Crossword Clues for Vocabulary Brainiacs


By: Jonnathan Chadwick

6 Min Quiz

Image: Jennifer A Smith/Moment/GettyImages

About This Quiz

When President Bill Clinton first moved up north from Arkansas, everybody thought he was a hillbilly redneck who wouldn't be able to hang with the city slickers on Wall Street. That all changed when they saw the way he filled out the New York Times crossword puzzles. He did them in pen, meaning he knew he wasn't going to make any mistakes. It was a bold move and even a bolder statement, and Clinton's legend as a crossword guru was born. He was such a fan of the crossword puzzle he began writing them regularly for the New York Times, and in 2006 he was featured in the documentary "Wordplay," which documented the lives of crossword enthusiasts.

Are you that person who hasn't started their day until they've completed a crossword puzzle? Do you have an app for crossword puzzles, or maybe several? Is it an essential part of your daily commute? Can spot the theme of New York Times crossword the instant you look at it and can you solve the Sunday version just as quickly as the Monday version? Furthermore, do you consider yourself a vocabulary brainiac? Whatever the case, if you're a crossword enthusiast, we have a quiz for you. Test your vocabulary chops here and see if you can get all of these questions correct.

Green pea and mashed potato pizza

Peculiar is an adjective that describes odd, unusual or strange. There are many types of pizza toppings found around the world, some normal — pepperoni or pineapple — and some peculiar, like green peas and mashed potatoes.


Necessary, as in signs and organs

Vital is an adjective used to describe something that is absolutely necessary or essential. It is also a noun used to identify absolutely necessary body organs or signs of health, like a heart or a heartbeat.


Global warming, abortion, net neutrality or President Trump

Controversial is an adjective used to describe something or someone that gives rise to public disagreement. A topic like abortion or global warming is something that will never see unanimous agreement. The public will always disagree with each other.


Class clown's worst subject

Conduct, in this sense, is a noun used to describe how one behaves at a particular occasion. The class clown might be one who constantly disrupts the classroom and doesn't do as the teacher asks. They misbehave, meaning they have a low grade in conduct.


Street sign, or the goal of your stock portfolio

Yield can have many meanings, but in this case it is a verb meaning to provide or produce. Corn crops yield corn. Stock portfolios, hopefully, yield profits. Yield, as a verb, also means to give way to. When you see a yield sign on the road, you have to give way to other cars.


Red carpet dress for daring celebrities

In this context, sheer is an adjective that describes a light and translucent fabric. Daring celebs, like Cher, have worn sheer dresses in public that have caused quite a bit of controversy. Today they are a bit less controversial, but still stir up a lot of feelings.


To give birth to, even if they are not a superhero

Spawn is a verb meaning to release eggs, as in animals that give birth by releasing or depositing eggs somewhere, like a frog or fish. As a noun, the eggs of a fish are also known as spawns, and Spawn is a superhero found in comic books.


Share one's deepest secret

Confide is a verb meaning to tell someone a secret in confidence that they will not tell anyone else or share it in any way. You usually confide in someone when you need to get something off your chest that you've never shared before.


Motionless, or found in wool clothing

Static is an adjective used to describe something that is motionless or unchanged. If housing prices remain unchanged for decades, one can say the market is static. Static can also be used as a noun that is short for static electricity, which is a stationary electric charge usually produced by friction.


Skydiving, March Madness and disco music

Exhilarating is an adjective that describes something that is thrilling or makes someone feel extremely happy or animated. Skydiving is known to be a very thrilling experience, ditto for March Madness. Disco music can make one happy and animated.


Common boy's name meaning rude

Curt is an adjective to describe someone or something that is rudely abrupt or brief. If you're talking to someone who replies with one-word responses, they are being curt with you. Curt is also a popular boys name.


Taxes, for the government

Lucrative is an adjective describing something that generates a lot of profit. The goal of taxing citizens, among other things, is that it is very lucrative for the government. Without collecting taxes on citizens, the national debt would be higher than it already is.


Monroe, Truman and Obama have them

A doctrine is a noun that identifies a set of beliefs held by a group or political party. One of the most famous doctrines in American history is the Monroe Doctrine, which further cemented the U.S. as a separate entity from European powers. Most presidents set forth doctrines, including presidents Truman and Obama.


What belly dancers do with their bellies

Undulate is a verb meaning to move in an up-and-down motion, similar to a ripple or a wave. Belly dancers, and others who have strong control of their abdominal muscles, can roll their bellies. Or, to be fancy, they can undulate their bellies.


A black mustang or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018

Dark horse is a noun that identifies a relatively unknown competitor who unexpectedly wins their competition. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shot to fame after defeating a 10-term incumbent to become the youngest woman elected to Congress. A black mustang is a dark-colored horse.


New home before the decorators arrive

Unadorned is an adjective meaning simple, plain or not adorned, as in not decorated. A brand new house is likely unadorned until you decorate (or hire decorators) to design the home. This can include adding furniture or painting the walls.


God, Mother Nature or Father Time

Omnipotent is an adjective used to describe something that has unlimited power and the ability to do anything. God is universally understood to be omnipotent. For those who don't believe in God, Mother Nature or Father Time are examples of entities that are omnipotent.


Fancy name for a caveman

A troglodyte is a noun that identifies a person who lives in a cave. It's a big word for a caveman. This person is usually a hermit. It can also be used as a noun that identifies an extremely, and deliberately, old-fashioned person.


World-famous spreadsheet

Excel is a verb meaning to be very good at a certain activity. If you excel in vocabulary, you have an exceptional vocabulary. Microsoft Excel is also one of the most widely-used computer spreadsheets and has been in use since 1987.


What Italians are known to use when talking

Gesticulate is a verb meaning to use gestures instead of words when explaining something. Italians are known to talk with their hands and do in fact have a lot of hand gestures for common sentiments that don't translate to an actual word.


Iron Man's last name

Stark is an adjective that has several meanings. It can mean strict conformance, as in a stark discipline. It can mean carried out to the absolute degree, as in stark nonsense. It can mean harsh or blunt, as in stark reality. And it is also Iron Man's last name: Tony Stark.


Maple syrup, glue or melted gummy bears; or a misspelling that spellcheck won't catch

Viscous is an adjective that describes something that has a thick, sticky or syrupy texture between liquid and solid. Maple syrup and most glues are examples of substances that have high viscosity. If you misspell the word vicious as viscous, spell check probably won't catch it.


Mispronunciation of acorn, or two foods put together

Eggcorn is a noun that identifies a word or phrase that is misheard or misinterpreted, leading to a brand new (incorrect) word or phrase. Some examples are "tow the line" instead of "toe the line," or calling an acorn an eggcorn.


Turning point, or an unofficial nickname for a shelter that holds hoses

Watershed is a noun identifying a moment that is the turning point of an event. When Barack Obama was elected president, it was a watershed moment in American politics. Someone can declare their backyard shed a water shed if they want to.


Desire and prejudice over ration and logic

Demagogy is a noun that identifies the political practice of stoking the prejudices of ordinary people in order to rise to power instead of using logic and reason. A person who uses demagogy to rise to power is a demagogue.


The feeling after eating everything in sight at Thanksgiving

Crapulence is a noun that identifies sickness that is caused by excessive eating or drinking. It stems from the word crapulent, meaning sick from gluttony.


Frosty the Snowman's biggest fear

Deliquesce is a verb meaning to melt away or liquefy, usually as a result of decomposition. Frosty the Snowman, or any snowman for that matter, will melt away in the sun. It is every snowman's biggest fear.


White lie

A peccadillo is a noun that identifies a slight, small, harmless and relatively unimportant offense. A white lie is an example of a peccadillo. In some cases, it may be best to tell a white lie in order to spare greater damage (i.e. the truth hurts.)


Savory flavor, or a catcall

Umami is a noun that identifies a group of taste in food that is savory. It's usually caused by a high level of glutamine within the food. Some foods with a notable umami flavor are beef, Parmesan cheese, fish and mushrooms.


Tingling feeling in your fingers, or a typo for boys and girls

Gwenders is a noun used to identify the uncomfortable tingling feeling in your extremities caused by extreme cold. It is usually found in one's fingers or toes and is a rather old-fashioned word. It may also be a typo when one is typing the word "genders" since the "w" and "e" keys abut each other.


Customary behavior, like forgetting to use apostrophes

Wont is a noun, adjective and verb. In all instances, it relates to customs or habits. As a noun, it identifies one's customs. As an adjective, it describes one's customs. And as a verb, it means to become accustomed to something.


When you gotta go, you gotta go

Yen is a noun meaning an urge, desire or impulse. It can also be used as a verb meaning to feel an urge. If you feel a yen to use the bathroom, you have an urge to go to the bathroom. It is also the basic unit of money used in Japan.


Many votes in the United States Congress

Unilateral is an adjective used to describe one-sided actions or decisions. The United States Congress, which is made up of the House of Representative and the Senate, votes on many issues. Sadly, the votes are usually unilateral, meaning all Democrats vote the same way and all Republicans vote the opposite.


Mmmmmmkay, mmmmmmbye, or saying MMMmmmm after every bite of food

Mytacism is a noun that identifies the incorrect or excessive use of the sound of the letter "m." Some people say "mmmkay" instead of "okay." That would be an example of mytacism. Saying "MMMmmm" after every bite of food isn't incorrect, but is excessive.


Find joy in one's misfortune

Schadenfreude is a noun that identifies the joy one feels at another's misfortune or harm. It is a German word with no English equivalent, but is commonly used in English literature. It is created from the German words schaden (harm) and freude (joy.)


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