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Why this universal fascination with puzzles?,
I have been fascinated with puzzles ever since my teens;which is now over 60 years ago.The term "puzzles" covers such a field,that I was really impressed with this book.When I first started,the first puzzle I came across was "The 15 Puzzle;then later "The Towers of Hanoi".And that was only the start of what became a lifelong interest in searching for new puzzles and books on puzzles.
Although the reason the author set upon writing this book was to explain the association of ,and the mathematics involved ,with puzzles;he also did something else at the same time.He shows what the whole world of Puzzles and Mathetical Recreations is all about by taking what he calls "The Ten Greatest Math Puzzles of All Times",explaining them,then expanding on them to show how so many other puzzles stem from them.I have collected somewhere between 6 and 7 hundred puzzle books over the years,many of which the author references,and I have to say,that this book does as good as any I have ever come across ,in explaining what the whole fascination of "Recreational Mathematics" is all about. It was eye opening years ago to find good books on this subject,even harder to find puzzles.Jigsaw and Crossword were common,but little else.Then I found Mathematical Games in "Scientific American;"which led me to many other things.Now,with the "Net" the whole world of Puzzles and books of Puzzles and Mathematical Recreations opens up a pletora of things for the puzzler.
This book has something for everyone,whether it is Riddles,Paradoxes,River-Crossing Puzzles,Map Coloring Problems,Optical Illusions,Mazes,Magic Squares,etc.,a neophyte or someone who has been interested in puzzles for years;will find lots new and interesting here.As an example,I became fascinated with Magic Squares while in University.I learned a method to complete any odd-order Magic Square;but try as I may,I could never "crack" even-order ones.I asked the head of the Math Department if he ever tried. A few days later he handed me notes on how to do it--I was thrilled.I was thrilled once again when in this book ,what did I find but a Magic Cube!!
Although this is an excellent book in all respects and will give anyone interested in puzzles a lot of enjoyment,and there are along with everything else, 72 challenging puzzles with detailed answers,all kinds of related references for further reading,and a good Glossary;there are two things I would like to mention.For many years ,it was believed that Sam Loyd invented the "15 Puzzle";and it is stated so here in 2004.Jerry Slocum and Dic Sonneveld wrote an excellent book,"The 15 Puzzle" in 2006 which proved that Sam Loyd didn't invent it after all. That just goes to show there's always something new in puzzles.The other comment I have ,is that I'm surprised that the Tangram was not chosen as one of the "greatest". However,with so many to choose from;it's almost like trying to pick the greatest song or the greatest of anything;but I must admit;the authors choice is his perogative ,and as good as any.