An exclusive feature of the Codebook, the Tips & Tricks Pencil Puzzles were developed by Editor in Chief Chris Bieniek in 2001. "I always want the readers to feel like they're getting their money's worth out of the magazine," he explains, "and I came up with the idea of the Pencil Puzzles as a way to slow them down—to keep them from flipping through the entire package and getting to the last page of the book too quickly. I also thought it would be great if people could physically interact with the magazine—you know, get them to stop and maybe take a half-hour to figure out this thing, and be pleasantly surprised by the results."
The basic concept is very simple. In order to solve the puzzle, you examine clues that are labeled with letters and numbers, then you fill in little squares on a large grid in the locations specified by those letters and numbers. Don't worry—the Pencil Puzzles don't require any problem-solving, deductive reasoning or knowledge of trivia. There are no math or language skills involved. If you can fill in a square, you can solve the puzzle. As you get further into it and more of the squares get filled in, a secret picture will eventually be revealed. Most of them are images of your favorite video game heroes, although we do slip in a few unexpected characters from time to time.
The element of surprise makes the Pencil Puzzles more entertaining than writing down words or rearranging numbers, the way you would in a traditional puzzle like crosswords or Sudoku. We've also been told that the process of completing a puzzle is "soothing" and "relaxing," even for people who are not into video games and may not recognize the characters in the puzzles. Over the years, we have received letters from Pencil Puzzles fans around the world, including schoolteachers who wanted to hand out the puzzles to their students in the classroom!
If you want to try them out for yourself, here are two Pencil Puzzles in PDF form for you to download. These puzzles are exclusive to www.TipsTricks.com and have never appeared in the magazine. Print them out, grab a pencil and follow the instructions; you'll see why they're so much fun. And if you like them, pick up a copy of the Tips & Tricks Codebook at your local store or newsstand; every issue includes four different Pencil Puzzles, and you never know what they will reveal!
Click to download PUZZLE A
Click to download PUZZLE B