Welcome to the SSQQ
Archer's Note: The SSQQ
Christmas Puzzle has been
a top Internet Christmas puzzle
for years now.
2013 is our
fifteenth season. Using pictures
the game is to identify famous Christmas Carols.
The origin of
the Christmas Puzzle dates back at
least to the Seventies. I have
no idea who the author was, but I
consider him or her to be extremely
creative. This puzzle contains
warmth, humor, and challenge... all
good things to have!
The SSQQ Christmas
Carol Puzzle has two versions, Short
consists of 50 clues
which identify the best-known Christmas Carols. The clues are
fairly obvious, so this particular puzzle is aimed at entertainment.
Since the Original Author offered the inspiration behind many of these
clues, to honor the spirit
Puzzle, I leave the Short Puzzle
in the public domain
throughout the year for everyone to enjoy.
as well as for adults who are young at heart. Since the puzzle can be
solved in an hour or less, it is useful to school teachers. This
is the perfect Christmas activity to engage
young minds over the Holidays. It is also handy for adults who
are looking for something fun to do at a
Christmas party. The Short Puzzle comes with a
Short Puzzle Clue List.
Answers to the
Short Puzzle are
also available year-round.
Puzzle was designed for my
friends who are snowed in and bored
out of their minds. This gives
them something entertaining to do in their comfy
chair till the weather clears again.
is completely different from the
Short Puzzle. For one
thing, unlike the Short Puzzle which is
available year-round, the Long Puzzle
only during the Holiday Season starting at
Puzzle consists of 150 picture clues. It is designed as a
serious challenge for people who love puzzles. Because it is so large,
the Long Puzzle is definitely not for
anyone in a hurry. People
suggest it takes up to four hours to solve. Incidentally, the
Long Puzzle is impossible to solve without the use of the
Long Puzzle Clue List.
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 me, Rick Archer,
Please put "SSQQ Christmas
as your title
so I don't accidentally
delete your request (I get tons of spam).
Do me a favor - if you remember
seeing the "Original Puzzle" back in
the 70s, 80s, or 90s, tell me what
year you first saw it.
I will not
respond to any
request for the answers
to the Long Puzzle without 75
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
have the time
to figure out the
answers to 75 of
I need your help!
My party is next
weekend and time is
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
"Can I please have the
answers and be done with it??"
As the example on the left
indicates, every year people email to say they want to
use my puzzle for their big party,
but they just don't have the time to
requests" always come with some tug
at the heart... boy scout troop, old
folks home, family gathering, church
"don't have time", but I don't have much
sympathy. After all, I give all the
busy people a simple alternative...
Just use the
Short Puzzle for
your Christmas Party!
In my opinion, the Long Puzzle is
not appropriate for the typical
Christmas party. It
requires a marathon effort!!
No one at a party has
this kind of attention span unless
the purpose of the party is
specifically for a group of Puzzle
lovers to tackle this massive task.
On the other hand, the Short
Puzzle was designed as a
30 to 60 minute challenge.
It doesn't require deep
concentration since these clues to
the best known
Carols are easily solved.
The Long Puzzle is much too
difficult for most social gatherings. The
takes HOURS to solve. Unless
the entire purpose of your party is
a minimum of two hours (or more)
specifically to solve the Long
Puzzle, the Short Puzzle
is far superior as a fun Christmas
PRINT OUT MY PUZZLE, BUT YOU
MAY NOT COPY IT AND PUT IT
ON ANOTHER WEBSITE.
note the riddles from the
Long Puzzle 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 as for
your own pleasure. All I ask
is that you please add my
name to any copy you print
may NOT re-publish my LONG
PUZZLE on the
Internet for any reason.
would be copyright
infringement. I created
those clues; it is my work.
Go make your own puzzle.
if you do print out my
LONG PUZZLE, I would prefer
you not use these clues for
commercial purposes. I
understand that if you do
this behind my back I might
never know, but it means you
are absolutely clueless as
to the true meaning of
I post this
puzzle free of charge in the
spirit of Christmas giving.
Consequently I would be
appalled if someone
attempted to profit off my
Note: If any reader sees
my puzzle reprinted on
another website, please let
me know. What these
people are doing is not
How Long Does The Long Puzzle Take
50 clues in the
Short Puzzle are
the most famous songs, it is a fun, easy
puzzle to tackle. It is
designed for any party gathering or
classroom to solve 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, some
say the Long Puzzle might
even take longer than
that to solve. According to
this email, Sandra Young said 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 suggest
people enjoy taking their sweet
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
About the Long Puzzle Clue
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 exact name!
There is no
possible way to solve the Long
Puzzle without the use of the
The Clue List contains 321
titles for 150 clues. In
other words, there are 171
titles that are placed in
the Clue List for the
specific reason to fool the
Puzzle solver. This
devious trick prevents
someone from simply
whittling down the list of
clues till nothing is left.
Some clue titles are
very obscure. For
CHILDING OF A MAIDEN BRIGHT
a well-known title.
However, it is a legitimate
Christmas Carol from London
in 1901. Likewise
I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR
also a legitimate
Christmas Carol from 1953.
How would one guess the name
of a puzzle clue without a
list of names to choose
from?? The answer to
this question explains why I
added a Clue List.
titles are made up. Yes, I
freely admit I made up
about a half dozen clue titles. Take
this picture of Mr. and Mrs. Santa as
an example. This is a great picture,
but it represents no appropriate "Carol Title".
In order to add the picture, I
had to add
TOAST TO GOOD WILL ACROSS
to the Clue List.
A TOAST TO
GOOD WILL ACROSS THE LAND
explain a bit further: In
order to expand the SSQQ
Christmas Puzzle (Long
Version), I need both a
new title and a good picture
which turn out to be an
Sometimes I have a good
title, but no good picture.
Sometimes I have a good
picture, but no good title.
are two examples.
Good title/no picture. Here
is a great title:
THREE DAMSELS IN THE
I can develop the ability to
draw a complicated picture
like this (which is
existing picture to match to
the title. So this
excellent title simply sits
in the Clue List as a red
Good picture/ no title. This Ice
Sculpture picture is a perfect example of an awesome
picture I did not use. What a shame
because the picture is so beautiful. I didn't use
this picture in the puzzle
because I couldn't think of a good title for it
using our Christmas theme. I suppose I could
make up a title. How
about "A Shiny Horse on a Snowy Night"
as a good made-up title?
Hmm. That might work. The next time I
decided to expand the
puzzle, I might just use
might guess, it was either create a
titles or stop expanding the puzzle...
chose to expand the puzzle. Once you
see how great the pictures are for the half
dozen or so made-up titles, I doubt the
Let me add that for you
purists, the Short Puzzle has no
Suggestion: 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".
That simple trick should
narrow your choices.
Why is the Long Puzzle Fun?
Puzzle and the Short Puzzle
offer a study in contrasts.
is the 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 Christmas Vacation.
It offers a great reward for a short
investment of time.
Then there is the
Long Puzzle, a much tougher version
for adults. The Long
Puzzle is perfect for individuals or large groups
of dedicated Puzzle solvers.
I have heard
of groups trying to solve the
The group can either solve it
together or the group can separate
into two 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
parties. For example, I heard from a
family who spend a least one night
every Christmas Season working a
Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle. They
told me that the most fun they ever
had was the year they spent the
evening as a family trying to solve
the Long Puzzle.
They ate cookies and drank egg nog,
they listened to Christmas music,
they poured over the Clue List
looking for answers, and they
celebrated each success. It
took them three hours and they loved
Or maybe you are
alone. If you are house-bound on a
snowy night in Maine, USA, or Alberta, Canada, and you like puzzles,
then the Long Puzzle is right up your alley.
Heat up some coffee, plop yourself down in your
comfy chair, and prepare for an entire
evening of solving 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
put you in the right mood for the
The Origin of the
SSQQ Christmas Puzzle
So where did this puzzle
come from? I really have no idea. Nor has any
reader offered any explanation. In 2011, two completely
separate people claimed sponsorship, but
I did not found their claim to be convincing. Therefore the
Did I create the puzzle?
Yes and No. For starters, I absolutely did not
original version of the puzzle. What I
did do was take the Original Puzzle and put
it on the Internet as the Short Puzzle.
From there, I began to modify the original with
better artwork. Let add that the Long
Puzzle is completely my work.
ask why the puzzle is called the "SSQQ"
Christmas Puzzle. My version of the Puzzle
owes its existence to a Houston, Texas, dance studio named "SSQQ"
that I built from scratch starting in 1977. I was
both owner and dance teacher. I taught Swing, Salsa,
Western, and Ballroom dancing.
For 30 years, I ran SSQQ
and watched it grow. At the peak, we had 1300
students a week walk through our doors. SSQQ
was a wonderful beehive of activity.
One evening in 1996, Marla Jennings, one of my instructors, handed
me the "Original" version
of this puzzle, the one seen by countless people back in the
Eighties and Nineties.
(Side note: by
coincidence, my wife's name is also 'Marla', but Marla the wife and
Marla the instructor are two different people).
Intrigued by Marla
Jennings' puzzle, I tried solving it, but
I didn't do very well. My problem was that I had at best an average knowledge of
Christmas Carol titles. Nevertheless, I was definitely amused. I took
the puzzle home, dropped it in a pile of papers and forgot about
Three years later I ran across the
puzzle again during "clean up" day in my
office. I was surprised to find it hiding under a pile
of papers on my desk. The Original Puzzle was in the
same spot I had dropped it back in 1996, but now layers of
other papers had long since covered it up.
tried solving the puzzle again. I didn't do any better, but
like before I was taken by its charm. By chance, 1999 was the
year the Internet
was just beginning to come into its own. Indeed,
I had just recently opened my dance studio's new web site.
was looking for content to post to draw visitors to the new web
site. I knew that dance students are no different than any
other kind of student - they like challenges of all kinds! So I decided to
scan the Original Puzzle into my computer and put it on the Internet. I
wanted to share the Original Puzzle with my
dance students during the 1999 Christmas Holidays.
then, the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle has grown and
gone worldwide. About two
I first published the Original Puzzle at
www.ssqq.com, search engines like Google
began to direct total strangers to my updated version of the puzzle.
At this point, 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.
These days people
continue to run
across the Puzzle
thanks again to search engines like Google.
This puzzle has been at the top
of any Google Search involving "Christmas Carol
Puzzles" for many years now. Around Christmas
time, this becomes a
When people wrote me for
answers, they would often add anecdotes of their own. This is
how I learned
school teachers from every state in
the USA were using my Short Puzzle. Each teacher said the same
thing - my SSQQ 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! Below is an example of two letters I received from
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!
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 11:19
Subject: Christmas puzzles
Just wanted to thank you for posting
these puzzles. About 2 years ago I
found these and was delighted.
I decided to make a game with
them for my teenagers. I printed the
picture puzzles and the song list (
the long version) and after I solved
most of them - I attached a song
title to every gift, then placed
them all under the tree. On
Christmas morning I gave each of the
kids the picture puzzles that
matched their gifts and then they
had to not only solve their puzzle,
but root around under the tree to
find the gift that matched. They had
a blast. Thanks again!
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. That said, 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,
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
So how does this
puzzle work? The idea is to
look at a picture and guess the title of the Christmas
Carol. So take a guess... a reindeer with a shiny red nose... hmm...what
Christmas carol could it be?
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 of clues using pictures that hint at the names
of both 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 delve into the Long Puzzle, you will discover the complexity
begins to rival a tough crossword puzzle. You better bring
your thinking cap plus a little patience or you will be in trouble.
I first saw
in 1996. To see a larger version plus
the various copies it inspired,
My first experience with the
Christmas Puzzle dates back
to 1996. Marla Jennings (not my wife Marla) was a dance instructor at my
SSQQ studio. One
night at the studio about a week before Christmas, 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.
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.
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.
said earlier, I did
not create the Original Puzzle. At first, my
version of the
puzzle built on the anonymous work known as the "".
The Original Puzzle 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. From 1999-2011, not one
person stepped forward to claim authorship.
Then in 2011, two women on back to back days claimed
authorship. However, a panel of three people
looked at the work and concluded the version I have
named the "Original Puzzle" was indeed the original.
1999 - Reunited
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 made a sad
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! Most of
pictures were blurry and
need of some touch-up work. Given the
poor condition of the copy that Marla Jennings handed me, it was
fairly obvious this sheet had probably been faxed a few million times
around the world before it reached my hands.
Then I evaluated the artwork.
It wasn't very good. In fact, it was awful.
For the Original Puzzle wasn't necessary to have superior artwork. The
clues were so clever that people were quickly hooked. However,
this artwork looked terrible when I viewed the clues with the computer.
my head in dismay. In the Original Puzzle, the 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 and touch up the airplane a bit. Then I added a couple stars.
I immediately smiled. Thanks
to my new Santa, this Rebus was immensely improved!
I probably should have upgraded the airplane too,
but this was enough for now.
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, I expanded the puzzle again. The
grew from 130 clues to 150 clues.
In addition, the
that accompanies the Long Puzzle has grown to 321 clues.
In other words, there are 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 abridged version about the development of the SSQQ Christmas
If you have enjoyed
the abbreviated 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.
If you are curious
about me, you are more than welcome to read my bio. Just
Thank you for
reading and I hope you enjoy solving the puzzle.