Where to find puzzles in the midst of a pandemic

My husband and I are by no means avid puzzlers, but every winter we recharge our mental batteries by turning off the TV once in a while to complete a 1000 piece puzzle or two. It’s a calming activity (one might even call it ‘piecemeal’) that still stimulates the mind, plus it encourages conversation and helps us reconnect. There’s also a pretty satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Just ask ‘The Wolverine’ star Hugh Jackman, who went so far as to livestream himself by completing puzzles on Instagram. Other famous puzzle fans are Sir Patrick Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres.

Whenever we saw a fun or thought-provoking design, we added it to a wishlist and bought it whenever the manufacturer had a sale or a price drop. So when the pandemic forced Ohioans to stay home, we were lucky enough to already have a small cache of unopened puzzles waiting. When we started posting photos of completed puzzles on social media, we discovered a community of like-minded friends and neighbors. A puzzle-swap was born.

There are a few rules. To limit the spread of germs, after each puzzle is completed, it is wiped down with disinfectant. Wash your hands before dismantling. The coins are placed in a zippered bag, the bag is put back inside the box, and then the box is also wiped dry.

It’s really simple. At our condominium complex, interacting with neighbors is as easy as leaving a box on a doormat. Between friends, an SMS or an instant message tells us where to pick up or drop off a box. Now that we are working on a lot more puzzles, we are becoming knowledgeable about different brands. Here are some of our favorites, along with the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for a 1,000 piece puzzle.

Aquarius is a leader in pop culture puzzles – Marvel and DC, Star Trek, Harry Potter, you get the idea – but we found the pieces flimsy and the boxes full of dust. Unfortunately, in one instance, the manufacturer’s logo and puzzle title cluttered the lid and obscured the design, so we had no point of reference for several sections of the puzzle. $17 to $25.

This puzzle from Buffalo Games and Puzzles is called "Manhattan skyline night and day."

Buffalo The puzzles are made from recycled puzzle boards and use a precision cutting technique that ensures every piece fits perfectly. Perhaps too firmly. Misplaced parts are difficult to remove. The puzzle we worked on (“Night & Day Manhattan Skyline”) came with a bonus puzzle poster to use as a reference guide, but oddly the dimensions weren’t listed anywhere on the box or poster. $14.95. buffalogames.com.

eeBoo Song & Love has unique and lovely designs for kids and adults, but currently all adult puzzles are out of stock. The 100-piece educational puzzles for kids are $17. eeboo.com.

Galison puzzles are sold in museum shops and at high-end retailers.  Pictured is "Cuba" by Michael Storms.

Galisson puzzles are normally sold in museum shops, major retailers, and independent bookstores and bookstores. You’ll find puzzles from artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Frank Lloyd Wright. The two we completed (“Summer at the Amusement Park” and “Cuba” by Michael Storrings) are very high quality puzzles with white chipboard and minimal puzzle dust. At present, Galison is completely sold out of all of its puzzles and is not accepting orders, which is a testament to their popularity and quality. $16.99. galison.com.

Micropuzzles. When completed, these tiny puzzles measure just 4″ x 6″ and at just 150 pieces, can be solved in hours. If you’re just dipping your toe in the puzzle pool or are pressed for time, this is a great choice. The puzzles cost less than $10 and come packaged in a test tube. Even better, a portion of every online sale is donated to the CDC Foundation. micropuzzles.com.

Grenade offers high-quality puzzles with a well-curated range of artists and images. Here you’ll find works by artists like Charley Harper, Edward Gorey and Jackson Pollock. $19.95. pomegranate.com.

Ravensburg the puzzles are printed on extra-thick cardboard and fine linen-structured paper for a glare-free image. These high-quality German-made puzzles are in such demand that the company is out of stock and no longer shipping, but you can find them at select online retailers. $20 to $25. ravensburger.us.

Springbok puzzles feature uniquely shaped pieces of varying sizes.  Pictured is "Groovy records."

Springbok is the oldest puzzle brand made in the United States. The puzzles are made with sustainable organic soy ink and use 100% recycled materials. We’re not sure, but maybe that’s why the puzzle we worked on (“Groovy Records”) had a lot of puzzle dust. If you’re buying new, be super careful or you’ll get gray dust everywhere. The pieces are uniquely shaped, with some measuring nearly two inches and others no larger than a fingernail. Springbok is well stocked and most puzzles ship in 5-7 days. $17.50. springbok-puzzles.com.

white mountain offers high quality puzzles in sturdy blue chipboard on recycled paper. The 1000 piece puzzles are the largest in the industry, measuring 24 x 30 inches when completed. These also have a lot of residual dust. The puzzle we completed (“The 1980s”) took us back in time by identifying all the events and icons of that decade – including hit king Pete Rose! This particular puzzle comes with a trifold cardboard backing to support the lid for easy viewing – a nice touch. $16.99. whitemountainpuzzles.com.

A tip for keeping puzzle dust to a minimum: don’t just put a new puzzle on your work surface. Sorting piece by piece is tedious but effective – plus you can sort by color or shape or at least find all the edge pieces – or empty the puzzle into a mesh laundry bag or colander and shake it out. ‘outside.

Virtual puzzles

If you’re saving money, take Governor Mike DeWine’s advice and work on virtual puzzles. He recommended Virtual Puzzles to the Belmont County Tourism Board at visitbelmontcounty.com/virtual-puzzles. You can also find a number on jigsawexplorer.com.

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