Engage Your Mind: Crossword Puzzles and Mental Fitness

Short-term memory lapses are common as we age. You might find it unnerving to forget essential details like the last four digits of your Social Security number. And it’s even more frustrating when you can’t recall it while silently reciting the entire number. A friend recently shared a similar experience and mentioned taking up crossword puzzles as a form of mental exercise. It’s a popular recommendation to fend off Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline. I enthusiastically endorsed this idea, being an avid crossword enthusiast myself. My crossword journey spans nearly half a century, with the New York Times puzzles being a beloved companion.

The Power of Mental Challenges

Engaging in mental challenges has been advocated as a way to stave off Alzheimer’s disease. Crossword puzzles, in particular, offer an enjoyable way to keep your brain sharp. My addiction to crosswords began five decades ago when I first encountered the iconic New York Times daily and Sunday puzzles.

Special Crossword Moments

Crossword aficionados often share memorable moments related to their puzzle-solving adventures. I recounted two such moments. The first occurred during a flight to San Diego, right after airlines banned smoking on board. As a heavy smoker, I feared the seven-hour deprivation until landing. Crossword puzzles came to the rescue, diverting my attention from my craving for cigarettes.

The second exceptional moment took place during a train ride to Manhattan, a daily routine. I usually completed the puzzle before reaching the city. However, on this particular day, the puzzle was exceptionally challenging. I continued wrestling with it throughout my journey. Upon arriving at our news office on the 16th floor, I was greeted by a frenzy of activity. My colleagues were abuzz with the news of Governor Rockefeller’s passing. My puzzle addiction had left me unaware of this significant development.

Crossword Evolution

Margaret Farrar, a brilliant woman, was the first to oversee the Times’ crossword puzzles. Her appointment marked a shift in the newspaper’s stance on crosswords. Initially, the Times dismissed them as a “primitive form of mental exercise.” It wasn’t until two decades after puzzles’ inception in New York papers that the Times embraced them. However, when the Times finally acknowledged the enjoyment and value of crosswords, it quickly surged ahead of its competitors in terms of cleverness and complexity.

The Legacy of Gene Maleska

Gene Maleska, the third person to oversee the Times’ crossword section, corresponded with me after I shared my crossword stories. He passed away not long after our exchange, depriving his readers and solvers of these tales. The benefits of keeping the brain active, whether through crossword puzzles, card games, or other cognitive activities, are undeniable. They can help maintain mental agility and ward off cognitive decline. However, moderation is key to ensure that these activities don’t become overwhelming obsessions.

The Wider Benefits of Mental Exercise

Mental exercise is not limited to crossword puzzles. Activities like card games, chess, or engaging in intellectually stimulating conversations can also help maintain cognitive function. These endeavors serve as workouts for your brain, akin to sending it to the gym for a rigorous session.

Crossword Puzzles as an Intellectual Pursuit

What was once ridiculed as a mindless pastime has evolved into a cherished intellectual pursuit. Crossword puzzles are no longer viewed as mere distractions; they are valuable tools for keeping the mind sharp and engaged.

Crossword puzzles are not just a pastime; they are a means of keeping the brain active and vibrant. These puzzles can be a delightful and intellectually stimulating daily ritual. So, challenge your mind, enjoy solving crosswords, and stay sharp—just remember to strike a balance between mental exercise and life’s other pleasures. Whether you choose to embark on a crossword adventure or explore other cognitive activities, keep your mind in shape and embrace the benefits of lifelong mental fitness.

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Knotwords – A Game Loved by Many

The Wordle craze was fascinating in the world of online word puzzles. It is impressive just how many people not only played the game every day but shared their results on social media. Answers became closely guarded secrets. Eventually, people took the format in new directions to play with the concept. There was also an increase in similarly low-key word puzzles online. One that has caught the interest of a lot of players is Knotwords.

How Does Knotwords Work?
Knotwords is essentially an alternative form of Crossword. There is a grid that looks like a crossword grid, but there are no clues. Instead, you have a series of grid sections, and you have to figure out what fits in each one to make a completed Crossword puzzle. It makes more sense when you see it all on screen, but it is still a challenging game much like Up and Down words that we solve every day.

The game was clearly inspired by Wordle, with its clean design and approach to creating words. It also follows the same format of providing a new puzzle every day. This means we can all jump in on a break to focus on something else and know there will be another challenge tomorrow.

Is It Better Than Wordle?
This is a big question. Some people love the simplicity and single focus of Wordle for a quick fix. However, many people lost interest because it was all over so quickly and a bit repetitive. Here, there is a bigger challenge as you try and fill in the blocks of letters because there isn’t always a clear starting point. This brainteaser requires more time and thought and allows you to come back later to finish it.

Even Wordle’s Creator Is A Fan!
If you want a glowing endorsement of this successor to Wordle, look no further than Wordle’s creator, Josh Wardle. If the man that came up with the original format praises your game for its “deceptively simple appearance,” you know you are onto a winner. He says that anyone that loved his game is sure to appreciate Knotwords, citing its elegance as a big selling point. After all, it was the minimalist approach of the Wordle daily game that drew in so many people day after day.

Play Knotwords On Mobile Or PC For Easy Access.
What makes this game a little different and more accessible than the original Wordle is that you can set it up on your PC or mobile device. The mobile app is the most convenient for a quiet break at work. The free version is enough for access to daily puzzles if that’s all you need. However, there is a Pro model with additional puzzles, themes, stats, and more. It costs $12 for full ownership or $4.99 a month. Alternatively, you can get it for $12 to add to your Steam Deck.

Thanks to the balance between similar features and different benefits, Knotwords players should find that this fills the gap that Wordle left behind. It is deceptively simple, potentially addictive, and something to enjoy each day.

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