Continental Break (#97)



Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 97!

I sincerely hope you enjoy today’s puzzle, as I had a bunch of fun writing it. If I ever get around to making a Patreon account, I promise to deliver puzzles exactly like this one.

I would also like to thank friends Andy Kravis, Neville Fogarty, and Drew Dixon for helping craft clues 18-Across, 37-Across, and 22-Across.

If you have any questions about my time writing the puzzle, I’m sure I can regale you on some tidbits. Hopefully, you’ll get me started when we’re hanging at Indie 500.

Hope to have Puzzle 98 for you very soon. Also, after you solved this one, make sure you complete #96. The 90s have been great for Chris Words.

Thanks everyone! Enjoy the puzzle!



Dream Catcher (#96)

Note: This puzzle has an additional step not featured on the PDF below. The answer to this puzzle and the instructions for the additional step are found below the cover photo. For sake of the puzzle, do NOT look at the solution or additional step until after solving the puzzle.

If you’re able to determine the final step of the puzzle without clicking the link, well done.



Answer Grid
Additional Step

Hey everyone, welcome to Week 96! Hope you enjoy today’s puzzle. I probably won’t be able to write one for the next little while, but this one should bide your time.

We had a meta last week, so let’s talk about it.

The answer to this puzzle was a 20th century year, and there was five long answers that seemed to stick out:

17A – [Piece of information that can devastate a listener when dropped] = TRUTH BOMBNew198-solution
24A – [Metaphorical shape that probably just uses two line segments] = LOVE TRIANGLE
53A – [Online dating service with an aquatic logo] = PLENTYOFFISH
65A – [Friendship symbol that is passed] = PEACE PIPE

Along with
39A – [British agency that closely monitors the households of underage wizards and witches] = MINISTRY OF MAGIC, from the Harry Potter books

Hopefully you brushed up on your English lit, or you typed some of these key answers into Google, as the first word of each of the four theme answers [Truth, Love, Plenty, and Peace] can succeed the phrase “Ministry of” to make the name of a major agency in the fictional world featured in George Orwell’s 1984. The idea of spying on citizens is shown in the Ministry of Magic clue, as The Trace totally does this.

Also, as bonus fill, the top row of this puzzle is CAIN, ALEC, and SHEMP. Those three overlook the entire puzzle, as they can all be described as big brother.


Altogether, 42 readers submitted the right answer. Congrats to those who got it! This week’s randomly selected winner was Tim Harrod. He will join Jon Delfin, John L. Wilson, Jim Quinlan, Eric Maddy, Andy Keller, David Cole, Roger Barkan, Patricia Miga, Erik Agard, Charles Montpetit, Steve Blais, Mike Ruslander, Matthew Breen, David Stein, Justin Weinbaum, Tyler Hinman, Kathy Johnescu, and Regina Cassidy in a future section of the site. Congrats Tim!

Enjoy the puzzle!


Puzzle Predictions for the Indie 500 2017


Hey everyone! A reminder that there’s currently a couple days left to solve the current meta Watchmen. New puzzle on Sunday, and I hear it’s a good one. After that, not sure when #97 will come out, because work and trips, but it’ll come soon enough.

However, as tradition dictates, I am the certified prognosticator for the puzzles of the puzzles of the Indie 500. This year’s theme is time, but who knows what that means. This slate of folks are some amazing constructors, but I know there are some people who check out concert listing before going to the concert, so that’s why I am here. I have successfully predicted 100% of the puzzles up to this point, and I’m here to help you out once more.

The Indie 503 puzzles, in their website order:

Andy Kravis – As much as Andy loves to write crosswords, I think he may love to write warm-up puzzles even more. His Puzzle #141 was his contribution for a warm-up puzzle for the 2017 ACPT, and his Puzzle #1 was a warm-up for the 2013 ACPT. I forgot who wrote the warm-up last year, but the inaugural Indie 500 was by Neville. So, in honor of his love of the warm-up puzzle, Andy will write 2 puzzles: an easy warm-up puzzle titled “Hope You Remembered!” with some theme about the past or something, followed by a Puzzle 1 also titled “Hope You Remembered!” which is just the same grid as the first one, but with no clues. A memory test for the ages. I hope those theme answers will be super memorable.

Angela Olson Halsted – Angela is a huge fan of the non-best NL East team, Washington Nationals. And you may think that there’s not enough baseball crosswords out there. I can’t think of the last time I solved a baseball crossword. Well, Angela will not help you out this time. Angela’s puzzle will be dedicated to a non Big 4 sport. Will it be curling? Will it be the discus? Will it be cricket? Are you ready for some football? Well it won’t come up, so don’t worry about it.

Erik Agard – Anybody that knows Erik knows he has crossword idols. It just happens that in the last few weeks, one of his idols wrote a puzzle that’ll be remembered for a long time. But you know Erik, he likes to step up his game. And thus, Erik’s puzzle will be a puzzle that features only six letters in the fill. The current record of seven is hard to beat, but I’ll look forward to solving a puzzle with just the letters R,S,T,L,N,E. Erik couldn’t be more proud.

Neville Fogarty – You know, I’m sure Neville’s thought about it for a while, but I honestly believe this event he’ll finally get to the Pokemon Go crossword everyone’s been waiting for. Neville was known for his Pokemon references on his old site, and its very possible we’ll have an interactive element similar to the cell phones or red light / green light seen at LPZ. Make a grid that looks like the Pokemon Go interface, and you’ve got an instant classic.

Tracy Bennett – Tracy makes her Indie 500 debut this year! Thrice seen in the NYT, Tracy is no spring chicken to crossword writing, or chickens of any other season. Seeing her previous work, I think Tracy’s puzzle will involve wordplay. Anagrams, puns, rhyming words, rebus squares, it’s all fair game with Tracy! Wordplay often tends to be really difficult, so I’m hoping it’s not too difficult! Really looking forward to being proven right.

Paolo Pasco – One of the rising stars in the crossworld word, Paolo is here to kick your butt and chew gum. And the Indie 500 is all out of gum but good on pie. Paolo is here to one-up everyone, and his contribution will be a 51×51 crossword. You think Longo’s 50×50 was good? Wait until you see Paolo’s. You’ll plop down DOUBLE DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE FIRE BURN AND CAULDRON BUBBLE crossing NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE and you’ll be on your way. Now you may think “Won’t this take a while to grade?”. In a way. The time on the clock will only be 45 minutes, but it’s a test to see how much you can get done in that time. I’m sure there will be some metric to determine how much of the grid you get done, but the it’ll be a race to get 50%.

Allegra Kuney – Remember how I correctly predicted Sam’s ERNEST HEMINGWAY tribute puzzle last year? Well, Allegra cites her love of dumplings in her Indie 500 bio, so it’s clear she loves food. And in a moment that I’m sure Erik will hate himself for not including in a certain publication, Allegra’s puzzle will feature seed entries like ENGLISH MUFFIN, FRENCH TOAST, DANISH PASTRY, and SPANISH OMELET (with a potential IRISH COFFEE tack-on if you make the grid 14 columns wide). Off the top of my head, the puzzle might be called “Continental Breakfast”. I’m sure it’ll make all of us hungry…for American pie!

Now, as you may have noticed, there are 7 people, but only 6 puzzles. Whichever of these 7 are pairing up for one puzzle, just mix the themes seen above together to get their actual theme. I really want to see the 51×51 RSTLNE puzzle.

And if for some unknown reason I’m wrong, I look forward to seeing the puzzles and hanging out with the folks that make them. I’m really looking forward to being there, and I’m sure it’ll be a bunch of fun.

Oh, I’ve got my music already picked:

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 12.02.05 PM

Look forward to seeing you there! Solve the current meta! New puzzle on Sunday!


Meta: Watchmen (#95)



Hey everyone, welcome to Week 95!

New puzzle coming to you on a Friday, slightly trying to ride to Gaffney wave, but also to not avoid posting on Easter. And since this week ends with a 5 or 0, let’s have a meta:

For this nineteenth meta, I’m looking for a 20th century year. When you think you have it, email me at cking.gow(at) with your answer. I’ll accept answers all the way to late Saturday, April 22nd.

Shout out to Neville Fogarty and Mike Nothnagel who authored the clues for 37-Down and 28-Across respectively.

Have a good weekend everyone, and I’ll be back with a new puzzle soon enough. Also, get ready for my third annual prediction of the Indie 500 puzzles, where I have so far been guessing with a 100% accuracy rate.

Be sure to send me your answer!


Quartet for the End of the Tournament (#94)


NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - South Carolina v Florida

Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 94!

Congrats to Dan, joon, and Tyler for a great ACPT! I couldn’t go this year, but I read and saw a lot of good things about the event. I look forward to solving the puzzles, and I look forward to not posting my times here.

Today’s puzzle is inspired by some recent events here at USC. Sure, the theme is straight forward, but I hope you’ll enjoy the fill and clues. 2-Down is a personal favorite of mine.

Also, most puzzles are still not online yet. I plan to start working on this later today. However, if there is a certain puzzle you’d like access to again, shoot me an email, and I can make that a priority.

Go Gamecocks!


Down Only Temporarily

Hey everyone.

So, Chris Words is going to be temporarily down for a bit. Yes, this is partially due to my busy school work, but the main reason is because all of the links on this site have been deactivated.

On March 15th, Dropbox changed their policy about sharing links on the Public folder, and all links that were made no longer do not work. In order to fix it, you have to copy and paste the new link into the blog, but with now 93 puzzles published online, you can imagine the amount of work to be done.

I’ve greatly loved how easy it is to upload files into Dropbox and then link to here in order to not have to pay WordPress for file storage. I do not have a problem with Dropbox, but I’ll admit this new change is annoying.

Also bonus, I’m mailing my MacBrook Pro to New Mexico today for a repair that needs to be done, and this will further delay the edits needed to make the blog run smoothly.

The blog will be hopefully back to full capacity in a week and a half, and I do plan to have another puzzle on here very soon. Apparently, crosswords are going asea, and I smell a theme.

Good luck to everyone going to Connecticut this weekend! We’ll be back soon!


Themeless Nineteen (#93)



Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 93!

Themeless this week. I hope you think the long stuff really outweighs a couple of the short stuff. I promise you, it’s mostly harmless.

Administrative note: Dropbox has been emailing its user about a change it’s doing involving the Public folder. All of the files used on this website are found in my Public folder for my account, and I’m not totally sure what will happen when the day (I believe the 15th) comes. So, if you notice that every file on my site is down, that will have to be changed.

Also, congrats to friend-of-the-show Sam Ezersky with his recent hiring, as he’ll be working with Will and Joel as they edit the NYT. Congrats and good luck Sam! I’ll get around to writing about your week long meta contest on NGOTB this week!



Motion Pictures (#92)



Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 92!

Today’s puzzle is brought to you kinda on a bet.


Although I’ll disappoint Evan by not having the entire puzzle as links, our three theme entries do, two of which is I think may be a debuts, and I’m mighty proud of that.

Our next puzzle at Chris Words probably won’t be based on a Twitter conversation. But don’t put it past me.



Go the Distance (#91)



Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 91! Today’s puzzle is more or less a themeless with one exception. Don’t overthink it, and don’t go looking for a hidden message. I posted by mission statement about this puzzle on Twitter.


So, print it out, and enjoy it while you’re watching the Super Bowl.

Some weeks ago, right before the MIT Mystery Hunt which I talked about here, I posted a meta so let’s talk about it.

The answer to this puzzle was an alumnus of MIT who would make a good seventh theme entry to this puzzle, and this puzzle provided six famous people, highlighted in the grid with Stata Center

16A – [*#10 on FC Barcelona] = LIONEL MESSI
22A – [*”Tristesse Etude” composer] = FREDERIC CHOPIN
31A – [*Noted pink shirt and undies wearer] = TOM CRUISE
40A – [*Co-director of “Singin’ in the Rain”] = GENE KELLY
45A – [*Artist of “Langlois Bridge at Arles”] = VINCENT VAN GOGH
58A – [*Jed Bartlet’s actor] = MARTIN SHEEN

With the title of “Tall Order”, I hoped you’d Google the heights of these folks to possibly arrange them in height order. Turns out, these six guys are all 5’7″. So, today’s answer would be an MIT alum with that same height.

There are several lists on the Internet of 5’7″ celebrities, but a much easier method would be to Google “five foot seven inches MIT” or something of the like, and hopefully you’d discover OLIVER SMOOT, a man who as a student, was used to measure a bridge there in Cambridge in units of himself, as a 5’7″ man. A nice history of Mr. Smoot can be found [here].


The instructions were to simply provide an MIT alum who would make a good seventh entry, and so there were a few solvers that found other heights. Paul Krugman and Ray Kurzweil were both found twice by some solvers, and those answers would of course be accepted.

By the way, the clue [Alma mater of this meta’s answer] was found at 57-Across, but probably better notated as 5’7″-Across.

Altogether, 51 readers submitted the right answer. Congrats to those who got it! This week’s randomly selected winner was Regina Cassidy. She will join Jon Delfin, John L. Wilson, Jim Quinlan, Eric Maddy, Andy Keller, David Cole, Roger Barkan, Patricia Miga, Erik Agard, Charles Montpetit, Steve Blais, Mike Ruslander, Matthew Breen, David Stein, Justin Weinbaum, Tyler Hinman, and Kathy Johnescu in a future section of the site. Congrats Regina!

Have a good week everyone!


2017 Mystery Hunt – Critical Hit


Before I forget, I need to talk about the Mystery Hunt!

The 2017 Hunt was a lot of fun. This year, I was solving on team Palindrome, with the official name “TOO LONG NO LOOT”. With the last two years being on Luck, whose focus is either to win or to run the Hunt, this was a change of pace, as Palindrome’s official philosophy is “We Play For Fun”. However, when the official roster of everyone that was on Palindrome was sent on the group email, I was stating very confidently that we had to win. There was simply no way we could lose with the talent that the team had.

I arrived in Boston at noon on Thursday with the purpose of actually going to sightsee the city before Hunt began. I got to walk a lot of the Freedom Trail, although Old North Church wasn’t open at the USS Constitution was WAY too far away for me to do it. I had blisters on my feet for the rest of the weekend, but I’m glad I got to see the sights.

Hunt began on Friday at noon, and this year’s theme was role-playing games, with a D&D knockoff called “Monsters et Manus”, a pun on the school’s motto. This is one of those themes I assume most teams have early in the theme vote, since there’s so much you can do with it, but other teammates come up with something else and then go with that. D&D was inevitable, and 2017 was its year.

Hunt can be found here (with solutions): Monsters et Manus

Puzzles were very well written, and I enjoyed solving. The other 80 people on Palindrome that were solving on campus were in two rooms, and everyone was humming all throughout Friday. A puzzle would get unlocked, and there was people zipping through a Google Doc to figure it out. It was amazing. The sad thing is that since we were in two rooms, sometimes that made co-solving harder, and I tell ya, if we were all in one room, we probably could have shaved 3 hours off of our final time.

The story I keep bragging about is the Economist Meta round, which after solving “Upon Reflection” and getting its answer, I was sure I knew how the meta mechanism worked. Sure enough it would be, and after a couple more answers was solved, we had our answer. At Closing, there were extra tokens that teams would receive for solving a meta available, and I was able to get one, which was my coin for the year, as our team didn’t receive the metal one.


Oh yeah, Palindrome solved the Hunt, and fast. It was projected that we were solving a meta every hour, which for a Mystery Hunt, is absurdly amazing. Everyone in the room could feel that we were solving these puzzles quickly. It’s hard to know how or why, as most of us figured that since there’s more than 200 eyeballs looking at these puzzles, of course they’re going to get solved quickly, how could they not?

There was certainly points during the Hunt where we thought we were going to win. People could feel it. And we were close. Team Palindrome beat the final meta challenge, and then did the runaround, where we found where the coin was hidden around 5:30am Saturday morning. We started the Hunt just a mere 16 hours before. Although we had solved the Hunt faster than any winning team had ever done, we came in second, as team Death and Mayhem found the coin at 4:23 am.


A huge congratulations to Death and Mayhem, who certainly were well equipped to win. According to some charts, D&M had about 160 people total on their team this year, and I believe a large number of them were on campus. Some of them were folks I knew on Team Luck, and some of them were folks I’ve known through the other puzzling activities I do. And like that, the 2017 MIT Mystery Hunt was done for me.

So, I went back to the hotel, slept until 2pm, and then asked myself “What am I going to do for the rest of the weekend?” I moseyed back over to our team’s HQ, and there was people solving some of the puzzles we had not finished during our 15 hour sprint, and I soon left to go get some food with some folks. I had three consecutive meals and three restaurants, a pizzeria, a diner, and a second pizza place where I did not order anything because I already had a small pizza and French toast. After all that, there was a party at a Palindrome member’s house in Somerville, and good times were had by all. On Sunday I went to the Museum of Fine Arts there in Boston, went to the Boda Borg escape room simulator-thing in a suburb, and played some trivia with some friends after the Cowboys had lost (still upset about that). Monday was Closing, and I eventually made it to the airport. But the real question is, how did this happen?


This screenshot comes from the Wrap-Up show, and it shows two main pieces of info: the size of the team (represented by the size of the circle), and their finishing time. By noon Saturday, a total of 6 teams had finished the Hunt. In the modern era, the fastest Hunt ending was 10:27 pm Saturday, for the 2012 Producers Hunt, so around 34 hours. Six teams this year had finished it within 24 hours.

So, I think there are some big philosophical Hunt questions that are going to have to be asked.

1) Do I go to sleep?

This year, our team won in around 16 hours. I was awake for all of it. Two years ago, I took a power nap in the breakout food room, and continued until we won, but this year, there was no need for a nap.

Team Palindrome was looking to win this year, and maestro Eric Berlin had already been arranging for people to take a midnight shift, where they’d go to sleep in the evening on Friday, and come back in the wee hours so that the team can have a chance at winning. As a result, there were some team members who were in their hotel rooms sleeping when the Hunt was won. I don’t blame them, since how could they know, but now the questions I have to be asked about the future.

I say there has to be a tipping point. When we were solving, one dude who was walking around the room commenting was saying that after we finish the main map on the screen, that’d there be another entire map behind it. He claimed we were probably about 1/3 done with the Hunt. I didn’t call him out right then, but that was hogwash.

At that point, we had solved at least 125 puzzles and metas. There was NO WAY this year’s Hunt had 400 puzzles in it. I haven’t done the math on this, but there seems to be around an average of 130-160 puzzles in a Hunt. Taking the lower end of this, take 130. 75% of 130 puzzles is around 100, and I say that’s the new tipping point. If your team has finished 100 puzzles in DAY ONE, then I think you should think about staying up. There were times where I felt if we had a couple more folks looking at puzzles we might have solved them faster, but how could we have known this year’s Hunt would be shortest on record?

2) Is this a new era for Mystery Hunting?

Some discussion on Saturday involved asking if from now on, winners of the Mystery Hunt would be a spectrum, where some people would win early Saturday, while some would win early Monday?

This is where I did some research. The following is the winning times in each Hunt since 1994 (which was listed as ending Saturday afternoon). This data reflects rounding times up to the nearest hour, and stating the Hunt begins Friday 1pm.


In the modern era (2000/Oz until now), the average winning length has been 46.6 hours. Collected data for this chart can be found [here].

This year, a bunch of teams won, and the writing team reported that a bunch of teams who play each year but don’t finish got the opportunity to finish this year. This was met with lots of cheers, and everyone walked away from the Hunt satisfied.

The first two teams who won however probably totaled around 180 folks on campus who hung around because the Hunt was over. The MIT Mystery Hunt is an investment, not just of the time and resources of the writing team, but for folks traveling to the event. I heard some people grumbling about how they’re not sure if they can justify in the future spending money on flights, 4 days of hotels, and possibly skipping work if they compete in a 16-hour event.

I think there is some truth in that. People attend the Hunt because they know it’s a weekendful of puzzling. When you don’t get a full weekend, I don’t blame someone being annoyed. I enjoyed all the extra time, and I got to go see sites, hang out with folks, and play escape rooms and trivia, which is fun for a grad student without a full time job, but I don’t speak for everyone. The balance of how long a Hunt takes will be weighed in the future.

Before this year, the fastest Hunt was the 2012 Producers Hunt, which was followed up by the behemoth 2013 Coinheist Hunt. In the words of that year’s art producer:

First, last year’s hunt was around 100 puzzles long, and it ended early. We heard lots of whining about the early end. So we thought that this hunt needed more puzzles in order to last until Sunday noon. In the early Hunt structure conversations, some individuals vociferously argued that the Hunt needed to be around 180-200 puzzles long, or else it wouldn’t be long enough. Arguably, this shifted the Sages HQ Overton Window in terms of what we thought the Hunt required–people retorted that 135 was enough, not that we needed to *lower* the number back to 100.

How long will next year’s Hunt be? It’s a coin toss.

3) As a writing team, do we make it harder?

I think this year’s metas were easier. It’s hard to know, when you have so many people looking at puzzles, and you have people like Foggy Brume and Eric Berlin solely essentially working on metas, but they seemed easier. Palindrome was often able to solve a meta using just a handful of answers, and we were able to steamroll some rounds like “The Broken Bridge” with just 4 answers I believe.

The metas are the crux of the event. They determine how fast you could win. The “problem” this year was that individual puzzles determined how you unlocked other puzzles in other rounds, while solving a meta automatically unlocked other puzzles. Because we were able to solve a meta in 4 puzzles, we were able to unlock other puzzles, which means we could backsolve other puzzles, which means it was a cycle of unlocking and backsolving, and that’s how I believe we progressed so quickly.

I believe next year’s metas will be trickier, only as a way to make up for this year’s simpler metas. Understand, this year’s metas were very well written, but were they tough as nails? Probably not. However, I do believe if we are to see a return to the 46 hour average, the metas will be harder.

4) Should we cap teams?

Doesn’t matter. Small teams finished the Hunt within 24 hours too. Sure, it helps to have a bunch of folks, but at the end, it’s quality over quantity. It just happens some teams get lucky in both fronts.


Congrats to the writing team for putting on an amazing Hunt. Between the website, the puzzles, and the events we got the abbreviated forms of because we finished so quickly, there’s no doubt everyone had fun.

Congrats to Death and Mayhem for winning, and I look forward to seeing what you all get to put on.

And thanks again to all of the great teammates on Palindrome. I hope I get to play with you all next year, and I do hope I get to see you throughout the year at the various puzzle events we all attend.

Because I’ve learned that the MIT Mystery Hunt is a place…


…jurer rirelobql xabjf lbhe anzr. Until next year MIT!