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NOTES: Merriam-Webster recently announced a new list of words to be incorporated into the dictionary. Most of the additions are entries I already had in my word list, though I got a few new entries, such as SEUSSIAN (65), that could be useful as general fill. The Trump administration presents an opportunity to add to entries to Default. Members of the White House staff and cabinet require some “vetting” for a crossword database just as they do for their actual job positions, though I did add SEAN SPICER (60) because I’ve been watching those SNL videos with Melissa McCarthy playing the gum-chomping press secretary. MAR-A-LAGO (65) might be utilitarian fill, though I resisted adding its partials that are not already represented as legit letter combos. I’m watching Riverdale on The CW. The modern-noir soap opera reimagining of the Archie Comics characters is hit-amd-miss, but I like the New Zealand-born lead actor K J APA (60) for his name. When Sybil watches, she comments on his massive eyebrows every time he appears onscreen. I hope the show survives so that his name becomes eligible fill for Daily Celebrity Crosswords.



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NOTES: I haven’t seen Zootopia (70) yet but I glanced at IMDb to see the cast and noticed some useful names among the characters: Chief Bogo, Yax, Stu Hopps. Another useful name of animated character that I only discovered recently is Aang (50) from Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’ve been “marking as read” large swaths of A.V. Club RSS feed posts because I haven’t had time to read them, but when I do have a chance to go through the entertainment news I can find some good Notepad additions. I jokingly wrote down Boaty McBoatface (72), the result of a group of U.K. scientists using an Internet poll to name a new research vessel. I don’t think the name will be made official (for the boat or the crossword database) despite its overwhelming popularity by voters, but the name would be a fun 15-letter seed if it sticks.

No sharedoc lists this time. Good luck to those competing in Stamford at the American College Puzzle Tournament this weekend!



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NOTES: Mental Floss ran an article last week about popular Valentine’s Day Internet searches associated with each of the fifty states. The results provided some good word list additions such as couples yoga (80), the top-searched item for Colorado. I decided that the West Virginia entry cheap gifts (-) was a bit to green-painty. Word Spy recently posted a new slang term for hoarding: stuffocation (70). It’s a too-cute portmanteau but I mainly added it because it comes from a James Wallman book title. The astronomical discovery of a planet nine (72) from a few weeks ago finally got added. I hope that astronomers acquire stronger evidence of this solar system rogue very soon so we can have a new planet to name.

LISTS: I’m still working on a chuck of Mark Diehl entries and recently added Hilton Head (75), HTML editor (65), ostrich egg (75), and pencil-thin (65). One entry that three me for a second was loose teeth (63). I couldn’t grasp the meaning of the phrase until I thought of the singular form. While many *tooth phrases feel as natural as their *teeth counterparts, I find that a few lean one way or the other. It’s based on whether the dental phenomenon is associated with multiple instances in the same mouth, thus “buck teeth” is better than “buck tooth,” but “first tooth” is better than “first teeth.” So maybe “loose teeth” seems strange because people don’t have multiple loose teeth simultaneously (or so I assume based on my personal dental history).

AUTOFILL PROJECT: tavern puzzle


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NOTES: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is generating a lot of excitement among action film fans, but I would guess that crossword puzzle constructors are especially excited to have available entries such as Kylo Ren (60) (A new clue alternative to {Stimpy’s pal!}), Maz (45), Hux (55), and Snoke (55). I haven’t seen the film yet but I expect that I will have stumbled upon most of the spoilers by the time I actually get to the theater. Among Golden Globe nominations I noted the crossword friendly additions Carol Aird (45), Cate Blanchett’s nominated title role in Carol and Lili Elbe (55) portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. After recent;y adding the neologism “food desert,” I discovered the related term food swamp (72) referring to a geographical area with an abundance of processed foods but little fresh produce, meat, or fish.

LISTS: I found some time to mine some more sharedoc data from Mark Diehl and Matt Jones. Some nice additions include Cosmo quiz (85), crumple zone (80), squash court (80), and tea cup ride (75). I only recently became familiar with the term tavern puzzle (80) and was interested to see the entry show up in list of database additions. We sell metal mechanical puzzles on the lobby of my workplace. Many of the puzzles are designed by local puzzle makers and branded as tavern puzzles due to their popularity as diversions in drinking establishments. I have never been adept at these puzzles, and now part of my job is to organize the display models and reset ones that have been solved by patrons. Even with the solution booklet at hand I struggle to put those damned things together. The shackle puzzle pictured below is the one that gives me the most grief. The solution instructions are fairly clear for removing the ring, but the ones for putting it back on contain “helpful” statements such as “reverse step 3” and “hold the shackles as in figure 2 but upside-down.” I’ll figure it out someday.






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NOTES: I first heard of the online fantasy sports company Draft Kings (75) a few years ago when it was a sponsor of Rob Cesternino’s podcast. Even as its advertising became more and more ubiquitous I didn’t think of adding it to my Notepad until its recent online gambling issues , along with those of FanDuel (70), made headlines.  Word Spy suggests that droneport (72), a facility for drone takeoffs and landings, will soon be widespread phenomenon. I’m still wondering when drones are going to start arriving at my condo with package deliveries. If the drones can keep the squirrels away I may increase my mail-order purchases.

GRIDS: My most recent Unthemely puzzle includes the entry SETSONEDGE. I added the entry to the grid with the assumption that  it was a common transitive verbal phrase that can be used on a person, i.e. “it sets me on edge.”  While writing clues I discovered that Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary only sanctions “(one’s) teeth” as the object of phrase. Other online references and previously published crossword clues also support the “teeth, not person” application. I opted to clue the entry based on my original assumption, believing that “set (one) on edge” is a colloquial, if technically incorrect, usage in the English speaking world. BEQ recently produced a crossword with the entry put on edge (65), and he also clued it as a transitive verbal phrase applicable to a person. Readers, do you agree with these clue approaches?



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NOTES: My Notepad additions have been slowing down over the last few months. I guess I’m noticing fewer new names in the news and I’m being more judicious with entries that I encounter in other crossword puzzles. Recent celebrity additions include Estonian tennis star Anett (45) Kontaveit and singer Hailee (50) Steinfeld. I’m also pleased that Desi Lydic (60) has joined Trevor Noah’s team of Daily Show correspondents, though it looks like she will be out on maternity leave shortly. I recently heard a news piece on the food desert (75) situation facing communities that are too rural to have access to grocery stores with fresh produce. And, with the approach of the day that Marty McFly traveled to the then-future in Back to the Future II, I have added Oxboard (70).Sure, they’re not hoverboards but I guess they’re as close as 2015 technology and marketing can get. I do see a lot of youngsters cruising around on them in Downtown Denver.




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NOTES: I’m still doing very little word list work due to other projects but the recent additions to the Oxford English Dictionary reported in the news this week game me the impetus to add the small number of entries on my Notepad. Of the OED additions mentioned in articles the one most favorable to crossword puzzles is rando (60), a term for an unknown, odd, or suspicious person. I was unfamiliar with the term but maybe I’ll start hearing it more now that it has dictionary cachet. I remember seeing the portmanteau term hangry (65) on neologism sites a while back. I suspect that the term, meaning irritable due to hunger, was short-listed by the OED so it could deflate the old “gry” puzzle. I’m only sorry that igry didn’t make it into the dictionary first. Other Notepad additions not related to the OED articles include shade balls (70) (several times I watched that video of the drought-mitigating spheres being dumped into a California reservoir) and Okilly Dokilly (75), a metal band in which all the musicians dress like Ned Flanders.