Love puzzles as much as I do? Then you’ll adore these festive quizzes and riddles | Life and style
Welcome to Saturday’s special Christmas puzzles edition. You are about to embark on hours of mind-sharpening fun – or indulge in a dangerous vice that will ruin both society and your brain.
I’m a lifelong puzzle fan and while writing a book about my obsession, I was amused and disturbed to see that, for as long as there have been puzzles, there have been denouncers.
Consider crosswords. After the first one appeared in 1913 in the New York World, they became a mania, spreading to hundreds of other publications and even inspiring a Broadway play.
But not everyone was smitten. For decades, the New York Times refused to print what it saw as a lowbrow, trivial waste of time. In the 1920s and 30s, the Times ran multiple articles painting crosswords as a menace to society, lumping them in the same category as prostitution and reefer.
And it wasn’t only crosswords. During the jigsaw craze of the Depression, preachers condemned the cardboard devils: “Nero fiddled while Rome was burning. We will go down in history as the nation who worked jig-saw puzzles while our country was falling to ruins.”
The anti-puzzle forces are still out there. Just Google “Wordle is a waste of time” for proof. But I couldn’t disagree more. I am firmly in the pro-puzzle camp. Why do I admire them? Let me count the ways. They encourage curiosity, relieve stress and give us a moment of order in this chaotic world. They also bring us together. A few years ago, an American scientist researching ways to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives found one of the only activities that worked was collaborating on a crossword. More recently, one of the few topics my politically diverse friends agreed upon: Wordle is fun.
Not to mention that puzzles saved the free world. Seriously. In 1942, the Daily Telegraph printed a crossword and invited those who solved it in under 12 minutes to work at Bletchley Park, the secret facility that helped break the Enigma code. So thank you, puzzles, for democracy.
And thank you, Guardian, for printing this collection. It’s got something for every puzzle-lover: word games from pub quiz legend Frank Paul; maths brainteasers from Ukrainian puzzle maestros the Grabarchuks; a quest to create a Wordle rival; solving secrets; and a profile of Taskmaster’s Alex Horne.
Enjoy doing these puzzles and remember, feel no guilt. Just don’t riot or murder anyone if you get frustrated.
A.J. Jacobs is the author of The Puzzler: One Man’s Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life.
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