The Museum assumes that a "puzzle" is a game - a game which is a device or concept having no purpose other than to amuse a user. A puzzle presents the user with a specific perplexing condition or situation which may only be resolved by applying an ingenious solution!
Usually a puzzle is intended for use of one person at a time, and in addition to requiring considerable thought - may require manipulation and dexterity upon the part of the user. Puzzles come in many forms and styles - riddles, mazes, jigsaws, blocks, rings, wires, and lots more! To find out more about puzzles and specifically those in the collection, read on and then click on a picture icon in any section of this page for a series of pages with examples of each type of puzzle.
People probably played with "logic" and "language" puzzles even before someone thought up The Riddle of The Sphinx. (If you're unfamiliar with this riddle, click to find out more, and then return to this page.) The so-called Laws of Nature have always posed a number of puzzling riddles and questions for which the answers are sometimes found through the use of logic, sometimes by use of what seems like magic - and sometimes - appear to be insoluble! Nevertheless, people all over the world continue to be enthralled by the thousands of puzzles available today. In fact, the popularity of mystery stories is probably rooted in the interest people have in solving puzzles!
Riddles and other logic and language puzzles appear to have entertained people since earliest times, while published crossword puzzles are products of the 20th century. Some mechanical or manipulative puzzles have been around for more than a thousand years. The advent of the branch of mathematics known as "topology", advances in contemporary publishing technology, and the introduction of such mass production techniques as water jets and lasers have made puzzles a common place commodity in today's world.
The pages in this section of the Website offer the viewer photographs and information about some of the puzzles in the collection. A word needs to be said however about how the pages in this section are organized, for indeed, classification of puzzles is a puzzling matter!
The collection contains a large variety of jigsaw puzzles. Anne Williams, who is one the acknowledged experts on Jigsaw puzzles (as her publications testify) was asked to contribute to this section of the Website. In this section the viewer will find information and examples of three centuries about Jigsaw puzzles. Click on the Jigsaw icon on the left to see what Williams has to say about the history and different types of Jigsaw puzzles that are available and how they were and are manufactured.
Puzzles of this type have an very ancient origin. The collection includes some that require no equipment other than perhaps paper and pencil. "Crossword" and "Cryptograms" for example, are available on a daily basis as regular newspaper copy. During the 20th century, some of these and other language or word puzzles have been commercially produced as "board games", "cube games", and other related types, such as Scrabble. A number of these are in the collection. Click on the symbol icon on the left to be taken to a page about this group of puzzles.
This grouping includes a large and diverse range of puzzles. One special group of puzzles in this section are known as "Mathematical Puzzles", another is known as "Optical Puzzles". Many in this grouping do not require physical equipment, but rather only instructions which appear in some printed form. Some, however, are puzzles that do make use of physical objects such as cubes, special playing cards, photographs, drawings, and paper and pencil. A few of these are in the collection, as well as printed instructions for those without equipment. Click on the symbol icon on the left to be taken to a page about this group of puzzles.
The collection includes many puzzles of this type. Jerry Slocum is acknowledged as one of the leading experts on mechanical and manipulative puzzles having published a number of books on the subject. Slocum was asked how these puzzles should be organized for the Website. The organizational pattern follows Slocum's recommendations. Click on the icon to the left to view examples of some of puzzles of this type in the collection and which Slocum writes about. On some of these pages he shares information on how to solve a puzzle.
In general, the viewer will find that these pages use the common name for a puzzle type when this is possible. If you can't find what you're looking for in a grouping - just consider this puzzling - come back to this page and try another solution or grouping!
Last update April 4, 2010