Sometimes it’s the small things that make crossword puzzle writers happy – and that challenge even the best solvers. I was happy to fit IMPROV into this Sunday's grid. Why? Because it's an interesting performance medium, perhaps, or because the show "Whose Line Is It Anyway" is so funny? Yes, in part – but also because it's so rare to have a word ending in V.
Part of the fun there is just using something different – very few usable crossword entries end in V (outside of Roman numerals), so mixing things up a bit is always good. But there's a more sinister reason, too: I want to trick solvers into thinking they've made a mistake! Hey, it's a Sunday puzzle, so it's supposed to be tough. If the two improv masters in the clue didn't register, then a solver might think that DAVIS at 31-Across was incorrect, because what could possibly end in V?
V isn’t the only letter that can be used to stump solvers like this. For the same reason, Nicki MINAJ's surname is fun to include in crosswords, in part because solvers might not be expecting that J at the end. Only a few other 5-letter entries end in J, such as MARYJ, clued as [R&B singer Blige].
For -Q words we have IRAQ and SHAQ, which are both seen frequently in puzzles, plus potato chip flavor BAR-B-Q, Denzel Washington movie JOHN Q, and the Tony-award winning play AVENUE Q.
Finally, words of Japanese and Italian origin are especially bountiful sources of words ending in -I; for example, this week we had two Japanese -I words, EMOJI and REIKI.
Got a good entry ending in J, Q, V, or I? Tweet it to #beastxword (and be sure to tag Nicki Minaj and Shaq).
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