We've all got too much damn time to fill, which means that formerly puzzle-averse people are discovering the hours-killing appeal of the best jigsaw puzzles. So much so that Americans are buying jigsaws too quickly for some manufacturers to keep up.
At Reddit, the jigsaw community has been ready and waiting for its favorite pastime to get a moment in the sun. More than 20,000 hang out on r/jigsawpuzzlers where they swap strategies for speed puzzling, watch time-lapse videos of someone completing a 5,000 piece color gradient, or gaze in awe at the absolute commitment required by this completed 40,000 piece Disney puzzle.
Michael Giragosian, who created the subreddit in 2011, argues that doing puzzles isn't busywork, it's actually, maybe, self-care? "It's just challenging enough to give your hands something to do, but it lets your brain kind of relax," he says. "It gives you time to think and relax and just, like, take your mind off the shit of the day."
Since you need something to do besides binge-watch shows, listen to music, and cook beans, we asked Giragosian and his fellow Puzzlers to help us pick the best jigsaw puzzles (still in stock as of the day we published!) to fill your self-isolation days.
Jigsaw Puzzles for Newbies
If you are both new to jigsaws but not new to say, drinking, start in the 300 to 500 piece range. "You want a puzzle that's got distinct colors, but not too many colors," said Giragosian. The members of the subreddit suggested conventional puzzles from Galison and Artifact, among others. They also suggested puzzles from Stave—each of the company's puzzles are made to order, and are built to include custom details like names, dates, and special figure shapes. That said, a 100-piece puzzle costs almost $1000, which is why most puzzlers think of them as grails.
$2657.00, Stave Puzzles
$14.00, Barnes and Noble
Jigsaw Puzzles for Intermediates
If you've got your puzzling sea legs, you can jump to the 1000- to 2000-piece range, which tend to get more (sometimes much more complicated). Factors to look for: defined colors and clear images. Things to avoid if you want to keep calm: lots of sky. "As long as you can identify where a piece goes in a section, you'll be able to make a lot of progress quickly," Giragosian says. The selections include options from mega-retailers like eBay and well-respected independent producers like New York Puzzle Company and Pomegranate.
$20.00, New York Puzzle Company
Jigsaw Puzzles for Masochists
If you have both a lot of time to kill and a spare table you won't need for a week, you can jump up to giant and/or complex puzzles. Just remember that fewer pieces doesn't mean easier. Over the course of three years, Giragosian was able to complete a 12,000 piece jigsaw puzzle; a 2,000-piece version of "Starry Night" eludes him to this day. "I think I put together about 300 pieces and couldn't go further. When the pieces are that small and the colors of the impressionist painting are so similar, you can't figure out where things go," he said. Know this before you devote the coffee table to, say, Clemens Habicht's color-gradient puzzles.
$30.00, Cobble Hill
$42.00, Lamington Drive
Originally Appeared on GQ