Free Fall (#57)


New Years Celebrations

Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 57!

We had a meta puzzle two weeks ago, so let’s go ahead and reveal its answer and put some of you out of your mental misery.

The puzzle was looking for an object associated with the holidays, and the five clues that featured asterisks were:
17A – [*Traditional Christmas dessert] = PLUM PUDDING

25D – [*The 1890s] = MAUVE DECADE

61A – [*Southern folk rock duo who appeared in the documentary “Wordplay”] = INDIGO GIRLS

11D – [*Chief Justice with the middle name Portland] = SALMON CHASE

40A – [*Alp apex] = SNOW CAP

The five clues features here are all two words, with the first word being a color. PLUM, MAUVE, and INDIGO are all shades or purple, while SALMON is a shade of pink, and SNOW is a shade of white. So, we have 3 purples, 1 pink, and 1 white, and combined with the title evoking both light and religion, hopefully you knew or Googled the right answer, ADVENT WREATH. The arrangement of the answers in the grid also reflect the actual candles in the advent wreath, with the purple/pink candles on the outside and the white candle on the inside.


So, some notes:

-I was aware that the white candle is not always used in all advent wreath displays, but I figured the purple/pink lead would be great enough anyway.

-It seems that not everyone is aware of the advent wreath. As a Methodist, I’ve seen it all my life, and the Internet informs me that it is used in both Catholicism and Protestantism, so I figured it was fair game.

-I always assumed that SALMON was a shade of pink, and not orange, but others interpreted that color differently, and I apologize for any confusion regarding that candle color. Would ROSE KENNEDY be a better theme answer to put there? Maybe next holiday season.

Altogether, 10 readers submitted “Advent wreath”. Sorry for the tricky meta everyone. Congrats to those who got it! This week’s randomly selected winner was Steve Blais. He will join Jon Delfin, John L. Wilson, Jim Quinlan, Eric Maddy, Andy Keller, David Cole, Roger Barkan, Patricia Miga, Erik Agard, and Charles Montpetit in a future section of the site. Congrats Steve!

Nonetheless, this puzzle marks my fourth consecutive holiday-related puzzle, and the final puzzle of 2015. What a year it has been! I want to thank all of you who have downloaded and solved my puzzles. Nothing makes me more excited than when I see a new comment on any of the blog posts or when I get an email when you send me a note, a correction, or a meta solution.

This year, I received three puzzle honors that I treasure all the time: a win at the MIT Mystery Hunt, a “Crossword of the Month” award from Matt Gaffney, and the “joon pahk Award for Worst Handwriting” at the Indie 500. Let’s hope 2016 is even better! And maybe I’ll finally get a puzzle published somewhere for some money!

Enjoy the puzzle, and happy new year!


Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal (#56)


Merry Christmas, and welcome to Week 56!

This week’s puzzle is a salute to one of my favorite Christmas movies (which I was watching again while cluing this puzzle).

Last week was a meta, and seems to be quite a stumper. So, I’m bumping the deadline to this upcoming Saturday. Send me your answers, and remember the title!

We will resume next week with non-holiday puzzles.

And as a behind the scenes look, this puzzle was essentially redone after noticing a slight misspelling on my part on one of the themers. Because of this misspelling, this week’s puzzle does not include the fill words of NUTHIN’, LEFT WING, and James HARDEN, which were found in the other grid. Thanks so much, Yertle the Turtle.

Enjoy the puzzle!


P.S. I hope you all have plans to see “The Force Awakens”, because it’s really good.

Meta: Light of the World (#55)


Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 55!  How has the first half of your December been? I’m excited to announce that I got an A in the grad school class that I had to write a 20-page paper. And now, it’s winter break!

I’m back, and since this puzzle’s number ends with a 0 or 5, it’s time for a meta.

For this eleventh meta of the blog, I’m looking for an object associated with the holidays. When you think you have it, email me at cking.gow(at) with your answer. I’ll accept answers all the way to noon ET on Saturday.

Other than that, I don’t really have that much to announce. I should have a new puzzle each week during the break, so be excited! It’s good to be back.

Thanks everyone, and enjoy the puzzle. Be sure to email me your answer!


Brief Hiatus Until December 13th


Hi all. So, the grad school life is real, and that means I have papers and things to write. I’ve done the smart and reasonable thing, which is to give me a little bit of time off from this blog, since things like cluing and theme brainstorming take way longer than they should.

Thus, the puzzles that would have been posted on November 29th and December 6th will be delayed, and I will resume on the 13th with a meta puzzle.

In the mean time, be sure to solve the many puzzles that my colleagues if I can call them that are producing! And hell, it’s never a bad time to binge-solve the entire season of “ANOA PLACE” or “Monday Cavalier Dailies” or maybe just be a completist and finish off the Fogarty or Birnholz collection (I hear that last one still has a reunion special!).

Thanks for understanding, and I’ll be back here soon enough.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving Stuffing (#54)


Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 54! Happy Thanksgiving!

This is now the second puzzle on Chris Words dedicated to Thanksgiving foods, so I look forward to maybe one day publishing a collection of Thanksgiving food-related puzzles.

In other news:
THIS AMAZING ANNOUNCEMENT – I am blown away by Matt Gaffney’s selection of my Back to the Future meta as October’s Crossword of the Month. For someone who has never published a crossword in a major newspaper (yes, still), it is beyond crazy how exciting this is. I strive to make all the puzzles on here of a high caliber, and I hope you’ll continue to follow this blog for many months to come.
-In case you are here for the first time, be sure to follow my blog by subscribing via the menu on the right side.
-Dark meat is better than white meat.

Thanks everyone, and enjoy Thursday and the wonderful sleep you get from eating too much!


Series Finales (#52)


Hi everyone, and welcome to Week 52!

Whipped up this puzzle somewhat quick, so I can supposedly get back to the work I’m supposed to be doing.

This puzzle was supposed to be five-theme, but I couldn’t get a certain 9-letter theme answer into the grid. So, as a bonus puzzle, what possible theme entry was left on the cutting room floor?

Also, congrats to Evan Birnholz for his amazing new position! We all believe that Evan can continue the great 21×21 tradition that Merl left, and the puzzle people of America should be ready for December 6th. Devil Cross has been a wonderful part of the Indie world, but now as he crosses into the great beyond (read “will receive paycheck”), I hope we will continue to cherish how great Devil Cross was and is. Evan gave Chris Words a shout out more than a year ago, and I like to think some of you came here for the first time via his publicity.

Thanks Evan, and congrats on everything!

Enjoy the puzzle.


P.S. The theme answers of this puzzle were clued differently 40 minutes after this puzzle went on the air, so you may have a different version of the puzzle in that case. This is because I thought of a more thematic theme. C’est la vie, so hope you enjoy it more!