Lucy Worsley


12 Yard for Channel 5, 22 June to 14 September 2023 (13 episodes in 1 series)


After applying as individuals, top puzzlers are randomly assigned to teams of three. They play a number of rounds, before the best team goes head-to-head-to-head to find one winner.

Puzzling Lucy Worsley welcomes us with open arms.

The host is Lucy Worsley, a familiar figure from other Channel 5 programmes - mostly about her day job as head curator at the royal palaces.

Puzzling The set: contestant brains on the left, Lucy by the big screen.

In Other Words is the first round. It's explained like this: "For each puzzle, you'll be given a category and some words. You must find a synonym for each of the highlighted words to uncover a famous title, name, or phrase."

Puzzling Here's an example.

Five questions for each team, two points for a correct answer; the other team can steal errors for a bonus point.

Pressure Points comes next. Players see two similar images, and an instruction, which should lead to a number. This is a timed event, the player on the left starts, and will keep playing until they get a question right. Two points for the team for a correct answer, one point off for an error or a pass. The question in play when time expires just dies, no points gained or lost.

Puzzling Contestants must have been asked to talk through their working, so we might hear "One-two-three-four-five-six-seven, one-two-three-four-five, two fives plus two minus three, nine."

We note, with interest, that Pressure Points doesn't use figures. This is a brave choice, and may help to depress scores from people who are really good at maths.

Puzzling Standing up for Rule Breakers.

Rule Breakers comes next. A clue and four answers appear on the screen. Individually, the team select the answer that breaks a rule. One point for each player who gets the odd one out, and there's a further point if the team can identify what is the rule being broken. Questions don't go to the other team.

Puzzling A difference of opinion here, Geoffrey

Picture This. A round to test visual intelligence. "Every picture puzzle has a question attached to it." It's another timed round – two points for a right answer, and play passes to the next person. One point away for an error, and play stays with you.

Puzzling Which card is wrong?

Prior to this round, the show has been slow and a bit ponderous. By comparison, this round is fast and furious, questions come thick and fast, and the scores can really go up.

Memory Bank is the final competitive round. The teams are shown 15 words, and then given clues that can be solved with one or more of the words. Buzz in with the correct number(s), and it's one point per word; an error costs a point but the question won't be thrown over.

Puzzling Eight, four, five: New Model Army.

Whichever team has the fewer points at the end of this round is the night's losers, and those three players leave with our thanks and nothing more.

The winning team go back to the individual podia we saw in "Rule Breakers" to play Divide & Conquer. It covers everything the players have seen tonight – synonyms, sums, the many sorts of visual puzzles, and back to the memory bank to name some of the words from their number.

Each member of the winning team starts with the number of points they'd scored in the main game. One point for a correct answer, one away for an error – and the erring player is also wallied out of the next question. Winning scores determined presence in the play-off; the five highest scoring winners went straight through to the final, while the remaining six played off.

There was a little bit of first episode weirdness, as pictures in the show as a whole (and this round in particular) were too small to see. Different timeslot, too: the premiere was delayed by fifteen minutes for coverage of a news story about a submersible missing on a trip to the wreck of the Titanic, and more specifically the announcement that the submersible had been found destroyed with the loss of five lives. (By a rather macabre coincidence, Lucy's introduction to one of the rounds in that episode was a story about the original sinking of the Titanic.) They fixed the picture issue in later episodes, and let us play along at home.

Puzzling Back to show one for an almost indecipherable picture.

Inevitably, Puzzling attracted comparisons to Only Connect, BBC2's behemoth of a quiz. Intellectual show, hosted by an upper-class blonde woman, drawing from the same contestant pool. But while Only Connect is a show of lateral thinking, Puzzling tests very orthogonal skills - you might be great at the memory round, but struggle on the sums. The winner of each episode has to prove their worth in some very different challenges.

We were impressed with the way Puzzling chose to foreground women and LGBTQIA+ folk, many shows had a majority of women and even more gay men. While the balance of the show could use some fine-tuning, the format was basically sound.




Developed by Jack Borgeat, Matt Floyd, Nick Mather

Theme music

According to the credits, original music by Possessed Music Box and Sitting Duck

Web links

My5 programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review


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