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!