It's been two and a half years since I turned over XWord Info to Jeff Chen and my, how things have changed! He added several new features to the website starting with his inimitable daily commentary, but the biggest news of all has been the introduction of his downloadable scored word lists. I thought I'd take a look at the site and provide some details on the word lists in particular because several people have been curious, and talk a little about the future.
The XWord Info Word List
We got a couple of nice blurbs from Matt Gaffney about this list. One is on our site: "It's fitting that GAME-CHANGER appears on this word list. That's what we've got here for crossword constructors."
I rather like his other quote better: "I turned this monster loose on a few test grids and was blown away by the quality of the fills it achieved. As a lifelong graph-paper constructor I'm filled with rage and bitterness, but perhaps drinking heavily will help."
Let's take a closer look. There are two word lists available which I think of as the Basic and Premium versions. The basic version, cleverly called The XWord Info Word List starts with every useful answer word from Shortz-Era NYT puzzles. By "useful" I mean Jeff has manually culled all the so-called thematic entries. (Also called bogus entries or, more simply, crap.) In other words, wacky answers that only fit a particular theme are removed.
Jeff goes a step further than other lists that cull bad words. First, rebus entries are fully expanded so they make sense. Second, answers that go backwards or turn corners or do other odd tricks are straightened out. Finally, words from Cryptic, Diagramless, PandAs, and even Acrostics are included! This is a rich source of extra content. Acrostics in particular have some awesome entries.
If you're keeping track at home, that makes over 98,000 words already, each of which at least has been deemed worthy by at least one major crossword editor. (Will Shortz also provided a nice blurb on our site, endorsing Jeff's list.)
The list doesn't stop there, though. Jeff added over 67,000 additional words that he's collected over the years to that basic list.
What makes this list particularly valuable is that the 3- to 5-letter words are scored, so you and your software can make better choices when filling grids. If you're a constructor, give it a try. Anyone with Angel access ($50 a year) can download the latest version of this ever-growing list any time. (Jeff is still working on scoring the longer words too but the short-word scores are the most important for avoiding bad fill.)
There's a lot more details about all this in Jeff's Word List FAQ.
Jeff Chen's Personal List
If you're more ambitious, you might want to try Jeff's Personal List. This includes nearly 33,000 additional high-value words that Jeff has collected over many years, all scored at his maximum value. Many could anchor a great themeless grid. All are intended to be at least above average entries.
Jeff is, understandably, a little protective of this premium list, and the price reflects that. For a one-time fee of $200, Angels can download the latest version any time. As with the basic list, Jeff will continuously update it as he discovers new outstanding entries.
Puzzles of the Week
Another Jeff innovation is his Puzzle of the Week award. Nobody else votes; it's a completely personal opinion, based on whatever neurons happen to be firing in Jeff's brain at the time.
If you're looking for a few good puzzles, this page of Across Lite links to POW winners is worth keeping handy. If you're not up to date on NYT puzzles, print out a few before your next plane trip.
This page of POW winners organized by constructor is interesting. It will shock no one that, despite Jeff's best efforts to spread the award around, Patrick Berry has by far the most. The day-of-week distribution at the top of that page shows a remarkably even spread. Jeff assures me this wasn't intentional.
Refer a Friend and get 3 Months Added to your own XWord Info account
Jeff's other new feature hasn't yet been heavily advertised. Tell your friends about XWord Info. When they create a new account, they'll get a chance to mention your name, and Jeff will extend your account for an additional 3 months for free.
XWord Info is not a simple site. It relies heavily on new technology which the major modern browsers more or less support, but there are always differences between browsers. Part of the pain of managing any sophisticated website is dealing with those differences.
If you're using Microsoft Edge, Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, you'll be fine. The latest version of Internet Explorer (version 11) will continue to be supported because lots of our Windows users haven't yet upgraded to Windows 10. But older versions of Internet Explorer will be dropped from our supported list. (Microsoft itself doesn't support them anymore either.)
Those older browsers will still mostly work, but we won't be fixing bugs for them. You can download other browsers for free if you need to.