Puzzling Behavior

It’s hard to escape the fact that people seem to like puzzles. Me? Not so much. I prefer for my leisure activities to be ‘not boring’ and let’s face it – puzzles are super-boring.

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles are still kind of boring but they’re also kind of fun in a boring way. Plus, I’m super awesome at any puzzle that has less than 200 pieces, so I’ve got that going for me.

No, I’m talking specifically about the kind of puzzles that you would find in the newspaper. {Editor’s note for younger readers: ‘newspapers’ were a popular means of disseminating ‘news’ before you were born by printing words on cheap ‘paper’.}

Soduko seemingly came out of nowhere a few years ago to become the number one puzzle game in the world. Now, I’ve never actually tried Soduko and I never would because it involves my arch-nemesis (math). People have tried to convince me that there’s no actual math involved in Soduko, but I’m pretty sure that those are numbers written in the little boxes, which makes it a math game in my book. Plus, people keep spelling Soduko differently everywhere I look. Sometimes it’s two words, sometimes there are too many ‘u’s and sometimes it’s written in Japanese. Maybe when they figure out what the game is actually called I’ll try it.

The worst puzzle game isn’t Soduko, though. Obviously that honor goes to Cryptoquote, which is so horrendously awful that it’s technically not even a game. Cryptoquote involves replacing letters with different letters in a futile attempt to reveal a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The cryptic part of the puzzle is in trying to figure out what Longfellow’s stupid quote actually means and why they always use a Longfellow quote for the game. My best guess is that Longfellow’s heirs own the lucrative cryptoquote monopoly.

Crossword puzzles are definitely among your more fun puzzle options in the paper. I truly respect those people that do the crossword everyday, working their way up to the super difficult Sunday puzzle in Parade Magazine. Along with Parade my other favorite crossword is the People Magazine crossword. I appreciate that they give you the celebrity picture hint and assume that you know more about sitcoms than Shakespeare. Sure, I’ve read all of Willy’s plays, but I can’t remember who was who anymore. I’ll never forget the four-letter name for “blank and the Fatman”, though. (hint: Jake.)

The best puzzle, by far, is the Jumble (or better yet, it’s even more fun variant – the Junior Jumble). Jumble is great because it’s a funny comic as well as a puzzle. Even if you can’t unscramble the words you can usually still win by just guessing the punchline for the comic. Failing that you can just make up your own, even funnier punchlines. Now that’s a good time!

Studies have shown that people that do puzzles stay smarter longer and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. The irony, of course, is that if one were to spend their golden years doing nothing but puzzles they would probably end up yearning for death’s sweet embrace just to get away from the boring puzzles.

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