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Topics - Alan W

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Word Games / Chi puzzle books from Amazon Australia
« on: June 01, 2021, 02:27:13 PM »
Amazon has recently started selling some of the Chihuahua books directly from its Australian web site, These books are now printed in Australia, and should be shipped faster and cheaper than previously.

For example the 7-by-many book, volume 4, released a couple of weeks ago, is selling for $A10.95 and is shipped from Amazon Australia:

Contrast this with the previous volume, selling for $A18.81 and shipped from the UK.

Eventually all the Chi books should be shipped from Australia, but there is a delay in extending this system to books printed on cream paper. I'm guessing the paper stock is imported into Australia, and is affected by Covid-related delays. This "cream" paper is very pale, and I switched to it a few years ago because I liked the look of it better than the white paper, which is a very stark white, similar to photocopy paper. However the difference is subtle, so I've specified white paper for the last couple of titles I've released.

The result is that, at present, earlier books and some very recent ones are being printed and shipped from Australia to customers of Amazon AU. So Aussie forumites planning to buy a Chi puzzle book should make sure they check out the local Amazon site as a possible source.

Words / Word suggestion: metropole
« on: May 23, 2021, 02:33:41 PM »
Occasionally somebody sends me a suggestion via email. But I think this is the first time I've received a suggestion resulting from a Chihuahua puzzle book.

My correspondent had been playing puzzle 2 in the 7-by-many puzzles book, Volume 3, and was unhappy that metropole wasn't listed in the solutions. I don't think I was aware of this word, other than as a hotel name. But it is listed, in lower case, in a number of dictionaries, including the online Oxford and Merriam-Webster and Wiktionary. It has a few meanings, but the main ones seem to be the parent state of a colony, or the main town of a territory.

A recent usage example is from the Washington Examiner of 6 May:

...her thesis that the “erasure of empire” is rooted in a “fundamental incompatibility between the imperial project and British institutions developed in the metropole” is necessarily more speculative.

I've added metropole as a rare word. The letters for this word may not yet have come up in a daily puzzle, but they probably will some time.

Words / unalertly
« on: March 13, 2021, 03:12:29 PM »
A while ago I had an email from a player suggesting Chi should accept the word unalertly.

I couldn't find this word in any dictionary, but that doesn't rule it out as a real word. It can be generated by standard constructions that we all use without thinking much about it (unalertly, you might say): either adding ly to the end of unalert or adding un to the front of alertly.

But do people ever say or write unalertly? Well not often, but I could find some examples with the help of Google Book Search, in passages that read quite naturally:

They had not been in the camp so they must have come out of the creek close by and unalertly walked right into the midst of the revenge-seeking Comanche horse-warriors.

It may be that I have awakened particularly unalertly today, but I cannot make any sense out of that whatsoever.

On one occasion, when I was hidden and watching the carcass of a Deer which a Lion had killed, to see what carnivorous animal might come to the feast, a Mountain Lion walked quietly and unalertly to it and commenced to eat.

Unalertly will be allowed in future, as a rare word.

Word Games / What's "new"?
« on: March 12, 2021, 01:14:57 PM »
Some of you may have noticed the word "new" appearing on some of the tabs for Chihuahua puzzles:

This is for the benefit of people (like me) who aim to play every daily puzzle. It is intended to alert you when there are currently-open puzzles that you haven't yet played.

It won't always be accurate if you play on multiple devices.

If you never see this "new" message, it may be that your version of Chihuahua hasn't yet updated. Give it a day or two.

Please let me know if there are any problems with this new feature.

Word Games / Player statistics 2020
« on: January 03, 2021, 01:04:37 PM »
The Chihuahua player statistics have been updated to include all 2020 data. 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.

Here are a few graphs to show some trends over the years. These all relate to the daily puzzles only.

It's interesting that the average words played per player per puzzle has been fairly stable over the years. For example:

Words / Careen
« on: November 19, 2020, 04:45:03 PM »
A while ago I had an email from someone who plays the puzzles in Chihuahua books. He said he would like it if the books sold in the UK omitted American words and spelling. I replied that it might be a possibility to have separate British and American editions of the books, but I doubted if I could reliably compile separate word lists. However I pointed out that words that are not well known in all English-speaking countries are generally classed as rare.

As an example, he had mentioned careen - treated as a common word in Chi puzzles - which he said was an American version of the verb career. I hadn't previously noticed that these two very similar words could be used in the same way: "the car went careening/careering across the road". Nor had it occurred to me that one of these words is more associated with British English and the other more with American English. But it seems it is so, at least to a certain extent. Corpus searches show careen used several times more frequently in the US than in Britain, while careered and careering are used more often in the UK than in the US.

However I'm not convinced that careen would be unknown to most speakers of British English. Certainly I, an Australian, know the word. While I was pondering this question I happened to notice the word used twice in a recent Australian novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, by Trent Dalton. For example:

One buffalo loses its footing in the uneven roadside and careens unstoppably into Greta's door, horns crashing into moving metal.

So I'd be interested in comments about careen from non-American forumites. Likewise from Americans about verb forms of career. Obviously career itself should remain common, for its use meaning a professional life, but careered and careering are also common at present.

Words / Prevalence of words in US and UK
« on: October 17, 2020, 03:06:10 PM »
I've occasionally mentioned in the forum items appearing in the Separated by a Common Language blog. In this blog, linguist Lynne Murphy, who is American but lives in Britain, talks about differences between American and British English.

Recently the blog looked at lists of words found by recent research to be known by a lot more Americans than British people, and vice versa. More information about the research can be found in Lynne Murphy's two posts, American words (most) British folk don't know and British words (most) Americans don't know.

What's interesting to me about these lists is whether each of the words is classed as common or rare in Chihuahua. And if any are common, should they be rare? Well, it seems most of the words known by a lot more Americans are classed as rare, but almost all the words known mainly by Britons are classed as common.

Here are the words more prevalent in America. (If you don't know what some of these words mean, look in Lynne Murphy's post.)


Of these words, the Chihuahua list classes as common garbanzo, acetaminophen, tamale, kielbasa, provolone, staph and luau. All the rest are classed as rare, except for albuterol, which is not in our lexicon at all.

The only one of these words I can recall us discussing at any length is sandlot, which was changed from common to rare a few years ago, also discussed here.

I'll do a separate post shortly about the words that are much more prevalent in Britain.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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?

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.

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.

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.

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