In late 2020, I remember seeing those green and yellow squares posted across Twitter and Slack channels. Yes, Wordle was taking off. It was a fun, quick game to kick off a day or something to fill a mid-day break. Then there were all the variants like Quordle, and Worldle, and even Canuckle.
Wordle was so popular it got acquired by the The New York Times. It’s still part of my daily routine. The New York Times recently added Connections, which I find a lot of fun. That, too, has been added to the daily rotation. I’ll do the crossword mini from time to time, although the American centricity sometimes throws me off.
The other quick puzzle game I like to play is Sudoku. I have an app on my phone that I am on frequently throughout the day and has become somewhat of an anxiety reduction tool—to the point where sometimes my fingers start to get sore from tapping the screen too much.
During the pandemic, I came across Cracking the Cryptic on YouTube. It’s a channel focused primarily on solving Sudoku and Sudoku variant puzzles. The variant puzzles, like Killers, Thermos, Arrows, and many other rulesets, add an interesting twist to the otherwise mundane game of Sudoku.
It, too, has become a daily routine of opening the channel to see if there are any new puzzles to be solved. They’ve also released apps on Steam, iOS, and Android with a fixed set of puzzles to solve.
I enjoy these particular puzzles because each one is designed by hand. As a result, they feel like pulling threads on a sweater until eventually one thread unravels the entire thing—or as they say on the channel, “now we’re cooking with gas.” It’s very satisfying.
In some ways, I’ve turned into my father. I don’t know him well as my parents divorced when I was three and I went to live with my mom. We stopped communicating altogether when he disagreed with my decision not to go to university. But as a teenager, he would send me letters. In each letter, he would include a puzzle to solve. That man enjoyed his puzzles. In searching for him years later, I discovered that he frequented a Usenet group for math puzzles.
He hasn’t posted in years, either on there or any other publicly available forum that I’ve seen. Even his own brother (my uncle, natch) hasn’t heard from him in over a decade.
Why he chose to disappear is a puzzle I’ll likely never solve.