A little statistical analysis can provide interesting insight into the crossword constructor's world.
While you were over-eating this Thanksgiving, I spent the long weekend writing a crossword analysis website called XWord Info at www.xwordinfo.com. Then I dumped in all the crossword files from Jan 1 2007 and let it grind away on them. I'll add lots more analysis over time, but here are some interesting early results.
The most popular answer words this year are ERA, ADO, (yep) and ELI (which I found more surprising.) The list here shows all the words used ten or more times this year along with their clues and links to their puzzles. The clues are especially interesting when you note the day of the week associated with each. For example, ONE has been used 16 times this year. A Monday clue is "White Monopoly bill." Sunday gets us the clever "It's next to nothing" and Thursday has the even better "Night stand leader." Yes, OREO makes the list with 10 entries including the odd Tuesday clue "Hydrox rival, once."
The most popular authors are listed here and this has been a bit of a revelation to me. I feel like a moviegoer who has just learned that following favorite directors can be fun. Topping the list is Patrick Berry with 13. (That number will grow as I add data from 2006 and earlier.) Not only is 13 a lot, they're all Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and they're all outstanding puzzles! I have them collected together. I want to meet this guy, and the next two on the list as well -- Paula Gamache and Mike Nothnagel. I'm incredibly impressed with their output and I'll look for them in particular in the future. Another name that jumped out was Fred Piscop from the Washington Post puzzles I also enjoy. At the NYT, he apparently does mostly easy early-week puzzles, but they're so natural sounding you might not notice the art.
Check XWord Info directly for more links including all the trick puzzles and all the 15 characters or longer answers. It turns out a few have already been used more than once: ANIMALMAGNETISM, FAMOUSLASTWORDS, THERESNOIINTEAM, and believe it or not, JALFREDPRUFROCK, still measuring out his life with coffee spoons.
Over time I'll dump more crossword files into the database and let the analyzer grind away, but it's already been a fun experiment.
UPDATE: I have added puzzles back to Jan 1, 2006 now, so some of the stats have changed. AREA ties with ERE now the most popular answers. See more here.