The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs

I chose The Puzzler for my guy book club meeting this month, and it did not disappoint. We did talk about the book at our meeting, but my favorite part of the discussion was an impromptu show-and-tell session. Items included a lock-picking learning kit (with a clear Master-style lock so you can see the pins move), a legal puzzle as told through state law and agency regulation, an authentic Japanese puzzle box from the 90s, and a painfully detailed step-by-step children’s story explaining the moves to solve a Rubik’s Cube (my fault).

That impromptu show-and-tell sesh demonstrated what I greatly enjoy about puzzles and games – how they bring out unexpected creativity and connections. That’s some good, clean fun. And they also teach us that we can do things we never thought we could do.

A.J. Jacobs covers those ideas and more in The Puzzler. Written mainly during the pandemic, the book explores what we get out of puzzles, the whacky obsessives (MY DREAM), and some broad genres of puzzles, including:

  • Rubik’s Cube (and other twisty puzzles)
  • Anagrams
  • Jigsaws
  • Maxes
  • Math/Logic
  • Ciphers and Codes
  • Visual Puzzles
  • Sudoku et al.
  • Riddles
  • Puzzle Boxes
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Infinite Puzzles

Even if you don’t read this book, I hope you enjoy this definition of puzzles:

? → !

That definition is from Maki Kaji, often called the “Godfather of Sudoku.” The trick in life is to find contentment or joy or meaning in the arrow phase of doing. If we can do that, we’ve got it made. And that’s what puzzles teach us. (Also, spatial reasoning, sometimes.)

P.S. The whole back section of the book is a puzzle hunt – combo of mini puzzles feeding into a meta puzzle. Have fun!

Author: Joey

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