Words you need to know for your crossword puzzle

2 min read

Whether you only do a crossword puzzle on the plane or fill one out every day, crosswords are no easy feat. We admire those of you daring enough to take on that challenge (If you complete them in pen, your vocabulary is unmatched!). For the rest of you, we’ve got some words you should know for your next crossword puzzle challenge.


Erato isn’t just a word — she’s a Muse! There are nine others, but Erato is the one who shows up the most in crosswords. It could be because her name only has five letters or maybe because it has a lot of vowels in it.


Puzzle-makers are always looking for “Q” words to fit their needs. Sesquipedal means "using polysyllabic words," so keep an eye out for those boxes stretching across the full puzzle.


An isthmus is a narrow land strip with a large body of water on both sides. Think of the Panama Isthmus between North and South America. Isthmi is just the plural form of this tricky word. Can you find more on the map — or on your puzzle?


Tsetse flies transmit sleeping sickness — a dangerous, lethal parasitic disease — in Africa. When you see clues for tsetse in crosswords, sometimes they’re tricky. They’ll say things like “half of an African fly,” so the answer will be “tse” instead of the whole word.


You need to look high and low for your crossword answers. You’ll only find aeries way above your head in trees or on cliffs. That’s because they’re nests built by birds of prey — most often eagles. Aerie has varied spellings including eyrie, eyry, and aery, so try all your options for the correct version.


Just like “Q,” a “Z” word has special currency in a crossword puzzle. The zloty is a basic unit of money in Poland. One Polish zloty equals about 26 cents in U.S. dollars. Keep in mind that you may not always have to use the full word. The abbreviation for the zloty is Zl, so don’t give up when you think there aren’t enough spaces to fit the clue.

Ad hoc

Whoever said crosswords are only limited to English words? Even dead languages are fair game. “Ad hoc” is Latin for whenever necessary or for something done for a specific purpose. You might not always do crosswords ad hoc, but it helps to have some extra knowledge when you get around to them.


Purim isn’t as well known as Hanukkah, but it’s a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring. It celebrates the day Esther, the Queen of Persia, saved the Jewish people living in Persia from execution. Many people think of Purim as the most fun Jewish holiday. Maybe it can add some excitement to your crossword too!


Gotta love those vowels. An eider is a type of northern duck and its soft feathers are often used for eiderdown pillows, comforters, and mattresses. Male eiders are mostly black and white, aside from their bright yellow and red heads. Females, as with many other duck species, are brown and don’t stand out as much.


Arete has a couple of different meanings and they’re completely different. The first is simple — it’s just a sharp ridge on a mountain. The second is Greek for excellence and virtue.

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