Can You Do This Crossword Puzzle?

By Ed Tasca


The key to most crossword puzzles is that the answers to the short, clever clues would be subjects most people know. If this weren’t the case, how would tens of thousands of us every day, when left tranquilly to our own thoughts, escape from the tedium of waiting at TelMex. A clue, for instance, to the name Einstein might be ‘Genius in New Jersey – (8)’ (that’s eight letters), which might baffle some, given that we also have Edison (only six letters) and Valli (only five). But it is nonetheless a clue that would be recognizable for many on the planet, because the subject is someone everybody knows. But what if you lived in a closeted society, where people don’t really know what’s going on in New Jersey, or care, for that matter?

Crossword puzzles and, I imagine, any word games might be rather esoteric in these societies. Because many of these society members wouldn’t recognize what we consider common knowledge, the globe’s universals. So then, their crossword puzzles would have to be based on the limited, specific and permissible knowledge base of that particular closeted society, if, of course, they were going to have any real crossword fun.

I found the following Taliban crossword puzzle to demonstrate what I’m talking about. It was the feature puzzle in a whimsical little chapbook called Favorite Mind-bending Crosswords and Riddles from the Jihad Picayune.

Cut it out if you like and keep it for when your iPhone battery goes dead or you’re sitting around waiting at TelMex.






1. Kabul dance craze? (5)

4. Taliban chieftain named after ICBM? (6)

8. Korzai’s imaginary childhood friend? (3)

9. IED experts meet at what coffee restaurant because of free WiFi? (9)

10. Kidnappers marching song? (7)

13. Southern Afghan province requiring safety catches for nursery toys? (6)

18. The Arab invention of “zero” – based on the IQ of what Boko Haram tribe? (5)

19. Sand used in healing of which eye disorder? (5)

21. “Good ol’ Days” century when all we had to get rid of were the Mongols? (3,9)


1. What’s our money called? (7)

2. ‘Cradle of civilization’ Xtreme Fighting Event? (9)

3. ‘Old clothing’ -- key energy export of what Taliban city? (5)

4. ‘Meet Jihadist Singles’ founder? (6)

5. Preparation of which explosive substance linked to ED? (7)

6. Drone anxiety? Try this common household opium derivative. (3)

7. Science studies for women held in which volcanic crater? (5)

12. Title of Tora Bora sniper sitcom? (7)

14. What to wear while hiding in a kindergarten school? (5)

16. Inexpensive replacement for facial hair in bedding? (5)

17. Favorite Al Qaeda “All-inclusive” cave hideaway? (4)

18. Imprisoned for possessing Osso Buco recipe? (3)

20. Where Jalalabad residents who stutter go for counseling (3)

If you were able to get any of these right, speak to no one. Anyone knowing even just ‘8 across’, a subject that has been a top-secret for several decades, probably will receive fewer party and event invitations. (Hint: Imaginary friend is not unlike a certain mascot for a Philadelphia baseball team.) Nonetheless, please don’t let me discourage you from completing the puzzle. Those who can will be awarded with a gold-plated Kalashnikov automatic weapon, custom designed to fire a little flag that says, “I am Charlie.”


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