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A Welcome Distraction from Blogging

When trying to think of something to write about each day, I tend to turn to the same sources:

  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The New York Times
  • The (Philadelphia) Inquirer
  • USA Today
  • the Daily Alert from Harvard Business Review
  • Crain’s Philadelphia
  • Seth Godin
  • Fred Wilson
  • David Kanigan
  • Adam Grant
  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • my personal life

Unfortunately, it seems as if on some days none of those sources have anything of interest to write about (especially my personal life).

So on days like that I start pacing around the first floor of my house, with way too many stops at the kitchen cabinet to get “just one more” handful of something unhealthy, hoping to unleash my inner muse.

Fortunately, something has come to me every day for the past couple of years, and I manage to sit down and churn out a few hundred words about something that’s most likely nonsensical.

But over the past couple of weeks I’ve discovered a new way to procrastinate.

The ground floor of the business school at Villanova has several free copies of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and USA Today available each morning. I would pick up the papers with good intentions, and then end up recycling them the next morning without having ever opened them up. Since I do most of that type of reading online, I didn’t think I was missing anything.

But then one day when I had some free time I decided to sit down and just go through each paper, looking for blog material. It was then that I came across the Puzzles section of each of the papers.

I immediately skipped the crossword puzzles in each paper, since I usually only get about one word per puzzle. I then discovered that some of the puzzles were relatively easy, but still provided a sense of accomplishment upon completion.

For example, USA Today has Quickcross, which entails giving clues for four-letter words, four of which are laid out horizontally and four are laid out vertically, with the eight words forming a four by four square of interlocking words, Usually the clues are pretty easy; for example, one of the clues in today’s puzzle was: 2014 film: “____ for Speed” and another was “Superman’s alter ego”. USA Today also offers two sudoku puzzles, one is a nine by nine grid, the other in a six by six grid. I’ve learned that Mondays are quite easy, with a difficulty rating of just one star (out of a possible five). Talk about your sense of accomplishment!

The Philadelphia Inquirer also has a nine by nine Sudoku, as well as a Jumble puzzle. This entails trying to unscramble four separate words in which the letters are out of order, and then using certain of those letters from each word to solve a little riddle. Again, it’s a nice 5-10 minute distraction.

Finally, The New York Times offers two KenKen puzzles, one a 4×4 grid and the other a 6×6 grid. KenKen is also a number-based puzzle, like Sudoku. However, certain boxes have a number along with a math operation symbol such as add, subtract, multiply or divide. Some of the boxes are also heavily outlined, indicating that the boxes go together. So for example, if a block had 40+ in it, and was part of a group of three heavily outlined boxes, then you need to find three number that when multiplied together, result in 40. In the 4×4 grid, the possible numbers to use are just 1-4, and none of those numbers can be used more than once in a given row and a given column. The 6×6 grid uses the numbers 1-6. Again, it’s a nice distraction and a nice change of pace from Sudoku.

I find that doing these puzzles clears my mind, since I am focused on trying to solve the puzzles. I then think I can go back to what I was doing, such as trying to think of a blog post, with renewed energy.

And who knows, maybe just writing about these puzzles could be a blog post…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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