Along the way we meet all manner of puzzle masters, as well as the merely possessed. There are the speedcubers, people who memorize hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of algorithms to reduce the number of turns per solve. (If you think that nothing is more boring to watch than golf, just know that speedcubing tournaments have spectators, as well as fantasy leagues where you can gamble on your favorite champions.) There is Adrian Fisher, who modestly calls himself the most prolific maze designer “in the history of humankind”: His work includes a Beatles-themed maze in Liverpool, a maze in the passenger terminal of Singapore’s Changi Airport and one on the side of a building in Dubai, “which shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re Spider-Man.” And of course there is Will Shortz himself, the NPR/New York Times editor who is to puzzles what Kim Kardashian is to buttocks: There is none finer, or more discussed among aficionados. On the walls of Shortz’s living room hangs a personal letter to him from Bill Clinton: “Even when I can’t finish them, they’re the only part of The New York Times that guarantees a good feeling.”
Jacobs’s love for puzzles is infectious, and it’s not hard to understand why. Puzzle people draw us in with their monomania. “I’m a sucker for people who are passionate about something,” Jacobs notes, “regardless of how silly that passion might seem to others.” He shows us how you can even cherish puzzles that you don’t have the patience (or skill) to solve.
The truth is, we’re all puzzlers, whether we’re trying to remember our passwords or losing sleep because we’re staying up till 12:01 a.m. to do Wordle — a simple word puzzle that ballooned from 90 daily players on Nov. 1 to 300,000 at the beginning of the year to millions now. All puzzles aren’t so innocent — think Zodiac Killer, who still has multiple websites dedicated to cracking some of his unsolved notes. But puzzles also bring us together in ways large and small. If I’m having an existential crisis at 3 a.m., there is an entire globe of people out there playing online Scrabble in real time. And I’ve actually had interesting conversations on Words With Friends with strangers. As puzzlers often say, “It’s not the puzzles you solve, it’s the people you meet.”
What’s a Six-Letter Word for Fanatical Devotion to Solving Things? https://t.co/enX8LSUvnA
— Paul Quibell-smith (@QuibellPaul) April 26, 2022