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Three-letter words

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Is there a limit to how many three letter words can be in a 15x15 grid?

Simon & Schuster has a hard and fast rule - no more than 12. For othrers, the fewer the better, and you'll probably get some pushback it if you go over 20.

I was wondering this myself recently, and did a quick survey of the last few NYT puzzles. The September 4 puzzle, a Wednesday, has a whopping 28 3-letter words in it. That week's Monday puzzle has 21, and the Tuesday has 24. The Thursday and Friday both have 11, and Saturday has 17.

That puzzle with 28 3's got dinged by the reviewer for that, but it was an oh-so-cute novelty theme, and obviously the fill didn't much matter. When you look at that puzzle, you find ONO, OTT, RTE, CEO, ALT, EEL, ADA, MTA, ORK - pretty crappy fill IMO. So if you come up with a theme that's as clever as that, no one's going to worry about how many three letter words you have (or in this case what they are).

Sometimes the theme forces a high 3-letter word count, and that's often forgiven. But I think the point is, you should design your grid to minimize the number of 3-letter words given the theme set you're working with.

Very helpful, thanks everyone!


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