Jessica (HDB) mentioned working jigsaw puzzles during her vacation next week, and that made me starting thinking about puzzlers and readers. I bet there are a lot of us readers who also enjoy puzzles of one type or another. So, I’m curious, what kind of puzzles does everybody here enjoy?
When I was younger, I loved jigsaw puzzles. I don’t work them much anymore, but sometimes the mood strikes. I like them in the 5000-piece range. I don’t have the space for anything bigger, at least not in a place that I can shut the cat away from, and the smaller ones are finished too quickly. I think they’re relaxing because they don’t really engage me mentally, unlike most of the other things I spend my time on both at work and at home. My mind wanders randomly while I work on them, and I often seem to figure out something unrelated or make a decision about something even though I wasn't consciously trying to think about anything in particular.
I’m the only person in my immediate family who likes them, so I perplex my family sometimes. My mom likes to recount how, when I was in my early teens, I suddenly exclaimed, “I know where it goes!” in the middle of our family dinner and went charging upstairs. Table discipline was a little lax in my family. My parents ran after me out of curiosity ("What on earth is our strange child doing now?!") and saw me pick up a loose piece and immediately put it in the spot where it belonged. I imagine this is normal for other jigsaw puzzlers, but my parents totally didn't understand it.
Here’s a picture from way back in 1995. This was taken while I was still living with my parents, shortly before I moved out on my own. The cat (Angel) is the Persian cat I had at the time. She’s looking a little mangy here; I swear we really did groom her! The puzzle was only 2500 pieces because I didn’t have a solid surface that could handle anything larger and working a puzzle on carpet is more trouble than it’s worth. Fortunately Angel was pretty well-behaved. Sometimes she took a nap on top of the puzzle and scattered the pieces a bit, but not too badly. I had more trouble with my mom vacuuming puzzle pieces up than anything else. There’s no way in a million years I could let my current little brat cat anywhere near a jigsaw puzzle! It would turn into a scavenger hunt puzzle.
I also enjoy puzzles that are more mentally challenging. Logic puzzles were always one of my favorites, although I don’t do them very often anymore. If you don’t know what that is, the below grid may jog your memory. You might have done some of these in math classes when you were young. When I used to buy puzzle books with these, I always especially enjoyed the ones where they just gave you a table and/or a diagram and you had to work them without a grid.
Cross-Sums / Kakuro Puzzles
I also love cross-sums, also known as Kakuro puzzles. (Not be confused with Sudoku puzzles which bore me to tears.) I used to have a Kakuro app on my last smartphone, and I’ve intentionally avoided redownloading it onto my newer phone because I wasted way too much time with it.
Below is an example of a super easy one. You have to choose #’s from 1-9 to fill in each square, and the numbers have to add up to the numbers printed along the edges of each vertical and horizontal row. You can’t use the same number more than once to make up the same sum.
So, for example, the only possible answer for a two-square combination that adds up to 4 is 3 + 1. 2 + 2 isn’t eligible because it repeats a number. The only possible answer for the two-square combination that adds up to 3 is 2 + 1. So, in the top-right corner, you know that the top two squares have to be 3 then 1. It can’t be 1 then 3, because you need either a 2 or a 1 under the 3.
Lumosity / Elevate
I also enjoy some of the “brain training” type games you can play online, like Lumosity. There’s no scientific evidence that they actually improve your cognitive skills, but I think they’re fun. I also enjoy getting the percentile ranking to compare me to other players. It appeals to my competitive side.
I think what I like best is that they give you just a few games to play each day, so you’re done in just a few minutes without feeling like you’ve wasted a lot of time. Unless you happen to get addicted to the stupid train game on Lumosity and click “Play Again” over and over. Not that I would do that, of course! ;)
I play Lumosity on the PC in the morning before I leave for work, and Elevate on my tablet in the evening before I settle down to read. The Lumosity games are a bit more fun, but kind of obscure. Elevate is more practical because it tests skills like reading, spelling, punctuation, math, etc. They’re both very different, so I have fun playing both. I've only been playing Lumosity for a few weeks, but I've been doing Elevate for a few months.
What About You?
So what kind of puzzles does everybody else enjoy? Or do you hate puzzles? Are they just for fun, or do you think they're beneficial in some way? Are there any cool puzzle apps or web sites that you like to use? Things have changed a lot from my younger days when you had to buy puzzle books in the magazine aisle. Now most of these games can be found online for free and in far greater quantity. There are even apps for jigsaw puzzles that you can work on your tablet, but that’s one of the few areas of life where a digital version just doesn’t work for me.