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Author Topic: Theme database  (Read 671 times)

zinaphile

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  • Posts: 9
Theme database
« on: December 15, 2019, 09:49:43 PM »
Total newbie here. After much huffing and puffing I managed to complete the fill for my first crossword.  Sat down to do an NYT crossword from a month ago that I hadn't gotten around to and lo and behold it was the same theme as mine. Well, not exactly the same, the rules it followed were different than mine. But both were based on words containing POP, as a result of which our theme words were virtually identical.  Ouch.
 
So my question is this - is there a database or list anywhere that tracks themes so you can see if your idea has already been done?

mmcbs

  • Sr. Member
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  • Posts: 357
Re: Theme database
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2019, 06:59:00 AM »
There are several sites that offer this information. My favorite is crosswordgiant.com - when you enter an answer it displays all the occurrences of its being used, sorted by the clue. You can then click through to see all the answers and clues from that particular puzzle, which makes it fairly easier to see the theme and determine if its the same or similar to yours. This site covers a wide range of publishers.

This site cruciverb.com has a similar feature (Puzzle Database). Here you can actually see the grids (not just a list of answers/clues). I believe you have to have a paid membership to use this, and it only covers a limited number of publishers and isn't always up to date.

xwordinfo.com has an excellent database, but it only covers NYT.

Crosswordtracker.com will show you if your theme entry has been used, but you can't see the rest of the puzzle. I use it a lot because it's very fast and compact and displays occurrences of the entries in chronological order, which is helpful.
Mark McClain
Salem, Virginia, USA
https://crosswordsbymark.wordpress.com/

zinaphile

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  • Posts: 9
Re: Theme database
« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2019, 03:14:09 PM »
Thanks for the reply. I did do some searches on the key theme word that defined my theme concept (the one theme word the two puzzles don't have in common) and it came up empty.  It didn't occur to me that a puzzle could start from a somewhat different premise and end up with the same set of theme words - searching on the other theme words would've found this. So that problem - different premises, same set of theme words, can be avoided by word searches that are more thorough than what I did.

But what about the opposite scenario - same premise, different theme words. Say, an addition theme adding some letters to the ends of words?  Two puzzles could use the same set of letters yet end up with completely different theme words. I forget the specifics but I remember reading Shortz talk about a really clever puzzle that he held onto for 4 years before publishing as something similar had recently been done. What do people do to avoid running into that?

mmcbs

  • Sr. Member
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  • Posts: 357
Re: Theme database
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2019, 03:27:37 PM »
Well, there's really not a good way to find it if the theme concept is one that could generate a large number of possible theme entries. Got a chuckle  from your comment about Will Shortz holding a puzzle for four years. Most editors (and this has happened to me on a number of occasions) will just give you a rejection and tell you that they've done a similar theme recently. In other words, they give you the opportunity to shop it elsewhere. At my age, I'd be very disappointed to wait four years for a publication of an approved puzzle! On a couple of occasions I've been told that if I couldn't find a home for the puzzle to try again in a year or so, and have actually got some published in that fashion.

So, the bottom line is, just make try your best not to submit a theme to someone who's used that theme with some or all of the same theme entries previously.
Mark McClain
Salem, Virginia, USA
https://crosswordsbymark.wordpress.com/

zinaphile

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  • Posts: 9
Re: Theme database
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2019, 06:04:24 PM »
Good to know. Thanks for your help which I've already put to use. Had another idea that would lead to a fairly limited set of theme words.  After enough searches I found that it'd been done already, 2003 in the NYT. So at least that validates that my idea was OK, if not original.
 
And in Will's defense, I think he offered to release the puzzle back to the constructor who declined, preferring to wait.  I think this was hashed out on Rex Parker's blog and Shortz chimed in to defend himself.

 


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