The NYT crossword on 10/29/2005 had the clue 'front' for 34 across. The answer turned out to be VAN. Can someone explain the logic behind that to me?

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    $\begingroup$ There is not much to this. Another definition of the word "van" is "front", as in the van of the army $\endgroup$
    – hexomino
    Oct 25, 2023 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ ...from which the word vanguard came. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2023 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ @WeatherVane I would think it's the other way around; that vanguard came first (from French avant garde) and from that came the shortening van. $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2023 at 7:39

1 Answer 1


While the question might be more relevant to Puzzling Stack Exchange, the answer might be more relevant to English Stack Exchange!

The "van" which OP is familiar with (& which is more common) is a transport vehicle which was derived though the shortening of "caravan" which was derived from Latin "caravana" which in turn was derived from Persian "qairawan" & Arabic "karwan". That is the point of confusion over the puzzle solution.

The "van" in the NYT Crossword (& which is less common) is about "forefront" of army units or latest artistic movements etc. It is a shortening of "vanguard" deriving from anglo-french "avant-garde" which is the "front guard", or more generally, the "front section".

In Crossword puzzles, we might know a few letters (say "v" & "n") & we have to insert a new word to match the letters. In that case, we have to use the best match (which is "van" here) where the commonality or rarity will not matter.



This question has been "answered" via comments by at least 3 users.
I wanted to get this question out of an "unanswered state" & add a couple of corrections & clarifications which were not there in the comments.


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