or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 4/7/13

   April 13th, 2013 Brian Herzog

9999This might surprise non-librarians, but reference staff doesn't just sit around all day answering regular questions. Sometimes, you get something like this:

A 20-something patron walked up to me at the Reference Desk one evening and said,

You know that bulletin board in your teen area that always has different stuff on it? I don't know if you take suggestions from people, but here's a puzzle kids might like to try to figure out. I say "try" because I show this to lots of people and no one has solved it - even math teachers.

With that, he takes a piece of scrap paper, writes four 9s on it (as in, just 9999), and explains the puzzle.

The goal is to use these four nines, and any mathematical symbols, and have the result equal 100. You can use any combination of symbols - +, -, /, x, ( ), etc. - but the result must work out to be exactly 100.

Just then his ride came to get him, so he flipped the paper over, wrote the answer on the back, and said he hoped the kids would have fun with it.

So there I was - it was a slow night, I've got an "unsolvable" puzzle in front of me, and the answer is also at my finger tips. Such a temptation to cheat, but I gave it my best shot, trying all kinds of different ideas over the course of the night. No matter what I tried though, I just couldn't get it, so eventually I had to look at the answer.

I'm sure this puzzle (and the solution) is on the internet somewhere, but if you're interested, give it a try. If you give up, or want to check your answer, this link will launch the solution in a new window (this is exactly what the patron wrote on the back of the scrap paper).

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Library Word Find Puzzle vol. 2

   December 8th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Library Word Find Puzzle #2A couple years ago, I posted a Library Word Find Puzzle on flickr. It continues to be popular, so I thought I'd do a second Library Word Find Puzzle.

Sames rules as before: log into flickr and use the Add Note tool to circle a word; words are only horizontal or vertical, and are both forwards and backwards; please only circle one or two words to let as many people as possible play.

The words to look for are below the puzzle on flickr - and this time, there are a few words-within-words (eg, "mobile" and "bookmobile") so be careful.

I made this puzzle using the same spreadsheet as last time, so anyone feel free to use it to make other puzzles.

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Library Word Find Puzzle

   January 22nd, 2009 Brian Herzog

library word find puzzleHere's another way to be interactive with flickr - a cool little find-a-word puzzle.

Check out the puzzle on flickr, log in, and use the Add Note tool to circle words as you find them. Because this is flickr, all the words are either horizontal or vertical, but can be either forwards or backwards.

I put a lot of words in to hopefully let a lot of people play - please only circle a couple words, so everyone can have a chance. All of the hidden words are listed below the image in the description.

I thought this could be a fun thing for libraries to do for their patrons. The puzzle is easy to create (I used a spreadsheet [xls] and print preview - not quite as easy as the library crossword, I admit) and can be made on any theme. I also like that more than one person can work on it, so they can be solved as teams.

I'm actually stealing this idea and modifying it with library words. There are other puzzles on flickr, and where this idea originated will be obvious - but NSFW.

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Crossword Puzzle Maker

   December 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Library 2.0 Crossword PuzzleThis doesn't have much to do with libraries, but I like crossword puzzles and thought it was neat:

A recent discussion on ME-LIBS mentioned the puzzlemaker, from Discovery Education. This website automatically generates crossword puzzles (and other types of puzzles, too) from a list of words and clues you enter.

It's fun. Not quite the New York Times puzzle, of course, but then again, I'm not quite Will Shortz.

One drawback is that it just generates the puzzle to a webpage, which you're then supposed to print out. A "play online" version would be more fun; also helpful would be a print-friendly pdf version (I had to tweak my Library 2.0 Crossword in Word before printing to pdf).

While looking for one with more output options, I found that there seems to be a lot of software to generate puzzles, but only a few are free:

This could be used as a fun library program for kids or teens, for staff, for making an activity to go along with a book display, for local history/events/landmarks, or even for a book display on crosswords (incidentally, the first crossword puzzle was complied by Arthur Wynne and appeared in the New York World on Dec. 21st, 1913).

creator, crossword, crosswords, maker, online, puzzle, puzzles

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