I’m not generally a puzzle person. I am often puzzled, and I fear that I sometimes puzzle other people, but when it comes to sitting down to put together a jig saw puzzle or, God help me, attempt to complete a Sudoku, there are ways I’d rather spend my time. Like, oh, getting a colonoscopy.
Lately, though, I’ve started to do the puzzles on a website called www.lumosity.com. It’s a site that ostensibly helps your brain get better at thinking by providing different sorts of puzzles and games on-line. I find it surprisingly enjoyable to do their quizzes and puzzles, though it is somewhat humbling sometimes. Most of the time.
In addition, I’ve started doing crossword puzzles. I don’t do the New York Times crossword, or even the USA Today crossword. My knowledge level and general cleverness isn’t sufficient to do those. Instead, I’ve bought a couple of those little crossword books at the Dollar Store.
A lot of the clues appear in several different puzzles, so the 20th puzzle is easier to do than the first. And, frankly, they’re all pretty easy. Most of the puzzle answers are words of two, three, or four letters, and while some of the questions are pretty obtuse, most of them are pretty straightforward.
Here’s the problem with crossword puzzle books: it’s sometimes hard to stop doing the puzzles. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but I have lost track of time several times while finding the answer to questions like, “Edison’s middle name,” “in a lazy manner,” and “exception conjunction.” (Answers: Alva, idly, and but).
I don’t think I’m actually getting any smarter, but I am sometimes surprised at the things I know in those puzzles that I didn’t know I knew. Very little of the information I dredge out of my brain is useful, beyond getting the answers for the puzzles, of course, but it is fun to realize that somehow I knew that a sacred image is an icon, and that Ovid was a Roman poet.
One reason I haven’t been drawn to puzzles in the past is that it has always been my contention that life itself is one enormous and complex puzzle, and that getting a few right answers now and then is about the best that a person can hope for. Finding more challenges didn’t seem necessary.
Now, though, I’m starting to see that working on “fun” puzzles helps dissipate some of the anxiety from the “real” puzzles that surround me every day. And, who knows: maybe increasing my skill level at crossword puzzles will help my percentage of right answers in the real world.
Maybe it will even make me more (a five letter word for) “clear and coherent.” (Hint: the word starts with an “L” and ends with a “D.”