Updated October 28, 2020 by Shilo Urban

The 10 Best Jigsaw Puzzles

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Not just for rainy days, jigsaw puzzles are a challenging and entertaining activity, whether for casual fun or as a serious hobby. They are now being recognized for their ability to enhance your quality of life and, perhaps, reduce the likelihood of memory loss. The sets we have selected vary in complexity and design, so you're certain to find a suitable option for every member of the family. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. BetterCo Milky Way

2. Buffalo Games Vivid Coffee and Donuts

3. You're All Clear Kid

Editor's Notes

October 26, 2020:

For this update, we've added three fun puzzles for different skill levels, starting with the New Neighbors 60-Piece - a kid-friendly favorite with seven cute animals. We particularly like the You're All Clear Kid, a vintage Star Wars scene, because of its multigenerational appeal (perfect for the holidays and other gatherings). Kids can work on the easier sections, like the characters, while adults can assemble the areas that are more difficult, like the starry backdrop. The Hartmaze Decorative Elephant is another new one on the list, a colorful wooden selection with an artsy, cultural vibe.

We've also updated the information for several listings, including the Springbok Board Game, the BetterCo Milky Way, and the Buffalo Games Vivid Coffee and Donuts. The Educa Wildlife has been taken off the list; although it has a whopping 33,600 pieces, its price has become too high. We've also removed the Melissa and Doug Solar System and the Artifact Tyukanov Flying Bottle due to availability issues.

November 13, 2019:

For those who love a challenge, we have kept the Ravensburger Paradise Sunset and the Educa Wildlife and their 18,000 and 33,600 pieces, respectively. No, those numbers are not a typo. When finished, they're both over 9 feet wide, so these are no casual afternoon projects, as you can well imagine. If you've got plenty of stick-to-itiveness, this can be great; if you have more of a Twitter-type attention span, you might struggle to finish. But we removed the moderately difficult Tenyo Disney Art, as there are occasional problems with missing pieces.

As for easier options, we've added the Buffalo Games Vivid Coffee and Donuts. It is bright and cheerful, and its size makes it an excellent choice for a group activity that can be completed in one night. We also like the Springbok Board Game, and its depiction of classic board games we all know and love. Finally, we ultimately only kept one Artifact wooden selection, the Artifact Tyukanov Flying Bottle. Even though the whimsical pieces are interesting, they can make the puzzle almost too easy. So, for those who appreciate interesting construction simply for the sake of design, it is a good choice; puzzlers who prefer a challenge may not enjoy working these types once the novelty wears off. But it should be noted that the artwork is unique and attractive, a big mark in its favor.

Special Honors

L.L.Bean My Great Outdoors The L.L.Bean My Great Outdoors was created with travelers and outdoorsy types in mind, as each features imagery from official USGS topographic maps. You can select any address as the center point for customization, although if you choose a destination near a body of water, the large patches of blue can make it boring to put together. www.llbean.com

My Ravensburger Photo Anyone can create a personalized puzzle with the My Ravensburger Photo, which is offered in a variety of sizes all the way up to 1,000 pieces. You might need a little knowledge about photo resolution and sizing to obtain the best results, though. ravensburger.us

Uncommongoods Wooden Fractal Instead of an intricate picture or vivid colors, the Uncommongoods Wooden Fractal offers interconnected geometric pieces for a new kind of challenge. Made from plywood, it is sturdy and would make a great gift for the puzzle aficionado. uncommongoods.com

4. Clemens Habicht 1,000 Colors CMYK

5. Ravensburger Paradise Sunset

6. New Neighbors 60-Piece

7. Educa World Map

8. Hartmaze Decorative Elephant

9. White Mountain Television History

10. Springbok Board Game

What Makes One Jigsaw Puzzle More Challenging Than Another?

Or perhaps you'd like to try a puzzle with extra throwaway pieces; maybe a puzzle that's custom-made to confuse the eyes.

The most obvious way to make a jigsaw puzzle more challenging is by cutting the pieces smaller. Imagine, if you will, a toddler's jigsaw, the pieces of which are meant to look gigantic. If those giant pieces had been cut 100 times smaller, then the puzzle as a whole would theoretically be considered 100 times more difficult to reassemble. In addition, a puzzle is considered more challenging if the overall picture is vastly made up of either one color, or a very crowded mix of similar objects.

The more identically-shaped pieces a puzzle features, the more trial and error it will take to match those pieces with an appropriate mate. Manufacturers may throw in a curveball by featuring several oblong, or even rectangular pieces. These straight-edge pieces will eventually fit into the puzzle, but they can't be locked in until a corresponding section is 99 percent complete.

If you're an enthusiast, perhaps you'd like to try a puzzle that is nothing more than a solid white rectangle (all shape and no shades). Or perhaps you'd like to try a puzzle with extra throwaway pieces; maybe a puzzle that's custom-made to confuse the eyes. Perhaps you'd like to try a puzzle that can only be solved by connecting the pieces vertically. Or perhaps you'd like to solve the world's largest jigsaw puzzle, which includes 551,232 pieces, and a border that runs 76 feet wide.

Jigsaw 101: A Beginner's Guide to Solving Any Puzzle

Every jigsaw puzzle is built around a basic frame, and this is a great place to start for any beginner. You can usually separate the puzzle's frame pieces by eyeing up their straightened edges. Beyond that, you've got four corner pieces (assuming the puzzle is in the shape of a quadrilateral), each of which is constructed with a right angle. The direction of each angle should tell you the corner in which each of these pieces belongs. Once you've settled that, you can begin to connect interlocking pieces until you've created a wraparound border.

This way you'll have fewer pieces on the outside of the puzzle, and a clearer image of what you're still missing within.

You'll be able to identify where certain pieces should fit based on matching the colors of those pieces against the picture on the front of the puzzle's box. Certain puzzle boxes have been measured to scale, which means you can complete the puzzle, piece-by-piece, by using the box as a surface (almost like a paint by number). Keep an eye out for any pieces that are uniquely shaped. You can usually spot a corresponding piece for these without a lot of trouble.

Next, you'll want to start sorting similar pieces into piles (This'll allow you to work on specific sections of the puzzle, one-by-one). Do you notice any distinctive objects in the puzzle? How about any letters, or numbers? If you can spot these, you'll have a good idea of where to place any of the corresponding pieces.

As you start to interlock several pieces, you can place them in the puzzle's frame according to where they should fit. This way you'll have fewer pieces on the outside of the puzzle, and a clearer image of what you're still missing within. Going forward, the remainder of the puzzle should come down to a process of elimination. Mix and match those final pieces until your puzzle is complete.

A Brief History of The Jigsaw Puzzle

Early jigsaw puzzles, which were known as dissections, were originally used to teach geography in 18th-century England. These puzzles usually featured a map of either a country or a continent, with wooden pieces cut to represent the borders of each land.

Jigsaw puzzles became even more popular throughout World War II, with devotees competing to see who could solve a complicated puzzle the quickest.

The pieces of these wooden dissections were individually cut by a fretsaw. Both the jigsaw and the jigsaw puzzle were already in existence at this point, but manufacturers largely shunned the jigsaw method because it demanded creating puzzles out of cardboard, which was considered low-grade.

Cardboard jigsaw puzzles began to catch on during The Great Depression in America, as people with meager incomes came to appreciate the low cost, and manufacturers came to appreciate the inexpensive production.

Jigsaw puzzles became even more popular throughout World War II, with devotees competing to see who could solve a complicated puzzle the quickest. Soon after, large companies started to use jigsaw puzzles as a promotional tool. These puzzles, which were often given away for free, featured images of the company's logo (either that or some similar form of advertisement).

Today, there are traditional jigsaw puzzles, which still appeal to purists, and then there are progressive jigsaw puzzles (e.g., three-dimensional puzzles or puzzles that are built around an optical illusion, etc.), which are appealing as a result of their difficulty level. By and large, jigsaw puzzles remain in production because they represent a simple and entertaining way to distract oneself, or develop sharper problem-solving skills.


Shilo Urban
Last updated on October 28, 2020 by Shilo Urban

Shilo lives for adventures in far-away lands and reads books like it’s going out of style (which it is). Dogs are her co-pilots. She’s traveled to 60 countries and has lived in Austin (where she received a BA from the University of Texas), Maine, Paris, Seattle, New Zealand, Los Angeles, and now—Fort Worth. Before becoming a freelance writer over a decade ago, she had more than three dozen jobs, including high school teacher, record label manager, tour guide, and farmhand for endangered livestock breeds. She speaks fluent French and horribly mangled Spanish, which she is working every day to improve. Shilo geeks out over history and culture, and her areas of expertise include travel, art and design, music, pets, food, crafts, toys, and home furnishings. Current obsessions: Gobekli Tepe, tassels, and fresh lemonade.


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