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Health benefits or not, puzzles and games offer their own satisfaction

We may not know for sure if solving the crossword or Sudoku keeps our minds sharp. But it sure feels good to finish off that Sudoku — the one marked "Hard" — or to pencil in 48 Down, the final clue, on one of Sunday's big crosswords.

Of course, there are mornings when they get tossed, scribbled over in disgust, into the garbage.

In today's LifeTimes cover story, freelance writer Tom Valeo interviews neurologists and other medical professionals as he explores the nature of the brain and its remarkable resilience. And guess what: Brain games may indeed play a role. (We also have a Q&A with Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword editor extraordinaire.)

Your passion for puzzles is well documented, if your phone calls to the St. Petersburg Times are any indication. Perhaps you're the reader calling this morning, begging for "just one clue." Tsk, tsk.

Or maybe you're the fellow who wonders how in the world AXYDLBAAXR translates to LONGFELLOW. Or why in the world do we run THAT puzzle, it's so simple a chimp could do it. We feel your pain and share your pleasure in a puzzle well done.

Beyond puzzles in the traditional sense, today there are numerous electronic games designed to keep your neurons flexed. So you're thinking, video games? Me? No way. But handheld portable games, including Brain Age by Nintendo, offer challenges designed for brains of every age. These types of games let you chart your progress, as well as compare your scores with the rest of your family. Ask your kids or grandkids — they'll be thrilled to show you how it works. And they're fun.

After we moved almost all of our puzzles to BayLink a few months ago, one gentleman wrote that we had, with our new placement, at least temporarily upset his morning routine: He places a cup of coffee and his wife's crossword at her place at the breakfast table. Now that's the life.

What do you think?

Tell us what puzzles you like or which ones are too easy for you. Are you a penciler or do you boldly take pen to paper? Or confess — you just can't decipher the cryptoquote, can you? (A confession: What is up with that Kakuro?) We may share your input in a future issue. Write Mimi Andelman, Newsfeatures Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Please include your full name, age and city of residence; you may also e-mail mimi@sptimes.com; please put "Puzzles" in the subject line.

• • •

Coming in LifeTimes Oct. 28: Our annual Medicare Part D package, offering comparisons and advice on how to make the best choice for prescription drug coverage, be it traditional Medicare, a private drug plan, an HMO or some combination. The sign-up period begins Nov. 15 and closes Dec. 21.

• • •

LifeTimes is on the Web: Check out lifetimes.tampabay.com. Among the feature stories is our newly updated guide to helping you find a nursing home that's right for your family. Our map locates four- and five-star homes (the top rankings) near where you live.

Mimi Andelman can be reached at mimi@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8272.

Health benefits or not, puzzles and games offer their own satisfaction 09/29/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:07pm]
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