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Brain Games | Alice Lin

If you grew up with Asian parents like I did, you might remember doing a variety of brain games (like the Huarong Pass and Kongming Lock) that would supposedly make you smarter or help you think faster. Even though I’m pretty sure the science behind that is dubious, I enjoyed playing a lot of these sorts of logic games as a kid, and I still do today. Many logic puzzles involve special objects, but there are plenty of others that only require a pen and paper. Here are three of my favorites:


You’ve probably at least heard of Sudoku, but if you haven’t or you don’t remember the rules, here’s a quick refresher. Sudoku starts off with a 9x9 grid with some numbers already filled in (the amount and placement depend on the puzzle). The objective is to fill in the grid so that every row, column, and 3x3 subgrid contains each of the numbers from 1 to 9. Sudoku as we know it was first introduced to the world in 1979 when it was published in Dell Magazine under the name “Number Place.” It was brought to Japan in 1984 where it was given the name “Sudoku” as a shortening of the phrase “Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru,” translated as “the digits must be single.” From Japan it spread to Britain in 1997, where it was launched as “Su Doku” in a newspaper called The Times. Nowadays, Sudoku software can be found on plenty of websites and apps, making it easy to play no matter where you are.

Lewis Carroll Logic Puzzles:

These puzzles were created by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known by his pen name Lewis Carroll (yes, “Alice in Wonderland “Lewis Carroll), who was a math professor at Oxford known for presenting the study of logic in a more entertaining format. These puzzles are called “syllogisms”, and they involve drawing a conclusion from a set of given statements. For example, one of Carroll’s puzzles asks the reader to draw a conclusion from these three statements:

1. No experienced person is incompetent.

2. Jenkins is always blundering.

3. No competent person is always blundering.

The logic goes like this: if Jenkins is always blundering, that means he is an incompetent person (by sentence 3). If he is incompetent that means he is not experienced (by sentence 1). Therefore, Jenkins is inexperienced. Seems simple, right? Once you feel confident with the three statement puzzles, try some longer ones. Here’s puzzle 59 from Symbolic Logic:

1. All the dated letters in this room are written on blue paper.

2. None of them are in black ink, except those that are written in the third person

3. I have not filed any of them that I can read.

4. None of them, that are written on one sheet, are undated.

5. All of them, that are not crossed, are in black ink.

6. All of them, written by Brown, begin with “Dear Sir”.

7. All of them, written on blue paper, are filed.

8. None of them, written on more than one sheet, are crossed.

9. None of them, that begin with “Dear Sir,” are written in the third person.

If you manage to solve it you can check your answer at the bottom!

Logic Grid Puzzles:

Like the Lewis Carroll logic puzzles, logic grid puzzles are also about deducing some solution from a set of given statements. However, rather than being purely word based, logic grid puzzles also include, get this, a grid. Logic grid puzzles involve a series of categories each containing an equal number of options. Your job is to use the statements to figure out which options are linked together. For example, you might be given the following four categories: shoppers, vegetables, fruits, and prices, with each category containing six options. Using the given statements, you should be able to match each shopper with which fruit and vegetable they bought and what they paid for it. The grid is helpful because you can organize the information in a more visual way and keep track of all of your deductions. You can find these types of puzzles for free online with just a quick Google search, so I hope you’ll try some out!

These logic puzzles might not actually help you gain brain cells, but at least they’re fun to do AND you can trick yourself into thinking you’re doing an “intellectual activity” when you’re really just playing games. Whatever your purpose is for playing brain games, I hope they bring you some semblance of joy in these dark days of studying for tests, practicing for the SAT, and (for some of you) doing college apps.


Answer to #59:

I cannot read any of Brown's letters.

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