Unraveling the Pandemic: Wooden Puzzles of Confusion

After reviewing the iron giant puzzle from Mondo last year, like so many others, I embraced puzzle making during the pandemic. So when Bewilderness, a puzzle company in Washington State, offered to send me some of their high-end wooden puzzles, I jumped at the chance. Their puzzles are precision laser cut and range in price from $40 to $99.

I decided to try out two very different styles of puzzles for this review. I deliberately chose to steer clear of their more difficult puzzles. After all, I’m still relatively new to puzzles, and while I enjoy a challenge, I figured I’d be very challenged with their normal puzzles. And it turns out I was right.

The box that the Earth puzzle comes into play. Image by Paul Benson.

Earth Puzzle

The first puzzle I started with was Earth, a 199 piece puzzle featuring a watercolor painting design by artist Erin Darling. It costs $95 and can be purchased here. It came in a surprisingly compact glossy white box with a magnetic closure. Upon opening the box, the puzzle pieces are in a plastic zip-lock bag, nicely wrapped in tissue paper. There is also a copy of the artwork, for reference when building the puzzle.

Earth puzzle pieces and illustration. Image by Paul Benson.

When opening the puzzle pieces, there is a delicious smell of wood. It’s almost the smell of wood burning in a fireplace, probably thanks to the laser cutting process. Here are all the parts:

The whole of the Earth Puzzle pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

One of the main features of this puzzle is that several pieces are shaped like animals or trees:

Some of the features Earth Puzzle pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

With a standard puzzle, you start with the frame. However, the circular Earth puzzle was far from ordinary, and it was not initially obvious which pieces contributed to the boundaries. And so, I started the distinctive pieces, because it would be easier to find matches.

Start of construction. Image by Paul Benson.

Using these pieces as a base, I was able to slowly build from there, and things started to take shape.

It’s starting to look more like the picture! Image by Paul Benson.

And finally, here is the completed puzzle, which measures just under a foot in diameter:

Earth in all its watercolor glory. Image by Paul Benson.

It wasn’t until I finished building the puzzle that I realized a nice detail: all plants and animals are in their appropriate regions on the globe!

Box wolves and the moon. Image by Paul Benson.

wolves and the moon Puzzle

Then I switched to the wolves and the moon, which used Bewilderness’ signature geometric cutout pieces. The art of the 326 piece puzzle is by Henry, with puzzle design by Whitney. wolves and the moon retails for $99 and is available here. Like Earth, the puzzle is attractively packaged in a shiny box with a magnetic closure.

Some geometric puzzle pieces. Image by Paul Benson.

As you can see, the shapes of these pieces also make it difficult to build as a “standard” puzzle. I thought I’d better start by sorting by color.

The whole of the wolves and the moon rooms. Image by Paul Benson.

Although I might not be able to build the whole frame first, I could at least start with one of the corners. Since the moon was the only part of the puzzle that used yellow, it was a great starting point.

Assembly of the first part of the puzzle. Image by Paul Benson.

From there, I figured those big wolf eyes would be the easiest next step to accomplish. Using the included image for reference, I was able to position them relative to each other. The artist’s signature and the bone were also easier shapes to build.

I’m looking at you, kid. Image by Paul Benson.

From there I moved on to teeth and continued to build from there. Finally, everything started to fall into place (literally and figuratively), and then I was done. The finished piece measures 11.25″ x 16″.

Finished wolves and the moon. Image by Paul Benson.

Confusion Puzzles – Final Thoughts

Working with wooden puzzle pieces is different from your typical cardboard puzzles. With the exception of pieces that fit together tightly, such as a coiled tail of a seahorse in its matching piece, the wooden puzzle pieces can easily be knocked over or slipped out of place.

Both of these puzzles were definitely tricky, each in their own way. I found this with Earth, the number of very small parts could make it difficult to find exactly where everything fits together correctly. Fortunately, once the larger pieces are in place, it’s easier to see where to insert the smaller ones. With the wolves and the moon, the geometric pieces provided their challenge to see where they fit properly. This was especially the case with the starry sky, which I had saved for last. There were times when I really wondered if I was putting this part of the puzzle together correctly, and I was afraid that I would have to remove pieces and start over. But luckily I had it put together well, as you can see above.

The Bewilderness puzzles are all beautifully illustrated, in many different styles. And they smell good too! If you are looking for high quality pieces that will exercise your mind and fingers, you should definitely look at Bewilderness wooden puzzles. Maybe now that I have a few under my belt, I’ll be brave enough to check out the difficult ones…

For more information or to make a purchase, visit the Bewilderness website.

Note: Confusion sent me the puzzles for review, but did not contribute to this review.

To take a closer look wolves. Image by Paul Benson.

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