Sicily's Mt. Etna has been rumbling lately, so Wednesday's crossword featured four crossword-friendly volcanoes: MOUNT ETNA and MOUNT FUJI, and then Hawaii's Mauna LOA and Mauna KEA in the corners.
With those great letters, it won't surprise you to learn that ETNA appears far more often than any other mountain, volcanic or not, in crosswords. It's shown up an incredible 758 times in the New York Times crossword since 1993 (the Shortz Era), way above the next mountain (LOA at 266).
Those two are 3 and 4 letters long, lengths of which there are many entries in crosswords, so this didn't surprise me. But the identity of the third most commonly used mountain certainly did!
It's not a 3- or a 4-letter word, like LOA and ETNA, or even a 5-letter mountain. It's the 6-letter Mount ARARAT in Turkey, claimed to be the landing site of Noah's Ark. Its letters are so common -- and the alternating vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant pattern of its letters so useful to crossword writers -- that it's appeared 209 times during the Shortz Era, despite being a relatively long entry.
And let's not forget to respect Mount EVEREST -- even at a long 7 letters, it's still shown up 109 times since '93. As with ARARAT, it features only very common letters, plus a mostly alternating vowel-consonant pattern.
Climb any good mountains lately? Let us know by tweeting to #beastxword.
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