Word Puzzles For Everyone

Foreword By The Author

Word puzzles are a great way to stimulate the brain and enhance mental awareness. They aren't just for older people, though. They are a great way to help anyone, regardless of age, to keep a busy mind working efficiently. These type of puzzles are not terribly hard or complex; in fact they can often be solved while waiting in line, at the airport, on a train, in the doctor's waiting room etc. Choices range from cryptograms to word searches and logic problems to crosswords. They are also perfect for a wide variety of media, particularly newsletters. Why? Because they provide a very sought-after element: a high degree of interactivity.
Mike Alexander
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Word Games

Filling In a Crossword Puzzle
Image by incurable_hippie via Flickr

Word games and word puzzles have never been more popular than now. There are also a whole new range of puzzles, games and educational mind-benders featuring the unscrambling of words or phrases whose letters have been jumbled and where the idea is to reconstitute the original word or phrase, or create a new one. Godoku is a good case in point. Anyone familiar with sudoku will catch on quickly to godoku because the game is an alphabetical variation on the conventional version and is almost identical: the only difference is that instead of nine numbers, godoku has nine letters. They are already beginning to appear in national newspapers and elsewhere.

Stickelers

Terry Stickels' puzzles are perfect brain teasers for young and old alike. His 'Stickelers' puzzle column is syndicated every day by King Features and appears in many of the largest newspapers in the U.S.A. Stickels has authored or co-authored over thirty books, including the top-selling 'The Big Brain Puzzle Book', which features over two hundred Alzheimer's Association-approved puzzles. A comprehensive introduction explains how these devilish new puzzles work. Best known are 'frame games', which are clever rebus word puzzles contained within small picture frames. A rebus is a kind of word puzzle that uses pictures or symbols in place of words or parts of words; for example, a picture of an eye coupled with a picture of a tin can might stand for "I can".

Captchas

Anyone who has spent much time online has encountered websites that require you to solve a distorted word puzzle to "prove that you’re a human" when filling out a form. These are called 'captcha' puzzles (short for Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart) and display a graphic of a scrambled word or words that can be read by a person but not by a web bot (an Internet robot). It occurred to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that, because people were decoding distorted text every time they solved a captcha puzzle, they could also be used to help digitize books, such as ancient or classic texts. So, believe it or not, we have the scourge of spammers to thank for enlisting people across the globe to unknowingly help in digitizing important historical works nearly every time they solve a simple word puzzle to register at a website or buy something online!

Online Word Puzzles

Studies have shown that, apart from the entertainment value obtained from word puzzles, using them can also serve progressive and useful educational functions as well. Two of the biggest educational benefits of playing word puzzles are learning to spell and expanding the vocabulary. Word puzzles have a rich history not just in traditional media such as newspapers and puzzle books, but also in popular television programs and on the the world wide web. The Internet has made word puzzles available to millions of people and has sparked a revival in their popularity. Of course, the most famous, and still the most popular word puzzles are crosswords, which were first encountered in New York in the early 1900s and have since become firmly established in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Crossword Puzzles

"Crossword puzzles, anagrams and other word puzzles can build problem-solving skills that are useful both academically and in everyday life", says Will Shortz, Crossword Editor for The New York Times. The aim of a crossword is to place the correct words in empty black and white squares by solving clues that lead to the answers. Many variants exist but the two most common forms are the 'straight' crossword and the 'cryptic' crossword. With straight crosswords, the clues are normally very simple definitions for the answers, and are often synonyms. Cryptic crosswords, on the other hand, are typically more difficult than straight crosswords, and can take quite a bit of time to become accustomed to. The clues in cryptic crosswords are also puzzles in themselves, and are often not logical statements.

Summary

Word puzzles are a fun way to activate the brain at the same time as benefiting from relaxation. According to a recent article in USA Today, word puzzles are a great way to get kids ready for school by increasing mental flexibility, helping with word recognition skills and building vocabularies. They are also great memory enhancers for everyone and can even help prevent possible future memory problems.

A selection of small crossword puzzles are included here as ClipCopy 'fillers'. There are seventy-five of them currently, together with a few other types of word puzzles. Crossword puzzles are perfect additions to most newsletters and online publications and can help to enhance reader enjoyment and cultivate reader loyalty.

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