Puzzles abound in Western culture, ranging from the purely tactile puzzles of preschool playrooms to the advanced mathematical and logical puzzles that philosophers spend time pondering. In between the two lies a whole set of puzzles that use clues in order to reach solutions. These clues can take the form of words with missing letters, answers to unnamed questions (as in Jeopardy) or pun-based pop-culture clues (found often in crosswords).
Many people know the crossword puzzle; after all, it graces the back pages of many newspapers and magazines. Arthur Wynne invented the crossword in 1913, according to Lemelson MIT, an extension of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although original and contemporary puzzles differ in scope and overall shape, most still use a clue-solving method to help the player complete the puzzle. These clues tend to take the form of short, pithy clues.
As a basic ingredient in bar and restaurant culture, trivia involves the solving of clues, usually given by an announcer. Many trivia nights include questions on music and pop culture, but some trivia nights may move toward the pedantic or literary. In addition, certain television game shows have adopted trivia's clue-solving structure, including Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Other Clue Puzzles
Many other clue-solving puzzles exist, including games such as Clue, Trivial Pursuit and even some jigsaw puzzles. While many people like to use clue-solving puzzles to test their intelligence, the World Puzzle Championships don't recognize these types of puzzles. According to their website, the World Puzzle Championships doesn't include language-dependent puzzles (clue-solving puzzles are generally language dependent). Instead, they focus on logic, visual and numerical puzzles (with numbers).
Creating Your Own
In addition to solving puzzles, you can create your own puzzles and use these to teach children or entertain friends. Clues come in a variety of types, including referential questions (e.g., "Who was the President of the United States in 1956?"), anagrams and hidden words. When creating your clues, determine the prior knowledge and skills of your players. Keep your clues difficult, but not so abstruse as to befuddle your audience.
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