give it a shot. You never complain about an aerie or oreo again.
  #16  
Old 01-24-2008, 01:31 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
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I want to thank all of you, especially Twickster for acknowledging the truth of my ingenius theory. I promise I won't change. I'll always be the affable, self effacing, supremely lovable, and all around nice guy I've always been, even though I'm light years smarter and cuter than all of you.


Love to all,

BarnOwl
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