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Author Topic: Understanding the Concept of Themes  (Read 820 times)

zvit

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
Understanding the Concept of Themes
« on: October 11, 2021, 08:31:46 AM »
Hey guys, newbie here; constructor and forum member.
Nice to meet you all.

I get the basic concept of coming up with a theme as seen in this NYT puzzle, for example:
  • Category theme: theme elements are all members of the same set
  • e.g., five themed entries ending in the different parts of a tree:
    SQUAREROOT, TABLELEAF, WARDROBETRUNK, BRAINSTEM,
    BANKBRANCH; NYT 4/26/2005
However, I struggle to understand the construction process for the rest of the words in a themed puzzle. Many, if not all the rest of the words, seem to be unthemed. Please take the above puzzle, for example, and notice that most of the other words do not have any tree part in them, nor do they have anything to do with trees. (For example 62D, PC hookup: CRT) a computer has nothing to do with trees and has nothing to do with the theme.

So, is this the way a themed puzzle works? You come up with a few themed words, and the rest are random words that have nothing to do with anything? It's hard for me to believe that, so I must be missing something.

mmcbs

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 454
Re: Understanding the Concept of Themes
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2021, 09:17:07 AM »
No, you've got it right. The theme entries form a set of some sort, as you've illustrated there. The rest of the grid contains what we call incidental fill. In fact most editors prefer NOT to have other words that are related to the theme elsewhere in the puzzle.
Mark McClain
Salem, Virginia, USA
https://crosswordsbymark.wordpress.com/

zvit

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
Re: Understanding the Concept of Themes
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2021, 11:14:36 AM »
Thank you for the reply.
If this is the case, then I have a question about how to construct my crossword puzzle.

My puzzles aren't destined for newspapers; they are for my private audience of EMS personnel, e.g., doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, etc.

I planned that the theme of each puzzle would be a specific medical category, e.g., Anatomy, Cardiopulmonary, Arrhythmias, etc.

I planned that every word in each themed puzzle be related to the medical theme. Because I don't think EMS personnel would be interested in words unrelated to the medical theme. My audience is not crossword puzzle enthusiasts and would only be interested in my crosswords because of the medical aspect.

I WISH I were able only to use a few themed words and fill in the rest with random words because, to make each word relevant to a specific theme, I need to cut a 300K-word dictionary into a 500-word one, which makes it so much harder to construct.

I own the entire $319 package of "Crossword Compiler" and also own Crossfire. I'm having difficulty constructing the first puzzle because of the limited number of words relevant to one specific theme. I might have to combine a few themes into one to use a more extensive glossary of words.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 11:18:54 AM by zvit »

mmcbs

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 454
Re: Understanding the Concept of Themes
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2021, 11:25:14 AM »
I have a great deal of experience in constructing crosswords puzzles (over 2,000 published in a wide variety of venues). I'm sorry to say it is not possible to create a grid in which all the entries have commonality such as all being medical terms regardless of how extensive a word list you have containing those words. Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. In Compiler's Grid Filling dialog box, select your main (big) word list in the left hand column, and select "theme word" in the optimization box. Then in the "Use theme words from" box, select your list of medical terms in either the theme list or main word list (depending on where you have them in your wordlist database). This will cause your theme (medical) words to come up first on the list of words on manual word selection.

2. Another option is to create a freeform/vocabulary puzzle grid. This option comes up when you create a NEW puzzle. Then you can enter a list of words you'd like to use, and Compiler will create a grid with these words. They won't be all interlocking as in a standard American style grid, but it accomplishes your goal. I haven't used that process, so I'm not an expert on it, but it should work for you.
Mark McClain
Salem, Virginia, USA
https://crosswordsbymark.wordpress.com/

zvit

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 17
Re: Understanding the Concept of Themes
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2021, 11:34:35 AM »
Thanks again. I truly understand what you're saying and will think about how to change my approach in a way that will satisfy my audience.

I don't want to do the British style you mentioned as they are too easy to create, and that is why there are so many low-quality ones on the market. I'd rather spend time and effort to create an American style since it's more challenging to construct, thus making it less competitive.

I appreciate your input. I'm off to work!! :-)

 


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