Crossword puzzle words

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

The cartoon is partly about the relations between the sexes, with the man “doing” the crossword puzzle by getting all the words from the woman. It’s also about those words — all of them “crossword puzzle words”, ranging from relatively rare (ARIA) to extremely rare (SMA) in everyday usage.

Advice about constructing crosswords usually recommends that a well-made puzzle uses this vocabulary very sparingly, only to get out of a tight place. A puzzle that uses as much of this vocabulary as the one in the cartoon is a badly-made puzzle indeed.

I know ERN ‘sea eagle’ only because my name, Arnold, is etymologically ‘eagle-strong’.

SMA I didn’t know at all. It seems to be an initialistic abbreviation, either for Surplus Marketing Administration (NOAD2), a New Deal agency, or for spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease.

4 Responses to “Crossword puzzle words”

  1. Tané Tachyon Says:

    I remember I used to see Aar (a Swiss river) and Orr (a hockey player) show up on crosswords puzzles a lot.

  2. Ellen Seebacher Says:

    Nope. “Sma” is Scots for “small” and is often defined as something like “wee, to Burns.”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Well, that’s *real* crossword puzzle vocabulary. One of six northern English spellings for SMALL listed in the OED, and not otherwise distinguished. Maybe it was in fact a Burns favorite, but that’s a truly obscure piece of knowledge.

  3. Andy Sleeper Says:

    ESNE (archaic anglo-saxon word for slave) is another that appears only in crosswords. Will Shortz once cited a puzzle where the clue for ESNE was “Slave to crosswords”

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