7 brilliant mental challenges that have been popular in the world for centuries

7 brilliant mental challenges that have been popular in the world for centuries


From the labyrinth of Ancient Egypt to the newspaper sudoku, ingenuity exercises are popular all over the world, in all cultures and have been for centuries and even millennia.

Apparently, humans have an enduring and infinitely satisfying appetite for creating and solving riddles.

What is your favorite?

1. The labyrinth

That confusing network of winding roads, with one or more dead ends, through which one has to find a way, could be the oldest kind of mental challenge.

Although little remains of the structure, an ancient Egyptian labyrinth near Crocodilopolis dates back to around 700 BC C.

labyrinthCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Dead ends, winding paths … in gardens or on pages, the labyrinths never cease to fascinate.

The oldest labyrinth of coverage in the United Kingdom was designed in 1690 for William of Orange, although there is evidence that it replaced an earlier version, perhaps designed for Henry VIII.

Today, mazes appear in puzzle books and newspapers, but if you really want to put yourself to the test you have to go to Ningbo in China.

The maze of- the butterflies the world’s largest permanent maze covers an area of 33,564.67 square meters and a length of 8.38 k ilo eters .

2. The sudoku

SudokuCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Your name means “number only”.

A sudoku is a logical puzzle in which the goal is to fill a 9-by-9 grid with digits so that each column, row and sub-grid of 3 by 3 contains all the numbers from 1 to 9.

Each puzzle has a unique solution and, let’s face it, they are addictive .

We think of sudoku as a modern phenomenon, which has had great popularity in recent years, but French newspapers presented variations of the game in the nineteenth century until they disappeared around the First World War.

The modern version became popular when a Japanese company introduced it with the name of sudoku, which means “number only”, which is an abbreviation of its original name Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru (数字 は 独身 に 限 る) “the numbers must be alone. “

3. The puzzle

PuzzleCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Although any problem or riddle of difficult solution is a puzzle, the first thing that comes to our minds when we hear the word is the hobby.

The origins of the puzzle date back to the 1760s.

John Spilsbury, a British cartographer and engraver, is recognized as the inventor: he stuck wooden maps, cut them into small pieces and called them “dissected maps”.

Nowadays, puzzles are produced for educational purposes, as well as for fun, since they are seen as an aid with hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, shape recognition and memory .

And you definitely need all those skills to put together modern variations like spherical, three-dimensional and double-sided puzzles.

The largest commercially available puzzle in the world shows ten scenes of Disney works, it has 40 320 pieces and measures 680 192 centimeters assembled .

4. The crossword

CrosswordCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Crosswords: Figuratively, complicated and difficult.

Are you a cruciverbalist?

If you are a genius to create or solve crosswords, the answer is yes.

The first crossword puzzle as we know it was published in 1913, but square word puzzles have been found in the ruins of Pompeii.

In the 30s, crossword puzzles inspired the creation of the Scrabble board game, and during World War II crosswords were banned in Paris in case they were used to pass coded messages to the enemy .

5. The cryptic crossword

huge crosswordCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption When you graduate from ordinary crossword puzzles, comes the cryptic challenge.

With cryptic crosswords the clues are darker, indirectly indicating what the solutions might be.

For example: an anagram track tells you that some words on the track should be rearranged; A charade track is when one part is added to another to get the answer; the track of the container is a set of letters or a short word within another word; the reversals are a cryptic device where a word or part of a word is inverted to reach the response; and in a hidden word , the answer is hidden from view.

Did he confuse you? To us yes.

Perhaps it is clarified a little with an example of one of those types of tracks, courtesy of elcriptico.com:

Certificate for Costa Rican who represents his country abroad

  • Certificate = diploma
  • Costa Rican = tico
  • which represents your country abroad = diplomatic + diplomatic = diplomatic.

The point is that no matter how absurd the clues of cryptic crosswords seem, they all conform to a set of rules .

6. The riddle

Question marksCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption “I finish upside down, I start upside down, and you will only ask about my work … what am I?” –

What can travel the world staying in a corner?

The answer is … a stamp.

They were a prominent literary form in the ancient and medieval world , and widely appear in written records as graffiti preserved in the asílica of Pompeii .

Perhaps the most famous enigma of all belongs to the Sphinx of Greek mythology who sat outside of Thebes and asked passers-by:

“What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon and on three legs at nightfall?” .

The human being: crawls like a baby, walks upright during his life and uses a cane in his old age.

7. The word staircase

Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption This is a Jabberwocky, according to the illustration of John Tenniel.

Not only did he write “Jabberwocky” – the quintessential poem par excellence that appeared in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” (1871) – author Lewis Carroll is also the mastermind behind the word ladder.

The wits exercise begins with two words, and to solve the puzzle one must make a chain of other words until the two are joined.

All adjacent words differ by only one letter between them.

Classic examples are:

  • home -cosa-coso-lame- red
  • sun – sea -evil- sea
  • moon- lone-crazy- seal

Carroll said he invented the game on Christmas Day of 1877, mentioning it for the first time in his diary the following year. In 1879 he published a series of riddles and solutions in the Vanity Fair magazine and later it became a book.

Now his creation is unconditional in riddle and newspaper books.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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