Olla Podrida – what slices in our pie?

Another posting for a Friday, where you can chat about anything Times crossword that doesn’t fit elsewhere, but I’ll give you one topic to ponder. And it is you, as I’m off-blog for most of the weekend including today. As most of you will probably have seen, I’ve tried putting “pie charts” on a couple of posts, showing how many clues needed knowledge from specialist fields. Lazily, I borrowed the six categories from the game Trivial Pursuit – but they don’t really work.

Let’s clarify the objective. I was trying to find a way to see how often puzzles are biased towards literature or other areas of knowledge. I also don’t want to saddle all the bloggers with extra work. So I propose that: if the blogger wants to do a ‘pie chart’ analysis as part of their posting, that’s fine (if they post a placeholder first, they say whether their posting later will include this analysis – silence is assumed to mean that it won’t). If the blogger opts out, anyone else is free to do the ‘pie chart’. If you want to avoid doing the work and then finding that someone else has got in first, add a comment saying “I’ll do the ‘pie chart'”, and complete it in the next half-hour. (If you’re able to, delete your first comment at this point.)

So, what categories should we have? The set needs two qualities, I think: Category names that are easy to understand, and a fairly short list. If we can reach any kind of consensus, I’ll set up a template for analyses using a new list, and make it available.

Here’s my suggestion for a list of categories, tweaked a little after seeing comments from sotira and Jimbo. I think the popular culture category is worth having – there’s some of this that’s quite hard, and it’s interesting to see how often it’s used compared to the more traditional highbrow Times xwd stuff. I don’t think it’s worth separating the beasts from the flowers. Of Jimbo’s extra topics, I’ve added religion as this crops up quite often. I didn’t buy the other ones, except that I’ve got ‘Other’ as a catch-all.

Religion: Practices, beliefs, texts.
Literature: novels, plays and poetry – except for those in ‘Popular Culture’. Includes mythology, but not religious texts.
Music: Classical music, including contemporary music for the same instruments/groups, Opera, Operetta, Ballet.
Visual Arts: painting, sculpture.
Popular Culture: Jazz, Musicals, Popular Music, Music Hall, nursery ryhmes, folk songs, TV series, non-ballet dance.
Sport and Games:
Natural World: Includes animals and plants, constellations, rocks
Science & Tech: Maths, Physics/Chemistry, Engineering and Technology.
Geography: Place names and the occasional geomorphology stuff
History: people and events from the past – if people, not ones strongly associated with other categories
Other: a catch-all for stuff that doesn’t fit elsewhere. From yesterday’s puzzle, 13 Obeah and 20 Amerce/mercer for example.

Any other suggestions? If you want to add an extra category without combining any others, it’ll have to be pretty convincing – 11 categories seems plenty!

3 comments on “Olla Podrida – what slices in our pie?”

  1. This is the sort of thing that evolves with use so I suggest we give it a go and see where it leads us.

    Would one expect an even distribution across topics over time (a month say) or will we expose a skew? Jimbo.

  2. Would, say, legal terms go in other? Would foreign currencies belong in geography or other?
  3. I have a feeling that legal terms are going to crop up as often as religious ones, but Jim’s right – see how it evolves.

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