As part of our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, we reached out to companies far and wide to explore as big a swathe of the puzzle/game world as we could. And a plethora of puzzle books arrived in response.
With eight in total to cover in this review, we’re going to work from simplest to toughest in terms of difficulty, whilst bundling some books with similar puzzles or styles of presentation together for ease of navigation.
So please enjoy as we peruse offerings from USA Today, the Puzzle Society, and Andrews McMeel Publishing.
We start our puzzle book journey with objectively the easiest type of puzzle in the group: word searches.
Posh Simple Word Search collects grids and lists of hidden words to test your word recognition skills. The different sizes, themes for puzzles, and variations of word search puzzles (like an Eiffel Tower-shaped grid!) across more than 100 puzzles will have you looping words to your heart’s content.
Factor in a spiral binding that allows you to lay each page flat as you solve, and you’ve got a perfect intro to puzzles.
From word searches to another iconic and traditional puzzle type: crosswords.
With fun, accessible clues and grids designed to test newer, less experienced solvers, Pocket Posh New Crosswords won’t stand in the way of a New York Times-level solver, but they will serve as a satisfying puzzle experience for solvers working their way up the difficulty ladder.
Featuring more than 50 puzzles each, these books are loaded with content created by The Puzzle Society’s pool of talented constructors. (All of whom are credited by name!)
For a step-up in difficulty and notoriety, check out USA Today’s Crossword Super Challenge.
Packed with 200 puzzles previously published in USA Today, this collection offers a range of difficulty levels depending on the constructor. And the names here are top-notch. Puzzly elites like Elizabeth Gorski, Martin Ashwood-Smith, Gail Grabowski, Frank Longo, and George Barany are featured in the collection, along with numerous contributions by USA Today‘s Crossword Editor, the inimitable Fred Piscop!
This array of 15×15 grids presents loads of different types of themed clues, serving as an ideal crash course in crosswords for solvers with a bit more experience but also have room to grow. Perfect for anyone who enjoys your local daily/weekly syndicated newspaper crossword.
It’s a little thick to make a great travel book — not as pocket-friendly as the Pocket Posh series — but it’s just right for an afternoon or two of cozy armchair solving.
We then move from one world-conquering puzzle style to another that more recently took the world by storm: Sudoku.
Another in the USA Today series of Super Challenge titles, USA Today’s Sudoku Super Challenge is armed to the teeth with 200 Sudoku puzzles to challenge any fan of the infamous puzzle juggernaut.
Each puzzle is ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 stars in terms of difficulty, so you’ll be solving your way through increasingly tricky number puzzles the deeper you get into this book.
And despite being packed with hundreds of puzzles, this one will easily fit into a pocket, purse, or carry-on for any trip.
Are you a Sudoku-savvy solver looking to test your number-placement skills in a new way? Posh Kurosu might just have what you’re seeking.
With dozens of examples of Kurosu puzzles — also known as noughts and crosses — this puzzle book packs a surprising amount of variety into a simple solving mechanic. Instead of nine digits to fill the grid, all you have are Xs and Os. And you can’t have more than two Xs or Os next to each other in any column, row, or diagonal.
This is the only kind of puzzle in this selection of puzzle books that I’d never encountered before, and it was a welcome change of pace to try my hand at something that felt familiar and yet fresh all at once. Posh Kurosu tests your logic and deduction chops in fun, unexpected ways.
After collections of Sudoku and Kurosu puzzles, it feels appropriate to follow up with a puzzle book loaded with puzzles that test your logic and deduction skills in other ways.
USA Today’s Logic Super Challenge fits the bill nicely, mixing traditional story-driven logic problems (complete with those iconic solving grids to help you weed out false paths) with other logic-based puzzles like Killer Sudoku, Battleships, and Domino Search.
All of these puzzles will bend your brain around corners as you try to hold multiple facts in your head at the same time, waiting for them to fall into place and reveal a new piece of the overall puzzle solution.
And with 200 logic problems in various forms, you certainly won’t run out of devious deduction puzzles anytime soon.
But if you’re looking for a unique solving experience, something that is as visually immersive as it is engagingly puzzly, then you can’t go wrong with Daria Song’s The Mysterious Mansion.
Mixing lushly illustrated scenes with black and white drawings meant for you to color in, this narrative puzzle book incorporates mazes, spot-the-difference games, word searches, and other puzzly endeavors in a story about one girl’s journey through a strange and confusing mansion.
Designed to relax, engage, and puzzle the reader in equal measure, this book is one you could lose yourself in for hours. The gorgeous full-color illustrations are a feast for the eyes, and the puzzles are seamlessly woven into the art and story of each scene.
Daria Song gleefully takes activity books to the next level with this beautiful puzzle experience, a fairy tale that you not only help write, but make your own by doing so.
[Note: I received a free copy of each puzzle book in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]
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