App Recs: Brain Games

Inevitably, in quarantine, I’ve been spending a lot more time on my phone. I don’t want to! I don’t mean to! But it happens!

Because I know that phone time can quickly become mindless (at best) and toxic (at worst), I’ve learned to carefully curate the apps that I keep on my phone and spend time using.

Continue on to read about some of the “brain” games that I’ve been playing!


I’ve been using Duolingo on and off for several years now. I love learning new languages, and Duolingo is an approachable and, at this point, comfortable platform for exploring this interest.

I will admit that it’s not the best way to learn a language completely from scratch. I use it mostly to brush up on my Spanish and Japanese (both of which I started learning before using Duolingo) and to learn other Romance languages (like French, Italian, and Portuguese). I’ve struggled with using it to learn additional languages – German, Korean, and Indonesian, specifically – completely from scratch. However, I figure that the first steps of learning a language are always going to be hard, and getting exposure, especially consistently (with a streak!), is better than not trying at all (which is what I would do without Duolingo)!

I will also admit that I haven’t really tried any other language learning apps or platforms. I’ve already put the money into Duolingo, so I’m frankly not inclined to spend money on any other apps (as much as a Rosetta Stone sale seems to call my name!).

If any other apps want to sponsor me, though… !

NYT Crossword


I actually started using the NYT Crossword app before quarantine. I was suckered in by an ad in the train station during one of many boring commutes – they got me! (Also, remember commutes?)

While I used to do crossword puzzles a lot more frequently during my commute, I still look forward to trying the Monday and Tuesday puzzles every week. (Oddly, though I’ve been doing these puzzles regularly over the past year or so, I can’t get past Wednesdays! They’re hard, OK!)

I’ve grouped Duolingo and the NYT Crossword puzzle apps in my phone under ‘Words’. If having a blog doesn’t already make it obvious, I love words!

Sudoku / Nonogram

For some non-word examples – I’ve spent many hours doing sudoku and nonogram puzzles on my phone during quarantine!

I’ve been doing sudoku puzzles for as long as I can remember. I spent hours doing them in Brain Age on my Nintendo DS, did them on paper, tried many other apps on my phone throughout the years, but have since settled into my favorite (pictured above).

On the flip side, I had tried nonogram puzzles once before, but had not done them in years when quarantine started. The version that I tried in the past was actually a lot more complicated, involving different colors per puzzle. Once day, while scrolling, I found out that the sudoku app developers also make a nonogram app, so I gave it a shot!

From that point, and for the next week or so afterwards, I was doing nonogram puzzles 24 hours a day. Back when I was bringing my phone to bed, I stayed up until 4 A.M. doing nonograms on multiple nights. My sleep was suffering, but I couldn’t stop doing them!

Though my obsession has since faded, my appreciation for nonogram puzzles has not. I wanted to mention them here because they aren’t very well known, but have tangled my brain in knots just as much, if not more, than crossword or sudoku puzzles. If you are a fan of these, I highly recommend giving nonograms a shot!

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