1. Home
  2. Pencil Puzzles
  3. Introduction

Way back in 1662, the first mass-produced pencil was made in Germany. People have been having fun with them ever since! Of course the amusement probably began much earlier, maybe with the first forms of writing thousands of years ago. Or perhaps the cave paintings tens of thousands of years before that was a prehistoric way of having fun. With this book we will carry on the long tradition of having a good time with merely a writing instrument.

In this age of high-tech entertainment, it would be nice to say that this book is filled with the latest in cutting-edge state-of-the-art puzzles. But the truth is that what you have here are puzzles that even your grandparents' grandparents might have understood and enjoyed. Like a classic song or story, the ideas behind many of these puzzles have been time-tested and are still popular today for a simple reason: they are fun! Not everything in this book will be familiar; some of the puzzles are updated versions of old ideas.

For number people, one of the oldest ideas in this book is Magic Squares. According to a 4,000-year-old Chinese legend, the mythological Emperor Yu received a magic square as a divine gift from a giant tortoise that emerged from the River Lo. Now known as the Lo-Shu Square, it was thought to contain magical properties and still influences parts of Chinese culture today. In more recent times, Benjamin Franklin found magic squares to be frivolous and “incapable of any useful application.” Maybe, but Ben did find time to construct some really large magic squares. Even today, mathematicians are not sure how he made them with the mathematical techniques available in his day. However he did it, you can bet he had fun.

For word people, the oldest idea in this book is probably Anagrams. In the third century B.C., the Greek poet Lycophron charmed the king by turning his name into honey using anagrams in a poem. Anagrams were often believed to have mystical significance in Roman and early Christian times. Some say that the greatest users of anagrams were the Jewish Cabalists in the thirteenth century. They believed in the divine nature of letters and numbers. But no one enjoyed a good anagram more than King Louis XIII of France in the seventeenth century. He went so far as to appoint a Royal Anagrammatist to make anagrams of people's names for the court's amusement. Now you, too, can have fun GIANT RAW HAMS (fun WITH ANAGRAMS)!

This book presents a smorgasbord of puzzle types for your enjoyment. There are 14 different kinds of puzzles, so there should be something for everyone's taste and a nice variety to give you a diverse mental workout. Note that these puzzles were not designed for geniuses! You might be able to solve some of the puzzles in a matter of seconds, while others might take hours of thought and repeated attempts.

Share the fun! Most of the puzzles in this book can be played with others — family at home, friends at parties, strangers on a bus, the kids in the car — whoever, wherever. The ideas presented here are a good starting point for making your own puzzles, which might impress your friends and keep them amused for hours!

So go ahead, turn off that television and shut down the computer. Grab a pencil, engage your brain, and start having fun!

  1. Home
  2. Pencil Puzzles
  3. Introduction
Visit other About.com sites: