Abstract: A Smirnov word is a word over the positive integers in which adjacent letters must be different. A symmetric function enumerating these words by descent number arose in the work of Shareshian and the second named author on $q$-Eulerian polynomials, where a $t$-analog of a formula of Carlitz, Scoville, and Vaughan for enumerating Smirnov words is proved. A symmetric function enumerating a circular version of these words by cyclic descent number arose in the work of the first named author on chromatic quasisymmetric functions of directed graphs, where a $t$-analog of a formula of Stanley for enumerating circular Smirnov words is proved. In this paper we obtain new $t$-analogs of the Carlitz-Scoville-Vaughan formula and the Stanley formula in which the roles of descent number and cyclic descent number are switched. These formulas show that the Smirnov word enumerators are polynomials in $t$ whose coefficients are e-positive symmetric functions. We also obtain expansions in the power sum basis and the fundamental quasisymmetric function basis, complementing earlier results of Shareshian and the authors. Our work relies on studying refinements of the Smirnov word enumerators that count certain restricted classes of Smirnov words by descent number. Applications to variations of $q$-Eulerian polynomials and to the chromatic quasisymmetric functions introduced by Shareshian and the second named author are also presented.
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