Brain workouts
April 20, 2005 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to cultivate some good mental exercising habits. For that, I need some good, diverse sources for puzzles and activities. Specifically, I'm looking for, preferably free, sites with a decent database of verbal, logical, spatial, lateral thinking games. The format can be flexible, so crosswords are included. Also, games that test and hone reflexes and reactions are also welcome. Additionally, ADHDers are also advised to stimulate the cerebellum. Any help on that? Basically, I'd like a list of resources for complete brain workout, that can be performed atleast once every day. Obviously, I'm not looking for one site to include all of the above.
posted by Gyan to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Braingle was posted on the blue a little while back. Seems like a pretty good puzzle site.

If you're interested in Math (which it sounds like you aren't), I subscribe to the Macalester College Problem of the Week. Every Tuesday, during the school year, they send out hard math problems for you to work on. The solution is released the next week. The site also has archives of the last few hundred problems.
posted by knave at 3:39 PM on April 20, 2005

Gyan -- Not exactly what you asked for, but you may find techniques which serve a similar purpose at The Mentat Wiki.
posted by Hildago at 3:47 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: I'm very interested in math. Neither am I mathphobic.
posted by Gyan at 3:48 PM on April 20, 2005

i don't understand where the answers are for the macalester site. it says they have the answers for the current semester, but i can't find them.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:57 PM on April 20, 2005

Andrew: see here (the first puzzle is finding the answers to the puzzle, no?)
posted by klangklangston at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2005

The New York Post just started printing this game I'd never heard of before called Su Doku. I'm totally addicted.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ponder This is a challenging monthly math problem published by IBM Research. They have archives with solutions going back to 1998.

For something lighter and quicker, try WEBoggle.
posted by yarmond at 4:21 PM on April 20, 2005

Learn to play bridge.
posted by ldenneau at 4:36 PM on April 20, 2005

Nothing beats a good ol' fashioned subscription to Games Magazine. You can take it with you anywhere. I've whiled away many an hour with a ballpoint pen (too cocky for my own good) and a headbuster of a puzzle. Their puzzles are clever, diverse, and topical. You can find crytpic crosswords, logic problems, crosswords, lots of crazy pencil puzzles, picture puzzles, and lots more, in each issue. Plus there are competitive contests and other fun things. The difficulty of puzzles ranges from easy to fiendish, and there are game and puzzle reviews, too. The magazine has a certain flavor, or attitude, that's really enjoyable. Read the reviews at Amazon.
posted by iconomy at 4:52 PM on April 20, 2005

klangklangston - i've seen that. it says they post the answers for the semester on the site (second sentence). but i can't find them (the answers). sorry if i'm being stupid...
posted by andrew cooke at 5:02 PM on April 20, 2005

Look for books by Raymond Smullyan. Highly entertaining, highly recommended

Also, of course, Martin Gardner
posted by IndigoJones at 6:18 PM on April 20, 2005

Need crossword puzzles? Harmless registration required at Sydney Morning Herald -
Your user page does not give a location; if you are not in Australia, you might be interested in a different news slant also.
posted by Cranberry at 8:41 PM on April 20, 2005

Thanks PinkSuperHero...It took me 68 minutes to do one of those So Duko puzzles...I'm never going to write a thesis and graduate!
posted by duck at 8:47 PM on April 20, 2005

While it has many roles, the number one thing we think the cerebellum does is provide fine timing control for motor skills---the kind of precise and subconscious guidance that allows us to ride a bicycle or hit a baseball. If you want to exercise your cerebellum specifically, I don't think you should sit around and ponder. Hand/body/eye/vestibular coordination is where it's at: ice skating, archery, dance, martial arts, soccer, maybe take up painting or sign language---if you're developing grace in motion, your cerebellum is at work.
posted by tss at 9:05 PM on April 20, 2005

Hahah, duck, I've become addicted because I do the ones in The Post- they've been printing "Very Easy" puzzles since the beginning. It takes about 3 minutes- it makes me feel very smart :-D
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:47 PM on April 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Drawing is a great mental exercise. It's different every time, even if you draw the same subject over and over. You'll never run out of tough questions. It's great for your focus.
posted by Jon-o at 10:45 PM on April 20, 2005

Oh, and I second Jon-o's suggestion to draw.
posted by yoga at 5:37 AM on April 21, 2005

Dr. Hallowell describes some good mental workouts in his book Delivered from Distraction. It sounds like you may have read it already but if you haven't, you may want to.
posted by bondcliff at 6:00 AM on April 21, 2005

When I arrive at the office, I usually start the day with a visit to setgame. These are not long, complicated puzzles, but the set and quiddler puzzles are good mental warm ups to put me in a more analytical frame of mind.
posted by anapestic at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2005

i've been thinking - isn't this a bit artificial? if you really need this kind of thing, maybe you need a more interesting job, or some interesting hobbies, or you just need to start thinking a bit more about the world around you. personally, i find maths comes into all kinds of things. for example, i play with computer art in my spare time - it uses a lot of geometry, trignometry etc. and programming, at least designing software, involves a lot of hard thinking. last week i was lying in bed calculating the square root of 7 in my head - i got to 6 or 7 decimal places, but when i checked in the morning i'd made a mistake. i can't remember why, but it must have been related to something - anyway, it's an example of how these things come up in life. or learn something new. crptography, for example. koeblitz (pub springer) has a good, if heavy, introduction. or number theory - i have a good book on that, but it's at work, unfortunately. or games theory - the book by gintis is pretty good.

maybe it's just me, but these puzzles seem a lot like the mental equivalent of sugar. i'd recommend more fiber and protein! (hope this doesn't come across as a personal attack - i have no idea who you are, but i know you post good science/numerical links on mefi from time to time!)
posted by andrew cooke at 6:27 AM on April 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your suggestions. Keep them coming.

Andrew, no offence taken. I'm just looking for something, that on short notice, can stimulate the mind. I already have hobbies along the lines you suggest (3DCG, fractals, musical comp. tinkering..etc), but they're more like long-term projects. Besides, I want to exercise all aspects. I want the mental equivalent of aerobic exercise kept handy, just in case once I'm no longer an "athlete".

tss, Cerebellum is one of the things I wish to exercise specifically, but not the only.
posted by Gyan at 7:02 AM on April 21, 2005

Yahoo! has puzzle and word games of all sorts (Text Twist is my favourite). Easy to get to, easy to drop if something else comes up. However, they only work with IE.
posted by deborah at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2005

I recommend the (now free) Old Skool game Fool's Errand. It's ugly, yes, but it's the top of the puzzle genre. And it's still engaging, even seventeen years after it was originally released.
posted by terceiro at 2:06 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Keeping yourself mentally fit requires quality, not quantity. Games are just that -- fun. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to improve your mind, give yourself the best there is.

Want a puzzle? Read a Shakespeare sonnet.

Want to know how real people face real problems? Read Trollope's Barchester Towers.

Want to hear an artist set a difficult problem and brilliantly work it out? Listen to a Mozart String Quartet.

And as Jon-o says, start doing womething worth doing -- learn to draw, or to play a musical instrument.
posted by KRS at 1:40 PM on April 22, 2005

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