Have you tried Numbrix yet? Marilyn vos Savant, who authors the “Ask Marilyn” column in the Sunday magazine Parade, invented this fun number game recently. New puzzles are in her Parade “Ask Marilyn” column and daily at http://www.parade.com/askmarilyn/numbrix. Here’s how it works: You fill in a partially complete grid with the missing numbers 1-81 so that the numbers are in numerical order without diagonals — only horizontally and vertically. It’s one of the rare puzzles that’s challenging yet simple at the same time. If you need to warm up for a five-star Sudoku or the Sunday New York Times crossword or you just need to rest your brain while giving it a gentle nudge, try Numbrix. A word of warning, though: It’s much easier to do online so you don’t have massive erasing. Unlike Sudoku, where a quick check can show you where you’re going wrong, you can work yourself into a Numbrix hole without realizing it until the very last square — much better to hit the “reset” button than rub holes in the Sunday parade with your eraser. If a puzzle can be elegant, then this one is. When you’re — literally — on the right path, you get into a satisfying rhythm and everything falls into place. Good luck!
Ann Beattie, author of one of my favorite books ever, is 61 today. (Thanks, Garrison Keillor, for always letting me know things like this.) My husband and I were college students when her “Chilly Scenes of Winter” was published in 1976, and this novel captures that time and our then-20-something-year-old angst (although I don’t think anybody in the ’70s would have used the word “angst”) perfectly. In fact, it was my husband who, many years after college, introduced me to Beattie and this book. I’ve been a fan ever since. You will be, too, if you haven’t read her yet. And what better day to start than her birthday?