Filling in those boxes

The New York Times crossword puzzles are celebrating their 75th birthday. Here’s an article about why these puzzles are so popular and relaxing: “Crossword-Solving: A Search for Connections and Answers” (NYT)

“Human brains are hard-wired to fill in blanks when they see them. In difficult times, when life begins to feel out of control or when faced with an emotional dilemma, working on something that has finite answers can provide a sense of security.”

On the NYT website you can play the Daily Mini puzzle. It’s pretty easy. And there are plenty of other online puzzle sites you can play for free.

I remember spending a weekend once in graduate school making a bilingual crossword puzzle.

crossword-1 crossword-2

It was fun to make, but it took a lot of time. If I had known about this website then, I may have used it:

Crossword Labs

create puzzle

Here’s their example:

example

Type in the clues and answers, hit “generate” and you’ve got a crossword puzzle. The password you use to create it will give you access to the answer key.

There are lots of ways to use crosswords for language study. Use it to introduce key vocabulary to your discussion partners. Make a bilingual puzzle in English and another language you’re studying to help you remember your new major language and review your English. Create a puzzle around a theme or a person you’re interested in, like this one, about Lady Gaga:

lady-gaga-puzzle

Using the Find a Crossword menu, you can only browse the latest 10 puzzles, but you can search for puzzles using key words.

Other ideas? You could try creating your own game app or software. This crossword puzzle maker was created by a university student at Washington State University.

Writing prompt: Do you play games on your phone when you commute? Do you prefer games like Candy Crush or whatever is popular right now, or games that make you think a little more, like crosswords or sudoku? Do you think that both the more mindless (to my thinking) games are actually just as good for you as more challenging games? (see this quote from the NYT article above)

“When you do a puzzle, the mind becomes completely absorbed in the task at hand. There is total focus on what is happening in the moment, which is the definition of mindfulness. And we know that mindfulness results in all sorts of positive changes in the brain.”

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