If you are a fan of crossword puzzles, you might have encountered a clue that made you scratch your head: Hebrides tongue. This clue appeared in the New York Times crossword puzzle on December 18, 2022, and it had many solvers puzzled. What is the Hebrides tongue, and what is its connection to the NYT crossword?
What is the Hebrides tongue?
The Hebrides tongue is a term that refers to a Celtic language spoken in the Hebrides, a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland. The language is also known as Erse, which is the answer to the crossword clue. Erse is derived from the Irish word Erische, meaning Irish, and it was used by the English to describe any Gaelic language spoken in Scotland or Ireland. However, Erse is not a very precise term, as it can refer to different dialects and varieties of Gaelic. For example, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Manx Gaelic are all considered Erse languages, but they are not mutually intelligible. Therefore, Erse is not a very common or accurate term to use nowadays, and it is mostly found in historical or literary contexts.
Why did the NYT crossword use this clue?
The NYT crossword is known for its challenging and clever clues, and sometimes it uses obscure or outdated words to test the solvers’ knowledge and vocabulary. Erse is one such word, as it is not widely used or known in modern times. However, Erse has appeared in the NYT crossword before, as it is a convenient word for crossword constructors. Erse has four letters, two of which are vowels, and it can fit easily into a crossword grid. Erse has also been clued in different ways, such as “Gaelic tongue”, “Celtic language”, or “Old Irish”. Therefore, Erse is a word that crossword solvers should be familiar with, or at least be able to guess from the context.
How did the solvers react to this clue?
The clue “Hebrides tongue” was not very well received by some solvers, who found it too obscure or misleading. Some solvers complained that the clue was too vague, as there are more than one language spoken in the Hebrides, such as Scots, English, or Norse. Some solvers also argued that the clue was inaccurate, as Erse is not a specific language, but a generic term for Gaelic. Some solvers even suggested that the clue was offensive, as Erse was a derogatory term used by the English to belittle the Gaelic speakers. However, some solvers defended the clue, saying that it was a fair and valid challenge, and that Erse was a legitimate word that had historical and literary significance. Some solvers also praised the clue for being clever and original, and for teaching them something new.
The clue “Hebrides tongue” was a controversial one, as it sparked a debate among crossword solvers about its difficulty and accuracy. The clue referred to Erse, a term for a Celtic language spoken in the Hebrides, but also in other parts of Scotland and Ireland. Erse is not a very common or precise word, and it can have different meanings and connotations. However, Erse is a word that crossword solvers should know, as it has appeared in the NYT crossword before, and it can be useful for crossword construction. Erse is also a word that crossword enthusiasts can learn from, as it reveals a part of the history and culture of the Gaelic people.