Of course I tend to follow the Ximenean precepts myself when composing my own puzzles. I like to think that I mainly succeed, though I do also enjoy a less stringent form in my own and in others' puzzle from time to time.
But given that essential logic in most clues, I have often wondered why solving puzzles so often requires applied illogic.
A December 2010 article in the New York Times explains that puzzles affect mood. The very idea of doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle shifts the brain into an open, playful state that is itself a pleasing and captivating escape. The effect may run the other way too. Humour and a buoyant mood engender a state that is better for problem solving.
In a recent study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine.
Strangely I also find that a small amount of alcohol or a somewhat greater amount of tiredness often helps with solving. They both seem to loosen the cogs of logic, making the free association of ideas easier. I don't trust or use alcohol when composing, but tiredness is frequent for me and not necessarily a hindrance. (Composing is of course a form of problem solving as well.)
Apart from its utility in this respect, I enjoy tiredness as an insomnia preventative, cheaper and more readily obtained than drugs. Nevertheless tiredness is a burden and, I am told, unhealthy.
- Should I get myself some Robin Williams videos?
- Would the videos, in light of these facts and my occupation, be a tax-deductible expense?
- Would such a claim itself put some lucky tax inspector in a humorous and buoyant mood as well?
- Do many mathematicians use humour, tiredness or chemical aids to help solve problems?