DEAR ABBY: An estimated 14 million Americans have diabetes, which causes 150,000 deaths a year. Even more shocking is the fact that about half the people who have diabetes don't even know they have it. These people are at great risk of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. Until last March, I was one of them!

Fortunately, a simple quiz published in my local newspaper alerted me to the symptoms of diabetes, and I was lucky to discover it in its early stages. The quiz, produced by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for its annual American Diabetes Alert, virtually saved my life. My score indicated that I was at high risk for diabetes, so I went to my doctor for a painless test.The bad news was that my test confirmed that I have diabetes. The good news was that as long as I carefully manage my program of diet, exercise and medication, I can keep my blood-glucose level under control and enjoy the same activities as my non-diabetic friends.

Since March, my blood levels have remained within normal ranges, and I am once again leading a healthy life. Abby, would you please print the ADA Alert Quiz in your column to accompany the March 19 American Diabetes Alert? You could be helping millions of people lead healthier, longer lives. - JOE CAMPO, JACKSON, MISS.

DEAR JOE AND DEAR READERS: This test is not meant to diagnose - only a medical doctor can establish whether these symptoms mean you have diabetes. Here's the test. Each "yes" answer is worth the number of points indicated.

1. I have been experiencing one or more of the following symptoms on a regular basis: excessive thirst (3 points); frequent urination (3 points); extreme fatigue (1 point); unexplained weight loss (3 points); blurry vision from time to time (1 point).

2. I am over 40 years of age (1 point).

3. I am at least 20 percent over my ideal weight (2 points).

4. I am a woman who has had more than one baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth (2 points).

5. I am of Native American Indian descent (1 point).

6. I am of Hispanic or black descent (1 point).

7. I have a parent with diabetes (1 point).

8. I have a brother or sister with diabetes (2 points).

Now, add up your score. If you scored three to five points, you probably are at low risk for diabetes.

If you scored over five points, you may be at high risk for diabetes. You may even have diabetes, so see your doctor and don't delay. For more information on diabetes, contact your local American Diabetes Association or ADA's Diabetes Information Service Center, 1660 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314. The toll-free number is (800) 232-3472.

DEAR ABBY: Please help me before I pull the last strands of hair out of my balding pate! I have been trying to find a word that is not in any dictionary or thesaurus. I have called the public library as well as my newspaper, and no one was able to help me. The word I am looking for is what the person who makes up crossword puzzles is called. Thanks for any help you can give me. - A.L. DELK

DEAR MR. DELK: The word is "cruciverbalist," and you are correct, it is not in any dictionary, thesaurus or "word finder."

Nor was it in my vocabulary - in fact, I had never heard of the word before I went on this treasure hunt. I also learned that crossword puzzles have been in existence for more than 2,000 years.