Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 27, 2009

Pencil, pen, or glue stick, it’s a lot of fun

“It is one of man’s curious idiosyncrasies to create difficulties for the pleasure of resolving them.” – French philosopher Joseph de Maistre Some do them for fun.

Some do them competitively.

Some do them to stay sharp.

Some, with an abundance of practicality, do them in pencil.

Some, with an abundance of confidence, do them in pen.

Jon Stewart, with an abundance of silliness, claims to do them in glue stick.

What am I talking about? Puzzles, especially sudoku and crossword puzzles. If you can relate to or are intrigued by any of these puzzling descriptions, come to the third annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Day on Saturday, Feb. 7, and Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Morgan Hill Library.

Expanded to two full days, Silicon Valley Puzzle Day features puzzles created by world-class puzzle constructors, workshops led by puzzle experts, and – new this year – a party to support the newly formed Morgan Hill Library Foundation.

“A good puzzle, it’s a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It’s very clear, and the problem depends just on you.” ~ Architect and inventor Erno Rubik

It’s probably best if I address the puzzle-filled weekend’s events in chronological order.

Saturday begins at 10 am with a day full of free workshops at the Morgan Hill Library. We start, approporiately, with a look at the benefits of puzzling for your brain with the “Maintain Your Brain Workshop” led by Alexandra Morris of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada.

Next, Jim Summers, author of the Sudoku Tips column in this newspaper, will lead a “Sudoku Tips & Tricks” workshop for adults while the folks from the American Institute of Mathematics lead a Sudoku for Kids workshop at the same time.

The afternoon features three crossword puzzle workshops, starting with a cryptic crossword workshops led by cryptic crossword constructor and online cryptic crossword community leader Ganesh T S.

Next, puzzle constructor Andrea Carla Michaels, whose puzzles have been featured in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, leads a discussion on solving Monday and Tuesday level crossword puzzles.

She’s followed by Byron Walden, an acclaimed crossword puzzle constructor and Santa Clara University professor, who offers strategies for solving really tough puzzles.

We end the day with killer sudoku, with a workshop presented by Brian Conrey, executive director of the American Institute of Mathematics, who explains this variant of regular sudoku puzzles.

Saturday night features a party at the Morgan Hill Ramada Inn with special guest Tyler Hinman, four-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament Champion. If you saw the movie “Wordplay,” you saw him (spoiler alert!) win the first of his four ACPT titles. But, as New York Times blogger Jim Horne wrote recently on his blog, if you come to Puzzle Day, “You don’t have to worry about competing against four-time ACPT champion Tyler Hinman. He’ll be a judge.” He’ll also be our special guest at the party, telling us about his tournament experiences. Tickets are $40 and are available online.

Sunday is tournament day. We suggest a $20 donation for adult participants and a $10 donation for youth. Proceeds go to the Friends of the Morgan Hill Library. Puzzlers take over the library to compete using sudoku puzzles designed by world champion Thomas Snyder and unpublished New York Times crossword puzzles edited by Will Shortz. Snyder also designs sudoku puzzles for our youth competition, and crossword puzzle constructor Mark Diehl creates puzzles for our youth crossword tournament. Hinman, Walden, Snyder and Diehl serve on our judging panel.

I hope all this information about puzzle experts hasn’t given you the wrong impression: Silicon Valley Puzzle Day is not an exclusive event aimed at the puzzling elite. Instead, it’s an event with high-quality puzzles and information aimed at puzzle lovers of all ages and skill levels. If you’re just starting out, you’ll improve your puzzling skills and pick up new strategies. If you’ve been solving puzzles for years, you’ll be challenged. Everyone will enjoy a social setting for what is usually a solitary activity.

It’s a lot of fun. It’s something that parents and grandparents can do with their kids and grandkids. It’s good for your brain. And it supports a great cause — the Morgan Hill Library. Full details and advanced registration are available online.

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



  1. I like the quotes.

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