painless shopping

The New Guard of Non-Fusty Puzzles

Photo: Courtesy of Piecework Puzzles

The humble jigsaw puzzle has gotten a rebrand. Earlier this year, Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe launched Piecework Puzzles, which would look at home on a HAY coffee table (designs include a manicured hand smashing a coconut cake and a supersaturated still life of halved fruits) and which sell through a website made by Winsome Brave, the firm behind the Primary Essentials and Apiece Apart. The brand strategists are not the only ones creating decidedly non-folksy jigsaws. Last year, Areaware, after the success of its breakout Gradient Puzzle, launched a series of puzzles in the shape of foodstuffs (a bowl of ramen, a cheese puff); they proved so popular that the company went on to create collaboration puzzles with womenswear line Dusen Dusen and accessories label Poketo. And puzzles have been gaining popularity in general across the country: The U.S. market, still dominated by Ravensburger and Springbok, was valued at $631 million in 2019 (up from $404 million in 2012), according to Statista. This makes sense, says Hochhauser, who decided to start Piecework after finding herself rained in with no cell service and a closet full of dusty puzzles in a rental house in Yosemite. “We’re in this moment where people are experiencing digital overload — they’re not a digital activity; they’re good for your brain. Plus everything else in our lives is so curated, from our toothpastes to our luggage. Puzzles sit out on your coffee table for weeks: They should look good, too.”

Dusen Dusen Arc 500-Piece Puzzle

The latest from Areaware, a pioneer in the cool-puzzle scene.

The Drawing Room Puzzle

Collyer’s Mansion, a Brooklyn home-goods store, designed this puzzle with the artist Carly Beck.

Cheese Puff Puzzle

An easier option from Areaware: this 70-something-piece cheese puff, designed to be completed in 20 minutes.

Forbidden Fruit Puzzle

Piecework sells four puzzles, each 1,000 pieces: the “Forbidden Fruit,” a tableau of citrus and tiki drinks; the “Meta Puzzle,” a hand assembling a puzzle; the “Life of the Party,” a smashed cake; and “Feeling Flushed,” a poker table.

Geode Puzzle

These jigsaws, which design studio Nervous System launched in 2017, are made of birch plywood; the pieces are algorithmically generated, and their unusual shapes mean they’re particularly difficult to complete.

Third Drawer Down X Guerrilla Girls Disturbing the Peace Jigsaw Puzzle

The Australian homeware brand, which has collaborated with artists like Cindy Sherman, David Salle, and Judy Chicago, recently produced this 204-piece puzzle with the Guerrilla Girls.

Fredun Shapur Puzzles

These reissued card puzzles were originally created by design icon Shapur.

The Beach Two-Sided Puzzle

A double-sided puzzle by the art photographer Gray Malin, one side shows
a sandy beach, the other a turquoise ocean.

Mini Bird Puzzles

These 150-piecers feature fowl-centric illustrations by John James Audubon.

Westerlind Jackson Hole Jigsaw Puzzle

At first glance, this looks like something from your grandmother’s basement. It’s actually made by Soho outdoors line Westerlind.

Self-Portrait by Yayoi Kusama Puzzle

This 200-piecer is by Artware Editions, which turns works of art into jigsaws.

1,000-Piece Cartoon Puzzle

Urban Outfitters has made several dorm-common-room-friendly options, like this one featuring early-aughts cartoon characters.

*This article appears in the September 30, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The New Guard of Non-Fusty Puzzles