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date: 28 January 2023


The Oxford Companion to the Mind
James DalgetyJames Dalgety

A puzzle is a problem having one or more specific objectives, contrived for the principal purpose of exercising one's ingenuity and/or patience. This definition, whilst separating the recreational aspects of puzzles from the undesirable features of problems, in no way explains why humans find them so necessary or enjoyable. A random survey will usually show that nearly everyone has recently played with a jigsaw, a crossword, or a mechanical puzzle and that they have answered a riddle or composed a pun. One might have anticipated that, with lives full of worries about the unavoidable problems of survival, mankind would studiously avoid volunteering to solve any unnecessary puzzles. The reality is different. Puzzles are found in every culture from their early myths and religions through to their airport shops and internet websites. It seems that evolution has identified the didactic value of puzzles and now they are a part of what makes us a successful species.... ...

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