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Staying sharp by playing games

Moseyin’ Along

February 6, 2013
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Some time ago, in an article about the aging brain, an expert stressed that as folks grow older, it's vital they keep exercising their minds as well as their bodies.

Since both my body and my brain are on the aging side of the hill, the article got my attention.

So, in an effort to maintain at least some of what is slipping away, I got myself a snazzy little stationary bike. Together, as often as possible, my bike and I take daily 20 minute "trips" to no where, just to give the body a bit of exercise.

As far as the mental exercise is concerned, I've always felt my weekly Moseyin' Along visits provide a good workout for what's between my left ear and my right ear.

But, in addition, the wordsmith in me has come to enjoy the challenge of games dealing with the language. One of my favorites is the daily "Jumbles" found in the newspaper. This little puzzle requires the participant to unscramble a group of letters to make up the solution words. Marked letters in these words are then unscrambled to arrive at the answer to the puzzle's riddle. This type of word-based pastime has become a constant part of my daily routine.

In recent years I've added another word-based effort to my mind games. I've joined the millions of folks who routinely tackle crossword puzzles. There are some, I've heard, who are so confident in their ability to solve these tricky challenges they do the puzzles in ink.

Not only do I avoid pens when working my crosswords, the pencils I use must have a working eraser in order to qualify as my tool of choice.

While the word clues in the "Jumbles" puzzles are pretty straight forward, the clever folks who put together the newspaper crosswords pride themselves on giving tips that can lead in several directions, making me doubt any solution I come up with. It's not until I have a few of the words across, as well as some of those going down that I can complete a section of the puzzle.

For instance, should the five spaces for "give a name to" be filled in with "label" or "title?" Only when I identify the intersecting word for "pig feed" as "slop" can I be sure that "label" is the correct word to fill the spaces.

Fortunately, since there are several crosswords in every issue of the newspaper, I have plenty of puzzles to keep me busy. But my solve rate is still pretty low. I've come to think of any week when I actually complete one or two puzzles correctly as a very good week.

Still, though my results may sometimes be disappointing, I consider the effort worthwhile since it keeps the brain challenged and exercises that sometimes dull space between my left ear and my right ear.

After all, a mind, they say, is a terrible thing to waste.



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