Whether it’s for quiet relaxation time or simply to take a much-needed break from endless scrolling, there’s nothing quite like a good puzzle. The pastime made a swift comeback during the pandemic—Food52 saw an 800 percent increase in searches for puzzles in March 2020 compared to the prior year, and many suppliers struggled to keep up with demand—but unlike Houseparty hangouts and our fleeting obsession with sourcing sourdough starter, this is one quarantine trend that’s here to stay.
The latest fleet of design-led jigsaw puzzles look more like works of art than the tattered box you’d find in a vacation rental. In fact, Jiggy sets come with a tube of glue and a straight-edge tool to turn your creation into a framable masterpiece (no artistic flair required). Ahead, we’ve curated a few of our favorites—from the likes of Dusen Dusen and East Fork—to help you find the best puzzles, whether you’re looking for a 1,000-piece brainteaser or a quick and easy find for the littlest member of the family.
- For the design lover: Areaware Dusen Dusen Pattern Puzzle
- For summer vacation: Piecework Buns Out Puzzle
- For New Yorkers: New York Puzzle Company Jigsaw Puzzle
- For the road tripper: Cavallini Papers & Co. National Parks Map Puzzle
- For the budding artist: Jiggy for Anthropologie Puzzle and Glue Set
- For kids: Cucú Watermelon Wooden Puzzle
- For the traveler: Slowdown Studio Puzzle
- For the avid ceramist: East Fork Puzzle
Our Top Picks
For the Design Lover: Areaware Dusen Dusen Pattern Puzzle
You might recognize this curvy, abstract pattern by textile designer Ellen Van Dusen; it also appears on her custom-made kitchen cabinets. “It is from a phase I went through when I was into coding,” Van Dusen told Domino when she invited us inside her Brooklyn brownstone. “I can’t actually build anything on the Internet, but I just liked the idea of coming up with a rule and then following it in order to make something.” Bring home her signature futuristic pattern (without using a CNC router to cut your cabinet fronts) with this 500-piece puzzle, made in collaboration with Areaware.
For Summer Vacation: Piecework Buns Out Puzzle
Vivid, chromatic, and oddly satisfying, this 1,000-piece backyard barbecue puzzle from Piecework features a summer spread of hot dogs, cheeseburgers, condiments, fruits, and a tantalizing bubbly drink. Made from 100 percent recycled, high-quality art paper, Buns Out is for those who wish the season of picnics and patio parties would never end.
For New Yorkers: New York Puzzle Company Jigsaw Puzzle
There’s no magazine on the planet as synonymous with the Big Apple as The New Yorker. Artist Mark Ulriksen’s whimsical take on life is captured here in an adorable peek at New York’s “goodest” residents (aka its pups). As the dogs peer out of their apartment windows on a sweltering summer day, Ulriksen captures their quirky charm and diversity in an iconic 2007 illustration. Those who have tried it say the 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle is harder than it looks but worth the fun.
For the Road Tripper: Cavallini Papers & Co. National Parks Map
Take your time planning a road trip across the U.S. with this 1,000-piece National Parks puzzle. From the Great Smoky Mountains to Redwood National Park, this retro illustrated map includes more than 90 stops to add to your bucket list. You may even want to frame the final product to hang on a wall (or add it to your travel mood board).
For the Budding Artist: Jiggy for Anthropologie Puzzle and Glue Set
Mesa Sunrise is an 800-piece jigsaw puzzle from Jiggy, a Brooklyn-based women-led and -owned company that showcases unique artwork by up-and-coming artists. Giftable and great for wall decor, with soft pastel hues, this framable kit (in collaboration with Anthropologie) also includes a reusable glass jar, tube of puzzle glue, and a straight-edge tool. Follow the instructions on how to glue, frame, and hang your desert landscape masterpiece.
For Kids: Watermelon Wooden Puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles may have been taken over as a trending pastime for adults stuck at home during the pandemic, but let’s not forget their most loyal audience: children. This adorable puzzle by Cucú features hand-cut pieces painted by artisans in Guanajuato, Mexico, and is a stylish way for little ones to play, learn, and build curiosity. Plus each piece is colored with nontoxic, natural dyes, so you don’t have to worry if a slice inevitably finds its way off the table.
For the Traveler: Slowdown Studio Puzzle
One of the best things about assembling puzzles is the relaxing, meditative benefits. For travelers who are always on the go, this Slowdown Studio puzzle brings the best of both worlds: travel inspiration and a chance to savor the moment. The calming hues within this 285-piece puzzle were created by Australian artist Charlie Bennell, in a reimagining of La Muralla Rojo, a postmodern apartment complex in Spain’s Alicante province.
For the Avid Ceramist: East Fork Puzzle
It’s no secret that we’re fans of East Fork, the Asheville, North Carolina, pottery brand that creates ceramicware in richly pigmented, small-batch colorways. (Cofounders Connie and Alex Matisse invited us over for an alfresco potluck, captured in Domino’s Summer 2020 issue.) Gift your budding ceramist friend one of East Fork’s limited-edition puzzles, featuring the label’s signature hand-glazed mugs. Who knew a photograph of stacked ceramics could be so aesthetically pleasing?
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Mechanical puzzles vs jigsaw puzzles: Mechanical puzzles are more like brainteasers and rely on logic; they’re typically 3-D or self-contained objects. Jigsaw puzzles, like our favorites above, require an assembly of interlocking pieces to form a final design pattern, print, or photograph.
Number of pieces: A 500-piece puzzle may take a day or less to complete (or two to six hours, depending on how dedicated you are to the process), while a 1,000-piece puzzle may take a week or more (or five to 30 hours), depending on the difficulty level and the design. Abstract artworks may take a bit longer as you familiarize yourself with the pattern. Don’t even get us started on this Areaware Gradient Puzzle.
Q: I want to turn my finished puzzle into art! What’s the best way to frame it?
Since many puzzles may not be a standard frame size, your best bet is to buy a matte board and custom-cut it with an X-Acto knife or any single-edge blade. Some puzzle kits come with glue, like the Jiggy model, or you can always buy puzzle glue (or even Elmer’s glue in a pinch).
Q: What are the best places to buy puzzles online?
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