My grandma phoned me recently for some help with a crossword. The clue was 'excitement', we had a few letters but couldn't think of anything.

Anyway the answers came out and she rang me back a little put out that the answer was 'fermentation'.

She has looked up in several dictionaries and doesn't feel that the clue is suitable for the answer. I can maybe see it from a chemical sort of viewpoint with fermentation involving bubbling, frothing etc. So is this a suitable clue? Is there a definition of fermentation that could mean excitement? Or the other way round?

  • Well, to excite a mixture would be to cause it to make bubbles, but I don't believe that that's close enough to fermentation. For example, if I let something ferment, I'm probably leaving it alone for a long time. If it's bubbling, I'm not exciting it, but a chemist might say that it is being excited. I'm not too sure, though, either way.
    – waiwai933
    Feb 17, 2011 at 22:25
  • @waiwai fermentation is less likely an antonym of excitement is it? and thats not usually how crosswords work...
    – Sam Holder
    Feb 17, 2011 at 22:27

3 Answers 3


As reported by the NOAD, fermentation has also the archaic meaning of agitation, excitement.

I had found Paris in high fermentation.


This is an occasionally used meaning of fermentation, but the meaning is more commonly encountered in the form ferment, as in

Egypt has recently been in ferment

Crossword clues are notorious for being obscure; this is one of the sources of frustration with these puzzles.


I can sort of see it as a possibility based on some figurative uses of the word, such as "a period of social fermentation" when ideas and changes are bubbling about in the community, but unless someone posts a really great answer explaining it a lot better, I'm inclined to agree that it's a poor clue.

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