A Puzzle Story

Almost every morning, while downing a couple of cups of coffee, I devote an hour and a half or so to numbers-based and words-based puzzles. Sudoku and crossword puzzles, specifically and respectively. Generally, I work my way through two sudokus and one crossword, a practice I’ve been pursuing for the last 11 years. The puzzles keep my brain limber, calm my nerves and provide a healthy dose of satisfaction if I complete them correctly. They are my pals.

Needless to say, I’m anything but alone in regularly attacking puzzles that revolve around numbers and words. Although some folks have no interest in sudokus, crosswords, cryptograms, Wordle, etc., or are interested but don’t have the time, legions of people are engaged with them. With jigsaw puzzles too. And there also are countless fans of the puzzles found in certain books, television shows and movies. To wit, the plots of mysteries, thrillers and the like in which it’s up to professional detectives or private individuals to identify and track down evil doers. I’m definitely drawn to that sort of fare. In recent weeks, for example, I watched the first three seasons of Unforgotten, a British drama series in which police detectives confront what they refer to as historical murders. In other words, newly discovered homicides that took place years before. Solving these crimes requires tremendous persistence and attention to detail. The members of Unforgotten’s police unit that take on these cases are up to the task, and I’m envious of their abilities.

And a few months ago I polished off A Mind To Murder, by the celebrated crime novelist P. D. James. It’s a good story with complicated circumstances, so much so that the lead detective, Adam Dalgleish, whose reputation for exemplary work precedes him, ultimately pursues someone who is not the killer. In the end, Dalgliesh is humbled by his errors and by the uncertainties that always surround him.

I hadn’t given this any thought before, but A Mind To Murder is more lifelike than most mysteries in that respect. Meaning, even the best detective might be thrown way off course. Man, if Adam Dalgliesh can blunder, what does that imply for the rest of us in the greater scheme of things? Oh well, what can you say? Life’s a big puzzle, for sure, one that’s always in flux and requires us to stay on our toes. We’re usually good at deciphering what’s going on, and consequently make appropriate moves to keep ourselves humming along decently. But it’s not always that easy, as we know all too well. Let’s face it, there are a lot of dynamics going on out there at every given moment, not to mention within us. Their interactions can be unnerving. Or worse.

With sudoku and crossword puzzles, though, you don’t run into unanticipated occurrences, emotional flareups, or anything of the sort. That’s because their components are designed to fit together precisely, unlike the components of life. Those are among the reasons why I enjoy sudokus and crosswords as much as I do. Which is not to say, of course, that they can’t be tricky. The most difficult sudokus are tremendously tricky, but can be untangled by applying rules of logic. And though some crossword puzzle creators adore tossing curveballs at us, via the sly wording of clues, that doesn’t change the fact that only one answer exists for each of those clues.

So, I feel as though I’m in a safe zone when I sit down in the morning to sudoku and crossword puzzles. I’m comfortable in their self-contained worlds where, intrinsically, everything is stable and exactly as it should be. What’s more, the peaceful hour and a half I spend with them makes me better able to deal with the noisy real world. Damn straight I give a big thumbs-up to that!

147 thoughts on “A Puzzle Story

  1. Lisa at Micro of the Macro December 3, 2022 / 3:23 pm

    I love Sudokus and word games, as well, Neil, although I don’t play daily. I think the puzzle mentality is one of the reasons I enjoy climbing so much: I have to figure out how to get to the top. Oh, and I adored Unforgotten! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff the Chef December 4, 2022 / 10:10 am

    I love that one of the first things you need to do in the morning is calm your nerves. We are on the same page, buddy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. stargazer December 4, 2022 / 12:55 pm

    I love puzzle games, including Sudoku and Wordle and I am quite good at games which can be solved by applying logic. Strangely, I am not very good at guessing the culprit in murder mysteries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 4, 2022 / 2:52 pm

      I’m not good at guessing the culprit either. But it’s usually hard to guess accurately, because the script writers often hold back key pieces of the puzzles until the end!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fictionophile December 4, 2022 / 3:21 pm

    I’m definitely in agreement with you on this topic Neil. I too spend a part of my mornings doing puzzles – word puzzles. I’ve never been a fan of Sudoku. I regularly do crossword puzzles, Wordle, and I love jigsaws as well. And of course, I love mystery stories which always contain a puzzle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 4, 2022 / 8:07 pm

      Hi, Lynne. If you haven’t watched it already, there’s a good courtroom drama/mystery on Netflix you might like. It’s called The Twelve. It’s a mini-series set in Belgium.


  5. andrewcferguson December 4, 2022 / 4:39 pm

    My Dad was a great crossword puzzler and sudoku doer. Sadly, I’ve not inherited that type of brain. I do the Times general knowledge quiz every day, but if I get 7 out of 15, I’m doing ok!

    Incidentally, I can recommend ‘Hidden Assets.’ It’s a thriller set partly in Ireland and partly in Belgium. We’ve just finished the first series, but there are enough loose ends for a second one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 4, 2022 / 8:11 pm

      Thanks for the tip about Hidden Assets. I’ll look into it. I’m definitely into thrillers. Sandy and I watch a lot of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Shelley@QuaintRevival.com December 5, 2022 / 5:40 am

    Okay…wow, I’m impressed and your brain is fortunate you work it so religiously. I have a book called Brain Games Lower Your Brain Age in Minutes a Day Collection #1 that I gave as a gift and the recipient didn’t want to use it so returned it. I should wrap it as a gift to myself under the tree this year and then start 2023 with a Neil-inspired morning routine. Until then, I need another cup of coffee to comprehend trying to make my brain solve puzzles before my eyes are even awake enough! LOL – my cat Dessy, though, I’m pretty sure she’d be able to master any puzzle that involves a plot of coercion so her humans feed her on time at 4 am. And a question for you…what comes first the ability to tell/create a puzzle or the ability to solve a puzzle? Happy puzzle-solving December to you, Neil!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. fauquetmichel December 5, 2022 / 8:21 am

    a good balace between the world of the numbers and the cross words! =How many cups of coffee to accompany those exercises of the mind? 🙂
    in friendship

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rkrontheroad December 5, 2022 / 1:02 pm

    We do have a lot in common. I do sudoku and crosswords on my phone each day, good brain exercise for sure! Although mysteries are not my thing, I prefer not to read or watch violence. Whatever works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

      • rkrontheroad December 5, 2022 / 6:15 pm

        I use Crossword Puzzle Redstone, it’s on Google Play (probably on Apple too). It’s the only thing I have paid for so I don’t get ads. I also do New York Times. I subscribe to the paper online but not to the crosswords. There are older ones (everything but Sunday) that come up each week. They are hard to find – at nytimes.com click on Games under the heading and scroll down.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Cristina Crawford December 6, 2022 / 9:22 am

    Great post. My brain hurts when I even think of the word Sudoku. Hubby the physicist however does them in INK! Blows my mind. Now, crossword puzzles I’m in for. Most mornings I too devote some time to one. I notice I’m better at it after two cups of espresso. When living in SoCal hubby and I would spend lazy Sunday mornings working the LA Times puzzle. After I left there, it’s been the Wall Street Journal. Thanks for the book suggestion…I’m going to check out P.D. James! It should be a welcome break from reading The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius! Happy Holiday season to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Cristina Crawford December 6, 2022 / 3:05 pm

        I know, right? I read literally two lines at a time and spend time thinking about it….like, a couple of days! This–read just now– needed no digestion however: “Meditation 1.11 : …from Fronto ~ the understanding that envy, deceit and hypocrisy are common traits of a leader.” Cracked me up! Who knew?! 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  10. equinoxio21 December 6, 2022 / 8:55 pm

    Dalgliesh is a good character. Human. Hmmm. I need to go back to P.D. James. Maybe complete her books. i don’t think I have them all…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pam Lazos December 9, 2022 / 8:48 am

    I’m a Wordle gal, Neil. Puzzles are a Great way to get your brain moving in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 9, 2022 / 11:45 am

      I hope that the guy who invented Wordle is getting royalties or the like, because Wordle has become super popular.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pam Lazos December 9, 2022 / 4:12 pm

        Yea, right?! I hope it’s not like the graphic designer who invented the Nike swoosh. I thought I read they got peanuts for that (although I don’t think it was literal peanuts, Neil). ;0)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. roughwighting December 12, 2022 / 1:57 am

    I WISH I could get into crossword puzzles or/and jigsaw puzzles, etc. Great mind booster as well as mind relaxer. Except those two get my blood pressure UP, believe it or not. My frustration level increases. Almost like when I tried (many years ago) to play golf. I’m into reading/running/walking/dancing for my relaxation. Meditation does it too. But I’d like to perhaps try an on-line puzzle for the brain. Do you have a recommendation?

    Liked by 1 person

      • roughwighting December 14, 2022 / 3:47 pm

        Thank you for the link! I’m sharing with my guy, who’s an engineer and more likely to have success with them (as opposed to me) ;-0 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Americaoncoffee December 25, 2022 / 12:05 am

    Hi Neil, with all that you’ve shared over the years, your talents of many tells us that you would make a great forensic specialist. You are observant and, you are about details. Best blessed wishes always Neil and for the coming year! 🔔⭐️☕️☕️🕵️‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Eileen Clark December 28, 2022 / 3:16 pm

    I build online puzzles, I work on two puzzles at a time while I post on my three blogs everyday.

    Liked by 1 person

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