Christmas Puzzle
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Short Puzzle

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Original Puzzle

These Christmas Carol puzzles are created by Rick Archer, Houston, Texas, USA.  I offer them free to anyone who wishes to use them.
I only ask that in the Christmas spirit you credit me and my website if you chose to reproduce my work.  Your integrity is appreciated.     


Welcome to the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle!

Rick Archer's Note:  The SSQQ Christmas Puzzle has been a top Internet Christmas puzzle for years now.
2020 is our 22nd season.  Using pictures as clues, the game is to identify famous Christmas Carols. 

The origin of the Christmas Puzzle dates back at least to the Seventies.  I have no idea who the author was, but I consider him or her to be extremely creative.  This puzzle contains warmth, humor, and challenge... all good things to have!

The SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle has two versions, Short and Long.  The Short Puzzle consists of 50 clues which identify the best-known Christmas Carols.  The clues are fairly obvious, so this particular puzzle is aimed at entertainment.  Since the Original Author offered the inspiration behind many of these clues, to honor the spirit of the Original Puzzle, I leave the Short Puzzle in the public domain throughout the year  for everyone to enjoy.

The Short Puzzle is designed for children as well as for adults who are young at heart.  Since the puzzle can be solved in an hour or less, it is useful to school teachers.  This is the perfect Christmas activity to engage young minds over the Holidays.  It is also handy for adults who are looking for something fun to do at a Christmas party.  The Short Puzzle comes with a Short Puzzle Clue List.  Please note the Answers to the Short Puzzle are also available year-round. 

Long Puzzle

The Long Puzzle was designed for my stir-crazy Canadian friends who are snowed in and bored out of their minds.  This gives them something entertaining to do in their comfy chair till the weather clears again.

The Long Puzzle is completely different from the Short Puzzle.  For one thing, unlike the Short Puzzle which is available year-round, the Long Puzzle is available only during the Holiday Season starting at Thanksgiving. 

The Long Puzzle consists of 150 picture clues.  It is designed as a serious challenge for people who love puzzles. Because it is so large, the Long Puzzle is definitely not for anyone in a hurry.  People suggest it takes up to four hours to solve.  Incidentally, the Long Puzzle is impossible to solve without the use of the Long Puzzle Clue List

In order to receive
Answers to the Long Puzzle, you must solve at least 75 of the 150 riddles correctly.  When you think you have 75 correct, email your list to me, Rick Archer,  

Please put "SSQQ Christmas Puzzle" as your title so I don't accidentally delete your request (I get tons of spam). Do me a favor - if you remember seeing the "Original Puzzle" back in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, tell me what year you first saw it.

I will not respond to any request for the answers to the Long Puzzle without 75 correct answers. 

From: Corrie
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2012 6:11 PM
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Hello Mr. Archer,

I came across your Christmas picture puzzles while looking for a game to share at my Christmas party. I love the long puzzle but unfortunately, don't I have the time to figure out the answers to 75 of them.

I need your help!  My party is next weekend and time is too short!

Is it possible that you could make an exception and send me the answers to the puzzles?

I would very much appreciate it.

Hope to hear from you very soon.

Thank you for making this wonderful game, I just hope I'll be able to play it with my family.

Have a great holiday season with your family and friends as well.

Sincerely, Corrie

"Can I please have the answers and be done with it??"

As the example on the left indicates, every year people email to say they want to use my puzzle for their big party, but they just don't have the time to solve it. 

These "exception requests" always come with some tug at the heart... boy scout troop, old folks home, family gathering, church get-together, whatever.

I understand "don't have time", but I don't have much sympathy.  After all, I give all the busy people a simple alternative... 

Just use the Short Puzzle for your Christmas Party! 

In my opinion, the Long Puzzle is not appropriate for the typical Christmas party.  It requires a marathon effort!!   No one at a party has this kind of attention span unless the purpose of the party is specifically for a group of Puzzle lovers to tackle this massive task. 

On the other hand, the Short Puzzle was designed as a 30 to 60 minute challenge.  It doesn't require deep concentration since these clues to the best known Carols are easily solved. 

I repeat:  The Long Puzzle is much too difficult for most social gatherings.  The Long Puzzle takes HOURS to solve.  Unless the entire purpose of your party is a minimum of two hours (or more) specifically to solve the Long Puzzle, the Short Puzzle is far superior as a fun Christmas Party challenge.


Please note the riddles from the Long Puzzle are my original work.  It is my wish that you share the puzzle far and wide.  You are more than welcome to use these clues for church parties, school assignments, office parties, and parties at your home as well as for your own pleasure. All I ask is that you please add my name to any copy you print out. 

You may NOT re-publish my LONG PUZZLE on the Internet for any reason.  

That would be copyright infringement. I created those clues; it is my work.  Go make your own puzzle.

Furthermore if you do print out my LONG PUZZLE, you may not use these clues for commercial purposes.  I understand that if you do this behind my back I might never know, but it proves you are absolutely clueless as to the true meaning of Christmas. 

I post this puzzle free of charge in the spirit of Christmas giving.

Consequently I would be appalled if someone attempted to profit off my work. 

Rick Archer, 2013

Note: If any reader sees my puzzle reprinted on another website, please let me know.  What these people are doing is not right.

How Long Does The Long Puzzle Take to Solve??

Because the 50 clues in the Short Puzzle are the most famous songs, it is a fun, easy puzzle to tackle.  It is designed for any party gathering or classroom to solve within 30 minutes to an hour.

The Long Puzzle is a much different story. If there is just one or two of you, finding 75 correct answers might take from two to four hours.

In fact, some say the Long Puzzle might even take longer than that to solve.  According to this email, Sandra Young said the Long Puzzle takes days to solve.

The solving-speed probably depends on your level of motivation.  I have been told that solving the Long Puzzle is a huge treat. For example,  I could be wrong, but these emails suggest that some people enjoy taking their sweet time.

From: Sandra Young
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

Thank you so much for sending me the answers! 
My co-workers and I worked on this puzzle for two entire days. 
We didn't get a lick of work done because it was mind boggling fun!

From: Tutu
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Subject: SSQQ Christmas Puzzles

Dear Mr. Archer,
We really enjoyed your puzzle.  You will be pleased to know your hard work paid off cause it took us last Christmas and this Christmas to come up with some of the answers.

About the Long Puzzle Clue List

The Long Puzzle consists of 150 pictures representing famous and semi-famous Christmas Carols... plus a few obscure titles tooYour job is to decipher each riddle and come up with its exact name! 

There is no possible way to solve the Long Puzzle without the use of the Clue List.   Why is this??

1. The Clue List contains 321 titles for 150 clues.   In other words, there are 171 titles that are placed in the Clue List for the specific reason to fool the Puzzle solver.  This devious trick prevents someone from simply whittling down the list of clues till nothing is left.

2. Some clue titles are very obscure.  For example, CHILDING OF A MAIDEN BRIGHT is not a well-known title.  However, it is a legitimate Christmas Carol from London in 1901.  Likewise I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR XMAS is also  a legitimate Christmas Carol from 1953.  How would one guess the name of a puzzle clue without a list of names to choose from??  The answer to this question explains why I added a Clue List.

3. Some clue titles are made up.  Yes, I freely admit I made up about a half dozen clue titles.  Take this picture of Mr. and Mrs. Santa as an example.  This is a great picture, but it represents no appropriate "Carol Title". In order to add the picture, I had to add A TOAST TO GOOD WILL ACROSS THE LAND to the Clue List.


So let explain a bit further: In order to expand the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle (Long Version), I need both a new title and a good picture which turn out to be an excellent match.   Sometimes I have a good title, but no good picture.  Sometimes I have a good picture, but no good title.

Here are two examples.

Good title/no picture.  Here is a great title: THREE DAMSELS IN THE QUEEN'S CHAMBER (1866).  Unless I can develop the ability to draw a complicated picture like this (which is unlikely), I have no existing picture to match to the title.  So this excellent title simply sits in the Clue List as a red herring. 

Good picture/ no title.  This Ice Sculpture picture is a perfect example of an awesome picture I did not use.  What a shame because the picture is so beautiful.  I didn't use this picture in the puzzle because I couldn't think of a good title for it using our Christmas theme.  I suppose I could make up a title.  How about "A Shiny Horse on a Snowy Night" as a good made-up title?  Hmm.  That might work.  The next time I decided to expand the puzzle, I might just use that title.

As one might guess, it was either create a few new titles or stop expanding the puzzle...  I chose to expand the puzzle.  Once you see how great the pictures are for the half dozen or so made-up titles, I doubt the reader will mind.  

Let me add that for you purists, the Short Puzzle has no made-up titles. 

One Suggestion:  To save time, I highly recommend using the "Find" function.  For example, if you see an angel in the clue, go to the Clue List and type in "angel". That simple trick should dramatically narrow your choices.

Why is the Long Puzzle Fun?

The Long Puzzle and the Short Puzzle offer a study in contrasts. 

The Short Puzzle is the easy version of the Christmas Puzzle that is perfect for kids.  If you are a grade school teacher or a Sunday school teacher, you just got lucky.  This is the perfect activity for children anxiously awaiting Christmas Vacation.  It offers a great reward for a short investment of time.

Then there is the Long Puzzle, a much tougher version for adults.  The Long Puzzle is perfect for individuals or large groups of dedicated Puzzle solvers. 

I have heard of groups trying to solve the Long Puzzle The group can either solve it together or the group can separate into two smaller groups and have a spirited competition. 

The Long Puzzle lends itself well to Seasonal gatherings such as family reunions, church events, get-togethers at Senior homes and office parties.  For example, I heard from a family who spend a least one night every Christmas Season working a Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle.  They told me that the most fun they ever had was the year they spent the evening as a family trying to solve the Long Puzzle.    They ate cookies and drank egg nog, they listened to Christmas music, they poured over the Clue List looking for answers, and they celebrated each success.  It took them three hours and they loved it.

Or maybe you are alone.  If you are house-bound on a snowy night in Maine, USA, or Alberta, Canada, and you like puzzles, then the Long Puzzle is right up your alley.  Heat up some coffee, plop yourself down in your comfy chair, and prepare for  an entire evening of solving the best Christmas puzzle imaginable.

The one thing that is certain is that Puzzle Lovers thrive on the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.  If you like to solve puzzles like Sudoku, Crossword, Jigsaw, etc, then you have definitely come to the right place. This Christmas Carol Quiz will definitely put you in the right mood for the Christmas Season. 


The Origin of the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle

So where did this puzzle come from?   I really have no idea.  Nor has any reader offered any explanation.  In 2011, two completely separate people claimed sponsorship, but I did not found their claim to be convincing.  Therefore the search continues. 

Did I create the puzzle?  Yes and No.  For starters, I absolutely did not create the original version of the puzzle.  What I did do was take the Original Puzzle and put it on the Internet as the Short Puzzle.  From there, I began to modify the original with better artwork.  Let add that the Long Puzzle is completely my work.

People ask why the puzzle is called the "SSQQ" Christmas Puzzle.  My version of the Puzzle owes its existence to a Houston, Texas, dance studio named "SSQQ" that I built from scratch starting in 1977. I was both owner and dance teacher. I taught Swing, Salsa, Western, and Ballroom dancing.  

For 30 years, I ran SSQQ and watched it grow.  At the peak, we had 1300 students a week walk through our doors.  SSQQ was a wonderful beehive of activity. 

One evening in 1996, Marla Jennings, one of my instructors, handed me the "Original" version of this puzzle, the one seen by countless people back in the Eighties and Nineties. 

(Side note: by coincidence, my wife's name is also 'Marla', but Marla the wife and Marla the instructor are two different people).   

Intrigued by Marla Jennings' puzzle, I tried solving it, but I didn't do very well.  My problem was that I had at best an average knowledge of Christmas Carol titles.  Nevertheless, I was definitely amused.   I took the puzzle home, dropped it in a pile of papers and forgot about it.

Three years later I ran across the puzzle again during "clean up" day in my office.  I was surprised to find it hiding under a pile of papers on my desk. The Original Puzzle was in the same spot  I had dropped it back in 1996, but now layers of other papers had long since covered it up.

Amused, I tried solving the puzzle again.  I didn't do any better, but like before I was taken by its charm.  By chance, 1999 was the year the Internet was just beginning to come into its own.  Indeed, I had just recently opened my dance studio's new web site. 

I was looking for content to post to draw visitors to the new web site.  I knew that dance students are no different than any other kind of student - they like challenges of all kinds!   So I decided to scan the Original Puzzle into my computer and put it on the Internet.  I wanted to share the Original Puzzle with my dance students during the 1999 Christmas Holidays. 

Since then, the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle has grown and gone worldwide.  About two years after I first published the Original Puzzle at,  search engines like Google began to direct total strangers to my updated version of the puzzle.  At this point, the puzzle went 'viral'. 

People from all across the planet began writing to ask for the answers.  One request was from a Catholic nun stationed at the Vatican!  I could not have been more amazed by this development.  My goofy puzzle had become popular across the world.

These days people continue to run across the Puzzle thanks again to search engines like Google.  This puzzle has been at the top of any Google Search involving "Christmas Carol Puzzles" for many years now. Around Christmas time, this becomes a much-visited page. 

When people wrote me for answers, they would often add anecdotes of their own.  This is how I learned school teachers from every state in the USA were using my Short Puzzle.  Each teacher said the same thing - my SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle was a school teacher's dream.  They were so grateful to find a wholesome activity that kept their kids happy and entertained for an entire morning!   Below is an example of two letters I received from school teachers.

From: Jennifer T
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 1:30 PM
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)

Having said all that, I am in need of some answers! I have a list of an additional 45 that you requested to get the full 130 answers. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing these with us!   Jennifer


From: mj
Sent: Friday, October 11, 2013 11:19 AM
Subject: Christmas puzzles

Just wanted to thank you for posting these puzzles. About 2 years ago I found these and was delighted.

I decided to make a game with them for my teenagers. I printed the picture puzzles and the song list ( the long version) and after I solved most of them - I attached a song title to every gift, then placed them all under the tree. On Christmas morning I gave each of the kids the picture puzzles that matched their gifts and then they had to not only solve their puzzle, but root around under the tree to find the gift that matched. They had a blast. Thanks again!   MJ

As you can see, for years now this puzzle has been a popular activity for teachers looking for something creative to use and amuse in the days before Christmas Vacation.  If you are a teacher, don't worry.  Your kids are safe here.  There are no pop-ups, no politics, no religious agendas, no ads, no hidden links to other Internet sites, no cookies, no viruses, no spyware.  There is no evil, just fun.  

In addition to school teachers, I am frequently contacted by people looking for activities to share with their church groups, office Christmas get-togethers, and family gatherings.  Let me assure you this puzzle is an excellent a game
to play at Christmas Parties because it can involve many people at once.  Depending on how many copies you print, individuals can solve the riddles on their own.  If you have a large group, you can divide them into teams.  Let them race to see which team wins!

Please feel free to print out the entire puzzle.  It is my gift.  You may share it as many times as you like.  It is my hope that your group has as much fun solving the puzzle as I had creating it.  That said, I do have one request - please add my name!  

I like to receive credit for my work.  That is all I ask.  Thank you!   Rick Archer, December 2013.


History of the SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle

Written by Rick Archer
Original story 2005, most recent update 2011

This is the short version of the story.  You can read the longer version at
SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle Anecdotes

So how does this puzzle work?  The idea is to look at a picture and guess the title of the Christmas Carol.  So take a guess... a reindeer with a shiny red nose... hmm...what Christmas carol could it be? 

A Rebus is a term which means "a representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle".  That term explains this puzzle perfectly.  The Christmas Puzzle is a series of clues using pictures that hint at the names of both famous and obscure Christmas Carol titles. 

Most rebuses in the Short Version of the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle are as easy as this Rudolph picture.  However, as you delve into the Long Puzzle, you will discover the complexity begins to rival a tough crossword puzzle.  You better bring your thinking cap plus a little patience or you will be in trouble. 

 This is the Original Puzzle I first saw
in 1996.  To see a larger version plus
the various copies it inspired,
click here


My first experience with the Christmas Puzzle dates back to 1996.  Marla Jennings (not my wife Marla) was a dance instructor at my SSQQ studio.  One night at the studio about a week before Christmas, Marla handed me a sheet of paper with 24 blurry images.  She said they were clues that represented well-known Christmas Carols.  The idea was to guess the name of the Christmas Carol from the picture.

Quite frankly, I did poorly on the test.  In a way, that's good.  If it had been too easy I would have quickly forgotten about it.  Unfortunately, my memory of Christmas Carol titles was so bad I could only get about half of the riddles. 

I realized that if I could have remembered more names, I would have done better.  Every title I was able to remember was included in the puzzle.  I wracked my brain, but could not come up with any more!   Despite my embarrassment, I thought the puzzle was very creative.  I was surprised how much fun it was trying to solve the rebuses even though I wasn't very good at it.

As I said earlier, I did not create the Original Puzzle.  At first, my version of the puzzle built on the anonymous work known as the "".  The Original Puzzle contained 24 clues referring to the best-known Christmas Carols. 

The artwork of the Original Puzzle was simple and the clues were very clever. 

I was impressed.  After improving on the artwork a bit, I posted an updated version of the Puzzle in 1999.  My version had been on the Internet for anyone to see since then.  From 1999-2011, not one person stepped forward to claim authorship.  Then in 2011, two women on back to back days claimed authorship.  However, a panel of three people looked at the work and concluded the version I have named the "Original Puzzle" was indeed the original.



1999 - Reunited

I lost track of my copy of the Original Puzzle.  In fact, I completely forgot about it after my brief encounter in 1996.  I took the copy home and tossed it on my junk desk.  I would not see it again until three years later.

One day in October 1999, I decided it was time to clean up my junk desk.  You see, I have two desks - one desk I work at and another 'Junk Desk' where I throw things to look at later.  As you might gather, 'later' can mean anywhere from next week to next century.  My junk desk was about to collapse under the weight of all the papers I had thrown on it over the years.  I don't remember what caused me to risk my life and begin delving through the pile, but about halfway through the mess, I finally reached the 1996 layer of papers. 

If you know me, you would understand that looking for anything in my office resembles an archeological search.  Once half the mound of papers was removed, I noticed the copy of the puzzle that Marla Jennings had given me.  That piece of paper was laying right where I had left it three years earlier.  I picked it up and examined it.

I remembered that after work that night in 1996, I had brought home the copy Marla Jennings had given me.  No doubt I tossed it on the junk desk and forgotten about it.  Soon enough, as more papers fell on that desk, the puzzle had disappeared.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I smiled when I saw the Original Puzzle again.  Aha, an old friend!

Curious, I tried solving some of the riddles again. As I racked my brain, I still didn't do very well. I didn't do any better the second time than I did the first for the same reason - I couldn't remember enough titles.  Nonetheless I was hooked again. I recalled how much fun I had trying to solve the puzzle the first time.  I love solving puzzles!  Crossword, jigsaw, sudoku, logic, chess, word jumble - you name it, I like it!

In the quiet of my office, as I studied the Rebus puzzle, I realized for the second time just how cute and clever it was.  That is when I had an idea.  Why not share it with my friends at the dance studio?

By coincidence, just one year earlier (October 1998) I had taken my dance studio's website online.  Over the past year, I was always looking for something to generate more interest in my SSQQ web site.  The idea was to post things of interest on my website to draw my dance students to visit the website as often as possible.  I learned early on that the website was good for business.  The more people visited the website, the more likely they were to continue to take dance classes. 

For example, I would always post pictures from each Halloween Party.  Not surprisingly, once my students saw how good the pictures were from one year, the pictures convinced them to join the fun the following year.  This was not a complicated concept.

Unfortunately, it isn't easy to come up with material quite as dramatic as Halloween pictures on a year-round basis.  I was always on the lookout for something new to lure my students back to the web site.  Now as I stared at this cute little Christmas puzzle that I had just rediscovered, I decided to publish the pictures on my website as a Christmas challenge for my dance students.  Since the 1999 Christmas Season was just around the corner, why not give it a try?  This way maybe they wouldn't forget my dance studio completely during the Holidays.  The Holidays are rough on the dance studio business since people are too busy to take lessons, but maybe I could use the Puzzle to lure them to our Christmas Party.  It was worth a try.

So I scanned the pictures into my computer.  That is when I made a sad discovery



There was one big problem.  When I looked at the pictures on my computer screen, I realized the scanned pictures were in pretty sad shape!  Most of the pictures were blurry and badly in need of some touch-up work.  Given the poor condition of the copy that Marla Jennings handed me, it was fairly obvious this sheet had probably been faxed a few million times around the world before it reached my hands.  Then I evaluated the artwork.  It wasn't very good.  In fact, it was awful. 

For the Original Puzzle wasn't necessary to have superior artwork.  The clues were so clever that people were quickly hooked.  However, this artwork looked terrible when I viewed the clues with the computer.




I shook my head in dismay.  In the Original Puzzle, the Santa Claus was so poorly drawn, he could just as easily have been mistaken for Count Dracula. 

Maybe there was something I could do.

So I decided to substitute a Santa picture from my own art files and touch up the airplane a bit.  Then I added a couple stars. 

I immediately smiled.  Thanks to my new Santa, this Rebus was immensely improved!  I probably should have upgraded the airplane too, but this was enough for now.


Pleased with my work, I looked for other rebuses I could improve upon.  I decided to use my trusty Paint Shop Pro computer art program to touch up the pictures where needed.  Although I have absolutely no artistic ability, I discovered I was good at improving the poor quality of the original artwork using the computer.  Plus it was fun! 

After upgrading a half-dozen puzzles, I started to toy with the idea of making up my own puzzles.   By coincidence, I owned a vast array of wonderful Christmas artwork.  Back in 1984, I had begun a subscription to a commercial art service named Dynamic Graphics.  At this point (1999), I now owned 15 years of artwork. 

Why not put all this wonderful artwork to good use?  So I added 16 new riddles to the original 24 to make a total 40 puzzles.  Then I published these 40 rebuses on my web site.  The SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle was born!

My idea paid off.  My friends at the dance studio got a huge kick out of solving the puzzle.  As the compliments rained in, I could not have been more proud of myself.  I had used my talent to make a lot of people happy at Christmas time.  A wonderful feeling of satisfaction came over me.  I had done a good thing.

2000 and 2001 - The Puzzle Grows

Flush with satisfaction over the 1999 success of my puzzle, the following year 2000 I decided to create some more riddles of my own.  I added 8 new pictures.  Now the total in 2000 was up to 48. 

In 2001, I created 8 more pictures.  Now we were up to 56. 

I decided that quite a few pictures deserved an upgrade.  However, my inability to draw was a huge problem.  Since I can't draw, finding the correct artwork to express the clue has been very difficult at times.   There are a lot of good Carol titles that have never become part of the puzzle simply because I couldn't find the right picture.

Fortunately, most of the time I can find new pictures to replace the old. I am sure the readers will have no trouble spotting the difference between my work and that of my predecessor.  Before you compliment me on my wonderful artwork, don't forget that I cannot draw.  The artwork on the right came from Dynamic Graphics.  

All of my pictures were drawn by professionals.  Hence the marvelous quality!

Another problem I had with this quiz was determining the line between making a rebus too difficult and too easy. 

On the right is one of my first attempts at creating a rebus of my own.  What carol could it be?  After I created this picture, I was disappointed when NO ONE got the right answer.  That's right - not one single person!!   I took another look and realized the clue was much too vague (don't bother guessing; I'll give it to you: Auld Lang Syne.... "Old Long Sign")

No one got it!   How pathetic.  However, the Auld Lang Syne disaster was a good lesson.  I realized that for a rebus to work, the clues have to make sense.  People don't mind hard clues, but I have to at least give them a fighting chance.  If I list too many clues that no one can get, then people get frustrated and quit. 

Because people write in to request the answers, I have always been able to monitor the success rate of each clue.  Over the years, I have always gone back and reworked any clue that was consistently hard to solve. 

2002 - Addition of the Clue List

I made a significant change in 2002.  This was the year I added the Clue List.  

In order to grow my puzzle, in 2000 and 2001 I was forced to branch out and use some titles that weren't very well known.  For example, I made up a riddle for Coventry Carol.  No one got the right answer.  I went back and looked at my work. The Rebus seemed fair to me. 

So I asked a couple of my friends what the problem was.  My friends at the dance studio complained that they didn't know a lot of these names.  One person said, "Coventry Carol?  I have never heard of Coventry Carol in my life!"

This complaint became a common refrain.  I had used too many obscure titles.  It is impossible to guess a title you have never heard of.  Recalling the difficulty I had remembering titles to songs when I first took the test, I realized the game would be a lot easier to play if there was a List of Carol Titles used in the Puzzle.

However, matching 56 titles to 56 pictures was too easy.  I decided to make things a bit more challenging.  By listing 100 names for 56 puzzles, I forced people to think a little bit more. 

Adding the title list was a very good idea.  Now the Puzzle became a lot more satisfying.  People discovered they didn't have to know the names of many carols.  Using the Clue List, they still had a fighting chance to solve every single rebus.  It might take some thought and some time, but a perfect score was not out of the question.

2002 - Google sends me some Visitors

In 2002, something very interesting happened.  Suddenly my puzzle catapulted to national and international popularity.

I began to receive a phenomenal number of email requests for my Answer Sheet.  I didn't recognize any of the names.   Who are these people? 

Furthermore, where were all these requests coming from?  The problem with emails is that you don't usually know where they come from.  However, when I looked closer, at the bottom of some of the emails, the person's signature included a location.  I noticed one email was from Wisconsin.  Another was from Ontario.  This was weird. At the time, I thought the only people who knew about the puzzle were people from my dance studio.  Ontario is a long way from Texas.  I was totally baffled.

I was so curious, I emailed some of the people back.  I asked them where they were from and how they had heard about the Christmas Puzzle.  Several people were nice enough to respond.  They wrote back to say they had "Googled" for Christmas Puzzles. 

Google?  I was so ignorant about the Internet that in 2002 I didn't even know what Search Engines were at that point.  I had only vaguely heard of Google and had never used it.  But now that I was curious, I investigated.  I noticed my computer had a link to Google, so I brought up the program for the very first time.  Then I typed in "Christmas Puzzle".  Lo and behold, there on page three, my SSQQ Christmas Puzzle was listed.  Goosebumps ran up and down my body.  Well, I'll be darned! 

That is how I figured out that Search Engines like Google were the culprit.  People were typing in words like "Christmas", "Puzzle", "Carol" into Google and the link to my Christmas Puzzle web page was popping up like crazy. 

Suddenly my audience was no longer limited to Houston-area dance students. The whole world was web surfing to my puzzle.

2004 - Page One on Google

In 2004, my puzzle made it to Page One.  It would appear somewhere on the first page anytime a person typed "Christmas Carol Puzzle" into Google.  Now that the puzzle had become so popular, I was encouraged to add new pictures. 


2005 - The Riddle Total Reaches 80

I was so busy with a new computer, I skipped making any new clues in 2004.  In 2005 I was back with a passion.  In 2005, I added 26 more clues to bring the total to 80.  I also bumped the Clue List up from 100 Titles to 168 Titles.  For some reason, a 2 to 1 ratio has always felt about right.

Interest in the Puzzle was extremely strong this year.  Requests for the answers came rolling in at a record pace.

2006 - The Riddle Total Reaches 100

Once I hit 80, I just couldn't help myself - I was obsessed with reaching 100!   The only problem was that I had run out of titles.  I needed more titles to create new riddles.

So I searched the Internet to find more titles of Christmas Carols.  To my surprise, I found an immense list that was 19 pages long!   As my eyes scanned the list, titles like Maker of the Sun and Moon and From the Eastern Mountains were just what I needed to create new rebuses. 

There was only one problem.  I had never heard of either carol in my life.  Indeed, this list contained song titles that dated all the way back to the 1800s. 

And many titles were unknown in America since they originated in England, France and Germany.  Some were even in ancient Latin! 

Quand Dieu naquit Nol  - (French, from William Sandys, 1833)
Psallite unigenito  - (Latin)
Gud Faders Son Enbaarne -
Omnes Gentes Plaudite  -
Of sayne Steuen goddes knyght -
(Middle English)
In Excelsis Deo - (Latin)

No matter.  There was no rule that said I had to have heard of the title to make it valid.

I decided no matter how obscure the title was, as long as I included it in my Clue List, any title was fair game!

These new titles gave me just the boost I needed.  With a fresh supply of titles to work with, I was able to create 20 new puzzles to reach 100.  Plus I boosted the Clue List up to 180. 

2006 - Color

I made one very significant change in 2006.  At the urging of many people who wrote in for the answers, in 2006 I decided to add color. 

Imagine that! 

The art service I subscribed to had not added color to their pictures until 1998.  As a result, 90% of my art collection was black and white.  However, by 2006, I had collected enough Christmas color pictures to add this feature.  As a result, the brand new clues 80 through 100 had a much different look to them.

 In addition, I went back and colorized some of the older clues.  Unfortunately, not all the black and white pictures lend themselves to coloring.  Still, adding the color wherever possible was also a big improvement.  I was pleased.

2007 - One Puzzle Becomes Two Puzzles

In 2007, I bumped the Puzzle from 100 clues up to 120.  In addition I expanded the Clue List from 180 to 225.  However when I stopped to look at the puzzle, I realized it had now grown too large.  Too many clues meant the puzzle had grown too hard.

In life, there are people who like easy Sudoku puzzles and then there are those who prefer the difficult levels.  My Sunday newspaper always ran one easy Sudoku and one difficult Sudoku.  Why not take a hint from the newspaper and try to have the best of both worlds?

So I decided to divide the puzzle into two parts - the original 24 plus 16 of my own would serve as Part One.  I called it the Top Forty.  In addition I posted a reduced clue list of only 80 titles. This Top Forty puzzle was much easier.  For example, a fourth grade class at Christmas time now had a fighting chance to solve a Christmas Rebus Puzzle closer to their skill level.  I also decided to list the answers on the web site.  No one had to email for these answers any more.

Part Two would be the Long Version of 120 pictures consisting of the 80 clues I had created plus the original 40.  The Puzzle experts would still have the Longer version to challenge them.  Splitting into two puzzles was a win-win for everyone. 

By the way, I received a nice Christmas Present over the 2007 Holidays. 

The SSQQ Christmas Carol Puzzle officially became the Number One Christmas Puzzle on the Internet! 

Take a look for yourself.

2010 -  The Riddle Total Reaches 130

After 2007, I took a three year hiatus from the Christmas Puzzle.  In 2008, I had all kinds of medical problems.  First I developed a serious thyroid condition known as Graves Disease.   Thanks to a surplus of thyroid, I was bouncing off the walls.  I alternated between hyperactivity and exhaustion.  Sometimes I drove like a maniac.  I lost my temper for no reason.  I felt like I was falling apart!  I went to see the doctor, but no one could figure out what was wrong with me.  I was too much of a basket case to pay attention to the Christmas Puzzle.

Since Graves Disease is rare to men, it went undiagnosed for a long time.  Then one day I mentioned my weight loss.  Even though weight loss is a symptom common to many diseases, for some reason my doctor had a hunch to test for Graves Disease.  Voila!  Unfortunately, it still took quite a while to cure the problem.  It wasn't until 2009 that the condition was finally brought under control. 

Then, just as I got my medical problems solved, 2009 brought me an even bigger headache.  My landlord refused to extend the lease on my dance studio.  He wanted to tear the building down and replace it with a hospital.  There wasn't a single thing I could do to change his mind.

Dance studios are not easy to move.  First you have to pick up 6,000 square feet of dance floor and put it back down in a new location.  Then you have take huge mirrors off the walls in six rooms and transport those.  Then you have to bring down all the music equipment hanging from the ceiling.  An even bigger problem is finding the right place.  And even if you do find a pretty good spot, then you have to sign a long-term lease of 5 to 10 years.

I was 60 years old.  I didn't want to retire, but after the problems my landlord had given me, I wasn't about to stick my neck out and sign another long-term lease.  Besides, running a dance studio was a full-time job for someone with a lot more energy than I had.   That thyroid problem had robbed me of my once boundless energy.  So I spent 2009 and early 2010 finishing out the lease.  In April 2010, I handed the studio off to new owners. 

Freed of stress and with time to rest, I got my health back.  As the 2010 Holiday Season approached, for the first time in three years I had the time and energy to pay attention to my Christmas Puzzle again.  With a smile, I spent the week before Thanksgiving cooking up ten new riddles.  It was fun to be back in the saddle again.

In 2010, the puzzle grew to 130 clues. 

There was one other development - I made the new clues larger. 

Back in the beginning (1999), the modems carrying Internet images to personal computers were so slow that I deliberately made the pictures small.  However, twelve years is an eternity regarding the Internet.  Now in 2010, most people could acquire the images in an instant if they had high-speed Internet connections.  Why not make the pictures larger?

So I expanded them from 894 wide by 397 tall to 1200 wide to 500 pixels tall.

I think the larger pictures were a huge improvement.

2011 -  The Puzzle Gets a Facelift

During the 2011 Christmas Season I made several dramatic changes to the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.

For the first time, I gave the Short Puzzle and the Long Puzzle separate identities.   Previously, the Long Puzzle had consisted of the 40 "Top Forty" pictures from the Original Puzzle followed by 90 pictures I created myself to make up a total of 130 clues.

In 2011, I went from 130 clues to 200 clues.  That's quite an expansion!

I donated 10 puzzle clues to the Top Forty collection to make it 50 puzzles.  Then I renamed the Top Forty and called it the Short Puzzle.

After donating 10 clues to the Short Puzzle, that left me with 80 clues.  So I created 70 new clues.  These 70 new clues merged with the other 80 to create a Long Puzzle that had a completely separate identity from the Short Puzzle. 

The new Long Puzzle were 80% in color.  Plus they were all enlarged.  In all, the work took about two weeks. 

Another thing that got larger was the Clue List.  It grew from 280 to 320. 

These were major developments.  I can only assume that as the Long Puzzle has grown longer, it has become harder.  

But then maybe not.  I made an effort to be a lot less tricky. 

The one thing I am sure of is that the new artwork is sure to please everyone.  I think the new Long Puzzle will be a huge hit with the previous fans of the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.

Divine Help?

As I returned to my old friend the Christmas Puzzle in 2011, I took another peek at Google.  I was disappointed to see the Puzzle was no longer listed on Page One.  Many commercial Christmas puzzles had paid for the privilege to be listed ahead.  Oh well, big deal.  People would still have no trouble spotting the listing for my puzzle on Page Two.  I was pleased to see that my puzzle was still the most popular Internet Christmas Puzzle... for free.  

Then I had a curious thought.  Wasn't it odd that a "dance teacher" had somehow created such a successful picture puzzle?  Heck, I couldn't even draw!  Why me? 

That's when for the very first time I was struck with the idea that I was actually the perfect person for the job.  I had a lifelong love of puzzles.  Furthermore, by coincidence, I had a huge collection of artwork to draw from dating back 15 years. 

Plus the timing was remarkable.  Back in 1998, some friends had convinced me to join the Internet just as it was breaking into mainstream consciousness.  Then the Original Puzzle magically reappeared one year later.  This was the perfect time to add it to my web site.  I published my puzzle when there was nothing else on the Internet to compare. 

As a result, Google propelled the obscure puzzle to a Number One ranking... which in turn made sure it stayed Number One.

Have you ever seen an athlete score a touchdown, then say on TV, "I give all Glory to God"?   I am usually a bit cynical about public demonstrations of faith, but the series of lucky breaks that led to the success of my own puzzle forced me to think a little deeper. 

The entire set-up was handed to me on a silver platter.  All I had to do was add a little imagination.   In fact, creating the Puzzle was so easy, I began to wonder if perhaps I had a little unseen help along the way.  The curious set of coincidences definitely gave me pause.   

When it comes to the Mysteries of the Universe, I will never know for sure if perhaps a hidden hand played a role in the success of this neat Puzzle.   However, there is one thing I will always know for sure.  I know exactly who helped make this Puzzle a success.  And that would be visitors like you. 

Every time you have visited the web site, you helped to ensure our buddy Mr. Google keeps listing this Puzzle way up at the top.  In turn, thanks to its lofty status, every year more people are alerted to its presence.  In other words, the Puzzle stays famous because Google says it is famous. As they say in show biz, this Puzzle could not have become a success without you!  

Over the years, many of you have written to thank me for posting the Christmas Puzzle.  Truthfully, the thanks is all mine. Your interest in the Christmas Puzzle has made me very proud to make this contribution.  Without your interest, I would never have bothered to continue.  Thanks to all of you, your words of encouragement have brought me profound satisfaction over the years.   

So I hope you have a great time solving the 2011 SSQQ Christmas Puzzle.  And by all means, share it with your friends and loved ones!   That is my wish.  Please make it come true.

Rick Archer


For the 2012 Christmas Season, I expanded the puzzle again.  The Long Puzzle grew from 130 clues to 150 clues.

In addition, the Clue List that accompanies the Long Puzzle has grown to 321 clues.  In other words, there are 321 clues and 150 answers.

Not an easy puzzle... but loads of fun.  I hope you enjoy the new clues!  


Puzzle Anecdotes and Rick Archer

You have just read my abridged version about the development of the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle. 

If you have enjoyed the abbreviated story about the Puzzle, you will probably enjoy the Puzzle Anecdotes quite a bit.  In addition to more details about the SSQQ Christmas Puzzle, you will surely laugh at all the crazy emails I have been sent over the years. 

If you are curious about me, you are more than welcome to read my bio.  Just click Rick Archer

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy solving the puzzle.

Rick Archer
December 2013

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