Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 23, 2007

Make history at Silicon Valley Puzzle Day

“Man is a puzzle-solving animal.” ~ English theologian and author Ronald A. Knox

If you love crossword puzzles, sudoku, libraries, or making history, save this date: Saturday, Feb. 24.

That’s when the inaugural Silicon Valley Puzzle Day will be held at Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill. The event runs from 10am to 4pm in the high school’s beautiful library. The morning will be devoted to a sudoku tournament, and the afternoon will feature a crossword puzzle tournament.

Proceeds will benefit the Beyond Books Campaign, which is an effort of the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library to raise money to provide art and equipment for the new Morgan Hill Library.

What’s history making about this? Two things.

First, as far as organizers have been able to discover, Silicon Valley Puzzle Day is the first event of this kind on the West Coast.

Crossword tournaments are big on the East Coast, as anyone who has seen the documentary “Wordplay” is aware.

This tournament adds a sudoku tournament twist to broaden its appeal to include both word puzzlers and numbers puzzlers. Organizers hope to make Silicon Valley Puzzle Day an annual event.

And how cool is it that the first event of this kind on the West Coast will be in South County?

That’s something to be proud of, I think.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll reveal that I’ve been working with the Beyond Books Campaign committee for the last year. We’ve set a challenging goal of raising $180,000.

Campaign chair Carol O’Hare reports, “Fundraising is going well and we’re getting lots of support.”

Silicon Valley Puzzle Day kicks off the community outreach phase of the Beyond Books Campaign.

Which brings me to the second history-making facet of this operation. When the Morgan Hill Library opens this summer, it will be the first library in the Santa Clara County Library system to open with indoor and outdoor art, according to Morgan Hill Community Librarian Rosanne Macek, and that’s thanks to the Beyond Books Campaign.

Other new Santa Clara County libraries, such as those in Cupertino and Saratoga, opened with outdoor art but with no indoor art. The Morgan Hill library will have outdoor art, too. But due to the Beyond Books Campaign, the Morgan Hill Library will open with an impressive indoor art collection, too.

That’s also something to be proud of, I think.

In addition to the tournaments, Silicon Valley Puzzle Day will feature puzzle-solving workshops, a giant Silicon Valley and library-themed puzzle that everyone can help solve, and a raffle. Food and merchandise will be sold in a marketplace.

The competition entry fee is $20 for adults, $10 for students. Members of the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library receive a $2 discount. If you don’t want to compete, you can attend workshops, visit the marketplace, and participate in non-competitive puzzle fun for free.

If you’d like to volunteer, it’s not too late to help.

Visit the event web site for information on registration, volunteering, donating, directions, and the latest updates.

Silicon Valley Puzzle Day is aimed all levels, from beginners to experts. However, children who compete should be at least upper elementary aged. The event is designed to be fun for puzzlers of all levels, and we plan to have prizes for all kinds of puzzlers, not just the most accurate and fastest (although we’ll have prizes for them, too).

Here’s a selfish reason to participate in Silicon Valley Puzzle Day: Studies have shown that challenging yourself mentally can help keep Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at bay.

“The advice that I think people could comfortably take from this,” Michael Marsiske, Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study investigator told NPR, “is that if they challenge themselves to learn new things, including things that they might perceive as difficult in their later years, many older adults will not only achieve benefits from those challenges but those benefits will be long lasting.”

Puzzle solving can offer life lessons as well. I like the way former President Bill Clinton described his approach to solving crossword puzzles in “Wordplay.”

“It’s like life,” Clinton said. “You start with the problems you can solve, the answers you know, and you move out from there.”

Have some fun, help a good cause, keep your brain sharp, and make some history.

Come to the inaugural Silicon Valley Puzzle Day on Feb. 24.

“The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is you know there is a solution.” ~ Composer Stephen Sondheim


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