In addition to becoming a banner year for weighted blankets, plexiglass, and several different forms of ethanol, 2020 has also triggered something of a puzzle renaissance. Sometime around May, I found myself drawn to the simple, tactile allure; there was no doomscrolling to be had, no engagement, and certainly no commenting. There were no alarming news notifications and no “return-to-normal” dates that kept getting pushed further and further away. All that mattered was grouping colors and patterns and then figuring out how they might all fit together. I found solace in the minutiae, and if you’re anything like me, you might, too. Oh, and of course, almost all of the puzzles that have brought me joy involve food. Read on for some of the best options.
Design store Areaware’s collection of Little Puzzle Things proved to be the dopamine rush I craved in order to feel both engaged and accomplished within the span of a few hours, something very little else in my life has given me as of late. I’d call these my introductory puzzles, and highly recommend the Tonkotsu Ramen and Chicago Hot Dog. I’ve also had my eye on the recent collaboration with Van Leeuwen, which comes in the form of six different delightful cups and cones to assemble. Best of all, each puzzle takes up very little space, making it perfect for small apartments with, say, a single coffee table.
To buy: $15 at areaware.com
I’ve never understood people who don’t eat breakfast, and I also don’t understand people who aren’t interested in puzzles about breakfast. Illustrator and design maven Lan Tuong’s creation for Whiled (a new venture from Alisha Ramos of Girls Night In) is clearly meant to be assembled over a cup of coffee with a chill Lucy Daucus album playing in the background. You should also feel free to wear really soft, fancy socks. This puzzle is absolutely a marathon, not a sprint, so be prepared to have this one sitting out for a few days (weeks, even). Luckily, you probably have the time to do so.
To buy: $37 at whiled.com
If a puzzle could be a party, this offering from Piecework would be it. At 500 pieces, it hits the sweet spot between “This is too easy” and “Why do I do this to myself?”, and there’s just something incredibly hypnotic about all the glassware. Pour yourself a glass of champagne or fix a cocktail before you settle in for this one.
To buy: $26 at nordstrom.com
You probably already know that Asheville-based East Fork Pottery makes stunning mugs, plates, and bowls, but you’d be foolish to sleep on their other wares, which include glassware, textiles, and, yes, puzzles. This limited-edition offering has sold out before and will most certainly sell out again. I still haven’t treated myself to it, so please, beat me to the punch. Make a cup of tea in The Mug while you’re at it.
To buy: $36 at eastfork.com
The only way this puzzle could get better would be if it were a scratch ‘n sniff because I’m dying to get a whiff of the star anise, bay leaves, peppercorns, or any of the other spices pictured. At 1,000 pieces, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need to get your head in order again.
To buy: $21 at amazon.com