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As the recession takes a toll on print media, magazines have been busy looking for new ways to drum up cash and stay in the spotlight. Sadly, they don't have much to show for their efforts. The once unmalleable line between art and advertising has been getting blurrier by the day, leading purists to point their fingers at publications like ESPN and Us Weekly for gussying up their front pages with ads meant to look like actual articles. Esquire's silly "blinking" issue last year, which featured a computer chip embedded in the cover, earned the title some press, but it didn't exactly boost circulation. But with print publications starved for cash to the point of emaciation, are there any gimmicks that will lure readers to newsstands?

Not as of yet. In the latest attempt by a magazine to remain relevant, J.J. Abrams, the Lost and Alias creator—and now Wired "guest editor"—has hidden a bunch of clues inside the May issue of the nerd mag, leading readers on a wild goose chase more complicated than mapping out a timeline for one of Abrams' shows. "The great thing about this issue is that none of the puzzles work online," explained Wired's editor, Chris Anderson, just as the issue was coming out.

Unfortunately, some production geek figured out the puzzle before the issue had even cooled on the shelves, so the whole game was sort of rendered moot within hours. But it did turn out to be a convenient allegory for Wired itself, a techie magazine that's been rendered moot thanks to the Web.

A Magazine With a Puzzle Buried Inside [NYT]