Easy Isn’t Better

I like mental puzzles.  I take great pride in my ability to do things like Sudoku, or logic puzzles, or codewords, or crosswords.  I do them at home, on lunch breaks, and even in the bus on the way to and from work.  This takes a bit more skill because sometimes the bumps on the road come exactly when I am writing down a crucial word or number.  This doesn’t really bother me though.  It isn’t the greatest frustration that I have.  The greatest frustration comes when crossword puzzles are too easy, too predictable, or seemingly rather lazy.

A couple of years ago at my work, several people used to do the crossword puzzle as a group.  They enjoyed doing it…but after a while they had to mix things up.  I came upon them one day and witnessed a strange scene.  The person holding the puzzle said the answers and they had to guess the clues.  They were quite proficient at it.  I guess the puzzles had gotten rather predictable.

As of late, the puzzles that I am doing (featured in the “free” newspaper) have been full of lazy clues.  So many of them are suffixes and prefixes, or words that wouldn’t normally need an s–but do in this case only.  One TV show (How I Met Your Mother) has the main character saying they always use the same clue because they need the vowels–I didn’t realize how true that was.

For the next week, I won’t be doing the crossword puzzle, because it has become too predictable.  I could blame it on myself.  I am the one who chose to do the “free” puzzles.  If I were smarter, I would go to the bookstore and get a book of tough crosswords.  Then, at least, I wouldn’t complain about easy and lazy crosswords. 

A Friend in Need…… Indeed

My friend needs a hobby.  Obviously, as a proponent of hobbies I feel like everyone needs a hobby.  My friend, however, needs one more than most.  Most people have hobbies, whether they see them as hobbies or not.  Some people follow sports, some follow TV shows (collecting their seasons either by buying the DVD’s or acquiring them from some online source),  and then some take up jogging.

My friend, though athletic, doesn’t want to take up a fitness trend.  There are lots of them out there now–there are quite a few infomercials dealing with that–and I know some people who have become absolutely ripped doing them.  My friend doesn’t want to pursue the kinds of hobbies I do–building model trains or cars doesn’t suit him.  Maybe he doesn’t think he has the dexterity (maybe he doesn’t) or the patience, or even an eye for colour (he’s American so he would prefer I write that he doesn’t have an eye for color–but it’s my blog dammit, and I will write the way I want.

I know, I should probably let him pick out his own hobby.  And normally I would do this.  Really, who wants someone telling them what to do.  Well, in fact, in the end, he will choose for himself.  I just want my readers (few in number, but strong in wisdom) to give his some advice.

Left to his own devices my friend has considered some hobbies on his own, though the results have only given me cause for worry.  He has proposed indulgence in heroin and other recreational chemicals, and though he was kidding, the fact that the joke crossed his mind means he is bored and wants to do something.

His latest proposal is pipe smoking.  I can’t gauge his seriousness because our Skype connection doesn’t allow for really good reading of facial details.  I suspect he is serious.  Then again, do people still smoke pipes?  I don’t recall seeing anyone do that in a long time.  I know that there are still tobacco shops (at least in Canada) but I thought that they were mostly for people who want to buy Cuban cigars, or rolling papers for smoking marijuana–though I do go there to buy pipe cleaners to clean my airbrush– but they always have to root around in a drawer for them, so they can’t be that popular–can they?

My friend has shown an affinity for some TV shows, but he gets bored easily.  He could become a movie watcher, but I am not sure he has the patience.  Basically he needs something that he can pickup, and drop at a whim, that won’t take up too much space, won’t require too much concentration or money, and doesn’t involve a huge effort.   I am not sure he wants other people to be involved or not.

I have presented a negative picture of my friend, and as for thinking of a hobby that is very intentional.  I have proposed many things, only to be shot down, so I have stopped doing that.  However, my friend is a good person, a GREAT friend, incredibly moral and loyal, puts other people above himself far too often, as well as being funny and helpful.

He does crosswords, and he might be working on a Codeword book I sent him.  In addition to that he is a voracious reader, and has a huge amount of stories buried deep inside him.

I want to help, but frankly, I am stumped.

Commuting Distractions–Logic Puzzles

Having too much time on my hands in the bus is both a good and bad thing.  My bus is frequent enough that I don’t spend a lot of time waiting for it, but I certainly spend a lot of time on it.  I read, do the crossword, maybe a sudoku, a codeword when I have them, play video games and lately, I have been doing logic puzzles.

I thought I was the only one who did them because I had never seen anyone do them.  Sudoku seems to be the favourite, followed by people reading, and then followed by whatever iPhone game is popular at the moment.  I have never seen anyone doing a logic puzzle.  And no one has ever asked me what I was doing, or stared at me to figure out what I was doing……. until Friday.

On Friday I met someone who was interested and who wanted to know where I got the book.  This is no big deal, but it means that I am, in my mind, no longer the only one doing these things.  I am part of some group.  Since the book was published and sold in a big bookstore chain, I should probably have realized this before now….but this seems more personal, more real.

Logic puzzles are not the best thing for the bus.  There is less to write than a crossword puzzle (I use circles and “ x”s), but more to pay attention to.  I had been managing it pretty well, but I realized that for the difficult puzzles, it is difficult to concentrate.  Add to this fact that I am often sleepy during the morning commute and on the verge of dozing off on the evening commute and you can see the problem.

I will persevere though.  Logic puzzles are fun, and challenging.

I became a fan of logic problems when I was in high school.  We spent a week in mathematics class doing them.  I did acceptably well on the test, but now I would be able to ace it. (okay, that’s ego talking–let’s just say I hope I would do better now.)

Over the years I have bought some puzzle magazines because they contained a few logic puzzles.  The only problem was that I didn’t do the rest of the magazine and it sat around for years until I finally threw it out–no I am not a hoarder, but I am not a constant purger either.  My current book is 160 pages of logic puzzles.  I got it in the discount section of the bookstore (I guess they aren’t popular) and have done about 25 of them.

Project Update July

I haven’t updated my hobby progress in a while.  This is probably due to a lack of progress.  I have done a few things, but I wouldn’t call this a particularly productive summer for a hobbyist.  Of course, in Canada, the best indoor hobby time is winter.  When it is cold outside, unless your playing hockey or skiing (two very fine pursuits) then being outside either means that tough walk to the bus stop, the pull your kids up hill so they can slide down in 1/10th the time, or the dreaded driveway shovel.  Being cold outside provides the perfect opportunity to work on models, puzzles, the train, or something along those lines.

Lately here the weather has been rather warm and the flower garden has been demanding a lot of my attention.

Fear not, I have done some things.  First and foremost, I have committed myself to this blog.  The second thing is that I picked up (well, in fact I had Amazon send me) some new train books.  I have read quite of bit from each one and I am happy with the purchase.  The third thing I have done is get the bike tuned up so I can ride around and enjoy this weather.
Sadly, my tennis partner is relocating and I am afraid my game will fall off to nothing.

Truth be told, I have neglected my models, my trains (well, I got some books, and I have made a decision about my layout–but I will save that for another blog) and my Japanese study.  I have put off the Lego purchase.  I have spent time reading, but I have not quite gotten used to loading books on the e reader.
I finished my book of Codeword Puzzles (all 150 of them) and started my book of logic puzzles.

I am not worried, and I am not short of topics for this blog, so even if this officially becomes a lazy summer, I will still have a progress report for you in August.


After writing about my CodeWord book the other day, I spent a bit of my commute time thinking about completion.  I have almost completed my book of puzzles.  It might have taken me the better part of a year, but it will get done.  Hopefully tomorrow on the bus I will fill out that last page.  I hope I will feel some sort of satisfaction, or pride, or at least a sense of accomplishment.

Applying this to my other hobbies I see that completion has played a big part in them also.

 Here are some acts of completion which make me feel pretty good.

Putting the last piece in a 1000 (or more) piece puzzle.
Taking the last part of a model from the sprue and attaching it to the model.
Filling in the last square of the Saturday Crossword Puzzle.
Getting the last number of a Sudoku puzzle.
Taking off your skates or ski boots after a long day on the ice or the mountain.
Planting the last artificial tree on the train layout.
Getting the last colour in the Rubik;s Cube
Acquiring that last country in Risk.
Conquering the last civilization in Age of Empires
Getting the last card for your set.
The Stanley Cup Championship game.
The last train stop on the journey.
Writing the last postcard of your vacation.
The match winning tennis shot (forehand, crosscourt lots of topspin)

These completions ring bittersweet.

Reading the last sentence in a great novel.

The last ski run of the day.
Watching the last episode in a TV series you’ve enjoyed.
The last piece of birthday cake.

These are completions which are terrible

Eating the last cookie.

Drinking the last beer.

Though I love completion, I do know that procrastination has a strong hold on my life as well.  I like to see some things done, but I don’t always start them on time.

Commuting Distractions Revisited

For most commuters, a book, even the newspaper would be enough.  For this hobbyist, super enthusiast, if you will, I need more.  Yes, as I mentioned before, I do my best to read a lot of books.  Sometimes, though, books are just a slog, or just aren’t doing it.  When this happens, I turn to puzzles like crosswords, sudoku, the jumble if I can find one, or some other puzzle.  The one that has currently caught my eye is called codeword.

I get the feeling that for people in England what I am about to introduce is old hat.  As for Canada, I have never seen it in a newspaper here.  It sometimes appears in a book of variety puzzles, but I stopped buying those because never get through all of them and the book hangs around for years.

I was introduced to Codeword when I visited my friend in Japan.  He told me that he looked forward to his Sunday Edition of the Daily Yomiuri newspaper because they carried a Times supplement and had a codeword puzzle in it.  I could sympathize with my friend because I look forward to the Saturday Star because of the comics and the huge crossword.  As for Japanese newspapers every Sunday I read the Japan Times online because they have a great Dahl cartoon (check it out, it is pretty cool)

When I visited his place he graciously let me do his codeword (pretty nice considering he would have to wait seven days to do another one)  I was hooked.  It is different from both a crossword and sudoku, but contains some elements of both.  Basically if you like word games you might get a kick out of this.

I decided to repay my friend by sending him a codeword book, and since they had two I bought one for myself.  I have done about 143 of the 150 puzzles in the book.  There were 70 easy ones, 60 moderate ones, and 20 difficult ones.  I am not sure I appreciate the ratio of puzzles, but since it has taken me almost one year to do them, I really shouldn’t complain.  I have enjoyed the puzzles, and even learned a few, slightly obscure words.

I wish a Torontonewspaper would carry these puzzles once a week, but they’ve probably got enough going on right now.  I certainly wouldn’t want them to bump the jumble for this one, but…..

I probably won’t buy a book of these puzzles again, just because it seems like such a big commitment. 

If you want to try some of these yourself, a quick google search and you’ll find some that you can print up.  Let me know what you think.