The puzzle instinct : the meaning of puzzles in human life / Marcel Danesi.

by Danesi, Marcel, 1946-Looking glass.

Publisher: Bloomington, Ind. : Indiana University Press, 2004.Description: 288 pages ; 24cm.ISBN: 0253217083.Subject(s): Games -- Psychological aspectsLooking glass | Games -- Social aspectsLooking glass | Puzzles -- Psychological aspects | Puzzles -- Social aspectsNote: Originally published: 2002.Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Item type Home library Collection Class number Status Date due Barcode Item reservations
Long loan Chelsea College of Arts
Main collection
Printed books 793.73 DAN (Browse shelf (Opens below)) Available 35736704
Total reservations: 0

Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

"Humans are the only animals who create and solve puzzles--for the sheer pleasure of it--and there is no obvious genetic reason why we would do this. Marcel Danesi explores the psychology of puzzles and puzzling, with scores of classic examples. His pioneering book is both entertaining and enlightening." --Will Shortz, Crossword Editor, The New York Times

". . . Puzzle fanatics will enjoy the many riddles, illusions, cryptograms and other mind-benders offered for analysis." --Psychology Today

". . . a bristlingly clear . . . always intriguing survey of the history and rationale of puzzles. . . . [A] splendid study. . . ." --Knight Ridder Newspapers

Originally published: 2002.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface (p. ix)
  • 1 Why Puzzles? (p. 1)
  • Puzzle-Making through the Ages (p. 3)
  • Puzzle-Solving as Insight Thinking (p. 27)
  • The Puzzle Instinct (p. 35)
  • 2 Puzzling Language: Riddles, Anagrams, and Other Verbal Perplexities (p. 37)
  • Riddles (p. 38)
  • Anagrams (p. 46)
  • Cryptograms (p. 53)
  • Rebuses (p. 59)
  • Crosswords (p. 62)
  • The Janus-Faced Nature of Language (p. 68)
  • 3 Puzzling Pictures: Optical Illusions, Mazes, and Other Visual Mind-Bogglers (p. 71)
  • Visual Trickery (p. 73)
  • Geometrical Mind-Bogglers (p. 83)
  • Puzzles in Geometrical Dissection and Arrangement (p. 91)
  • Mazes (p. 103)
  • Order and Chaos (p. 109)
  • 4 Puzzling Logic: Deductions, Paradoxes, and Other Forms of Mind Play (p. 112)
  • Deduction Puzzles (p. 116)
  • Truth Puzzles (p. 125)
  • Deception Puzzles (p. 133)
  • Paradoxes (p. 136)
  • The Paradox of Logic (p. 141)
  • 5 Puzzling Numbers: Magic Squares, Cryptarithms, and Other Mathematical Recreations (p. 143)
  • Magic Squares (p. 147)
  • Puzzling Mathematical Patterns (p. 151)
  • Algebraic Puzzles (p. 164)
  • Cryptarithms (p. 167)
  • Mathematics, Magic, and Puzzles (p. 175)
  • 6 Puzzling Games: Chess, Checkers, and Other Games (p. 178)
  • Movement and Arrangement Games (p. 180)
  • Mechanical and Assembly Games (p. 190)
  • Board Games (p. 197)
  • Card and Dice Games (p. 203)
  • The Game of Life (p. 206)
  • 7 The Puzzle of Life (p. 208)
  • Puzzles and the Imagination (p. 209)
  • Puzzles and Serendipity (p. 219)
  • Puzzles and the Aesthetics of Mind (p. 226)
  • Ahmes' Challenge (p. 231)
  • Solutions (p. 236)
  • Bibliography and General Reading List (p. 254)
  • Index (p. 265)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Danesi, a professor of semiotics and anthropology (Univ. of Toronto), explores why puzzles, having arisen in earliest human history at the same time as mystery cults, are an intrinsic part of human life. Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times, has suggested "enigmatology" as the study of the relationship between puzzles and culture. This book, which explores the puzzle genres that have survived over the years, is a contribution to that rubric. After first asking the question "Why puzzles?" (and developing several possible answers, among which is that they provide "comic relief" from unanswerable larger questions), Danesi devotes chapters to each of several types of puzzle. These include language puzzles (e.g., riddles and anagrams); pictures (e.g., optical illusions and mazes); logic (e.g., deductions and paradoxes); numbers (e.g., mathematical recreations); and games (e.g., chess). A final chapter synopsizes the discussion. A detailed list of references is included, as are solutions to the specific puzzles posed. The book is well written, has no mathematical prerequisites, and is quite suitable for a general audience as well as lower- and upper-division undergraduates. D. Robbins Trinity College (CT)

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Marcel Danesi is Professor of Semiotics and Anthropology at the University of Toronto and Director of the Program in Semiotics and Communication Theory.