Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Puzzles Aplenty

From The New York Times:

A Puzzle Solver Moves On to Life’s Riddles
Published: December 6, 2010

I confess: I used to be a puzzle addict.

I was corrupted at an early age. My physicist mom loved mind games of every kind. She fed me math riddles as if they were vitamins for the brain. She could finish a Rubik’s cube in the time it took me to do one side. Mind-(and material-)bending doodads littered the kitchen counter like so many odd, inviting garnishes. One contraption had wooden rings on a tether. Another required a series of transformations to extricate a small grooved hunk of steel from a larger hollow one.

Enigma: Asking the Mind to Jump Through Hoops
Published: December 6, 2010

I had just put another spoonful of succulent sweet potatoes, slow-simmered with apples and pecans, onto my plate.

"I’ve been invited,” I said to the guests at the holiday dinner, “to write about puzzles.” (My memory of this dialogue may be blurred by carbohydrates.)

“But I’ve never found puzzles attractive,” I went on. “Why would you deliberately expose yourself to stress and frustration? You put in effort that you could have used to write a novel or cure cancer, and you come out with nothing but the solution to a previously solved problem. What’s the point? Why torment yourself?”

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