The puzzle game hasn’t had a disruption since the 3D Puzzle craze of the 90’s. All industries evolve, but with the increase in puzzle popularity (thanks pandemic 😳?) the puzzle industry really had to kick it into high gear. Gone are the days of your grandmother’s puzzling. You can’t just be a Thomas Kincaid painting anymore to be a puzzle. These days you have to feature an additional poster of the image, have no puzzle dust, feature Easter eggs, and twist endings. The puzzle game has definitely gotten an upgrade and I wanted to share some of my favorites in the new class of puzzles.
The Magic Puzzle Company leads the pack in innovative puzzles. Without spoiling the mechanics, The Magic Puzzle Company puzzles are like the M. Night Shyamalan of puzzles; in that there is always a twist in the end. Featuring original art and all the bells and whistles, what started as a Kickstarter project is now sold everywhere. You know the back page of Mad Magazine (am I dating myself?)? Where it’s an image of something and then you fold it and it becomes something else? That’s what these puzzles feel like to me.
Next on my list of new faves are Chronicle Books collaboration with writer and illustrator Stephanie Von Reiswitz. Her entire Murder Most Puzzling is a puzzle series most dazzling. Half mystery book, half puzzle, the series is enchanting. All puzzles are set in a highly stylized version of the 1920’s. Think if Gorey and Erte collabed. There are no maps/guides, as that’s part of the mystery. These puzzles also have the distinction of having the best box. With the rich jewel tones and faux book facade, it’s actually something you’d want to display on a shelf.
And while wooden puzzles/miniatures (or models, if you like) have been around for a while, they too have benefitted from the increase demand in novelty; getting better and better. Not only can you put them together, but you can paint them, light them, and they work. Rolife is one of my favorite sellers of both wooden puzzle sets and precious miniature tableaus. And (after you’re done) you have something, instead of taking it apart and putting it back in the box.
When I first started consciously puzzling 😂 I noticed that a lot of my favorite puzzles were coming from the same company: Pomegranate. Pomegranate is a stationary and puzzle purveyor, but what makes them unique is that they have paired with some of the top museums in the world to be their puzzle distributor. Meaning the art they use for their puzzles are quite literally curated. I’ve exposed myself to several new artists this way. And while these skew towards the “normal” puzzle column in form, the subject matter is of note.
Before wrapping up, I also wanted to include a puzzle primer/hat tip to the Old Generation of puzzling for fellow puzzle fans, or dissectologists of the art. From puzzlehour.com:
The definition of dissectologist is a person who enjoys jigsaw puzzle assembly. That is precisely what it means.
Jigsaw puzzles prior to and during the 19th century were called dissected maps and also known as dissected puzzles. These were wooden pictures that were hand cut with a fret saw into irregular shaped pieces. These pieces were then assembled together to complete the whole picture. Dissected maps was a name used because some of the earliest puzzles were made from printed maps. These puzzles were educational as well as recreational. They could also be referred to as picture maps and wooden maps.
The dissected word gradually fell out of use in favor of picture puzzles and eventually jigsaw puzzles in the 20th century. Why jigsaw puzzles? Jigsaw refers to the saw used to cut the wooden puzzles which was a type of fret saw.
So, where do you buy all these puzzles? Please try and buy all your puzzles from small book stores or museum gift shops. Another great vendor is uncommongoods.com. And if you’re good with keeping all the pieces, make sure to share and swap them with other fellow puzzlers. So, whether you’re working on a fancy puzzle board, a folding table, or a piece of plywood with some cookie sheets (my preference), hopefully this will inspire you to try some of the new generation of puzzling.
What is it about puzzles? Do they stress you out? Do they calm you down? Is it simply a fun thing to do or is it a physical manifestation of our wanting to make order out of chaos? Did I miss one of your favorites? Tell me what you think in the comments!