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Topics - Alan W

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Word Games / Large print book of 7-by-many puzzles
« on: May 23, 2022, 05:16:48 PM »
I've just released Chihuahua Large Print 7-by-many Puzzles Volume 1:

On the Chihuahua Large Print Word Puzzles page you can read about the four large print books of Chihuahua puzzles released so far: three volumes of 9-letter puzzles and now the first volume of 7-by-many puzzles.

In this latest book I've increased the type size, from 16-point to 18-point. This is based on the guidelines published by some organizations recommending that large print books use fonts of at least 18 points (although it appears that the large print books at my local public library almost all use 16-point type). To accommodate the bigger type I've gone for a bigger page size: 7 x 10 inches instead of 6 x 9 inches used in the earlier books.

If any forumites make use of large print books (of puzzles or otherwise) I'd be interested to know your thoughts about text size, and about the physical size of books.

A recently published article, How Wordle brought us back together talks about the way online word puzzles can be a stimulant to social interaction. The article refers mainly to Wordle and the Spelling Bee puzzle in the New York Times. Spelling Bee is the inspiration for our 7-by-many puzzle.

There's also some discussion relevant to our ongoing debates about "common" words:

Much of the Spelling Bee chatter centers on what words the game will accept or not. Rather than use a set dictionary as the standard, Ezersky tries to limit the daily list to “everyday” words that most of the public would recognize. It makes for a better game — if the entire English language were in play, he argues, the game would be all but impossible to beat.

But that creates a lot of gray area, because everyone’s personal lexicon is different. A niche medical device might be an everyday word for a surgery technician, but unheard of for most players; elote, grilled Mexican corn, might rise to the level of a common word in San Antonio, but not in Minneapolis. “I had no idea starting out that this was going to be such a point of contention,” Ezersky says. “Everybody has their own bugaboos with the word list.” His own father texts him his personal complaints about the word list almost daily.

Words / Word suggestions
« on: May 19, 2022, 04:14:47 PM »
In another topic it was noted that I hadn't been responding to word suggestions in recent weeks. Here for your convenience are the comments made.

Jacki asked -

Is it just me or has Alan taken a hiatus on responding to word suggestions? Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe I’m imagining it, but he seemed to respond more often before RTT’s myriad of suggestions.
Are you ok Alan?

And I replied -

I'm fine, Jacki. Thanks for asking. I'm fine perhaps because I haven't been looking at the outstanding word suggestions much. When I do look at them I get depressed about how many there are. That's not all down to RTT. There was a big backlog before.

There are probably a few options for dealing with this situation, but one of them is to ignore it, and that's what I've been mostly doing for the last few weeks. It seems to be working.

Jacki responded -

You poor thing! How about a hiatus on new word suggestions unless ten or more people agree with the suggestion? Then you can look at it. Just an idea.

And Roddles said -

I'd second that, although I would think five in agreement would be sufficient to warrant submission.

Also ridethetalk wrote to me by Private Message asking if there was any way forumites could lend a hand in dealing with word suggestions.

I'd be interested to hear what other people think. I can see three main options:

  • Continue allowing the suggestions to pile up, with no responses. This could probably continue indefinitely with no great detriment to Chihuahua.
  • I could continue dealing with them unaided, but in a much more peremptory manner. E.g. new words could be accepted if and only if they are listed in at least one reputable dictionary. Changes from rare to common status or vice versa could be decided as they were in the early days: by my judgement call, with no reasons given.
  • Other members of the Chihuahua community could help out in some way, either as Jacki suggested, or by individual forumites becoming adjudicators on a rotating basis, or via some other mechanism.

Those are just some initial thoughts. Over to you...

Word Games / Selecting letters for 7-by-many puzzle
« on: February 08, 2022, 05:00:44 PM »
Some time ago TRex asked about creating 7-by-many puzzles under the Your Puzzles tab, with letters input by the player:

How does one create a 7-by-many puzzle with specific letters? When I place a check along 'Allow letters to be reused (7-by-many puzzle), the Puzzle letters section is greyed-out.

This option has been available for a while now, but I think I must have neglected to inform people about it. At any rate players haven't been using it so far in published puzzles.

Please give it a try and let me know if there are any problems. Choose 7-by-many and click on the "Choose your own letters" checkbox.

Word Games / Technical problems at
« on: January 13, 2022, 02:12:54 PM »
Over the past several hours there have been interruptions to service on the alternate Chihuahua site, The hosting service is working on solving the problem.

The main site at is functioning normally.

Word Games / Player stats, 2021
« on: January 07, 2022, 02:25:05 PM »
The Chihuahua player statistics have been updated to include all 2021 data.

In case you need reminding, you can see your stats when you are signed in to Chi by clicking the Details button under your player name (above the scoreboard) and then clicking "Player statistics" at the top right of the box that appears. Enjoy!

Word Games / 7 by many revamp
« on: December 31, 2021, 01:33:36 PM »
A few months ago I introduced a new look for the 7bm puzzle. It turned out to have a few problems, and got mixed reviews from forumites (see this topic). So I quickly reverted to the previous version, with a view to reconsidering the possibilities.

Now, I've come up with mark 2, which I'm planning to release early in the new year. Players of the 7 by many will have the option of having each word shown as a text string, as at present, or as an array of "tiles" that can be manipulated to rearrange the word. For this latter option, my plan is to dump the circles, but have each letter sitting in a rectangular shape, similar to the other puzzle types. This means the word you're building will take less space than in the earlier design, with the letters in circles. The two screen shots below show how things will look with the two options.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Word Games / 7-by-many book sales
« on: December 23, 2021, 11:02:47 AM »
There's a striking difference between the US and the UK in sales of the four (so far) volumes of 7-by-many puzzles. So far this month, 89% of Chihuahua books sold in the US have been 7bm titles, whereas in the UK 7bm books have represented just 1.3% of sales.

I wonder if this is due to the types of puzzles that people have played in newspapers. I have the impression that Target puzzles are available in a few British papers, as well as similar puzzles under different names (word wheel, polywords, etc.) But I'm not sure if these types of puzzles are printed in any US newspapers. On the other hand the New York Times has its Spelling Bee puzzle, which was my inspiration for the 7-by-many puzzles. The Spelling Bee puzzle seems to have quickly built up a dedicated following. I haven't heard of any other newspaper anywhere in the world running a puzzle with the same concept.

Words / swede
« on: December 02, 2021, 02:44:08 PM »
Recently a player emailed me as follows:

In the Standard Game, “shrewdest,” my final word, after a really wild guess, was “Swede.” Is this not a proper noun, and therefore not allowed (as “Norse” was disallowed in a previous game)? Or is there another common-noun definition that us Yanks don’t use? Thanks for your input. I continue to enjoy all the games available!

The word swede is also the name of a root vegetable. But apparently this is known in north America as a rutabaga.

Both these words have been classed as common in Chihuahua, but I'll switch them to rare, given that they're not well known everywhere.

This Forum / Vale Les
« on: November 03, 2021, 01:10:59 PM »
As she mentioned in another topic, Moyra (auntiemo) sent a personal message to Les to check that he was all right. She received this reply, which she passed on to me.

Good morning,
This is Sharee, Les' niece. I have some sad news. Uncle Les suddenly passed away on the 21 October. He had a heart attack, triple bypass surgery but sadly was not strong enough to come back to us. His funeral was yesterday.

This is sad news indeed.

During two periods of forum membership, Les was a prolific contributor. He shared with us some of his life story. He took a warm interest in other forum members, which is a big part of the reason that the "More or Les" thread that he started took off and continues to this day as a lively topic. More recently he started a topic dedicated to the 7-by-many puzzle, but without his daily comments on players' achievements, the thread has been dormant over recent weeks.

I'm sure others will want to post tributes and memories of Les.

Say Hello / Welcome, Wibbly Bits
« on: November 01, 2021, 02:09:22 PM »
Glad you've joined us in the forum. And thanks for your comments on "capisce", in another topic.

For some time now, you've provided one of the more memorable names on the Chihuahua scoreboard, and now it's here in the forum too!

Word Games / Happy birthday, Chihuahua!
« on: September 28, 2021, 12:44:12 PM »
Today is the 16th anniversary of the Chihuahua puzzle going online.

On 28 September 2005, the best performing player was someone named gamadad. They got more words than anyone else, and they were the only player to find the nine-letter word, which was, appropriately, OBSCURELY.

Here is a screen clip from about a month later.

Word Games / Request for help re Chi books
« on: September 10, 2021, 04:58:11 PM »
I'd be grateful if some forumites in the UK and US would look at some recent Chihuahua books on Amazon, to see if they're available. When I look at some of these titles they're said to be "Currently unavailable", which should never happen with print on demand books. But maybe I get that message because Amazon can tell I'm in Australia.

In the UK, the 9-letter puzzles volume 19 is here, 7-by-many volume 4 is here and compact puzzles volume 6 is here.

In the US, the 9-letter puzzles volume 19 is here, 7-by-many volume 4 is here and compact puzzles volume 6 is here.

The "currently unavailable" message that I see on some of these pages is over on the right of the page. On the Canadian Amazon site all the books seem to be available.

Words / Glasnost
« on: August 30, 2021, 05:06:24 PM »
Recently there was some unrest over a 7-by-many puzzle where the all-letter word was glasnost.

Frankly I was surprised that people would find this word so obscure: Les said he'd never heard of it and yelnats said it was as foreign and uncommon as langosta, a type of lobster. I realise some people are too young to remember the last days of the Soviet Union - though I didn't think many Chi players would be that young! But surely everyone has a little awareness of the major events of the 20th century, and even a brief account of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War would include the words glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring).

No doubt my reaction is due to the fact that I'm quite interested in politics and history. In any case, whether a word is common isn't decided by whether I, or anyone else, think it should be known by everyone.

Obviously glasnost isn't known to every Chi player. And it certainly hasn't been used much in news articles over the last 25 years or so. And it's a principle of Chi that the puzzle seed word should be especially common. So I'll make glasnost a rare word (just as glasnost itself has become rare in modern Russian government) and remove it as a seed word.

* * *

I've recently responded to a few comments about words that people have made in the 7-by-many topic. I think in future I won't automatically do that - and I probably haven't succeeded in picking up all the word suggestions implied in people's reflections on the puzzle of the day. Any time a forumite wants to suggest a word be added or changed between common and rare status, they are welcome to start a topic here in the Words category. That will make it more certain that I'll follow it up eventually. And it will be a little easier for anyone to look back later on and see what was said about an issue in previous discussion, rather than having comments interspersed with a lot of unrelated posts.

Words / Grevillea and alsatian
« on: August 29, 2021, 02:46:26 PM »
In another topic, doxydaisy wondered why grevillea (a flowering plant) and alsatian (a breed of dog) are not recognized by Chihuahua. She didn't ask me to consider them for inclusion, but I'm doing it anyway!

Many dictionaries list grevillea with a lower case g, but more often than not, it is written with a capital G. To be pedantic, it should be capitalized when referring to the name of a botanical genus, but not when used as the common name for a particular species. In any case, the word is sometimes written in all lower case letters, for example in the San Fransisco based website SFGate in June 2021:

Feemster stops to lean toward a grevillea — a plant that more closely resembles a deep sea creature or even an alien than a flower, with needle-shaped petals forming a flamboyant bloom.

I'll add grevillea as a rare word.

Alsatian is another word often capitalized. In this case, I suppose the reason is that the word's original meaning is "from Alsace". It was apparently applied to the German shepherd dog breed in Britain during and shortly after the 1914-18 War. In this case, almost all dictionaries list the word with an initial capital. However the Shorter Oxford notes the lower case option for the word when used in the dog sense, as does Wiktionary. And publications do sometimes use that form, as in the Limerick Leader from Ireland:

A group of friends in Limerick have been hailed as heroes after rescuing a dog from drowning in the freezing cold River Shannon on Friday night.

Colán Eardley, a student at Limerick Institute of Technology, and his friend Sean Curtin were out enjoying the snow in the city centre when they noticed an alsatian getting into difficulty in the river.

I'll add the word alsatian, but it will be classed as a rare word since the dog breed sense of the word is not generally used in America, and also because some players may assume the word is always capitalized and therefore not allowed.

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