Crosswordese

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Crosswordese is a term generally used to describe words frequently found in crossword puzzles but seldom found in everyday conversation. They are usually short words, three to five letters, with letter combinations which crossword constructors find useful in the creation of crossword puzzles, such as words that start and/or end with vowels, abbreviations consisting entirely of consonants, unusual combinations of letters, and words consisting almost entirely of frequently used letters. Such words are needed in almost every puzzle to some extent. Too much crosswordese in a crossword puzzle is frowned upon by cruciverbalists and crossword enthusiasts.

Knowing the language of ‘crosswordese’ is helpful to constructors and solvers alike. According to Marc Romano,[1] “to do well solving crosswords, you absolutely need to keep a running mental list of “crosswordese,” the set of recurring words that constructors reach for whenever they are heading for trouble in a particular section of the grid.”

Frequently used crosswordese[edit]

  • Portions of phrases are occasionally used as fill in the blank clues. For instance, "Et tu, Brute?" might appear in a puzzle's clue sheet as "_____, Brute?"

Architecture[edit]

Biblical references[edit]

Brand and trade names[edit]

  • Afta and Atra - Gillette brand aftershave and safety razor, respectively
  • STP - a brand of motor oil additives; slogan "The Racer's Edge"

Computers and the Internet[edit]

  • SCSI - pronounced "scuzzy," a set of standards to physically connect computers and peripherals for the purpose of transferring data.
  • LAN - local area network, a network of computers in a limited area.

Directions between cities[edit]

A 16-point compass rose showing the 16 standard compass directions.

Many puzzles ask for the direction from one city to another. These directions always fall between the standard octaval compass points—i.e., North (N - 0° or 360°), Northeast (NE - 45°), East (E - 90°), etc.

The directions asked for on clue sheets are usually approximations. Starting at north and going clockwise, the directions are:

  • NNE = North-northeast (22.5°)
  • ENE = East-northeast (67.5°)
  • ESE = East-southeast (112.5°)
  • SSE = South-southeast (157.5°)
  • SSW = South-southwest (202.5°)
  • WSW = West-southwest (247.5°)
  • WNW = West-northwest (292.5°)
  • NNW = North-northwest (337.5°)

Directions on the mariner's compass (divided into 32 directions) may also be encountered, although generally clued more explicitly:

  • NBE = North by east (11.25°)
  • NEBN = Northeast by north (33.75°)
  • NEBE = Northeast by east (56.25°)
  • EBN = East by north (78.75°)
  • EBS = East by south (101.25°)
  • SEBE = Southeast by east (123.75°)
  • SEBS = Southeast by south (146.25°)
  • SBE = South by east (168.75°)
  • SBW = South by west (191.25°)
  • SWBS = Southwest by south (213.75°)
  • SWBW = Southwest by west (236.25°)
  • WBS = West by south (258.75°)
  • WBN = West by north (281.25°)
  • NWBW = Northwest by west (303.75°)
  • NWBN = Northwest by north (326.25°)
  • NBW = North by west (348.75°)

Fictional characters[edit]

Food and drink[edit]

Foreign words[edit]

General adjectives and adverbs[edit]

  • Eoan - an adjective meaning "of the dawn"

Geography[edit]

  • Agra - an ancient city in India best known as the location of the Taj Mahal.
  • Asti - a city of Italy known for its sparkling wines
  • Mesa - a Spanish word commonly used in English—especially in the American Southwest—to designate a plateau that sits higher in elevation than its immediate surroundings.
  • Ouse - river in Yorkshire
  • Tor - a rock outcrop formed by weathering

Jargon and slang[edit]

  • Alee - in seaman’s language, toward the side opposite the wind

Latin words and phrases[edit]

  • Ad hoc - pertaining to a specific problem
  • Dies Irae - Day of Wrath - a medieval hymn used in the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass
  • Et tu, Brute? - alleged last words spoken by Julius Caesar after being stabbed by his friend Brutus
  • Veni, vidi, vici - a phrase spoken by Julius Caesar meaning "I came, I saw, I conquered"

Manmade items[edit]

Multiple meanings[edit]

Names of contemporary people (20th and 21st centuries)[edit]

(Note: The popularity of certain names used in crosswordese may wane with the passing of time. For instance, "Ito" -- as in Robert Ito, a Canadian-born actor of Japanese descent who was a regular on Quincy, M.E. from 1976 to 1983—continued to be a popular crosswordese reference throughout most of the 1980s. Yet, although he has remained active professionally, and the name got reexposed in the 1990s due to judge Lance Ito's presiding over the O. J. Simpson murder case, the appearance of the name in today's crosswords is a rare occurrence.)

Names of historical people[edit]

Nature, references to[edit]

Poetic phrases and terms[edit]

  • E'en - contraction of "even"
  • Erin - poetic name for Ireland
  • O'er - contraction of "over"

Suffixes[edit]

  • Suffixes
    • -ite - a suffix with several meanings, including a faithful follower of a certain person, a mineral, and a native of a certain place
    • -ose - a suffix in chemistry indicating sugar
    • -ule - a suffix meaning small

Religious holidays, festivals, celebrations and observances[edit]

  • Eid - Arabic for "festival"; part of the names of several Islamic festivals
  • Hajj - the pilgrimage every faithful Muslim is obliged to perform; one of the five pillars of Islam
  • Purim - the festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to annihilate them, as told in the Book of Esther
  • Tết or Tết Nguyên Đán - the Vietnamese new year, Lunar new year

Roman numerals[edit]

Many puzzles ask for Roman numerals either as answers or as portions of answers. For instance:

  • a puzzle might ask for the solution of 1916 - 1662 as "MCMXVI minus MDCLXII." The answer (254) would be written as CCLIV.
  • LEOIV is the answer to a clue about Pope Leo IV.
  • a puzzle might ask which Super Bowl was the first to be played in Tampa, Florida. The answer is XVIII.

Standard Roman numerals run from 1 to 3999, or I to MMMLXXXIX. The first ten Roman numerals are:

\mathrm{I,\;II,\;III,\;IV,\;V,\;VI,\;VII,\;VIII,\;IX, and \;X.}

For numerals representing values equal to or greater than 4000, a line is placed above the numeral. The following table shows the numerals used in crossword puzzles.

Symbol Value
I 1 (one) (unus)
V 5 (five) (quinque)
X 10 (ten) (decem)
L 50 (fifty) (quinquaginta)
C 100 (one hundred) (centum)
D 500 (five hundred) (quingenti)
M 1,000 (one thousand) (mille)

For those who are curious, the chart below shows numeral values up to 900,000.

×1 ×2 ×3 ×4 ×5 ×6 ×7 ×8 ×9
Ones I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX
Tens X XX XXX XL L LX LXX LXXX XC
Hundreds C CC CCC CD D DC DCC DCCC CM
Thousands M MM MMM IV V VI VII VIII IX
Ten thousands X XX XXX XL L LX LXX LXXX XC
Hundred thousands C CC CCC CD D DC DCC DCCC CM

Use of medieval Roman numerals (an informalized system that spanned most of the Latin alphabet) is almost unheard of.

Sports and gaming[edit]

Titles of books, plays, movies, etc.[edit]

Titles used by royalty and the nobility[edit]

  • Aga - a Turkish honorific for a high-level government official; occasionally spelled "agha."
  • Emir - a title given to princes and/or sheikhs who rule certain Arab countries; may also be spelled amir, aamir or ameer

Transportation[edit]

U.S. states and Canadian provinces[edit]

World War II[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Romano, Marc. Crossworld: One Man’s Journey into America’s Crossword Obsession.

External links[edit]