When future generations look back to the Great Lockdown of 2020, as the world sheltered in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, they will no doubt ask what people did during this strange period in history. And the answer is very clear: Many of us sat around doing puzzles.
Over the last month, there has been an enormous increase in puzzle sales. Ravensburger, which sold 21 million puzzles globally last year, saw a 370% spike in sales in the last two weeks of March compared to the same period in 2019. It is now selling 20 puzzles a minute in the United States, compared to seven a minute in 2019. Other puzzle makers, like the startups Jiggy and Piecework, have been struggling to keep up with the influx of orders.
It makes sense that people are turning to puzzles during this difficult time. Assembling a puzzle is all about creating order out of chaos. It allows you to feel some small measure of control at a time when life feels destabilizing. It’s also an activity that keeps you mentally engaged, while keeping you from looking at your phone and spiraling from the day’s terrible headlines. And since puzzles can be done alone or in small groups, they have a place in households of all kinds during this period of self-isolation.
If you’re looking for a new puzzle, we’ve curated some of our favorite, gorgeously designed options. Many of these brands are struggling to keep up with the increased demand, so some of their products are sold out, but all are working hard to restock. And if you want to support local bookstores with your puzzle obsession, take a look at Bookshop.org, which has dozens of jigsaw puzzles in stock.
This puzzle startup‘s motto is “puzzles worth framing,” and we tend to agree. The brand partners with female artists who create gorgeous images that are converted into 450- to 800-piece puzzles that cost between $40 and $48. My favorite is by a 22-year-old Slovenian artist who created an image of a woman bathing with flowers. Each puzzle kit comes gorgeously packaged in a glass bottle with a cork top, so you can store it when you’re not assembling it. Each box also includes glue, in case you want to frame your puzzle when you’re done.
Another puzzle startup, Piecework, creates 500- and 1,000-piece puzzles of lush still-life photography that cost between $26 and $36. Each comes beautiful packaged in a stackable box, with the name of the puzzle on the spine, so you can store them on your bookshelf. The images are of more celebratory times, such as a gorgeously manicured hand digging into cake at a party, or a selection of champagne glasses. My favorite is the Meta Puzzle, which is a puzzle featuring a person doing a puzzle on a marble table top. That’ll give you something to think about as you’re puzzling away.
Home accessories brand Areaware works with independent designers to create a large selection of puzzles. It has an entire collection called Little Puzzle Thing, which are miniature 8″ x 8″ puzzles that can be completed in 20 minutes or less and cost $15 a pop. One fun thing about them is that they don’t come in rectangles or squares, but are rather cut in whatever shape the image you’re assembling might be, such as a curvy kernel of popcorn or a triangular piece of pizza.
If you’re looking for more challenging options, you could go for Areaware’s $35 gradient puzzle which transitions between colors. Another $25 puzzle translates a pattern from Dusen Dusen, a textile maker, into a 500-piece puzzle that features floating shapes in several repeating colors.
If you’re a puzzle-loving fan of modern art, look no further than this $18 puzzle from the MoMA design store that features a collage of Andy Warhol’s self-portraits that he took with his Polaroid in the 1970s and 1980s, the antecedent to today’s smartphone selfies.
If you want an easier Warhol puzzle, the store also has mini puzzles of the artist’s most iconic pop-art images, including those of Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup, and the banana, which cost $8 a pop. These 75- to 100-piece puzzles can be completed in under an hour, which makes them a good one to do with your kids.