ASA is the essential resource to cultivate leadership, advance knowledge, and strengthen the skills of those who work with, and on behalf of, older adults.

Text Resize

-A +A

Word wizard designs a national brain game challenge to fight Alzheimer’s
posted 08.18.2011

by Alison Biggar

Every week, Merl Reagle creates crossword puzzles that are syndicated in 50 newspapers across the country. Known for his wit, facility with word patterns and for starring in the crossword puzzle movie Wordplay, Reagle has now used his talents to design a National Brain Game Challenge for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA).

Reagle and his wife, Marie, live in Tampa, Fla., and spent the last “1,000 days” of Marie’s mother’s life acting as caregivers during her descent into Alzheimer’s disease. Since that experience, “caregiving has been our deal,” said Reagle when Aging Today caught up with him by phone.

Earlier this year, Reagle and Marie met with AFA staff in New York, and convinced them that getting the nation involved in an online puzzle would be a fun, interactive way to spread the word about Alzheimer’s and its effect on caregivers, and promote the idea that mental workouts such as crosswords may help reduce the risk of contracting the disease. The Brain Game Challenge will help educate about the lifestyle choices that support brain health, alert the public to AFA as a resource for support services and information about memory concerns and raise funds for the organization’s programs.

For a $25 registration fee (which goes to AFA), people can enter to play the Brain Game Challenge and complete the four online puzzles, which “go live” September 25, 2011 at 3 p.m. First, second and third prizes are $5,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively; and more than a dozen $100 prizes also will be awarded.

Reagle’s Sunday puzzles may be known for their pop culture eccentricities, but this one has “nothing in it [that] anybody can’t understand,” he says. The AFA wanted to level the playing field to attract as many nationwide participants as possible, so Reagle made the puzzles less obscure.

“It’s about how sharp you are, not how smart,” Reagle says. “This is a thinking person’s contest to help the thinking impaired.”

In addition to the online brain game, AFA organizations across America will host Brain Game Challenge events in communities from September 10 to 24. These events will involve working with visual puzzles, math conundrums and memory games—activities geared toward all ages, abilities and interests.

To register for the game, and for more information about the AFA, visit For specific information about successful aging, visit

Subscribe to Aging Today

Follow Us

Follow American Society on Aging on Facebook   Follow American Society on Aging on LinkedIn   Follow American Society on Aging on Twitter   


From Possibility to Practice in Aging: Shaping a Future for All Event Details


Age Wave
Emeryville, CA
Fulton County Aging & Youth Services Department
Atlanta, GA
Post a job


posted on 10.06.2015

On Oct. 8, seniors will have free access to more than 400 national park sites across the United States.  Read More

posted on 09.24.2015

This job is too big for one person, one family or one company to tackle. Everyone needs to help if we plan on making a long-lasting change and help...  Read More