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Games, puzzles and fun!!!

by Cathy B | Oct 28, 2016
In addition to all the books you would expect in the Art, Music & Media stacks (Rembrandt, Picasso, musicals, histories of music and dance), you may be surprised to find that there is a section of games and puzzles!  Logic games, math games, video games, crossword puzzles, math puzzles, even magic.  I’ve pulled a small sampling of books that are available and, for good measure, have included photos of the actual stacks for your perusal.


Kakuro for Dummies by Andrew Heron. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2005

I love Kakuro!  I did Sudoku for a while but then a friend introduced me to Kakuro.  KakuroHaven’t turned back.  That said, I don’t really enjoy the really hard levels – I’m just not that competitive.  Also, I do have a ‘cheat sheet’ with all the possible combinations of addends for particular numbers.  Let me try to explain:

Kakuro is a number version of crossword puzzle.  The skeleton of the puzzle is exactly the same as a crossword skeleton.  Instead of looking for words one looks for possible numbers that add up to the given sum printed outside but next to the beginning of each line of blocks. And then the answers have to fit across and down. And there are certain limitations, like no number over 9 or repeat numbers. Hard to explain.  Perhaps you can google it?

It’s not really a math puzzle I don’t think because it’s really only addition of small numbers.  It’s just different.  Try it.  You may love it!  (You may not!)

Most unfortunately some “dummy” (as referenced in the title) has filled in several of the easy puzzles in this book.  Hey, Greg, could we get a new one?

Virtuosos of Juggling, From the Ming Dynasty to Cirque du Soleil, by Karl-Heinz Ziethen and Alessandro Serena, Renegade Juggling, 2003

Virtuosos of JugglingAccording to the publishers, Renegade Juggling, this book fills “the void regarding books on the subject of international master jugglers.” It “is the comprehensive historical account of performance jugglers from the past 4,043 years, featuring jugglers who reached the pinnacle of the art-form and captivated audiences in many of the world’s grandest venues.”

A partial listing of chapter titles can give a brief overview of what is in store:  From Sacred to Profane, The Ring and the Stage, The Myth and the Emulation, Juggling in Russia and China.


Dumbstruck:  A Cultural K, A Cultural History of Ventriloquism by Steven Connor. Oxford Press, 2000Dumbstruck

Steven Connor is Professor of Modern Literature and Theory, School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London.

He follows the study of the disembodied voice “from its first recorded beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece.”  “…this is much more than an archaeology of one of the most regularly derided but tenaciously enduring of popular arts. It is also a series of virtuoso philosophical and psychological reflections on the problems and astonishments, the raptures and absurdities of the unhoused voice.”



A Gardner's Workout, Training the Mind and Entertaining the Spirit by Martin Gardner., AK Peters, Ltd, 2001

Gardner's WorkoutMr. Gardner wrote the “Mathematical Games” column for Scientific American for 25 years.  A Garner’s Workout in a compilation of 41 pieces written in various academic journals and popular magazines since that time. 

“Providing the tools to furnish our all-too-sluggish minds with an athletic workout, Gardner’s problems foster an agility of the mind as they entertain.”

Mr. Gardner covers “a wide range of topics:  games of chance, word ladders and mathematical word play games, tiling puzzles, magic squares, computer and calculator ‘magic’ tricks.”

A smattering of chapters:  The Opaque Cube, The Propositional Calculus with Directed Graphs, Steiner Trees on a Checkerboard, Six Challenging Dissection Tasks, The Asymmetric Propeller Theorem, The Universe and the Teacup.

For those among us who do not find ‘mathematical games’ to be an oxymoron this book should be a treat indeed!

The Art of Evolve by Phil Robb, Insight Editions, 2015, Introduction by Phil Robb & Chris Ashton

 If you are a gamer, particularly one who plays hunting types of games you may be conversant with Evolve.Art of Evolve  You may play Evolve. 

“A thrilling monster-hunting game unlike any other, Evolve offers groundbreaking multiplayer and epic boss-battle experiences.”

In this high quality, coffee table book the developers of the game take you from concept pitch through final roll out with concept sketches and full blown artwork along with commentary from the artists and developers. 

The Art of Evolve is the essential companion to the exhilarating monster-hunting adventure bound to ensnare gamers worldwide.”


THE PATTERN IN THE CARPET, A PERSONAL HISTORY WITH JIGSAWS, Margaret Drabble, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009

Pattern in the CarpetMargaret Drabble is a Dame of the British Empire.  She has written seventeen novels as well as biographies.  She also edited the fifth and sixth editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.  Her name on this book on jigsaw puzzles was what drew me to investigate further.  It is now on my “to read” list. 

From the dust jacket:  “Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular of jigsaws, which have offered and her and many others “a soothing relief” from melancholy and depression. We learn that jigsaws began as dissected maps used as a teaching tool in the late eighteenth century, that the young Queen Victoria once stayed up until 11:30 p.m. assembling a puzzle with her government ministers; that in American following the 1929 stock market crash there was a boom in puzzle manufacturing…. Drabble shares her thoughts on the importance of childhood play, on art and writing, on aging and memory.  And she does so with her customary intelligence, energy, and wit.  This is a memoir like no other.”

Cruciverbalism, A Crossword Fanatic’s Guide to Life in the Grid, Stanley Newman, Collins, 2006

Stanley Newman is the crossword editor for Newsday and he holds the world’s record for the fastest Cruciverbalismcompletion of a New York Times crossword.  Some of the topics covered in this little book are:  “Why it’s become a tradition for daily newspaper puzzles to increase in difficulty during the week, common solving mistakes, why you shouldn’t feel guilty about consulting reference works, the hidden rules of the grid that will make you a better clue sleuth”

“You’ll even discover a philosophy for approaching crosswords that, come to think of it, works pretty well for life, too – and makes it a lot of fun!”

This is one of several books on crossword puzzles you can find in our stacks.


Block City, How To Build Incredible Worlds In MINECRAFT, Kirsten Kearney, Abrams, 2015

Block CityI began looking at this book thinking I would hurry through it – the title is pretty self-explanatory, right?  Wrong.  As I began thumbing through the pages I found I was going to have slow down and get a grasp on this book.  I was even afraid I might end up being pulled into Minecraft world.  (You see, I do on occasion get addicted to a video game – Pokemon Puzzle League, Tetris, Candy Crush {happy to announce I broke free of that one cold turkey the day before Thanksgiving 2015}). 

Block City is most definitely a how-to book.  Thumbing through the pages I find directions on how to build such things as cities, freighter ship, palaces, holographic signage and Chernobyl, 2015.   Also lamp posts, Andromeda, a gothic cathedral, whole cities and fantasy kingdoms.  But I found a very philosophical bent in the foreword by Julian Gough:

“In Minecraft we’re in the world of Plato’s essential forms: the sheep are the essence of sheep, the mountains are the essence of mountains.  The human imagination fills in all the details.  Minecraft is in some ways a philosophical world in which everything has been reduced to an essence.  To its simplest form.”

“Most games re-create, in their virtual worlds, all the stuff we play games to escape. They’re full of people, things, bosses, terror, tasks, fear, status anxiety…But in creative mode, Minecraft lets us feel alive by playing.  Not playing at killing. Playing at playing.”

In each section we are introduced to the ‘builder’ of the creation at hand and some background.  There are principles of design, tips and detailed instructions for building in general and building specific.  An excellent reference and helper, among the many in the stacks, for anyone interested in getting involved in Minecraft!


The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick, How a Spectacular Hoax Became History, Peter Lamont, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004

In the Indian rope trick “a rope snakes into the air.  A boy climbs the rope and when he gets to the top – he vanishes.  At once homespun, philosophical, and free of apparent gadgetry, the trick has enthralled Rise of the Indian Rope Trickgenerations of magic lovers in the West.”  But it has never existed.  It was a hoax perpetrated by an amateur magician in 1890 and printed in the Chicago Tribune.  It was later admitted to be false but the legend continued to spread throughout the world and throughout time.  Peter Lamont “explores how easily people will believe stories that are fed to them as truth despite experience, intuition, and the laws of nature.”

“Peter Lamont, the winner of the Jeremy Dalziel prize in British history, is a research fellow at Edinburgh University specializing in the history, theory, and performance of magic.  He has traveled to India in search of the legendary Indian rope trick, performed as a magician and psychic, and has appeared at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.” (Jacket)  

These are but a tiny fraction of the books on our shelves that delve into games, magic, puzzles and the popular arts.  Here's a glimpse at some of the rest:

Game and Puzzle collage

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  • Cathy is a circulation assistant in Art, Music & Media. She is a painter and her work was recently shown in the library's Krull Gallery. In addition to painting, Cathy hooks rugs and nurtures her little bonsai trees.
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