A while back I wrote about my new interest in Kenken.  I had tried sudoku and had some fun with that, but kenken was way more interesting for me.  I still am hooked.  My wife has recently borrowed my book of puzzles and has been plowing through them.  Good for her.  I am a little concerned that I will have none to do in that book when she ends her spree, but no matter.  At the moment I am into kakuro.

My parents, in their wisdom, gave me a half dozen puzzle books for father’s day.  One of them was a book of kakuro puzzles.  I had never done them before, never even seen them before.  The book describes them on the back cover:

Kakuro are half sudoku, half crossword, and use a combination of logic and arithmetic.  They will require you to focus, think carefully, and reason your way out of missteps.

It is a good thing these are math based puzzles, otherwise I might not forgive the split infinitive in the description, but why be picky?  I managed to flub the first puzzle in the book, making an error somewhere that I finally just left behind, but once I got the hang of it, I couldn’t stop.  They are a blast.  Here is a sample, from kakuro.com:

Sample Kakuro Puzzle

Sample Kakuro Puzzle

Both this site and kakuro.net have some good samples and online puzzles and links. The idea is to add each row across so it adds to the number written at left without repeating any digits 1-9.  Then do the same for the vertical rows with the number at the top.  So if you look at the top left, you need to add two numbers to get 4.  Only 3 and 1 work.  Then you need to figure out which order they need to be written.  It is good fun, simple to understand yet often challenging to solve.

I still am jazzed on crossword puzzles and kenken, and those books still litter the house, but at the moment, kakuro holds my interest the most.  In fact, I need to stop typing now.  I have a puzzle left unfinished from earlier.

Keeping the Old Brain Sharp

Some of the Puzzle Books I'm Taking On

Some of the Puzzle Books I'm Taking On

There was a recent article in the Guardian, The Lifestyle to Beat Alzheimer’s, about what one can do to keep dementia at bay.  The headliner was about coffee (this New York Times article has more details about that).  Coffee drinkers, it noted, “will be clinking mugs in a toast to new research suggesting that just two strong cups of the black stuff a day can reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”  I’ll make sure to keep sipping the dark roast.

The article mentioned several other things that research suggests can keep one’s brain sharp enough to avoid slipping into forgetfulness.  To summarize:

  • Drink two strong cups of coffee (the regular stuff, not decaf) per day
  • Eat blueberries, kale and broccoli (and other vegetables)
  • Don’t smoke (duh)
  • Drink one or two alcoholic drinks per day
  • Stay in shape
  • Speak more than one language
  • Stay married (no divorce allowed as that can increase risk of getting dementia)
  • Do crossword, sudoku and other puzzles

Other than speaking multiple languages, I’m doing pretty well on this list.  I am working on the puzzle thing especially right now.  I’ve got multiple books of them going at once, in fact.  I have been tackling crossword puzzles, sudoku, kenken and new to me, kakuro.

My parents gave me five new books of puzzles for Father’s Day.  My mother sees dementia every day, since she works in an elderly care facility.  I guess she wants to keep me sharp for longer than other people.  I’m good with that.  My parents really do love me.  Puzzles: the gift that keeps giving, even when you become an old codger.

I am afraid I could use some help with staving off dementia.  Already, I forget crap all the time.  If taking the time to do some puzzles will help, I’ll do it.  It may get in the way of other things but that is the way of it.  “Sorry, honey, can’t paint the house right now; I’ve got to prevent Alzheimer’s right now.”


I have been pretty much way into crossword puzzles the past few months.  Late this summer I purchased a book of 300 crossword puzzles and scribbled away every day.  I just completed them all, and that includes going back to the few I skipped and completing those.  I have a few more shorter books of them but I just got introduced to KENKEN.

This was a holiday gift from my wife, who was aware of my puzzle fanaticism and who thought I might enjoy the new challenge.  I have.  I have been somewhat into Sudoku, a craze that most people are aware of by now.  KENKEN is similar to Sudoku (a 9×9 grid with some of the boxes filled with numbers, the goal being to fill in all the boxes without repeating a number in any horizontal row, vertical row or smaller 3×3 grid).    The difference here is that some math is involved.

The book I have starts with easy puzzles.  The grids are 3×3.  I blasted through them but they gave me a sense of how to solve the puzzles.  The book ends with 5×5 puzzles.  These are still relatively easy and I am afraid I will have to advance to more difficult ones.  Here is a fairly easy example (from www.Kenken.com):

Easier KENKEN Puzzle

Easier KENKEN Puzzle

And here is a more difficult example (from Wikipedia):

A Tougher One

A Tougher One

As you can see, the first one has simple addition and subtraction, while the second one also contains multiplication and division.  I am ready to leap fully into those.

So far I have done well but I am still working on the easier puzzles.  I will need to go out and get a more advanced book.  I am hooked.  Sudoku is fine.  I have had some fun with that.  But I never got jazzed on it the way I am with these.  I will not give up on crossword puzzles.  I still have lots of those in the house to work on.  I will, however, be busy with KENKEN for a while.