Approved Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords Magazine

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Puzzles for Everyone -- Let's have some fun!

May 2, 2003 (Updated Jun 19, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Excellent puzzle variety, lots of puzzles for all skill levels, cheap entertainment, portable, good fun!

Cons:Not waterproof (grin)

The Bottom Line: This is my favorite PennyPress Variety Puzzle collection.

I enjoy puzzles and word games ... morning, noon and night. I’ve purchased PennyPress puzzle magazines for years. If you’ve purchased Dell puzzle magazines, you’ll notice that some of the puzzles are similar to those in the PennyPress Variety Puzzle editions. However, in my opinion, PennyPress offers greater puzzle variety. If I have a choice, I choose PennyPress over Dell. Although for crossword puzzles, Dell is the best! The Approved Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords edition offers a fun, varied selection of puzzles.

I thought it interesting to compare three of the different types of “Variety Puzzle” magazines published by PennyPress (the “Tournament”, “Master’s”, and “Approved” editions). You can find links to the other two reviews at the bottom of this page.

Overall View of the Magazine

Each issue is 98 pages and measures 7 1/2 inches across by 10 3/4 inches high and is about a 1/4 inch thick. This puzzle book has fewer pages than the other two Variety puzzle books I’m reviewing; however, it offers a greater variety of puzzles and more of them. 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, the black ink might transfer to the fingers. If you fold the puzzle magazine and leave it that way for a few days, the magazine tends to retain the fold crease. Open the cover to view the Table of Contents. In the issue I’m looking at, the puzzles are categorized first by the title “Variety” and followed by the categories “Crossword Puzzles” and “Special Crosswords”. The Table of Contents lists the name of the puzzle and the page number where the puzzle is located. At the back of the magazine are solutions to every puzzle. (Note: The Table of Contents for the Crosswords isn’t an accurate count of the puzzles ... some of the puzzles are counted twice. The Specialty Crosswords are also listed under the regular Crossword Puzzles.)

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.

What types of puzzles will I see in the magazine?

In this edition there are 84 different types of puzzles and 192 total puzzles. I don’t have room in the review to describe every puzzle; but here are some of them.

Crossword Puzzles
This puzzle section is divided into five categories: Easy – 7 puzzles, Medium – 7 puzzles, Hard – 3 puzzles, Expert – 5 puzzles, Diagramless – 6 puzzles. These are traditional crossword puzzles; find the answers to the clues and insert them Across and Down into the puzzle grid.

Specialty Crosswords
There are six types of specialty crossword puzzles and a total of eight puzzles.
Brick by Brick – (1 puzzle) – Build a crossword puzzle in "6-letter brick sections”
Clues in Twos – (1 puzzle) – Fill in two different answers for some of the same clues
Codewords – (3 puzzles) – Letter substitution in a crossword-style grid; no clue words
Double Trouble – (1 puzzle) – A crossword puzzle; split the answers into syllables and determine which syllables go in which squares
Full Circle – (1 puzzle) – A circular crossword puzzle
Moves & TV – (1 puzzle) – A theme crossword where you fill in missing words to the clues
Stoplines – (1 puzzle) – Uses lines instead of black squares to separate words

There are six Crostic puzzles in this edition. First solve the clues and fill the answers onto the dashed lines beside the clues. Each dashed line has a number written beneath it. Take the letters on the dashed lines and place them into the numbered squares of the crossword-style diagram. For example: The clue might read: “thick cookie” ... the answer is “shortbread”. If the “s” in the word shortbread has the number 53 beneath it, then insert the letter “s” in the square numbered 53 in the crossword diagram. When you are finished the puzzle, the crossword diagram forms a quotation. The first letter of every solved word, reading down, spells out the name and source of the quotation.

There are 18 Crypto-Family puzzles on three pages in this edition. This is a letter substitution code game. Each puzzle has a title that is a clue to the “family” of coded words, and an example of a word is given to indicate the type of words listed. Each list contains 10 coded words. For example, the title of the puzzle might be “Scuba Diving” and a word example might be “Oxygen”. The first coded word in the list might look like this: DTNEGUZ. In this instance, the D is a substitution for the letter S, the letter T is actually the letter N. When the code is solved, the word “Snorkel” is revealed.

There are 12 Framework puzzles on eight pages in this edition. The object is to insert words from the word list into squares to form interlocking words. This somewhat reminds me of Scrabble ... only the words are already formed. You just have to find out where to insert them. The word list is sorted by the length of the words: all the 3-letter words are together, the 4-letter words are listed together, etc.

Logic Puzzles
There are four Logic Puzzles in this edition. This is like the game Clue, only it’s in words. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat to unravel the puzzle. First, read the mini-story that introduces the characters and their situation. Beneath the story is a list of clues to help you deduct the who, where, what and sometimes when or how. Under the clues is a chart to help you sort out the characters and the questions you are asked to answer. For example, the Logic Puzzle might tell the story of five people who went to different resorts in different cities on vacation. The questions you need to solve are: Which person stayed at which resort in which city and how many days did they stay? The chart helps sort out the answers, so it’s not an impossible task.

Places, Please
There are two Places, Please puzzles in this edition. There is a grid of squares, and some of the squares have numbers in them. The numbers also appear in a list, and each number has words listed beneath it. The words from each group start on the matching numbered square in the grid and fan out in all directions in a straight line. For instance, in the word list under #6, there are listed five words all beginning with the same letter (Ex: they all start with the letter “s”). Place this same letter (the letter “s”) in the grid on the square marked with the #6. Then determine which direction those five words go in the puzzle (forward, backward, up, down, or diagonally). This is very challenging, because the letters will eventually blend with other letters from other words. When finished, the entire grid is filled with letters and all the words have been used.

Some of the Other Puzzles
Alpha Quotes – (1 puzzle) – Eliminate letters to reveal a quotation
Bingo – (1 puzzle) – Place 25 words in a grid so that words share a common letter in each row, column and diagonal
Fan Words – (1 puzzle) – Place answers to clues in a fan shape to reveal an 8-letter word
Headings – (1 puzzle) – Use the letters in each heading to complete a list of words
Fill-Ins – (2 puzzles) – Fill the given words into a crossword-style diagram
Flower Power – (1 puzzle) – Answers to clues go both clockwise and counterclockwise in a flower pattern
Key Words – (1 puzzle) – Fill in the missing letter in 10 words and then form a new 10-letter word with the letters added
Numberboxes – (1 puzzle) – Using the clues, fill the numbers 1-9 correctly into a grid
Quotefalls – (4 puzzles) – Choose the letters in each vertical column to go into the squares beneath that column to form a quotation
Sum Totals – (1 puzzle) – A mathematical crossword puzzle
Turn A Phrase – (1 puzzle) – Follow the letters through the maze to find the hidden quotation
Word Seeks – (3 puzzles) – Find the words amid the mix of letters

What does the magazine cost?

You can subscribe to Approved Variety Puzzles by visiting their website at or by purchasing the magazine and mailing in a subscription form. There are eight issues a year; five regular issues and one jumbo issue. Six issues a year in the United States cost $21.97 (or $39.97 for two years). Six issues a year at the international rate cost $26.97 (or 49.97 for two years). Purchasing this puzzle magazine in a store costs $2.99 U.S. / $4.50 Canadian per issue. I buy my puzzle magazines at the store. The cost savings via mail is negligible, and in my experience, unless specially packaged, magazines of this sort usually arrived ripped if sent through the mail.


The puzzles in Approved Variety Puzzles Plus Crosswords are abundant and fun and also include a nice assortment of crossword puzzles. This is a puzzle magazine to take on vacation, with you on jury duty, beside the pool, on a long car or plane trip, or anywhere. It easily fits into a bag. At less than $3.00 a copy (U.S. funds), it’s inexpensive entertainment that will bring hours of fun.

I hope you have found this review useful.

Enjoy your day,

Please read my other reviews:

EraserMate Pen with erasable ink

PennyPress Tournament Variety Puzzles

PennyPress Master’s Variety Puzzles

Mighty Bright Light

Stanley Contemporary Electric Pencil Sharpener

HON Metal Bookcase

Hoyle Table Games 2004 (software)

Hoyle Card Games 2003 (software)

Gateway 500X Desktop Computer

Dazzle 6-in-1 Card Reader

Belkin Home/Office Emergency Battery Backup

Copyright 2003 Dawn L. Stewart

Recommend this product? Yes

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