Best puzzles 2021: Brain teasers for adults

The past year has seen many businesses take a financial hit as the country has social distanced and moved in and out of lockdown. But a booming industry is the manufacture of puzzles.

Business has been booming since the start of last year, with UK sales reaching £100m in 2021. And demand has outstripped supply for many outlets, people of all ages curling up and looking for an engaging, time-consuming and relaxing activity.

There are, surprisingly, many benefits to intrigue. It’s actually a rather brilliant form of mindfulness – your brain is so focused on hundreds or thousands of pieces that it doesn’t have the ability to let intrusive thoughts in. There is evidence to suggest that puzzles help improve memory and even prevent dementia.

A good puzzle will require some level of strategy like color sorting, or the age-old technique we like to call “find everyone with a flat side first”. And a good puzzle for adults should be completely absorbing – requiring absolute concentration.

If you want a quick fix – an overnight wonder if you will – a 250 piece puzzle is a good place to start. However, the real challenges start from 500 coins.

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The less variation in color or pattern, the harder a puzzle will be (we see you all white puzzles and nothing but baked beans – and we run away from you in fear). The main thing you will need is a clear surface – and a lot of patience.

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The best puzzles for adults in 2021 are:

  • Ideal for progressing quickly – Ravensburger Incredible Birds: £14, Johnlewis.com
  • Great for a brain teasing challenge – NASA Orb: £10.94, Onbuy.com
  • Ideal for luxury – Bar at the Folies-Bergère: from £29.95, Wentworthpuzzles.com
  • Great for anyone who thinks puzzles aren’t cool – The Rolling Stones some girls: £17.99, Plastichead.com
  • Ideal for cat lovers – Heye Tanck Party Cats: £13.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best 3D Puzzle – Space L 3D Puzzle £16.99, Cloudberries.co.uk
  • Ideal for news enthusiasts – Spitting Image Puzzle: £14.99, Winningmoves.co.uk
  • Ideal for strategic thinking – Hokusai: The Great Wave: £12.99, Flametreepublishing.com

Ravensburger Amazing Birds

Better: For rapid progress

We absolutely loved this puzzle – the bright colors, the variety of bird species to discover, and the fact that although it’s a 1000 piece challenge, it’s not that hard as you were tearing your hair out, but still offers a healthy challenge.

There’s also a very handy sheet giving the name of each different species – so it feels like you’re gaining general knowledge as well as all the usual perks of poring over a puzzle.

NASA Orb

Better: For a puzzle challenge

If you want to be mentally tormented for days on end then this is the puzzle for you. It’s not the size (1,000 pieces) but the design, which is a photograph of the Orion Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope – that’s what will make it so taxing.

It’s basically a cosmic swirl of pinks, blues and oranges – all blending into each other, meaning there are no distinct patterns or shapes. Terrified? You should be. We have to admit that we haven’t finished ours yet.

Bar Wentworth Puzzles at the Folies-Bergere

Better: For luxury

Didn’t you know puzzles could be luxurious? Do it now. Wentworth creates sophisticated puzzles that have thick pieces made from sustainably sourced wood that fit beautifully into place. Each piece is chunky and chunky, and cut using lasers so everything fits together perfectly. One of the most satisfying sensations is running your hand over a finished puzzle – it moves in a fluid ripple.

The pieces come in a special fabric bag, like a designer handbag, in the outer box – which also makes it a nice gift.

Wentworth has a huge range of puzzles, but we think their fine art section is wonderful – and paintings by some of the world’s most famous and celebrated artists lend appropriate weight to these beautifully crafted puzzles. We opted for Bar at the Folies-Bergèreoriginally by Manet – it’s a fascinating painting thanks to its unique composition, but also, all those dark colors and flasks are quite a challenge.

The Rolling Stones some girls

Better: For anyone who thinks puzzles aren’t cool

One of the Stones’ greatest albums in puzzle form – we were sold from the start. What we loved (but also hated when we couldn’t get it to work) was all the lettering: sometimes it’s a real delicious nightmare, and it’s a really difficult task, even if the puzzle doesn’t count “only” 500 pieces. For complete immersion, we recommend listening to the album while puzzling.

Heye Tanck Party Cats

Better: For cat lovers

We loved it – it really made us laugh. It’s lighthearted and a bit silly, but we enjoyed all the different areas of the cat party, and actually one of the best things was finding ourselves saying things like “where’s the rest of the skateboard from this cat ?”

But don’t be fooled by the light subject matter – it’s deceptively tricky. There are a lot of green trees, a lot of linear marks. We were delighted there was a full size poster included so you can present this as a guide as the scale is the same.

3D puzzle of space

Better: 3d puzzle

Blackberries make fabulous puzzles – and have shaken up the market by creating fascinating pieces that people want to frame with contemporary subjects. Its latest offering is also quite impressive. Space is a 500-piece puzzle that requires puzzlers to don 3D glasses (two pairs are included in the box). Out of this world indeed! We absolutely loved the sense of occasion the glasses brought – and that they added another dimension to the puzzle.

Spitting Image Puzzle

Better: For news enthusiasts

Spitting image – the satirical TV puppet show – has long been one of the funniest ways to cast off some of the world’s most famous people. So anyone who loves news and puzzles will be delighted with this 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, featuring characters such as Boris Johnson, Ed Sheeran and Kanye West. Not only is it delightfully grotesque, but it’s also tricky, leaving you plenty of time to ruminate on some of the most famous and flawed people on the planet.

Hokusai: The Great Wave

Better: For strategic thinking

Another brilliantly infuriating puzzle, this is a 1000 piece reproduction of Hokusai’s iconic painting The big wave. With white, blue and black hues dominating the image, as well as repeating patterns, this is no walk in the park. Luckily there’s an A4 poster for reference, but that can get in the way sometimes when working at different scales. We felt intensely satisfied to have completed this, but it takes time, strategic thinking, and ideally some helpers!

The Verdict: Puzzles

Ravensburger’s Amazing Bird Puzzle gets our vote because while it’s a decent challenge, it’s not frustrating. The color is extremely cheerful and we also learned a lot about the birds!

the Bar at the Folies-Bergère is perfect for splashing about – no one does puzzles as beautifully as Wentworth.

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Want more challenge? Why not try your hand at the most difficult puzzles we could find

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