The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life

by: A.J. Jacobs (0)

The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically goes on a rollicking journey to understand the enduring power of puzzles: why we love them, what they do to our brains, and how they can improve our world.

“Even though I’ve never attempted the New York Times crossword puzzle or solved the Rubik’s Cube, I couldn’t put down The Puzzler.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before

What makes puzzles—jigsaws, mazes, riddles, sudokus—so satisfying? Be it the formation of new cerebral pathways, their close link to insight and humor, or their community-building properties, they’re among the fundamental elements that make us human. Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, A.J. Jacobs—four-time
New York Times bestselling author, master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder—set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence. Well, almost.

The Puzzler, Jacobs meets the most zealous devotees, enters (sometimes with his family in tow) any puzzle competition that will have him, unpacks the history of the most popular puzzles, and aims to solve the most impossible head-scratchers, from a mutant Rubik’s Cube, to the hardest corn maze in America, to the most sadistic jigsaw. Chock-full of unforgettable adventures and original examples from around the world—including new work by Greg Pliska, one of America’s top puzzle-makers, and a hidden, super-challenging but solvable puzzle that will earn the first reader to crack it a $10,000 prize*—The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration. Whether you’re puzzle obsessed or puzzle hesitant, you’ll walk away with real problem-solving strategies and pathways toward becoming a better thinker and decision maker—for these are certainly puzzling times.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. U.S. Residents, 18+. Ends May 3, 2023. Additional terms and conditions may apply. See book for details.

The Reviews

I enjoyed learning about puzzles and loved the laughs from AJ’s adventures. I didn’t realize that the Rubik’s Cube was rejected by a dozen companies or that people could solve it at high speeds using only their feet. I also had no idea how many insane puzzles are out there in the world. I’m not an avid puzzler, but that wasn’t needed to enjoy this highly engaging and entertaining book. It’s an excellent read! I’ll definitely be gifting this to friends.

Throughout my life I've had a close relationship with various types of puzzles. As a child my parents encouraged me to assemble jigsaw puzzles, and later on in school I enjoyed crosswords, acrostics, word searches, and other types of puzzles. When I became a high school history teacher I found I enjoyed creating crosswords and other sorts of puzzles to help my students review the material. It was fun for me, not so much for the students, but those who did them found them helpful. Now in retirement I have a solving streak on the New York Times crossword that has lasted more than five years and is closing in on 2000, and I also enjoy sudoku puzzles, though my problem there is finding some that are challenging enough to be interesting.In other words I have quite a lengthy history with puzzles, and therefore when I saw that A.J. Jacobs' newest book surveys them I immediately had to order it. I've never met A.J. Jacobs, but after many years of reading and enjoying his books and articles I regard him as a friend. The Puzzler, like his earlier works, is a lively mixture of memoir, travelogue, history, and at times confessional. Jacobs' research is impeccable, as is his writing ability. I learned a great deal about puzzles and their creators and histories, and enjoyed every minute of it. And of course I enjoyed catching up with Jacobs himself and his long suffering but devoted wife and children. I trust he will provide his fans with many more books in the future.

Mr Jacobs has offered a fascinating and wide-ranging journey into the world's of puzzles, paradoxes, anagrams etc. Much of my delight was derived from being led so excitedly by him as he traced the history of puzzledom and the developments over the past few hundred years.I had been an early devotee, growing up with Martin Gardner, Raymond Smullyan, Boris Kordemsky, whom he mentions, as well as John Allen Paulos, Al Seckel, John Langdon, Nicholas Falletta etc.I loved Mr Jacobs' incisive mind, ready wit and boundless enthusiasm - kept me riveted and smiling thoughout. His prescient observations and lively wit were a real joy from the get-goI was put off by what seemed to me to be woke-in-the-extreme - his bowdlerising his own content to expunge perfectly acceptable words where these words may also have an "offensive" meaning. Mr Jacobs also saw necessary to doctor the very famous Sam Loyd puzzle of the disappearing Chinaman. Oops, am I allowed to say that? Sorry. The disappearing gentleman who apparently comes from China. I do know that in the USA, there is a proscribed N-word (racist) and a proscribed C-word (obscene). I didn't know that there was another proscribed C-word as well, referring to people from a certain Asian country.Puzzling to me how language develops.I'll stick to Loyd's donkey puzzle until donkey becomes an offensive term too or until jockeys riding donkeys becomes proscribed by the RSPCA.

I've read most of this author's books, and they always deliver - enjoyable, smart, fun, and unique. This one is no exception as it's one of the best of the bunch! Why do we do crosswords or wordle every day, especially when they often frustrate us? This book has the answers, and it will make you feel better about those times (and we've all done it) when you go down a puzzle rabbit hole instead of working on something more "productive." I particularly liked the chapter where the author's family travels to Spain to compete in the World Jigsaw Championship. Spoiler alert, they didn't win, but it makes for a good story and a fun book!

The discussion of the various puzzle types is far and wide. I've only done a few types in my whole life, but I found each chapter equally interesting. There are some curated puzzles in the book; I didn't do a one but still feel that the book is an excellent buy. I've even started to do crosswords now.

The author hits another home run - laugh out loud stories about his quest to solve puzzles. Perfect beach reading.

Many of the puzzles were too hard for me, but I really enjoyed reading about all the kinds of puzzles. The writer's style is conversational and easy. My favorite line was about his wife/team member "trash-talking" the jigsaw puzzle. I've done that.I have loaned the book to several of my book club members.

Loved the explanation of different types of puzzles and their history. The word and math challenges made me feel like a kid again.

The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life
⭐ 4.4 💛 147
kindle: $2.39
hardcover: $11.01
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