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Word List Frequently Asked Questions

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What's this new XWord Info Word List all about?

Almost all good crossword constructors use software to help them make high-quality puzzles. And a good word list, especially a good scored word list is of great use.

The XWord Info Word List has 181,083 entries scored from 5 to 60.

It's possible to make crosswords without such tools, but using them often results in cleaner, snazzier puzzles. Today's editors have extremely high standards, and a quality word list will help you produce the quality puzzles they expect.

Why is the XWI Word List better than other word lists?
  • Our list starts with every entry ever used in the NY Times crossword (since Will Shortz became editor in 1993).
  • We include entries from NYT Variety puzzles, including Acrostics, which often have particularly good words.
  • Jeff has added many tens of thousands of entries by hand, from a huge number of sources, collected over many years.
  • We SCORE most words (see below for details). Without some scoring system, every entry is valued the same, and that's not good. (Words like BUT AS, LNG, TER, etc. aren't common in everyday language and shouldn't have the same weighting as regular words.) A scoring system will help you make cleaner crosswords.
  • We remove all bogus (sometimes called thematic) entries; that is, contrived answers that only make sense for a particular theme.
  • Entries from rebus puzzles are expanded to their full answer so you can use them as fill in other puzzles.
  • Similarly, words that go backwards or turn corners in gimmick puzzles are straightened out.

We think our XWord Info Word List is the best and most useful word list you can subscribe to.

How does the scoring system work?

The XWord Info Word List keeps most entries at a nominal score of 50, but many have been upgraded or downgraded, based on Jeff's years of experience working with Will Shortz, Matt Gaffney, Peter Gordon, Stan Newman, Rich Norris, Mike Shenk, David Steinberg, Ben Tausig, Patti Varol, Brad Wilber, and other editors. Jeff erred on the side of keeping as many at 50 as possible, only downgrading entries that he believes will not be received well by a good chunk of solvers or editors.

Jeff tried to keep it very simple, with just a few levels:

60: Entries considered "assets" to a puzzle. Some are ones Jeff would happily seed a themeless with, and others are simply ones that he considers better than average.
50: Generally fine entries (at least there's some argument to be made that they're fine). 50 point entries are generally pretty good.
25: Three- or four-letter words that would be hard to defend as fine. These include entries specifically called out on at least one editor's spec sheets like partials, odd abbreviations, very esoteric names, etc. It also includes three-letter random Roman numerals.
20: Five-letter entries that would be hard to defend as fine. (Generally, Jeff finds that short "gluey" entries are less offensive than longer ones.) Also, four- or five-letter random Roman numerals — Jeff finds these less desirable than three-letter ones.
15: Random Roman numerals that are longer than three letters. This is personal preference — Jeff dislikes these guys enough to score them very low.
5: Entries that Will Shortz has identified as "puzzle-killers," i.e., entries that will likely require a redo. Avoid at all costs!
So if I use a word with a score of 50, it's GUARANTEED to be acceptable?

No.

The scores are based on Jeff's experience, but every editor has his or her own pet peeves, and each publication has its own list of no-nos. Plus, you must always be careful to make every crossing fair. Two somewhat esoteric proper names might be perfectly fine on their own, but crossing them can result in a poor solving experience.

Have you scored everything in the list?

Not yet.

It's Jeff's intention to eventually score everything, but he's only scored entries of length = 3, 4, 5, so far. These are the most common lengths you'll need in a crossword grid, so this will get you 90% of the way to making generally clean grids.

Also note that some words have strange-seeming scores, i.e. 10 or 30. Ignore these for now. (Entries of six or more letters will be classified into these new score levels. Anything with a 10 or 30 is part of the in-process scoring.)

Does that mean I can download the list again when Jeff updates it?

Our list will be continuously improved as new words get added, new puzzles get published, and scores get tweaked. You can download the most recent version any time, as long as you maintain your Angel status.

Should I ALWAYS set my minimum score at 50 while filling a grid?

Definitely not.

You can often get more colorful fill overall if you accept small gluey bits here and there. Setting your minimum score at 25 or 20 or 15 can often be beneficial in coming up with a grid that is both colorful and (mostly) clean.

Practically speaking, how do I use the XWord Info Word List?

First, download the XWord Info Word List and save it to Crossword Compiler (see below for the nitty gritty).

Then, set your minimum word score at 50 for your initial grid layout. If it is fillable, you can be sure that you're going to get cleaner fill than if you set your min score at 25 or 20.

Gimme the nitty! And the gritty!
  1. Download the XWord Info Word List, saving it to someplace on your computer that you can remember ("Desktop" is a good place).
  2. Open Crossword Compiler.
  3. Go to the "Words" menu, and select "Word List Manager" at the bottom.
  4. Go to the "Convert" menu, and select "Plain text scored list" at the bottom.
  5. Browse to wherever you saved the XWord Info Word List and double-click on it.

If you want to combine the XWord Info Word List with your own personal one, you can do that through the "Word List" menu. Select your own list, and then use "Add Other Lists" to add the XWord Info Word List. You'll want to click "Use the added list's new scores" button.

ALWAYS MAKE SURE TO BACK UP YOUR OWN WORD LISTS! It's easy to overwrite files or accidentally delete them, so please BACK EVERYTHING UP! We cannot recover a file for you if you delete it from your computer.

I use Crossfire. Can I still use the XWord Info Word List?

Yes. Make sure you download the ".dict" version of the file. Then:

  1. Open Crossfire.
  2. Go to the "Edit" menu, and select the "Dictionary" tab at the top. (Different versions of Crossfire may have this option in a different location.)
  3. Click on the "Add" button, and browse to where you saved the .dict file (most Macs will save to your "Downloads" folder by default.
  4. Click on your new word list and click "Make Primary." This will set the XWI Word List as your primary word list and any others you use will be treated as secondary lists.
Is this XWord Info Word List the exact same list that Jeff uses?

Not quite.

Years back when Jeff started his list, he subscribed to Cruciverb. They have a proprietary list that cannot be shared, so we've been very careful to strip out everything that's specific to Cruciverb.

Additionally, Jeff maintains a private "Jeff Chen's Personal List" that adds 35,878 excellent words scored at 60 points. These show up in Finder searches if you're an Angel subscriber but you need to buy the Jeff Chen's Personal List if you want to integrate them into your construction software. This list will grow over time as Jeff continues to add new words.

How can I get my hands on this "Jeff Chen's Personal List"?

First, you need to have an Angel-level account. That costs $50 and gives you access to the XWord Info Word List.

Then, there is an additional one-time $200 fee which provides lifetime access to Jeff Chen's Personal List, as long as you maintain your annual Angel status. Jeff frequently adds new words and you can download the latest version whenever you want.

Send $200 directly to Jeff using PayPal or if you need more information,

If I buy "Jeff Chen's Personal List" and subscribe to Cruciverb for their word list, will I be using the exact same word list Jeff uses?

With some negligible discrepancies, yes.

With the XWord Info Word List, you're ready to go forth and make better crosswords. Have fun!

DO NOT DISTRIBUTE THIS WORD LIST.

The XWord Info Word List is for your personal use only! You are not allowed to give it away or sell it to others, or create derivative lists except for your own use.

We've put several hundreds of hours into developing this list. Please don't steal it.

. And thanks for supporting XWord Info. We really appreciate it.