Puzzle Anecdotes
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SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle Anecdotes
Story written by Rick Archer

The Mystery of the Christmas Puzzle Creator

The origin of the SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle goes back to 1996. 

In case you didn't get read my Biography on Page One, let me mention again that I once made my living running a large dance studio known as SSQQ in Houston, Texas.  At the time when I sold the studio back in April 2010, SSQQ Dance Studio was likely the largest dance studio in America.  This Christmas Puzzle was created as a way to entice some of my dance students to visit the dance studio website.  At the time, I would have never guessed my innocent little ploy would turn into the most famous Christmas Puzzle on the Internet!!

One evening in December 1996 a former SSQQ dance teacher named Marla Jennings gave me a xerox copy of 24 Christmas Carol Picture Puzzles.  The idea was to guess the identity of a famous Christmas Carol from the picture.  I wasn’t very good at it.  I quickly found how woeful I was at remembering the names of Christmas Carols off the top of my head!!   Nevertheless I thought the Puzzle was very clever.

I took the Puzzle home and set it down.  I am sure I filed it away somewhere and promptly forgot about it.  As they say, out of sight, out of mind.


Three years later during some routine cleaning of my office in 1999, by accident I ran across the Carol Puzzle copy that Marla Jennings had given me several years earlier.  I smiled when I saw it and immediately tried solving it again.  Soon I realized I was scarcely any better this time than I had been the first time.  I got maybe half of the 24 clues right. 

However, just like the first time, I had fun trying.  In fact, I had so much fun that it gave me an idea.

The Internet had not been a factor the first time I saw this puzzle in 1996, but now I had a brand new web site with plenty of room for interesting material.  I saw an easy way to share this clever little puzzle with my friends here at the dance studio, so I added it to my studio's web site.  

I scanned the original 24 pictures into the computer.  Unfortunately the pictures on the
Original Copy were in pretty bad shape.  It wouldn't do much good to put them on the Internet in the shape they were currently in, so I began to touch them up using my beloved "Paint Shop Pro".  I have never been able to draw worth a flip, but I discovered I had a flair for touching the pictures up using the computer program tools.  I was pleased to note that just a little love on my part made a big difference in the quality of the pictures. 

As I worked, I decided some of the original pictures were so lame that it would be easier just to create a different version of my own.   I will let you compare some of my first efforts at "improving" on the original work.  In the top picture on the right you have #4 from the
Original Copy. It is a Christmas box covered with near illegible print.  You can barely make out the word Joy if you look carefully enough.  Not only is the clue blurry, in my opinion, putting the word 'Joy' on the box more or less gives the answer away.  And if you look even closer, you might be able to make out To: World in the address label.  They practically spelled out the answer.  No challenge here.

I decided to redo the clue. Not only was the clue illegible, it was too easy.  Picture Number 31 on the right is the replacement.  It is still pretty easy, but at least I didn't spell out the answer!

Not all the clues were easy.  For example, Picture #18 was also from the
Original Copy.  This clue was so difficult no one in my group could figure out what Christmas Carol it stood for.  We called it the "Mystery Clue".  Can you guess what it is?  Good luck.

One day the answer finally came to us.  We shook our heads in disgust.  The "Original" version of this clue had to go.   Clue #34 on the right was my "redo".  Obviously the professional artwork makes this new clue easier to decipher than the original (hint: two front teeth are missing).

As I said earlier, when I decided to put the pictures on the Internet, I had an initial problem - the pictures were so beat up I could barely see them.  The other problem was the quality of the artwork was pretty weak.  Go look for yourself. If you would like to see what all the Original pictures looked like, click on Original Copy 

The improvements are so dramatic that I am frequently asked where I get all my artwork.  How people know I couldn't possibly be the artist is a mild insult (just kidding)... but yes, they are right - I use commercial artwork.   The superior graphics makes the guessing easier and makes it prettier.  Here is a quick Original versus Modern comparison for Away in the Manger

I was once a subscriber to a company known as Dynamic Graphics starting in 1984 until it closed in 2009.  Over twenty five years I collected a vast amount of marvelous artwork.  I owe the company a lot of credit in this regard.

The Jingle Bells Picture on the right is another one of the Original pictures.  As you can see, the artwork in this picture is also pretty rudimentary.   In addition, it was very blurry.  Do you see all those little dots.  That is not meant to be 'snow'.  Those dots are toner and fax debris from the million of times this puzzle was copied.  The copy I received in 1996 was obviously a copy of a copy of a copy.  Just imagine how many copy machines this 24-panel puzzle had passed through before it finally got to me and all that 'dust' starts to make sense. 

Although the artwork for
Jingle Bells wasn't that great, it was good enough.  I decided it just needed some touch-up.  The second Jingle Bells picture shows you an example of my "touch-up" work on the original.  Hopefully you will think it is an improvement. 

By the way, you might notice the Bells in the two pictures are different.  I believe this shows the copy that Marla Jennings gave me was in 1996 slightly different than the one I have posted on my web site (see  Original Copy) However the differences are too negligible to worry about.

It took quite a few days to touch up all 24 of the pictures, but I had fun doing it.  When I was finished with renovation project, I put
them up on my web site.  I offered the puzzle as a 1999 Christmas challenge to my dance students.  They loved it!  I got all sorts of compliments.

I was surprised at how popular the quiz was with my friends.  I felt so encouraged that I decided to publish the puzzle again the next year in
2000.  In addition, my success at substituting my own work for several of the original clues gave me the confidence to create new clues of my own.

Filled with Millennium Fever, in 2000 I created 16 new puzzles to add to the original 24.  Now we were up to an even 40 pictures.


I didn't like the original, so I substituted my own idea

#18 is the Original.  This picture was nearly impossible in this form.

Above is my new version.


here is my touch up job on Jingle Bells.

Why are the Pictures so small?

Since the early days, people have asked me why the pictures are so small. 

When I first published my web site in 1999, I was told most people view their computer screens in 800 by 600 pixels.  To fit on a screen this size, I decided to make my pictures 160 pixels wide, four to a page.  That meant the 4 clues side by side were 640 pixels which filled 80% of the screen.  In retrospect I should have made them nearly 200 wide, but oh well.

Also these were the days before high-speed internet connections were available.  Painfully-slow dial-up modems were in place back then.  I had to make the pictures small so they could be more easily downloaded.  Back in 1999 I remember watching the first pages published to the Internet take a couple minutes to download over the phone modem.  Not being a very patient person, I thought it would take forever!   In other words, my decisions to make the pictures small were shaped by technology limitations at the time.

Seven years later, in 2006, I decided to reformat my pictures to 1024 by 768 when I realized this had become the more common screen setting.  I considered increasing the size of the pictures significantly, but discovered the pictures became very blurry when enlarged.  For example, compare the two pictures of
Santa and the Kids below.  Notice how blurry the enlarged color picture is to see what I mean. 

Original Clue

Colorized and Enlarged

I have discovered you can shrink pictures without a problem, but making small pictures 'larger' seems to distort them.  The correct thing to do would be to go back to the drawing board and recreate all the pictures, but not right now. There are just so many hours in the day.  Maybe someday. 

Another point to consider is that pictures would be very difficult to print if they were much larger.   A lot of people print the pictures out for their parties.  Larger pictures would have to be downsized to fit on Legal or Letter-sized paper.

Why are most of the Pictures in Black and White?

Another common question is why the pictures are mostly black and white.  Color would be so greatly preferred!

Back in the beginning, the only Clip Art I had available came in black and white.  Color did not become a regular part of the Dynamic Graphics pictures until August 1999.  That meant when I started putting together my Picture Puzzle in 1999, I had 16 years of black and white pictures and two months of color pictures.

Since those days, "color" has become commonplace in commercial artwork.  By 2006 I had collected nearly as many color pictures as I did black and white.  I briefly considered "colorizing" the black and white pictures. However I abandoned that idea when I realized how difficult it was to do a good job. 

On the right, you can see the results of my 2005 effort to "colorize" one of my black and white pictures.  That picture alone should explain why I decided not to mess with my original black and white puzzles.  With enough work, I imagine I could improve on this effort, but again it becomes an issue of how many hours in the day there are.  People forget I have a full-time job running a dance studio.

Yes, the major roadblock to color is "Time".  Realistically you are talking about many many hours of work.  Each new puzzle takes about half an hour to create, so do the math.  An estimate for "Colorizing" 70 black and white pictures would mean most likely 35 hours of work.  If the color made a real improvement in the quality, I might be tempted to try anyway.  However since my first attempts at 'colorizing' were so disappointing, I imagine the older pictures will stay black and white for a long time. 

That said, the future looks rosy.  As of 2006, most of the new pictures will be in color.

2001: The Puzzle Grows!

I started with 24 clues in 1999 (see the Original Copy).  The following year I added 16 more to make it to 40 in 2000.  I received lots of compliments for my effort.

After the good response in 2000, I decided to add 10 more in 2001 to reach 50.  But before I could add more puzzles, first I needed more song titles.  I ran into a big problem - I was having a hard time finding enough titles to work from!  

That is when I decided to add titles from Country-Western albums.  Every Western artist has found it quite lucrative to record at least one Christmas album.  As of 2005, George Strait had three Christmas albums!  Most of the songs are remakes of the old standards, but original songs are often included.  It was these new songs from the C&W albums that created my source of new titles.

Now I was in business again!  "
Christmas in Dixie", "Christmas for Cowboys", "If We Make it Through December", and "Christmas Time in Texas" were titles from C&W Christmas Albums that gave me new inspiration.  I was very pleased with my clever move to expand the Puzzle.  

However, my joy was short-lived because I ran into a problem created by my new puzzles.

2002: The Solution to a Headache Propels the Puzzle to a New Level

Bigger isn't always necessary Better.  The improvements in made to 2001 version of the puzzle were a big flop.  It seems my 2001 addition of Country-Western titles created a problem I had not seen coming.  Although the Puzzle was bigger in 2001, this larger version wasn't nearly as much fun as it had been the year before.   I learned the hard way that the Original Copy had a distinct advantage because it stuck to the most famous titles.  By limiting the scope to familiar songs like "Rudolph" and "Jingle Bells", everyone had a fighting chance to solve a few riddles.  But now that we had 50 titles, the extended Puzzle had become very difficult to solve.  The biggest complaint was lack of knowledge about titles in the first place.  Most people could only remember about 10 or 20 popular Christmas Carol names to begin with.  So expanding my puzzle to 40 had created problems with everyone but the most enthusiastic Christmas Carol people.  Now even the experts were mad!   Virtually no one had ever heard of these Western titles! 

They grew frustrated because without knowledge of the names, it was impossible to solve many of the clues.

Big mistake on my part!! 

Something had to be done.  I recalled having the same problem when I first took the quiz.  If you can't remember the names, this is a tough puzzle to solve.

Like most people,
I can remember the names when I heard the songs being sung, but back in 1996 when I first took the quiz, I could not have named more than a dozen carol titles off the top of my head.   Furthermore it was one thing when I was sticking to "Frosty the Snowman" and "Let it Snow", but now that I had added obscure titles like "Coventry Carol" and the "Wassail Song" along with the new Western titles, the 2001 puzzle had become far too difficult.  My dance studio friends complained that the 2001 version wasn't as much fun anymore.

So in 2002 I decided to make things easier by adding a list of 100 Christmas Carol Titles to pick from.  Now the puzzle seemed pretty easy to me.  This meant that even people who didn't know any Carol names at all could play.  Previous knowledge of Carol Titles no longer became a prerequisite to participation.

My instincts were correct.  The addition of the Clue List did make the clues much easier to solve.  As a result, the Puzzle immediately became fun again.  This change also led to far-reaching consequences.

2002: A Mystery Appears - Where are these emails coming from?

Almost immediately after adding the clue list something odd happened.  I rarely got responses from my SSQQ dance community any more - most of them had already tried it! - but I was being inundated with email requests for the answers from people all over the country.  I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught!   I must have received 200 inquiries in 2002 compared to maybe 20 or 30 in 2001

I was perplexed.  Word of mouth could not account for this kind of volume.  Where were these people coming from?  I was completely clueless.  Nor did I figure out the reason; it stayed a mystery for weeks.

In the meantime, I become a Grouch.

Besides being baffled by the sudden nationwide popularity of the quiz,
I found myself getting irritated because 80% of the inquiries simply asked for the answers without bothering to solve the puzzle.  Some people were so rude in their demands that I became angry. 

Maybe I didn't have the right spirit, but my thinking was - why not solve it yourself?   After all, when I solve a logic puzzle or do a Crossword puzzle, I don't go straight for the answers.  I solve the puzzle, then I look to see how well I did.  Why are these people demanding the answers without bothering to solve any riddles?

So I emailed each one of them that I would be happy to furnish the answers if they would first take the quiz. Surely these people could solve a few to show that they tried.  

Here's a quick rundown on the 2002 scene:

12-01-02 Nyree

Hi there! Would you be able to send me a list of answers for the 50 songs. I would like to do this at a Church Christmas dinner...but don't want to get any wrong! Thanks!

12-03-02 Jeff

I would like to use your christmas carol puzzle list as an after supper game at our office staff party this year, but am reluctant to do so without having an answer key....!!!....would it be possible for you to send me the answers?....TIA

12-05-02 Stephanie

Will you send the answers to the puzzles? I found your site and love the pictures. I'd love to use it at our staff Christmas party next week. I figured out about half...and the others are stumping me, even with the clue list!

12-07-02 Barb

Hi, Rick...My family is having a reunion this Christmas, and each family is responsible for one night's entertainment. I found your puzzle and would love to use it for my night (fastest family wins a grand prize). However, I can't solve all of them myself!! Would it be possible to get the answers? Would appreciate your help...

(Editor's Note: I told Barb like everyone else if they worked the puzzle and came close I would send the answers. Barb worked the puzzle,got 44 right,and I sent her the rest of the answers on 12-10)

12-09-02 Barb again

Rick...thanks so much! These should keep us busy while we're mellowing out by the fireplace!

12-08-02 Beth

Would it be possible to use your puzzle in my classroom? I teach music and thought it would be fun for the kids to try. Would you send me the answers so I can be sure of my answers? There are some that I'm guessing at and a few that I have no idea! Thanks!

12-09-02 Keary

Found your puzzle and wonder if you would be willing to share the answer sheet. Some at the office wanted to have a few games at a Christmas party. I don't think anyone will be able to take you up on your practice night if they get 45 correct since we live in North Dakota.

12-10-02 Paula

Hi Rick, I was wondering if I could get the answers to your puzzle...I'm interested in playing it at a Christmas party.

12-12-02 Rick

Rick: Any chance that I can have the answers to the 50 Xmas song puzzles? I am a real chump if i can't answer them in my work group because I started this. Thanks

12-13-02 Hottie Girl

what are the answers?

12-16-02 Terry

We'd like to use this quiz for a Christmas Party. Can you send us the answers. Thanks.

12-16-02 Vicki
No, I am not a student, but a teacher in Illinois. This site was found and has been presented to high school students for holiday fun!    It will be a fun project for us to figure these out, but I need the answers.  Thanks.

12-17-02 Aimee

do you have a list of the answers to the christmas puzzle?

12-17-02 Frank

I need the answers for my office Christmas Party tomorrow. Thanks in advance.

(Editor's Note: as usual I suggested to Frank that he work the puzzle first)

12-18-02 Frank

I don't have the goddamn time to work your stupid puzzle. You probably don't even know the answers. Humbug.

The 2002 Christmas Season wasn't any fun.  I had gone to a lot of work to improve the Puzzle, but I didn't feel rewarded for my effort.  In fact, I actually felt badgered.  I will simply say that I spent most of December 2002 in a bad mood. 

However the season wasn't a total loss.  I finally discovered the secret of the Puzzle's newfound popularity.

I Get My Answer!

12-10-02 Susan

Hi. My name is Susan and I'm from Chicago, IL. I was doing a search at yahoo.com on 'Christmas Carol Picture Puzzles' and your website, SSQQ, came up.

My mom had a puzzle years ago where there were pictures on a piece of paper that represented different Christmas carols.  Is this what you have?  If so, is it possible to get a copy of that please. We are having a Christmas party and I think that would be so much fun to do again!  Thanks in advance for your time.

(Editor's note: At my request, Susan worked the puzzle too to get the answer sheet.)

12-11-12 Susan

Thanks so much, Rick! That was exactly what I was looking for!!


Meanwhile Susan had given me a valuable hint - "I was doing a search at google on 'Christmas Carol Picture Puzzles' and your website, SSQQ, came up."

Internet Search Engines!!  Aha!

I had heard of Google, but I had never used the program.  Now I was curious.  I called Gary, my computer buddy.  He was the guy who had built my computer.  He said that a link to Google was in my program menu.  Just find it, click it, type something in.  So I did just that.

Out of curiosity I went to Google and typed in “Christmas Puzzle”.  Google reported 950,000 hits.  Hmm.  Was my puzzle one of those million possibilities?  And if so, how in the world did they find my puzzle out of a million choices?

So I opened a couple pages.  Lo and behold the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle was listed on Page 3.  Not bad!!  My 2002 version of the puzzle was in the top 30 in the world.

Then I typed in “Christmas Carol Puzzle”.  SSQQ was on Page 1 for these three key words.  Wow!  I had my answer!! 
This was the moment I realized this silly little puzzle had become an International favorite.  Who woulda thunk it??

In the years to come since my discovery in 2002, the Puzzle has kept improving its position.  In 2005 the Puzzle was in the third spot on Google's Page 1 for "
Christmas Puzzle".  Same place in 2006 - Number 3, Page 1. 

In 2006, for "
Christmas Carol Puzzle" it was Number One in the world.  One year later in 2007, this puzzle also became #1 for "Christmas Puzzle".  Lo and behold, my puzzle was famous.


Here is an interesting question.  Now that the Puzzle site had become a global success, are you curious how much money I received for my work?  

Not a cent. 

I couldn't care less.  My dance studio has made me all the money I need.  I am just pleased to see how much fun people are having.  That is the Christmas spirit, yes??

2003 - You have to Work for the Answer Sheet

While I was pleased that my puzzle was growing ever more popular, I was still rankled by the 2002 deluge of people who wanted the answers without bothering to solve any puzzles.  I was so fed-up that in 2003 I added a special feature:  Give me 30 right answers and I will send back the entire list of 50 answers.  In other words, I asked the people to solve half the puzzles in return for the answer sheet.

That solved the problem nicely.  In 2003 only about 10% of the emails came from someone who wanted the answers without trying the puzzle.  Now I started to have enjoy my puzzle again.  

I am always glad to share the rest of the answers when I think someone has put a little work into the puzzle. After all, when you are doing something for free, then it better be fun.

The Puzzle Crosses Borders

In 2003 I fielded requests for the answers from people in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Canada. Most of the requests for the answers come from people looking for something to do at a Christmas Party they are hosting at work or home. Many more requests came from school teachers looking for something fun for the kids to do in the final week.  I must have gotten at least 50 emails from teachers alone!! 

Here are several examples:

-----Original Message-----
From: Erin C

Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:47 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas puzzle

“Rick, Here are the answers I have.  Could you fill in the ones I'm stuck on and correct any I may not have rightMy extended Family of 25 is counting on you as we are playing this Christmas Eve!

Thanks and great site!  Erin”

-----Original Message-----
From: E, Kerri
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 4:17 PM
Subject: Christmas Puzzle Quiz

“Attn:  Rick Archer,

The following are my answers to your Christmas puzzle list.  Were all these titles REAL songs?  In any case, I would very much like to have a copy of the answers.  I'd like to use these with my music students just for fun.  Thank you! 

Kerri E
Director, Choral Department
Iowa Park High School”


“Yes, all the titles are correct. Mind you, I got a few titles from country-western albums here and there in a desperate attempt to come up with 100 titles.  The idea is to make the puzzle a little harder by giving extra choices.  Other than that I promise you the puzzle is on the level!  Hope your kids have fun!"

-----Original Message-----
From: Laurice B
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 7:10 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle answers

 “Hi Rick,

I'm a gifted resource teacher in a middle school, and always on the lookout for puzzles. I ran across your Christmas song puzzle.  Too Cute!

I thought I might try it out with the kids, but I myself am not sure of a few of the pictures.

You said you would send the answer key if we sent you the answer to 30 of them, so here it goes…”

-----Original Message-----
From: Cindy N
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 11:25 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: A BIG Thank you!

Thanks Rick-

My class will have a ball with this puzzle and having the answer will make them think I am so smart. Remember that's our little secret.

Have a Great Holiday!    Cindy

In addition to the many requests from teachers and Christmas Party hosts, there was one particular email that was my personal favorite of the 2003 season:

-----Original Message-----
From: Opal R
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2003 12:07 AM
Subject: christmas song puzzle

“Dear Mr. Rick Archer:

Here are my answers to the Christmas song puzzle.  Please send me the answers.  I work in a prison and I have stayed up late trying to figure them all out so I can give the puzzle to the guys as something to do on Christmas Eve. Surely, I have thirty right, Ha!  Ha! 

Thanks for the fun and I wait for the answers as soon as possible.”


“Nice work, Opal. You did great!!   And good for you for going out of your way to do something nice to cheer up an evening which otherwise would have been pretty gloomy!  I am honored to be able to assist you!”

The Most Obnoxious Email Ever

During the 2003 Holiday Season I must have responded to several hundred inquiries.  However there was one email that I will never forget.   I guarantee you won't believe this story.

-----Original Message-----
From: Francine W
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 12:26 PM
Subject: Pictures of Famous Christmas Songs

Hi Rick:

I was wondering if you have an electronic version of these pictures that you can send to me?  I am doing a PowerPoint with these on them for a contest with a church group.  When I enlarge the ones from your site (and from other sites) they get very blurry.  I can't find these pictures anywhere else on the web that has a higher quality.  But perhaps if I could get a hold of originals (hopefully BMP format) that would be great.  It would also help greatly if the pictures could be in color.  Do you have colorized versions of your pictures available?

Is this something that you can help me with?  Do you know a website where can I find these pictures with better resolution?

Don’t forget to include the answers.

Regards, Francine W

I was so flabbergasted by the nerve behind her request that I decided the simplest thing to do was point out she had ignored my request to send 30 answers.  This allowed me to avoid sharing what I really thought about her letter!


“Ms. W,

I have had over 100 people email me to ask for the answers during this Christmas season.  You are the first to ask for the answers without bothering to solve thirty correctly like everyone else.

If you want the answers, please give me thirty answers first like I asked for.“


“Well, I tried the puzzle.  Hopefully I have at lease 30 correct - you'll send the answers to me?”

My Answers
2 46
3 30
6 17
15 61
23 10
26 75
13 50
etc etc


“Ms. W, at first I was simply going to cut and paste the answers like I do with everyone else and send them to you, but your answers were in such an odd format I got suspicious.  Most people simply give the picture number and the name. You didn’t even bother with the names of the songs.  So I checked your answers.  Not one answer was correct!!!  

2 is “Walking thru a Winter Wonderland”.  Your answer was “I STILL BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS”
3 is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Your answer was “GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN”
6 is “The Little Drummer Boy”. Your answer was “CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE”

What planet are you from, Ms. W??  Do they not have Christmas Carols on your planet?

It is obvious you didn’t even lift a finger to solve these puzzles.  Instead you just inserted some numbers and figured I would be too stupid to figure it out so you wouldn’t have to waste another second of your precious time.

I checked three other answers you gave just for a laugh and they weren’t any closer. How does it feel to get caught cheating on a Christmas Carol Puzzle, Ms. W? 

First you said:  “I can't find these pictures anywhere else on the web that has a higher quality.”

The reason you can’t find them elsewhere is that I created 80% of them myself.  If you see them elsewhere, and they are the same size, it is because someone copied them from me!

Furthermore I was stunned to find that you expected a total stranger to email you larger copies so your enlargements wouldn’t be so blurry.  Do you realize this would take hours of work?  And did you expect to pay me for my time and talent?  Of course not.

Furthermore these pictures are in black and white because the only pictures I had to work with in the beginning were black and white. I deeply regret I don't have color versions to send to you.

Did you know it took me TWO SOLID WEEKS working on my computer paint program to make up this quiz?  And do you realize it takes maybe 30 minutes to figure out 30 answers?   But rather than invest twenty or thirty minutes to figure out a few clues, you decided you were too damn busy to bother to take the quiz and that I was too damn dumb to catch you at it.

What kind of church group did you say you belonged to?  Did you ever learn anything about integrity in that church group?

You have more nerve than any person I have ever dealt with on the Internet!

Rick Archer

-----Original Message-----
From: Francine W
Sent: Thursday, November 27, 2003 10:19 PM
Subject: RE: Pictures of Famous Christmas Songs

I deeply resent the tone of your letter.  I have been working day and night preparing this party for 200 parishioners.  I asked nicely for your answers and all I receive is contempt and hostility.  If you had any sense of Christian decency, you would help me rather than run your superficial ego trip.

I could care less about your answer sheet.  I had my son figure them out for me.

I will pray to Jesus to shine his light on you.  It is obvious to me you are in great need of spiritual guidance.


So the lady who got caught cheating on the Christmas Puzzle decided to pray for me. 

How did I ever get so lucky?

The Puzzle Hits the Vatican

I thought Francine's story would take the cake for 2003.  But this next letter was wonderful!  To my absolute shock, I received a surprising inquiry from a lady in Italy.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Sr. Grace Gabrielle O'Brien
Sent: Sunday, December 28, 2003 9:45 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas puzzle Attn Rick Archer from rome italy

Dear Rick,

I enjoyed your carol quiz and am attaching my answers. I think I got 44 of them. I look forward to getting your answer sheet. Thanks for the fun and I wish you God's blessings in the new year.

Sr. Grace Gabrielle

Sr. Grace Gabrielle O'Brien, CSAC
Pallottine Sisters - Casa Generalizia
Viale Kennedy #62
Grottaferrata, Rome
00046 ITALY
(11-39) 06-9459458

After checking on Map Quest, I discovered Grottaferrata is on the outskirts of Rome.  Aw shucks.  I didn't quite make it to the Vatican, but I sure got close!  

Sister Grace's letter left me in awe at how this Christmas Puzzle manages to get visited by people from all over the world!  My little puzzle had become an International Hit.  I was very touched.


The Christmas Season of 2004 was extra busy for me because I got a new computer. I spent so much time getting my new system installed, I let the correspondence take a back seat. 

The one thing I do remember about 2004 is that this was the year I began to wonder about the origins of the puzzle.  Here is one of the emails that got me thinking:

-----Original Message-----
From: Linda D
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 4:59 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Cc: Divall, Linda
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzle

I'm a school teacher who works with the Gifted and Talented kids----I've used some of these puzzles for years.  We had a worksheet with 24 puzzles on it---some of the puzzles you have listed but with different drawings.  Many of the drawings are exactly the same. 
I wonder where this puzzle actually started.  Do you know? 

I teach in the Fort Worth area and this puzzle sheet has been around for at least the last 10 years!!!  I was going to share it with some of my new colleagues but one sent this link to me before I sent out the page---this one's better, though. Thanks for your efforts. Linda D

I had no answer for Linda's question.  But I realized I was just as curious as she was to learn the answer.  Where did this puzzle originate? 

2005: The Search for Roots!

In 2005 the interest in the puzzle was stronger than I had ever seen it.  On Monday, December 5, I got 12 requests in one day... and there were still three weeks left till Christmas!

Interest in the puzzle continued to grow. I had 517 requests for the answers in 2005.

I was so impressed by the interest I decided to dramatically expand the Puzzle.  In 2005 I added 24 new Puzzles to take the total from 56 to 80.  It took two entire working days.  I also expanded the clue list from 100 to 168. 

As usual this year, I had people who asked for the questions without bothering to offer the answers.  However the percentage was very low so I didn't mind.

The vast majority of the people who emailed me not only supplied the answers, they were generous in their compliments. They made me feel very proud to share my game with the world. 

Here were some of my favorites for 2005.

-----Original Message-----
From: Heather G
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2005 1:32 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Attention: Rick Archer re Christmas Puzzle Answers

Rick!   Thanks so much for sending these answers so quickly... especially on a Sunday. Your timing is impeccable though, the party planning team is meeting as I type! 

And the convener is also from Texas. How's that for a coincidence... especially when we are located in a relatively small Ontario town in Canada!

Regards, Heather

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron B
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2005 11:21 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: Christmas Carol Puzzle

Hi Rick,
Thanks so very much. Our family loves puzzles like this, you have made our day…

Happy holidays, Ron B

-----Original Message-----
From: lois a
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 2:48 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas quiz



-----Original Message-----
From: Jamie C
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2005 3:30 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas puzzle

Hi Rick,

My 9 year old daughter and I stumbled upon this quiz while searching the internet. We love to do puzzles, word games etc. We are in South Louisiana in the Hurricane Katrina devastated area near New Orleans and feel fortunate to have survived the worst natural disaster in history. We are using your puzzle to add some enjoyment to our very difficult lives right now. A lot of the regular Christmas activities have been cancelled so we were looking for something festive to do. We are stumped on some of the answers. Please can you help us out? Our entire family started singing Christmas songs to help find the answers. It was very comical and nice to see everyone laughing. Merry Christmas. Thanks for brightening our day.

Jamie C

-----Original Message-----
From: Sue W
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2005 12:36 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: PS to Rick

I just finished reading your anecdotes on your Christmas Carol Puzzle, and am laughing! Thanks for the 'extra fun'!

I didn't include any clue as to identity or location, and you seem to enjoy it, so here goes ...

I'm a humble mama of four, a preschool music teacher, and the wife of a recently retired "Army Man". I'm in Alabama.

Nothing exciting ... I'm not near the Vatican, not near the North Pole, have no aspirations to do a Power Point Presentation with your work, I'm not entertaining 200 at church ... sigh, sigh, sigh, and sigh.

But I have thoroughly enjoyed playing your game, as well as reading your stories. Thank you for the hours you've put into creating and maintaining your site -- WOW!

Humbly, and appreciatively,  Sue

-----Original Message-----
From: W, Fred
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 9:37 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Here's my 40+ answers. I'm requesting the answer key for the rest.  A lot of these songs I never heard of...

Thanks.  FRED

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 11:32 AM
To: W, Fred
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

A lot of those songs I haven't heard of either, the hippo one for example.  But I visited a Christmas carol title web site and copied everything they had, so there you have it.  Plus a lot of these songs are from albums by popular artists. For example, "Santa Baby" is a goofy Eartha Kitt/Madonna song which probably has no business being included with all these lovely Christian songs.

However, using song titles like these was the only way I could expand the puzzle and widen the clue base. 

Thanks for playing!

-----Original Message-----
From: W, Fred
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 10:37 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle


Speaking of the Hippo song.  My wife got that one stuck in her head over on Friday and went out and bought a Dr. Demento Christmas CD just because that song was on it. She played it probably a dozen times over the weekend.

Guess what kind of animal she's getting from Santa...
Thanks again.  FRED

Wow, the song really does exist!! Thanks for the inside scoop!!  I am sure it will be her favorite gift!   Rick Archer

-----Original Message-----
From: Suzie W
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 11:57 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Answers to Christmas Carol Puzzle

Hi Rick! First of all, let me say that you are amazing!! I stumbled upon your website trying to find a better copy of the game. Just like you described in "anecdotes", I too had an old version that had been copied and re-copied and re-copied and re-copied, etc........Anyway, I did NOT expect to find such PERFECTION FOR FREE!!

I love this game, and I love your website. Now, I'm even planning on having a HALLOWEEN party just so we all can play the "Monster Game"!  Your website is addicting!

-----Original Message-----
From: D Lawson
Sent: Friday, December 30, 2005 6:09 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle

Hello and thank you for your time in checking my answers. My aunt sent me one of the old time copies for fun. I decided to "cheat" and try to find the answers online. Needless to say, I've spent days obsessing over your puzzles. They are so much better pictures. Thanks for all of your time and efforts to make a more modern version.

-----Original Message-----
From: Saxena, W
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 11:23 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I was given this puzzle when I was in my 2nd graders class -it was the original old 24 picture question one.
I enjoying taking your challenge for 40+. Please check my answers.  thanks for providing a modern version!

-----Original Message-----
From: Joyce M
Sent: Wednesday, December 28, 2005 6:36 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Christmas Carol Picture Puzzle answers

Hi Rick!  I tried to get #65 before looking at the answers, but I didn't solve it.  My mom tried too.  We were hung up on the thermometer - we were thinking 'celsius' sounds something like 'excelsis' and the woman in the picture could be named Gloria, so that is how I came up with In Excelsis Gloria. 

My mom is STILL rubbing it in that she got Ave Maria right instead of me!!!!  I still can't believe I got that one wrong!!!

I told her that I like my answer better and I think you should change the answer on that one to Night Before Christmas.  Heeeheeeheee! Gotta love it!  We will be talking about that one for a long time.

Thanks for the entertainment, Rick!  Keep up the good work.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce F
Sent: Sunday, December 25, 2005 8:52 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle


Very refreshing to read your account. The world could use a few more people who don't do things for profit. My wife found your site but it was my job to print and make copies for our family tonight.

I think we spent at least 2 hours on this. I will include the answers that we came up with as a group. I'm pretty sure some are not right and some we just finally gave up on.

I hope you don't deal with these this week. We are in no hurry.

Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

-----Original Message-----
From: James & Charlotte C
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 8:06 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide this puzzle.  I searched several websites before I finally found it. We are having a New Year's Eve Watch Party at our church Saturday night and I would like to use it as one (or two!) of the games. Please let me know how I did!  Would you please be so kind as to provide the correct answers?

-----Original Message-----
From: Ness
Sent: Sunday, December 25, 2005 10:20 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas puzzles


My sister had brought along these Christmas Carol puzzles and the whole family sat down and tried to figure them out.  So I am gonna send what we figured out to see how right or wrong we were. Thank you in advance if you could send the answers after you check over how far we got. There was a mighty lot that stumped us.

Thank you for the answers.  I see we had more wrong than we thought. But this brought back alot of memories. We have the old paper where there is 24 pictures to figure out. This was alot more and alot more fun, for alot of the old paper we new them. We also see you have changed some of them from the old way, this is alot nicer. Thanks again for the fun and fond memories

-----Original Message-----
From: Jackie R
Sent: Sunday, January 01, 2006 7:53 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

My mom is 73 years old and has worked on this for 2 weeks. here's her answers

2005: The Original Copy of the Puzzle

Many emails in 2005 mentioned the Original Copy of 24 Puzzles.  Here is an example:

-----Original Message-----
From: Sylvia S
Sent: Saturday, December 31, 2005 3:06 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

To Rick Archer:

Thank you for providing our family with some fun Christmas brain teasers. It was great fun seeing the longer list.

We made our way to your webpage because of what is probably that same sheet of 24 puzzle pictures.

I am retired now but part of my job was to arrange the office Christmas party for an administrator at our university. I remember using the puzzle as an ice breaker one year and giving prizes to the winning team. When I ran across a copy of the puzzle in my Christmas "stuff" this year, I remembered how much fun everyone had so I used it at an extended family Christmas function where everyone doesn't see each other except that one time of the year. It was such a success in speeding up the "getting reacquainted" time that I was encouraged to pull up the website still listed on the sheet I'd tucked away in my Christmas decoration all those years ago. That website was no longer in existence, but good old Google got me to you.

When I saw some of the same pictures on you puzzles I was sure I'd found the original source, but discovered otherwise in reading your comments. Assuming you are still interested in the origin of the 24 I'll include what is printed on my list.  It would be unusual for it to be from the originator but thought you'd like to have the information just the same.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, January 03, 2006 11:34 AM
To: Sylvia S
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Nice work and thanks for playing, Sylvia!

I greatly appreciate that you took the time to share some of your own information with me. I am well aware that I am building on the work of another person and therefore am curious about the origins of the puzzle.

I visited both links you provided me. The second link was so complicated that seven clicks at that site merely revealed that IF a Christmas puzzle is indeed on that site, it is VERY WELL HIDDEN. I didn't find it.

I did find the Henson version you mentioned at a slightly different URL address. My guess is he did the same thing I did - updated the old pictures.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sylvia S
Sent: Saturday, December 31, 2005 3:40 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Mr. Archer,
I just sent you an email with our answers and then went back to your website to read the Puzzle anecdotes. I found the history of how the puzzles came to be and the interesting emails almost as enjoyable as the puzzle. Thank you for the time and effort it takes to share the puzzles and all the info. By the way, because you seem to keep up with where your inquiries originate, we are in northeast Mississippi (Starkville).
Thanks again.   Sylvia

I became so curious about the Original Copy that I decided to take the time and look for it here in my office.  To my dismay, I could not find it to save my soul.  Then a very nice lady named Tiffany Hayden came to my rescue.

---Original Message-----
From: Tiffany Hayden
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 11:11 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick Archer,

Let me start by saying THANK YOU! Your puzzles are wonderful!  I have one of the "original" Christmas Carol Puzzle pages that you mentioned (it's a copy of a copy of a copy…) and looked online last year for something like it for my family Christmas Eve party but didn't find anything.  I tried looking again this year and came upon your website. 

I read through the anecdotes, which were funny, but you didn't mention if many people email you with all the correct answers.   I have completed quite a few and think I qualify to receive the answers.   Again, thank you for all your time in creating the puzzles.  I've had fun trying to figure them out and I know my family will, too!

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 10:35 AM
To: Tiffany Hayden
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Nice work and thanks for playing, Tiffany.

To answer your question, I get many requests for the answers. I have received about 450 requests for the answers so far during the 2005 Christmas season.

I have a favor to ask - a lot of people ask for the original.  They have a sentimental attachment to it. Would you be so kind as to fax your copy to me if it isn't too much trouble?  Thanks!  Rick Archer

-----Original Message-----
From: Tiffany Hayden
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 7:02 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle


Absolutely!  Faxing my copy is the least I can do for all the work you've done "cleaning up" and creating new puzzles!  I'll try faxing it over after I send you this email. I've only sent a fax from home once before so keep your fingers crossed that I can remember how to do it!

Wow! 450 requests this season alone!  That's amazing!  Have many of those included ALL 80 correct answers?

Thanks again, Tiffany

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2005 11:01 AM
To: Tiffany Hayden
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I received the fax yesterday… thank you! That's "the one".

Re the 450, today was ridiculous. It is only 11 am and I already have 30 requests!

None have gotten all 80 correct and that is not entirely their fault.

The quiz is not "perfect". For example, some clues have two legitimate answers. I have the "wassail" song plus the "gloucester wassail" song. So either one would be correct.

But most of all I have clue 75 which NO ONE has gotten right. Therefore it is a flaw in my design.

I put two sets of elves in silhouette. One set was trick or treating. The other was decorating for Christmas. "Its beginning to look a lot like christmas". It was vague to begin with and the pictures are too small to truly decipher.

I will redo it next season.

(Editor's Note: You can see Tiffany's copy that she sent me.  Click ORIGINAL COPY.

2006 -
Many People asked for the Answer Sheet without supplying 50 answers.

For 2006, I added 20 more clues to bring the total to 100.  In addition, 17 of the 20 new clues were in color.

I also raised the requirement to get the answers from 40 to 50.  I don't think this was unfair on my part, but I admit the puzzle was starting to get harder.  50 answers probably required a couple hours of work.

I imagine there were people who really didn't feel like putting in that kind of work.  That is probably the reason that explains why this year I had a record number of requests for the answer sheet from people who didn't supply the 50 answers as I asked.

I would estimate 1 in 5 omitted the answers. 

Since the only way they could reach me was by my email address, I put these two notes next to my email address:

1. Send me 50 answers to receive the Answer Sheet to the 100 Clue Puzzle.
I will NOT respond to any email without the 50 answers.

Many people found my email address, but ignored my request.  Here is a typical example.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Chris H
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2006 10:34 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Need answers please christmas

Rick - I have a luncheon at 11:30 today and would love to use this w/ my team as I just stumbled onto it and it would be a great activity. I usually give out prizes and such for who gets the most correct, any chance I can get the answers now since I am tight on time? It would be greatly appreciated.   Thanks, Chris H

One day I received a very interesting email.

----- Original Message -----
From: S Fulbright
To: dance@sspp.com
Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2006 7:50 PM
Subject: sspp christmas puzzle

Thank you. Thank you, Thank you!

I just want to commend you on your site and providing the christmas puzzle to all.  I as others, had the original sheet back in the early 90's.  I made a call to a friend to see if she still had it since I lost my copy; and of course her answer was no.  I thought "Hey I'll try the net" and sure and behold I found your site with the help on google.

I see from reading your emails that you are quite busy and people are really into your site. Well, below are my answers, I hope I have at least 50 so that you can send me the answers, if not, I guess I will try try again :-).  Have a Bless Holiday Season!!!

-----Original Message-----
From: S Fulbright
Sent: Sunday, December 10, 2006 10:39 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: ssqq christmas puzzle

Thank you for such a quick response; I am just glad that I got at least 50.

And just a word of encouragement, if you receive emails that do not follow your directions, just ignore them. Don't even respond - DELETE them.  It is too time consuming to go back and forth with people who do not read or try to take the easy way out.

Again, thank you.  S Fulbright

From: Rick Archer
To: S Fulbright
Sent: Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:14 AM
Subject: RE: ssqq christmas puzzle

Interesting you should write that. I have been deluged by people asking me to bend the rules this season, but how would you know something like that?

-----Original Message-----
From: S Fulbright
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 8:29 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: ssqq christmas puzzle

I was reading your antidotes and with the christian lady (Francine W) that you went back and forth with...much too much time consuming!

I work with the public who always think they are exempted from following the rules; I DELETE them until they comply with the requirements.  You should do the same with your request for the Christmas puzzle.

Be Bless and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  S Fulbright

I decided Mr. Fulbright was correct.  My resolve was immediately tested - by coincidence, the same day I received Mr. Fulbright's final email, I received this email from Judi C. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Judi C
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 6:21 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Quiz

Please send me your answers.

(Editor's Note: She sent in 20 answers, not 50. So I stuck to my guns and didn't answer.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Judi C
Sent: Tuesday, December 12, 2006 6:08 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Christmas Carol Quiz

I do hope you will send me the answers to the Christmas Carol Quiz. I did try hard to figure them out. Please?

-----Original Message-----
From: Judi C
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 9:03 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Christmas Carol Quiz

I really worked hard on the puzzle.  Why won't you send me the answers?

-----Original Message-----
From: Judi C
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 8:27 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas Answers Request

This is my fourth request, Won't you please send me the answers ti your Christmas Carol Quiz?
I've spent hours, and I just want to check the answer that I sent you and find out the one's I didn't know.
I'd really appreciate it.  Judi

(Editor's Note: After 4 tries, my conscience couldn't take it anymore so I sent her the answers. But don't tell anybody.  The sad thing is, she spent as much time emailing me as it would have taken to solve the expected number of puzzles)

Another example would be Mr. Guido.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sunday, December 24, 2006 6:20 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com

Hello...I need the answers for a party tonight.  It said 40, so here are the 40 I know:

10 -
12 -
15 -
25 -
27 -
8 -
24 -
28 -
18 -
42 -
13 -
  (Editor's Note: I deleted the 18 answers)

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, December 24, 2006 7:12 AM
Subject: RE:

First of all, you are fortunate to even get a response. My spam program had your email marked for deletion for lack of a title, but I thought I would double-check.

Second, the requirement is 50 answers. If you had gone to the correct web site instead of looking at someone else's version of my own work, you would discover the minimum is 50, not 40.

And finally, what kind of moron do you think I am?  You said, "here are the 40 I know" and you listed 18 answers.  You didn't think I could add?

Figure out the answers yourself.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sunday, December 24, 2006 12:18 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE:

And Happy Holidays to you too!!  I found a similar, much more user-friendly game anyhow. 

Internet Plagiarism

One day in December 2006 I received the following email:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 12:59 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Picture Answers

Can you please provide the answer sheet for the Christmas Carol Pictures?  Nice puzzle, by the way.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer [mailto:dance@ssqq.com]
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 2:11 PM
Subject: RE: Christmas Carol Picture Answers

Sorry, Annamaria, but you were 10 short.  Can you give me another 10 answers?

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 12:59 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Picture Answers

The Website specifically says 40… but OK, here are 10 more

Annamaria M
Fire, Safety & Security

That exchange left me very puzzled.  I went back to my Christmas Puzzle web page and searched endlessly for something that said "40 answers".  After all, Annamaria had said 'SPECIFICALLY 40'.  Why was she so sure of herself?  Finally, I gave up.  It wasn't worth the effort. 

-----Original Message-----
From: DeAnna C
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 5:48 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle

Thanks for all the work you put in this.  This was exactly what I've been looking for the last 2 months!

Your graphics are great!  Thanks for sharing.
Here are my 40 answers.  Hope I got some of these right.

I was mystified. The woman's answer sheet was a perfect 40 for 40!  I could see she wasn't trying to trick me.  She honestly thought "40" was the target number.  So I sent her the entire answer sheet.  But I also thought I would ask a question.

--- Rick Archer <dance@ssqq.com> wrote:

Nice work, DeAnna!  Thank you for playing.

If you don't mind, I have a couple questions.  Why did it take you two months to find this puzzle?  And how did you finally succeed in finding it?

 -----Original Message-----
From: DeAnna C
Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 6:07 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Christmas Puzzle

Stumbled across it from a link on another website.

I didn't pursue it any further.  But my suspicions were confirmed.  I sensed something was going on.  To my surprise, the very same day, another email came in that broke the story open.

-----Original Message-----
From: Stephanie Walker
Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 10:41 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: answers to X-Mas carol puzzles

Hello -
I am a teacher in a public school in Maryland and I wanted to give my students the carol puzzle as an extra credit assignment, but I can't check their work without the answers.
The website stated that I had to send the answers to 40 of the puzzles in order to receive all of them.  If so, I will forward them with your affirmative reply, but if not, could you please email the answers? Thanks so much for your help!

Stephanie Walker
English Teacher

Ms. Walker's email listed the specific website she had first visited.  I went to the website and looked.  I discovered every single one of my pictures posted on that web site.  And it said very clearly: "40 answers are needed to get the entire answer sheet".  I had found the source of the mystery.

Now I knew why so many people kept sending me 40 answers instead of 50 as my own site requested. 

After confronting the individual who posted the pictures, he wrote back that he was willing to remove them from his site and did so.

This individual did make an interesting point.  He asked me what would happen to my puzzle if I was in an accident or had a sudden life-threatening illness.  What would happen to my work then?   He rationalized posting my puzzle just in case I kicked the bucket.

I did not have an answer other than to simply say that as long as I was alive, I would prefer he not post my puzzle on the Internet without my permission. 

My favorites Emails from the 2006 Christmas Season.

-----Original Message-----
From: PostNet North Dallas
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 1:52 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Attached is my puzzle effort, hopefully at least 50 are correct.

I'm going to be sharing this with Juniors and Seniors in High School and they are a tough crowd. 

I love teaching, but whoever said it was easy didn't have my kids.  Sometimes I think I am part lion-tamer.  -:)

Now t
hanks to your hard work, I think I finally found something challenging enough to occupy their restless minds.

Kindest Regards, Karen P

-----Original Message-----
From: Lynn S
Sent: Saturday, December 16, 2006 5:20 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Thank you sooooooo much for your hard work!!!

I have enjoyed this very much.  Like so many others I had first received the original 24.  I was at work and wanted to show it to a co-worker so I searched on the net and found yours. I was very SURPRISED to find more than the original 24.  

I like to drove my co-worker crazy, she said that it was too much for her and couldn't understand how I got some of them so easy. With a little encouragement on my part she did figure a couple out by herself. Then there were some I had to break down for her so she could figure them out.

That was just the beginning, others saw us working on it and wanted to join in the fun, so I had to print a copy for them. We work in a Treatment Facility for Troubled Teenagers and I'm hoping that some of the youth here get to join in on this puzzler. Many (well over a hundred) will be away from their families for Christmas and we try to make their Holiday as BRIGHT as we can.

I have been working on this for a few days, as I get time, and hopefully have answered enough correctly. Whether I have or not, I have enjoyed the challenge and will continue working till I do get enough correct. I feel it is important enough to spend the time on, to give the youth here a little something to enjoy in their difficult times. My prayer is that God will Bless you Abundantly for your kindness and thoughtfulness.

And shame on anyone who won't put forth any effort with all you've done, or who tries to cheat to get the answers.

God Bless

Lynn S
from Ashland, Ky

-----Original Message-----
From: Kim W
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2006 10:10 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick,
I spent several days searching for an activity for my high school choir students to do on the last day of classes before our "Winter" break. I was so excited to find your puzzle online!

Now I must admit that I am hooked; I have been spending all of my free time trying to figure out the puzzles!!

I have 57 of the answers (I am hoping they are correct!!), and would appreciate if you could send me the full list of answers. (I am hoping to finish the puzzles myself this weekend before I receive your reply!)

I absolutely cannot wait to see how my students do on this quiz. They are sure to be busy!  I intend to divide them into three teams. The team with the best answers gets a whole basket of homemade cookies!

Thank you so much for such a fun Christmas activity and your dedication to the puzzle, website, and fans!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Kim W
Alta, Iowa

-----Original Message-----
From: margaret r
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 10:25 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas Puzzle Fun - Request for Answers

Greetings from the Land of Ice and Snow, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories!

We have attempted to answer the puzzles but we able to answer only the following.  Please forward your answers, we would greatly appreciate it.

We have answered 60 plus of the 100 puzzles. You are great. We have the original sheet copied off from years ago when I first did it. You make Christmas fun. Thank you kindly,  Margaret

-----Original Message-----
From: Tracy D
Sent: Saturday, December 09, 2006 2:57 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Hello Rick,
My name is Tracy D. We are having a Christmas party Sat. Dec. 9, 2006 in La Mesa, NM (outside of El Paso, TX).

We searched the net and found your puzzle after my Mom had called and described the original 24 pictures to us on the phone. (Sorry, no additional news about the origin of the pictures; she was only privy to it a couple of years ago or so.)

We thought we might use it as a game for our guests. What a neat surprise to see 100 pictures and a clue list!  We realize this is short notice, but do you think you could get us the answer sheet as soon as possible? We would like to use them for the party. We really hope so, and we sure do appreciate your puzzles.  Here are our answers to the ones we think we guessed correctly.  Thanks!  Tracy

-----Original Message-----
From: bond family
Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2006 11:59 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle 2006

Hi Rick!

I saw my name under anecdotes and I remember sending you that email …

12-01-02 Nyree

Hi there! Would you be able to send me a list of answers for the 50 songs. I would like to do this at a Church Christmas dinner...but don't want to get any wrong! Thanks!

It was a legit story!! We used the puzzle anyways despite having no "real answers" but I think we did great! I have spent all morning doing your new updated version and this is what I came up with by myself. Hopefully his qualifies me for some answers this time!

My only suggestion is that you provide an answer key form or chart to fill out since it took a while to type all the numbers for the email…  Thanks!  Nyree

------Original Message-----
From: Bray SSgt Neil
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 5:17 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Here are my answers. Please send me the rest.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bray SSgt Neil
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 1:25 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Thanks for the reply. This is going to be fun for my students. I am an instructor for the USMC.  Neil

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 11:29
To: Bray SSgt Neil R
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I thought you marine drill sergeants were supposed to be tough as nails!

Isn't this puzzle a little too much like "fun" for someone in your position? 

Surely you realize I am just kidding. I think its great. Hope they enjoy it!

-----Original Message-----
From: Bray SSgt Neil
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 1:40 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I am an instructor for the electronics school that the Marines go to after they complete boot camp.

We get reprimanded if we treat the marines like they are still in boot camp.

I did have fun with the puzzle. I told them that it was an evaluation test on their attention to detail and their deciphering capabilities. They were all stressed out but realized it was fun. Thanks again.  Neil

-----Original Message-----
From: Erin P
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 6:36 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Hi!  I recently stumbled across your web site when I was looking for the original 24 Christmas carol pictures you had mentioned. A few years ago, when I was in high school, someone had us play the Christmas carol game when I was at a party & I loved it. I'm a nut for word games & puzzles. To top it off, I adore Christmas carols & am always looking for new challenges & games to play.

Needless to say, when I stumbled across your site & found the sheer number of Christmas carols you had pictured, I was thrilled. It's taken me a few days, but I've managed to find quite a few of them (I think) & having the list has helped me with keeping track of which carols I've already used. I forwarded the link to your site to my dad, someone I managed to get addicted to games like this as well & he was thrilled that I had found your site.

Well, like everyone else who appears to e-mail you, I, too, have reached a point where my (to quote Dr. Seuss) "puzzler is sore" & would like some help with the answers. There are quite a few carols that I'm not familiar with on your list and/or I have a limited knowledge about them. I believe I have done enough to meet your quota & will continue to work in the meantime on the puzzle answers I haven't gotten yet. I italicized the ones that I wasn't sure of.

Thanks so much for adding to my yuletide fun! I hope to share this puzzle with some more members of my family & friends!   Erin

----Original Message-----
From: erin r
Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 10:12 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: ssqq christmas puzzle

Mr. Archer,

Wow!! I am so glad I found your puzzle site. When I was a kid I had a wrinkled old xerox copy of some similar puzzles that I saved for years. Thank you for taking the time to update and expand them :)

I am writing because I would like to ask permission to use some of them with my students. I am a music teacher at a school for emotionally disturbed children and I think that it would be a fun project for us to do as a group. They are pretty young so I only picked a few for us to work on. It will be a fun way to expose them to some carols they may not know.

(On a side note, I can't imagine how long it took for you to create these. I merely cut and pasted them and it still took me forever...)

Anyway here are the puzzles I would like to use along with the answers I came up with. Also I have attached the file in case you were curious how I had arranged them for my kids. please let me know if it is ok for me to use the puzzles.

-----Original Message-----
From: Elizabeth M
Sent: Friday, December 22, 2006 9:41 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Puzzle

Hi Rick,  It's the last day of work before the holiday, and I'm goofing off.  Shame on me.

Every year, a coworker puts an old, old copy of the puzzle in our mail boxes, with 24 songs.  We all waste away a few minutes and run around asking, "what IS # 18????" (It's the Two Front Teeth picture that you redid.)

Last year, when no one could get #18, I found your site. Somehow we finally figured it out.

This year, our 3rd, I could answer 23 quickly, yet still had to think hard to remember #18 again.  Back to your site.  Only this year, I got curious. I went thru your whole site.  I decided that the same 24 puzzles each year was getting old, so I pasted all your pages into one nice document.

Then I decided to waste more time and read the anecdotes.  They were hilarious.  Cannot believe the Christian woman ticked at you for not doing MORE WORK FOR HER.  Hilarious.

So, my gift to you, if you want it, is a document that is printable for your customers who print it out for parties, like us. I also pasted the song list into one. 

Enjoy. Elizabeth

-----Original Message-----
From: Donna
Sent: Saturday, December 23, 2006 3:07 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick,
You saved the day!

My daughter brought home the original 24 picture puzzle from school.  We had fun with that.  She had planned on bringing it to Grammie and Grandpa's house on Christmas for a family game.  Later in the day I was interrupted by a hysterical, screaming 10 year old.  My 13 year old son, in his infinite wisdom, had taken a green permanent marker and had written his answers directly over top of the pictures. I immediately went online to see if I could find a replacement puzzle. Yours came up in my search and I was delighted to see all the extra pictures. I managed to calm my daughter down by showing her that even though her puzzle was destroyed, we could have even more fun with the new pictures.

Needless to say, we have been enjoying ourselves figuring these out.  Even with the song list, some of these are tough.  It is still a work in progress and we have been working on it in between Christmas parties and the like. I would appreciate it if you would send the answers so we will know if we are correct when we bring it to Grammie and Grandpa's house.  We figured out over 70 answers so far.

Thanks so much for your effort. Merry Christmas and God Bless.  Donna S

 -----Original Message-----
From: Rob E
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 4:39 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas puzzle answers

Rick,  Hello!  I am so glad to have found your puzzle. In 1998 or 1999 right after I got internet but before I owned a color printer. I had a friend print out a puzzle with many of the original items that your puzzle started with. This puzzle however was colorized and possibly it had updated pictures. This had been lost to me until we had a flood this past Labor Day and I had to go through all my stored stuff in the basement and I found it. I was thinking it would be nice to play with at the office but scanning it would cause it to loose quality. I figured I could find it on the net and reprint it. I was pleasantly surprised to find your improved much larger puzzle instead. I will try scanning my old copy that I have at home and send it to you. If I remember the pictures were all decent and in color. This would be a scan of an original since I printed it directly from the electronic format.  I would like to get the answer key for your modern puzzle.

By coincidence, a couple days later I received a copy of the colorized picture from Emily Schankweiler.

-----Original Message-----
From: Emily Schankweiler
Sent: Friday, December 01, 2006 9:22 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle
Importance: High

Hi Rick,
Thanks so much for creating this wonderful puzzle - you are much more creative than I. It is nice to be able to pick someone else's brain for party ideas!  I know that my company will enjoy coming up with the answers at our party tonight!  I would like to use the puzzle if that is okay with you.

Please let me know how I did on my answers. For your sake I only sent 50 of my answers because I know you get tons of e-mails like mine. Would you please be so kind as to provide the correct answers?

By the way - the history of the puzzles was very interesting.   Emily from South Carolina

-----Original Message-----
From: Emily Schankweiler
Sent: Friday, December 01, 2006 9:32 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle - original copy additional pictures in color
Importance: High

I noticed that some of these pictures have been changed by you to new ones, but here are ones in color for the "original" 24.  Just thought I'd pass it along in case you want them!   Thanks again!  Emily

(Editor's Note: Here is a look at Emily's Color Version )

2007 - The 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 grown too large.  Too many clues also meant the puzzle had grown too hard.

In life, there are people who like the easy Sudoku and Jigsaw puzzle and then there are those who prefer the difficult levels.  Why not try and 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.  In addition I would provide the answers to the "Top Forty".  This way people who were in a hurry would not have to work the entire puzzle. 

Part Two would consist of the next 80 clues, all of which I created myself.  We would play this section by the old rules: give me 40 correct answers and I will give you the rest. 

However 80 is a goofy number.  I thought I might add 20 more clues for 2008 to make Part Two reach 100 clues, but I never got around to it.

Fortunately the changes didn't seem to hurt the Puzzle's popularity.  By 2007 the SSQQ Carol Picture Puzzle became the Internet's most favorite Christmas Puzzle.  Search Engines such as Google, Altavista, Dogpile, and Yahoo Search Engines all listed it at the top.

See for yourself. 

2007- The SSQQ Christmas Puzzle becomes Number One on the Internet - Thank you all very much for your support!  Rick Archer

It was very flattering to discover my puzzle had become the most popular Internet Christmas Puzzle in English.  But, as they say, I could not have accomplished this without the help of visitors like you. 

As the 2007 Christmas Season unfolded, the emails from all over the globe poured in from people hoping to see the entire Answer Sheet.

As I said earlier, I listed twenty new clues in 2007 (101-120).  For the most part the twenty new clues seemed fair. 

Unfortunately one of my new clues was a complete dud.  No one person in the entire Universe was able to decipher Clue #103 on the right.  Obviously I made the clue far too difficult.  No one had any idea what those arrows to the crocodile's mouth meant.  What do you think?  Do you have the slightest idea what Christmas Carol is depicted in Clue #103?   Of course not.   It is "Holly Jaw-ly"

Disappointed, I decided to change the clue.  However, by chance, the day AFTER I posted the new version of Clue #103, I received this email from Kimberly Tavenner.

-----Original Message-----
From: Kimberly Tavenner
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2007 11:40 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzles

Dear Mr. Archer,

I like so many others before me am very pleased to have found your puzzles.  This is my first (definitely not the last) year of visiting your site.  What a joy!! 

I also remember the original 24 from a family reunion (my mother and I LOVE puzzles like this).  It is impressive the amount of time, let alone thought that went into this puzzle!  The puzzles are so clever!! Many of them (once I finally figured them out) had me laughing out loud! I also have everyone at work interested in your site and puzzles. So thank you very much for your time!

Here are the ones I think I have figured out.  God Bless!  Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! Thanks again for something wonderful to do in the frozen Midwest :D!

When I looked at her answers, I surprised to see the first correct "Holly Jolly" answer of the year.  I was so pleased I sent her this letter:

----- Original Message ----
From: Rick Archer
To: Kimberly Tavenner
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 11:13:32 AM
Subject: RE: Christmas Carol Puzzles

I have to congratulate you, Kimberly.  You are the first person to solve #103, the Holly Jolly Christmas Clue. Up till now, the original version had not been solved once so far this Christmas.  Glad to see the new clue gives people a fighting chance.  By the way, did you solve the original clue, the one with the crocodile, or the new one with the Jaws picture?   Either way, you did a great job.

-----Original Message-----
From: Kimberly Tavenner
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 6:52 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: Christmas Carol Puzzles

Thank you very much.  Actually I solved the one with the crocodile jaw and holly.  Once again, enjoyed the puzzle very much. Have a blessed new year!

I was impressed.  One human being had actually deciphered the impossible Clue #103.  Congratulations to Kimberly Tavenner, the only person in 2007to solve the impossible original Holly Jaw-ly Crocodile clue!

Meanwhile, I decided to rework the Holly Jolly clue.  I visited the Internet and found the promotional picture for the movie "Jaws".  I added a picture of some Holly and crossed my fingers.  

Soon I sighed with relief as the new clue seemed to do the trick.  I won't say the new version is an easy clue, but about 50% of the respondents did get the correct answer -  "
Holly Jolly Christmas". 

Over the years there have been many kind emails sent in. 
2007 was certainly no exception.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Kim Weber
Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2007 5:31 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle Answer Sheet

Thank you so much for the Answer Key. Your Christmas Carol Puzzle is GREAT! You are so creative on the pictures. There are some
pictures that would have taken me forever to figure out without your answer key. I can't wait to share this puzzle with my family and
friends over the Christmas holiday. I am going to make them work for the answers just as I did. I can't wait to see what pictures you come up with next year.

Thanks again, Kim Weber

-----Original Message-----
From: Mary Corriher
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 11:53 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas 41-120 answers

Please grade these answers for us!!! Actually, we are hoping to get at least 40 correct so you will send us the answers to the rest. The ones in red are the main ones we still question.

By the way, we waited with baited breath until the new one were released!

Thanks for your response. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Carol Ringvelski
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2007 4:59 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick,
Thank you for the delightful puzzles. But they are pretty difficult.  After two days of work, my wife and I hope we have at least 40 correct answers. We are going to cut and past and use these for our senior citizens Christmas Dinner Party. The group I founded and direct is called the PrimeTimers of St. James of Novi, MI.

We will just use about 20 on a page this year and do some others for next year, etc. Thanks again.

-----Original Message-----
From: nikki a
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2007 4:59 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: "SSQQ Christmas Puzzle"

first off let me congratulate you on being the first link when you search Christmas puzzle on Google i first saw your site when i was helping my mom look for a game to play to kick off the Christmas season and it brought back a load of memories i am 22 now and was in the first grade the first time my mom had us play the original at our classes holiday party and was glad to see you up date some of the older pictures were going to do your puzzle at our Christmas get together i think the answers im sending are right ive been racking my brain so here it goes.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jessie Hansen
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 12:08 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: christmas 41-120

Thank you so much! We had a blast with the game. It truly was fun trying to figure them out on my own. The best part was your hint that they were listed on the 225 song list - that helped a lot!  Thanks for all your hard work!

-----Original Message-----
From: Paula Newbeck
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 10:00 PM
To: Dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle Answers


Thanks for the amazing work you have done on this puzzle. I'm including all 120 answers and hope that I have most of them right. I'd like to use this for a Boy Scout Christmas Party but want to be sure of my answers first.

Thanks a million in advance!!

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Holmes
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 6:36 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: My attempt at answering the Christmas Song Puzzle

Hi Rick, First of all, thank you for all of your good work on this puzzle. 

I saw your original sheet of 24 songs more than 10 years ago and again just a couple of days ago.  When I searched the internet to see if answers were posted somewhere, I came across your webpage and was amazed by the evolution of this puzzle over the years.

I also thank you for the song list, because there is no way I could have answered as many questions as I did without a "cheat sheet" to go on.  Although my nickname is 'Sherlock', I feel some of your clues were a little too arcane for me. But I likely got more than half of the answers correct. If so, I would like to get your answer sheet so I can find out what I missed on the more difficult entries.

-----Original Message-----
From: Irene Buchholz
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 4:26 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: Christmas puzzle


We had a casual Friday today at our office and one of our ladies had brought in your original puzzle.  We figured it out and so then we went searching for some more and low and behold we found your updated one for 2007 and we also found the anecdotes,

They are really fun to work on but now I am stuck and need some help desperately.  We have our families working on them as well as our maintenance department and their families and are quickly realizing that we do not know as many carols as we thought we did.  I am hoping that we have enough answers to get some answers I will attach the scan of our answers and hope that it is enough.
Thanks again for making our casual Friday a day of laughs and giggles with how silly we can get doing a puzzle.

Thank you and Merry Christmas

-----Original Message-----
From: Kaci  Griffith
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 11:18 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Christmas Carol Puzzle

I have had this Christmas puzzle (the first 24) for a long time and I was excited to see there was more to it!!  Thank you for sending me the answers so quickly.  They came just in time to help me with my lesson plan.  I am a high school teacher and this is a great puzzle for the kids to do.  Thanks a million!! Merry Christmas to you!!

-----Original Message-----
From: Karola Wessler
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 2:16 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick,
Quite by accident I stumbled across your Christmas Carol Puzzles. What a delight. However the link I found went straight to the puzzle, not the direction page. So last night we sat here and tried to figure out the rest of the pictures. We figured out most of them (I think), but were stumped on the last few.

I was going to eMail you and ask if you would be so kind and supply the last few answers. But LUCKY Me I went snooping around your site and found the intro page for this puzzle. You ant 40 answers in trade of the answer list? Cool - you got em.

I am trying to work this game into our annual game playing we do every Christmas Eve to open our presents. Being German, Santa hits our house earlier than most American houses.  Although we do live in the Chicago area.  It's hard to find fresh games every year, but my now grown kids love doing them, so I am not about to stop providing them.  So your site has been a blessing this year. Thank you.

Here is what we figured out so far past #40. They may not all be right, but that remains to be seen when I get your answer sheet. I sure hope at least 40 or mine are right.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sue Ellen
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 9:36 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Hopefully I have at least 40 of these right. This was fun and a little more challenging than some of the other Christmas Puzzles I've done in the past. Thanks!  I'm looking forward to seeing how I did. Merry Christmas to you!

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff anderson
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 10:41 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I just happened on to your Christmas Puzzle page.  It is great.  We will be using 25 of the first 40 puzzles at a Christmas Party Luncheon for our RED HAT LADIES this next Saturday.  I think it will be so much fun.  I can hardly wait.

I have been working on solving the ones for 2007. It is certainly helpful to have the clue list. I would like to try to send you the ones we think we have solved and hope we have at least 40 correct so we can get the answers to all of them. Here goes:

-----Original Message-----
From: Doug Colby
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 4:13 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Well Rick you have an amazing website and 100's of fans in Utah. We played your games at four parties last year two company a gardening club and my sons tae kwon do party.  Really fun. 

 -----Original Message-----
From: Margaret Orleans
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 10:09 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Rick, I came across your Christmas Puzzle last week and have been using it with my 700 junior high English as a Foreign Language students in Japan.

To make it possible for them, I gave them the easier puzzle with only the 40 correct answers to choose from, in alphabetical order.

It turns out your puzzle is addictive.  Now my kids are asking for the harder puzzle!   So here are my answers to the extended puzzle.

Thank you for helping to keep my curious kids occupied and laughing during the Christmas Season!

-----Original Message-----
From: Kriste Bell
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2007 2:35 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle answers

Hi :) I have been working on this for most of the day with my high school special education students. We will be using it for part of our annual Christmas dinner that the students cook and create a Christmas dinner for their parents, administrators, and other teachers. My student assistant and I worked on this for quite awhile. I hope we did pretty well :)   We tried to get the whole thing, but some just stumped us. 

Hopefully we did a decent job! :) Thanks for all your hard work . . . I have worked with the originals that you spoke of in your anecdotal section and those early clues were very hard to see that is for sure! 

What a great idea to update the originals and add even more clues!  Your hard work is much appreciated!

-----Original Message-----
From: Allison Braud
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 4:12 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Need Answers for Christmas Puzzles!! Our guesses are attached!!

Hi Rick!   We are teachers of gifted students at Dutchtown Middle School in Louisiana, and our kids have been feverishly working on your Christmas puzzles all week! 

We helped them with the first 40 and told them that they had to come up with some "educated" guesses for numbers 41-120 by today so we could email you and request the answer key.  Your challenge was SO motivating!!

Well, we let them do it on their own, and the attached spreadsheet includes all the ones they were able to come up with. We hope you can send the answers before we leave for Christmas! Thanks again for the wonderfully creative activity - we really had some challenging fun!!

Allison Braud and Ronda Isaminger

-----Original Message-----
From: Allison Braud
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2007 7:35 AM
To: Archer, Rick
Subject: RE: Need Answers for Christmas Puzzles!! Our guesses are attached!!

Thank you SO much for sending the answer to 41-120!!  We had SO much fun with this (and I don't just mean the kids)!!

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2007 11:15 AM
To: Allison Braud
Subject: RE: Need Answers for Christmas Puzzles!! Our guesses are attached!!

And thank you so much. I assume that people are enjoying using the puzzle, but it is extra special to hear it from teachers like you.

When my daughter was young, I sent a copy of the Christmas puzzle to her fifth grade class at school. When her teacher told me how much fun the kids had, I knew this puzzle would be a treat for any school kids at Christmas time… and a boon to teachers looking for a way to keep their restless kids occupied until the Christmas Break!


Anyone who has read some of the Anecdotes knows by now that I can be touchy about people asking for the answers without bothering to work the puzzle.  I have put so much work into the puzzle that I feel it is fair to ask the visitors to do a little work of their own in return for the answer sheet. 

As always, in 2007, there were again a few people who emailed asking for the answers without bothering to work any of the clues.  This is an ancient problem that I have encountered every year.  It amazes me that people take the trouble to find my email address only to COMPLETELY IGNORE the message beside it.   Here is what the message said in 2007.

THE ANSWERS  (December 2007)

I will be happy to share the entire answer sheet on one condition: Please be aware I only supply the answer sheet if you first come up with 40 correct answers on your own (from clues 41-120).  

should put in some effort of your own before asking for the answers! 

When you get 40 right (from 41-120), send me the answers and I will happily send you the rest.
Santa will be so very proud of you

Send your answers to Rick Archer at dance@ssqq.com

However over the years I have softened a bit.  As I said earlier, at the start of 2007, I realized the Puzzle had grown too large.  If someone came upon my Puzzle at the last minute, they would be hard pressed to find sixty answers out of 120 clues (some people write me they spend hours on this puzzle). 

So in 2007, as a compromise I decided to split my puzzle into two parts: Part One listed the answers to the first 40 Clues.  Naming it the
Top 40 Answer Sheet, this innovation allowed people to acquire the answers to the first 40 clues with one click of the mouse.  This meant there was no work required to get the answers, but I didn't mind.  I published the 40 answers to Part One for the specific reason that people who were in a hurry could still use the first part of the puzzle at the last-minute for a party or high school lesson plan. 

I thought it was a pretty good idea.  Imagine how pleased I was to see my "compromise" had worked.

 -----Original Message-----
From: Brian Huelskamp
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 3:58 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle Answers

Hello Rick. I have to say I am a big fan of your growing picture puzzle. I gave this puzzle to my high school students this year and it was a big hit.  Since they only had an hour, it was easier just to give them your shortened puzzle. 

They really wanted to know the answers though, and I did get the first 40 answers from your website.


On my own I tried my best on the others so hopefully I am close to get the rest of the answers to share with my students next year. Plus I have included some of your logic puzzles are good extra credit questions as fillers on a test.

Thanks for your time and have a great holidays. BH


-----Original Message-----
From: Michelle Benjaman
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 8:25 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Good Morning,
Can you please send the answer 41 - 110. I am using the puzzle as a contest here at work tomorrow and we are giving away prizes to those who get the puzzles correct. Our employees really enjoy this.  MB

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 3:32 PM
Michelle Benjaman
Subject: RE:
SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

I prefer that you send me 40 correct answers in return for the Answer Sheet.  However, if you are in a hurry, try using the Original 40 Clues and the reduced Clue List.  You will find the answers have already been listed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Michelle Benjaman
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 5:25 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

That's a good idea.  I will sit down when I have a moment and try to get those other answers to you, but for the time being using the first forty clues will work fine.  Now that I think of it, the smaller puzzle should fit our time slot even better plus the employees are more familiar with these titles.  Thanks. MB

However not everyone is as polite as Michelle above. I never ceased to be amazed at some of the letters I get.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jerry M
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 8:28 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas answers please?

Hi... I love your quiz!  I'm sending it to my son who is in prison.  Would you be willing to share all of the answers so I can print and send it to him ? Thanks so much! 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2007 10:32 AM
Jerry M
Subject: RE:
christmas answers please?

I prefer that you send me 40 correct answers in return for the Answer Sheet.  However, if you are in a hurry, try using the Original 40 Clues and the reduced Clue List.  You will find the answers have already been listed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jerry M
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 8:28 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: christmas answers please?

I tried being polite the first time, but now I will let you know I think youre a jerk.  The kid's in prision and you cant even be bothered to send some G-D answers?  you know where you can pt your stupid puzzle.

Talk about a 180 degree change in direction!   I considered sending the answers to Jerry M the first time.  And in the past I would have sent them even though I had no way of knowing whether her son was really in prison or not.  However this year I had the option of suggesting Jerry M use the abbreviated Top 40 puzzle which had the answers included.  Obviously she didn't appreciate my solution.

There was another interesting email exchange as well.  On December 13, 2007, one lady with the interesting email name Red Hot Sports Girl decided she had found a clever way around the "40 answers" problem:  Red Hot sent me my own list of answers from the Top 40.  Imagine my surprise!  I never anticipated that someone would regurgitate my own answers to me as proof they had solved 40 clues!

Here is Red Hot's first email to me:

-----Original Message-----
From: redhotsportsgirl
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 8:42 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: answers to christmas puzzle


Well, isn't that interesting - Red Hot used the same font and abbreviations as I did.  In other words, Red Hot simply cut and pasted my entire answer sheet, then turned around and mailed it to me as evidence that she had solved 40 clues. 

Frankly, I was insulted.  What sort of moron did this woman think I was?   She managed to find my email address without any problem.  How did she manage to overlook the part that said the 40 answers had to come from clues 41-120? 

However, I didn't see any point in chewing her out.  Why bother?  Noting that Red Hot is a girl who loves brevity, here is what I responded:

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 3:45 PM
To: redhotsportsgirl
Subject: RE: answers to christmas puzzle

Great job.

I fully expected I would hear back from her and I was right.

-----Original Message-----
From: redhotsportsgirl
Sent: Friday, December 14, 2007 9:05 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: answers to christmas puzzle

I thought i was going to get the answers to 41-120 that is what it saws on the website.

No, that isn't what it 'saws' on the web site.  I responded by pasting the rules listed above that specifically state I need 40 correct answers from 41-120.  And here is what Red Hot responded.

-----Original Message-----
From: redhotsportsgirl
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2007 7:01 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: answers to christmas puzzle

ok nevr mind this is retarded

Don't I get the most interesting letters?  

Fortunately I get other letters that completely agree with my position that people should put in a little work in order to get the answers.  Here is a perfect example. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Brenda McBeth
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 11:21 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Rick,  Hello, and Happy Holidays to you.

A few teachers here at our building have been trying to figure out ALL of the Christmas Song Puzzles.  We had different answers for several of them, and a couple of them we didn't get at all. I think we have figured out a couple more since I typed this.  Let us know if Santa is Happy with us.

Please send the Correct answers for them in return.

This is a wonderful puzzle, and if anyone would want the answers before trying, SHAME on them!   That takes all of the fun out of it! 

Even though we knew you showed the first 40 correct answers, my fellow teachers and I did not even look at them until the other day AFTER we solved them.

Thanks and Have a Safe and Happy Holiday.

And with that note, I will conclude the stories from 2007 for now.

Let me part by saying I am very grateful to all of you who have played my Christmas Carol Puzzle Game over the years.  Your interest makes me proud to make this contribution.  Thank you very much.  

I hope you have a great time solving the 2007 puzzle.  By all means, please share it with your friends!

Rick Archer

The Great 2008 Answer Rant

2008 was an off year for me.  This was the year that I suffered from a thyroid disease known as Graves Disease.  My body alternated between hyperactivity and complete exhaustion.  I was unaware that the disease affected me emotionally as well, but I was without a doubt a very grouchy boy for most of 2008.

Making matters worse, my mother was in the hospital at Christmas time.  It was obvious she wasn't coming home.  I wasn't in a very good mood.

I still published the Puzzle at Christmas time, but my heart wasn't it in.  I decided the puzzle was strong enough to amuse people without any additions.  Sure enough, the puzzle made it through the Holidays as the top Internet Christmas puzzle for the second year in a row. 

The only problem of note came from the unbelievable number of requests for the answers from people who refused to play the game.

Below is a letter I sent out to a dozen people one December afternoon in 2008.  All 12 people had something in common - every one of them emailed me to ask for the Answer Sheet to the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle, but not one of them had bothered to include any answers.  If you have read this far, you already have a pretty good idea their request aggravated me no end.  Here is what I had to say to the 12 people. 

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 2:31 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: people who ask for the answers without doing any work

Hello, my name is Rick Archer.

I am the guy who took 24 clues from an original Christmas puzzle and expanded the puzzle to its current status of 120 clues.

Each year at Christmas time I post these clues because they make a lot of people happy.

For example, teachers love the puzzle because it gives their students a neat thing to do and actually works their young brains a little at a time when daydreaming would be easier.  Church people love the puzzle because it is spiritual as well as just plain fun.  Family Get-Togethers love the puzzle because it provides a way for teasing each other and seeing who can guess each clue first.  Even Office Parties love the puzzle.  It gives employees something fun to do when they should be working instead.  In addition to all these groups, many people work the puzzle alone in their house just for the sheer fun of it.

Did you know I receive 500 requests for the answers every Christmas Season?  My guess is this total is the tip of the iceberg.  I imagine many people couldn't be troubled to write down all the answers in an email to me just to find out the name of the two or three clues they couldn't figure out.

I am not going to begin to explain how much time was involved in putting this puzzle together.  Nor am I going to explain how much time it takes to email the answers to ten/fifteen/twenty people a day for a month plus answer their questions.  Nor do I make any money for my time and effort.

I put out the Christmas Carol Puzzle for one single reason:  It makes me happy to contribute something nice to the Christmas spirit.

However, one thing that has bothered me now for ten years is the amazing number of people who constantly ignore my requests to submit half the answers in return for all the answers.

When I solve a logic puzzle, I look for the answers when I am done. When I solve a crossword puzzle, I look for the answers when I am done. But not the people who visit my puzzle page - they seem to think I owe them the answers for some reason or another just because they ask. 

I suspect that
many people see my puzzle as an excellent way to amuse their children-students-fellow church members-fellow employees-relatives-etc, but do not wish to invest any of their own valuable time to meet my request.

I know people are busy. I am busy too.  Still, no matter how busy people are, it makes me angry that people couldn't care less to work my puzzle.

To me, this is a pure example of people wanting something for nothing.

So I have a favor to ask.  Would you mind explaining how do so many people visit my Christmas Puzzle and manage to completely ignore my request for 50% answers? 


After I sent out this email, I was still upset.  Obviously my frustration was intensified by my unknown thyroid problem.  But even when I have my health, it bothers me that people show so little respect.  In 2008, I guess what bothered me the most was that I had actually tried to help out the busy people, but obviously my extra effort had not accomplished a thing.

The previous year, I went out of my way to create a compromise known as "The Top Forty".  I decided it was true that during the Christmas Season, people really do get pretty overwhelmed with responsibilities.  Maybe they don't have a spare hour to come up with 40 correct answers.  So in 2007 - last year - I came up with a good idea that might help out people who were in a hurry.  I decided to create a shorter puzzle and list the answers as well.  That way, anyone who was too busy to work my puzzle would not go away empty-handed.  With this in mind, I posted a year-round Top Forty page complete with 40 clues and 40 answers.  That's right - I posted the 40 answers right on my web site for anyone to see.  I even added a reduced Clue List of 100 Clues to be used as part of the Top Forty Puzzle.

I figured that if someone was too busy to work my puzzle, then they could simply use Top Forty Puzzle (40 clues and 40 answers) as a backup option. That would solve everyone's problem, now wouldn't it?

I was very proud of myself.  I had created a thoughtful compromise for the people who could care less about solving my puzzle.

So, after doing all this work to create a shorter puzzle complete with answers, imagine my chagrin when I realized my good idea was worthless.  

Just one year later in
2008, 45% of the people who had contacted me so far have asked for the answer sheet without bothering to supply any answers.

Forty-five percent.  9 people in 20 did not have enough respect for me to bother working the puzzle.  I was very upset.

In fact, I was so upset I decided to take the time to write a letter to twelve different people who had asked for the answer sheet without bothering to offer any answers of their own.  I asked them in a nice way why they hadn't sent me any answers.  Maybe there was a reason I didn't know about. 

Of the 12 people I wrote to, here are the 8 replies to the letter above.

bullet"At Alba Middle School we are desperately trying to find the answers to your Christmas puzzles 41-60 before the students go home for the holidays. Please help!"
bullet"I would still like the answers to the riddles"
bullet"Can you please send me the answers to the next set of questions - have worked my way through the top forty. Thanks"
bullet"I was wondering if you could please send the answers for the additional pictures. I know I haven't provided the answers, but I'm
hosting an entire Sunday School event this weekend and would like to show some of these as an overhead. Thanks."
bullet"PLEASE may I have the answers? My students are going to kill me if I don't have them!!!!"
bullet"Could I get the remaining answers on your cute song puzzle sheet?"
bullet"I was wondering if I could get the complete answer sheet for your Christmas Puzzle game....thanks for the help, what a fun game!"

I was totally flabbergasted.  I had asked a direct question.  "Would you mind explaining how do so many people visit my Christmas Puzzle and manage to completely ignore my request for 50% answers?"  

What kind of answers were these? 

My favorite answer came from Pat, a mathematics high school teacher in Virginia. Here is a replay of our correspondence.

From: Pat
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 10:13 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: answers to song puzzle 5 please

here's what we think we got, please send the rest before we go crazy...
42. The Holly and The Ivy
43. Christmas in Dixie
45. Christmas for Cowboys
46. All Through The Night
47. Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
50. Do You Hear What I Hear

Rick Archer's Reply
12/15/2008 4:47 PM

The answers to the first 40 clues are already listed on the Web Site.

From: Pat
Sent: Monday, December 15, 2008 12:17 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: answers to song puzzle 5 please

But may I please be exempt from the through 120 rule. I'm a public high school teacher who wants to use #1-50 as a last day before Christmas break fun assignments. No way do I have time to do everything I need to do to have these teenagers ready to leave me for 2 weeks AND try to answer puzzles 41-120!

Have some Christmas spirit for a tired teacher!!

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: I did not reply to Pat's request. I figured my two-page email to her that same morning had explained how I felt. I figured if anyone understood my position on this issue, she would. So imagine my surprise when I received this request on Friday morning.

-----Original Message-----
From: Pat
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 12:51 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: answers to song puzzle 5 please

So I assume, from your lack of reply, that I'm not getting the answers to puzzle 5 #41-50?


RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  Now doesn't Pat's answer take the cake?  

I was overwhelmed with the irony of it all.  I had just asked twelve people to answer why they didn't bother to supply answers.  And I gotten eight of the worst answers imaginable.

I had learned my lesson.  Why bother asking people for answers who don't answer in the first place?

Ordinarily, I would had ignored Pat's email request. After all, what part of 'NO!' didn't Pat understand?  

But this day was special because this was the day my mother died.  And since it was special, in honor of my mother, I decided to send the entire answer sheet to every one of the dozen people who were too damn busy to honor my request for answers or give me a straight reply to my question. 


This was yet another Christmas filled with sadness.  My daughter in law had a problem pregnancy that was so serious she not only lost her child, she almost lost her own life as well.  In addition, I was going through some personal grief knowing this would be my final year running my beloved dance studio SSQQ. 

Now that I had reached age 60 and the lease on my business was down to its final four months, I had decided to sell the business.  I still wanted to teach dance, but I no longer wanted to run a dance studio.  That said, it was tough to say goodbye to an old friend.

For the second year in a row, my heart simply wasn't into the Christmas Puzzle.  I continued to send out the answers and I replied to all personal messages, but I stayed away from adding more riddles and stories. 


Now that the dance studio was sold, in 2010 I had not only some free time, but health and peace of mind as well.  I added ten new riddles to expand the puzzle to 130. 

And now here are a few of the kind letters I received during the 2010 Holidays.

From: Jennifer T
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 1:30 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzles

Mr. Archer,

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 out ourselves. 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 Pinconning MI).

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing these with us!  Jennifer

From: Tammy S
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 1:34 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: RE: Story written by Rick Archer 1999-2010

Mr Archer,

I would like to take the time to thank you for all the work you put in your anecdotes just to fill us all in on how this whole thing got started. I could imagine the endless hours you spent on that alone, not to mention the work put into the Christmas Song Puzzles. I was looking for an activity for my job as well when I came across your link. It is most definitely the best there is to offer. I didn't even get to the puzzles until after I read your history. I was amazed from 1999 all the way through 2010 I couldn't stop reading it.

I was so surprised by the audacity some people have.  I too work in a place where people email, call IM, expecting something for nothing. I must say I was very sad when I came to the end of your anecdotes.

I am sorry about the losses you have experienced and hoping your health is better. Thank you for the Bio. Alone it was just amazing, and to think this was just a smaller part of your life that you did out of kindness for all to enjoy. You are an amazing individual. You had every right to be angry and emotional at times. You make me sit back and ponder about some things that I never though about before. Thank you again.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. May the New year be filled with love, health and peace!   Tammy


From: Sue
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 4:59 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Rebus Answers

Dear Rick,

First let me say how much fun I have had with your puzzles. I have used the short version with my Girl Scout troop and have taken it to work to mess with their minds there. Needless to say, not much work got done today. We are having a party with other departments in a few days, and thought I'd like to stump them with the longer version.  Here are what I hope are 45 correct answers for the long version of the puzzle.

Thanks for all your hard work!

Sue in Hershey, PA


From: Sharon W
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 7:40 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Thanks so much for coming up with so many more riddles...fun, fun fun

And for posting them for free. Will be using them at a family function.

I hope I got enough of these right to get the rest, I am not really great at them.

Merry Christmas, and thanks again



From: Davida
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 11:10 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzle Answers - Extended

These are hard!! Please help!!

(Rick Archer's Note:  What was funny about this lady is that when I checked her answers, I found she got a near-perfect score.  She wasn't even remotely as "helpless" as her note suggested.)

-----Original Message-----
From: David G
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 5:14 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Puzzle

Thanks for creating and continuing to support the Christmas Puzzle. I first discovered it three years ago and it has been an annual favorite ever since. This year, when I printed out the puzzle, I did put your name on each page with a "thanks".

One of these days I will consolidate my answers and request the official answer sheet.

Thanks again and have a very Merry Christmas!


From: Deborah
Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 11:44 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Carol Puzzle - Thank you Thank you!!


Awesome job - thank you so much!

I do these types of puzzles every year at my work Christmas party - which is TOMORROW - and they are such a big hit!

Thank you so much for putting this together.  I'm dying to know some of the answers.

Here is what I have so far - I know they are not all correct!

Deb from Maryland


From: Peggie D
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:24 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas Answers!

I absolutely love brain teasers like these, Rick!  Thanks for putting them online! 

Thank you for taking the time to do this and put it out there for everyone to enjoy.

I spent an entire day solving these riddles and now my poor face is sore from grinning the entire time!  


-----Original Message-----
From: Texas Rose
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 9:35 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com; dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas Answers to 41-130

Hi,  I am an Instructional assistant at Lord High School which is a youth correctional facility. I really don't have time to do find the answers myself but the boys love to do it. They become very disappointed if I am unable to tell them if they are correct.

I would appreciate it if you could send me the answers so that I can give them the rest of the puzzle.  Please send it to my work e-mail which is xxxx.  Thanks, Gladys

(Rick Archer's Note:  As usual, in 2010 I had dozens of requests for the answer sheet from people who didn't bother sending in any correct answers.  I estimate one letter in four was in this category. 

The letter above was just one of many similar letters.  In the case of Gladys, all she had to do was let the boys figure work the puzzle, then send me their answers.  But no, it was easier to disregard my stated wishes and simply try to guilt me into giving the answers.)

From: Deborah
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 7:45 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Confusing Christmas Carols -

Hi Rick,

I recently found your website while looking for "Confusing Christmas Carols".

I have a different version of your 'original puzzle'. I got mine back in 96 -97 when a co-worker brought hers in to work. She didn't know exactly how she had come to acquire her copy. I assumed it had come from a book because on the first page there is a page number at the bottom, and the top right corner says STARTERS. The second page looks like the page number could have been cut off, but the top says THE PLAYBOOK, like it came from a party games book. In assuming that it had come from a book, I have on different occasions gone to book stores in hopes of finding this 'party games book' and back in 05' did an internet search and came across the santalady website which isn't exactly the same thing. Hadn't given it much thought since then, but last week I was in Borders and thought I'd give it another shot... No luck. But today, I found your website!

I don't know whose version was first, but my copy reminds me a bit of a holiday activity book I had received back in the 70's. If I remember correctly, the book was like a coloring book with activities, crafts, and trivia, all pertaining to Christmas.

Attached you'll find my version. Let me know what you think.


(Rick Archer's Note:  Deborah sent me two fascinating pages.  If you have enjoyed reading these anecdotes, you really should go check out the pictures she sent.  Confusing Christmas Carols)

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul F
Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2010 4:08 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Dear Rick:

Thank you very much for your efforts in creating fun for many, many people.

About 10 years ago I received a copy of your original puzzle and shared that with my staff. We had a great deal of fun at our Christmas party working on it. At different points in the past 10 years I have re-introduced it to new staff.

Our organization works with people with developmental disabilities and something like this has added to the fun we try to have with our work.
I was delighted to come across this website and discover that you have created many more song pictures. I'm really looking forward to springing this on our staff this year.

Here are the answers that I think I have come up with. I am very interested in all the answers. Hopefully I got 50 right.
Thanks again!

Paul F
Edmonton, Canada


-----Original Message-----
From: Tom
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:50 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Thanks!

Thanks so much for your puzzle!

Each year we have a small Christmas gathering with lots of people of various age groups, etc. I am always in charge of bringing some puzzles and playing guitar for our carol singing.

I have a few different puzzles to share this year, but really looking forward to sharing the top 40!

Next year, we will take some time and print out the whole puzzle, looking forward to that.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for sharing! I was so happy to stumble upon your website, next year I'll be sure to read
more of the background, and get started a bit earlier (the party is this Saturday)

All the best, Tom D
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada


From: Catherine
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 11:00 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

RickHere are my answers from Canada on a rainy day in December...


(Rick Archer's Note:  One of these days I need to figure out why this puzzle is so popular in Canada!!)

2010 Summary

During the first part of the 2010 Christmas Season, my wife and I took a two week cruise from Barcelona to Egypt.  We were the dance teachers aboard the ship. 

Believe it or not, just off the coast of Egypt during a violent storm featuring near-hurricane level winds, our massive cruise ship nearly capsized!  

Several people were badly injured.  In addition, we were all scared out of our wits!   Sadly, as the ship rocked back and forth, the ship sustained several hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage as practically everything that wasn't tied down came crashing to the floor. 

Not only did many things such as a very expensive chandelier break, heavy objects like treadmills and statues were tossed around and shattered the expensive glass windows.  It was quite a fiasco!

I think next Christmas I will stick closer to home and spend my holidays answering Christmas Puzzle letters.  Much safer!

Thanks for reading,
Rick Archer
December 2010

This picture was taken just moments after the cruise ship nearly capsized.

That Christmas tree stood 20 feet tall until it collapsed.   That dirt on the floor was from a pot that fell to the floor as the ship tilted and was smashed to bits.

The damage was even worse higher up, but I was not allowed to photograph those areas.


2011 - Who Created Our Christmas Puzzle??

I have been searching for the "Author" of this puzzle now for a long time.  Like the search for Extraterrestrial Life, for the past 12 years I have asked anyone who visits my puzzle to share any knowledge they might have regarding the origin of my puzzle.

Although I never bothered to keep close tabs, I have received several replies that suggest the Christmas Puzzle might go all the way back to the Seventies.  Here is one example:

From: Deborah
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Confusing Christmas Carols -

Hi Rick, I recently found your website while looking for "Confusing Christmas Carols".  I have a different version of your 'original puzzle'.  I got mine back in 1996 - 1997 when a co-worker brought the copy below in to work. 

She didn't know how she had come to acquire her copy. 
I assumed it had come from a book.  On the first page there is a page number at the bottom, and the top right corner says STARTERS.  The second page looks like the page number could have been cut off, but the top says THE PLAYBOOKas if it came from a party games book.  

Assuming that it had come from a book, I have on different occasions gone to book stores in hopes of finding this 'party games book'.  Back in 2005 I did an internet search and came across the santalady website which isn't exactly the same thing.  Hadn't given it much thought since then, but last week I was in Borders and thought I'd give it another shot...  No luck.   But today, I found your website! 

I don't know whose version was first, but my copy reminds me a bit of a holiday activity book I had received back in the 70's

If I remember correctly, the book was like a coloring book with activities, crafts, and trivia, all pertaining to Christmas.  Attached you'll find my version.  Let me know what you think!    Deborah

Confusing Christmas Carols Page One

Confusing Christmas Carols Page Two

Rick Archer's Note: Although all the puzzle clues have been redrawn, it is fairly that the Confusing Christmas Carols shares a bond with the "Original Puzzle" since the clues are so similar.  The only question is whether this commercial version copied the Original Puzzle or did the Original Puzzle copy it. 

Shortly after I received Confusing Christmas Carols, I received another commercial version from Mickey Weitsen.

From: Mickey Weitsen
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2011 7:26 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: 2011 - happy new year and puzzle thanx

We played the christmas riddle puzzle with friends and family after christmas dinner (while all the dinner was settling to give us room for dessert!!)

What a lot of fun! I am attaching a copy of the "antique" puzzle page we used --- we all liked their Chestnuts Roasting picture!  What a hoot!! 

Thanks for the happy times!  I'll check back next November to take a look at the BIG puzzle... Good Health-- Mickey

Rick Archer's Reply:

How interesting, Mickey Your puzzle has clues that are slightly different versions of what I call the “Original Puzzle”, except the artwork is so close you have to assume that one of these puzzles copied the other.  

Since the artwork in YOUR VERSION is superior, I assume yours is the “copy”.  What I mean is, why would anyone go to the trouble of making a mediocre copy? 

So I assume that someone took a look at the original version and said, “Gee, I can do better than that.”   And yes, they did!

I agree…. The chestnuts is pretty funny!  Thank you very much for sharing!

Rick Archer's Note:
  Like the
Confusing Christmas Carols above, the clues in Mickey Weitsen's commercial version of the Original Puzzle have all been redrawn.  Nevertheless, the sentiment continues to be the same.  For example, #3 "What Child is This?" is an obvious copy of the Original Puzzle.

Again, the only question is which came first... our "Original Puzzle" or this commercial variation?

From: Tiff Keetch
Sent: Monday, September 10, 2012 1:47 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Another Christmas Carol Version


I was sorting through my "old junk pile" which isn't on a desk, but filed away... and I came across this version of your Christmas Carol Game.

I remember playing it at a Christmas party before my dad passed away (and that was in 1999, so I know this version is at least 14 years old.)

But it doesn't have any credit at all. In fact, it was copied with the top corner cut off. I wondered if there was a straightened copy available online, and in my search I found your website and hilarious stories of your adventures in sharing your version.

Anyway, I will definitely have to bookmark your site to see if I can figure out the multitude of new songs at a later date.

I just wanted to send this copy on to you to add to your continuing mystery story of the origin. If you ever find out, let me know!!

I think I'll post this version on my blog closer to Christmas time and I would love to credit the artist!

thanks for your creativity,


2011 - Lahlete Pearson, a potential Creator of the Puzzle, steps forward

I did not believe that Tiffany's version, Mickey's version or Deborah's version was the "Original".  To me, they all smacked of attempts at redrawing clues for commercial purposes.  The clues themselves had little originality.  All three seemed like imitations of the real thing.

A couple days before Christmas in 2011, I received the following email.

From: Lahlete Pearson
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

This morning, I attended my grandson's Christmas Program in Brandon,

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. I 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.

On the sheet that you are calling the "Original Puzzle," several of my original puzzles have been left off and several have been added.

The original puzzle was done by me, Lahlete Pearson in Belzoni, Mississippi 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.

This is the work of Lahlete Pearson, Belzoni, Mississippi, early Eighties

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 6:18 PM
To: 'Lahlete Pearson'
Subject: RE: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

Wow! You are the one who started the puzzle? If so, I have been looking for you for years!

When do you think you drew up the original puzzle clues? 1985?

What gave you the idea?  Your clues were pretty wonderful.

Very clever… you had some ingenious ways of expressing the carols… holy Knight, old faithful geyser, etc.

Were you aware your clues were being distributed across the country via fax machines?

Rick Archer

From: Lahlete Pearson
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 7:39 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

Wow! Is right…I am amazed that my puzzle has gone so far and wide….and that so many new puzzles have been added to it. It was only intended for that first little party, but, as I said, I'm thrilled that so many have enjoyed it. The only thing I see that bothers me, and it REALLY bothers me, is that someone has changed my word "Christmas" to X-mas. I can't begin to tell you how offended I am to see anyone substitute an "X" for my Lord and Savior. How can anyone want to celebrate an "X-mas"?


As 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. At 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. I would love to see the whole, big puzzle and the answers. Can you tell me where to find them on the internet?  

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 5:41 AM
To: 'Lahlete Pearson'
Subject: RE: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

1. Out of respect for your religious convictions, Lahlete, I have made one immediate change.

I took the "XMAS" in the "Dreaming of a White Christmas" and replaced it with "Christmas" in accordance with your wishes. Now that you have pointed it out to me, I completely agree.  I will making further changes in the days to come and will continue to respect your sentiment.

2. I assume you don't mind that I "borrowed" your work. I had no idea who to credit. You have my word that I have never once told the world that I was the author of the "Original Puzzle". You can read my own story here:  Christmas Puzzle Anecdotes

3. I really like your theory that your Christmas Cards spread the puzzle far and wide. That makes a lot of sense. Someone receiving one your cards might have passed them out at the office. Maybe someone took it from there and expanded on some of your original artwork.

4. I am still a little confused. You said you may have created some of the clues in 1957. Then you mentioned again that you may have done more work sometime around 1980 - 1985. Please clarify.

Anything else you can remember would be appreciated. I am very interested in where you got your ideas on how to express the Carol names through picture puzzles. That was extremely creative on your part.

5. At some point, I will write a story about your pioneering effort and add it to the website. So add as many details as you wish.

Thank you for sharing,
Rick Archer


From: Lahlete Pearson
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 10:39 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

Dear Rick, Thank you so much for "Xmas" clues in your puzzles. I'm really not a religious nut, but I firmly believe that we teach by example, even when we do not realize that others are watching us. And I believe that if our country does not return to God soon, we are doomed to destroy ourselves.

About your confusion on the dates. I told you that I sent the Christmas Carol Puzzle to my classmates in the Class of 1957. That's how old we are, not when I sent the puzzle. I asked other church friends today and they agreed that the first puzzle was used between 1980 and 1985. We arrived at this by remembering the preacher who was here at the time, and then checking to see when he served our church.

If your will share your fax number with me, I will send you a copy of my original puzzle. There are 4 or 5 clues that I don't see on any of your later copies.

I, personally, think that my original "OH" Christmas Tree is a much better hint that the "O", which can be misconstrued as an apple, or other fruit. And I think the original clue with the head of lettuce and the snow flakes (x3) is a much better idea for "Let it Snow". Just try saying "lettuce snow" 3 times , quickly, and you will understand why I say this.

I am a retired elementary school teacher, which should explain to you why I chose to make the clues so "elementary". Also remember that this was done before the advent of Clip Art and internet.

I will NOT be sending you the solutions for the original puzzles, so you won't be tempted to peep. However, you may have the answers any time by just asking. I'm betting you won't have any trouble solving them. You seem to be an avid "puzzler" and, as such, will find these quite simple.

Let me know the fax # soon, and again thanks for respecting my wishes.


From: Lahlete Pearson
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2012 4:58 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle

Hope you have gotten the fax.

Sorry to be so late. Family, Christmas and end of year bookkeeping for 5 farm accounts takes all the time I can find. Mitchell and I are catfish farmers in Belzoni, Ms, the catfish capital of the world. It is a very interesting occupation. More later if you are interested.

In thinking back to the original puzzle….I have always been a "word" person and enjoy word games and puzzles. I made great use of the "rebus" in my teaching of reading at the elementary level. I remember a book titled, "C D B!" by William Steig. I used it with parents groups to remind them of how hard it can be to learn to read. Steig's use of simple illustrations may have been the impetus of the original puzzle.

Having been reminded of this delightful book, I have just ordered from Amazon , for my grands, both "C D B!" and C S C?" by Steig. They are great fun. You would enjoy them.

Enough rambling! Let me hear from you about the fax.  Hope you have a healthy, happy and prosperous 2012!


click here to see a larger version


2011 - A Mystery Develops

Oddly enough, just one day after Ms. Pearson sent me her letter announcing that she was indeed the person who created our Original Christmas Puzzle, another person stepped forward to make the identical claim. 

Letter One From: mystery person
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:04 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: christmas puzzle

Hello, I came across your website while looking for these puzzles. Oddly enough, My cooperating teacher and I created these puzzles in 1985 and could not find my original this year. Every year I laugh when a much younger teacher shows these carols to their class. Thank you for fixing the artwork they look much better now. I am excited to try the long version. Have a great Christmas and please continue to do the great job you have done with these. I do not want " the credit".

just wanted to let you know.

At the time, I was fit to be tied.  Since 1999, I had posted on the Internet that I would love to know who created the puzzle.  Not once had anyone ever stepped forward to claim authorship.  Not once.  1999... 2000... 2001... 2002... 2003... 2004... 2005... 2006... 2007... 2008... 2009... 2010...

2011.  Twelve years had passed without one person stepping forward.

Then out of nowhere, on December 20, 2011, Lahlete Pearson steps forward to claim authorship.  Wonderful.

Then out of nowhere, on December 21, 2011, another person steps forward to make the identical claim... but doesn't offer their name. 

Good grief.

So what am I supposed to do?  I did the only thing I could do - I responded to the anonymous person.

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 9:46 AM
To: fmy@aol.com
Subject: RE: christmas puzzle

Thank you for your very curious letter.  Judging by your kind compliments, you are a fan of the puzzle as well. In fact, you may be more of the "creator of the puzzle" than you let on.

I have a couple of questions for you, but first I want you to know I can be discrete.

My role in asking you these questions is to help cast more light on the origins of the puzzle that has become a worldwide hit.

Perhaps if I promise to keep your identity secret, you will share some of the background.

By coincidence, another person stepped forward one day before your email to say she created the puzzle. This woman said she did the work in 1985. You said that you and your cooperating teacher created these puzzles in 1985.

I don't think your letter is any coincidence at all.  I am guessing that your "cooperating teacher" was Lahlete Pearson of Belzoni, Mississippi, the woman who wrote me to explain her role in the creation of the puzzle. 

I will make you three promises.

1) If you tell me to keep a secret, I will keep a secret.

2) What I can do is tell your side of the story using your information and call it "speculation". In other words, if you modified some of the pictures, I can "speculate" that someone from the church or a former classmate must have changed the pictures a little. Ms. Pearson will assume I am just making some educated guesses.

3) I can continue to share correspondence with you and not tell Ms. Pearson. I assume you don't want her to know for some reason, so I will respect your privacy. You don't even have to tell me your name if you prefer.

Using "speculation", I can share your side of the story without ever revealing to Ms. Pearson that you and I are in contact. I just want to know more about the puzzle.  I have no desire to create controversy.

So I invite you to share more of the story!

Rick Archer

Letter Two From: mystery person
Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 8:43 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: christmas puzzle

Hi again!

Actually, I live in Long Island NY and my cooperating teacher was a man.

I have lost contact with him and am not so sure that he would want his name on the internet for this.

2 of the drawings (12 and 18) are different from the original but for the life of me I can not remember what we had in place of those. If I think of it I will let you know.

Again Have a great Christmas.

Letter Three From: mystery person
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2011 7:06 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: christmas puzzle

Hello again.
I last night I remembered 12 and 18
12 was little drummer boy with a little boy sitting on top of the drum playing

18 was All I want for christmas but it was a person with a big smile no front teeth and holding a long list

Letter Four From: mystery person
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2011 7:29 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: christmas puzzle

Im sorry Rick It was # 8 not 12- and looking at it again I did not have Grandma fot run over either we had Joy to the world
Gift box

Letter Five From: mystery person
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2011 11:45 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: christmas puzzle

ok here I go again..... lol

One of my students came to me today and asked me to guess the carols. Imagine my happiness when I saw my original sheet. She said that one of her teachers gave it to her.

I have attached the copy for you.

I also was mistaken with the year this was made. You see, I started my teaching career in Sept 1985 which means that my student teaching was in 1984

Thanks again

Copy of the Original Christmas Puzzle sent to me by the Mystery Person

2011 continued - The Plot Thickens

I had always wondered if someone would come across my web site and take the time to share more information about the true origin of the Christmas Puzzle. 

Like the fruitless search for life on other planets, for 13 years I remained disappointed that not one person had ever offered me even a single hint as to its origin.  

Now suddenly I had two people claiming authorship in two consecutive days.  That was a very strange coincidence.

Two days later, I received another interesting letter.

From: Ann
Sent: Saturday, December 24, 2011 12:49 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Original Christmas Puzzle

Hello Mr. Archer,

Just a quick note to tell you that I came across your sight as I was looking for the Christmas Carol Puzzle that I passed out to my students this week but forgot to bring a copy home for my family to enjoy.

I have been sharing with my students the original (carbon copy!) Christmas carol puzzle since 1978.

I have no idea where I got it but I have had it in a file for at least 33 years now. (I did not know there was an updated version.)

As I grow a tad bit older each year and my student's parents seem to be younger and younger, I wonder if the students will even know half the songs on the (original) puzzle, but to my amazement they do... even I Saw Three Ships.

I will research as to where I got the original puzzle and let you know if I find anything.

Please note: Twenty-five years teaching in a Catholic diocese has aged me but I don't believe I am as old as that original puzzle.

Thank you for your awesome site and for treasuring and sharing your fun Christmas activities.

Merry Christmas and Blessings in the New Year, Ann

Ms Pearson said she did her work in 1985.

Mystery Person said she did her work in 1984.

However, Ann the Catholic school teacher was certain she had been sharing a copy of the puzzle since 1978. 

It seems very weird that in the space of just four days I would receive contradictory information from three different people after a silence of 13 years.  Who am I supposed to believe? 

I will confess that my heart goes to Lahlete Pearson.  Ms. Pearson has shared her name and her church.  That means she stakes her reputation on her claim.

Ms. Pearson has given me a far more credible and extensive explanation than the mystery person.  In addition. Ms. Pearson shared a fascinating version of her puzzle that is both similar and different than the puzzle generally accepted as "The Original Puzzle".  

Most important, Ms. Pearson offered those tantalizing 6 extra clues drawn in the original style that I had never seen before.  To me, that suggests that her puzzle did not fit the standard 8.5 by 11 letter size paper format.  Since this was back in the days before copier machines could alter the size of whatever it was copying, I assume that someone omitted 6 clues so their adaptation would fit better on a standardized 8.5 by 11 paper.

However, despite all the evidence that points to Ms. Pearson as the originator, I am sorry to say there remains some mystery.  Ann the Catholic school teacher is not the only person to date the puzzle prior to 1985.  Many people claim the puzzle was in the public domain before 1985.  If that is the case, this indicates there is always the chance that Ms. Pearson had a copy of the drawing on the right and drew up her own version.

As much as I want Ms. Pearson to get full credit, there will probably always be some element of doubt.  

Rick Archer 2011

Lahlete Pearson's Version,
received 17 January 2012

Mystery Person's Version, received 23 December 2011



Rick Archer's Note:  I received two interesting letters in 2012.  Like Ann the Catholic school teacher, both letters suggested the puzzle pre-dates 1985.

From: Terry Ohare
Sent: Monday, December 24, 2012 8:01 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Christmas Song Rebus

Hey there,

I'm a long-time fan of the Christmas rebus. I bring it out periodically for Christmas gatherings, like once every 6-10 years. I thought I got this copy in the 1970s, but I could be wrong. My recollection was that I was in the Marines and that ended for me in 1977. We used Xerox machines to copy. My wife thinks she saw it for the first time in 1982-85, shortly after we got married. If her recollection is correct (and she has a mighty powerful memory), then the rebus has been around since the early eighties. Anyway, I lived in Concord and San Bernardino during the Marines, and in the early eighties I lived in Lemoore, all in California. The sheet I have was definitely copied using a photocopier, so it could have been made as early as the mid-seventies. But as I think this over, the copying technology that I used in the Marines probably did not include a plain paper Xerox machine. I just can't remember. The copy that I do have had to arise when copiers used plain paper, and those became popular from 1975-1985.

For the first time since I had it, I wondered if anything like it was available on the internet that was of superior quality. That's when I discovered Santalady and you. I used the Santalady color version recently for an office party instead of the one I have. Interestingly, I didn't like the rebus for "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" which shows a saw with missing teeth. That rebus was in your version and the Sanatlady's color version, but not mine. My version looks like a blend of your two earliest versions.

Now, you seem to care more about the history of the rebus, so I am sending this particular version to you. It varies from what you call the original version in a number of ways, but is definitely of the same DNA, as you call it. I do agree that following versions likely improved on the previous rebuses, so the version I'm sending may follow the original. However, there are some conflicting clues (2 and 3 below).

1. The format of my version is such that it completely fills a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.  Typical photocopiers in the 1970s did not offer size reduction. If it came from an over-sized book, then the photocopier would miss the edges. The problem is that the drawings look like original artwork, not what you would see in a holiday fun book. My guess is that the original artist drew his lines on a 8.5. x 11 sheet and filled in the drawings.

2. It does not have a title or directions to it. So your version may be a re-sized one. Your version cuts off the lower edge a little more than mine, especially noted in #22.

3. The left side and top of my copy is shortened, or missing, due to the copying process

4. There are copies of check marks indicating that my copy was used by someone to keep track of their progress. back in the day, whiteout and white tape were used to mask out marks made on paper that needed to be copied. This was not done with the copy I received.

5. Photocopying often introduces black specks to the printed version due to debris on the glass. [Your 'original' has many of those kinds of markings.

6. The numbering system is identical: blocks positioned in the upper left corner. Even the unusual number nine is the same. The numbers 8, 20, and 24 are the same. Tracing numbers may introduce variations because of the strong habit to write numbers according to your distinct style.

7. My version of #17 is also missing the whole profile of a lady kissing Santa Claus, but I penciled it in because I assumed it was lost in copying.  This supports the idea that latter editions sought to improve the first version

8. Someone had already changed #18 to picture a boy with missing front teeth. [It is hard to believe that that saw represented an improvement on the boy. The other way people copied back then was tracing with back-light. That could account for the apparent fidelity with some of the drawings and the introduction of improvements.] 9. #10 in my version is overly simplistic and seems to match the style of the original, but it is hard to imagine why the original was not copied.

10. #12 in my version shows "Little Drummer Boy" which replaces the 3 sailing ships in your version.

11. #5 in my version show the head of the reindeer instead of the body.   This could be perceived as an improvement on the original]

12. #20 in my version is quite different than the original. The stars, clockface, roof tiles, and "It" card are different. The number nine is a different style. Why is this one re-drawn instead of traced or copied?

13. #21 is completely redrawn in my version. It looks newer because the lines look crisper.

14. #13 is interesting to compare because of the location and clarity of the holes. See the one in the helmet, right leg, and left shoe.

15. #14 has the letter 'Z' solitarily located on the bottom.  This goes against my sense of esthetics. I would re-copy it so it had some company.

16. #9 has only a question mark on the bassinet, whereas your version looks like someone squeezed in the word "NAME".  Yours may be closer to the original, but it looks like even your copied was slightly altered.  What's that above the baby's head?

17. #21 has three columns, but no numbers.  The numbers would have been in the original. Your original has the numbers partly cut off, but a comparison with the version below it (which is similar to mine), shows that the number 2 is different.

18. My #24 appears to be an improvement on the original drawing.

19.  Lastly, the one that puzzles me the most is why, in #10, the blades of grass and the flower were removed and the kings were simplified, if it were the original?

Anyway, thanks for making this information public and giving good thought to this mystery.   Terry

From: Judy Panter
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 11:18 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Original Christmas Puzzle

I read with interest your Blog about the origin of the puzzle I have attached.

Although it was not perfectly straight on the page, it seems to match the one you saw in 1996 that you felt was the original.

It came on legal sized paper with the heading attached (separately so I could scan it).

I got my copy in the early - mid 1980's when I was teaching at Birchcliffe Heights Public School in Scarborough Ontario.

(I taught there between 1982-1990, but I am sure it was within the first two or three years [1984-85] that I got it!)
Our principal brought it to a staff party and we had loads of fun with it. But, there was no explanation as to where he got it.

Following that I did see Mickey's version at another staff party, but I didn't keep a copy of that one because I still had my original.

Sincerely, Judy

Rick Archer's Note:  I received two interesting letters in 2012.  Like Ann the Catholic school teacher, both letters suggested the puzzle pre-dates 1985.

Judy Panter  Her 1984 version is identical to Rick Archer's 1996 version
The Original and Mystery Person's version differ most at 5, 12, 18

Terry O'Hare   His version of the Puzzle is almost identical to
Mystery Person's version

2012 - The Great Mystery: Who Copied Whom??

Terry O'Hare's version of the puzzle is virtually identical to Mystery Person's version, but it is different in three places (clues 5, 12, 18) to my 1996 version that I call the Original Puzzle (see Judy Panter above). It would be interesting to guess which version came first.  

As Mr. O'Hare points out, most of the artwork is identical.  I prefer Terry O'Hare's #18 "missing two front teeth" to that terrible #18 with the awl and the wishbone.  No one ever got that clue in the version I saw in 1996! 

Adding to the mystery, Mr. O'Hare's letter suggests his version came out before 1985.  (My wife thinks she saw it for the first time in 1982-85, shortly after we got married. If her recollection is correct (and she has a mighty powerful memory)

Then there is Lahlete Pearson's version see on the right

I realize this is all rather confusing, so let me review. I have identified THREE variations of the Christmas Puzzle:
1. Original Version  (crummy 2 missing teeth)
2. Mystery Person  (improved 2 missing teeth)
3. Lahlete Pearson  (no clue for 2 missing teeth)

All three versions are roughly 90% the same. 

  1. Rick Archer saw the Original version in 1996.
  2. Judy Panter saw the Original version somewhere between 1982 and 1985.
  3. Ann the Catholic school teacher insists she saw the Original version in 1978.
  4. Mystery Person claims to have created her Mystery Person version in 1984.
  5. Terry O'Hare has a version identical to Mystery Person. His wife with the powerful memory pegs it between 1982-1985.
  6. Lahlete Pearson's version has six extra clues 25-30.
  7. Lahlete Pearson has no clue for "Missing Two Front Teeth".
  8. Although Lahlete Pearson's version has many shared pictures, it is obvious that every single clue is slightly different than Mystery Person and Judy Panter.  For example, Lahlete Pearson's #1 Jingle Bells is distinctly different than Mystery Person's #1 and Judy Panter's #1.

To me, Lahlete Pearson either completely redrew someone else's clues and added some unique ones of her own OR Lahlete Pearson was the original artist and other people shortened her puzzle and redrew several of her clues.

Which theory makes the most sense to you?  Or do you have a theory of your own?  Share your thoughts. 

Rick Archer December 2012

Lahlete Pearson, 1985



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