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Puzzle Solving

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When newsletters, word puzzles, cross words and brain teasers all get too much, visit John Allan’s online solutions, and let your blood pressure return to normal...

Oh dear, I can’t put it off any longer. I’ve managed to for months, but now the moment has arrived. It’s time to re-launch the 11-14s weekly news sheet.

And why do I dread this little job, you may ask? Well, just because younger teenagers are so competitive and so visually-oriented. I can’t just write them a few paragraphs! They demand puzzles, challenges, cartoons, brainteasers, games. And it all takes time...

If you’ve ever burned the midnight oil constructing a wordsquare, laboriously counting out syllables for a crossword puzzle, or scrambling up Bible verses in mind-boggling ways, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But fortunately – as I may just have said once or twice in this column before – the Internet can help. Big time.

For a start, look at Puzzlemaker. Word searches, mazes, letter tiles, cryptograms – created instantly for you as soon as you input some data. Hey, maybe I’ll get to watch the football tonight after all.

Then there’s also edHelper, with curvy words, crossword puzzles and secret codes; put in your data and out comes the puzzle, perfectly formed. Fantastic. Alternatively, for perfectionists, eHow has a stack of articles (and even how-to videos) showing you just how to craft crosswords professionally.

The Internet is full of cypher generators which can help you encrypt important messages. A second’s typing, a click of the button, and then fifteen minutes’ peace while they try desperately to crack the code they think you spent hours devising – ah, all youth work should be this simple.

If you like visual puzzles, try the make-a-cartoon sites where you can achieve instant professionalism. For example, suppose you show them the start of a parable, and ask them to identify it? For a quick demo, I knocked up a few frames from Luke 11:5-8 from Toondoo. Time: ten minutes. Rembrandt isn’t my middle name, but it doesn’t look too bad, does it?

Best of the lot, Hot Potatoes is now freeware. This Canadian program allows you to make multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises on your website – but you can easily adapt them for paper too.

Actually, creating the newssheet suddenly sounds a lot more like fun than it used to be. Maybe I’ll just record the football and watch it later.


March 2010
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