the short poems
are the hardest
to write,
change one word
and the whole poem

– Atticus

Creating your own logic puzzle is no different. Forget one word, and your puzzle turns into the next Sphinx’s riddle.


Step 1. 

Draw a simple grid and make up a scenario.

For example,

5 company managers called the headquarters. I’ll pencil in the managers’ telephone numbers as something known, and the aim of the puzzle will be to deduct and fill in the following information: managers’ names, departments, where they are from (place) and why they’re calling (documents needed) and other information. The grid will have the following headings:

Grid for business English task

Now assign different values to each of the five managers, i.e. fill in the grid with particular information. To make your puzzle more learning rich, try to incorporate particular vocabulary you’d like your students to focus on.


Name: Marko, Jill, Basile, Steven, Alison

Department: Finance, Marketing, HR, Procurement, Legal, Sales

Calling from: Germany, Montenegro, Australia, UK, France

Documents needed: a certificate of origin, RFT, a balance sheet, TOR, a performance appraisal form

Other information: can see or notice details very well; very hard working and enthusiastic; sensible; has a lot of energy, drive and motivation; can speak easily, confidently and well

Step 2.

After you’ve filled in the grid, work backwards and create clues for your students to deduce the values for each character. My students are practising telephone conversations at the moment so I’ve included a couple of clues in the form of messages. For example,

“Hi, this is Alison. I have some questions regarding the tender documents for your project. Please call me when you are free. Thank you.”

“Hi, this is Alison again. I’m back to London. I’m not sure if you got my first message so I’m leaving one more. We need to straighten out the formal invitation to suppliers to submit a bid. Can you call me when you have a chance? Thank you.”

“Hi, this is Basile. I have some questions regarding the scope of work in the template you sent me on Monday. I might not be at my desk tomorrow – we’re celebrating La Toussaint, so feel free to call me on my cell phone.”

“Hi, this is Jill. I’ve double checked the documents you sent. Could you please check with the production department if they have a document declaring where the goods were produced? Thank you.”

“Hi, this is Marko again. I’m not sure if you got my first message so I’m leaving one more. I have some questions regarding your statement of financial position. Can you call me as soon as possible? Just in case, the country code starts with 3. Thank you.”

“Hi, this is Steven. We need some information on the last performance review by tomorrow. I might not be available till evening so please send an email instead. Please copy Alison from the procurement department.”

“Hi, this is Steven again. Please copy the financial manager from Montenegro. Thank you!”

“Hi. This is Basile again. Just in case, the country code is double three five.”

The procurement manager is a go-getter.

Jill is a natural salesperson; she has the gift of the gab.

The HR manager is a really down-to-earth person.

The HR manager’s phone number is nine digits long.

Basile is an eager beaver.

The financial manager has eagle eyes.

The sales manager is calling from down-under.

The United Kingdom country code +44 is followed by an area code.

To make your clues more challenging, mix in some clues that refer to several characters.

Test solve the puzzle to make sure it works, and get rid of redundant clues which lead to the same conclusion.

Step 3. 

It’s always a good idea to have someone test solve your puzzle for accuracy.

(A huge thank you to my courageous friend Tracy who kindly agreed to test my ‘Sphinx’s riddle’ with her students!) 

Puzzle it out:

Print enough copies of the grid and clues for your students – one set per 2-3 students. (If you teach business English students and would like to try my puzzle with them, click the Puzzle_grid and clues to download the clues). Cut the clues into strips. Give your students enough time to read the clues and fill in the grid (about 15-20 minutes).

Happy puzzling!

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