What’s Up With All the Four Letter Cities and States?

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Photo Illustration by Rebecca Tulis
Photo Illustration by Rebecca Tulis

Did you get 5-Across in Monday's puzzle, which was four letters long and clued as [Governor Spencer Cox's state]? If you don't happen to know his name, then you had three four-letter choices: IOWA, OHIO, and then UTAH, which turned out to be the correct answer.

Or how about 11-Across in today's puzzle: [State where Simone Biles was born], again at four letters? I won't tell you this one since you might still be working on the puzzle!

So just three four-letter states to choose from, but eleven four-letter countries, most of which are commonly seen in puzzles: IRAN, IRAQ, MALI, PERU, LAOS, and CUBA are especially common, while CHAD, FIJI, TOGO, and the Pacific micronation of NIUE are seen less often. In the case of CHAD and TOGO it's because they can also be clued as the man's name "Chad" and the restaurant specification "to go," while in FIJI's case the toughish-to-fit-in J can be tricky. NIUE is a bit obscure (population: 1,620) and it's not clearly an independent country besides (its residents are citizens of New Zealand).

And four-letter cities you'll find in puzzles? In the U.S. you'll find that RENO, ERIE, MESA, NOME, HILO and YUMA are often spotted, and abroad we see a lot of AGRA (India), LIMA (Peru), CALI (Colombia), and OSLO (Norway).

Got any four-letter words you'd like to shout at a crossword writer? Keep it civil and tweet to #beastxword.

Play today’s puzzle and sign up for our weekly crossword newsletter on the bottom of the puzzle page.

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