Puzzle magazines

“Puzzles boost verbal skills, cut dementia risk”, says a headline in the Wall Street Journal. No wonder the newsagents’ shelves are groaning with puzzle titles. Alan Geere heads off in search of solutions.

By Alan Geere

Puzzle magazines

Colossus Crosswords

What’s it about: ‘Premium crosswords from the puzzle experts’ – strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: October 2018 issue: 76 pages of 275mm x 200mm. Quality matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £2.60 cover price. Published monthly by Lovatts in Bournemouth.

Cover: Big picture of a sphinx with the coverline ‘Reveal the mystery’, some crossword artwork, cross-ref to neat puzzle icons on page two, a promo to a £2,000 jackpot, a small pic of the editor (Christine Lovatt, no less) and five mentions of the word ‘crossword’ in case you’re not sure what it’s about.

Content: Two pages of easy-reading from the editor, including a ‘light-hearted look at language’ and a disjointed What’s Inside. Lives up to its name with the first ‘Colossus’ going up to clue number 393 across. Huge well laid out crosswords plus other puzzles like ‘anagram square’ and ‘unravel the acrostic’. Interspersed with helpful talking points from past puzzles plus contents rather strangely hidden at the back among the answers.

Digital: A very presentable website has the predictable subscription links but also online puzzles, tutorials, a blog and clues to the publisher’s Australian origins and international reach. Front page push for Facebook, but a disappointing return of just 937 likes, link to a Twitter page that does not exist and some great ‘How To Do’ videos on YouTube, which have had nearly 200,000 views.

What they say: “We chose recently to discontinue this title in the UK market as sales of the magazine proved sluggish,” – publishers telling Facebook followers how it is after the new mag ‘Cluewords’ was pulled.

Verdict: One of a stable of four mags that have a professional, yet friendly feel. Puzzles for all abilities and attention spans all displayed clearly and with enough space to fill in the answers. Puzzle count: 49, including five prize puzzles, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 5.3p each.

Family Crosswords

What’s it about: ‘Includes skeletons, continuous, acrostics and more!’ – informative coverline.

Vital statistics: October 2018 issue: 132 pages of 240mm x 160mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £2.55 cover price. Published monthly by Keesing Media in London.

Cover: A happy, smiling young woman on some crossword artwork. Five coverlines including ‘Win £2,500 cash!’ which actually turns out to be two prizes of £1,000 and five of £100.

Content: A ‘hello and welcome’ on page two, including an invitation to ‘drop us a line’ and a promo for that cash competition. Then on to the crosswords, either one or two per page with a decent type face and generous boxes for the answers. Some puzzles are straightforward, others like the fiendish ‘Pieceword’ take some working out. Beautifully designed, easy-to-follow solutions pages at the back.

Digital: An educated guess at – the second half of the published email address – takes you to ‘Dit domein is gereserveerd’, courtesy of a Dutch hosting company. More Spotlight detective work leads to, which is not mentioned in the mag but turns out to be a neat website with videos, links to subscriptions of the stable of mags and even a link to download the ratecard. No obvious social media.

What they say: “In addition to doing puzzles, they [our readers] watch TV, read books, and enjoy knitting and gardening. More importantly, nearly all of them are in charge of the household budget.” – yes, we get the picture… reader profile in the media pack.

Verdict: A straightforward offer that will entertain puzzlers of all size and shape. That cash prize may be a lure but the real reward is in the value proposition with one of the best SPVs of the magazines inspected. Puzzle count: 120, including that cash prize competition, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 2.1p each.

High IQ Maths Challenges

What’s it about: ‘Exercise your brain!’ – strapline next to the Mensa logo.

Vital statistics: First edition (no date, but available from May 2018): 132 pages of 210mm x 146mm. Matt paper, gloss cover, perfect bound. £7.99 cover price. Published by Future in Bournemouth under licence from Carlton Publishing Group.

Cover: Artwork, much of it containing numbers, giving a good clue to what’s inside, along with the coverline ‘150 mind-bending puzzles’. Echoed on the back cover with addition of ‘improve your concentration and boost your brain power’.

Content: A ‘Welcome’ which gives the ominous news that the tests get tougher as the pages progress followed by four pages of ‘Introduction’ which give some clues to the “mental flexibility” required to solve the puzzles. Clear, even simplistic, artwork make the array of puzzles easy to follow even if not to complete. The answers at the back helpfully ‘show the workings’ so you need not be left in the dark even when you know the solution.

Digital: The bookazine has its own section on Future’s official subscription store, which lets would-be readers look inside. Mensa – ‘The High IQ Society’ – has its own website and social media but no direct links to the publication which bears its logo. No social media activity.

What they say: “Overseeing the promotion of bookazines through the relevant channels, including social media and blogging.” – editor Philippa Grafton explaining her role on LinkedIn (see ‘Digital’ above).

Verdict: Neatly constructed with stylised graphics and clear typography. Certainly a challenge for mere mortals, but will provide High IQ enthusiasts like Donald Trump (claims 156), Nicole Kidman (142) and Quentin Tarantino (160) with hours of fun. Puzzle count: 150, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 5.3p each.

Pocket Crosswords

What’s it about: ‘100 fun crosswords for all the family’ – strapline over the masthead.

Vital statistics: Issue 88 (no date, but available October 2018): 100 pages of 210mm x 147mm. Matt paper, card cover, stitched. £1.99 cover price. Published monthly by Beachcomber Magazines in Newton Abbot, Devon.

Cover: Big picture of a woman with a suitably quizzical expression, some crossword artwork, three coverlines including ‘win £500 cash!’ and that £1.99 price – twice.

Content: A welcome on page two with that £500 cash prize crossword. Your answer has to be sent in the mail (remember posting?) and will go in a pot with entrants from other ‘participating titles’. Full page and half-page ‘quick’ crosswords come thick and fast simply designed and adorned with spot magenta. Solutions at the back and a six-issues-for-five subscription offer via Unique Magazines.

Digital: Excited readers who follow the link to enter the prize puzzle online are greeted by ‘ is coming soon’, but probably not soon enough for the prize deadline. Publisher Beachcomber Magazines does not have a website, but Bromleigh House which also publishes puzzle magazines from Newton Abbot does. The website shows two directors who are also listed at Companies House for Beachcomber so maybe the two ventures are connected. No obvious social media.

What they say: “Puzzle magazines are unique in the sense that they have virtually no pass on readership. Once the puzzles are completed, the magazine has little value for the succeeding reader.” – spelling it out on the ‘Advertising Opportunities’ section on the Bromleigh House website.

Verdict: A handy size, even if you do need quite a big ‘pocket’, packed with straightforward crosswords. No frills or distractions but let down by the misfiring online entry. Puzzle count: 101, including the prize puzzle, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 2p each.


What’s it about: ‘The original and best!’ – strapline filling the page.

Vital statistics: October 2018 issue: 68 pages of 255mm x 185mm. Matt paper, card cover, stitched. £2.10 cover price. Published monthly by Puzzler Media in the puzzle hotspot that is Redhill.

Cover: A smiling woman – maybe attracted by the ‘£6,000 in cash prizes’ – some puzzle artwork, a strapline and Dr Who’s Tardis, for no good reason except to use the coverline, ‘It’s the nation’s favourite!’. All held together by the distinctive masthead that makes a question mark out of the ‘P’ in ‘Puzzler’.

Content: A welcome page from ‘Cassie’, who, thanks to our friends at LinkedIn, I discover is editor Cassie Lato, which makes much of previous prize winners, then into the action with puzzles galore. Crosswords, codewords, maze, sudoku, missing links, skeleton, wordsearch complement less well-known challenges like spiral, suguru and logistical. A smattering of bon mots quotes from the great and good plus the solutions lovingly crafted at the back.

Digital: Inside front cover promo to, which has an online shop, real-time puzzles with a timer to keep you focused, apps to download and subscriptions at every turn. Links to Facebook (3,863 likes) and Twitter (897 followers) as well as more Puzzler websites in Australia and New Zealand.

What they say: “Puzzles & Pastimes is a new and innovative magazine, incorporating the expertise of dementia specialists. Unforgettable.” – uhm… publishers making a point on LinkedIn.

Verdict: The ads for retirement living and adjustable chairs may give a clue to the readership but this is a vibrant, handy-sized magazine that has a puzzle for every interest, ability and attention span. ‘Original and Best’ is imprinted on every page and is no idle boast. Puzzle count: 84, including the ‘big cash competition’, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 2.5p each.

Take a Break’s Take a Puzzle

What’s it about: ‘Best for puzzles and prizes!’ – strapline above masthead.

Vital statistics: October 2018 issue: 68 pages of 290mm x 220mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £2.50 cover price. Published monthly by Bauer in London.

Cover: A smiling image-library family (thank you, Shutterstock) who could go with any of the 10 coverlines which emphasise the prizes on offer that apparently add up to ‘Over £10,000 in genuine prizes’.

Content: A rather plain contents splurge on page three including a two-paragraph letter from the editor that includes no less than four exclamation marks! Puzzles come tumbling out at you, mostly decorated by various shades of spot blue, and many with illustrations. Liberally sprinkled with those prize puzzles among a comprehensive range of teasers from the simple to the mind-boggling.

Digital: Take a Break’s six puzzle magazines have their own standalone website which has links to all the titles, but no original content. Links to Facebook (3,347 likes) and Twitter (3,239 followers).

What they say: “Builders, take note: women walking down the street are not interested in anything you have to say. So just shut the f*** up. Or say something that doesn’t make you look like an absolute thick piece of s***.” – words of wisdom on Twitter from editor Babetta Mann (our ast**isks).

Verdict: Packed with a huge variety of puzzles that use every part of the large-format pages. Put together with precision and imagination, although the use of typography does make it feel rather dated. Puzzle count: 108, including no less than 10 prize competitions, giving a Spotlight Puzzle Value (SPV) of 2.3p each.

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