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Identified Theme Types
Theme Type Sub-type Description Examples
Additions - Theme entries created by adding a letter, letters, or word to a word or phrase.




1. Letter

Example: CHECKERED PASTE, CRITICAL MASSE, PATERNITY SUITE (back-end addition of E)

2. Letters

Example: PEARL BUCKET, CABINET FEVER, WALLET PAPER, ROCKET BOTTOM (mixed addition of ET)

3. Word

Example: HOMEBOY TEAM, PAPERBOY WORK, BELLBOY RINGER, OUT OF PLAYBOY, CASH COWBOY
(mixed addition of BOY)
Alliterations - Theme entries are two-word (or more) phrases that have a common first letter or letter combination. example: happy hour, head honcho, ho hum, hired hand, high hat, hobbit hole
Anagram / Scramble - All or portion of each theme entry is scrambled. 1. word scrambled
example: Lord of the FILES, Planet of the PEAS, Day of the CLOUTS

2. scrambled pair
example: strange garnets, remote meteor, claret cartel, storied editors

3. entire entry scrambled (usually all entries derived from same letters)
example: RASH TEMPO, HART POEMS, MOT SHAPER, MOP HATERS, MATH POSER, METAPHORS
Antonyms - Theme entries have opposite meanings or contain words that have opposite meanings.

1. paired entries have opposite meanings
example: not at all / thumbs up, no way Jose / okey dokey, to be sure / forget it, never ever / aye aye sir

2. each entry contains opposing words
example: sweet and sour pork, up and down market, black and white tv, life and death situation, on and off romance
Bookends - Starting and ending letters form a word or starting and ending words form a phrase in each theme entry. 1. letters
example: Lefty grOVE, LOok aliVE, LOst ones nerVE, LOcal diVE, LOcomotiVE (start and end of each form LOVE).

2. words
example: TIGER in the WOODS, SALLY needs a RIDE, JOHNNY out of CASH
Category Members - Entries or words that are members of a specific category.

1. full entry
example: grizzly bear, turkey trot, blackbottom, charleston (dances)

2. partial entry
example: FINGER lakes, KNUCKLE sandwich, HAND in glove (front-end category members)
Combined Types - Combination of two or more theme types.

example 1: front-end word substitution and phrase sequence: AULD folks at home, LANG grain rice, SYNE of affection

example 2: proper name play and thematic substitution (initial expansion): Jim Palmer Morgam, Anne Jackson Foyt, Ansel Adams Milne

example 3: word substitution and category members: no VOLT insurance, FLUX of geese, OHM builder, WATTchamacallit
Complete The Clue - Theme entries complete clues that start or end in a blank or ellipse. Example: complete the movie title clue "The Man Who ..."

with entries

KNEW TOO MUCH, LOVED CAT DANCING, and FELL TO EARTH (nyt 6/26/05)
Compounds - Words used in theme entries that can come before or after a target word.


1. before:
Lucille BALL, take a POWDER, it's a LIVING, meat LOCKER, call WAITING (all ending words can precede ROOM)

2. after:
FOOTBALL pads, POLE position, STAFF of life, DAY glo paint (all starting words can follow FLAG)
Containers - Theme entries contain a "hidden" word or letter sequence

1. same hidden word throughout
example: writinG PAper, growinG PAins, landinG PArty, danglinG PArticiples, standinG PAt, boardingG PAss (all contain GPA)

2. different hidden words, but all belong to same category
example: direcT ROUTe, turnPIKE exit, karen CARPenter, ciGARillo, mauSOLEum, us amBASSador, disCO Diva, banTU NAtive, the SHADow, veal SCALLOPine (all entries contain types of fish)
Definitions - Theme entries are in the form of a definition, while the clues are usually related and carry the theme. 1. same clue
example: one smacker, novelist Pearl, kind of private, male rabbit (all clued as "Buck")

2. related clues
example: months of Spring (clue: MAYS), layer of the earth (clue: MANTLE), more derogatory (clue: SNIDER)
Deletions - Theme entries created by deleting a letter, sound, or word from a word or phrase. 1. letter(s)
example: LAT 5745 - ape measure, rust buster, railblazer, ax assessor (front-end deletion letter T)

2. sound

3. word
Designated Squares - Specific squares within the grid are identified in some manner and when read in order reveal a thematic message.
1. circle in squares - the squares are designated with circles

example: circled letters reveal a quote related to the theme

2. central block of squares

example: NYT 2/5/06 - a 5x5 central block of squares spells out: WALKERS OUTDISTANCE RUNNERS

Direction change - Entries change direction as they are entered in the grid. example:
LAT 6734 - Michael Dell, Norman Fell, William Tell, Joshua Bell. Each entry turned a right angle at "ell" -- this puzzle is also a back-end rhymer.
Double/Triple Letters - Words or phrases containing double or triple letters are featured. 1. single per entry
example: LAT 6612 - oom pah pahs, ooh and ahh, oona oneil, oolong tea
example: LAT 6755 - fax xfiles, annex xanadu, coax xerox, telex xerxes

2. multiple per entry
example: LAT 6731 - artoo detoo, bamboo shoot, whoopdedoos, pooh poohed
Featured Letter(s) - Entries feature or highlight a given letter or group of letters 1. single letter

2. letters
example: NYS 7724 - All entries contain letters found on the left hand side of the keyboard.
Grid design - The arrangement of black and white squares plays into the theme. example:
NYT 7527 - black squares form a large S in the center; two theme answers to S, and all clues start with S!
Holidays and Special Occasions - Theme is related to the day in which it appears. example: LAT 6710 - Martin, Luther, I have a dream, Nobel Peace Prize, King Jr, civil rights, Gandhi. Appeared on 1/15/03.
Homophones - Theme entries have words that sound like other words. 1. same sounding words throughout
example: LAT 6715 - civil RIGHT, please WRITE, strideRITE, wheelWRIGHT

2. different homophones
example: NYS 7083 - BEAR essentials, BEE careful, GNU arrival, GORILLA warfare
Jokes / Riddles - Jokes or riddles is carried out by the theme entries 1. jokes
example: NYT 834 - Knock Knock, who's there?, the handy man your, doorbell's, on the blink

2. riddles
example: LAT 5849 - What can you use, to fix a broken, Jack O'Lantern: A pumpkin patch
Language / Accent - Theme entries use another language, accent, or manner of speech Pig Latin
example: LAT 6757 - okay college, ashtray compactor, quilting ebay, elway suited, olay profile, womens airway, loot and underplay.
Mini theme - Two related major entries in an otherwise themeless puzzle example 1: NYS 7685 - MORNING person, NIGHT watchman

example 2: NYS 6958 - two aphorisms: 'haste makes waste' and 'might makes right'
Other - test test test test
Pairs / Triplets / nTuplets - Theme entries are formed by adding together two or more words/phrases in the same category. 1. pairs
example: nyt 203 - POISON AIRSUPPLY, MEATLOAF PLATTERS, SWEET KISS, DRIFTERS JOURNEY, POLICE STING, BOSTON CREAM, FREE BREAD, HEART ASSOCIATION (two rock groups paired)

2. triplets
example: nyt 710 - SONY RCA MAGNAVOX (TV series),
MARS SATURN VENUS (world series), LITTLE TINY SHORT (mini series)

3. n-tuplets
example: nyt 245 - STAR WIRED PARENTS MONEY, MAD CONSUMER REPORTS SPY, JET THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, etc. (multiple magazines)

Palindromes - Theme entries reads same forward and backward. example:
NYS 5950 - Ma is a nun as I am, do geese see God, we panic in a pew
LAT 5655 - llama mall, harrass Sarah, smart trams, drowsy sword
Positional - Theme entries are positioned in specific grid locations or are positioned relative to each other. 1. by location

2. relative position
example: NYT 7852 - ON TOP OF positioned above THE WORLD, BENEATH positioned under CONTEMPT, etc.
Proper Name Play - Theme involves play with proper names example: LAT 6759 - F Lee Bailey, G Gordon Liddy, C Everett Koop, L Frank Baum. These are well-known names with first name as initial.
Punchlines - theme entries are punchlines led into by the clues. example: nyt 735 titled "I wanted to be a..."
1 ...sumo wrestler, but I... QUIT WHEN PUSH CAME TO SHOVE
2 ...mime, but I... TALKED MYSELF OUT OF IT
etc.
Puns - Theme relies on the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound 1. words used with multiple meanings (same spelling)
example: NYT 7564 - I'LL DRAW TWO CARDS (clue - Artist's comment at the poker game), I HOPE I WIN THIS POT (clue -Chef's comment at the poker game), etc.

2. similar sounding words with different meanings (different spellings)
Quips and Quotes - Theme entries reveal a quip or quote revealed in order.


Quip example: LAT 6762 - dieting is for / those who / are thick / and tired of it

Quote example: LAT 6768 - I dont / make jokes / I just watch the / government and / report the / facts
Rebus - Theme entries contain a segment that consists of a picture or string of letters to be entered in a single square. 1. single rebus

2. multiple rebuses
example: NYS 7696 - sTEAK sauce, TEA Kettle, LucY EWing, eYEWASH, trASH FIRes, semiFIRm, crOAK, sOAK in, alPINE, sPINEless (all tree types)
Redivision - Theme entries are regular phrases clued as if the division between words were different than usual. example: nyt 231 - BALAAM SASS, THE LORD SPRAYER, WOMEN SWEAR DAILY, SHEPHERD SPIES, MRS O'LEARY SCOW
Repetition - Theme entries contain repeated words or sounds 1. word - same word appears in each entry
example: LAT 6751 - quilting BEE, okeechoBEE, BEEhive oven, frisBEE, BEEBEE, BEEkeeping

2. sound - same sound appears in each entry, often multiple times in each
example: LAT 6740 - impala ala ocala, koala ala marsala, fala ala scala

3. doubled words (tautonyms?)
example: LAT 6758 - Bora Bora, Baden Baden, Pago Pago, Walla Walla
Reversals - Part or all of the theme entries are in reverse. 1. full entry

2. one word
Rhyme - Theme entries or words within the entries that rhyme. example: LAT 6722 - gobbledegook, bobbleheaddolls, cobblestones. This is a front-end rhyme.
Sequence - Series of words or phrases that produce a sequence from theme entry to theme entry. Word ladders (series of words that change one letter to move from one word to the next - invention of Lewis Carroll) are a special type of sequence. 1. general
example: LAT 6737 - first aid station, secondhand smoke, third base umpire, fourth class mail

2. phrase
example: LAT 5748 - FAITH healer, HOPE against hope, CHARITY ball
example: LAT 6792 - once in a while, every now and then, on a regular basis. Clued as "Seldom", "Occasionally", "Frequently".

3. word ladder
example: NYT 7545 - heat, beat, boat, bolt, colt, cold

4. vowel sequence (words differ only by vowel)
example: LAT 5792 - The LAST Mile, LEST We Forget, The LIST,
The LOST World, LUST For Life
Shared Centers - Two words or phrases that share an intervening word or segment. example: LAT 5754 - pinBALLpark, oldMAIDmarian, blackJACKrabbit, baccaRATtrap, binGOfishing, tictacTOEdancer, monoPOLYgrph, hangMANhunt

example: LAT 5703 - apotheCARY Grant, flapJACK Klugman,
goodhearTED Mack, tradeMARK Harmon
Shared Initials - Theme entries are phrases that share the same initial letters, excluding alliterations. example:
LAP OF LUXURY, LAND OF LINCOLN, LORD OF LORDS, etc - all theme entries share the initials LOL
Shift - theme entries consistently shift letter(s) or word(s) 1. letter

2. letters
example: NYS 7048 - Diana IN Hoosiers, field IN hits, tram IN Urals, come IN statement (shift IN from front to end of first word)

3. word

4. words
Spoonerisms - Spoonerisms are phrases or words with swapped sounds. The name Spoonerism comes from the Reverend William Archibald Spooner who is reputed to have been particularly prone to making this type of verbal slip. example: NYS 7199 - court of Paul, clutch of Tass, mentor of sass, wall of backs
Stacked 15s - Fifteen-letter entries stacked on each other in a usually themeless puzzle  
String / Chain - Theme entries formed of individual words in end-to-end fashion forming a string or chain 1. string (words related to single word)
example: LAT 6802 - runner/tar/map/way, bike/work/bed/sign, grader/agent/trip, show/hog/side/test, house/roller/rage (clued as "Road endings")

2. chain (words related to adjacent words)
Substitutions - One letter, group of letters, or word(s) is(are) substituted for another in the theme entries. 1. letter(s)
example: LAT 6614 - seize the moUnt, corporate Urgers, fraU of reference (U substituted for ME)

2. sound
example: NYS 6908 - power teal, tier de France, king Tut's team, tina melts (substitute "tee" sound for "two" sound)

3. abbreviation
example: LAT 6782 - PT blonde, AG tongued, SN lizzie, AU digger, FE curtain, SI valley (element abbrs)

4. word

5. double
example: LAT 6812 - tall of voice, soup balls, nose calls, stall masons, shower stone, cones home, bean bones, walking tone (ALL for ONE and ONE for ALL)

6. thematic (inflated, deflated, male for female, initial expansion, etc.)
example: LAT 6724 - Lunch at Tiffanys, Sunday Night Live, Seven Days in June (all times are advance one setting)
example: LAT 6606 - JimPalmerMorgam, AnneJacksonFoyt, AnselAdamsMilne, HootGibsonWells (well-known names substituted for initials in another name)
Switch - Letters or words within theme entry phrases switch positions. 1. letters
example: NYS 7167 - b(A)ll of f(I)re, b(I)ll of f(A)re,
con(V)er(S)ation, con(S)er(V)ation, (L)i(M)estone, (M)i(L)estone

2. words
example: nyt - contents of table, record of clients, clothes of change
Synonyms - Theme entries or words within theme entries that have like meanings. 1. full entry
example: LAT 6613 - ask me if i care, whats the big deal, who gives a fig (all clued as "So?")

2. front-end
example: LAT 6716 - DOUBLE feature, TWIN sisters, PAIR of pants, TWO cents worth

3. back-end
example: LAT 6611 - evan HUNTER, movie TRAILER, chevy TRACKER, beer CHASER

4. mixed
example: LAT 6723 - SABLE coats, qouth the RAVEN, EBONY and ivory, private JET
Tribute - Theme entries create a puzzle tribute to person or place. example:
NYT 7560 - BOB KEESHAN, CAPTAIN KANGAROO, CLOWN HALL OF FAME, HOWDY DOODY
4Verse - Theme entries combine to create a verse, poem, limerick, or other similar form.  

 

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