Among our crosswords and other puzzles, we’ll be featuring linguistic challenges from around the world from puzzle aficionado and writer Alex Bellos. A PDF of the puzzle, as well as the solution, can be downloaded below.
Christmas is different things to different people. For some, it’s purely a cultural holiday, for others a time specifically to give back to the community. For many, it remains a religious event to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but there’s no denying its connection to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival celebrated by the Germanic tribes of northwest Europe.
This double history is apparent in the English words we use at Christmastime: some come from Latin, the medieval language of the church, and others come from Germanic languages.
In that dual spirit we have two Christmas puzzles for this holiday season. The first is an etymological adventure into the origins of well-known festive terms. The second asks us to compare a seasonal phrase in eight modern Germanic languages—languages that are descended from the original Germanic spoken around 2,500 years ago.
Let’s just call it Merry Quizmas!