Puzzling Over Puzzles

Guide to finding the perfect jigsaw puzzle for you

I’ve been doing more jigsaw puzzles this past year. They keep me away from my phone and computer and help me de-stress. I also love doing them with friends since we can all work on them together regardless of our backgrounds — everyone is capable of doing a puzzle!

As much fun as puzzles can be, the wrong puzzle can be more tedious than enjoyable or just plain boring. Since more people are getting into puzzles these days while under quarantine, I want to share four things to look for in a puzzle so you can find the right puzzle for you. I hope these tips can help you find a puzzle that brings you joy during this difficult time.

1. Number of Pieces

Let’s start with the most obvious aspect of a puzzle: in general, the more pieces there are, the harder a puzzle is.

Most puzzles are 500 to 2000 pieces. From my experience, a 500-piece puzzle takes one person around two to four hours, and a 1000-piece puzzle takes around six to ten hours. Puzzles fewer than 500 pieces are common, too, but in my opinion they can be solved too fast that they are rarely worth the cost.

Go for a 500-piece puzzle if you are looking for a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon. For a multi-day challenge or a fun group project, choose a 1000 or 2000 piece puzzle.

Puzzles more than 2000 pieces are less common and can be quite large, so make sure you have enough space for them if you decide to have one!

2. Variability vs. Repetition

Does the puzzle have big blocks of the same color or repeated patterns?

Repetitive colors or patterns tend to be the hardest parts of a puzzle. Most puzzles have some repetition, but the degree varies puzzle to puzzle. An extreme example of a puzzle with large color blocks is Better Co’s color gradient puzzle.

A less obvious example is this Dowdle Christmas puzzle shown below. Did you notice the repetition among the windows, building walls, rooftops, and trees?

On the other end of the spectrum, a puzzle with minimal repetition is this White Mountain movies puzzle:

Try a puzzle of a forest or the night sky if you enjoy looking for the subtle differences among 100 trees or in a color gradient, and you don’t mind matching pieces purely by shape at times. If you like squinting at the reference picture to figure out where a piece goes, pick a less repetitive puzzle.

3. Subject Matter and Art Style

You will become intimately familiar with every little detail of the puzzle, so getting a puzzle of something you love can spark a lot of joy.

Like movies? You’ll probably have fun identifying the different movies featured in the example above. If you are a big reader, you may enjoy noticing what books are on the shelf in this bookstore puzzle:

You will likely find something by simply searching on Google or Amazon (e.g. “movie puzzle” if you like movies).

For illustrated puzzles, art style makes a big difference, too. If you see a puzzle with an art style you like, consider looking up the artist or the company for other similar puzzles.

4. Shape of the Pieces

How the puzzle is cut affects the experience of putting together a puzzle. A common one is rectangular shapes with standard knobs where it’s obvious whether two pieces fit together, whereas some have more irregularly shaped pieces where you may need more than two pieces before you can lock them in place.

According to Puzzle Warehouse, the irregularly pieces are sometimes called Victorian-cut and is popular for wooden jigsaw puzzles.

Most puzzles have regular shapes, and you can’t always know the shapes of the pieces before you open the puzzle, but when possible, it’s worth noting how the puzzles are shaped. If you enjoy irregular shapes, consider looking into puzzle companies who specialize in them such as Wentworth Wooden Puzzles or Liberty Puzzles.

Here is an interesting article on different cutting styles if you want to learn more.

I hope these tips are helpful. Happy puzzling, and may you find the perfect puzzle that completes you. 😉

Software Penguineer