Ken egan is a perfect example of an active mind. the 80-year- old coffs harbour man spends his time creating a variety of word and number puzzles, which are published in newspapers and magazines across the country. his website has even gained international recognition. ken tells us more …
How long have you lived on the Coffs Coast, and what do you love about the area?
My wife and I have spent a very happy 12 years living in Coffs. Being in Coffs provides an environment where you can virtually reach out and touch the sea and mountains at the same time. Everything we ever want is on our doorstep: excellent doctors and medical facilities, together with shopping experience, which is only surpassed in the large cities.
Most of all, we love being near family, including three of our eight great grandchildren.
> When did you first start creating puzzles?
Back in the ‘90s I was involved in the design and manufacture of automation equipment. This was my first introduction to industrial computing, that commenced my strong computing interest.
In the late ‘90s I had grandchildren who were struggling with their mathematics. To help them, I developed simple crossword type puzzles using basic arithmetic. I distributed these via a small website on the early and very rough internet.
Nevertheless, this worked not only for my grandchildren, but also the internet site attracted viewers who showed a strong interest.
One of these was the Eisenhower Foundation for Mathematics in the USA, who contacted me to advise that the website had been selected as the then site of the week (worldwide).
Considering that websites in those days were very pro-USA, it was something for a mere Aussie to have achieved this recognition.
> Tell us about your website.
The web address is www.users.tpg.com.au/puzzles
I decided to expand the website by creating a range of various puzzle types. To do this required the use of a wide range of number dictionaries (unavailable at that time).
While maintaining the website, I spent over a year designing the new dictionaries – that are still in use.
New puzzles were created continuously, and the website was expanded to suit.
Over the years the puzzles were mostly provided free – and still are.
The current site has hundreds of puzzles spread across 56 different types of puzzle, ranging from those which suit the very young, to the strong following that I have in seniors’ organisations.
Commendations began flowing in from universities, schools, seniors groups and private individuals.
Some of the feedback I have received over the years includes the following:
Directory editor – Websites on aging – USA.
“Your low-tech puzzles have been given the category of assistive technology for the Aged.”
Teacher – Juvenile Detention Center – USA.
“Using your puzzles with great success for kids who have very poor skills. Thank you and keep up the good work.”
School teacher – USA.
“Found your website listed in National Council of Teachers of Mathematics publication.”
Senior Analyst – Princeton Economic Research – USA.
“I will use these puzzles for review of basic concepts in my algebra. Thanks a lot.”
Home Schooling Mother – USA.
“I need some problems (like the crosswords type) to give a fun way to practice problems.”
The website has also been recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – USA, Washington Post, British Broadcasting Corporation, Irish Education and the American Seniors Association.
> What type of puzzles do you create?
I create number and word puzzles in various formats.
There is a large group of number based puzzles which utilise a crossword type grid. These provide clues of a numeric nature, with the solutions being in numbers.
Further number puzzles are presented in various format types, some of which require mental arithmetic and also the use of mathematics logic for solving.
In the word puzzles area, a strong effort has been made to move away from the basic crossword puzzle. These have proved extremely popular with seniors.
A selection of all these is provided in an interactive format, where the puzzles can be solved online.
The main aim in all my puzzle creation was to create two facets of interest:
1. provide an educational challenge for the young, while maintaining a fun aspect.
2. provide an entertaining challenge for adults and seniors.
> What’s the most complex puzzle you’ve ever made?
“Alfakodo is a totally unique logic game” is the phrase used by my publishing agents Auspac Media, who have arranged current syndication to a number of Australian newspapers.
Over the years I had watched the growth of the Sudoku puzzle, and I set about creating a puzzle in opposition.
The beginnings of Alfakodo were conceived on a picnic table while on a holiday in Queensland and completed back in Coffs Harbour months later.
> What do you most enjoy about this profession?
The challenge and ability to react with others world wide. The deep satisfaction derived here is knowing that in some small way, together with their teachers’ help, you have assisted in the educational development of children across more than 50 countries over the years.
Another satisfaction is in knowing that seniors around the world are achieving some entertainment from using the puzzles.
> In your experience, why do you think doing puzzles helps develop and keep the brain active?
Almost everybody knows the saying “If you don’t use it, you will lose it”.
A great amount of research has been carried out, with the finding that if the brain is not used with some degree of challenging tasks, then it will quickly subside.
Puzzles provide an entertaining way of providing the stimulus which the brain requires.
> What are some of the publications your puzzles have appeared in?
In 2000 I was approached by Queensland-based publishing agents Auspac Media to provide puzzles for publication.
This long-established company provides newspapers, magazines and general media publications with many features. I formed an association with them that continues to this day.
While the original website continued to grow, puzzles were beginning to appear in Australian newspapers and magazines, including the Australian Senior Newspaper, Air New Zealand in flight magazine, People Magazine SA, Warwick Daily, Ballarat Courier, Townsville Bulletin, Burnie Advocate, Tweed Daily, Lismore Echo, Newcastle Herald, Gold Coast Bulletin, Cairns Post, Northern Territory News, Bundaberg News, Pulse News, Shepparton News, Buderim Chronicle, Beaudesert Times, Adelaide Advertiser, Darwin News, Fifty Something Magazine, Westender and West Australian.
Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun is currently featuring ‘Multipuzzle’ and ‘Crossjumble’, Brisbane’s Courier Mail features ‘Missing Links’ and Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph publishes ‘Alfakodo’.
> Thank you Ken.
Test your skills with one of Ken’s puzzles by visiting his website: