The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that there’s a new puzzler on the block – or in the puzzles section of our website to be more precise. Enter Peter Hooton, maths teacher by day and Mensa puzzle setter as time allows. Thanks to Peter’s penchant for devising fiendish brainteasers, we now have a new puzzle on the Mensa website every day. But now, we turn the tables and put some questions to him…
What led to your ‘second career’ as a puzzle setter?
The backstory is that I’m a maths teacher at Stanley High School in Southport. The year before COVID-19 I had a really enthusiastic Year 7 class, who were very bright. To stretch them in the lessons (and to keep them enthusiastic), I started producing maths and logic puzzles related to the topics we were covering at the time. As these became more popular, I started producing word problems for my form to solve in the mornings. Then one of my pupils suggested that I should write a book of puzzles!
So the Puzzle-a-Day idea was born?
The idea grew and the same group of pupils set me the challenge of writing a ‘Puzzle Calendar’ featuring an original puzzle each day. It was then that we went into lockdown and I found myself in need of a project. So, I started writing up my puzzles and then developing more and more until I had enough for a calendar – it took me about three to four years but I really enjoyed it.
How did the Puzzle Calendar end up on Mensa’s desk?
I’m a member of British Mensa and back in March I read in the member magazine IQ that they were looking for people to help provide puzzles. I answered that ad by sending a selection of mine to the Mensa team, who liked what I had produced. We then agreed to publish the calendar on a daily basis on the Mensa website.
We’re very happy to have you on board. So what’s next?
About the same time, I was referred to Colin Packer, who heads up the Mensa Puzzle Panel – a band of intrepid puzzle setters, who provide a range of braintinglers for the ‘Mind Games’ section of the magazine. As a result, I now contribute to the magazine too. I’m also aiming to write a second calendar for 2025 – I’m up to 160 puzzles so far. I’d love to do more but puzzle setting does take time and I do have a full-time teaching job and a family!
How fiendish are your mindbenders?
The Puzzle Calendar ones are mainly ‘fun’ puzzles that should be solvable in about 10 to 15 minutes. My contributions to IQ are a bit more involved and take longer to solve – and longer to create.
You can have a go at Peter’s puzzles here, but don’t blame us if you get hooked!