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!

Buzz Feedback – A Statistical Look

Hey everyone, and welcome to Chris Words! I hope you all had an excellent Halloween, and that you found the most sincere pumpkin patch. This last week was a bit of a hell for me, but I think I’m officially out of that hole. Either way, a puzzle didn’t get written, but since I don’t want to leave you hanging, we’re opening another chapter of Crossword Research and investigating the Buzzfeed Crossword!


As you probably know at this point, Caleb Madison has been captaining the new Buzzfeed Crossword puzzle, which has been targeted at new crossword solvers by incorporating things that would be relevant to them, as opposed to dusty old crosswordese. Buzzfeed has hired Caleb to make this happen, and Caleb has enlisted a BUNCH of excellent constructors to help make these puzzles happen.

The rise of the Buzzfeed crossword has also led to the creation of the site “New Grids on the Block“, where the crossword community can discuss the Buzzfeed crossword as well as the other puzzles in Indie land (including mine, despite my name not being in the drop down menu under “Indies”). [EDITED: Peter Broda has informed me that this has now been fixed. Thanks so much Peter/NGOTB crew!]

And while it’s great for us, the crossword/critic community gets to look at these Buzzfeed puzzle with a magnifying glass, we certainly must consider the clientele: the millennials, not the Boomers/Gen Xers.

Before continuing, read [this Buzzfeed article]. This probably sums up millennials in a nutshell.

I’m sure most of us check out crosswordfiend daily and see what we’ve rated the crossword of the day, if we don’t rate them ourselves. However, the New York Times crossword doesn’t really have a rating system used by the solvers themselves. The people who rate crosswords are the crossword community dedicated enough to go to a website dedicated to crossword rating and rate. The NYT doesn’t have a rating system integrated into its webpages, the app doesn’t let you rate an individual puzzle, and no one hears your comment to your spouse after you finish your crossword at the breakfast table.

Buzzfeed does. On every Buzzfeed article, there is a series of buttons you can click do describe how you felt about that article. For example, here is the image of the ratings for the article “This Girl Texted Adele Lyrics To Her Ex And It Did Not Go Well” [found here].


This article, at time of writing, has been viewed more than 345,000 time, and this is the distribution of how people rated it. FAIL is leading, followed by LOL, with [Broken heart] finishing the medal stand.

So, I have taken the liberty to organize the first 14 Buzzfeed crosswords, and analyze the number of ratings, plus what the individual ratings were. During the writing of this post, the Friday 10/30 puzzle had yet to receive any votes.

Click for larger picture


The penultimate column, Consensus, is just a percentage of how many people that voted for the #1 selected option. This way, you can see if there is more “room to debate” about a certain puzzle. The final column is simply the rating of the Buzzfeed article on crosswordfiend with the number of people that voted on it.

The real question when analyzing this data is determining what some of these options mean. Like, what does FAIL mean? Does it mean “This puzzle sucks!” or “This puzzle is really hard!” or “I’m so bad at crosswords!”. Same for WTF or [Broken heart].

The total votes column now graphed as a line.


The premiere puzzle by friend-of-the-show Neville Fogarty led, as all TV pilots do, but it just seems odd to me that Elizabeth’s Gorski’s puzzle had SUCH a huge spike. I’ve done some quick internet research about why, and I haven’t found anything yet.

As the data seems to say, people generally [Heart] most of the puzzles, always appearing in the top 3 for any puzzle.

Few other bits of odds and ends:
-Only one puzzle of the list did any put FRESH, just Finn’s 10/23 puzzle. I assume it was so FRESH, that some viewers decided against [Heart] and put FRESH instead.
-Matt Gaffney receives the first WTF award for his crossword. Did the Buzzfeed solvers thing vowel progressions are just too WTF?
-What does [Broken heart] mean?!? “I’m sad because I can’t do puzzles” or does it mean something else?
-Besides “First constructor”, Neville became the first repeat constructor in Buzzfeed history. As an analog, Manny Nosowsky was the first repeat constructor in the Will Shortz era.

And let it be known, I want the Buzzfeed puzzles to succeed. The Buzzfeed crossword is allowing people to get paid for crazy indie puzzles to be published for the masses, where “NETFLIX AND CHILL” can be a central theme answer.

Hopefully, the Buzzfeed crosswords will pick up more steam, and will be enjoyed by the masses. Not sure if that means featuring puzzles on the home page or a rework of the in-site solving app or PDFs that you can actually print, but I hope that the Buzzfeed puzzles will grow into an equal of the other publishing places. Caleb has done an amazing job, and I look forward to more puzzles and to me actually sending some in.

And finally, I leave you with this excellent nugget from Twitter, with an amazing juxtaposition.


New puzzle next week! See you then!


Well, I Started Dating a Witch the Week Before Halloween (#51)


Before I go into the meta, this week’s puzzle is my Halloween entry! And, to keep celebrating the season, feel free to flashback to last year’s Halloween puzzle

Anyway, let’s go over last week’s meta.

This puzzle was looking for an appropriate eight-letter word that relates to this tribute puzzle.

As it should have been clear, the topic of this tribute puzzle is “Back To The Future”, which was in the news last week as Delorean-solutionOctober 21st, 2015 was the setting of part of “Back To The Future II”.

17A: [Popular 1985 film that begins and ends in the year 1985] = BACK TO THE FUTURE
23A: [Protagonist of 17-Across] = MARTY MCFLY
47A: [Antagonist of 17-Across] = BIFF TANNEN
58A: [Event critical to 17-Across] = HIGH SCHOOL DANCE

Also, the final theme entry to this puzzle was found in the dead center:
39A: [Important feature of a crossword puzzle or to a 58-Across] = THEME

So, of course the the theme to the crossword puzzle is BTTF, but the important part is finding the theme of the HIGH SCHOOL DANCE. As Doc would say, the “rhythmic ceremonial ritual” that got George and Lorraine back together was “Enchantment Under the Sea”.

That dance theme is now the important part of this crossword, as the name “Under the Sea” can be reworked as the pun “Under the C”.

As many of you saw, there are exactly 8 Cs found in this puzzle, and if you look “under the C”, the eight letters spell, from left-to-right, the name DELOREAN, the glorious car that Doc Brown turned into the time machine, and the answer to this meta puzzle.


Guys, last Wednesday was Back to the Future Day! And, it was my birthday! The fates aligned. To celebrate, I wore this shirt, which has my birthday on it.


And my birthday cake featured a design that made the day even better.


What a glorious day! Remember that USC Puzzle Hunt I talked about all those months ago? Well, the theme of this year’s Hunt involved a series of movies that should seem obvious at this point. Here’s the link for more evidence.


And, that let me cosplay as an important person in science history, during the opening kickoff.


What a glorious day it was. Back to the Future Day has now come and gone, and it makes me kind of sad that the BTTF is now in a period piece. My intention for last week’s puzzle to be both a tribute puzzle and a meta puzzle, and I like to think I accomplished it. I hope I did the two Bobs proud.

So, 21 readers submitted “DeLorean”. Congrats to those who got it! This week’s randomly selected winner was Charles Montpetit. He will join Jon Delfin, John L. Wilson, Jim Quinlan, Eric Maddy, Andy Keller, David Cole, Roger Barkan, Patricia Miga, and Erik Agard in a future section of the site. Congrats Charles!

Finally, thanks to Ben Johnston for blogging about last week’s puzzle on the new New Grids on the Block website. Thanks Ben!

That’s all I got this week. The future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.


Meta: That’s the Power of Love (#50)


Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 50! Chris Words celebrates its golden anniversary, and it’s exciting that the blog has now gone through 10 full cycles of puzzles.

October 21st, 2015 is a great day for a bunch of people, mostly me, since I turn 23 this week. And, it’s also the anniversary of something that’s bigger than all of us. It’s THAT day, people. The day we’ve been waiting for now for YEARS. And since this puzzle’s number ends with a 0 or 5, it’s time for a meta.

For this tenth meta of the blog, I’m looking for an appropriate eight-letter word that relates to this tribute puzzle. 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.

In puzzle news:

1- The Buzzfeed crossword just finished its first week of puzzles. A great slate of puzzles, that certainly seem to be a little less aggressive than the opening puzzle Caleb gave us (not that there was anything wrong with that!). Constructors for Week 1 included Neville Fogarty, Andrew Ries, and Jeffrey Harris, and I look forward to see what other puzzle stalwarts will make their listicle debut this next week.

2- A new crossword blog is now online, titled New Grids on the Block. Led by Lena Webb, Ben Johnston, Michael Sharp, Erin Milligan-Milburn, and Peter Broda, this new website essentially is the equivalent of Crossword Fiend for those puzzles who are published each week and aren’t in the print media. It’ll be covering the Buzzfeed crossword, all the puzzles published by my colleagues and friends here on the web, and will excitedly be covering Chris Words. This week’s meta won’t go discussed until next Saturday, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they react. Hopefully, well.

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