BIWA is the crossword answer to the clue
[Japan’s largest lake]
in today’s New York Times puzzle
Going to break my own rule today and write about an answer that I wouldn’t characterize as crosswordese: [Japan’s largest lake, located NE of Kyoto], BIWA. (By the way, I should mention it was a very nice puzzle today–highly recommended.)
Clearly, BIWA is a short answer that many solvers won’t know, but it appears so infrequently as to not qualify under my definition of crosswordese. I don’t think it has appeared in any major newspaper’s crossword except for the New York Times, and it’s only appeared there twice before: once in 1984 and once in 2006.
Still, there it is today, and as I wanted to look it up I thought I’d share what I found.
Biwa Lake is one of the oldest lakes in the world. It’s dated here at about 5.5. million years old, making it approximately the same age as crosswords’ favorite lake, the ARAL [___ Sea (mostly dried-up lake)]. And as the clue suggests, it looks like Lake Biwa is going to outlive the Aral Sea
BIWA is also the name of a short-necked [Japanese lute]. The lake is thought to be named after the instrument,
Among the fish found in the Biwa is a species called the Biwa trout, though it seems it’s more closely related to a small variety of salmon called masu. People eat the Biwa (the fish, not the lake or the lute) grilled and as shashimi, as well as its ROE.
This video of a Biwa trout farm reminds me of something…
If you haven’t yet seen Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden, a wonderful documentary about the Japanese satoyama narrated by none other than David Attenborough, do so. It’s only about 45 minutes. Here’s the whole thing:
Of course, it was just such a satoyama that Hayoa Miyazaki set My Neighbor Totoro. And to bring it all full circle, there’s the biwa-shaped biwa-bokuboku, one of the the Tsukomogami (household artifact ghosts).