At 2.30am this morning I awoke with a start. ‘Andalusian’, I thought. That was it. That was the answer. 14 down—’Spaniards having a change of land in USA’—Andalusian. Good. Great. Now I know. It’s a bit of a shame the old brain couldn’t have come up with that answer when I was actually working on the crossword puzzle earlier in the day but . . . that’s okay. I got there in the end. I can go back to sleep now . . . Hello? . . . Brain? . . . Can we go back to sleep now? . . . Please? . . . sigh . . .
You know, when I joined Sketchbook Skool at the beginning of last year I distinctly remember one of the tutors saying (rather assertively I thought)—”Once you start sketching every day, you’ll never ever do another crossword puzzle.” Well—he got that wrong! Even though I am sketching more regularly now (if not every day at least several times a week) that has not distracted me in the least from getting my daily fix of puzzles. I definitely get a bit ‘twitchy’ if I don’t do at least one puzzle a day. Especially crossword puzzles. Leaving a pristine black-and-white grid empty is simply not an option for me. I just have to fill it in . . .
But if I can’t get my itchy wee hands on a crossword puzzle, a logic puzzle will do. Or a sudoku. Or a word-search. Or a word-block. I even recently attempted a mathematical crossword puzzle and, as I am and always have been, absolutely crap at maths, that really did stretch the old grey matter! (In the interests of full disclosure I didn’t fully complete that puzzle (algebra—eeerk!) but I did manage to get a lot of the answers to correlate—so—woohoo—Go Me!)
So why is it, do you suppose, that we (and I say we, because I know it is not only me) voluntarily spend hours of our time and energy struggling to solve problems we really don’t have to? Don’t most of us have enough ordinary, everyday problems to solve already without making more for ourselves? Apparently not. Judging by the sheer volume of books, toys, websites and apps I found online devoted entirely to one form of puzzle or another, our appetite for puzzle-solving seems infinite.
I can’t speak for everyone else (no matter how I try) but there are lots of things I personally like about puzzles. I like that they seem to relax me (well, not my brain so much—but the rest of me at least). I like that I can do a puzzle anywhere (not a jigsaw puzzle obviously, but as they are my least favourite puzzle that is not really an issue for me). I like that I don’t have to clear my schedule to do a puzzle—I can start and stop at any time, and go back and finish it later (although preferably not at 2.30am . . . ) I like that puzzles are cheap (I would probably be bankrupt otherwise) and I like that puzzles are silent (I really like that puzzles are silent . . . )
But most of all I like puzzles because they always have a right answer. I might not always find the right answer—but I know there always is one.
Perhaps, in the end, that is why we all like puzzles so much. There are so many variables in our day-to-day lives. So many choices. So many possible-maybes. Sometimes it just feels really good to deal in absolutes. With puzzles there are no half measures, no grey areas—the answer is right . . . or it’s not.
There’s something very satisfying about that . . .