I hadn’t tried them in a while, and it was revealing to go back and check on them. Lycos in particular was fooled by the simplest tricks. A search there for “Ned Batchelder” returned ten pages, none of which were my pages. The first included a link to me, and the second included a distant relation of mine in a drop-down list, but the third was really astonishing: What did the Centro Gestalt de México have to do with me? A peek at the source of the page revealed the answer: the page includes a list of 26,000 words, from Abram to Zurich, then aardvark to zygote, including both Ned and Batchelder along the way.
This is the cheapest and easiest of tricks to snag hits from search engines, and Lycos fell for it! These words aren’t even on a page with actual content (it is a frameset page). Why does Lycos even bother anymore?
Actually, Lycos is running more than one search engine: HotBot is owned by Lycos (you get redirected to a lycos.com URL), and returns vastly different (and better) results than Lycos itself. So not only is the Lycos search engine bad, but they own a better one and don’t use it as their primary branded engine. Duh.