Today is National Puzzle Day. Oh, happy day!
What, you didn’t know every January 29th is the day to celebrate National Puzzle Day? That’s okay; better late than never.
Puzzles come in many shapes and sizes:
- Brain teaser
- Digital breakout
- Hidden pictures
- Word search
I thought it would be best to see if there was any research to back up my suspicion that puzzles are good for you. Quite a few sources point out that tackling puzzles can help to stave off dementia and diminished capacity for older folks. So I would think what is good for the old goose would be good for the young gander, too! Here is a list from the South Mountain Memory Care that sums up the benefits quite well.
- Exercises the brain
- Improves short-term memory
- Boosts problem-solving skills
- Helps visual and spatial reasoning
- Enhances your mood
- Lowers stress levels
- Improves your IQ score
Because of the pandemic, it seems we have had a big swing back to jigsaw puzzles on folding card tables. I know this has happened in my own household. Early on in the pandemic, it was nice to have a hands-on activity that pulled me away from the news and my email account. I noticed on my Nextdoor app that my neighborhood has started “porch puzzle pickups.” One nearby community even has a Puzzle Exchange Group.
Perusing my Nextdoor, I found another great resource. James G. solves his puzzles on his iPad with the free iOS app called Jigsaw Collection HD by Veraxen Ltd. He states, “You can vary the number of pieces from 12 to 440. I generally use 120 because that gives me comfortable detail. My five year-old granddaughter uses 12 when she does a puzzle. I have solved 951 so far.” He mentions a bunch of puzzles that came with the app and every month or so, he downloads the ones they have for free on their site. Do take note that the Jigsaw Collection HD app contains in-app purchases.
Besides jigsaw puzzles, a constant for me has been Words With Friends. It isn’t so much about the winning as staying in touch with friends and seeing how many unique words I can keep spelling.
One of the things I do miss about traveling is the USA Today newspaper that I used to grab in the hotel lobby, not for the news, but for their puzzle page. The good thing is you can still access the USA Today puzzles online. The puzzles in the blue boxes are the standard ones you would find in the paper. My favorite is the Up and Down Words. However, you will have to deal with advertisements on this site.
Puzzle Advice from the TCEA Staff
I learn something about the TCEA Executive Director Lori Gracey all the time. She tells me “I am a big jigsaw puzzle person. I do at least one free online puzzle each evening at jigsawexplorer.com. And then once a month or so, my husband and I will get a physical, 1,000-piece puzzle out and work it.”
Jigsaw Explorer is a great spot for online jigsaw puzzles. They have a large selection of premium online jigsaw puzzles that are free and they add two more each day. You can use a multiplayer mode to play with family and friends. Bonus: You can also create and share puzzles using your own photos.
Steph, our Accounting Manager, likes Sudoku. An accountant liking numbers, sounds about right! I asked her if she preferred pencil and paper and her response? “Yeah, I am old school.” Steph impulse-purchases Sudoku books at the grocery store.
Katie, our Executive Assistant, “likes all kinds of puzzles that don’t use words. Patterns, numbers, and riddles work for me. I love Sudoku. I prefer doing things on paper.”
Sara, the TCEA Digital Marketing Specialist has a “real puzzle” out on her table at all times. Just know, Sara believes “1000+ or it’s not a real puzzle. I’ll do Sudoko and crossword puzzles on paper . . . trying to keep my brain alive.”
Sherry is the TCEA Events Manager. You probably don’t know Sherry by name, but she is one of the extraordinary organizers of the TCEA Convention & Exposition. If it is logistical when it comes to convention, Sherry is in charge! Sherry offered the following puzzle advice, “I enjoy doing crosswords when I travel, which hasn’t been much lately, of course. But I like to do the crossword in the airplane’s magazine, and I usually carry a book of crosswords with me in case a previous passenger has already filled it out!” Sherry buys her crossword book at the airport newsstand along with her snacks and water.
Erin, our Member Services Administrative Assistant, is my go-to for testing out the puzzles and activities I have created for different TCEA events. She gives me great feedback. Having a two-year (almost three) year-old doesn’t leave extra room for puzzle solving. But she does get in a little time with the lad playing matching games. Everyone has to start somewhere, and matching a cow to a calf or a firefighter to a fire truck sounds like the inside track to develop a puzzle-minded son. A good place to find matching cards are in the Target “Dollar Spot” and Amazon.
My colleague in the PD department, Dr. Bruce Ellis, approaches puzzles in a different way. Figuring out resources for our members is his puzzling talent. If you are looking for puzzle resources, Bruce has provided some great online sites for making puzzles:
- I’m a Puzzle – Free online puzzle maker with daily puzzles. Create and share photo puzzle games out of any picture. Works in all browsers on both desktops and mobile devices.
- Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker – Create crossword puzzles, word searches, mazes, and other puzzles for your classroom.
- Daily Jigsaw Puzzles – A new online puzzle is added daily. Puzzles work on computers and tablets. Suitable for kids and adults.
Lori has also discovered a new online puzzle game called PuzzGrid. According to the company, “PuzzGrid is a site on which those who enjoy lateral thinking can post and play grids that involve finding the fiendish connections between 16 seemingly arbitrary items. There are dastardly red-herrings, but if you defeat them, you might just get a perfect 10 score.” The puzzles are ranked as Very Easy, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Fiendish. Larry Ferlazzo recommends the game for ELL students for inductive learning.
Writing this blog brought back memories of the Highlights magazine that had the hidden picture puzzles. If memory serves me right, my dentist and doctor’s office always had copies. If you had to go to an appointment, the magazine was always the best part of the visit. Of course, fast forward to the future search, these are now available digitally at Highlights Kids.
As much as solving puzzles, I do LOVE to create physical breakouts and digital breakouts. You can find several blogs about them here, here, and here.
Enjoy your Friday, and in case you are up for a puzzle on a puzzler’s favorite day of the year, take a look at the feature image of this blog. Email the solution to the two-word brain teaser I have created at the top of this blog to [email protected] and I will send you a TCEA “I Broke Out” sticker. Hurry though because the offer ends on February 14, 2021. Happy puzzling!