How the Words Were Chosen
The majority of the words and phrases are included in the book because they
appeared in the nation’s most popular crosswords sometime over the past ten
years. These include the crosswords we edited or created ourselves.
The previous edition of the book (published in 1996) was assembled under similar
criteria. But we were surprised to discover that many hundreds of obscure
words in the previous edition, once common to puzzles, don’t appear in crosswords
anymore. So all those words, like GHARRY (horse-drawn cab of India)
and TOURACO (African bird), were deleted.
Thanks to the sharper skills of crossword constructors and the vigilance of
modern-day crossword editors, uninteresting obscurities have all but vanished
from today’s crosswords. Credit must also be given to the computer software
that assists many constructors and editors.
As mentioned on the Introduction page, this new edition has over 50 percent
more entries, more than 400,000, that weren’t in the previous edition. Many
months were spent ensuring we included not only those words that have
appeared in crosswords recently, but also words that might reasonably be
expected to appear but haven’t as yet.
This “word gathering” task included checking the latest dictionaries, standard
reference sources, and “popular culture” reference books, plus reading newspapers
every day (including all the ads) in search of “the latest.”
The process yielded such contemporary words as ALITO (2006 Supreme Court
appointee), CSI: NY (CBS TV series), EGOSURF (to search the Internet for
one’s own name), GAG REEL (frequent DVD extra), KIA RIO (imported auto)
and ROOMBA (robotic vacuum).
Two categories of words that were intentionally excluded from this book were
plurals of names (like HARRYS and DAVISES) and multi-word partial phrases
(like A HAT and IS MY). The book’s word base goes up to seven letters
because well over 90 percent of all crossword answers are seven letters long
or less, and because adding eight-letter words would have required a book over
2,500 pages long!
One final point about the word selection. These words reflect the current usage
of America’s best-known crossword editors, but editors’ individual tastes and
preferences vary. There are some words listed in this book that not every editor
would allow (including some that neither of us would use), and words that
some solvers might think inappropriate for crosswords. The appearance of any
word does not necessarily imply the endorsement of the authors, whose job is,
as the compilers of any dictionary, merely to report its existence.