Puzzles and Science

When I was a kid we used to get something in the mail called Games, which is now online. My mom was so excited when she first discovered that magazine. We might have even gotten the inaugural issue, I don’t remember for sure, but I do know we got Games every month for years, and that she really looked forward to it. Hard.

It was filled with puzzles. Mom had always done the crosswords and acrostics and riddles and whatnot that the newspaper sometimes put in after the funny pages, but this magazine was different. Thick. Filled. She went straight for the crosswords, and then the logic puzzles, and then whatever else looked good.

I went for the mind twisters and optical illusions and riddles. They had a page of doodles, really simple ones, barely more than glorified stick drawings, and the idea was to identify the common item that the doodle represented.

Here’s an example I remember, and you can try to guess what this is. Hint: it’s an everyday item looked at in a unique way. I’ll put the answer (upside down*) at the end.

                      __o_____________

I know, right? You can see why we were so excited to get Games every month!

The best part was how much she liked the magazine. Mom was busy. I had seven older siblings, and most of Mom’s time was spent taking care of us. Her few hobbies, here and there, those came and went. But this magazine? It wove through the years in a permanent way.

And I think … this is part of the reason I eventually got my degrees in science (Biology, then Genetics). I liked puzzles, and I had (still have) this attraction to them. There’s a sense of something clicking when the answer falls into place. Find the clues, test the ideas, figure out how to explain something, whether it’s a disease, or an environmental threat, or a genetic trait, or something to do with landing a spacecraft on Mars or looking for life on Europa or deciphering some grand universal theorem that holds everything together.

There’s no message here, just recollections. If you have a favorite game or puzzle I’d love to hear about it.

*I don’t actually know how to blog letters upside down. Sorry.

Answer: This is a door! You’re looking at it from the perspective of a housefly sitting on top and peering over the edge, down at the knob.

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