Puzzling through the commute


I recently wrote about commuting for my company’s blog, some light fare revolving around things one can do during a daily commute to keep busy. It’s actually a process that’s evolved in the almost three years since I said yes to working in the city, something that was not even top of mind prior to this job.Music has been a common occupant of my time, bolstered by the sometimes lengthy walks I’ll take between my apartment and the train station, and for certain the walk between Grand Central and the office. Where podcasts had kept me going in the car, music’s swung back around, probably because a lot of music in recent months has engaged me, something that hasn’t happened in awhile.

When I first started the commute and was coming from Bridgeport, I was reading a lot; the Kindle was still a somewhat new device in my life, and I saw the opportunity to get in more reading time. I shifted into puzzle book solving for a bit, and then got an iPad shortly thereafter, which took over for quite awhile (it didn’t hurt that at the time my company was developing a game for iOS, which meant I was playing that a lot).

I’m back to puzzles, though, which tends to happen in cycles for me anyway.  The last couple of years my puzzle-solving time has been heavily occupied by puzzles produced by the Japanese company Nikoli, in a series of books published by Puzzlewright Press. They were starting to go out of print when I discovered them, and so I scrambled to get all 14 of the original volumes, as well as the “Monster” book which compiled puzzles from all of them (which I’ll solve at some point once I’ve put time away from the other volumes).

Puzzle solving is a habit I can blame my parents on; they bought me a Dell puzzle book when I was 10, and since then have become a pretty steady solver. In middle school I discovered GAMES Magazine, and more importantly their World of Puzzles book, which first introduced me to math and logic puzzles such as Paint by Numbers, along with some of the Nikoli puzzles I’m solving now.  Around that time, I got my grandmother, then in her early 60s, involved in solving, and at 81 she’s still doing so, so it’s a multi-generational thing now.

While I do enjoy the Dell or Penny Press variety book (I’ve never really gotten into crosswords for whatever reason), the Japanese puzzles have been what’s most captured my attention for some time now.  Sudoku, known as Number Place in the earlier Dell solving days, are better crafted by hand, I’ve realized, solving Nikoli’s incredibly fun offerings of them.  The books each feature a third of sudoku and then two thirds of a single puzzle from their library, each challenging in their own way, and each keeping me going on the lengthy train rides.

Including the iPad break time, I’m about two years in working regularly on the books, and have knocked out about two-thirds of them. They offer books you can order from Japan directly (on the pricey side, at $10 each, but given the other books took me 1-3 months each to solve, very much worth it for the time spent occupying me), but after this is done I’ll probably take a break and move on to other books I’ve acquired.  I tend to acquire the books faster than I can solve them, but there are also times I chew right through one, so it eventually balances out.

2 thoughts on “Puzzling through the commute

    • Nope. They did a trial awhile back, but nothing ever came of it. I’ve paid for some time now for the hotspot capability on my phone that lets me use the 3G/4G bandwidth on the train; based on the number of hotspots I see when I use mine, it’s pretty widespread. I’ve turned it into a good excuse to turn the tech off; I stare at a screen for enough time each day.

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