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How many puzzles does it take to make it through quarantine?

For my family, apparently 10 1,000-piece puzzles, four 3D puzzles and counting! One puzzle was so difficult, we may jokingly frame it (gasp!) with the caption being "The worst puzzle of Quarantine 2020." And, let's not forget about the many board and card games we played to increase our pastime possibilities.

I have never been much of a game player, but even I succumbed during the boredom of quarantine. It made me wonder about the pastimes of people before modern technology made games so affordable and easy to obtain. Archaeologists continue to unearth many types of games; recently a 1,700-year-old Roman game was found in a burial ground. It is thought to be an ancient version of backgammon. I decided to do my own dig through the library's collection, and I found many books on the history and rules of games past and present.

If you would like to do a little digging yourself, you might want to start with this rather quixotic title: "Fox Tossing And Other Forgotten and Dangerous Sports, Pastimes, and Games" by Edward Brooke-Hitching (Touchstone, 2015). While some of the games mentioned were very mean-spirited, such as fox tossing, which involves a large slingshot and a fox, the book does demonstrate throughout time, humans have not liked to be bored.

I assume only true boredom could lead people to create pastimes such as baseball with a cannon (ouch!) and "dwile flonking" (think drinking and beer-soaked rags). This sometimes-hilarious book highlights games and pastimes created by humans — many had to have been created out of sheer boredom.

Although I tend to stay away from this one, Monopoly is a much-loved board game with many different versions, such as Bacon-opoly and a cat lover's edition. First popularized in America in 1935, Monopoly is now played all over the world.

But there is a more lengthy and somewhat dark history of the game highlighted in Mary Pilon's fascinating book, "The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury and Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game" (Bloomsbury USA, 2015). Pilon said the game was actually invented by a woman more than 30 years before Parker Brothers' version existed, and there is a history of obsessive, unethical machinations that took place to "monopolize" the game.

Though my whole family did puzzles together, we noticed each of us had a slightly different approach. Apparently, this is common, and Margaret Drabble's memoir "The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) offers some insight into that. Drabble mixes fun tidbits and historical facts about the educational beginnings of the game with her own personal history highlighted by her relationship with her aunt and a diverse look at jigsaw puzzles. Get a cup of tea and curl up in your favorite chair for this one.

Crossword puzzles are supposed to be excellent brain games, which is apparently something my children think I could use. I have not taken them up yet, but reading about this 100-year-old activity does seem interesting. Alan Connor digs into that history in "The Crossword Century: 100 Years of Witty Wordplay, Ingenious Puzzles, and Linguistic Mischief" (Gotham Books, 2014). The game seemed to take off in 1924 with the publication of the first puzzle collection by a new publishing house known today as Simon & Schuster. Each chapter of this book reads as a personal essay on different aspects of the game with crosswords and puzzles hidden throughout — even chapter titles are part of a crossword puzzle.

Finally, if you are a stickler for "the rules" (as my husband is), you might want to take a look at "The Big Book of Rules: Board Games, Kids' Games, Card Games, From Backgammon and Bocce to Tiddlywinks and Stickball" (Plume, 2005) by Stephanie Spadaccini. From Frisbee Golf to hearts, Spadaccini covers the rules for more than 300 games.

Carren Summerfield is a library associate with Daniel Boone Regional Library.

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