This is the
Original Christmas Puzzle
that Rick Archer first saw in 1996.
Hayden faxed me the above copy of the Original Puzzle in
2005. I had misplaced my copy, so thank you, Tiffany!
Various people have written me over the years
to say they remember the Original Puzzle first appeared in
America sometime in the Eighties.
However, I have one Catholic sister
who said she used it in 1978. Here is her note.
Sent: Saturday, December 24, 2011
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
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
Merry Christmas and Blessings in the New
Ann's 1978 date suggests
that the 80s claim is in doubt.
The invention of the Fax
Machine allowed this puzzle to become popular across America and
perhaps even the world. Every year at Christmas time, someone
would bring a copy to the office. People would laugh, try to
solve it, then make a copy of their own. Then they would in
turn Fax the puzzle to someone else. I have little doubt this
puzzle has circled the globe several times.
I first saw
the Original Puzzle in 1996. I scanned the copy
above into my computer in
1999. That is the year I decided to use my website and the Internet to popularize the
As of 2013, I still have no
idea who created the puzzle. For twelve years (1999 through
Christmas 2010), no one ever came forward to claim
authorship of the Original Puzzle.
There was a curious
development in December 2011. Two different ladies emailed one
day apart to say they did it. One of the ladies refused to
share her name with me, so I use her email initials FMY to identify
The other lady was Lahlete
Pearson who said she created the puzzle in 1985. I
thought it was very odd to have complete silence for twelve years,
then to have two women email me on consecutive days to claim
ownership. I could not help but wonder if they know each
other, but FMY said no.
In January 2012 Ms.
Pearson took the time to fax me this copy of her work
December 2011 -
Lahlete Pearson steps forward
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2012
Subject: Original Christmas Carol Puzzle
This morning, I attended my grandson's Christmas Program in
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.
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
original puzzle was done by myself, 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.
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"?
May I ask a favor? I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU
WOULD PUT MY CHRIST BACK INTO MY PUZZLES. 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.
Dear Rick, Thank you so much for removing the "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
Rick Archer's Note:
Lahlete Pearson was kind
enough to look through her files and find a copy of her original
work. (see it posted above)
There are two things
in particular to notice.
First, some of Ms.
Pearson's clues are different from the version most people first saw
back in the Eighties and Nineties. For example, Ms. Pearson's
version of "Dreaming of a White Christmas" uses the entire word
"Christmas" while most later versions only use "Xmas".
That leads me to
conclude that along the way "mutations" occurred when people decided
they could improve on some of the clues and added their own version.
Second, you will
notice that Ms. Pearson's version has 30 clues as opposed to the
standard 24. In addition, all 30 clues are drawn in
an identical style. I believe there is a definite possibility
that Ms. Pearson could be the originator as she contends.
FMY'S COPY, December 2011
Rick Archer's Note: The copy
of the Original Puzzle listed below was sent to me in December 2011 by an anonymous
woman FMY who said she had developed the puzzle back in 1985... then
later changed her date to 1984.
since she insisted on keeping her identity a secret, I was unable to
determine if she was the true author or not. But I doubt it.
Here is a
look at the information FMY shared:
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:04 AM
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/
I last night I remembered 12 and 18
12 was little drunner boy with a lttle boy sitting on top of the
18 was All I want for christmas but it was a person with a big smile
no front teeth and holding a long list
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
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.
ok here I go
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 carreer in Sept 1985 which means that my student
teaching was in 1984
As you can
see, all of FMY's clues have some differences from the ORIGINAL
only exception might be #21 (Let it Snow). The snowflakes
in the ORIGINAL PUZZLE and the FMY PUZZLE are identical.
Since the artwork
of the anonymous woman is very similar to Tiffany Hayden's copy
directly above, I assume one puzzle came from the other.
comes to copying, I have a theory. My theory says that each
new effort typically improves on the Original. Since FMY's
copy is an improvement over the ORIGINAL PUZZLE, I conclude that FMY
is the Copy. Furthermore, Sister Ann says the ORIGINAL PUZZLE
dates back to 1978, FMY says she did hers in 1984.
Isn't this just so mysterious?
Judy Panter, December 2012
Rick Archer's Note: This copy
of the Original Puzzle was sent to me in December 2012 by Judy
Panter. Here is her note.
From: Judy Panter
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 11:18 PM
Subject: Original Christmas Puzzle
I read with interest your Blog about the
possible origin of the puzzle, so I
decided to send you my copy of the Original Puzzle.
It was not perfectly straight on the page.
It seems to match the one 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 ON.
(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
Following that I did see Mickey Weitzen's
version at another staff party, but I didn't keep a copy of that
one because I still had my original.
Rick Archer's Note:
Although the quality is poor, Judy Panter's copy
here is identical to the Original Puzzle that
I first saw in 1996.
Ohare, December 2012
Rick Archer's Note: This copy
of the Original Puzzle was sent to me in December 2012 by Terry
Ohare. Terry was pretty sure he first saw the puzzle back in
the Seventies, but then hesitated a bit when his wife had a
different memory. Here is Terry's note.
From: Terry Ohare
Sent: Monday, December 24, 2012 8:01 PM
Subject: Christmas Song Rebus
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.
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
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.
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.
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. My
version appears to be an early correction/improvement on the
original. For example, #21, after numerous photocopying, the
snowflakes and the numbers 1,2,3 lost their identity, so a new
picture was drawn. The caricature of Santa Claus kissing mommy (#17)
likely began to be unclear, requiring improvement of Santa's face.
There are eight drawings that are different.
I fear the original designer may have already passed away.
As for your question as to
which came first - Lahlete Pearson or your 1996 copy of the
"Original Puzzle" - I would have to put my money on the Original
Puzzle. I think the Lahlete Pearson version is not the
original. I think she saw the original, and copied and expanded it.
Her dating of that in 1985 is
likely accurate. That means the "autograph", or the ORIGINAL PUZZLE
as you call it, was made prior to that and attained a greater
distribution. That is why there are more of the other versions.
In particular, I'm not convinced that the original of #7 would have
spelled out "Christmas" instead of the white "XMAS" on a black
While Mrs. Pearson sounds credible, her theory about how it became
popular doesn't make sense. If her copy was mailed all over and then
copied more, you'd have a lot more versions of her copy.
Furthermore, I agree with your
theory that the "uglier, the more original". While Ms.
Pearson's copy is drawn in the manner of the ORIGINAL PUZZLE, it is
a definite improvement and therefore more likely to be a copy.
Finally, Rick, I take note of
Ms. Pearson's six extra clues. I recall that you too added new
puzzles that you made up during the time you were updating the
artwork from the fuzzy copy you owned. I find it highly
unlikely that a copier would drop the last six clues of something
they were copying. More likely, they would try to improve on
the original by adding Christmas Carols that weren't included in the
Given the question of which
came first, I give the nod to the one you call "The Original
Tiff Keetch, September 2012
Rick Archer's Note: This copy
of the Original Puzzle was sent to me in September 2012 by Tiff
Keetch. Here is her note.
Sent: Monday, September 10, 2012 1:47 PM
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 my version of this
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 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
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
thanks for your creativity, Tiff
As you can
see below, all the clues from the Original Puzzle have been
completely redrawn, but the format is similar enough to realize this
is likely the work of someone who not only loved the puzzle, but
also thought they
could improve on the art work.
Paul Fujishige, January 2013
Rick Archer's Note:
This copy was sent to me by Paul Fujishige in January, 2013.
It has elements of the ORIGINAL PUZZLE in it, but also quite a few
additions (#6, Hark the Herald Angels Sing). It looks
like all the copied clues were redrawn.
Paul's note on the date he received the puzzle:
As to when I first
received it, I do believe it goes back further than I may have
told you. I am pretty sure I received it when I was working in
Barrhead, Alberta, somewhere between 1988 – 1992. However, I
cannot remember the exact year, so I could be off base. I am
certain though that I did not see it prior to 1988.
No one is
sure what #11 is. It features an elf playing golf preparing to
drive the ball off a tee. Your guess is bound to be better
Color Version of Original
version below was sent in by Emily
Schankweiler in 2006.
As you can see, someone took the time to use the "Fill" function of
some paint program to add simple color. Cute.
"Confusing Christmas Puzzle" from 1996
Archer's Note: Thanks to a lady
named Deb, in December 2010 I received a note that offered an
important new clue towards solving the mystery of the Christmas
Puzzle's Origin. Here is the note.
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 7:45 PM
Subject: Confusing Christmas Carols -
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 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
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.
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
But today, I found your
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.
find my version. Let me know what you think.
Archer's 2010 Note:
As I have pointed out
before, I had nothing to do with the original version of the
Christmas Puzzle. I openly admit I took some unknown person's
work and expanded on it. Please note Deb dated this "Confusing
Christmas Puzzle" around 1996 which is
the same year that I first received my Original Copy.
Deb was nice enough to scan two pages from her book and send me
copies. Here is what she sent me.
Archer's 2010 Note Continued
I think it is fairly
obvious that the "Original Puzzle" and the "Confusing
Christmas Puzzle" are near clones of one another. As I
compare the professional artwork in the "Confusing Christmas
Puzzle" to the amateur artwork in the "Original Puzzle",
I see that both puzzles have 24 clues. Apparently both puzzles
refer to the same 24 Christmas Carol titles.
I have created a simple
comparison of the two puzzles for you to look at. As you will
see, some of the clues are direct copies. The
Original is on
the left, the Confusing
is to the right.
Archer's 2010 Note Continued
So which copied which?
Did you conclude the Original Puzzle borrowed the work of the
Confusing Christmas Puzzle?? If so, join the club.
That is what I did. At first I assumed the Original Puzzle
was a rip-off of the Confusing Christmas Puzzle.
When I saw Deb's
"Confusing Christmas Puzzle" pages, I mistakenly assumed these pages
came from the Holiday Activity book she had seen back in the
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.
But when I
re-read Deb's note, I realized I had jumped to conclusions.
I have a different
version of your 'original puzzle'. I got mine back in 1996
- 1997 when a co-worker
brought hers in to work."
changed everything. Since both puzzles could be dated
back to 1996, now I didn't know which puzzle copied which.
After giving it
some thought, I changed my mind and decided the Confusing
Christmas Puzzle is the copycat. I think someone
took the amateur artwork of the Original Puzzle and
improved it for use in a Christmas Activity book to be sold
You will note
that the artwork in the Confusing Christmas Puzzle is
far superior to the Original Puzzle. I believe
someone decided to make some money off the Original
Christmas Puzzle, but realized the artwork was far too
pathetic to have much chance of enticing people to buy the
So the artist
simply duplicated the clues he or she liked the most
using much-improved artwork.
In addition, the
artist decided to upgrade some of the clues.
Using some imagination, he or she substituted completely
original artwork of their own to replace the weaker clues
from the Original Puzzle.
please note the vast improvement in
Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow
and All I Want for Christmas
is My Two Front Teeth as
well as Santa Claus is
Coming to Town.
In my opinion,
the Confusing Christmas Puzzle is basically a
much-improved version of the Original Puzzle. I
like the new artwork a lot, but we still haven't discovered
the true origin of the Christmas Puzzle.
Let me add that
Deb suggested she remembered a Holiday activity book that
dated back to the Seventies. Perhaps some readers will
also recall this same book. Maybe that Holiday
Activity Book is the true origin.
If you are in
position to shed more light on the mystery, email me at
Thanks! RA 12-2010
January 2011 -
From: Mickey Weitsen
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2011 7:26 PM
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
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:
In the space of one month I
received Deborah's version and now Mickey's version. Since most of
the clues in all three puzzles are so similar, I assume all three
puzzles share a common DNA.
That said, I believe both Deborah's
version and Mickey's version are COPIES of the Original Puzzle.
I base my decision on
the principle that the superior artwork indicates someone tried to
IMPROVE upon the original. Since the original artwork wasn't
all that good, it had to be tempting to try to make the pictures a
little more clear... which is basically the same conclusion I came
to when I first started upgrading the clues in 1999.