Integrame: Romanian Through Rebus

by | August 31, 2018 |

Integrame are my current leisure-time obsession. They’re theme-based crossword puzzles that I can kinda, sorta do in Romanian.

Look at the title image where I gathered a bunch of integrame collections I’ve worked through. UȘOARE and UȘURELE are both versions of the word ‘easy.’ Look further and you’ll see pentru începători ‘for beginners’ and NIVEL abc ‘level abc.’ Okay, these are the basic of the basic.

I find them challenging. And sometimes impossible to complete.

For beginners? I’m not sure what that makes me. A pre-beginner, I suppose. Still, they’re fun.

Integrame: An Easy Example

Integrame come in all sorts of themes. The easiest for me are culinare ‘culinary,’ namely recipes. Here’s an example:


You’re given the recipe – in this case for Italian vegetable soup – with all the key words. You’re also given the steps. Since this one has a whopping 11 it’s a lot easier to complete because you know you’re going to be able to fill in all the green squares. (Oops! I just noticed I didn’t fill this one in entirely. I think the one unfilled green square – for Step 5 near the top right – should be P.) Words for food are easy, because you use them all the time.

In English we have crosswordese. These are the words you find only in crosswords but not in daily conversation. So, too, is there a kind of integramese in Romanian. And when you learn those words, things get easier. An example in the Italian soup puzzle is 9 squares down on the left-hand side: câinele Deltei ‘dog from the Delta.’ I have no idea what kind of dog that is, and I certainly don’t need to because I’ll never use it in conversation. But the letters E-N-O-T are easy to cross. So there you have it.

Integrame: An Hard Example

Here’s a page I did yesterday. This is from a distractive ‘amusing’ collection. The title of the puzzle is Sfat ‘advice.’ In the upper left blue corner is a joke set-up. You get the punch line when you fill in the blue squares.


This one about killed me. I do allow myself to look up the clues in a dictionary, and it is regularly the case that the clues are more difficult than the answer, because the answer is very often a word with a Latin root – and I know most of those! That makes the clues interesting, because they are supposedly the regular language – the kinds of words beginners (beginner adults, anyway) know.

Years ago I invested in a great dictionary with very detailed definitions plus etymologies. To give you an idea of the richness of everyday Romanian vocabulary, look at the four clues I’ve circled in the puzzle above, left to right, top to bottom:

mojicie – is a Slavic borrowing meaning ‘boorishness’ or ‘caddishness’ or ‘all around jerkery.’ Romanian abounds in vocabulary for bad guys

surghiunit – is a Turkish borrowing meaning ‘banished’

lai – is another Slavic borrowing meaning ‘white’ which is used for the hair color ‘blond’ and is usually used only in fairy tales

alandala – is a borrowing from Greek meaning ‘all messed up’ (loose translation)

To complete this puzzle I had help from a 10-year-old girl who is extremely well read and her mother who teaches at the University of Bucharest!

In case you’re curious, the joke goes like this:


“Be careful and don’t swallow the hook,” the larger fish said to the smaller fish.


“Because people will catch you, fry you in oil and eat you. That’s one of the reasons.”

“What’s the other?”


Vreau să te mănânc eu = “I want to eat you.”

My opinion: This was a lot of work … for dubious pay-off!

Integrame: A Final Example

The reason integrame are for beginners is because they draw on very basic cultural knowledge – which I often don’t have. Look, below, at the bottom puzzle entitled Cojoc which is a kind of fur coat. Fine, that much I knew. What I didn’t know were all the associations a Romanian would have concerning these coats.


The most interesting one is the top horizontal line of purple squares that spell: Baba Dochia, a figure in Romanian mythology that I learned about as a result of doing this puzzle. Fascinating!

Integrame: Completely Off  Topic

Because my blog features travel and language and the craft of writing, I don’t delve into politics unless it’s staring me in the face. And it has been for the past few days. So I will end this blog on Integrame puzzles with the political puzzle of the week here in Romania: Why on earth did Rudy Giuliani stick his nose into Romanian politics? He certainly created a mess all around for no good reason I can discern.

Here’s a screen shot from the news program I was watching last night.


The caption reads: Giuliani admits that he was paid for the letter (that he wrote President Klaus Iohannis). Read about it here.

See also: All My Romania Blogs

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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