Even the simplest of word puzzles are great mind stimulators and can help to improve the keenness of a person's brain power. Some make the error of thinking that word puzzles are only designed for pensioners but nothing could be further from the truth. They are great favorites among people of any age and can be the most fitting pastime when waiting in line at the doctor's office, waiting for a train, at the airport, or in any other situation where time might drag. Crossword solving is still the most popular type of word puzzle but there are many others such as cryptograms, word searches, anagrams and so on.
As most people are aware, crosswords consist of a number of black and white squares, the black ones of which are blocked. The remainder can be filled in with letters arranged to make up words. The trick however, is to work out what words to use and this is helped by two intrinsic components: the written 'clues' and the letters, which must match those of other, intersecting words. The two main types, 'straight' and 'cryptic', refer to the clues provided and the latter are, more often than not, the more difficult to solve. As Will Shortz, Crossword Editor for The New York Times, once said, "Crossword puzzles, anagrams and other word puzzles can build problem-solving skills that are useful both academically and in everyday life".
Godoku is a word puzzle that is derived from the ancient and very popular numbers game 'Sudoku'. If you have come across sudoku before then you'll know that it is very much the same and will catch on quickly. It's an alphabetical variation of the original puzzle and is the same except that, instead of nine numbers, godoku uses nine letters. Word puzzles truly have never ever been as popular as they are now. There are literally hundreds of puzzles, games and various other types of 'mind-benders' around that involve people in unscrambling words or phrases where the letters have been jumbled and where the teaser is to put back together the original, or create a new one.
The Big Brain Puzzle Book by Terry Stickels is near the top of the best-seller lists and his puzzle columns, the most famous of which is 'Stickelers', are syndicated in some of the largest newspapers in the USA and even feature regularly in the print media of other countries around the world. One of his books (he has written or co-authored more than thirty) was even approved by the Alzheimer's Association, so useful do they consider his puzzles to be for those so afflicted. He specializes in word puzzles and other brain teasers, such as his 'frame games', that also use symbols or pictures in place of words. His wide range of very popular word puzzles are keenly sought after by people of all ages and of both sexes.
There's another kind of word puzzle that you will only find online, though not everyone will think of them as entertaining. Everyone on the Internet has come across 'captcha' puzzles at one time or another, probably many times. These are the oddly jumbled word puzzles that websites ask you to type to prove that you're a human rather than an Internet robot (known as a web bot). Captcha is actually an acronym and is short for 'Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart'. It usually takes the form of a graphic, which very few bots can decipher, of a scrambled word or words. Well, the good news is that most times when you complete one of these you're helping a good cause. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University decided that, if people were decoding text whenever they solved a captcha puzzle, they may as well be used to help digitize books, such as ancient or classic texts!
Crosswords are the most popular of the many types of word puzzles around nowadays and will probably remain so for a long time yet. Their entertainment value is second to none and studies show that they can also be a tremendous help when it comes to some literacy problems like widening the vocabulary and overcoming spelling difficulties. Following their start in a New York newspaper in the early part of the twentieth century, the popularity of word puzzles spread quickly to many other forms of media and many other countries around the globe. Wherever English is spoken, word puzzles have their place. Now, in this electronic age when the print media is dying, they are going from strength to strength on radio, on television, in books devoted to the genre and on the Internet. Their resilience, their adaptability in evolving into new forms and their fascination to language lovers everywhere, assure their continuing place in the realms of the written word for many years to come.
Schoolchildren can benefit enormously from the various different types of word puzzles that are so prolific now, especially those who are having problems picking up word skills. In fact, according to a recent article in 'USA today', they can increase their mental flexibility and build their vocabularies through the repeated use of various different word puzzles. At the same time, most children, once they get accustomed to how they work, really enjoy them and are constantly on the lookout for new and different variations. On the whole then, both for young and old alike, word puzzles are extremely beneficial.