Puzzles are ubiquitous. Once you start looking around for them, you’ll find them in every nook and cranny of popular culture.
Sometimes, they’re the basis for an entire episode of television, as in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Parks and Rec. Sometimes, they serve as a linchpin metaphor, as they did in Sleepy Hollow. Other times, they’re good for a funny aside, as in Gilmore Girls, or as a prop to reveal deeper character insight, as on The West Wing.
Over the years, I’ve seen puzzles incorporated into storytelling in dozens of ways. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to stumble across puzzle references where I least expected them: the funny pages.
Yes, they’re such a part of the cultural fabric that they’ve even infiltrated comic strips.
The other day, I stumbled across this Garfield comic strip from last year:
Now, it’s meant to be funny, but I think any puzzler who has stood onstage in front of a whiteboard at ACPT, Lollapuzzoola, or another crossword tournament would agree with Jon over Garfield here.
That was one example. As it turns out, when you start digging, you find crossword gags strewn through the Garfield comics.
Like this one from November of 2005:
That’s a pretty simple gag, but it’s also a nice bonding moment for Jon and Garfield, as Jon’s rampant procrastination dovetails nicely with Garfield’s bottomless love for Italian food.
Jon has less luck making a puzzly connection in this comic from February of 1998:
If you ask me, a cookie and a crossword puzzle sounds like an excellent way to spend time with someone interesting. But I’m biased. I love cookies.
And as you can see in this comic from February of 1979, Jon’s crossword struggles have been an ongoing issue for decades now:
But it’s not just crosswords. Sudoku has gotten a fair amount of attention in the Garfield strip over the years. That’s understandable, as it’s one of the most recognizable pencil-and-paper puzzles in the world.
And as someone who isn’t the fastest Sudoku solver in the world, this series of comics from January of 2010 (an entire week’s worth!) speaks to me. I get it, Jon. I get it.
Honestly, it makes sense that Odie would have Sudoku wired. He’s a puzzle dog. He’s been appearing in crossword grids for years.
There’s a lovely callback to that previous crossword gag.
Finally, Jon triumphs! I admire both his resilience and his unwillingness to give up. Though, given that it took a week to complete a Sudoku, maybe Jon should stick to other puzzles.
Heck, our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have the perfect book for him to try out.
[All images are courtesy of Garfield.com.]
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