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The Great Puzzle Search

By Ruth B. Roufberg
January 29 is National Puzzle Day. But for many people, every day is Puzzle Day, thanks to the crosswords that appear in most daily newspapers. Why are puzzles so addictive? The New York Times crossword editor, Will Shortz, said in an early January “60 Minutes” interview, “I think people do crosswords first of all to test themselves.”

But puzzle-solving starts well before adulthood. For a baby, trying to pick up a Cheerio or figure out who’s that baby in the mirror can be a puzzle. All through life, solving puzzles is both practical and recreational.

The Internet is a bountiful resource for puzzles of all sorts. Beyond crosswords, there are jigsaw puzzles, riddles, word and number puzzles, mazes, shape-forming puzzles (Tangrams), manipulative puzzles (Rubik’s cube), and logic puzzles. These are some sites where online games can be played free, without having to download anything that might be virus-infected, and without having to reveal any personal information. offers the most options on the internet for free online jigsaw puzzles. You choose the level of difficulty, from a quick and simple 6-piece puzzle to a challenging 247-piece cut. You can even choose what shape pieces you want, ranging from classic to triangles, zigzags, waves, or even bird shapes.

More than 700 pictures are grouped in thirteen themes that include Animals,Art & Architecture, Plants & Food, People & Lifestyle, Sports & Recreation, and Travel & Culture. Good ones for younger children are World Flags because the images are so bold, and Miscellaneous Images because they include such familiar subjects as a jack-o-lantern, rainbow, and smiley face.

The individual jigsaw pieces are moved by clicking and dragging with the cursor. Each time two pieces are correctly aligned, there’s a satisfying “click” as those pieces lock together and will thereafter move as a single unit. Game Room offers puzzles and games, both strategy and trivia. Scroll down the home page to see the icons and brief descriptions of each game, and click on your choice. These are some that play exceptionally well:

Dog Bones is similar to Battleship, except you're trying to find hidden bones, not ships.

Raku Jr. is a grid of red and blue tiles. The colors flip when the cursor passes over them, and the object is to turn them all to blue in as few moves as possible)

Robix Try to get your marbles past the obstructions and to the bottom of the screen before your computer opponent.

The Shell Game You see the ball being placed under one of the cups, and you see two hands shuffle the cups back and forth. But did you watch closely enough to know where the ball is when the hands stop moving?

Thesaurus Tangle Jr. and Topic Tangle Jr. are both anagram games; rearrange the mixed-up letters to fit definitions (for the first game) or the category (for the second game). gives age ranges in one-year increments for its clever word puzzles, based on the web host’s experience as a former elementary school teacher and author of more than 30 children’s puzzle books for such publishers as Scholastic, Random House, Children’s Television Network, Weekly Reader, and Nickelodeon. Some of the puzzles must be printed out; others can be done online. describes itself as “the world’s best resource for puzzling on the Internet,” and a search of all the sites it embraces lends credence to the claim.

Directly under the heading PUZZLES.COM on the home page, you can see the site map merely by pausing your cursor on each “department” for an over-all view of its contents.

Puzzle Playground has a selection of classic and modern, hands-on puzzles that use items you have around the house or pages you can print out free from the site. There are puzzles, optical illusions, tricks and toys. A few are highlighted at the top of the home page, but scroll past those for a list of 102 puzzles done with matchsticks, coins, tangram shapes, and pencil & paper. Solutions are given for all the puzzles.

Puzzle Up leads to such goodies as Connection (one of several Rubik’s puzzles that can be accessed by links), Brainbinders Origami (paper-folding puzzles), and, by clicking on each of the words from Beginner to Expert at the upper left of the screen, links to such classics as Simon (repeat the color patterns), Tantrix (arrange hexagonal tiles to form a continuous same-color path), Soma (construct a cube from seven clusters of smaller cubes), and Rush Hour (move a car from its blocked position in a parking lot).

For an intriguing puzzle within the PuzzleUp site, click on the word “Expert” and then on “previous 2” to reach the Virtual Museum Maze, a mystical art museum. As the website says, “Good luck getting through it… but at least while you’re lost, you’ll be able to enjoy the masterworks of the world’s greatest painters.”

Puzzle Spaces contains the feature A Game A Day (which can also be accessed directly at As its name indicates, it contains a daily collection of word puzzles and games, plus online curriculum-related activities for educators and for students.

Puzzles in Education is an area that will interest teachers and home-schoolers.

Puzzle Help offers hints, advice, and information about some of the puzzles within the site that viewers have asked about.


There are about 50 puzzles: anagrams, word searches, codewords (in which numbers substitute for all letters), and cryptic crosswords. These are some of the more unusual puzzles:

Interactive Alphafit Crossword
A partly filled-in crossword puzzle. Each of the 26 blank squares is to be filled in with a different letter of the alphabet to complete the puzzle.

Interactive Storyword
Some of the words are missing from a well-known extract from Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass. They have been replaced by clue numbers. Your task is to decide what each word should be and place it into the grid in this online, interactive crossword puzzle. If you get stuck, you can use the REVEAL button to give the solution to a particular clue, the CHECK button to check that answers are correct (wrongly placed letters will be deleted), or the REVERT button to completely clear the grid of all letters.

Interactive Pathways Game
On a 16x16 grid, try to form a continuous blue path from top to bottom before the computer completes a horizontal red path.

This site contains crosswords and crossword variants, anagrams, doublets, trivia, riddles, chess problems, math puzzles, logic puzzles, word search puzzles, jigsaw puzzles ... and more!

Every day there is a new daily crossword, jigsaw, codebuster, and word search. Of particular interest is the clickable feature, Brain Teasers. There are 120 of them, grouped in sets of four.

Sample: What do the following numbers have in common?
               3 7 10 11 12 (answer on bottom of page)

This site also has some puzzle games that require Java software:

Mastermind is a game of deductive reasoning in which players must guess the sequence of four colored pegs the computer has selected at random.

Peg Solitaire requires players to keep jumping pegs until only one remains on the board.

Sliding Block puzzles consist of scrambled squares that must be rearranged by sliding them into new positions.

TacTix is a variation of Nim, in which players take turns removing counters from the board, with the goal of forcing the other player to remove the last counter.

Click to play Tetris or Tretris (a variation with falling squares instead of angled shapes). Both provide a preview of the next piece, and ten different speeds.

Also play Reversi (the original name of Othello) on an 8x8 grid.

The Diamond 16 Puzzle

This site shows The Diamond 16 Pattern. By clicking on segments of the square, parts can be switched to different positions, producing dramatic variations. But can you get back to the original pattern?

Discovery School's Puzzlemaker

The Brain Booster Archive contains puzzles of logic, math, reasoning, spatial awareness, words, and lateral thinking. Here’s an example of a lateral thinking question, which requires letting one’s brain think in different ways than it may be used to:

Question: A girl who was just learning to drive went down a one-way street in the wrong direction, but didn't break the law. How come? (Answer is at the bottom of the page)

The Puzzlemaker area of this web site is a step-by-step guide for children who want to create their own puzzles.

The Set Game Company

Set can be a puzzle for one or a game for any number of players. It requires visual perception to form "sets" of three cards in which each attribute (color, shape, quantity, and shading) are either all the same or all different on each card. It may sound complicated, but youngsters often catch on faster than adults. Learn the game on the company web site, where a new challenge is posted every day. Solo practice is fun by itself, as well as good preparation for group play.


Answers puzzle:
The only vowel they contain, when written out fully, is the letter E.

Discover School's Puzzlemaker puzzle:
She was walking.

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