Nail-biting (5 letter answer)
The answer TENSE is seen frequently, appearing about once every 80 puzzles.
Present, for one
Brace, in a way
Past or future
Past or present
Present or past
Future perfect, e.g.
Like a new driver
In need of a massage, maybe
Tied up in knots
It may be perfect
Like sudden-death playoffs
Present, for example, in English class
TENSE as a noun:
1. a grammatical category of verbs used to express distinctions of time
TENSE as a verb:
1. (strain, tense) = become stretched or tense or taught; "the bodybuilder's neck muscles tensed;" "the rope strained when the weight was attached"
2. increase the tension on; "alternately relax and tense your calf muscle"; "tense the rope manually before tensing the spring"
3. (tense, tense up) = become tense, nervous, or uneasy; "He tensed up when he saw his opponent enter the room"
4. (tense, strain, tense up) = cause to be tense and uneasy or nervous or anxious; "he got a phone call from his lawyer that tensed him up"
TENSE as an adjective:
1. in or of a state of physical or nervous tension
2. pronounced with relatively tense tongue muscles (e.g., the vowel sound in `beat')
3. taut or rigid; stretched tight; "tense piano strings"