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Crosswordese facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

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

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
    • Doric order (Greek)
    • Ionic order (Greek or Roman)
    • Also Corinthian order (Greek), Tuscan order and composite order (both Roman)
    • Nonce orders – referring to Greek-style columns used in modern buildings.
  • 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"
  • Oreo

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

Directions between cities

Compass Rose English North
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

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.

Foreign words

  • 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

  • Alee – in seaman's language, toward the side opposite the wind


Because of crossword rules that restrict the usage of two-letter words, only entries of three or more letters have been listed.

Singular aye bee cee dee n/a eff gee aitch n/a jay kay ell n/a
Plural ayes bees cees dees n/a efs/effs gees aitches n/a jays kays els/ells ems
Singular n/a n/a pee cue n/a ess tee n/a vee double-u n/a wye zee/zed
Plural ens ohs pees cues ars esses tees n/a vees double-us exs/exes/xes wyes zees/zeds

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"

Manmade items

  • 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


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

  • 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

Poetic phrases and terms

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


  • Aero- – relating to flight and air
  • Pyro- – relating to fire and heat


  • -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

Roman numerals

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:

\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
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.


  • Ozone – a pale-blue, inorganic molecule
  • Xenon – a colourless noble gas with symbol 'Xe' and atomic-number '54'

Sports and gaming

Titles of books, plays, movies, etc.

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
  • Pasha


  • 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

Weaponry and warfare

World War II

  • Anzio – American invasion point into mainland Italy
  • ETO – European Theater of Operations
  • Iwo Jima
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