GNU is often the answer to the crossword clue
[Wildebeest] or [Bearded beast]

1924 John Player & Sons cigarette card: the White-Tailed GNU, front, image by author

Solvers keeping their eyes peeled and pencils sharpened will sometimes catch a special [Safari sighting] in the grid: the enigmatic GNU.

GNU is just another name for [Wildebeest], which is its most common clue.

Besides GNU, another [Alias for wildebeest] is [Kokoon]. Other clues to know are:

  • Lion’s prey
  • Brindled beast
  • Oxlike antelope
  • Serengeti grazer

The “mane” facial feature of the GNU makes it a [Bearded beast] of puzzle boxes, though sometimes it appears in disguise as an [African game].

Speaking disguises, the GNU is a [Shaggy beast], but that shaggy clue can also tag a YAK.

The silent G in “gnu” makes it a [“New” homophone] and a [Fresh-sounding antelope]. Yet, paradoxically, that silent G [Animal that doesn’t have a sound coming out of its head?].

Adding to the irony, the three-letter name of the [Animal that doesn’t sound old?] is actually quite old. It originated in southwestern Africa, and it thought to mimic the very sound that comes out of the animal’s mouth (or head).

1924 John Player & Sons cigarette card: the White-Tailed GNU, back, image by author

So what else is GNU?

The SILENTG [Paradigm feature] is audible when part of the operating system called GNU [Operating system that’s “not Unix”].

As such, “GNU” stands for “GNU’s Not Unix!,” making it a recursive acronym (i.e., it reflects to itself).

The GNU operating system logo

Well, it’s certainly not UNIX, the [Early operating system], [MS-DOS alternative], and [Windows alternative]. was the basis for Mac’s OSX [Yosemite platform], [One of a number of big cats running on computers?].

GNU: Crossword solvers’ [Zoo favorite]

Highly recommended: What’s Gnu?, Michelle Arnot’s fantastic history of crossword puzzles. Regrettably out-of-print but available on Abebooks

GNU has long been one of the prime examples of crosswordese. Sixty years ago, Margaret Farrar, the first editor of the The New York Times crossword, called GNU a “cliché” answer in an interview for The New Yorker.

But that’s practically yesterday compared to an article in The New York Times itself from 1924 which derided crosswords for their reliance on certain answers, including “the GNU.”

Here’s some more about these articles, GNU, and the history of crosswordese.

Last and certainly most, get a load of “The Gnu Song,” written and first performed by the old British comedy duo Flanders & Swann, but presented here by The Muppet Show.