Possible Addition to my Skillset

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I love a personal challenge, which explains my gravitation to puzzles and crosswords. It started as a pastime to improve my spelling and word recognition skills and has grown into a real life-long obsession. I know there are legions of people out there who share this passion and I hope to connect with some of you via this blog. I also want to make it fun to read by veering in related directions. Today, it is all about my friend’s gun safe, not a subject I normally tackle; but I have a reason. Stay with me.

As a child, I was glued to the TV as an alternative to video games and I loved the old mysteries the best. Sometimes I would watch safe cracking by “burglars” in black gloves and face masks plying their trade. I counted how long it would take them to succeed and get the monetary treasure inside. It was done by touch and sometimes ear. I was fascinated by a different kind of “game”. This interest didn’t wane as I grew older. Now I have a friend with a gun safe and we practice “cracking it” from time to time for some amusement. Okay, it is not your typical hobby, but it is something fun to do together. Doing crosswords is very solitary in nature and I enjoy company now and then as a break. Don’t misunderstand me, I would prefer a challenging puzzle any day.

While I can sit here and brag about this skillset, I have to admit that it isn’t as much fun as getting those really hard words into their  little boxes. My friend and I, between the two of us, can open the safe rather quickly since we have done it numerous times. And, yes, there are no kids around! We are always mindful of absolute safety and the safe gets locked up immediately after it is cracked. What a weird thing to do, I hear you say it. Ha! It is not that I like seeing the guns in some kind of evil way. I have no intention of firing a weapon. We make sure that these items stay tucked away in the safe and never get loaded. I would never encourage a teen to get curious about the contents. My friend has no family. I know that accidents happen. Fearing invaders, the gun safe is in the basement hidden in a wall.

Now that I have satisfied my childhood longing, I am back to business with puzzles and crosswords and have added a round of Sudoku now and then to the mix. KenKen is just fine. Anything that is a brainteaser is for me, even if it just involves numbers. I love learning new tidbits of information and odd words, so the crosswords remain on top of my preferred list. There is a special experience that is unbeatable by any other game.

Almost a Good Idea

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Some people call me a crossword puzzle fanatic. I prefer aficionado. Let’s not go to extremes. Sure, I always have a puzzle on me and my day isn’t complete unless I finish a half dozen. There are plenty of new ones available and I have multiple choices so I rotate sources. Every leading US newspaper features them as they have for decades. Crosswords are popular with the masses and then there are the special devoted followers like me. I find them mentally challenging, stimulating, and a great way to pass the time. You are never bored with a puzzle around. And I don’t just like the easy ones. It’s no fun to finish in five minutes or less. I like the jumbo size Sunday editions that make you really think. You must have good memory recall. After years of crosswords, you get a database in your brain that will take you far.

I have been known to do my puzzles in every possible place. It is obvious that I would indulge in the park, the car, at the beach, or while dining in a restaurant. It goes without saying that you need a bunch on a plane or a train. Watching TV is not out of the question although at the movies is. You have to be able to concentrate and read the clues—and that does not include in the dark. One place that might be a little extraordinary is in my hot tub in the backyard. All of my friends say it’s the Hottest Tubs in the neighbourhood. I even bought a great accessory for this purpose. There is a tray you can attach to the tub to use for drinks and snacks, and in my case a battery of puzzles. One or two pens are also apparent. You must be thinking, what if the puzzles get wet. I try to be careful but when people get in and out of the tub, it happens and it is annoying. I just pick a dry puzzle, and off I go.

Hot tubs are so relaxing that your mind turns to mush if you are in it too long and the water temperature has been turned up. It isn’t exactly stimulating to be in a big bath tub. However, with the new tray, it is still an ideal location to polish off a few more puzzles for the day. There are days when I just can’t fit them in and it makes me agitated. I need to see a few of those patterned puzzles staring me in the face. If one is too easy, I keep going until I get one that I would call a true challenge. I have such a backlog of them, you can’t imagine. People give them to me thinking I must be running short since I am always at it. I find books of them in old book stores that go back to the last century. There are certain puzzle editors I look for. Occasionally, I find a collector’s item. But that one is not for the hot tub.

The Sound of Silence

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There are people who can work crosswords and other puzzles on a train or plane or bus no matter who is around. They can do it in a restaurant full of families and screaming kids for that matter. The lure of the correct answers is enough to keep them at it in spite of the noise. On the other hand, some find all this background din destroys concentration. That would be me if the truth be told. I don’t even like music blasting from the neighbor’s apartment or the sounds of a TV on full volume. It is so bad that I don’t even like the hum of my top rated quiet air purifier. I have to have it on during allergy season as it cleanses the air of allergens and other respiratory irritants that keep me from breathing at my best. I went to a lot of trouble to get a good portable model so I can move it about the house and it accompanies me often where I am laboring over a tough puzzle or two. I prefer the sound of silence. I keep it on low to avoid any telltale noise.

Of course, I need the air purifier and had the strict requirement when selecting one for my own use that it be a very quiet machine. This is something that the top-of-the-line products boast of. If you are in the market and this is an issue for you, as it is for me, watch for the word “quiet” in the literature and description. Then you won’t go wrong.

An air purifier is a handy device and I will make allowances about it such as a slight hum if it does its job well in purifying the air of mold, smoke, germs, bacteria, allergens, and the like. A tiny noise is okay all things being equal. I can’t say that I detect it with my super keen ears. I am pretty content overall and can enjoy my puzzles anytime the machine is running. I like the fact that the device removes more particles at a high speed so I have that option. Speed usually means more noise, but not always. Getting the right size machine is what determines the degree of speed necessary to get the clean, odor-free air you desire. A large appliance can run well at a lower, quieter speed. Air purifiers are rated for efficiency reporting value (MERV), developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The top performers in our tests typically had a MERV higher than 10. Looking for this will help you avoid a machine that squawks. These would be the types that use a fan to suck in air.

A word to the wise from a noise-conscious owner is to be sure your unit is clean. A clogged one can generate odd sounds. For example, if it has an electronic preciptator’s collector plate assembly, you need to tend to it about once a month. A little labor is a small price to pay for quiet.

A Thoughtful Surprise

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I am seldom far from a crossword puzzle. I am seldom far from a stack of them or a source of new material such as the Internet. Every major US newspaper publishes at least one a day plus a jumbo size on Sunday. The New York Times, for example, is puzzler’s heaven. If someone had to describe me to a person who I had never met, it would be a puzzle freak to be sure. It is more than a hobby. It is not just a pastime. It is a lifestyle choice, my friend, believe me. I have my favorite newspapers and follow about ten. I don’t always do every single one in sight. I certainly don’t have to wonder what to do to fill my spare time. Crosswords are the ultimate in word challenge. They test recall, logic, creativity, and more. You will never get Alzheimer’s Disease, they say. Your brain will be in tip top working condition at all times. Keep it going into old age and you are guaranteed no dementia. Crosswords, Sudoku, and all types of games and puzzles get your brain wired to think clearly. Needless to say, I adore them. If you haven’t tried one before, this blog is for you. It should tempt you to follow a new pursuit, one that I can’t live without.

I do them day or night as you can imagine. It depends upon when the mood moves me. I don’t have to be bored, just craving some mental action. Sometimes it is rather dark, but it doesn’t matter. If I haven’t finished at least my favorite one for the day, I want to continue whether I am in a well-lit room or not. I could be in a car, on a park bench, at a movie, or a gloomy bar. This can pose a bit of a problem sometimes when you can’t fathom the clues at all. After all, newsprint is ever so tiny. Who decided on that miniscule font? I prefer to do them online as a result of the lighting problem that pops up occasionally, but sometimes I just happen to have the hard news copy in hand. Otherwise I roll with the Internet or print out an enlarged size. Given this situation and that I like the original authenticity of the newspaper, you can imagine how pleased I was to get a very thoughtful gift: a medical penlight (meaning high powered and long lasting). No, I never set foot in hospitals or doctor’s offices, but this light if super bright with halogen illumination in a portable hand-held container. As a medical light, it produces true tissue color rendition. But who cares. What I like is the solid metal construction (I break things easily) and the way it reveals what I read: tiny or not.

What a great a gift idea for a fellow like me. Normal pen lights are fine, but as a present, getting something special is ingenious.

Creating Your Own Book of Puzzles

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Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. By that I mean there are more types than you can count on your hands and feet (or fingers and toes as the case may be). Crosswords and Sudoku are only the tip of the iceberg. There are KenKen, brain teasers, riddles, anagrams, crytograms, logic puzzles, and much more. So how does one keep it all straight? I have an assortment of individual files on my desktop to which I add new information, tips, and suggestions. I like to collect rare examples or particularly challenging ones. Everything I store is done electronically and I rely on backup to keep vital stuff safe and secure. But there are times when you want to do something tangible such as making and binding your own puzzle book.

I got this idea when I was in a quandary about gifts for close friends and family. Over the years, I have exhausted my creativity and resources coming up with new ideas that mean something to the recipient. I want it to come from my heart and my brain. It represents me as I am seen by another person. My new phase is to give handmade books that I research, print, collate, and bind myself. Thus, I can customize what goes inside, adding personal notations and imagery as I like.

I go all out on a catchy cover. Each gift uses a different theme. The puzzle book contents will reflect this theme, or several if space permits. I try to provide a range between easy and hard. Not everyone is already an aficionado and a whiz at solving puzzles, even the perennial newspaper favorites.  I don’t usually use more than 20-25 pages. After all, it’s not meant to be an exhaustive tome! I can use an electric stapler for this amount without having to buy a special binding device (I did alot of research on Staple Slinger – Check it out!). The staples produce colorful metal accents that match and enhance the multi-hued cover. It is made of card stock so it is sturdy and long lasting. It can get pretty artsy, but I also like reproducing a sample on the first page as well.

I want to tempt people to take a look at something new and enjoyable that I find completely entrancing. People who know me are not going to be surprised. But I do think it is a novel idea that you might want to give a try. You can throw in a nice pen or graphite pencil wrapped to match your theme. I use actual crosswords, for example, to make a little add on package.

This wouldn’t be a good blog if it didn’t include some tips. So here goes. It is important to align your pages properly before finalizing the book so that it is neat as a pin. The staples should be strategically placed along the left margin, perfectly lined up and looking very professional. An electric stapler works wonders, but if you have the inclination, you can use a manual version. The former is a good investment if you like creating books on any subject for personal dispersion.

Ryan Faces Fatherhood

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Drop the crosswords and jump out of the chair. I’m off to buy a pregnancy pillow. A what? Yes, a pregnancy pillow. This is a special cushion for the ladies so they can sleep better at night. If she sleeps through till morning, then so do I. There is nothing more worrisome than a restless woman about to give birth. You wonder if “this is it” every time she stirs.

I am really looking forward to fatherhood as you can imagine. Who wouldn’t? A new world of fun and frolic is at hand. I am thinking of all the holidays, parties, athletic games, puzzles (you bet), and family outings. I am relishing vacations and visits to the shore or camping in the local mountains. Who can pass on school plays, graduation, achievement awards, and accolades? I am going to be there every moment!

A total body, extra-large, pillow is a great sleep aid that gives full support. It is known also as a maternity pillow for obvious reasons. They usually come with a zippered cover that can be removed for easy cleaning. You want to spare your wife any tough chores. I bought one with a Microsoft durable shell with a 400 thread count feel. A pregnant woman should feel the luxury.

Two days later

I love the way she looks engulfed in this cocoon-like thing. Her belly slides right into a cozy place. She says it is really comfortable and warm. I would add soothing to the mix given her usual reaction—falling quickly to sleep. She says she doesn’t have to reposition herself during the night as it is easy to turn from side to side with a single, swift movement.

The thing is funny looking, kind of an hour glass shape with inner curves that support the back and stomach areas. It also should serve to align hips for neutral joint positioning. Someone in the know clearly designed it. I hear tell it also works for sciatica, fibromyalgia, heartburn, carpal tunnel syndrome, and congestion. It is a wonder pillow to be sure that cures most anything.

My wife used to struggle to get comfortable, but not anymore. She says the pillow is the best gift I could have given. No more sleep time aches. She likes the u-shape with contoured “legs” so she can sleep on her back or either side, depending upon how she feels at the moment. She tucks the end of the pillow beneath her knees and elevates her head.

What is an engineering marvel is the way the pregnancy pillow supports both the back and belly simultaneously. I can see that it elevates and aligns the hips for natural positioning (or as my wife puts it, it relieves stress on her joints). Overall she loves the cozy warmth of the high-grade polyester which gives her the perfect configuration.

I love the product description. “Cradle yourself in custom comfort all through the night.” My wife doesn’t even get up to go to the restroom. She is in deep, blissful sleep. If you want the same experience and to get much-needed peace of mind, I recommend getting one.

The Rise of Online Crossword Puzzles

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Online Crossword Puzzles

Online crossword puzzles are becoming more and more popular today. More and more people are interested in being able to do their crossword puzzles from any location without having to drag around newspaper with them everywhere. Online crossword puzzle websites will typically update each and every day. There will also usually be multiple online crossword puzzle websites to choose from, so the people who are interested in completing multiple crossword puzzles on a daily basis will be able to do so thanks to the widespread availability of online crossword puzzles.

In the crossword puzzle community, many people will scoff at individuals who fill in the puzzle boxes using pencil instead of pen, because it will be that much easier for them to correct any mistakes that they make as a result. These people are going to be even more hostile towards individuals who are typing out their answers, since typing lets them off the hook entirely in that regard. Some online crossword puzzles will even highlight any of the mistakes that someone makes, making it that much easier for them to get everything right.

However, in the case of these particular online crossword puzzles, the challenge is not doing the puzzles correctly. The challenge is doing the puzzles as quickly as possible and as accurately as possible. Usually, people will try to compete against themselves for the highest scores with regards to time. These puzzles aren’t easier than the old-fashioned print variety. The challenge has simply been modified somewhat. Swift thinking is rewarded in this case, and not just persistence, which can be the case for some crossword puzzles.

The Fundamentals of Completing Crossword Puzzles

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Completing crossword puzzles appears to be deceptively easy. It’s just a matter of reading the clues and filling in the words that you think that the clues are pointing to in the corresponding location. Crossword puzzles are split up into ‘across’ and ‘down’ sections, and the words that are intended for each space are clearly indicated. People can even get a sense of how many letters they’re going to need for each individual word, which is also going to make the entire process appear easier than it is.

The people who try crossword puzzles for the first time will quickly find that they are significantly harder than they look. Clues in crossword puzzles are left intentionally vague. Often times, several words will actually work just fine in a given entry in a crossword puzzle, which is part of the challenge inherent in doing crossword puzzles in the first place. The crossword puzzles in which only one real word is ever going to work are going to be inherently easier, which is going to make them significantly less satisfying for the people who are interested in doing crossword puzzles in the first place.

Entering in one wrong word in a crossword puzzle can more or less ruin the entire crossword puzzle. There are certain entries in crossword puzzles that are several letters long and more or less form the foundation of several other words. As such, getting that word wrong is going to make it that much harder to solve the entire puzzle. In some cases, getting a word wrong is only going to affect one other word in a crossword puzzle, but crossword puzzles are made of interlinking words. There are set up in such a way that people will never simply get one word wrong when they get an entry wrong during a crossword puzzle. They will always make at least one other error in the process unless they can fully recognize that they have committed the error in time.

People who recognize their errors quickly can avoid ruining the entire puzzle for themselves. However, plenty of times, people will assume that they have chosen the perfect word, and the error will persist. Soon, people may more or less solve an entire puzzle on a foundation that is fundamentally flawed. These kinds of errors will create a situation in which people will probably take twice as long to solve a puzzle that they might have been able to solve quickly if they had exercised a little more patience at the beginning stages of solving the puzzle.

These kinds of problems can be avoided if crossword puzzle solvers avoid jumping to conclusions when it comes to choosing the right word for the slot in question. In many cases, more than one word will seem to work, but there is ultimately only one answer that will solve the puzzle. People should take solace in the fact that there are at least a few entries in a given crossword puzzle in which only one word will work. Some of these clues will involve filling in blanks in a certain well-known phrase, such as ‘Gone With The….’ The answer in that case is clearly ‘wind.’ The letters in ‘wind’ will help people go on to solve several additional parts of the puzzle. Individuals who are completing crossword puzzles, especially if they don’t have a lot of experience, should avoid hastily solving any entries unless they are entries of that nature.


Can Crossword Puzzles Stave Off Cognitive Decline?

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Crossword puzzles are popular in niche crowds in many different demographics. However, they have gained quite the following among elderly people who are trying to keep their brains sharp and active. Many individuals are understandably terrified of the possibility of experiencing cognitive decline, and they want to be able to ward it off as much as possible. Fortunately for them, it seems that some parts of this process are going to be within the control of the people who are trying to stay mentally fit and healthy. Many experts recommend that older people do things like crossword puzzles in order to hold onto their mental acuity.

People use a lot of their brains when they complete crossword puzzles. On the one hand, these puzzles manage to activate people’s spatial skills. Crossword puzzles involve navigating arrangements of words that are positioned against each other in odd, angular ways, which forces people to alter their perspective in a way that can exercise the visual and spatial centers of the brain. Naturally, people are relying on their memories as well in order to follow the clues of crosswords. The process of actually accessing one’s memory for words can help a person develop the abilities that are involved in learning and recall. Having strong powers of recall is associated with young people, but older people who do crossword puzzles can hold onto these powers for much longer. Recall is an ability that is part of fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence can decline with age, but it can be preserved by the older people who take time to stay sharp.

People can learn things as a result of crossword puzzles, but they will only learn little pieces of trivia and facts. As such, crossword puzzles won’t do much to improve a person’s crystallized intelligence. However, crystallized intelligence tends to increase with age anyway, even among older people of average intelligence or below-average intelligence. The fact that crossword puzzles have a minimal effect on crystallized intelligence shouldn’t make much of a difference for anyone.

Of course, one of the most important parts of keeping your mind sharp is seeking out novelty. Learning new information and trying new things is what is ultimately going to keep a lot of people sharp. The older people that gradually lose it all are the people who get too set in their ways, doing the same work and interacting with the exact same people over and over again. They aren’t challenging their minds anymore. The younger people who are still in school and still learning new trades are challenging their minds all the time as a matter of course, which is part of the reason why they appear to constantly be getting smarter in the first place. One of the great things about crossword puzzles is the simple fact that crossword puzzles seem to create challenges like this as a matter of course.

The Language of Crossword Puzzles

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Many people have reported that it takes a very specialized set of knowledge to do crossword puzzles effectively. People who do crossword puzzles on a regular basis do indeed develop a very specific vocabulary and they do improve their knowledge bases in a very odd way. People will tend to broaden their knowledge of synonyms for words, for instance. Many crossword puzzle clues will ask for synonyms for words, and they will usually be the sort of obscure synonyms that people would rarely use in that situation. The goal is to genuinely make people grope for the answer, and not simply toss one out on the spot.

Many of the clues with crossword puzzles are very suggestive rather than declarative. They will indicate the word that is required in very vague terms. For instance, one clue might be the word ‘type.’ This could refer to the verb ‘to type’ or it could mean ‘type’ as in ‘category.’ People won’t necessarily know unless they have completed enough of the puzzle to have an idea of which letters should belong in this space.

Tiny words understandably show up a lot in crossword puzzles. There need to be some bridge words in these big and clunky puzzles. People’s knowledge of very brief words is going to improve rapidly if they start doing crossword puzzles. What’s more, it’s more or less going to have to improve if they want to actually get good at doing these kinds of crossword puzzles. A detailed and extensive vocabulary is important for crosswords, but they tend to build one’s vocabulary in a very specific way.

Some of the clues that people will receive in crossword puzzles will seem obvious in retrospect, but they might seem nonsensical at first. They were deliberately designed to be somewhat opaque, and indeed, many crossword puzzles have clues that seem bizarre. A clue like ‘blasting letters’ isn’t going to be terribly obvious to a lot of people. However, the revelation that the answer is ‘TNT’ suddenly makes everything fall into place. In this case, the most important part of the clue was the word ‘letters’ because it indicated that the word in question was supposed to basically be an abbreviation. The ‘blasting’ adjective will allow crossword puzzle solvers to figure out what type of abbreviation they should be searching for and in which category.

The clue could have just been written in a way to acknowledge that it was referring to an abbreviation, but that would have made the clue significantly less challenging. However, seasoned crossword puzzle solves will be more than used to seeing clues that are like that, so they will know what ‘letters’ is likely to mean in this particular context. As such, the clue is actually going to be fairly intuitive to them because they have enough experience with the language of crossword puzzles.

One of the good things about crossword puzzles is that there tends to be a great deal of overlap in the words that get chosen for the sake of completing the puzzles. Many people who habitually do crossword puzzles will find themselves recognizing certain clues and anticipating the usage of certain words, much in the same way that a person who is learning a new language will slowly start to think in that language and perceive things in that language. Some of language learning is about memory. The people who achieve a degree of familiarity with crossword puzzles aren’t going to have to go through the motions of agonizing over each and every single clue every time. Achieving that level of proficiency is certainly something to look forward to for anyone that’s interested in practicing almost any hobby.