Why Our Brains Are Hungry for Puzzles
Solving puzzles can give you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get in everyday life.
Will Shortz has been the crossword editor of The New York Times since 1993 and the puzzle master for NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday since 1987. He's also the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Shortz sold his first puzzle professionally when he was 14. He is the only person in the world to hold a college degree in Enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he earned from Indiana University in 1974.
There are general reasons why we like puzzles and then there are particular reasons why we like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and things like that. The general reason is we’re faced with problems every day in life. Most of them don’t have perfect solutions. We just muddle through the best we can and move onto the next thing. Also, there are very few things in life that we completely grasp or that are completely our own.
You drive a car, but do you really understand how the car was made? Do you understand all about how the engine works? Probably not, but all you need to do is drive. But the nice thing about a human-made puzzle is when you solve the problem, you feel a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get much in everyday life, because you’ve found the perfect answer and also you’re seeing the whole process. If you solve a crossword you know you’re carrying it through, literally from square one to the end and that gives you a sense of satisfaction that you don’t get in everyday life.
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