Boost Your Brain Power With These Tricky Puzzles

Your brain isn’t a muscle—in fact, it’s mostly fat!—but the right kind of mental exercise can help keep it in shape. These puzzles are designed to give your problem-solving, reasoning, and concentration skills a workout. And they come in varying degrees of difficulty, so pace yourself!

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Brain games - woman solving puzzle
Photo: Shutterstock

Brain Games to Give Your Grey Matter a Good Workout

Doing a crossword or a Sudoku every day to keep your mind sharp may seem like a recent concept. In fact, people have been challenging themselves with brain games as far back as 3,600 years ago, when the ancient Egyptians developed math problems on papyrus and wooden tablets.

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Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #1: Counting Digits

How many times does the digit 5 occur in the numbers from 1 to 100?

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Marcel Danesi

Answer #1

Twenty times. The digit 5 appears 10 times as a last digit (5, 15, 25 … 95) and 10 times as a first digit (50, 51, 52 … 59).

Can you pass this brainteasing colour quiz?

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Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #2: Match Play

The grid contains matches of different sizes, any of which may be completely unburned, partially burned, or completely burned. Matches burn from the head (the red end) to the tail without skipping segments. The numbers outside the grid indicate the number of burned segments in the corresponding row or column. Can you shade in the burned segments to “match” the numbers?

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Fraser Simpson

Answer #2

(See above.)

How many of these general knowledge quiz questions can you answer?

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Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #3: Lost Time

Sophie and Caroline made arrangements to meet at a café at 2 p.m. Sophie thinks her watch is 25 minutes fast, although it is actually 10 minutes slow. Caroline thinks her watch is 10 minutes slow, while it is actually 5 minutes fast. What will happen if they both aim to arrive exactly on time?

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Marcel Danesi

Answer #3

Sophie will be 35 minutes late. Caroline will arrive at 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes ahead of time.

See if you can match these adjectives with their proper definitions.

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Brain Game #4: Meteor Showers Bring Spring Flowers

Space dust has landed on Earth, carrying with it seeds for exotic new alien flowers. One of them still lacks a name. If the xenobotanists follow the same rules they used to create the other terms, what should they call the last flower?

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Answer #4

Cosmofilium jupibristo. The first half of the top term tells the colour of the flower’s centre; the last half is the petal colour. The first half of the bottom term tells the shape of the flower’s centre; the last half is the shape of the petals.

Test your vocabulary with our Canadian slang quiz.

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Brain Game #5: Quick Crossword

Place the words listed below in the crossword grid.

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Answer #5

(See above.)

Can you solve these printable crossword puzzles from the pages of Reader’s Digest Canada?

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Marcel Danesi; illustration: iStock

Brain Game #6: The Long and Short of It

Six neighbourhood children—Leisha, Benito, Delia, Charlotte, Weldon, and Zina—were measured yesterday. Weldon is taller than Delia but shorter than Zina. Leisha is taller than Benito but shorter than Delia and Weldon. Benito is not the shortest. List the kids in order of height from tallest to shortest.

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Marcel Danesi

Answer #6

Zina, Weldon, Delia, Leisha, Benito, Charlotte.

Here are 20 printable word searches to download for free.

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Roderick Kimball

Brain Game #7: Bubble Math

A whole number between one and seven belongs in each of the seven bubbles. Each number occurs once. The sums of some of the numbers are revealed in the areas where their bubbles overlap. Can you figure out which number goes in each bubble?

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Roderick Kimball

Answer #7

(See above.)

You don’t need to be a math whiz to find these Pi Day jokes funny!

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Darren Rigby

Brain Game #8: Crosshairs

None of the white squares in this diagram have their edges lined up. One of the squares is a different size from the others. Can you find it?

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Darren Rigby

Answer #8

(See above.)

Can you pass this quiz of fourth grade science questions?

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Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #9: Family Relations

Carmela receives a text message from an unfamiliar number, so she texts back, “Who is this?”

The strange response: “It’s one of your female relatives. Your mother’s mother is my father’s mother-in-law.” Even assuming that this information is true, it doesn’t help Carmela pinpoint an individual, since there are two relationships it could describe. What are they?

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Marcel Danesi

Answer #9

Sister or first cousin.

Know your way around a kitchen? Test your knowledge of cooking terms.

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Brain Game #10: Word Sudoku

Complete the grid so that each row, each column, and each three-by-three frame contains the nine letters from the black box at the top. The hidden nine-letter word is in the diagonal from top left to bottom right.

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Answer #10

(See above.)

Test your knowledge of these common crossword puzzle answers.

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Darren Rigby

Brain Game #11: More or Less

Place the hexagons below into the pyramid so each number is either greater than the sum of the two numbers below it or less than the difference between them. For instance, if two adjacent numbers were 20 and 50, any number higher than 70 or lower than 30 could be on top of them. (And no, do not turn 98 upside down to make it 86!)

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Darren Rigby

Answer #11

(See above.)

Need a bit of a breather? Here’s a roundup of our best riddles for kids.

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Brain Game #12: Coffee Addicts

Kate and Faizal both believe that they need a cup of coffee every three hours to stay awake and function. They both drink their first cup at 8 a.m. and another one every three hours thereafter until they go to sleep. Considering the following facts, who is spending more on coffee each week?

  • Kate stays up until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Faizal stays up until 10 p.m. every day.
  • Kate pays $3 per cup of coffee. Faizal drinks higher-grade organic coffee and pays $4 per cup.
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Answer #12

Faizal. He spends $140 per week, while Kate spends $111.

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Happy Campers Puzzle

Brain Game #13: Happy campers

You just bought nine beautiful lakeside campsites, which you can rent to campers with tents for $20 per campsite per night. You can also upgrade the sites with electrical hookups. This will cost you $60 per campsite but will allow you to rent to RVers for $40 per night. Suppose you can always fill your campground to capacity. If you’re starting without any cash on hand, how many nights will pass before you’ll be able to upgrade all nine sites?

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Happy Campers Answer

Answer #13

Three. On the first night, you’ll host nine tents and make $180, which you’ll use to upgrade three sites. On the second night, you’ll host three RVs and six tents, earning $240, letting you upgrade another four sites. On the third night, you’ll host seven RVs and two tents, earning you more than enough to upgrade the last two.

Looking for more brain games? See how you fare against these tough trivia questions.

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Arithme-pick Puzzle
Fraser Simpson

Brain Game #14: Arithme-pick

Place one of the four basic arithmetic operations (+, –, ×, ÷) in each box to make a correct equation. All operations are performed from left to right, ignoring the mathematical order of operations. The result at each step must be a positive whole number. What’s the equation?

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Arithme-pick Answer

Answer #14

5 + 7 ÷ 3 × 9 – 4 = 32

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Suit Yourself Puzzle
Fraser Simpson

Brain Game #15: Suit yourself

The playing card suits in the cells above are placed according to a pattern. What’s the missing symbol?

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Suit Yourself Answer

Answer #15

Spade. Each suit has a numerical value: diamonds equal one, hearts equal two, spades equal three, and clubs equal four. Or, if you prefer, diamonds equal four, hearts equal three, spades equal two, and clubs equal one. Either way, each row and column adds up to ten, and the missing symbol is a spade.

Here are 15 history questions everyone gets wrong.

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Animal House Puzzle
Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #16: Animal house

How many pets live in my house if all of them are snakes except two, all are hamsters except two, and all are rabbits except two?

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Animal House Answer

Answer #16

One of each, for a total of three.

Can you guess the dog breed based on its puppy picture?

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Win or Lose Puzzle
Darren Rigby

Brain Game #17: Win or Lose

The Reds, the Grays, the Blues, and the Blacks have a round-robin tournament wherein each team plays each other team once, for a total of six games. The Blacks won more games than the Blues, and the Grays lost more games than the Blues. The Reds tied the Blacks, the only tie in the tournament (a tie counts as neither a win nor a loss). Who won the game of the Reds versus the Blues?

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Win or Lose Answer

Answer #17

The Reds. The Blacks tied one game, so they won a maximum of two games. They won more than the Blues, so the Blues won a maximum of one game. Since the Grays lost more times than the Blues, the Grays must have lost all three matches. The match that the Blues won must have been against the Grays, so the Blues lost the match against the Reds.

Ready for another Word Power challenge? This time, we’re testing your knowledge of royal terms.

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Quick Crossword Puzzle

Brain Game #18: Quick crossword

Place the words listed below in the crossword grid.

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Quick Crossword Answer

Answer #18

(See above.)

How well do you know your vehicle’s dashboard display? Take our car dashboard light quiz to find out.

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100-Word Mystery Puzzle

Brain Game #19: 100-word mystery

Lois and Helen, ­widowed sisters, lived together out in the country. Their habits never changed: up at dawn, breakfast, some housework and gardening until lunch. In the afternoon, Helen napped while Lois watched her shows—Helen never watched TV. Then Helen would clean the vegetables for dinner and Lois would cook. In the evening, they’d read before bed. One night before they turned in, a storm knocked out the power. Every­thing was pitch-black, and Lois began to panic. “What should we do?” she cried. Helen just smiled and kept reading. Why did Helen stay calm while her sister did not?

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100-Word Mystery Answer

Answer #19

Helen was blind.

Here are 35 medical trivia questions only geniuses will get right.

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Jake Loves Steak; Trish Loves Fish Puzzle
Samantha Rideout

Brain Game #20: Jake loves steak; Trish loves fish

Jacob enjoys steak so much that the probability that he’ll have it for dinner on any given evening is one in three. The favourite dish of his wife, Patricia, is fresh fish. The probability that she’ll have it for dinner on any given evening is one in two. Because Jacob and Patricia always dine together, they’ll never have steak and fish on the same night. On average, how many times in a 30-day month will they be having either steak or fish?

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Jake Loves Steak; Trish Loves Fish Answer

Answer #20

(See above.)

Find out the healthiest fish you can eat.

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Changelings Puzzle

Brain Game #21: Changelings

Each of the three lines of letters below spells the name of a fruit, but four letters from the first word are in the third line, four letters from the third word are in the second line, and four letters from the second word are in the first line. What are the words?

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Changelings Answer

Answer #21


Can you pass this quiz of fourth grade spelling words?

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Net Worth Puzzle
Marcel Danesi

Brain Game #22: Net Worth

Tamara has $20,000 saved up. If four-fifths of what Tamara has equals eight-ninths of what Martina has, how much money does Martina have?

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Net Worth Answer

Answer #22


Can you name these famous Canadian heroes?

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Sum-Thing Special
Fraser Simpson

Brain Game #23: Sum-Thing Special

Each letter from A through H has one of the eight values listed below, and no two letters have the same value. Which number goes with which letter to make all the equations true?

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Sum-Thing Special Answer

Answer #23

A = 6, b = 13, c = 1, d = 7, e = 16, f = 3, g = 5, h = 10

From daily crosswords to math puzzles, you’ll find hours of (free!) online fun on our Reader’s Digest Games channel.

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Jerry Mander Strikes Again Puzzle
Roderick Kimball of Enigami Fun

Brain Game #24: Jerry Mander Strikes Again

Your name is Jerry Mander, and you must draw your town’s voting districts so that George Greene becomes dogcatcher rather than Barbara Blue. To do that, Greene must win the majority of the city’s five voting districts. Each district comprises three households. This map shows how each of the town’s 15  households will vote (the tree represents a park that’s not in any district). The catch: The three households in each district must share at least one border with at least one other household in the district. Can you draw the five districts in a way that guarantees Greene defeats Blue?

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Jerry Mander Puzzle
Roderick Kimball of Enigami Fun



If you enjoyed these brain games, see if you can pass our great Canadian trivia quiz.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest