I am a puzzle lover. Everyday at lunch, I hover over the newspaper crossword puzzle. The TV Guide crossword and sudoku puzzles are quickly solved, and I keep puzzle books scattered around the house. Ive purchased PennyPress puzzle magazines for years. The Family Variety Puzzles & Games edition, true to its name, offers a fun variety of puzzles that will appeal to a wide range of puzzling interests.
Recommend this product?
Overall View of the Magazine
Family Variety Puzzle & Games is a magazine-style puzzle book that is published by PennyPress. It measures 7 1/2 inches across by 10 3/4 inches high and is 3/8" inch thick. The newest edition I currently have at my elbow is 178 pages with 345 puzzles. The paper is reminiscent of newspaper, and the puzzles are printed in black ink. Sometimes when holding the book or if rubbing the fingers over the pages, black ink might transfer to the fingers.
There is a Table of Contents that lists all the puzzles alphabetically by their name (ex: Alphabet Soup, Bowl Game or Codewords). The page numbers where these puzzles are located are printed to the right of the puzzle name. At the back of the magazine are solutions to every puzzle.
Each puzzle comes with an explanation of how to solve it. The explanations, for the most part, are easy to understand. Some of them require a couple of readings if the puzzles are more complicated. The letters and numbers in the puzzles are large and bold for easy reading. Each puzzle page lists the page where the puzzle solution is located.
In this edition there are 142 different types of puzzles. I dont have room in the review to describe every puzzle; but here are some of my favorites. All the puzzles described in this section have between two and seven puzzles for each puzzle type in the book.
The alphabet is displayed across the top of the page. Each letter of the alphabet is used once in the puzzle below. The puzzle contains 26 rows of letters, and each row is 13 letters wide. Twelve of the 13 letters are already filled in. The challenge is to fill in the one missing letter to form a word five or more letters long on each of the lines.
Anagram Magic Square
There are 25 squares holding scrambled 5-letter words. There is also a list of clues beneath the puzzle numbered Clue #1 through Clue #25. Each scrambled word answers one of the clues. Unscramble the five-letter word, match it to a clue, and write the number of the clue in the square. If you have correctly completed the puzzle, all the Clue Numbers, when added, will equal the number 65 across each row and the number 65 down each column. To make this even more intriguing, at the bottom of the page are 25 dashes. Take the first letter of each unscrambled word and place it on the dash matching the Clue Number. An Anagram Magic Saying will appear.
Brick by Brick
A diagram of 15x15 empty squares is provided with a list of Across and Down clues (like a crossword puzzle). Also included is a selection of bricks. The bricks are 3 squares across by 2 squares down, forming a rectangle of 6 letters or some letters with black squares. Decipher the clues and position the bricks in the puzzle diagram to solve the puzzle.
This is my favorite puzzle! An empty crossword diagram is in the middle of the page, except the numbers in the squares correspond to a letter of the alphabet. For example, the number 1 might equal the letter P of the alphabet, the number 2 might be letter E, etc. To help you keep track of which number equals which letter of the alphabet, at the left are boxes marked 1 - 26, and each of these spaces corresponds to one letter of the alphabet. To the right of the puzzle is a list of the alphabet (A - Z), and as the letters are discovered, they are crossed off the list. Each puzzle has one or two letters filled in (perhaps the letter T and the letter O). The object of the puzzle is to unravel the code and fill in the crossword puzzle with the correct letters of the alphabet to form words.
The puzzles vary in size, starting with small puzzles and working toward larger ones. Each puzzle works the same way, though. Clues are provided, solve them and fit the answers into a puzzle grid. The grid is always three words across. Place the answer to the first clue in the first box. Then, dropping one letter from that answer, scramble the letters in that answer to form the second clue answer. Take the second answer, drop a letter from it, and use the remaining letters to find the answer to the third clue. The dropped letters are inserted into two columns and will form two mystery words when the puzzle is correctly solved.
A diagram resembling a flower is where the name of this puzzle comes from. The outside petals of the flower are numbered to match the clues beneath the diagram. Instead of a crossword puzzle that lists clues as Across and Down ... this puzzle lists the clues as Clockwise and Counterclockwise. The answers to the clues are entered in the flower diagram, working in a curve from the outside toward the flower center. Each number in the flower has two 5-letter answers, one that reads clockwise and one that reads counterclockwise.
Each puzzle opens with a paragraph-long story that introduces characters and their situation. For instance, in one of the puzzles in this book, there are five disk jockeys. It is your job to unravel the clues presented to match each disk jockey to the radio station, FM station frequency, and the type of music played. Each puzzle is different and includes charts to help sort out the clues.
Each diagram has columns of letters in the upper half and a crossword grid in the bottom half. The letters in each vertical column will fit in the crossword squares directly beneath it. All you need to do is figure out which letter, fits in which square. When the letters are filled in correctly, the crossword reveals a quotation that reads left to right.
I enjoy Word Seeks that are not traditional ... they have to offer something different than simply circling words from a word list. Here are some examples of the different types of Word Seek puzzles: 1) There is a list of blank lines with the number of letters in each word at the end of the line. The last letter of the first word, forms the first letter of the second word, and so on. Find the words in the puzzle. 2) One puzzle has two word search diagrams that contain many words. The object is to find the ten words common in both puzzles. 3) Another puzzle has the vowels missing in the diagram. As you search out the words in the list, fill in the missing vowels. 4) All the words in the list of one puzzle are the cities and towns from a mystery state. After all the words are circled, the remaining letters will form the name of the state.
Even More Puzzles
Here are some more puzzles. I dont do these as often, but they do offer a challenge. Like the above section, there are several puzzles for each puzzle type in the book.
Each puzzle has a theme, such as Chefs Gear or Maps. These puzzles involve letter substitution. A list of words pertaining to each theme is written with different letters of the alphabet substituting for the real letters. For example, for the words BATTY and DAIRY, in the puzzle the words might be written as PREEZ and GRVBZ.
These puzzles are also based on letter substitution. Each letter of the alphabet has been swapped for another letter. For example, the letter A may now be called the letter J, the letter B may now be called the letter Q. Break the code to read the short paragraph messages.
This is similar to a crossword puzzle. Except that in each square, up to three letters are inserted to solve the answers to the Across and Down clues.
Something like a crossword puzzle but without clues. A word list is provided, divided into how long the words are (5 letters, 6 letters, 7 letters, etc.). Fit the words into the grid framework so that the words correctly intersect each other.
Another challenging word puzzle. A grid of squares has numbers sprinkled through it. For each number, there is a list of words. All the words for each number begin with the same letter (ex: # 1 words might all begin with the letter T). Find the # 1 on the grid and place the first letter on the square marked # 1, then fit all the # 1 words in the puzzle, writing them in any direction. When the puzzle is done, all the words should fit into the grid.
A list of clues is on the left. At the right of each clue is a series of lines to indicate how long the answer is. In a box called the Syllabox is a selection of letter combinations that are put together to form words that match the clues. For example, the Syllabox might contain these letter combinations: AN, ATE, CAL, CEL, DAR, EN, GO, MENT, TIOUS. The clue might read: Keeping track of time. Next to the clue is a number in parentheses (in this case the number 3). The number 3 indicates that three groups of letters are needed to form the answer. In this case the answer would be CALENDAR formed from CAL EN DAR.
Puzzles for the Family
This book contains a huge assortment of puzzles. Some puzzle types have more than one puzzle, and other puzzles are one-of-a-kind. I find that most of the puzzles are aimed at middle-school age children through adult. There are some puzzles for young children, such as the Mirror Image diagrams where one has to find the twelve differences between the two pictures. However, the majority of the puzzles involve word play or a knowledge of math.
While on vacation, several children at a family gathering saw my puzzle book and asked if they could do the puzzles. The younger children (ages 7 - 8) enjoyed the picture puzzles. The older children (ages 10 - 13) found the Word Seek puzzles fun.
I would say that this book would mostly appeal to teenagers and adults. The huge amount of different puzzles offers a great variety of mind challenging entertainment.
I buy Family Variety Puzzles & Games editions at my local pharmacy or department store. Each copy sells for $4.99 U.S. / $6.50 Canada. If you wish to subscribe to the magazine, it costs $45.92 U.S. / $50.92 outside the United States, and eight issues of the magazine are included in the subscription. Purchasing this magazine via subscription actually costs more than a single copy purchased at my local store (no doubt postage costs are included in the subscription price).
The puzzles in Family Variety Puzzles & Games are abundant and entertaining. Since the magazine is easy to tuck into a totebag, knapsack, suitcase or large purse, this is a great magazine to take on the go. Bring it on vacation, to the doctors office, or to jury duty. I carry mine around the house and even bring it with me when I sit on the glider out back. Puzzle fun is at my fingertips!
I hope you have found this review useful.
Enjoy your day,
Please read my other reviews:
PennyPress Tournament Variety Puzzles
PennyPress Masters Variety Puzzles
PennyPress Approved Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords
TV Guide Magazine
Oxford DecoFile Magazine Holders
EraserMate Pen with erasable ink
Papermate ComfortMate Mechanical Pencil
Papermate Sharpwriter Mechanical Pencil
Papermate Magic Rub Eraser
Pentel Click Eraser
Tombow Correction Tape
Mighty Bright Light
Ott-Lite Flex Arm Plus Lamp
Copyright 2006 Dawn L. Stewart