For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed puzzles of all kinds: jigsaw puzzles, hidden pictures, word puzzles such as Jumble™ and crosswords, manipulatives (I still have my original Rubik’s Cube™, Alexander’s Star, Pyraminx, and The Dukes of Hazzard™ sequential puzzles from the early 1980s), and any other brain teasers I could wrap my mind — or fingers — around!
In this space, I plan to pay homage to these wonderful pastimes, with reviews and features on puzzles of all kinds. In the meanwhile, feel free to let me know about your favorite puzzles or share puzzle news with me!
For now, you may want to check out the AGPI (Association of Games & Puzzles International) website at: http://www.gamesandpuzzles.org!
White Mountain’s Mom’s Craft Room
As a mom and crafter myself, I was looking forward to working this 1,000-piece puzzle. I’ll admit I was drawn to the paints in the lower-left corner, as well as the outdoor scene. However, once starting the puzzle, I realized much of the picture is in muted greens, browns, and grays. This makes for a so-so puzzling experience for two reasons: first, part of the joy of puzzles is the image itself, which should spark interest and excitement as you discover details; and second, low lighting within the puzzle requires bright lighting while working it, which can lead to glare and eye strain.
Therefore, I am giving this puzzle 2 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
White Mountain’s The Holidays
I must say I truly enjoy White Mountain’s collage-style puzzles, so bright and full of fun visuals! And when I work one of these puzzles with my family, we can each find something “new-to-us” each time we work it. This puzzle is by artist Jim Mellett, and features iconic images such as Santa, nutcrackers, and decorated trees, as well as the more religious symbols and images representing Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. But The Holidays doesn’t stop there…it also showcases Thanksgiving and New Year’s festivities, to round out the season. Pieces are sturdy and fit together well, and the puzzle is big–and small–enough to fit nicely on my kitchen counter (which five of us gathered around recently for puzzling after cleaning up our Thanksgiving feast).
Spend some quality time together this season with family and friends while working this quality puzzle. I recommend this 1,000-piece puzzle for ages 12 and up and give it 5 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
Cobble Hill’s Sugar Skull Cookies
It’s that spooky time of the year! If you’re like me and enjoy working puzzles “in season,” now is the time to pull out your Halloween/Day of the Dead-themed puzzles. This 1,000-piecer from Cobble Hill is bright, sturdy, and definitely harder than it might first appear. So many eyes, so many teeth, so many swirls of color, so many challenges, your skull might just explode in happiness!
This is a fun addition to any collection, though you might need to find it on resale sites. I recommend this puzzle for ages 13 and up and I give it 5 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
Springbok’s Animal Quackers
Take some adorable and hilarious dogs and cats doing adorable and hilarious things, then plop them together in a 1,000-piece puzzle, and get ready for the fun to begin, right? Well, not so fast. First you have to piece together the border, and even with this puzzle’s straight-edge border pieces, it is no small task. In fact, Animal Quackers’ border is one where each piece is so like the next that working it came down to lining up the pieces and trying each one with every other one until something fit, a task which took hours for four of us. Another issue: pieces needed to be pushed together forcefully to fit. But, once we got almost all of the border together, we started to celebrate. Alas, we celebrated too early, as we were missing one of the corner pieces.
However, we pushed on, and finally were able to enjoy working it and seeing many of the animal antics portrayed in the puzzle (even giving each animal a nickname: Piano Cat, Party Dog, etc.). So while this puzzle started out “Ruff” it ended with a cute display featuring our furry friends.
I recommend this puzzle for 14 and up due to the difficult nature of the border, and give it 3 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
Eurographics’ Tea Cup Collection
Delicate tea cups and saucers featuring floral designs will put you in the mood for a “spot of tea” with this 1,000-piece puzzle. And a pot or two you might need while working it: this is a challenging puzzle with only a few bright colors and dainty flowers with minute differences to set them apart in the collection!
As you can see from my photo of the worked puzzle, there’s a LOT of white. I would have liked to see a bit more variety and color in the tea cups’ designs, to add interest.
That’s why I’m giving this puzzle: 3 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
Buffalo Games: Cake Shed
When I work a larger puzzle, I like to have a mix between small details and big focal points in the artwork. This 2,000-piece puzzle offers this balance nicely, for example with a brightly-colored chair right up front and sardined bottles and jars of cake toppings in the background. I also like when puzzle designers offer interesting vignettes; this peak into the creative work area of a “cake artist” fits that bill as well.
The puzzle itself features sturdy pieces with helpful cuts for those hard-t0-place ones – when puzzle manufacturers offer small hints through the cut design in single-color portions of the art without detracting from the challenge, my old eyes are appreciative. All in all, Cake Shed is a fun family-sized puzzle full of great detail and contemporary colors. I recommend it for older teens and up.
I give this puzzle: 5 out of 5 puzzle pieces.
Buffalo Games and Puzzles: Art of Play Aimee Stewart Yard Sale™
I’m a big fan of bright puzzles with a lot going on, hidden surprises, and room for many elbows around the table. This 2,000-piece Buffalo Games puzzle featuring artist Aimee Stewart’s delightful depiction of a chock-full yard sale ticks off all of those things and more. My family worked this 38.5 x 26.5 puzzle during a single weekend over the holidays, with four of us claiming our own favorite sections (I chose the bicycles, dresses, yellow table, and blue blankets) to complete.
A bonus poster helped us to see the smaller details, and interesting cut techniques (but not TOO crazy) on the pieces helped to up the fun factor. This puzzle is just one of Aimee Stewart’s wonderfully creative designs in the Art of Play series, and features Buffalo Games’ Perfect Snap™ pieces made in the USA of recycled puzzle board. I recommend it for ages 14 and up for solo puzzling, a bit younger for family puzzling with guidance and help.
I give this puzzle: 5 puzzle pieces out of 5.
If you’re looking for a challenging nature-themed puzzle for adults, look no further. This 1,000-piece puzzle features a great cast of brightly-colored characters (“tiny newts, fickle chameleons, and scaly creatures of all shapes and size” according to the manufacturer), with doubles and even triples of some to throw off all but the best puzzler. A muted background of fall leaves adds an additional dimension of challenge, though it does detract slightly from the nice colors on the amphibians. Note: this puzzle has been discontinued, so if you can find one on a resale site, be sure to grab it up!
I give this puzzle: 4 puzzle pieces out of 5.
TDC Games Beach Babies Jigsaw Puzzles for Dummies™
I love to work puzzles, so I’m always looking for new ones and I especially love beach scenes. I bought this puzzle thinking it was bright and cute and would be an easy puzzle since it is geared toward those new to puzzles or who don’t work them well (as all of the Dummies™ line of products are geared toward the novice). Though it did turn out to be cute (who doesn’t love adorable toddlers at the beach?!), it was definitely not one I’d recommend to anyone just learning to work puzzles or who struggles with working them (the box says for ages 8 and up, but I recommend 12+).
First of all, Beach Babies is 1,000 pieces…way too many for newbies. I recommend starting with a 100 or 300 piece puzzle and working your way up to 500, 750, and then eventually 1,000. Secondly, it is very hard to work any puzzle without full artwork to refer to…only in a very small area on the back of the box is there a full picture for reference, making it very hard to see details to figure placement (a fold out poster of the artwork would be ideal here). Thirdly, this puzzle has several areas — for instance, the fencing, sand and sky — that are indeed a challenge to work. I found myself referring to the numbers on the back of the pieces several times to place pieces, even though I normally don’t have too many problems even with hard puzzles.
All in all, I do recommend this adorable puzzle, but not for beginners or those who struggle. I give it: 3 puzzle pieces out of 5.
Kodak Premium Puzzles: Sugary Shakes
This 1,500-piece puzzle featuring photographer Karen Romanko’s bright and fun photo is a nice challenge for anyone looking to spend more than a day or two on a single puzzle. Specialty milkshakes – filled with candy, cookies, and other sweet treats – sit upon patterned squares, all with enough colors and designs in common to make close attention to detail necessary. Pieces are “mounted on European Blue Board,” and feature unique, easy-connect shapes.
The manufacturer recommends this puzzle for ages 10 and up. My 17-year-old daughter (an avid puzzler) and I worked this puzzle together over 2-3 days and found it a small, though enjoyable, challenge at times, so I would recommend this for teens and above with patience and time on their side.
I give this sweet puzzle: 5 out of 5 puzzle pieces.