genehorn1OK, crossword puzzle fans, this one’s for you! As a longtime crossword puzzle addict, I’ve come to notice two peculiarities when trying to solve those mind-testing brain-teasers.

1). how strange, remote and even weird some clues/answers can be;

2). how often puzzle authors include clues/answers of a religious nature – biblical, Scriptural, Catholic and other denominations.

While there are many sources of crossword puzzles, I prefer puzzles published daily in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and Chicago Tribune, which I read regularly. Most challenging for me is the crossword puzzle in the Saturday Chicago Tribune.

While Journal Sentinel puzzles may take 15 minutes and the USA Today’s takes a half-hour or longer, the Tribune puzzle will capture my attention for hours because many of its clues are vague and the answers often are far-fetched.

Crossword puzzles not only capture the imagination but they’re a worthwhile pastime, they’re instructional and educational; they expand vocabulary and, at times, offer insights into new words and their meanings.

So, let’s examine some unusual, unconventional, unpredictable, weird clues and answers.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Clue – “forward raises strengthen them”; Answer – “delts” (referring to deltoids, large triangular muscles that cover the shoulder joint and serve to raise the arm laterally.)

Clue – “source of relief”; Answer – “bullpen.”

Clue – “cryptozoologist’s subject”; Answer – “Lochness Monster.”

Clue – “they’re not wild”; Answer – “educated guesses.”

Clue – “paradise brewing aid”; Answer – “yeast of Eden.”

From USA Today:

Clue – “ship departure signal”; Answer – “blue peter” (a blue signal flag with a white square in the center used to indicate that a vessel is ready to sail.)

Clue – “biblical sufferer of a bad hair day”; Answer – “Samson” (a performer of Herculean exploits whose hair was uncut.)

Clue – “what a mug might hold”: Answer – “gat.” (“Mug” has several connotations which, in this case, refers to mugger … and “gat” is a gun.)

Clue – “wallet, formally”; Answer – “William fold.”

Clue – “dinner couple”; Answer – “ens.”

By comparison, Journal Sentinel crossword puzzles are more common and conventional which makes them easier to solve. Puzzle clues/answers of a religious nature, some referring to biblical characters, are used repeatedly in many publications.

For example, Adam is the answer to clues such as Genesis patriarch, man who was never born, a man without a mother, noted bone donor, biblical leading man; Eve is Adam’s mate, first lady, garden matriarch; and Abel is Genesis victim or ill-fated biblical brother.

Also, Seth is the answer to Adam’s third son; Enos is the grandson of Eve or third generation man in the Bible; Esau is one of Issac and Rebekah’s sons, Jacob’s brother, Genesis twin, biblical twin who sold his birthright; or biblical brother whose name means “hairy.”

An obvious reason for these often-used clues and answers is because crossword puzzlers strive to make use of short words, three, four, five or six letters. However, answers to Chicago Tribune puzzles often require multiple letters and two or more words.

Among clues/answers of a Catholic nature are:

From the Chicago Tribune:

Clue – “Benedict XIII’s family name”; Answer – “Ordini.”

Clue – “year in Pope Innocent III’s (1198-1216) reign”; Answer – (Roman numerals) “MCC” (1200).

Clue – “Mother of Calcutta”; Answer – “Teresa.”

Clue – “times of prayer in the Divine Office”; Answer – “sexts” (referring to the sixth hour of daylight or noon in the Divine Office, the public prayer of the church for praising God and sanctifying the day generally observed by priests and religious.)

Clue – “Mass garb”; Answer – “alb” (white garment a priest wears under the chasuble.)

From USA Today:

Clue – “Nine-day period of prayer”; Answer – “novena.”

Clue – “Dies (missing word) Requiem Mass hymn”; Answer – “Irae,” (a pre-Vatican II Latin hymn sung or recited at Mass for the dead.)

Clue – “deadly sins number”; Answer – “seven.”

Clue – “blessed bread holder”; Answer – “paten.”

From Journal Sentinel:

Clue – “church VIPs”; Answer – “priests.”

Clue – “pontiff”; Answer – “pope.”

Clue – “Vatican VIP”; Answer – “cardinal.”

Clue – “parish head”; Answer – “rector.”

Clue – “God (Latin)”; Answer – “Deus.”

Reference to other denominations, from Chicago Tribune, USA Today and Journal Sentinel:

Clue – “mark Yom Kippur”; Answer – “atone” (Yom Kippur, a Jewish day of atonement, is observed with fasting and prayer.)

Clue – “Mormon Tabernacle feature”; Answer – “choir.”

Clue – “common Zen temple feature”; Answer – “rock garden” (Zen is a Buddhist sect advocating enlightenment by direct intuition or meditation.)

So, fellow crossword puzzle fans, I’m sure you’ve encountered many of these clues and answers. But, here’s one more from the Chicago Tribune: The clue: “complex mirage”; the answer: 11 letters, two words.

(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)