A Minor Obsession: Word Games and Other Puzzles

I have made plenty of jokes over the years about my math skills. However, I’m happy to sit down and work a Sudoku puzzle, despite the fact that I know I’ll be looking at lots and lots of numbers that I have to arrange into a logical sequence which only looks logical if you know how to work a Sudoku puzzle. (Meaning…the numbers all balance out in a way, but you don’t have to add them up; therefore, they are usually out of sequence and look a lot like trying to win a spelling bee by dividing your last name by the number 9.)

I suppose the part of my brain that makes turning complicated musical rhythms into actual music has helped shape my desire to figure things out in new and creative ways, even during the times that the puzzles start to look number-y and math-y based. Take, for example, the Rubik’s Cube–the bane of any 80’s kid’s existence.

This one’s all solved and stuff. Kudos to them.

I spent hours and hours trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube until I realized that the little colored squares were actually stickers. Sure, they never quite stuck back to the toy itself quite the same way once you peeled them off and moved them around, but I had found my creative loophole–or, in this case, loop-cube.

Okay, so the Rubik’s Cube wasn’t my forte, but Sudoku is something I can manage well. My absolute favorite games, though, are word games (for obvious reasons). I don’t get cross with crosswords (haha…see what I did th…never mind), and I enjoy a good word search.

I believe that participating in word games results in the exponential maturation of your vocabulary at a relatively formidable progression so as to create a exceedingly superior external representation of intelligence. Because, as you all know, sounding knowledgeable, well-informed, perceptive, astute, and brilliant helps you to attain a reputation as a illustrious and authoritative expert on a subject matter.

(Yeah, you learn big words. Or something like that.)

Playing those games also helps you develop your best puns and “dad jokes.” Even if expanding the ol’ vocabulary isn’t your goal with word games, everyone should have a few good puns in their back pockets.

jokes lol GIF by Michelle Porucznik
Umm…I said a few GOOD puns.

Whatever your motivations, I think that exercising your brain–be it through puzzles, games, advanced calculus–is always a good idea. What are your favorite brain games to play? Be sure to chime in and let me know. I’ll just be in a corner somewhere trying to figure out the best glue for the stickers on my Rubik’s Cube.

An Overthought: Pun-ishing

It’s long been a dream of mine (since I first heard this was a thing about five whole years ago) to go to Austin, Texas to compete in and win the O. Henry Pun-Off.

Obviously, I won’t be going this year as I didn’t take a good look at the dates until the time was u-pun and ultimately past us (heh), but it got me to thinking…

How does one efficiently prepare for such a contest?

In my possibly unpopular o-pun-ion (ha), it wouldn’t be easy.

Why, you ask (besides the obvious–that you’d need to be really good with puns)?

This is not a fence post. Well, okay, the picture has a fence post (more than one, actually) in it, but the blog post isn’t about a fence, and that’s where I was supposed to add some kind of clever pun and…yeah. Just look at the pretty sunset and roll your eyes at me.

Well…I’ll make a list.

1. In order to prepare, you’d probably want to practice with someone. And they’d need to be better than you in order to keep you on your toes, which could potentially lead to a crisis of confidence. That’s the part where you start thinking, “Gee. If they’re so good, why don’t they compete instead of me? Why are they helping? Should I be encouraging them to take my spot? Or was that the strategy all along? Yeah, that’s it. Very sneaky, o worthy adversary.”

2. I’m not sure if I have a second item to add to this list. Technically, this means I don’t have much of a list and I should have just written a couple of paragraphs. Darn. Now I have to come up with a third item to make this a real list. I don’t even have a good pun to add, meaning that I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about doing this contest in the first place. (See also: Item No. 1 on this “list.”)

3. Oh…wait. Maybe I do have something to say. If you practice with someone, you might also want to involve a third party to judge each pun’s worthiness in the practice sessions. Still, if they’re able to identify them that easily, they could also be better at this than you are, once again beginning that self-confidence spiral.

overthinking GIF
Try not to look directly at the gif.

It’s a pun-ishing prospect, isn’t it?!?

A Frightful Decision: Halloween Costumes

Fall is (slightly) in the air, and with it comes shorter days, cooler nights, pumpkin spice oxygen, and Halloween.

I was thinking about some of my old Halloween costumes a few days ago, and I realized that out of all the areas in my life in which I strive for perfection, I’ve been sadly lacking in creativity in this department.

Last year, all I did. Breathe, I could not.
Last Halloween, all I did. Breathe, I could not.

Nearly every Halloween costume I wore between the ages of 8 and 12 looked remarkably like witch costumes. They were common, repetitive, and definitely within the format of “frightening” in the spirit of the holiday. (If you factor in this year’s creepy clown craze, my peppy little clown costume at the age of 7 might fit the “frightening” category; alas, it was still a rather common choice at the time, thus reinforcing my lack of creativity.)

I dressed up a couple of times in high school and college, but I can’t think of anything I did that I would classify as overtly “creative.”

In fact, I have only two costumes that I believe would qualify as being creative enough worth mentioning.

The first was on my return trip through college. I had been invited to a party, so I did what any self-respecting, late-twenty-something on a major budget would do…dug through the closet and got resourceful. When I discovered that I own as much plaid as a kilt factory, a 1970s anchorwoman was born.

One dowel, a milk carton, a Nerf ball, and some seriously mismatched plaid later, I was dressed to provide nightly updates on the Watergate scandal.
One dowel, a milk carton, a Nerf ball, and some seriously mismatched plaid later, I was dressed to provide nightly updates on the Watergate scandal.

The other was just a few years ago. I had decided to put together a costume based around my love of puns. Since everyone loves a superhero, The Pun-isher was the result.

Iowa big apology for the Arkan-saw.
Iowa big apology for the Arkan-saw.

I really would like to try harder this year. I have a few ideas, but the only spare “time” I have around the house is…this.

hammer-timePerhaps I should carve out some time…just not from the wood furniture.

Best of luck to all of you out there who are putting together your Halloween costumes.

*By the way, in case you’re still trying to find all of the puns in the Pun-isher costume–a shoe fly, the bee’s knees, an Arkan-saw (from a set of toy tools), green with envy (green tape labeled with the letters NV), a belly button, cold shoulder, chip on the shoulder, an ear of corn, and, although you can’t see it, the cape says “Cape Canaveral.” The tool belt also contained a toy hammer labeled “TIME.”