Pop Quiz (#32)


Welcome to Chris Words, and welcome to Week 32!

Well, I just arrived back home from The Indie 500, and what a fantastic event it was. Andy, Erik, Evan, Finn, Neville, and Peter wrote some pretty damn amazing puzzles, and the event was just a blast to attend. It was so great meeting these people really for the first time, and I got to shake hands and talk with so many other people that I greatly admire. And it’s not too bad solving at a table with both Matt Gaffney and Tony Orbach either.

In terms of how I did…I was no first place finisher. According to the amazing statistics kept at the event, I was 81st out of 100, or 41st out of 60 in my division. Not terrible, but I wish I was a faster solver.

The coordinators of the event issued the statement that the puzzles themselves should not be discussed for two weeks, which would give the at-home division a chance to play without spoilers. So, I’ll be back in two weeks to discuss my puzzle performances, and they’ll be something to read. Especially since I almost won the Best Wrong Answer award.

But speaking of awards, I did come home with some hardware!


I won the award for Worst Handwriting, which was sponsored by joon pahk! I genuinely can’t believe I won, because I don’t think my crossword handwriting is that terrible. Next week I’ll scan a copy of my work and you can judge for yourself.

Even though joon sponsored the award, I think the people (and the award’s namesake) were expecting joon receive the medal. As seen on Twitter:


So, I have no choice but to make the pahk name proud and show that I did, in fact, have the worst handwriting deemed by the Indie 500 judges. More on that next week.

There is a new puzzle this week, and I hope you enjoy it. The inspiration comes from the fun I’ve had this last year, and the fun many indie constructors have had (or will have) as well.

But I did promise all of you some data mining, so let me show you what I’ve got.


I’ve collected all the clues and answers I have used for the 32 puzzles of this blog (including today’s).

They can be found here. (The actual list might be on a different sheet in the file).

Besides looking at the Ginsberg clue database, I now also have this open, so that I don’t repeat clues I’ve already written. I felt this was necessary after discovering both of my clues for IKEA feature lingonberry jam.

Feel free to look around and see what you find. And a few notes I’ve made:

-There are more than 2400 words clued. Don’t know how many unique words, as I don’t have that kind of spreadsheet capability. I say more than 2400 because I combined two part clues (“With 56-Across,…”, etc.) to appear as one word in the spreadsheet.

-The maximum number of times a word has appeared altogether is four times. In that Four Timers club is ADO, ADS, AMIR, ANN, ELI, ICE, IDO, and MEG.

-The five most common words seen in the Shortz-era of the New York Times that have NOT yet appeared in ChrisWords are ATE, OLE, ERR, ENE, and IRE.

-I’ve only had one compass direction (NNE) appear in the puzzles so far. That’s good. I thought I didn’t have any, but there was on in #9. 

-The words NAE, OBI, GRAIL, IDOL, PERU, and KALI have all featured clues associating with the Indiana Jones franchise. So, it looks like I’m average an Indiana Jones reference once every five puzzles. This sounds about right to me.

-The word ATARI has appeared three times, and appeared in 3 out of 5 consecutive puzzles. Nothing really important there, just something I noticed in hindsight.

-Favorite clue? Lots of good ones, but I love the simplicity of [Words said before the band goes on?] = IDO. It felt good coming up with a new clue for that word that I hadn’t really seen anywhere else. 

Take a look, and see what you find. If someone made a dictionary of just indie constructor clues, that’d be something I’d buy pretty quick.

Again, welcome to Chris Words, and enjoy!


A Cut Above the Rest (#31)


Welcome to Week 31! That’s one puzzle every day for a month!

Last week was a meta, so time for an explanation: This puzzle was looking for something green that completes this puzzle’s theme, and the four longest answers in this puzzle were: PNG030

20A – [Novel set in the year 632 After Ford] = BRAVE NEW WORLD
26A – [Agreed upon, like two opposing forces] = MET IN THE MIDDLE
42A – [Country music selection?] = NATIONAL ANTHEM
48A – [Santiago’s profession in “The Old Man and the Sea”] = MARLIN FISHING

The first word of these entries were BRAVE, MET, NATIONAL, and MARLIN, which correspond to four out of the five MLB teams in the NL East. Specifically, they each begin with what a single player of that team would be called.
The only NL East team not featured in the puzzle are the Philadelphia Phillies, so the meta answer had to be something green that starts with the word PHILLIE. A quick Google would point to the team’s mascot the PHILLIE PHANATIC, which is the answer.

A couple of solvers seemed to be unsure of whether PHILLIE PHANATIC could be right, as it was directly related to the baseball team. However, the Phillie Phanatic is the best answer, as it is really the only thing that begins with the word “Phillie”. Unfortunately, “Philly” is not a single player from the Phillies, because if it was, the meta solution would be a food item.

I could have picked the NL Central, as all the teams there have easy to use names, but I’ve been a lifelong Braves fan, and I’m currently typing this in an Atlanta hotel as my family is seeing the Saturday and Sunday games at Turner Field.

This week, 28 readers submitted the Phillie Phanatic. This week’s randomly selected winner was David Cole. He will join Jon Delfin, John L. Wilson, Jim Quinlan, Eric Maddy, and Andy Keller in a future section of the site.

This weekend I’m in the home of the Braves, but next weekend I’m in the home of the Nationals! The Indie 500 is this upcoming weekend! I’ll be there wearing the Gamecock hat, so be sure to say hello. I’ll have a long write-up about the event on my blog two weeks from now, as I am positive I won’t be able to write a decent one between the event’s end and my Sunday noon deadline. There will still be a new puzzle next week, and I’ll have some cool stuff for you to ponder. I’ve been doing some data mining regarding my puzzling experience, and I’ll have new stuff for you over the next few weeks.

Enjoy this nice straightforward puzzle, and I hope to see you in DC!


Meta: Eastbound & Down (#30)


Welcome back everyone! Sorry I didn’t have a puzzle last week, but I feel like I had a decent reason.


Week 30! Since 30 ends with 5 or 0, it’s time for a meta puzzle.

For this sixth meta of the blog, I’m looking for something green that completes this puzzle’s theme. When you think you have it, email me at cking.gow(at)gmail.com with your answer. I’ll accept answers all the way to noon ET on Saturday.

In upcoming events, the Indie 500 is in less than a couple of weeks. I have full faith that it is going to be an awesome, awesome event. I’m expecting at least 6 fantastic puzzles for the tournament, and I look forward to solving them. Then I considered: what would it take for this tournament to suck? Presented here are six potential puzzles that would ruin the tournament.

In their website order:
1) Andy Kravis – This attorney, game show millionaire, and Rundle A Frontier champion has proven that knowledge is power. And power only comes from having a strong foundation. Thus, Andy’s puzzle will either be a puzzle with theme answers starting PARK/REVERSE/NEUTRAL/DRIVE/LOW or THUMB/INDEX/MIDDLE/RING/PINKY. Brush up on all your “Pinky”s, including ___ Tuscadero, ___ swear, and ___ and the Brain.

2) Erik Agard – He’s got the word “pun” in the name of this site, so we should expect the puns in this puzzle. And to quote a famous song, Erik will have a “sometimes words have two meanings” puzzle. Four or five theme clues, that each can be clued with the exact same clue. For maximum fun, hopefully it’s a one-word clue.

3) Evan Birnholz – As the married one in the group, love is in the air. In honor of his wife, his puzzle will be a wedding proposal puzzle. This tournament will feature a puzzle you only hear about on AOL or MSN homepages once every few years. Not sure who the lucky couple will be, but WILLYOUMARRYME will certainly be one of the Across entry. I think he’ll do it to honor Jon Stewart leaving the Daily Show. That’s how he proposed, you know.

4) Finn Vigeland – The newest constructor of the tournament! His puzzle was picked by the other five as a quality puzzle, but then again, the other five probably wanted to play it safe. Thus, Finn probably submitted a vowel progression puzzle. What’s the consonants he chose? B_LL?  F_LL? P_LL? It does seem that most of these things have LLs. Should be a fun one.

5) Neville Fogarty – Even though Neville has been out of the game for a little bit, he’s still want to commemorate the event with a fantastic puzzle. Going for a PhD in math, Neville has proven he’s a smart one, and as he currently tries to drill math skills into students, he wants to educate the people. Thus, we’ll have a __th anniversary commemoration puzzle. Start brushing up on what took place 50/100 years ago this month. I just hope nobody dies between now and the tournament.

6) Peter BrodaStepquote. Get ready for the finest Mal-esque-a stepquote that you’ve seen since the 1960s.

Even if all this stuff does come true, it would still be an awesome tournament, because these guys are running it. Even if these are the six puzzles you guys are running, I still hope you put some cool references to the NBA or Pokemon or something.

New puzzle next week. Be sure to email me your answer!


Home Field Advantage (#29)

Hello, and welcome to Week 29!

The Honors Council, a group I’m a president of, was holding an end-of-the-semester field day. Calling it an Olympics, one of the organizers asked me if I’d write a puzzle for the event. I said I would. I clued it for a Monday/Tuesday, and a good number of the clues in today’s version are from that original cluing. The event never materialized, due to lack of numbers, but the crossword still lives. Enjoy it.

Also, today’s picture comes from the 2014 USC Puzzle Hunt. The theme of the Hunt was joining Pi Zeta Tau, a fictional Greek organization whose name comes from the 1st, 3rd, and last letters of “puzzle hunt”. The final answer for the entire Hunt is found at the top/bottom two letters of each of the five rings as seen above, which spell out EUREKA I WON. And as a bonus, the intersecting rings letters spell out OLYMPICS from left to right. This whole meta-meta puzzle is in my top 3 favorite puzzles I’ve ever assembled. Good times.

We’ll see if there is a puzzle next Sunday. Did you know I’m graduating THIS Saturday? Crazy right?