Hi geeks! Hope you’ve had a great week and if your place of work had a holiday party that featured trivia, even better! We’ve got some fun clues from the past week, and you can tell we’re ramping into the holiday puzzles. Let’s dive right in!
Clues you can use
Monday, Dec. 4 (New York Times, constructed by Luke K. Schreiber)
Wampanoag chief of the 1600s also known as King Philip = METACOMET
Also known as King Philip, Metacomet was a prominent leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy. Born in the early 1630s, he was the second son of Massasoit, the sachem who sent Squanto to meet the Pilgrims. Tensions escalated due to land disputes, cultural clashes, and broken agreements, and Metacomet sought to resist English encroachment on indigenous territories, leading a coalition of tribes against the colonists. This tension eventually led to King Philip’s War, which lasted from 1675 until his death the next year. During these years, more than 2,000 died between the two sides. Today, Metacomet’s life represents the strained relations between native people in the future United States, and the centuries of tragedy that would result from these lands not being shared.
Friday, Dec. 15 (USA Today, constructed by Ada Nicolle & Thea Kendal)
“Salt” singer Max = AVA
Born Amanda Ava Koçi in 1993, Ava Max is an American-Albanian pop singer and songwriter. Known for her distinctive style and bold, empowering lyrics, Max gained international recognition in 2018 with the single “Sweet But Psycho.” Her energetic anthems often explore themes of self-empowerment and individuality. Ava’s debut studio album Heaven & Hell further showcased her versatility, and included her songs “Salt” and “Kings & Queens.” This year she released her second album Diamonds & Dancefloors to her audience of eager “Avatars,” and placed the song “Choose Your Fighter” on Barbie the Album.
Thursday, Dec. 7 (New Yorker, constructed by Will Nediger)
Term for a celebration perceived to exist mainly to sell people cards and gifts = HALLMARK HOLIDAY
Friday, Dec. 15 (New York Times, constructed by Alex Tomlinson)
Term for an overly commercialized celebration = HALLMARK HOLIDAY
The holiday season is here, but it really seems like some of the clues have a grudge, with two different puzzles including HALLMARK HOLIDAY as a 15-letter grid-spanner! Dating back to the 1980s, the term “Hallmark holiday” is now used for any celebration, large or small, wherein the gift-industrial complex stands to make money. Yes, Christmas itself might be construed as a Hallmark holiday, partly because Hallmark will make millions from the 1.1 billion cards sent each year and make $350 million from ad revenue from their Hallmark Christmas movies, but Christmas predates Hallmark by a fair stretch. Still, even someone doe-eyed like me has to show some cynicism for celebrations like Administrative Professionals Day (even though I’m actively an administrative assistant). In any case, no matter how you celebrate, I hope you can keep the holiday spirit in your heart.
It’s December, which means lots of puzzles are being released for the holidays! In the U.S., the new holiday puzzle tradition is the New York Times Supermega 50×50 crossword, in their Puzzlemania supplement. Even if you don’t subscribe to the print edition of the Times, you can still purchase the Puzzlemania part online and solve the gigantic crossword at home.
In the U.K., the annual GCHQ Christmas Challenge has been released. GCHQ is essentially the U.K.’s National Security Agency, and each winter they put out some codes and puzzles for amateur codebreakers to solve. Some years, the puzzles are rather dense and hard and British, but of this year’s puzzles, I was able to solve a few just by looking. Give it a gander yourself!
For a vintage look into British codebreaking, an article this week in The Times recalled the D-Day crossword crisis, wherein words like SWORD and JUNO made their way into a puzzle right before the landings. Still a mystery!
Finally, since constructor Erik Agard included the song AIN’T NOBODY in Tuesday’s New Yorker, clued as [1983 Rufus and Chaka Khan hit], why not enjoy it now?
Have a great week, everyone, especially if you’re traveling for the holidays. Bring a crossword book to the airport! It makes waiting much easier. Be safe, and see you next time for our holiday edition!
Chris King is a longtime crossword commentator, and the author of five published puzzle books. His column appears on Questionist every Sunday.