It’s December, and you’ve probably already received an invitation to some sort of holiday event. Maybe it’s a housewarming, or a holiday luncheon, or a game night. But, maybe, it’s an ugly sweater party.
Ugly sweater parties used to be events that ironically appreciated sweaters that were made with genuine affection, but simply didn’t please the eye. But once ugly sweaters became a part of pop culture, they became, as all things do, a cottage industry, and now companies release “ugly” Christmas sweaters for every pop culture property imaginable.
Most of them are simply underwhelming — and a few are often actually quite lovely — but none of them really capture the spirit of the original ugly sweater party ideal.
Of course, there are exceptions.
And then, there are the ones I’m on the fence about. Check out this Minesweeper-inspired ugly sweater from Microsoft:
It’s not garish by any means. It’s cleverly designed and weirdly festive. But I also can’t imagine anyone buying it.
It’s certainly unique.
But it raised the question…
What other puzzly ugly sweaters are out there? Would they all feel too corporate like the modern ugly sweater patternings, or could I find some genuine diamonds in the rough?
Let’s find out, shall we?
Of course, when you type “puzzle ugly sweater” into Google, you find an amazing array of jigsaw puzzles featuring ugly sweater designs. And honestly, what a great idea for an image for a jigsaw. The riot of colors alone would make for a pretty fun jigsaw solving experience.
So I started pairing different puzzle brands with “ugly sweater” in my searches, and I began to yield some results, however mixed.
There’s this Rubik’s sweater design, which I find a bit meh. It’s nice, it’s unoffensive. But it’s not the colorful visual assault I was hoping for.
I mean, look at this Rubik’s hoodie on Amazon. At least that seems to be trying to overwhelm your senses.
So what about Tetris? Tetris is part of the fabric of modern puzzling. Surely there must be some Tetris-fueled designs for ugly sweaters.
The first result I found was this pattern, which is actually quite lovely. It’s discontinued in its original sweater form, but lives on as a print for t-shirts.
There’s also this festive message delivered in the style of the monumentally successful Game Boy Tetris version of the puzzle classic. (I’ll probably end up ordering this shirt.)
These are festive, but hardly fit the ugly sweater criteria.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. It’s not particularly Christmas-y, but it does manage to barrage the eyes with color.
I found this one on Poshmark, and supposedly it won some sort of ugly sweater contest. Not sure who judged that one. This isn’t great, but it’s hardly ugly.
Alas, where else can we look?
Well, there’s this ugly sweater-patterned take on the math puzzles that periodically circulate on social media. I couldn’t find it in actual sweater form, but it’s a start.
(It also exemplifies the unsatisfying corporate nature of the modern ugly sweater pattern. Festive borders on the top and bottom, and the hook in between. Nothing on the sleeves or back, no real effort involved.)
Finally, I turned my attention to crossword-specific sweaters, and I struck gold. None of these are particularly festive, but you could slap a bow on them and get past any discerning bouncer at the ugly sweater party of your choice in these.
This pas de mer sweater feels like you’re looking at a cryptic crossword grid through a funhouse mirror.
I also found this sweater on Poshmark. You’ll be heartbroken to discover it’s already been sold. But man, you could easily wear this one at the crossword tournament or ugly sweater party of your choice and turn a few heads.
I wish I could find a bigger picture of this one somewhere. It was clearly made with love, and it’s one of the few that actually feels like a proper crossword grid.
What is it about a sweater vest that somehow makes this worse than a normal sweater? Maybe it’s how the boxes don’t quite line up, or the two-letter words trailing off near the armpits. Man, this is pretty bad.
And this one, fellow puzzlers, was the pièce de résistance. The random crisscross placement. The color palette. The way the lighthouse beam doesn’t make it past the center buttons, condemning the proud cross-legged sailor nearby to a disastrous collision with the rocks near the shore.
This might not be a Christmas sweater, but man, does it fit the bill in every other way.
Do you have any favorite ugly sweater designs? Are any of them puzzle-fueled? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.
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