Crosswords for beginners: Meet the Letter N

You’ve met A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L and M. Now it’s time for the alveolar (and sometimes velar) nasal, better known as N.

Nice to meet you, N. Crossword setters have numerous ways to indicate that you’re in an answer, from NORTH and NOTE …
… to NORSE and NOUN. And what’s NEW? I am!

Noted. Now, you’re a bit of a snake, aren’t you?
Charming. Sure you’re not thinking of S? You only have to look at the shape of …

No, I’m pretty sure S started out as a pictogram of a tooth and you were once a serpentine hieroglyph.
Perhaps, yeah, but I’ve gone straight, you know?

Have you, though? You’re usually named as the sixth most frequently seen letter in English …
… way ahead of my cousin M …

… but that’s because there are so many words ending in “ing”. Not to mention all those “an”s and “and”s. You just sort of … slither in.
You make me sound creepy. I’m pretty benign, y’know?

Since you mention “benign” and “know”: if a solver has the letters B___G_ or K_O_, they might quite reasonably expect a G sound in the first and a K in the second. But, no. Those other letters are silenced. By you.
And in KNIGHT. Which also indicates me in a crossword because in chess notation the K’s the king. But, unlike, say, E, pretty much all of the words indicating me start with the letter you’d expect. NORWAY, from car stickers; NOVEMBER from the Nato alphabet; NEUTRAL from gearsticks.

And, from science, NITROGEN, NEWTON and NUCLEAR.
Like I say, I’ve gone straight. NAVY, NEPHEW, NOON. Need I go on? You know what you’re getting.

Not in my experience. I may know what’s next to you: you’re normally preceded by a vowel, and followed by a D or a T. But, you yourself, N: your very NAME (in maths) means UNSPECIFIED NUMBER. Like I say: you’re snaky.
I didn’t come here to get the third degree about the nth degree. No more!

Night, night, N. Nice knowing you.

More guidance

Cryptic devices: hidden answers; double definitions; cryptic definitions; soundalikes; initial letters; spoonerisms; containers; reversals; alternate letters; cycling; stammering; taking most of a word; naked words; first and last letters; middle letters; defining by example.

Bits and bobs: Roman numerals; Nato alphabet; Greek letters; chemistry; abbreviations for countries; points of the compass; more points of the compass; playing cards; capital letters; boys and girls; apostrophes; cricket; alcohol; the church; Latin; royals; newspapers; doctors; drugs; music; animals; cars; cities; rivers; boats; when the setter’s name appears; when the solver appears; “cheating”.

Individual letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M.


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