Welcome to the SSQQ
Created by Rick Archer
Houston, Texas, USA
Christmas Puzzle has been
a top Internet Christmas puzzle
for years now. 2012 was our
fourteenth season. Using pictures
you try to identify famous Christmas Carols.
Carol Puzzle has two versions.
year-round. It is designed for
but it is also very handy for adults who
are in a hurry. It comes with a
Short Puzzle Clue List and can be solved
in an hour or less. Please
Answers to the Short Puzzle are
is only open
during the Holiday Season. It
consists of 150 puzzles. Because
it is so large, it requires the use of the
Long Puzzle Clue List.
The Long Puzzle
stays in hibernation most
of the year. It will return for the 2013 Holidays on Thanksgiving
Answers to the Short Puzzle
I did not create many of the
Short Puzzle clues myself, I
leave the Short Puzzle in the public
domain for everyone to enjoy
throughout the year.
to the Short Puzzle
Christmas Carols are
Answers to the Long Puzzle
order to receive answers to the Long
Puzzle, you must solve at least 75
of the 150 riddles correctly. When
you think you have 75 correct, email
your list to Rick Archer,
Please be sure to put "SSQQ Christmas
as your title so I don't
delete it (I get tons of spam).
I will not
respond to any
request for the answers
to the Long Puzzle without 75
Every year a
few people email to say they want to
use my puzzle for their big party,
but they just don't have the time to
Can they please just have the
answers and be done with it??
this position, but don't have much
sympathy since I give all the
busy people a simple alternative...
all you have
to do is use the Short Puzzle for
your Christmas Party instead.
at my own Christmas Party, I use the
Short Puzzle. Why?
Because the Long Puzzle is much too
difficult. The Long Puzzle
takes HOURS to solve. Unless
the entire purpose of your party is
specifically to solve the Long
Puzzle, the Short Puzzle is far
superior as a fun Christmas
December 01, 2012
Hello Mr. Archer,
I came across your
looking for a game
to share at my
Christmas party. I
love the long puzzle
don't have the time
to figure out the
answers to 75 of
them. My party is
next weekend and
time is too short.
Is it possible that
you could make an
exception and send
me the answers to
I would very much
Hope to hear from
you very soon.
Thank you for making
this wonderful game,
I just hope I'll be
able to play it with
Have a great holiday
season with your
family and friends
How Long Does It Take??
clues in the
Short Puzzle are
the most famous songs, it is easy. I am
positive it can be finished within 30
minutes to an hour.
Puzzle is a much different story.
If there is just one or two of you,
finding 75 correct answers might
take from two to four hours. In fact, maybe the Long Puzzle takes
even longer than
that to solve. Some people
claim the Long Puzzle takes days to
depends on your level of motivation.
I have been told that solving the
Long Puzzle is a huge treat. For
example, I could be
wrong, but these emails suggests
people enjoyed taking their sweet
To save time,
I highly recommend using the "find"
For example, if you see an angel in
the clue, go to the Clue List and
type in "angel" and see if that
narrows your choices.
From: Sandra Young
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle
Thank you so much for sending me the answers!
My co-workers and I worked on this puzzle
for two entire days.
We didn't get a
lick of work done because it was mind boggling
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzles
Dear Mr. Archer,
We really enjoyed your puzzle. You
will be pleased to know your hard work paid
off cause it took us last Christmas and this
Christmas to come up with some of the
SSQQ Christmas Puzzle owes its
popularity to several features. One
reason is that it is perfect for people of
is an easy version of the Christmas Puzzle that is perfect for kids.
If you are a grade school teacher or a
Sunday school teacher, you just got lucky.
This is the perfect activity for
children anxiously awaiting
Then there is the
Long Puzzle, a much tougher version
for adults. The Long
Puzzle is perfect for large groups.
The group can either solve it
together or the group can separate
into smaller groups and have a
The Long Puzzle lends itself
well to Seasonal gatherings such as
family reunions, church events,
get-togethers at Senior homes and office
Or you can solve it all by
If you are house-bound on a
snowy night in Maine or Alberta, Canada, and you like puzzles,
cheer up - this puzzle right up your alley.
Heat up some coffee, sit down in your
comfy chair, and prepare for an entire
evening of the best Christmas puzzle
The one thing that is certain is that Puzzle
Lovers thrive on the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.
If you like to solve
puzzles like Sudoku, Crossword, Jigsaw, etc, then you
have definitely come to the right place.
Christmas Carol Quiz
will give you a
great start into the
consists of 150
famous and semi-famous
Christmas Carols... plus
a few obscure titles too.
Your job is to decipher each
riddle and come up with its name!
At this point, I have a
little confession to make... yes, I made up
some of the clue titles. My problem
was that I had lots of great pictures like
the one of Mr. and Mrs. Santa seen here, but
no "Carol Title" to attach it to. I
decided I preferred to use the picture, so I
TOAST TO GOOD WILL ACROSS THE LAND"
to the Clue List.
It was either add new
titles or stop expanding the puzzle. I
chose to expand the puzzle. Once you
see how great the pictures are, I doubt you will
mind. Let me add that for you
Short Puzzle has no
Sculpture picture below is an example of an awesome
picture I did not use. What a shame
because it is so beautiful. I didn't use it
because I couldn't think of a good title for it
using our Christmas theme. Don't worry; one of
these days I will think of a great title and then I
will add it. For now, 150 clues is more than
Most people run
across this Christmas Puzzle
while web surfing. For
several years now, this puzzle has been at the top
of any Google Search involving "Christmas Carol
Puzzles". As a result, around Christmas
time, this becomes a
much-visited page. Typically during each
Christmas Season, 500 people email for
So where did this puzzle
come from? A woman named Lahlete Pearson from
Belzoni, Mississippi, created the original version around 1985.
I will write more about Ms. Pearson shortly.
As for myself, I am a
retired dance instructor. For 30 years, I ran a
dance studio in Houston known as "SSQQ". I taught
Swing, Salsa, Western, and Ballroom dancing. One evening in 1996,
one of my teachers handed me the "Original" version this puzzle,
the one created by Ms. Pearson.
Intrigued, I solved the puzzle, then filed it away and forgot about
By chance, I ran across the copy again in 1999. It
had been hiding under papers on my discard desk. Amused, I
tried solving it again. I was taken by its charm. I knew that dance students are no different than any other
kind of student - they like challenges of all kinds!
By chance, the Internet
was just beginning to come into its own at that time. Indeed,
I had just recently opened my dance studio's new web site. I
was looking for content to post, so I decided to
scan the puzzle into my computer and put it on the Internet. I
wanted to share it with my
students at SSQQ Dance Studio during the 1999 Christmas Holidays.
A couple years later, thanks to search engines like Google,
my updated version of the puzzle went 'viral'. People from all
across the planet began writing to ask for the answers. One
request was from a Catholic nun stationed at the Vatican. I
could not have been more amazed by this development. My goofy
puzzle had become popular across the world!
The puzzle had some
practical uses as well.
Pretty soon, school teachers from every state in
the USA began emailing
me for the answers to my puzzle. Each teacher said the same
thing - my Christmas Carol Puzzle was a school teacher's dream.
They were so grateful to find a wholesome activity that kept their kids happy and entertained for an entire
morning! Here is an example of a letter I received from
a school teacher.
From: Jennifer T
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 1:30
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzles
First of all, thank you so much for
posting all these wonderful
Christmas Carol Puzzles for us to
enjoy! I first printed them off in
either 2005 or 2006 and have had my
4th and 5th music students do them
every year since. We always enjoy
working on them. For some reason, I
never printed off the Top 40 answer
list though! We just figured them
This year I went back to your
site to try and find a couple
answers and was amazed and pleased
with the growth it's made. How
wonderful! I've now printed off all
130 of the puzzles and will be using
them again and again over the years
(although probably in a rotation -
130 is WAY too many for little minds
to play with.)
My students have even
gotten so excited about them that
they write their answers on separate
papers as to take the puzzles home
to share with their families. My
fellow teachers and staff members
ask for copies every year as well.
It's become a great tradition for
the upper elementary students at
Pinconning Area Schools (in
Having said all that, I am in need
of some answers! I have a list of an
additional 45 that you requested to
get the full 130 answers. Thank you
so much for your time and for
sharing these with us!
can see, for
years now this puzzle
has been a popular activity for teachers looking for something creative to use
and amuse in the days before Christmas Vacation. If you are a teacher, don't worry.
Your kids are safe here. There
are no pop-ups, no politics, no religious agendas,
no ads, no hidden links to other Internet sites, no
cookies, no viruses, no spyware. There is no
evil, just fun.
In addition to school teachers, I am frequently contacted
by people looking for activities to share with their church groups, office
Christmas get-togethers, and
family gatherings. Let me assure you this puzzle is an excellent a game
at Christmas Parties because it can involve many
people at once. Depending on
how many copies you print, individuals can solve the riddles on
their own. If you have a large group, you can divide
teams. Let them race to see which
Please feel free to
print out the entire puzzle. It is my gift. You
may share it as many times as you like. It is my hope that your group has as
much fun solving the puzzle as I had creating it. I do have
one request - please add my name.
I like to receive credit for my work.
That is all I ask. Thank you! Rick Archer,
HOW THE SSQQ CHRISTMAS
Short Puzzle (50 clues)
The Short Puzzle consists of 50 clues
In addition, the answer to these 50 clues are published
This way no matter what time of the year it is, you can enjoy
the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.
I would like to make it
clear that I have never claimed 'ownership' of the early
puzzle. This puzzle traces its origin to 24 clues that are the work
an elementary school teacher who created the puzzle back in
the Eighties. I began my own work by adding to Ms.
Pearson' work. In 2007 I decided to put these riddles
in the Public Domain for all to share on a year-round basis.
For people who are too busy to work the
Long Puzzle of 150 picture clues, you can use the Short
Puzzle as a much faster backup option. You school teachers will be pleased to note the Short Puzzle version is
much easier for kids. It can be done in
less than an hour.
Having two puzzles gives flexibility. You can have a
party where the kids solve the Short Puzzle and the adults
can tackle the Long version. That way, everyone is happy!
Puzzle (150 clues)
Rick Archer's Note: The
Long Puzzle is only posted from
Thanksgiving thru Christmas Day each year.
These riddles are my original work.
It is my wish that you share the puzzle far and wide. You are more than welcome to use these clues for church parties,
school assignments, office parties, and parties at your home as well
your own pleasure. All I ask is that you please add my name to
any copy you print out.
You may NOT re-publish on the Internet for any reason.
That would be copyright infringement.
Furthermore I would prefer you not use these
clues for commercial purposes. I understand that if you do
this behind my back I will never know, but it means you are
absolutely clueless as to the true meaning of Christmas.
I post this puzzle free of charge in the spirit of Christmas
Consequently I would be appalled if someone attempted to
profit off my work.
To receive the Long Puzzle Answers, you must send me 75 correct answers out of 150.
I will return the entire list as quickly as possible.
Please send your answers to
Rick Archer, email@example.com
History of the SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle
Original story 2005, most recent update 2011
the short version of the story. You can read the longer
The idea is to
look at a picture and guess the title of the Christmas
Carol. A reindeer with a red nose... hmm...
A Rebus is a term which means "a representation of words in the form of pictures or
symbols, often presented as a puzzle". That term
explains this puzzle perfectly. The Christmas Puzzle
is a series a pictures that represent famous and obscure
Christmas Carol titles.
Most rebuses in the
Short Version of the SSQQ
Christmas Puzzle are as easy as this Rudolph picture. However, as
you get deeper into the Long Puzzle, you will discover the complexity
begins to rival a tough crossword puzzle. You better bring
your thinking cap and a little patience or you will be in trouble.
not create the Original Puzzle. My own
puzzle built on the anonymous work of the "Original Puzzle"
which contained 24 clues referring to the best-known
The artwork of the Original
Puzzle was simple and the clues were very clever.
I was impressed. After improving on
the artwork a bit, I posted an updated version of the Puzzle
in 1999. My version had been on the Internet for anyone
to see since then. In this time, not one
person stepped forward to claim authorship.
December 20, 2011, a woman named Lahlete Pearson
This morning, I attended my grandson's Christmas
Program in Brandon, Ms.
After the program we were invited to go to his
classroom for refreshments. The teacher had
provided activity sheets to entertain the
students while the adults served the food.
Imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw
MY art work on his desk.
did the original as entertainment for a Sunday
School Christmas Party so long ago that I can
scarce remember when. I will however question
other church members to see if they can
remember. I have NO idea how the puzzle spread
so far, but I'm pleased as punch that so many
people have enjoyed it.
original puzzle was done for the members of the
Garner Shannon Sunday School Class at the
Belzoni United Methodist Church. I believe the
first time we used it was around 1985.
20 December 2011
After all these years, I was surprised to see
someone finally step forward. Ms.
Pearson and I began a regular email correspondence.
I remember, and this was a loooooong time ago, I
probably spent an hour or maybe and hour and a
half on the whole thing.
Maybe it spread the next year when I sent a copy
in my Christmas Cards to my high school
classmates. (That would be the class of 1957).
They are spread from Alaska to Florida and
California to Maine.
the time, the most recent song, I believe, was
"Grandmother Got Run Over…", and I believe that
copyright was around 1973. I still think the
puzzles were done between 1980 and 1985.
January 17, 2012, Ms. Pearson sent me this fax of her original work.
Peason's copy not only contained all the originals,
it had six more clues that I had never seen before.
These six extra clues were all done in the exact
same style as the original 24. Look for
there were some differences between Ms. Pearson's
copy and what I have labeled the "Original Puzzle".
However, that did not make me suspicious. It
simply told me that someone had taken Ms. Pearson's
work and made changes of their own. It would
be interesting to know the full story.
convinced. And if anyone should know, it would
honor creating the Original Christmas Puzzle goes to
Ms. Lahlete Pearson of Belzoni, Mississippi.
owe Ms. Pearson our thanks for her wonderful gift.
November 22, 2012
My first experience with the
Christmas Puzzle dates back
to 1996. Marla Jennings (not my wife Marla) was an instructor at my dance studio. One
night at Christmas time, Marla handed me a sheet of paper with 24 blurry images. She said
they were clues that represented well-known Christmas Carols. The idea was to
guess the name of the Christmas Carol from the picture.
The artwork wasn't very good.
This picture on the right is one of the original 24 riddles (take
Fortunately it wasn't necessary to have superior artwork. The
clues were so clever that people were quickly hooked.
Quite frankly, I
did poorly on the test. In a way, that's good.
If it had been too easy I would have quickly forgotten about it.
Unfortunately, my memory of Christmas Carol titles was so
bad I could only get about half of the riddles. I
realized that if I could have remembered more names, I would have done
better. Every title I was able to
remember was included in the puzzle. I wracked my
brain, but could not come up with any more!
Despite my embarrassment, I thought the
puzzle was very creative. I was surprised how much fun
it was trying to solve the rebuses even though I wasn't very good at it.
I lost track of my copy of the Original Puzzle. In fact, I
completely forgot about it after my brief encounter in 1996. I
took the copy home and tossed it on my junk desk. I would not see it
again until three years later.
One day in October 1999, I decided
it was time to clean up my junk desk. You see, I have two desks -
one desk I work at and another 'Junk Desk' where I throw things to look
at later. As you might gather,
'later' can mean anywhere from next week to next century. My junk
desk was about to collapse
under the weight of all the papers I had thrown on it over the
years. I don't remember what caused me to risk my life and begin
delving through the pile, but about halfway through the mess, I finally reached the 1996 layer of papers.
If you know me, you would understand that looking for anything in my
office resembles an archeological search. Once half the mound of papers was removed, I
noticed the copy of the puzzle that Marla Jennings had given me. That
piece of paper was laying right where I had left it three years
earlier. I picked it up and examined it.
I remembered that after work that night in 1996, I had brought home the
copy Marla Jennings had given me. No doubt I tossed it on the junk
desk and forgotten about it. Soon enough, as more papers fell on
that desk, the puzzle had disappeared. Out of sight, out of mind.
I smiled when I saw the Original Puzzle again. Aha, an old
Curious, I tried solving some of the riddles again. As I racked my
brain, I still didn't do very well. I didn't do any better the second
time than I did the first for the same reason - I couldn't remember
enough titles. Nonetheless I was hooked again. I recalled how much fun I had trying to solve the puzzle the first time. I love solving puzzles!
Crossword, jigsaw, sudoku, logic, chess, word jumble - you name it, I
In the quiet of my office,
as I studied the Rebus puzzle, I realized for the second time just how cute and clever
it was. That is when I had an idea. Why not share it with my friends
at the dance studio?
By coincidence, just one
year earlier (October 1998) I had taken my dance studio's website online.
Over the past year, I was always looking for something to generate more
interest in my SSQQ web site. The idea was to post things of
interest on my website to draw my dance students to visit the website as
often as possible. I learned early on that the website was good
for business. The more people visited the website, the more likely
they were to continue to take dance classes.
example, I would always post pictures from each
Party. Not surprisingly, once my students saw how good the
pictures were from one year, the pictures convinced them to join the fun
the following year. This was not a complicated concept.
Unfortunately, it isn't easy
to come up with material quite as dramatic as Halloween pictures on a
year-round basis. I was always on the lookout for something new to
lure my students back to the web site. Now as I stared at this
cute little Christmas puzzle that I had just rediscovered, I decided to publish the pictures on
my website as a Christmas challenge for my dance students. Since
the 1999 Christmas Season was just around the corner, why not give it a
try? This way maybe they wouldn't forget my dance studio
completely during the Holidays. The Holidays are rough on the
dance studio business since people are too busy to take lessons, but
maybe I could use the Puzzle to lure them to our Christmas Party.
It was worth a try.
So I scanned the
pictures into my computer. That is when I realized this
was going to be a much bigger project than I had imagined. There was
one big problem.
When I looked at the
pictures on my computer screen, I realized the scanned pictures were in pretty sad shape! Given the
poor condition of the copy that Marla Jennings handed me, it was
fairly obvious this sheet had been faxed a few million times
around the world before it reached my hands.
pictures were blurry and
need of some touch-up work.
Plus the artwork was
pretty sad. One Santa Claus was
so poorly drawn he could just as easily have been
mistaken for Count Dracula.
there was something I could do.
decided to substitute a Santa picture from my own
art files. I immediately smiled. Thanks
to my new Santa, this Rebus was immensely improved!
Pleased with my
work, I looked for other rebuses I could improve upon. I decided to
use my trusty Paint Shop Pro computer art program to touch
up the pictures where needed.
Although I have absolutely no artistic ability,
I discovered I was good at improving the poor quality of
artwork using the computer. Plus it was fun!
After upgrading a
half-dozen puzzles, I started to toy with the idea of making up
my own puzzles! By coincidence, I owned
a vast array of wonderful Christmas artwork. Back in 1984,
I had begun a subscription to a commercial art service named
Graphics. At this point (1999), I now owned 15 years of
Why not put all this
wonderful artwork to good use? So I added 16 new riddles
to the original 24 to make a total 40 puzzles.
Then I published these 40 rebuses on my web
Christmas Carol Puzzle was born!
My idea paid off. My friends at the
dance studio got a huge kick out of solving the puzzle. As
the compliments rained in,
I could not have been
more proud of myself. I had used my talent to make a lot
of people happy at Christmas time. A wonderful feeling of
satisfaction came over me. I had done a good thing.
2000 and 2001 - The Puzzle Grows
Flush with satisfaction over the 1999 success of my
puzzle, the following year 2000 I decided to create some more riddles of
my own. I added 8 new pictures. Now the total in 2000 was up
In 2001, I created 8 more pictures. Now we were up to 56.
I decided that quite a few pictures
deserved an upgrade. However, my inability to draw was a
huge problem. Since I can't draw, finding the correct
artwork to express the clue has been very difficult at times.
There are a lot of good Carol titles that have never become part
of the puzzle simply because I couldn't find the right picture.
Fortunately, most of the time I can find new pictures to
replace the old. I am sure the readers will have no trouble
spotting the difference between my work and that of my predecessor. Before you compliment me on my wonderful artwork, don't
forget that I cannot draw. The artwork on the right came
from Dynamic Graphics.
All of my pictures were drawn by professionals. Hence the
Another problem I had with this quiz was determining the line between
making a rebus too difficult and too easy.
On the right is one of my first attempts at creating a rebus of my
own. What carol could it be? After I created this picture, I was
disappointed when NO ONE got the right answer. That's right -
not one single person!! I took
another look and realized the clue was much too vague (don't bother
guessing; I'll give it to you: Auld Lang Syne.... "Old Long
No one got it!
How pathetic. However, the Auld Lang Syne
disaster was a good lesson. I realized that for a rebus to
work, the clues have to make sense. People don't mind
hard clues, but I have to at least give them a fighting chance.
If I list too many clues that no one can get, then people get
frustrated and quit.
Because people write in to request the
answers, I have always been able to monitor the success rate of each
Over the years, I have always gone back and
reworked any clue that was consistently hard to solve.
2002 - Addition of the Clue List
I made a significant change
in 2002. This was the year I added the Clue List.
In order to grow my puzzle,
in 2000 and 2001 I was forced to branch out and use some titles that
weren't very well known. For example, I made up a riddle for
Coventry Carol. No one got the right answer. I
went back and looked at my work. The Rebus seemed fair to me.
So I asked a couple of my
friends what the problem was.
My friends at the dance studio complained that they didn't know a lot of
these names. One person said, "Coventry Carol? I have never heard of Coventry Carol
in my life!"
This complaint became a common refrain.
I had used too many obscure titles. It is impossible to guess a
title you have never heard of. Recalling the difficulty I had remembering titles to
songs when I first took the test, I realized the game would be a lot
easier to play if there was a List of Carol Titles
used in the Puzzle.
However, matching 56 titles to 56 pictures was too easy. I decided to make things
a bit more challenging. By listing 100 names for 56 puzzles, I
forced people to think a little bit more.
title list was a very good idea. Now the Puzzle became a lot more satisfying. People discovered they didn't have to
know the names of many carols. Using the Clue List, they
still had a fighting chance to solve every single rebus. It might
take some thought and some time, but a perfect score was not out of the
2002 - Google sends me some Visitors
In 2002, something very
interesting happened. Suddenly my puzzle catapulted to national
and international popularity.
I began to receive a phenomenal number of email requests for my Answer Sheet.
I didn't recognize any of the names. Who are these people?
Furthermore, where were all
these requests coming from? The problem with emails is that you
don't usually know where they come from. However, when I looked
closer, at the bottom of some of the emails, the person's signature included
a location. I noticed one email was from Wisconsin. Another
was from Ontario. This was weird. At the time, I thought the only
people who knew about the puzzle were people from my dance studio.
Ontario is a long way from Texas. I was totally baffled.
I was so curious, I emailed
some of the people back. I asked them where they were from and how
they had heard about the Christmas Puzzle. Several people were
nice enough to respond. They wrote back to say they had
"Googled" for Christmas Puzzles.
was so ignorant about the Internet that in 2002 I didn't even know what Search Engines were at
that point. I had only vaguely heard of
Google and had never used it. But now that I was curious, I investigated. I
noticed my computer had a
link to Google, so I brought up the program for the very first
time. Then I typed in "Christmas Puzzle". Lo and behold, there on page three, my
SSQQ Christmas Puzzle was listed. Goosebumps ran up and down my
body. Well, I'll be darned!
That is how I figured out that Search Engines like Google
were the culprit. People were typing in words like
"Christmas", "Puzzle", "Carol" into Google and the link to my Christmas Puzzle
web page was popping up like crazy.
Suddenly my audience was no longer
limited to Houston-area dance students. The whole world was web surfing to my puzzle.
Page One on Google
In 2004, my puzzle made it to Page One. It would appear
somewhere on the first
page anytime a person typed "Christmas Carol Puzzle" into Google.
Now that the puzzle had become so popular, I was encouraged to add new pictures.
2005 - The
Riddle Total Reaches 80
I was so busy with a new computer, I skipped making any
new clues in 2004. In 2005 I was back with a passion. In 2005,
I added 26 more clues to bring the total to 80. I also bumped the
List up from 100 Titles to 168 Titles. For some reason, a 2 to
1 ratio has always felt about right.
Interest in the Puzzle was
extremely strong this year. Requests for the answers came rolling
in at a record pace.
2006 - The Riddle Total Reaches 100
Once I hit 80, I just couldn't help myself - I was obsessed with
reaching 100! The only problem was that I had run out of
titles. I needed more titles to create new riddles.
So I searched the Internet to find more titles
of Christmas Carols.
To my surprise, I found an immense list that was 19 pages long!
As my eyes scanned the list, titles like Maker of the Sun and Moon
and From the Eastern Mountains were just what I needed to
create new rebuses.
There was only one problem. I had never
heard of either carol in my life. Indeed, this list contained song
titles that dated all the way back to the 1800s.
And many titles were unknown in America since they originated in
England, France and Germany. Some were even in ancient Latin!
Quand Dieu naquit
à Noël - (French, from William Sandys, 1833)
Psallite unigenito - (Latin)
Gud Faders Son Enbaarne - (German)
Omnes Gentes Plaudite - (Latin)
Of sayne Steuen goddes knyght - (Middle English)
In Excelsis Deo - (Latin)
No matter. There was no rule that said I had to have heard of the
title to make it valid.
I decided no matter how
obscure the title was, as long as I included it in my Clue List,
any title was fair game!
These new titles gave me just the boost I needed. With a fresh
supply of titles to work with, I was able to create 20
new puzzles to reach 100. Plus I boosted the Clue List up to 180.
I made one very significant
change in 2006. At the urging of many people who wrote in for the
answers, in 2006 I decided to add color.
The art service I subscribed
to had not added color to their pictures until 1998. As a result,
90% of my art collection was black and white. However, by 2006, I
had collected enough Christmas color pictures to add this feature.
As a result, the brand new clues 80 through 100 had a much different
look to them.
addition, I went back and colorized some of the older clues.
Unfortunately, not all the black and white pictures lend themselves to
coloring. Still, adding the color wherever possible was also a big
improvement. I was pleased.
2007 - One Puzzle
Becomes Two Puzzles
In 2007, I bumped the Puzzle
from 100 clues up to 120. In addition I expanded the Clue List
from 180 to 225. However when I stopped to look at the puzzle, I
realized it had now grown too large. Too many clues meant the puzzle
had grown too hard.
In life, there are people who like easy Sudoku puzzles and
then there are those who prefer the difficult levels. My Sunday
newspaper always ran one easy Sudoku and one difficult Sudoku. Why not
take a hint from the newspaper and try
have the best of both worlds?
So I decided to divide the puzzle into two parts - the original 24 plus
16 of my own would serve as Part One. I called it the Top Forty.
In addition I posted a reduced clue list of only 80 titles. This Top
Forty puzzle was much easier.
For example, a fourth grade class at Christmas time now had a fighting
chance to solve a Christmas Rebus Puzzle closer to their skill level.
I also decided to list the answers on the web site. No one had to
email for these answers any more.
Part Two would be the Long Version of 120 pictures consisting of the 80 clues I
had created plus the original 40. The Puzzle experts would still
have the Longer version to challenge them. Splitting into two
puzzles was a win-win for everyone.
By the way, I received a
nice Christmas Present over the 2007 Holidays.
The SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle officially became the Number One
Christmas Puzzle on the Internet!
Take a look for yourself.
The Riddle Total Reaches 130
After 2007, I took a three year hiatus from the
In 2008, I had all kinds of medical problems. First I developed a serious
thyroid condition known as Graves Disease. Thanks to a
surplus of thyroid, I was bouncing off the walls. I alternated
between hyperactivity and exhaustion. Sometimes I drove like a
maniac. I lost my temper for no reason. I felt like I was
falling apart! I went to see the doctor, but no one could figure
out what was wrong with me. I was too much of a
basket case to pay attention to the Christmas Puzzle.
Since Graves Disease is rare
to men, it went undiagnosed for a long time. Then one day I
mentioned my weight loss. Even though weight loss is a symptom
common to many diseases, for some reason my doctor had a hunch to test
for Graves Disease. Voila! Unfortunately, it still took
quite a while to cure the problem. It wasn't until 2009 that the condition was
finally brought under control.
Then, just as I got my medical
problems solved, 2009 brought me an even bigger headache. My
landlord refused to extend the lease on my dance studio. He wanted
to tear the building down and replace it with a hospital. There
wasn't a single thing I could do to change his mind.
Dance studios are not easy to move. First
you have to pick up 6,000 square feet of dance floor and put it back
down in a new location. Then you have take huge mirrors off the
walls in six rooms and transport those. Then you have to bring
down all the music equipment hanging from the ceiling. An even
bigger problem is finding the right place. And even if you do find
a pretty good spot, then you have to sign a long-term lease of 5 to 10
I was 60 years old. I didn't want to retire,
but after the problems my landlord had given me, I wasn't about to stick
my neck out and sign another long-term lease. Besides, running a dance
studio was a full-time job for someone with a lot more energy than I
had. That thyroid problem had robbed me of my once boundless
energy. So I spent 2009 and early 2010 finishing out the lease.
In April 2010, I handed the studio off to new owners.
Freed of stress and with time to rest, I got my
health back. As the 2010 Holiday Season approached, for the
first time in three years I had the time and energy to pay
attention to my Christmas Puzzle again. With a smile, I spent the
week before Thanksgiving cooking up ten new riddles. It was fun to
be back in the saddle again.
In 2010, the puzzle grew to 130 clues.
There was one other
development - I made the new clues larger.
Back in the
beginning (1999), the modems carrying Internet images to
personal computers were so slow that I deliberately made the
pictures small. However, twelve years is an eternity
regarding the Internet. Now in 2010, most people could
acquire the images in an instant if they had high-speed Internet
connections. Why not make the pictures larger?
So I expanded them
from 894 wide by 397 tall to 1200 wide to 500 pixels tall.
I think the larger
pictures were a huge improvement.
Puzzle Gets a Facelift
During the 2011
Christmas Season I made several dramatic changes to the SSQQ
For the first time,
I gave the Short Puzzle and the Long Puzzle separate identities.
Previously, the Long Puzzle had consisted of the 40 "Top Forty"
pictures from the Original Puzzle followed by 90 pictures I
created myself to make up a total of 130 clues.
In 2011, I went from
130 clues to 200 clues. That's quite an expansion!
I donated 10 puzzle
clues to the Top Forty collection to make it 50 puzzles.
Then I renamed the Top Forty and called it the Short Puzzle.
After donating 10
clues to the Short Puzzle, that left me with 80 clues. So
I created 70 new clues. These 70 new clues merged with the
other 80 to create a Long Puzzle that had a completely separate
identity from the Short Puzzle.
The new Long Puzzle
were 80% in color. Plus they were all enlarged. In
all, the work took about two weeks.
Another thing that
got larger was the Clue List. It grew from 280 to 320.
These were major
developments. I can only assume that as the Long Puzzle
has grown longer, it has become harder.
But then maybe not.
I made an effort to be a lot less tricky.
The one thing I am
sure of is that the new artwork is sure to please everyone.
I think the new Long Puzzle will be a huge hit with the previous
fans of the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.
As I returned to my old
friend the Christmas Puzzle in 2011, I took another peek at Google.
I was disappointed to see the Puzzle was no longer listed on Page One.
Many commercial Christmas puzzles had
paid for the privilege to
be listed ahead. Oh well, big deal. People would still have
no trouble spotting the listing for my puzzle on Page Two. I was
pleased to see that my puzzle was still the most popular
Internet Christmas Puzzle... for free.
Then I had a curious
thought. Wasn't it odd that a "dance teacher" had somehow created such a successful picture puzzle?
Heck, I couldn't even draw! Why me?
That's when for the very first
time I was struck with the idea that I was
actually the perfect person for the job. I had a
lifelong love of puzzles. Furthermore, by coincidence, I had a huge
collection of artwork to draw from dating back 15 years.
Plus the timing was remarkable. Back in 1998, some friends had convinced me to join the
Internet just as it was breaking into mainstream consciousness.
Then the Original Puzzle magically reappeared one year later.
This was the perfect
time to add it to my web site. I published my puzzle when
there was nothing else on the Internet to compare.
As a result, Google propelled the obscure puzzle to a Number One
ranking... which in turn made sure it stayed Number One.
Have you ever seen an athlete score a touchdown, then say on TV,
"I give all Glory to God"? I am usually a bit
cynical about public demonstrations of faith, but the series of
lucky breaks that led to the success of my own puzzle forced me to think a little deeper.
The entire set-up was handed to me on a
silver platter. All I had to do was add a little
imagination. In fact, creating the Puzzle was so easy, I
began to wonder if perhaps I had a little unseen help along the
way. The curious set of coincidences definitely gave me pause.
When it comes to the
Mysteries of the Universe, I will never know for sure if perhaps a
hidden hand played a role in the success of this neat Puzzle. However,
there is one thing I
will always know
for sure. I know exactly who helped make this Puzzle a success.
And that would be visitors like you.
Every time you have visited the
web site, you helped to ensure our buddy Mr. Google keeps listing this
Puzzle way up at the top. In turn, thanks to its lofty
status, every year more people are alerted to its presence. In
other words, the Puzzle stays famous because Google says it is
famous. As they say in show biz, this Puzzle could not
have become a success without you!
Over the years, many of you
have written to thank me for posting the Christmas Puzzle. Truthfully,
the thanks is all mine. Your interest in
the Christmas Puzzle has made me very proud to make this contribution.
Without your interest, I would never have bothered to continue.
Thanks to all of you, your words of encouragement have brought me
profound satisfaction over the years.
So I hope you have a great time solving the
2011 SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.
And by all means, share it with your
friends and loved ones! That is my wish. Please make
it come true.
For the 2012
Christmas Season, we have two developments.
The first is my
announcement that we finally know who created the Original
Puzzle. That honor goes to Lahlete Pearson of
development is that I have expanded the puzzle again. The
has grown from 130 clues to 150 clues.
In addition, the
that accompanies the Long Puzzle has grown to 321 clues.
In other words, you have 321 clues and 150 answers.
Not an easy
puzzle... but loads of fun. I hope you enjoy the new
and Rick Archer
You have just read
my "Short Story" about the development of the SSQQ Christmas
Puzzle. While telling the abridged version, I have glossed
over many of the details.
If you have enjoyed
the Short Story about the Puzzle, you will probably enjoy the
Puzzle Anecdotes quite
a bit. In addition to more details about the SSQQ
Christmas Puzzle, you will surely laugh at all the crazy emails
I have been sent over the years. Plus I will offer more
information about Lahlete Pearson, the lady from Mississippi who
started it all.
If you are curious
about me, I am now a semi-retired dance teacher. For 32 years, I
ran SSQQ Dance Studio (1978-1980) here in my
hometown Houston, Texas.
SSQQ was a pretty
amazing place. At its peak, I am
fairly sure that SSQQ was the largest dance studio in
America. To read the story of how I
developed the dance studio, click
As you will read, my
Christmas Puzzle and my dance studio both owe much of their
success to the same source - the Internet.
Currently my wife
Marla and I are attempting to become dance instructors aboard
is an amazing woman who has a gift for organizing huge group
cruise trips. As of 2011, Marla has organized 21 previous
trips. In 2012, Marla has trips planned to the
The one thing I
always notice on our trips is how much people admire our dance
group. They always come up to me and wish they could join
in, but our dancing is too complicated. So they have no
choice but to stand and watch. Invariably they tell me how
busy they are back home or how there is no dance studio near
I point out to them
they have free time on the cruise ship. Why not take dance
lessons during the cruise? They always reply, "Why don't
you teach some dance lessons? If you were the dance
teacher, I would definitely take your class!"
Since I am always looking for new
challenges, I think it would be fun to put together a seven day
dance program on a cruise trip with a dance party on the final
night as a reward. And, since my wishes have a way of
coming true, one of these days I might just get my chance to
implement my program. You never know.