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When the COVID-19 began to shut down the world, Arlington resident Allegra Jabo was one of many who spent their newfound time working on puzzles.

“When everything first shut down for the pandemic and we were all inside waiting for the few weeks to be over, we started working on the puzzle we had bought for our canceled beach trip,” said Jabo.

As time progressed, people began finishing their puzzles and were looking for new ones. Jabo was one of these people, despite being in a small group of enthusiasts who had been swapping puzzles — so she decided to go bigger.

Jabo owns a business called The Science Seed, which offers a program designed to introduce science to preschool and early elementary school children. Before the pandemic, she was using the entryway of her home as a swap spot for her business. When her business shut down, along with schools, Jabo decided to turn her entryway into a swap spot for puzzles.

She called it the Douglas Park Little Free Puzzle Library, similar to the Little Free Book Libraries seen around Arlington and the rest of the country.

“At first, I was worried about maintaining our puzzle supply as we became more popular, but with so many people having time on their hands to clean out their houses, we continue to receive lots of donations,” said Jabo. There are now over 300 puzzles at Jabo’s house — all donations from other residents — and donations are still being accepted.

“To donate, [people] can drop off in the drop-off corner of our entryway,” said Jabo. “If they know of any missing pieces, they can put a Post-It on the box to let me know so I can add that information to the library note taped to the box.”

As the pandemic wanes and more things reopen, Jabo’s business will need her entryway back so she’s been looking for a new place to move the puzzle library.

“I do not plan on simply abandoning the library,” said Jabo. “I am actively working on finding a permanent home for the library and hope to move it into a community center or library branch.”

She said the experience of running the puzzle library has been both rewarding and surprising.

“The library’s success has been a surprise, and the many notes of gratitude I get online and in Post-It form have been truly lovely to receive during this crazy year,” said Jabo. “A woman visiting the other day told me the library has been her favorite part of the pandemic. It has been very rewarding and I’m grateful I’ve been able to do something seemingly so small to bring a little joy to puzzlers during this time.”

The Douglas Park Little Free Puzzle Library can be found at 1706 S. Lowell Street and is open 24/7 for puzzlers of all ages. More information and updates can be found on its Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Allegra Jabo

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Morning Notes

County Board Candidates So Far — “Announced Arlington County Board special election (to replace Erik Gutshall, who sadly was forced to resign while being treated for brain cancer) Democratic candidates… so far are: Barbara Kanninen; Chanda Choun; Nicole Merlene.” [Blue Virginia]

Arlington Allocates $300k for Emergency Help — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has allocated $300,000 from the FY 2020 budget to meet increased demand for emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be provided from the FY 2020 budget contingency fund to Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to County residents who experience sudden crisis.” [Arlington County]

Gov. Northam’s Reopening Conditions — “Gov. Ralph Northam offered what he called a ‘blueprint’ Friday for easing business restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lifting of restrictions will include a phased approach based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond a steady decline in new cases, the state will also have to increase testing and contact tracing, while ensuring hospitals have the necessary capacity, Northam said.” [InsideNova]

Group Urges Northam to Take More Action — “We respectfully request that you immediately implement the following low-cost, high-impact actions: Empower local governments… Maximize social distancing… Expand mask usage… Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to cheaply scale up testing… Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing… Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities… Implement ‘safe travel’ rules to prevent importation of new cases.” [EndCoronavirus.org, Google Docs]

Arlington History Jigsaw Puzzles — “In Arlington County there are locally-designated historic districts, which provide the greatest protection for our historic resources… In order to celebrate these locally designated districts AND to provide some relief during the COVID-19 quarantine/stay-at-home order from our local and state governments, Preservation Arlington has put together two collections of online puzzles.” [Preservation Arlington, Jigsaw Planet]

History of Arlington Meteor Caper — A dull black meteorite, found in Murray, Kentucky, in 1950, had gone missing from a Vanderbilt observatory display case, replaced by a suspicious-looking black-painted papier-mache rock… law enforcement sleuths had found fingerprints traced to former observatory employee and student Hugh Heefner Howard, 24. The perpetrator had brought it to his Arlington River House apartment at 1111 Army-Navy Dr., where our cops arrested him for grand larceny.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Puzzlefest 2012 (photo courtesy Arlington Public Library)Puzzle masters can try to put their skills to the test this Saturday while competing in the third annual Arlington Puzzle Festival.

At the Reed-Westover gym (1644 N. McKinley Road), from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., there will be a crossword tournament with puzzles by New York Times puzzlemaster Will Shortz and a Sudoku tournament with puzzles designed by five-time Sudoku world champion Thomas Snyder.

Lunch will be served and there will be speeches by the president of Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Karen Canon, and puzzle developer Todd Etter. Prizes will be awarded to the winners of each tournament.

The event is free to members of the Friends of the Arlington Public Library, and a $15 donation to the Friends group is requested for non-members. Participants can register online or at the door on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Photo courtesy of Arlington Public Library

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When thinking of head-to-head competitions, the Central Library’s quiet atmosphere may not seem like the obvious choice. Unless, of course, it’s part of the library’s annual Arlington Puzzle Festival.

This Saturday, November 3, the festival returns for a second year of words, logic, numbers and thinking. The mind games run from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Central Library’s (1015 N. Quincy Street) auditorium.

Crossword puzzles are provided by New York Times puzzlemaster Will Shortz and sudoku puzzles will be provided by U.S. and world champion sudoku solver Thomas Snyder.

The event is free for Friends of the Arlington Public Library members. A donation is suggested for non-members.

There will be speakers throughout the day, including professional crossword puzzle writer Matt Gaffney, the crossword tournament begins at 10:00 a.m. and the sudoku tournament begins at 1:30 p.m. The full schedule of activities throughout the day is listed online.

Registration for the crossword and sudoku competitions is available online, and will also be available at the door on a first come, first served basis.

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