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Topics - Alan W

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1
Word Games / Jumbo Chihuahua book is out
« on: July 23, 2020, 02:51:36 PM »
As discussed in another thread, there is now a book of supersized Chi puzzles, for those who like a puzzle that takes a bit longer.



Each puzzle has from 61 to 120 common words, plus lots of rare words of course.

Most of the previous Chihuahua books have allowed all plurals, because it seemed like the rules applied online would be confusing to some book puzzlers. To minimize the tedium of writing down lots of plurals I've tried to ensure not many of the puzzles in each book included an S. However, for this new Jumbo series, I'm applying the online plural rules, because any puzzle with an S having up to 120 common words would probably have an inordinate number of plurals ending in S.

However I have taken care to exclude any puzzle with words in the solution that might bewilder new players: tongs, dues, etc.

The new book is available to order now from Amazon sites in most countries, though sadly not from Amazon's Australian site. It may take a few weeks for the book to be listed by Amazon Australia and non-Amazon sites.

2
Word Games / Interview with Frank Longo
« on: July 09, 2020, 04:25:48 PM »
I just noticed this interview, published last month on the Book & Film Globe website, with Frank Longo, the creator of the Spelling Bee puzzle in the New York Times Magazine. This puzzle is the inspiration for our 7-by-many puzzles.

The NY Times now actually has two versions of this puzzle: the one discussed in the interview, which appears in print once a week; and a daily online version, available to anyone with a NY Times crosswords subscription. One difference between these is that the weekly version requires words of five letters or more, while the daily puzzle accepts four-letter words too. I was aware of both these options when I started the 7-by-many puzzles, and opted for a five letter minimum, which seems to make for a more interesting puzzle.

One thing I've noticed since releasing 7-by-many books is that the vast majority of sales are in the US, whereas the other types of Chi puzzle books sell more copies in the UK. Presumably this is a spin-off from the popularity of Spelling Bee in the US. As mentioned in the interview, the Times hasn't yet made these puzzles available in books.


3
Word Games / Jumbo Chihuahua?
« on: July 01, 2020, 03:36:54 PM »
Some questions for forumites who have used Chihuahua puzzle books.

I'm thinking about the possibility of releasing a new type of book, with larger puzzles - that is, puzzles that have more words to be found. The main series of nine-letter puzzle books has from 41 to 60 common words per puzzle. There are also puzzles with 15 to 25 common words: the Express and Compact series.

This leaves out a lot of possible puzzles with more than 60 common words. Such puzzles would presumably keep the player occupied for longer, which might please some people. (I was going to say it could be handy on a long trip, but it may be that not many people will be going on long trips for some time to come.)

So I'd welcome people's thoughts on the idea of a book of Chi puzzles with, say 61 to 120 common words to be found in each puzzle.

Using such a book, the player might run out of space on the page for writing in their words, but I don't like the idea of providing extra pages for the player's solution, because that would mean fewer puzzles in the book, somewhat defeating the purpose of bigger puzzles. The book could have bigger pages, but people might find that inconvenient. Maybe players will just have to write very small, or use a separate sheet of paper.

Please let me know what you think.

4
Words / Common? Really??
« on: June 24, 2020, 08:42:51 PM »
In yesterday's 7-by-many puzzle (Tuesday 23 June) only 34 players out of 277 played one of the "common" words. Surely a candidate for re-grading to rare?

The word? CHIHUAHUA.

(I wasn't one of those 34 players.)

5
This Forum / Error 403 Forbidden
« on: June 24, 2020, 01:52:25 PM »
Recently rogue_mother was prevented from posting on the forum by an error saying "403 forbidden" or something similar. This has also happened to me. Have other forumites had this happen to them over the past few weeks?

6
Whatever / Bird names in America and Britain
« on: June 05, 2020, 08:51:43 PM »
Lynne Murphy's blog Separated by a Common Language recently had a discussion of the differences between the UK and US in the names of garden birds and bird-related language. Some forumites will probably find it interesting. It's here.

7
This Forum / Welcome to the new-look forum
« on: May 22, 2020, 12:36:32 PM »
Hope you like it. Let me know if there are any problems.

8
This Forum / Forum upgrade
« on: May 21, 2020, 12:06:27 PM »
I'll shortly be upgrading the software that runs this forum. The upgrade will probably happen tomorrow. This means that the forum will be unavailable for a while - hopefully less than an hour. When the forum comes back it will look a bit different, as shown in this screenshot.



The structure and functions of the forum will be much the same as before, but there will be a few improvements. When composing a post, there will be a button that allows you to see what your message will look like without having to press the Preview button. Things like bold text, smileys and links to images will be shown in the box you're typing into. The forum will also be more usable on mobile devices with small screens.

No doubt there will be a few other new features that forumites will discover. Conceivably there might also be some things that don't work properly after the upgrade - I'm sure people will let me know about them.

9
Word Games / New way to submit a word
« on: March 18, 2020, 01:39:31 PM »
I've introduced an additional method of submitting a word in Chihuahua. If you're playing with a mouse, when you click on the last letter of the word you want to play, keep the mouse button down for half a second or so and the word will be submitted. This should work also on touch screens - when you tap on the last letter of a word, keep your finger on the screen until the word is played. These changes are obviously not relevant to those playing via keyboard.

I was motivated to bring this in because of the 7-by-many puzzle. In other puzzle types you can complete a word by, in effect, double clicking on the last letter. In actuality, the letter moves away when you play it, and a green arrow icon appears. It is clicking or tapping on this icon that submits the word. But with the 7-by-many puzzle each letter can be used many times, so double clicking on a letter just adds the letter twice to the word you're building. So to play a word you had to move away from the letters to one of the Submit buttons.

Although this change was designed with 7-by-many puzzles in mind, it works on all puzzles.

If this new feature isn't working for you, your Chihuahua page may not have updated to the latest version. Clicking on the Reset button should make sure you are right up to date.

I haven't been able to test this on every type of device and browser, so please let me know of any problems you strike.

10
Say Hello / Welcome, PLT
« on: January 28, 2020, 08:56:50 PM »
Welcome to the forum. Good to have you on board.

11
Word Games / Ten years of Chihuahua puzzle books
« on: January 27, 2020, 03:32:50 PM »
28 January 2010 was the publication date of the first book of Chihuahua puzzles.



I wasn't optimistic enough to identify it as "Volume 1". Sales of the first book began sluggishly, and after a few months I felt that it was an experiment I wouldn't be repeating. But then a few people asked me when volume two was coming out, so I thought I might as well put out another volume, having done all the hard graft of working out how to do it. Sales of both volumes gradually picked up, encouraging me to continue. Now there have been 15 volumes of nine-letter puzzles and another twenty or so volumes of varying types. Details are on the Chihuahua Puzzle Books page. The latest series is 7-by-many puzzles, with two volumes released in 2019.

As usual, my main motivation has been having fun. After all, it's pretty cool to sit at your computer and create paperback books that people all over the world can buy. But in the process I've made some money - a dollar or two per book - which I don't mind. The highest rate of sales is always in November and December, leading me to infer that a lot of the books are bought as presents. Total sales of all volumes are running at about 1300 per year.

What to expect in the next ten years? I'd love to see your ideas.




12
Word Games / Chihuahua upgrade
« on: January 09, 2020, 04:10:50 PM »
I've made some changes to the Chihuahua website, as foreshadowed in another topic.

The most visible change is that the site's icon will now look like this: .

More importantly, Chihuahua will now be available in a lot of situations where you have no internet connection. This could be handy for players using tablets or laptops that depend on wifi to get online, or for people with unreliable internet service. If you've recently played Chi while online, your device should have stored enough data to allow you to play offline for a while. Scoreboard details won't be available, but otherwise the puzzle should work as normal. The next time you open Chi while online, any unsaved words from offline play will be sent to the scoreboard.

Another change relates to the option on mobile devices to add a website to the home screen. If you do this with Chihuahua, the page, when opened from the home screen icon, will use more of the screen - the browser controls will be missing from the top of the screen. In other words, Chi will be more like an app, and less like a web page.

As usual, please let me know of anything going wrong or any problems with the changes.

13
This Forum / Some forum pages may soon be blocked
« on: December 11, 2019, 04:30:45 PM »
A couple of years ago alarming messages started appearing when certain web browsers were used to visit this forum and the Chihuahua site. Read about these messages and the changes I had to make to get rid of them here and here. To cut a long story short, the sites had to be revamped so that they could be accessed using the prefix https: rather than http:.

Now it seems Google plans to further tighten security in its Chrome browser, targeting "mixed content" pages. These are pages accessed via https: if they include some content, such as images, retrieved via http:. The plan is to eventually block such pages from being viewed in Chrome. This could affect quite a few forum threads, where forumites have posted links to pictures on other sites. So far the more severe action on mixed content is limited to the Chrome browser, but this is the most commonly used browser by forum visitors, accounting for about half of the site's traffic.

One thing we can all do from now on is make sure that any images we include in a forum post have an https: prefix. I'll wait and see if anything needs to be done about the many existing topics with mixed content.

14
Word Games / How do other people handle plurals?
« on: November 13, 2019, 11:28:30 PM »
Below are the solutions provided today in the Melbourne "Age" for yesterday's Target puzzle. You'll notice that a lot of plurals ending in S are included, but other possible ones are omitted. I can't for the life of me see any pattern. Why not allow idles if you accept diddles? If loges is OK, why not lodes.

I think I've posted about something similar happening several years ago, when it seemed the paper was trying to exclude only plural nouns, and not verb inflections made by adding S. I think it's impossible to do that satisfactorily because there are so many words that are both noun and verb, but in any case idles can only be a verb, yet they don't allow it. And loges can only be a noun yet they do allow it.

15
Word Games / Problems on chihuahua-puzzle site
« on: November 04, 2019, 01:29:01 PM »
The server where the alternate Chihuahua site is running - www.chihuahua-puzzle.com - is having problems, causing the site to be unavailable for many users. The hosting company that runs the server is still investigating the problem and has not given any estimate of when normal service will be resumed.

The main site at chi.lexigame.com seems to be running normally, so I suggest everyone use that for the time being.

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