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Tuesday, 7 March 2006

According to The Times, you can make yourself more intelligent by means of "brain exercises":

TACKLING the Times crossword or Su Doku may drive you to distraction — and could transform your intelligence.

Simple “brain exercises” — also including brushing your teeth with the “wrong” hand and watching the quiz show Countdown — could make you 40 per cent cleverer in a week. Tests by the BBC for a new programme offer support for the theory that simple changes to one’s “thinking” routine — with physical exercise such as cycling — can help to improve the functioning of the brain.

Get Smarter in a Week, to be broadcast this Saturday, found that healthy eating, physical activity, sound sleep and mental stimulation can make people sharper, more confident and better at decision-making. Recommendations include using the computer mouse with the “wrong” hand for an hour a day, taking unfamiliar words from the dictionary for use in conversation, and games such as Scrabble.

Since The Times introduced Su Doku in November 2004, millions across the world have become hooked on the brainteaser, as well as increasingly fiendish versions of the numbers grid, such as Killer Su Doku and Samurai Su Doku, published in this newspaper.

I have dabbled in Su Doku, and can see that it might be addictive. One day on the tube I saw four people in one carriage doing a Su Doku and one person reading a book - about Su Doku. London's average IQ must be on the up. 

The idea that doing puzzles increases brain power is far from new. However, this was the first time that I had heard that intelligence can be boosted by using an unfamiliar word. I was about to reach for a dictionary when, also in The Times, I came across a word I had never seen before, namely "sudokalist":

SHE can knock over a “mild” in less than three minutes and even a “fiendish” takes only 15, but Nina Pell will need all her powers of logic and deduction when she pits herself against the most perplexing Su Doku puzzles ever set later this week.

Ms Pell, 19, already Britain’s best player after winning the Times National Su Doku Championship in October, is one of 100 top “sudokalists” from across the globe chosen to contest the inaugural world championships in Lucca, Italy.

I may be wrong, but as well as being unfamiliar to me, this word seems to be brand new. I wonder if it will catch on. The Times is not entirely comfortable with it, hence the inverted commas. The word has obviously been formed by analogy with "vocalist", "journalist", or perhaps "fatalist". It looks odd, however, not just because it mixes Japanese and English, but because the suffix "-alist", as distinct from "-ist" added to a word already ending in "-al", such as "fatal", is itself unfamiliar. In fact I cannot, off the top of my head, think of any example of a word ending in "-alist" that has not been derived from one ending in "-al". Perhaps the combination of a new word and a new suffix will be twice as effective. I will try to use the word "sudokalist" at every possible opportunity in the hope that my brain power will improve in leaps and bounds.

Posted on 03/07/2006 4:19 AM by Mary Jackson
7 Mar 2006
Esmerelda Weatherwax
The puzzle was originally called number place in the 70s. I was not a number placer. Nor a number placeist.

7 Mar 2006
Send an emailJason Pappas
By my way of figuring, a Sudokuist is one who advocates Sudoku, presumably after reading the Sudoku manifesto. Whereas a Sudokalist is an aficionado?far less dangerous?but still gives aid and comfort to the Sudokuer, who entices others into the practice. Personally, I?ve given up Sodoku; it felt more brain-numbing than mind-expanding.