It’s not uncommon to find half-finished puzzles from the newspaper scattered throughout my house. Words come more easily to me than numbers, so I usually try the crossword before the Sudoku, but give up on both before I finish. However, my dad is the real puzzle enthusiast of the family. He’s probably the only person who would dare to attempt a Sunday Times crossword, and he’s always chipping away at a jigsaw puzzle in the dining room. Each time I come downstairs in the morning and walk by the table, a considerable amount of progress has been made, much more than what I could complete in the same timeframe.
The onset of the pandemic sparked my own appreciation for a good puzzle. When we left UMass a year ago, filling my days was hard. The sporadic Zoom sessions weren’t enough. While I dove headfirst into The Great British Baking Show and took as many walks as I could, I wanted something else. I wanted something to exercise my brain, something different than schoolwork. My dad suggested I take a trip down to the basement and examine the massive stash of jigsaw puzzles he’s accumulated over the years. Smart man!
My basement is dark and spooky, so I quickly slid a random 500-piece puzzle out from the shelf without even looking at it. I got to work and realized what a great way it was to pass the time. I cozied up on the living room couch, threw on some music, and vibed with the cardboard pieces, not a care in the world. It was just what I was looking for. Last spring, I completed three jigsaw puzzles in the span of two weeks, a feat I had never considered attempting before.
Fast forward a year, and I’m hooked on a different type of puzzle: the crossword. My free New York Times subscription (thanks, UMass!) gives me access to the Daily Mini, a 5×5 square that takes about a minute to complete on The NYT app. After a while, the mini wasn’t enough, so I researched what other options were out there. Lucky for me, The Times has published several books full of just crossword puzzles. I’m currently on my second omnibus, and it’s proven to be another great way to pass the time during the pandemic. The puzzles are just engaging enough to give my brain some exercise, but the pressure is low and there’s no harm if I decide to quit halfway through (as I often do).
I’m thankful for the solace that puzzles of every kind have offered during the past year of insanity, and I highly recommend exploring what type of puzzle is most engaging for you. In the spirit of this article, I made a UMass-themed crossword puzzle to go along with it. Check it out!