A puzzle is a gloriously, or hideously, unproductive activity, depending entirely upon your particular point of view. Puzzle solving contributes nothing toward the general welfare of society; it is a leisure pursuit comparable, perhaps, to indulging in the playing of a board game, save that game-playing is most often a communal exercise, whereas solving is a solitary practice, except for the occasional query to a spouse or friend ("Honey, what’s a three-letter word for ‘feline’?")
Nevertheless, puzzles do have a saving grace - they exercise the brain cells in a way that few other things can. In addition, they can teach pattern recognition and, in the case of crosswords, can often convey interesting, if not always useful, information.
Puzzles are an excellent way to amuse oneself while waiting - at doctors’ or dentists’ offices, at the salon or gym, at the airport or in line at the supermarket ("You are going to pay for that publication, aren’t you, sir? And the pen, too?")
For some, puzzles represent infrequent entertainment, something to occupy oneself while waiting for those wretched commercials to end; for others, they border upon an unconquerable addiction.
To those of us who have been lured into the snare of solving, there is something compelling, even gently arrogant, about a puzzle’s pristine, invitingly vacant grid, daring one to have a go at it, to unrasa the tabula, to transform that epitome of emptiness into a cluttered scenery of scrawled letters or numerals. The challenge, alas, can be irresistible, and one can while away hours of frustration in decoding the clues that allow one to claim victory over the fiendish construction, and in cursing the constructor who has so defiantly enticed the piteous solver.
After a number of years spent in enslavement to these ruthless overlords, we solvers sometimes entertain the notion that familiarity may breed competence - that we may, having labored for so many hours over so many puzzles, be able to unravel the inner workings enough to allow us to become creators of these beguiling brainteasers.
What’s all this aimless rambling in aid of? Awhile back, if memory serves, we had instituted the practice of including a weekly Sunday puzzle in the pages of our weblog, little-read but largely enjoyed by a few exceedingly discriminating cognoscenti. (What? We pander? By no means!) Our puzzle joneses having recently returned to gleefully vile life, we feel compelled to begin anew the task of keeping our constructions a carefully guarded secret by publishing them solely in this medium. So, for the foreseeable future (which amounts to about one week) we will offer the doleful products of our diseased minds, in hopes of corrupting for all time those who are the most easily impressionable.
This new entry (our 17th published sudoku) is one that has been often promised but never before seen. It is the puzzle that was fated to be debuted for my birthday early this year before exigent events intervened. It was meant to be Bonnie’s present to me, and now it will be her present to you, our perceptive and knowledgeable visitors. (No! No! We are not pandering! Perish the thought!)
In this puzzle may be found a number of things, if you care to search. Over and above the name that will be found on the diagonal can be discovered the two three-letter names by which we used to be known, along with the initials of the state in which we live, Bonnie’s initials (both real and pseudo-) and, if you remove the two letters that are mirror images of each other (my initials, both real and pseudo-), the remaining 7 letters will spell a word. I humbly bow to Bonnie’s ability to pack so much into one puzzle.
We have begun work on a new series (called CityState) of sudokus incorporating (surprise!) 7-letter cities and their 2-letter USPS state abbreviations, but we have one more in our J-land sudoku series to publish before we take a short hiatus from that particular series.
We hope those of you who enjoy puzzles derive some divertissement from the reinclusion of puzzles into this space.