Can You Identify the U.S. State From a Crossword Clue?



By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: RK Studio/Katie Huisman / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Hey, doesn't everybody love a crossword puzzle? Though it looked for a time like upstart Sudoku was going to eat its lunch, the crossword isn't going anywhere. It's a type of puzzle that we like so much we've created a quiz in homage—a kind of hybrid crossword puzzle/trivia quiz. The topic? The states that make up the U.S.A. 

Probably you know which state is home to Nashville, seat of the country-music business, or which one is famous for its apples. But to make things a little more complicated, we've written the clues in the brief, somewhat oblique style of crossword clues. Plus, we've given you the number of letters. And so that the number of letters isn't a dead giveaway (all you'd need to do is count), we've tried to make all four answer choices that length. When possible, that is: America has only three states with four-letter names. Quick, can you think of all three? No worries if you can't; you'll see them soon enough. Meanwhile, in a few other cases, we've slipped a state with more than the required number of letters into the four answer choices. It's like an extra hint, so look closely!

Are you ready, geography fans? "Encouraging words," (10 letters): Let's do this!

Hey, is that a Longhorn? (5 letters)

Texas is known as the Lone Star state, and has a single star on its state flag. But the Longhorn, a breed of cattle, is almost equally synonymous with this Southern state. As is the ten-gallon hat, chili, and ... well, a lot of things are classically Texan.


Sweet home _____ (7 letters):

The clue refers, of course, to the song "Sweet Home Alabama," an infectious 1970s hit by Lynyrd Skynyrd, which appeals even to people who say they don't like Southern Rock. Less well-known is the state's nickname, "the Yellowhammer State," taken from a common bird in Alabama.


Home to Inupiats and Tlingits (6 letters):

The above examples are only two of the native peoples still living in Alaska. The state borders Canada's Yukon Territory, and extends down the West Coast of Canada, toward the lower 48, further than some non-geography buffs realize. Its West Coast is home to some interesting examples of Russian architecture and remnants of Russian colonization.


Also a musical play (8 letters):

The musical, of course, is "Oklahoma!" It's a staple of community theaters across the country. Except ... do you suppose they're sick of it in the actual state of Oklahoma, between Kansas and Texas? Just wondering.


The one-syllable state (5 letters):

Okay, this was an easy one—all you had to do was say the names out loud. Plus, there aren't many states with only five letters in the name, so few that we couldn't fit in a fourth answer option. While we're on the subject of syllables and letters, though, props to Idaho for fitting three syllables into just five letters!


Technically, an archipelago (6 letters):

Hawaii has only been a U.S. state since 1960; it is the last state to be admitted to the Union. The 44th president, Barack Obama, called Hawaii home before moving to Chicago, where he established his political career.


The Show-Me State (8 letters):

Missouri folks like to say that their state motto comes from a skeptical streak; they don't take anything at face value. This would be in keeping with straight-talking, forthright Missourians like President Harry S. Truman.


The home of Silicon Valley (10 letters):

California is a leader in a number of industries. Many people think first of Hollywood, the home of American film and television. The state is also a leader in certain kinds of agriculture, like dairy. Take that, Wisconsin!


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (6 letters):

Las Vegas is the best-known city in Nevada. While Carson City is home to the statehouse and the legislature, you might call Las Vegas Nevada's cultural capital. Then again, if you've visited, you probably won't.


Pass the peach cobbler! (6 letters)

Georgia is known as the Peach State for its signature crop. It's also one of two U.S. states named for an English monarch. Virginia, named for the "virgin queen" Elizabeth the First, is the other one.


Home to crunchy-granola PDX (6 letters):

"PDX" is the airport code for Portland, and increasingly, is how it's identified on the cultural scene. It's known its rainy weather and its sometimes-strident political scene—clashes in the streets have required police presence to control.


Get your Ben & Jerry's here (7 letters):

Vermont is a nature-lover's vacation destination, with mountains, forests, and plenty of maple trees that provide its famous maple syrup. Another sweet treat is Ben & Jerry's ice cream, created and still based in Burlington, Vermont.


Home to one of the early presidential primaries (12 letters):

New Hampshire exemplifies the independent spirit of New England. Generally, the state keeps off the national radar—when was the last time you heard of a scandal based in New Hampshire?—but the media spotlight shines on the Granite State every four years, during its early presidential primary.


Brigham Young's promised land (4 letters):

Brigham Young might be the most famous of the Mormons, who traveled west from Nauvoo, Illinois to find a place where they could practice their religion in peace. Today, rural Utah is still about 75 percent Mormon, though cities like Salt Lake City are more diverse.


So. Many. Cornfields. (4 letters):

If there's one thing that Iowa is known for, it's the state's abundant corn. But its nickname is the "Hawkeye State," not the "Corn State," and its agriculture has grown more diverse in recent decades, which is good—dependence on one crop is never healthy, even though corn is perpetually in demand.


Literally, the "flowered" land (7 letters):

Florida distinguishes itself from the rest of the country in several ways. Among them is its tropical climate and its orange exports, as well as the Kennedy Space Center. Proximity to the equator makes Florida the best place in the continental U.S. to launch spacecraft from, because of the relative velocity of the Earth's rotation there.


Famous potatoes, the license plates say (5 letters):

The mountain West state of Idaho is a state with a great deal of natural beauty and also a good deal of farmland. Its best-known crop, as the license plates bragged for years, is its potatoes.


The Yankees and the Mets (7 letters):

When people think of New York state, let's face it, they think of New York City. High points of the rest of the state include upstate New York's Cornell University, which has given us Carl Sagan, Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.


Land of cactuses and spring training (7 letters):

Arizona is a very dry desert state, south of Nevada and west of New Mexico. Some major-league baseball teams train there, in what's known as the "Cactus League" (as opposed to the Grapefruit League, which is Florida's spring-training system).


Justly proud of Harvard University (13 letters):

Ask the average American which is the country's most prestigious college, and many of them will name Harvard University. It's located in Boston, Massachusetts, a city which is overall considered "the Athens of America"—a cultural capital, in other words.


Big Sky Country (7 letters):

Montana is a another Mountain West state, bordering Canada on its north and Wyoming to the south. Its natural beauty and open spaces have inspired writers like Jim Harrison, Richard Hugo, and James Crumley.


Rocky Mountain High (8 letters):

Colorado is known for its gorgeous mountains and high altitudes, although the Rocky Mountains stretch through several states. Also in Colorado, you'll find the United States Air Force Academy, located just outside Colorado Springs.


They've fired on Fort Sumter! It's war! (13 letters)

Fort Sumter was a sea fort just off Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War broke out there when the Confederacy fired on the Union garrison stationed there. The city was strongly pro-Confederacy; it was said that Charleston's citizens went out onto their second- and third-story galleries to watch the attack with approval (and drinks in hand).


State with the Twin Cities (9 letters):

Minnesota is an upper-Midwest state with a heavily Scandinavian population. Of the Twin Cities, St. Paul is technically a bit older. It started life as a fort called "Pig's Eye." Good thing they changed the name!


Little Rock and Bill Clinton (8 letters):

Arkansas isn't in the national news a great deal. That changed during Bill Clinton's candidacy and presidency, during which rumors and scandals from his years as governor there plagued him, including the Whitewater scandal and Paula Jones's lawsuit.


Bordered by eight states (9 letters):

No state in American borders more than eight others. The two that do are Tennessee and Missouri. Fittingly, one of the borders each state shares is with the other, as they're both centrally located in the Southeast.


It's not a foreign country! (9 letters)

Many New Mexicans have stories about telling fellow Americans where they are from, and being asked if they are expatriates, or need a passport to get home. New Mexico is, in truth, a state: a desert one, between Arizona and Texas.


Yet. More. Cornfields. (8 letters):

Nebraska is another agricultural powerhouse state, which, like Iowa, produces a lot of corn. Its largest city is Omaha, where value-investing whiz Warren Buffett is based, along with his longtime business partner Charlie Munger.


The Hoosier State (7 letters):

Few states have such well-known nicknames for their inhabitants as Indiana, where the residents are called "Hoosiers." This was also the name of a basketball movie from the 1980s, starring Gene Hackman, which was inspired by Indiana's love of the sport at the high-school and college levels.


Where Snooki and "the Situation" partied (9 letters):

Of course, it's New Jersey; the infamous TV show was MTV's "Jersey Shore." New Jersey is known for being a "bedroom community" for New York City, with many of its towns within commuting distance. It's also known for Princeton University (which Snooki and the Situation did not attend).


Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill (13 letters):

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are three of North Carolina's most important cities. Together, they make up the "Research Triangle," a region with several important research universities and closely-related private scientific companies.


Purchased from Napoleon (9 letters):

Fact check: In truth, the Louisiana Purchase involved far more land than is in present-day Louisiana. The territory in question covered parts of 15 U.S. states. However, it's the state near Texas that is inextricably linked with the Purchase, and where the influence of French culture can still be felt, especially in New Orleans.


Famous for apples (10 letters):

For a long time, when you thought of Washington State, you thought of apple orchards and little else. That's changed a lot, as Seattle has become one of America's cultural capitals, first with the grunge scene, and then with high-tech businesses headquartering there, notably Amazon.


Land of the Delta blues (11 letters):

Mississippi is the state that gave the world the Delta blues; the "Delta" in question being that of the Mississippi River. Although the state is majority white, it has the highest percentage of African Americans in any state population, at about 37 percent.


State motto: "Under God, the people rule." (12 letters)

This is the motto of South Dakota, which, despite its name, is in the northern United States. South Dakota is known for sites important to Native Americans, including that of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.


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