Crossword Puzzle Clues: How Many Can You Get Right?

By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: t_kimura / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The first crossword puzzles date back to at least the late 1700s, but their full origin is disputed. It's said The Stockton Bee, a paper printed in Stockton-on-Tees in England until 1795 used to contain crossword puzzles even though they didn't bear the name at the time. In fact, the first instance of the phrase "cross word puzzle" didn't show up in print until over 60 years later in 1862.

By the early 1900s, crossword puzzles were all the rage in newspapers around the world and anyone who fancied themselves an intellectual or a wordsmith would give them a try. The New York Times became famous for its challenging puzzle that included not just difficult vocabulary but clues that were both clever and obscure. You needed to not only know the word but decode the way to find it. Some succeeded, but many failed and that became the allure of a well-made crossword puzzle. Did you have what it took to crack the code?

If you've never been able to resist a bit of wordplay and a puzzle, let's see how many of our clues you can decode! We've devised 40 mini crossword puzzles to challenge and entertain you. Let's start!

You'll see right through this clue.

Of course, you can see through something transparent, that's what transparent means. It's different than something translucent, which allows light through but may not be clear, and something opaque, which can't be seen through at all.

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A novel that overuses old-timey language is guilty of this.

Being an anachronistic and old-timey word itself, gadzookery describes the quality of overusing period-specific language and ancient sayings. It's most often used when describing fiction that gets bogged down in unnatural-sounding jargon.

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Lots of practical knowledge, especially for pirates.

When you're particularly adept at something or have amassed a good deal of practical knowledge, then you are pretty savvy. And if you saw the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, then you know it's also a popular bit of pirate slang.

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Well, this clue seems doubtful.

Those things that seem doubtful and questionable are what you might call dubious. For instance, if the cat was already fed, but it is begging for food like it's starving, its need for a snack is a little dubious.

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A very small and insignificant thing of little value.

A farthing is an item that is small and insignificant. It comes from a unit of currency in Britain, a bronze coin that was worth one-quarter of a penny. They're no longer in circulation, but you can see how they'd be synonymous with something of little worth.

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Gloomy, dreary, down and depressing.

Nothing good is ever described as dismal. You can use it to describe something awful, dreary and extremely disappointing. It's also an obscure noun that refers to a tract of swampland.

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Something that only lasts for a very short period of time.

When something is ephemeral, it is very short-lived, as in it may only exist for a day and then fade away. It's a term applied sometimes to insects, the kind that lives and dies in the span of a day or two.

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Are you going to work today? Nope. No, no, no, no, no. No work. Nope.

Ergophobia is the fear of work. You may feel it to some degree every Monday morning. Pour a mug of coffee and solve a few crossword puzzles to get in the zone and ready for a new day, though!

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Someone who hangs around with dummies.

A ventriloquist is someone who uses a dummy or puppet as a prop, usually for a comedy routine, making it seem like the dummy is talking. For the ancient Greeks, this was part of a religious practice as it was believed the ventriloquist was channeling the voices of the dead.

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It's not just big, it's bigger than big.

When something is Brobdingnagian, it means it is enormous. The origin of this curious word comes from "Gulliver's Travels." In the Jonathan Swift book, Gulliver comes across a land called Brobdingnag, where everything is massive.

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Back up everyone, this is not normal at all.

When something goes against the natural order of things, it's safe to say that it's an aberration. The word origin is Latin and you'll most often hear it used to refer to something that deviates from the typical path.

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This will pay for all of your knick-knacks and bric-a-brac.

You need a little mazuma if you want to pay for things in this world, as mazuma is a slang term for money. The term's origins trace back to the Yiddish word mezumen, which dates all the way back to the late 1800s.

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Those days when things were calm and idyllic.

There's a very nostalgic quality to the word halcyon, as it refers to a time in the past when things were better than they are now. It's also a noun and in that respect, it refers to a kind of bird.

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Maple, elm, cypress, ash and oak are examples.

Deciduous trees, like maple and elm, lose their leaves every year after they change colors in the fall. On the other hand, a coniferous tree, like a pine, bears needles instead of leaves and holds them all year long.

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That ten pound burrito that seemed like just enough.

Your giant burrito is described as mickle, being great or very much. It's a very old word and while you don't hear it often in conversation these days, its origins trace back very far to Middle English, Old English, Norse, and Old High German terms.

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That's one thin necktie!

A bolo tie is a classic cowboy tie made from a length of braided cord or leather that's held together with a clap or slide of some kind. An Arizona man claims to have invented the bolo tie back in the 1940s. It became Arizona's official neckwear in 1971.

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When a clique just won't describe your crew.

A cabal is a secret group. The term usually implies that the group is up to something that they wish to keep secret. Conspiracies rely heavily on the idea that shadowy cabals are calling the shots around the world from behind the scenes.

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Predators at the top of the food chain.

When you're at the top of the heap, you're the apex predator. Lions, tigers, sharks, bears and, of course, humans, are all apex predators. Further down the list would be things that prey on carrion and get preyed on by apex predators.

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No good samurai goes to work without one.

The long, thin blade of a katana, the weapon of a samurai, is traditionally intensely sharp. If you're a fan of samurai movies, then you've likely seen them in action.

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You have such a way with words!

People who are adept at speaking and weaving words together in an almost poetic and moving way are said to be eloquent. If you give a speech and you're not very eloquent, then it likely won't have as much of an impact.

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This kind of person will attack all of your beliefs!

An iconoclast is what you call a person who will tear down or challenge your beliefs and traditions if they feel that what you believe is wrong in some way. This is often accomplished through full-on destruction, like destroying religious icons.

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When you need to experience life at a slower pace in the country you could go here.

City life can get hectic and stressful, so you may want to head to a quiet little dorp for some relaxation. A dorp is a small village or hamlet that comes from the very similar Middle English word "thorp."

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Alphabet soup must qualify as this.

A pangram is something you've probably seen without even realizing it. It's a sentence that includes every single letter of the alphabet. Not many people are likely to check, but you have to assume that alphabet soup would help you make one.

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Huh, that's weird, right?

If something is weird, strange or unusual, you can safely call it peculiar. That's only when you use it as an adjective, though. You can also use peculiar as a noun when you refer to something exclusive to the subject in question.

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They say hell hath no fury like a woman experiencing it.

When you have utter contempt or disdain for something, you are experiencing scorn. You can use scorn as a noun or a verb. So when you feel scorn, it's a noun. But you can also scorn something actively, which is a verb.

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When something is just too ominous.

Something evil and ominous can be described as sinister. The word has ancient origins that originally related to something on the left side. Believe it or not, once upon a time, the left hand was considered the sinister hand.

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Stand back! This clue is dangerous indeed!

Be wary of all things dangerous, for they are definitely treacherous indeed. It's very closely related to the word "treachery," which refers to something deceitful or even treasonous. Best to avoid treacherous treachery whenever you can.

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This seems like a real problem. A quandary, if you will.

When you face a dilemma, you are facing a serious problem of some kind. It usually requires you to make one of two choices in which you're having trouble deciding between because they are equally good or bad.

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Be careful, this one is not your friend at all.

An enemy or opponent is your adversary and someone you should be wary of! In the classical sense, if you refer to an Adversary with that capital A, you're talking not about a regular enemy but the devil himself.

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Sneaky and behind the backs of others.

If you're engaging in a little bit of sneaky subterfuge, then what you're doing can be described as clandestine. The government participates in both covert operations and clandestine operations. The difference is that covert ops conceal who is behind the operation while clandestine ops conceal everything.

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It's not technically a lie is it?

Any good poker player is aware that a bluff is a sneaky little deception to pull the wool over someone else's eyes. Of course, in another context, it also means a cliff, and it's also a term for a small group of trees on a prairie.

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We put a whole bunch of things in this drink, so what would you call it?

When you combine a number of ingredients to make a meal or a drink, what you've put together is a concoction. Strictly speaking, this word is used not so much in a negative context but more of a quizzical one. If something is called a concoction, it's generally unusual.

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When someone gives you a quick glance in England.

Dekko is a slang term in the UK for when you give someone a quick look or glance. It actually comes from the Hindi word "dekho" which means look.

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Take your time because this clue is absolutely exhausting.

An exhausting and arduous task is one best described as grueling. It does come from the same origin as the word "gruel," which is a thin, unsatisfying food often served to old-timey prisoners and orphans. It was basically bad oatmeal.

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You can set this one on fire!

A flame has to ignite to burn, so that's your answer here. If you know anything about rocks, you may have heard of igneous rocks. Both words have the same origin. Igneous rocks are of volcanic origin.

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Watch out for this stuff, it can be hard to understand.

Jargon is the term for technical language that's particular to a specific subject. You'll hear it often in technical talk about computers when people start tossing around terms like "teraflops," a word that non-technical people most likely don't know.

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It just goes on and on and on and on.

If something keeps happening, then it happens perpetually. A great example of something that occurs perpetually is a perpetual motion machine, which is a fun little toy that seems to keep moving all on its own.

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You've just become a priest!

When you are elevated to the level of a minister or priest, the process is called being ordained. If you're interested in performing wedding ceremonies for people in a pinch, you can get ordained on the internet in just a few minutes.

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Is your OS out of date? You need to do this!

Though it sounds a little bit like something from an opera, aggiornamento is an Italian word for what you call it when you bring something up to date to meet your current needs. So every time your phone is updating, it's taking part in aggiornamento.

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Being as foul-mouthed as can be.

The word "thersitical" means abusive or foul-mouthed and it has a very classical origin. Thersites was a character from "The Iliad" who was known for his scathing insults. He called the hero Achilles a coward and accused King Agamemnon of greed.

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