Brain Games

By Jeanette Larson

Length of Program

60 minutes

Program Description

Schedule an afternoon for teens to complete crossword puzzles in the library. Working in teams, the teens will compete to finish a puzzle within a half hour and win small prizes, such as those from Oriental Trading Company. Set a timer for 30 minutes so that each team has the same amount of time to complete the puzzle. If no team has finished after 30 minutes, keep adding time until the first team finishes. Before and after the competition, teens will also help complete a group crossword puzzle on the bulletin board. For those who would like, teens can create an original crossword puzzles using software purchased by the library or free on-line compilers such as


In advance, purchase a wall-sized crossword puzzle and prepare the crossword puzzle bulletin board. Collect enough crossword puzzles for each team to have one. Crossword puzzles can be collected from old newspapers or from on-line resources. You might also purchase a crossword puzzle magazine, such as USA Crossword, or a book of puzzles, such as Simon and Schuster Crossword Puzzle Book #236, and tear the pages out. If enough computers are available, teens can also solve puzzles on-line. Several web sites that offer an assortment of on-line puzzles are listed in the Web Based Activities section at the end of this activity.

Create a display of crossword puzzle dictionaries and other word game books to entice the teens to stretch their brains even further. The display could also include board games such as Scrabble™.

Books to Display

  • Another Kind of Monday by William E. Coles.
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett.
  • Heir Apparent by Vivian Van Velde.
  • The New York Times on the Web Crosswords for Teens by Frank A. Longo.
  • Virtual War by Gloria Skurzynski.

Bulletin Board

Cross Words!

Purchase a wall-sized crossword puzzle and mount it on a bulletin board. Attach a couple of pencils and leave a few crossword puzzle dictionaries on a table or shelf nearby. Giant puzzles can be purchased from Great Big Stuff at or Hammacher Schlemmer at


Oriental Trading Company sells a variety of puzzles and challenging games. Select an assortment to give as prizes to the teens that attend the programs.


Purchase several sports-themed jigsaw puzzles. Many inexpensive new puzzles are available at dollar and thrift stores. Let the teams compete to finish the puzzles.


Prepare or purchase a sheet cake. Decorate with icing to resemble a crossword puzzle using frosting or strips of black licorice lace to create lines. Fill in some of the spaces with a dark colored icing and use tubes of icing to add letters. Alternatively, a commercial cake decorator could add a crossword puzzle decoration to the cake.

Web Based Activities

USA Today Crosswords
Two weeks worth of puzzles are available for on-line solving. Users may a skill level, “Regular” or “Master.” “Regular” players may click a “solve” button if they get stuck, and incorrect letters appear in a different color.

The World’s First Crossword Puzzle
See the world’s first crossword puzzle and learn about the history of puzzles. also provides links to a variety of on-line puzzles.

Yahoo! Games
New crossword puzzles are provided daily and older puzzles remain available for several weeks.


  • Crossword Construction Kit.
  • Dell Crosswords.


USA Crossword.

Web Sites

Candy Stand
Kraft Foods hosts a kid-friendly assortment of on-line games that includes trivia games for one or two players. Test your knowledge of ‘80’s, ‘90’s, and classic trivia.

CNN/SI Games
This site provides on-line crossword puzzles for most of the popular sports.

Olympic Jigsaw
You have 25 seconds to put the puzzle together or you’ll have to go another lap.

Typer Shark
Improve your typing skills while deep-sea diving. If you aren’t fast enough, the sharks will get you!

Professional Resources

Simon and Schuster Crossword Puzzle Book #236 by John S. Samson.
This site allows users to easily create their own crossword puzzles.

Great Big Stuff
This on-line store sells everything oversized.

Hammacher Schlemmer
Purchase a giant crossword puzzle from this specialty store.

Oriental Trading Company
This standard supplier of novelty items sells a variety of inexpensive puzzles.


Texas Reading Club 2006 Programming Manual / Reading: The Sport of Champions!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011