Friday, December 16, 2005

I knew him when he was Number Place.

I love math games and puzzles. I used to have a subscription to Dell's "Math Puzzles & Logic Problems" magazine. My favorite were Cross Sums, which are like crossword puzzles except that instead of word phrase clues, you get a total number which is the sum of the numbers in that row. I loved Cross Sums so much that when I found a special issue that had 50 of them (most only had 4 or 8), I repeatedly photocopied the blank puzzles so that I could do them over and over. Do you know how many combinations of 4 numbers (1-9, no repeated digits) equal 12? There are two: 1 2 3 6 and 1 2 4 5.

I am a nerd.

I'd do the other puzzles in the magazines, too, including one called "Number Place" which involved putting numbers into squares on a large grid. It was mindless (no math) but strangely addictive.

I haven't done puzzles in awhile - knitting has taken over as my traditional tv-watching activity, I no longer smoke (I used to carry puzzle magazines down with me), and computer games now exercise the logic side of my brain. So I wasn't aware until recently about the huge interest in Sudoku, which is the Japanese version of "Number Place." Last time I was in Barnes & Noble I was surprised to see an entire table display of Sudoku books.

Then, yesterday, I saw someone on the subway filling in familiar-looking squares in a newspaper. The dreaded New York Post.

I said it was mindless, but not that mindless. You do need to apply some logic and thought. Although I suppose a New York Post Sudoku puzzle could be as close to a Dell Number Place as a TV Guide crossword puzzle is to the New York Times crossword. You can make these things pretty easy, if you give enough clues.

And, did I say they were addictive? Online Sudoku is now in danger of sapping my work productivity big time.


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