Monday, December 24, 2012

"Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying" was the answer to Christmas Mystery 2012

The title of the hymn, "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying," traditionally sung during Advent, is the answer to Christmas Mystery 2012.  An explanation of the clues will be posted in due course.

Background:  This year's Christmas Mystery is based on artist Elinor Sethman's "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."

I encountered Elinor's work at the Laguna Beach, CA Art-A-Fair, held every summer for two months in conjunction with the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters and the Sawdust Festival.

Elinor makes use of watercolors and colored pencils to produce unique kaleidoscope-like paintings.  (I have two of her giclee reproductions hanging in my kitchen.) 

This year I decided to take up the challenge of creating a Christmas Mystery puzzle based on an already existing work of art, namely, Sethman's "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."   In this piece, the flying angel and the nutcracker, who appeared to have just woken, reminded me of the Advent hymn, "Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying." An organ rendition, with printed words, can be found here.

Some background on the hymn itself:  Lutheran Pastor Philipp Nicolai published this hymn, both German lyrics and music are his own, in 1599.  Apparently a devastating plague engulfed his parish town of Unna, Germany at that time, and inspired him to write this hymn reflective of eternal life. In German, the hymn begins, "Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme...."  The arrangement of the tune most familiar today is due to Bach. In hymnals, the tune is listed as WACHET AUF.

There have been numerous translations of the lyrics into English; I am using the translation by Catherine Winkworth, which she published in 1858. 

The first stanza of the hymn is largely inspired by the parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, but also references Isaiah 52: 1, 8. Stanza 2 comes from Revelation 22: 16-20, while the third and final stanza has connections to Revelation 5:11-13, Revelation 21:21, Isaiah 64:4 and I Corinthians 2:9.  Interestingly, the United Methodist Hymnal  (pg. 720, open the link to see lyrics and tune), lists Romans 13:11-12 and Matthew 25:1-13 as scripture references for the hymn in the print edition.

More details about this hymn can be found here and here.

Explanation of the Clues:

* The opening two lines of the poem make reference to the choir in "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past."  This points to a carol or hymn of the season. The words "revelation" and "exhortation" in those first two lines certainly are consistent with the lyrics of "Wake, Awake for Night is Flying."

* The question by Raggedy Ann and the statement by Gingerbread Man connect with the scripture references of the United Methodist Hymnal.

* Mr. Nutcracker awaking clearly alludes to the hymn's lyrics.

* The flying angel again connects with the opening line of the hymn.  The second stanza of the hymn speaks of "Her Star," so a reference to stars in the poem is suggestive.

* The third line of the first stanza of the hymn begins with "Midnight," so I have the angel revealing a key clue at midnight.

* The central clue of the puzzle is, appropriately, shown in its own kaleidoscope emerging from the angel puzzle.  This is a double cryptograph which is easily solved by letting 0 stand for an a, 1 for b, 2 for a c,..., and 25 for z.

* First taking the numbers in the white spokes, beginning with 22 (a posted clue made reference to two orange stars on either side of the angel puzzle), and going clockwise, we get "wachetauf," namely, WACHET AUF, the name of the tune.

*  Next taking the numbers in the red areas outside the white spokes, again beginning with a 22 (the 22 next to the white spoke 22), and going counterclockwise, we get "winkworth," obviously referring to Catherine Winkworth, whose English lyrics for this hymn are used in many hymnals.

* The laughing St. Nick is weaved into the poem by having him make reference to the cryptograph.

*  Finally Rocking Horse rounds out the poem with a wink (a reference to Catherine Winkworth), and a nod telling you that there are just six words in the answer, and that the wooden angel puzzle will be the prize for the winner.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Extra Clue #3

Mr. Nutcracker rubbed his eyes and bent his ear,
"It's Isaiah and First Corinthians I hear!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Extra Clue #2

In an earlier draft, line 10 of the poem was written: "Ho, ho, ho! An Advent cryptograph!"

Extra Clue #1

In the photo of the barely opening angel puzzle, two orange stars can be seen to the left of the angel and two orange stars can be seen to the right of the angel.  Otherwise, all of the other stars are gold.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to submit an answer to Christmas Mystery 2012

The answer to Christmas Mystery 2012, and an explanation of every clue, will be posted on Christmas Eve, or when a correct answer is submitted, whichever comes first.  A correct answer must contain the words, and only the words, of the correct phrase.  Only three guesses allowed! Answers may be submitted to

Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past

A larger view of "Kaleidoscope of Christmas Past," the basis of this year's Christmas Mystery, can be seen here. Elinor Sethman is the artist.

Christmas Mystery 2012

A choir of four proclaimed a great revelation;

Soprano, alto, tenor, bass, joined in exhortation.

"Are those lyrics from St. Matthew?" queried Raggedy Ann.

"I hear a bit of Romans," smiled Gingerbread Man.

Mr. Nutcracker awoke and hadn't a clue,

while amongst bright stars our angel flew.

But when midnight struck, she was quick to reveal,

A kaleidoscope of numbers arrayed in a wheel.

'Ol St. Nick burst out in a hearty laugh,

"Ho, ho, ho! A most clever cryptograph!"

Rocking Horse nodded, with a wink that reassures,

"Name the six words, and the angel puzzle is yours!"


Angel Puzzle Open with Kaleidoscope of Numbers

                                        Click on the image for a larger view.

Angel Puzzle

                                       Click on the image for a larger view.

Sunday, December 2, 2012