Friday, 25 September 2009

The Attraction of Puzzles

I enjoy doing the puzzles in the newspapers I buy, both the numerical ones like Sudoku or Kakuro or the letter ones like Crosswords or the Code type where numbers stand for letters, though the latter aren't usually very tricky. In fact the puzzles provide the main reason that I buy papers at all these days.

By far and away my favourite crosswords are those composed hy Araucaria in the Guardian. Unfortunately the other composers in the Guardian never seem to reach the same standard. Not only are his clues always fair, so that once you have found a solution you can tell with reasonable certainty that you have found the correct solution, but he also covers a wide range of knowledge (which is often exhibited in themed puzzles) and is also often humorous.

It is annoying however when puzzles are misprinted, or mistakenly set, so that they have no solution or more than one. I wrote to the Radio Times last week to complain that in two recent issues their Mandali puzzle, which is a sort of maze, had two numerical solutions. They were kind enough to reply and apologise. Unfortunately the Mandali puzzle in this week's issue has at least six solutions! This is just carelessness.

The attraction I find in puzzles I think has to do with the fact that they are soluble problems. There are too many problems in real life that are insoluble and simply frustrating. The only viable approach to them I have concluded is step by step and little by little, and maybe a little amelioration can be achieved.

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