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Crosswordese is the group of words frequently found in US crossword puzzles but seldom found in everyday conversation. The words are usually short, 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, "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
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When applicable, example clues will be denoted in square brackets and answers will be denoted in all caps, e.g. [Example clue] for ANSWER.
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?"
- Apse – a semicircular church recess
- Ell – a type of extension to a building; a measure for cloth
- Classical orders – referring to ancient architecture most readily identifiable by the style of support columns
- Nave – the middle section of a church
Brand and trade names
- 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
- 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.
Currency and finance
- Euro – the official currency of the European Union
- Lek – the official currency of Albania
- Lev – the official currency of Bulgaria
- Lira – the official currency of Turkey and former currency of Italy
- Zloty – the official currency of Poland
Directions between cities
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°)
- Asta – film dog of the 1930s
- Ahab – protagonist of Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick
- Elsa – princess from the 2013 film Frozen. Could also be Anna
- Esmé – title character of the short story "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor" by J. D. Salinger and included in the collection of his story titled Nine Stories.
- Ilsa – as in Ilsa Lund, the character played by Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
- Smee – Captain Hook's chief assistant in Peter Pan. Smee may also be referred to as the assistant to the Black Stache, Captain Hook's sobriquet in the prequel novel Peter and the Starcatchers or the play Peter and the Starcatcher.
- Odie – dog in the comic strip Garfield
- Tin – As in Rin Tin Tin, the canine silent-film star, or the European comic The Adventures of Tintin
Food and drink
- Aioli – A condiment similar to mayonnaise, usually with garlic.
- Grog – an alcoholic beverage made of heated low-alcohol beer, rum and a variety of flavorings such as lemon or lime juice, cinnamon and sugar.
- Mahi – Persian (borrowed into Hindi–Urdu) for fish. "Mahi" may refer to mahi-mahi.
- Mead – honey wine
- Nehi – a line of fruit-flavored soft drinks from the Royal Crown Company. Grape Nehi was the favorite drink of Radar O'Reilly on the TV series M*A*S*H
- MSG – monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer that may cause asthmatic reactions in some people.
- Oleo – Used as a synonym for *margarine.
- Phở – a Vietnamese soup made with beef and rice noodles, usually served with basil, lime, bean sprouts and peppers.
- Ano – more properly año (the tilde is usually ignored), Spanish for "year"
- Erse – Scottish Gaelic
- Été – summer in French
- Frau – German for "woman", "wife" or "Mrs."
- Herr – German for "Mister (Mr.)"
- Mme – abbreviation of the French honorific "Madame"
- Mann – German for "man" or "husband"
- Sra. – abbreviation for señora (Spanish)
- Srta. – abbreviation for señorita (Spanish)
- Tío and Tía – Spanish for "uncle" and "aunt", respectively
General adjectives and adverbs
- Eoan – an adjective meaning "of the dawn"
- Adak – island in the western extent of the Aleutian chain
- Agra – an ancient city in India best known as the location of the Taj Mahal
- Arete – a thin ridge of rock that is formed by glaciers
- Asti – a city of Italy known for its sparkling wines
- Attu – westernmost island in the Aleutian chain
- Erie – a Great Lake and Pennsylvania port
- 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
- Ural – a river and mountain range in Russia
- Ahem – used to represent the noise made when clearing the throat
- Damn – used to express anger or frustration
- Haha – used to represent laughter
- Hmm – used to express uncertainty
- Jeez – used to show surprise or annoyance
- Phew – used to express relief
- Psst – used to attract someone's attention
- Whoa – used to express surprise
- Wowee – used to express astonishment
- Yea – used as an affirmative response
Jargon and slang
Because of crossword rules that restrict the usage of two-letter words, only entries of three or more letters have been listed.
Often these letters are clued as puns, e.g. the clue [Puzzle center?] for ZEES, referring to the two Zs in the center of the word "puzzle".
The "zed" spelling of Z is often indicated by a reference to a Commonwealth country, where that is the standard pronunciation (e.g. [British puzzle center?] for ZEDS).
Latin words and phrases
- 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"
- Etui – a small purse often used to hold sewing supplies
- Ewer – a decorative pitcher
- Olio – a miscellaneous mixture of elements, especially artistic works, musical pieces, writing, or food
- Ulu – knife used by Yup'ik, Inuit, and Aleut women
- IATA "baggage code" for Des Moines International Airport (rarely used)
- The Distinguished Service Medal, a decoration awarded to members of the military
- The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—a puzzle may also include a Roman numeral to indicate a specific edition (DSM-V, was replaced by DSM-VI in 2013)
Names of contemporary people (20th and 21st centuries)
(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.)
- Agee – as James Agee, an American novelist
- Arlo – as in Arlo Guthrie, an American folk singer
- Eero – as in Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American architect
- Elia – as in Elia Kazan, a Greek-born American film and theater director
- Eno – as in Brian Eno, an English musician and record producer
- Enya – an Irish New Age singer
- Erle – as in Erle Stanley Gardner, an American lawyer, author of detective stories, creator of Perry Mason
- Erté – a Russian-born French graphics and costume designer
- Esai – as in Esai Morales, an American actor of Puerto Rican descent
- Isao – as in Isao Aoki, a Japanese professional golfer
- Ono – as in Yoko Ono, a Japanese singer, songwriter, and artist
- Ott – as in Mel Ott, a baseball player
- Uta – as in Uta Hagen, an American actress born in Germany
- Uri – as in Uri Geller, an Israeli magician
- Yma – as in Yma Sumac, a Peruvian singer
Names of historical people
- E Lee – As in Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War
- El Cid – title given to Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, an 11th-century Castilian soldier most famous for conquering Valencia, Spain; also a 1961 film of the same name starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren
Nature, references to
- Aerie – the high nest of a bird of prey
- Eft - the juvenile phase of the Newt
- Erne – a sea eagle-sometimes spelled without the final "e"
- Tsetse – as in the tsetse fly ("TSE" is sometimes clued as "half an African fly").
Poetic phrases and terms
- -ase – a suffix used to form the names of enzymes
- -ism – indicating a belief or principle
- -ist – indicating an adherent to a belief or principle
- -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
- 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
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 MMMCMXCIX. The first ten Roman numerals are:
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.
|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.
Use of medieval Roman numerals (an informalized system that spanned most of the Latin alphabet) is almost unheard of.
- Ozone – a pale-blue, inorganic molecule
- Xenon – a colourless noble gas with symbol 'Xe' and atomic-number '54'
Sports and gaming
- Alai – as in jai alai, a game played in a court with a ball and a wickerwork racket
- Ali – Muhammad Ali / born Cassius Clay
- Ante – a forced bet in poker
- Epee – a modern version of a duelling sword
- Nicknames based on nicknames
- "Bosox" – the Boston Red Sox
- "Buc" (team member) or "Bucs" – this spelling usually refers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but may also refer to the Pittsburgh Pirates
- "Buck" (team member) or "Bucks" – when not used in reference to the Milwaukee Bucks, this spelling usually refers to the Pittsburgh Pirates but may also refer to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- "The Caps" – usually refers to the Washington Capitals
- "Cards" – usually refers to the St. Louis Cardinals
- "Cav" (team member) or "Cavs" – usually refers to the Cleveland Cavaliers or the University of Virginia Cavaliers
- "Chisox" – the Chicago White Sox
- "Hab" (team member) or "Habs" – usually refers to the Montreal Canadiens
- "Hog" (team member) or "The Hogs – the offensive line of the Washington Football Team, although some people assign the name to the entire team
- "Mav" (team member) or "Mavs" – usually refers to the Dallas Mavericks
- "Nats" – usually refers to the Washington Nationals
- "Pat" (team member) or "Pats" – usually refers to the New England Patriots
- "The Tide" – usually refers to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide
- "The Tribe" – usually refers to the Cleveland Indians
- "Yank" (team member) or "Yanks" – usually refers to the New York Yankees
- RBI – a baseball term meaning "run batted in"; plural is RBIs
- TKO – a boxing term meaning "technical knockout"; plural is "TKOs"
- Three-letter scoreboard abbreviations of major league teams
- ATL – Atlanta Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers
- ARZ – Arizona (Phoenix) Cardinals and Diamondbacks (also ARI)
- BAL – Baltimore Orioles and Ravens (also, formerly, Colts)
- BOS – Boston Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox
- BUF – Buffalo Bills and Sabres
- CAL – Calgary Flames and Stampeders (also, more commonly, CGY) (also, formerly, the California Angels)
- CAR – Carolina Hurricanes (located in Raleigh) and Panthers (located in Charlotte)
- CBS – Columbus Blue Jackets (also CBJ, CLB and CLS)
- CHA – Charlotte Bobcats (also, formerly, Hornets)
- CHC – Chicago Cubs
- CHI – Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, and Bulls
- CIN – Cincinnati Bengals and Reds
- COL – Colorado (Denver) Avalanche and Rockies
- CLE – Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers and Indians
- CWS – Chicago White Sox
- DAL – Dallas Cowboys, Mavericks (Mavs) and Stars
- DEN – Denver Broncos and Nuggets
- DET – Detroit Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers
- EDM – Edmonton Eskimos and Oilers
- FLA – Florida (Miami) Marlins and Panthers
- HOU – Houston Astros, Rockets and Texans (also, formerly, Oilers)
- IND – Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers
- JAX – Jacksonville Jaguars
- LAA – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- LAC – Los Angeles Clippers
- LAD – Los Angeles Dodgers
- LAL – Los Angeles Lakers
- MEM – Memphis Grizzlies
- MIA – Miami Dolphins and Heat
- MIL – Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks
- MIN – Minnesota (Minneapolis–St. Paul) Timberwolves, Twins, Vikings and Wild
- MTL – Montreal Alouettes and Canadiens (also, formerly, Expos)
- NAS – Nashville Predators
- NYG – New York Giants
- NYI – New York Islanders
- NYJ – New York Jets
- NYM – New York Mets
- NYR – New York Rangers
- NYY – New York Yankees
- OAK – Oakland Athletics (A's) and formerly Raiders
- OKC – Oklahoma City Thunder
- ORL – Orlando Magic
- PHO – Phoenix Coyotes
- PHL – Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers
- PIT – Pittsburgh Penguins, Pirates and Steelers
- POR – Portland Trail Blazers
- PHX – Phoenix Suns
- SAC – Sacramento Kings
- SEA – Seattle Mariners and Seahawks
- STL – St. Louis Blues, Cardinals
- TEX – Texas (Arlington–Dallas–Fort Worth) Rangers
- TOR – Toronto Argonauts, Blue Jays, Maple Leafs and Raptors
- UTA – Utah (Salt Lake City) Jazz
- WAS – Washington, D.C. Capitals, Nationals, Football Team and Wizards
Titles of books, plays, movies, etc.
- OED – the Oxford English Dictionary
- Omoo – an 1847 novel by Herman Melville
- Typee – an 1846 novel by Herman Melville
Titles used by royalty and the nobility
- Aga – a Turkish honorific for a high-level government official; occasionally spelled "agha."
- Bey – the governor of a district or province in the Ottoman Empire
- Emir – a title given to princes and/or sheikhs who rule certain Arab countries; may also be spelled amir, aamir or ameer
- BART – abbreviated name of the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the subway system that serves the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Geo – line of compact cars sold by Chevrolet dealers, based on cars manufactured by Toyota and Suzuki
- GTI – an abbreviation meaning Grand Tourer Injection, used on many sporty European and Japanese cars, most notably the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
- GTO – an abbreviation of the Italian term Gran Turismo Omologato, most notably used on the Pontiac GTO muscle car which is nicknamed "The Goat."
- IRT – abbreviated name of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company which used to operate a portion of the New York City subway system.
- MARTA – abbreviated name of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the subway system that serves the Atlanta metropolitan area
U.S. states and Canadian provinces
- Postal abbreviations: Since the late 1970s, the post offices in the United States and Canada have used computerized letter sorting. This prompted the creation of the two-capital-letter abbreviations used today for all states and most provinces (i.e., "MN" for Minnesota and "PQ" for Quebec). Previously, when mail was sorted by hand, many states and provinces had abbreviations of three to five letters. Many of these longer abbreviations are now part of crosswordese. (Notes: (1) Except for Texas, states with four- or five-letter names were generally spelled out. (2) Other states and provinces not shown below had the same two-letter abbreviations that are still used today.)
- Ala. – Alabama
- Alb. – Alberta
- Alas. – Alaska (unofficial)
- Ariz. – Arizona
- Ark. – Arkansas
- Calif. – California (also, unofficially, "Cal.")
- Colo. – Colorado
- Conn. – Connecticut
- Del. – Delaware
- Fla. – Florida
- Haw. – Hawaii (unofficial)
- Ida. – Idaho (unofficial)
- Ill. – Illinois
- Ind. – Indiana
- Kans. – Kansas (also, unofficially, "Kan." and "Kas.")
- Man. – Manitoba
- Mich. – Michigan
- Minn. – Minnesota
- Miss. – Mississippi
- Mont. – Montana
- Neb. – Nebraska
- Nev. – Nevada
- N. Mex. – New Mexico
- N. Car. – North Carolina (unofficial)
- N. Dak. – North Dakota
- N.W.T. – Northwest Territories
- Okla. – Oklahoma
- Oreg. – Oregon (also, unofficially, "Ore.")
- Ont. – Ontario
- P.E.I. – Prince Edward Island
- Penn. – Pennsylvania (unofficial)
- Que. – Quebec
- Sask. – Saskatchewan
- S.Car. – South Carolina (unofficial)
- S. Dak. – South Dakota
- Tenn. – Tennessee
- Tex. – Texas
- Wash. – Washington
- W. Va. – West Virginia
- Wis. – Wisconsin (also, unofficially, "Wisc.")
- Wyo. – Wyoming
Weaponry and warfare
World War II
- Anzio – American invasion point into mainland Italy
- ETO – European Theater of Operations
- Iwo Jima
- Romano, Marc (2006). "Puzzle Neophyte Seeks Puzzle Mentor". Crossworld: One Man's Journey into America's Crossword Obsession (1st pbk. ed.). New York: Broadway Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-7679-1758-2.
- Der, Kevin; Pasco, Paolo (13 June 2018). "How to Make a Crossword Puzzle". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- "How Well Do You Know Your 'Crosswordese?'". The New York Times. 28 November 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb (15 February 2018). "10 Spanish Words That Will Raise Your Crossword Game". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (30 May 2018). "15 French Words That Will Raise Your Crossword Game". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (13 November 2019). "The Crossword Travel Guide: 10 Cities You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb; Ezersky, Sam (12 July 2017). "12 European Rivers That Will Help You Raise Your Crossword Game". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb (22 April 2019). "What the Heck Is That?: Ars". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- "The Shortz List of Crossword Celebrities". Slate. 27 January 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
- Ezersky, Sam (21 November 2018). "The Crossword Library: 11 Authors You Should Know". The New York Times.
- Ezersky, Sam (7 August 2019). "The Griddy Awards, Part 2: 10 Male Actors You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb (7 April 2020). "Who the Heck Is That?: Isao". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb (19 April 2017). "10 Sports Names That Will Help You Become a Better Crossword Solver". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (8 May 2019). "The Griddy Awards, Part 1: 10 Female Actors You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (2 March 2018). "These Words Are for the Birds: A Crossword Aviary". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (12 April 2018). "The Crossword Zoo: 10 Animals You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- "10 Baseball Terms That Will Help You Become a Better Crossword Solver". The New York Times. 1 April 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb (7 May 2018). "What the Heck Is That?: OED". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (19 September 2018). "The Crossword Garage: 8 Car Makes and Models You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Amlen, Deb; Ezersky, Sam (19 July 2017). "8 Opera Terms That Will Raise Your Crossword-Solving Game". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (26 December 2017). "10 Greek Mythological Characters to Help You Raise Your Crossword Game". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (18 July 2018). "The Crossword Garden, Part One: 10 Plants You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (15 August 2018). "The Crossword Garden, Part Two: 8 Fruits and Vegetables You Should Know". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Ezersky, Sam (6 February 2019). "The Crossword Symphony: 12 Musical Terms And Solving Tips". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- Shortz, Will (2004). "Concise Crossword Dictionary". The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge. St. Martin's. pp. 806–812. ISBN 978-0312-31367-8.