Home » Autofill Project » AUTOFILL PROJECT: delta v. Delpy

AUTOFILL PROJECT: delta v. Delpy

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Default: 356452
Default with Spaces: 140122

NOTES: Ravishly blogger Nikki Gloudeman posted an article this week about the sexism in crosswords. She begins by describing a recent Liz Gorski New York Times puzzle in which Will Shortz replaced the original grid entry DELPY with DELTA. From this casual dismissal of an Oscar-nominated actress, Gloudeman launches into a discussion of the causes and consequences of gender disparity among puzzle constructors and editors. I enjoyed the article and find the topic of puzzles and culture interesting, though I support Will in his grid alteration at least from a perspective of entry fill scores in my database: delta (70) versus Delpy (55). Followers of the Autofill Project know that I tend to score proper names rather low, regardless of race, creed, or gender. Aside from big-name outliers with interesting letters — the IGGYAZALEAs and ALEXTREBEKs — most famous names are entered in the 50-60 range. My scoring does not reflect a disdain for celebrity. Famous names make up a significant majority of database additions, and I appreciate Boyhood star Ellar (50) Coltrane and Sierota (50) siblings who make up the pop group Echosmith for making a constructor’s job a little easier, but I find common nouns almost always more interesting to clue and deserving of higher priority in the fill process.

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3 thoughts on “AUTOFILL PROJECT: delta v. Delpy

  1. The first crossing changed from SNIP to SNIT, which I imagine is similarly ranked in your database, but the second changed from HOLY to HOLA, which I would guess is lower-ranked.

    Because of the latter, I slightly prefer the original version, though I could go either way. I think the more pressing issue is Will’s public criticism of the original draft, and am not fully convinced that ties into the concerns about sexism (though those problems do exist as well).

    • Issues of sexism and editorial propriety put aside, I only wanted to make an observation on the two fills based on my standards for entry types. You’re correct that HOLY is scored higher than HOLA, but the DELTA version still has a better overall fill score. I agree that it’s a close decision and largely reflects matters of personal preference. As a solver I certainly wouldn’t have found the DELPY version objectionable.

  2. Your theory about scoring common nouns higher than proper nouns is a good one, and one I’ve only recent come around to. I recently bought a book by a noted constructor (whose work I have enjoyed very much in the past) and found it so laden with proper names as to be unenjoyable.

    FWIW, I have never heard of DELPY and thus agree wholeheartedly with the revision. For the author to say DELPY and BRUCE LEE are “equally known”, when LEE gets 30x as many Google hits, seems implausible. A proper noun that is wholly unfamiliar to the solver is especially a real blight on the solving experience, so I think Will made a wise decision to eschew the risk.

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