|Sharpen your pencils - it's puzzle time.|
Ah, another one that didn't make the cut at the magazine. I do love being able to use the leftovers.
Puzzles, brain teasers, have been intriguing mankind for centuries. From the Labyrinth that held the Minotaur to the word square puzzles found in Pompeii, to the modern Rubik’s Cube, puzzles take many forms. Pencil and paper puzzles are probably the most popular.
|The Maze at Hampton Court.|
They say if you keep on hand on the wall as you go through,
you'll eventually make your way out, but I didn't want to
venture in when we were there years ago.
Crossword puzzles have been around now for over one hundred years. Many people do them every day, many tackle only the Sunday puzzles like those in The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times.
Some people would call it cheating, but when you don’t know the answer to the clue, look it up. You’d be cheating yourself if you passed up an opportunity to learn something. If you are electronically inclined, you can do the puzzles right on your PC or tablet, or do a printout from there and consult Google or Wikipedia for the answers. You can even research the history of crossword puzzles on Wikipedia. If you like to keep such things print based and hand-done, keep an atlas and dictionary handy. Let your motto be “When in doubt, check it out.”
Even if you are pretty well read and well-rounded information-wise, you may not be familiar with the answers to such clues as “Gyllenhall of Brokeback Mountain” or a “New Mexico State athlete.” So if you can’t get them by filling in the answers you do know, consult your handy-dandy references. Finishing a crossword puzzle with no errors and no spaces left blank is like giving yourself a present.
Variety is the spice of life, they say, and it also keeps senior brains in tip-top shape. Research suggests that our brains become accustomed to the ways of the various types of puzzles we do. It is a good idea to switch from crosswords to acrostics to word searches, and on more mathematical to things like Sudoku. And, of course, switch back again. There are dozens of puzzle magazines in print: magazines that feature just one type of puzzle, and magazines that include many types of puzzles between their covers.
If you are connected to the internet, the puzzle world really opens out. Free puzzles can be found at sites like pennydellpuzzles.com, games.washingtonpost.com, and thejigsawpuzzles.com. For about $40 a year, about 11 cents a day, you can get a subscription to the on-line puzzles from The New York Times. Their selection includes crosswords that get more and more difficult as the week goes on, acrostics, variety puzzles, Sudoku, Set!, and KenKen, and their puzzle archive goes back for years.
Don’t just sit there contemplating your navel, contemplate a new puzzle.