If you are a fan of the New York Times crossword puzzle, you may have encountered the clue “sycophant” in some of the recent puzzles. This clue can be tricky to solve, especially if you are not familiar with the meaning and usage of the word sycophant. In this article, we will explain what sycophant means, how it is used in crosswords, and some tips and tricks to help you crack this clue.
What is a sycophant?
A sycophant is a person who behaves in a sycophantic way. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, sycophantic means “praising people in authority in a way that is not sincere, usually in order to get some advantage from them”. Some synonyms of sycophant are flatterer, toady, bootlicker, brownnoser, and lickspittle.
The word sycophant comes from the Greek word sykophantēs, which literally means “fig revealer”. There are different theories about how this word came to mean “slanderer” and then “flatterer” in English. One theory is that it refers to the ancient Greek practice of taxing figs, and the people who reported the tax evaders were called fig revealers. Another theory is that it refers to a gesture of contempt that involved showing a fig, and the people who made this gesture were called fig revealers.
How is sycophant used in crosswords?
Sycophant is a common word in crosswords, especially in the New York Times puzzle. It has appeared as a clue or an answer more than 40 times since 1942. The reason why sycophant is popular in crosswords is that it has a lot of possible answers, depending on the number of letters and the context of the clue. Some of the most frequent answers for sycophant are:
- LACKEY (6 letters)
- TOADY (5 letters)
- HANGERON (8 letters)
- GREENNOSER (10 letters)
These answers are also examples of crosswordese, which are short words that appear in crosswords much more often than in real life. Mastering these words can give you an edge in solving crosswords.
Sometimes, the clue for sycophant will have a question mark at the end, which indicates a play on words or a pun. For example, the clue “Sycophant’s place?” with a question mark could have the answer LAP, which is a wordplay on the phrase “in someone’s lap”. Question mark clues are usually more challenging and require you to think outside the box.
Tips and tricks to solve the sycophant clue
If you encounter the clue sycophant in a crossword puzzle, here are some tips and tricks to help you solve it:
- Check the number of letters and the pattern of the answer. This will narrow down the possible answers and help you eliminate the wrong ones.
- Look for the theme of the puzzle. Most of the New York Times puzzles from Sunday to Thursday have a theme, which is something that unites the longest answers in the grid. The theme can give you a hint about the answer for sycophant, especially if it is related to the topic of the clue. For example, if the theme is about colors, the answer for sycophant could be BROWNNOSE or GREENNOSER.
- Use the crossing words. The words that intersect with the answer for sycophant can provide you with some letters that can confirm or reject your guesses. For example, if you have the letter K as the second letter of the answer, you can rule out TOADY and HANGERON, and focus on LACKEY or FLUNKY.
- Use outside resources. If you are still stuck, you can use some online tools to help you find the answer. For example, you can use a crossword solver, which is a website that allows you to enter the clue, the number of letters, and the known letters, and then generates a list of possible answers. You can also use a dictionary or a thesaurus to look up the meaning and synonyms of sycophant. However, be careful not to overuse these resources, as they can take away the fun and challenge of solving crosswords.
Sycophant is a word that can stump many crossword solvers, but with some knowledge, skills, and strategies, you can crack this clue and enjoy the satisfaction of completing the puzzle. Remember to pay attention to the clue/answer agreement, the question mark clues, the crosswordese, the theme, and the crossing words, and use outside resources sparingly. Happy solving!