11 Gifts for the Puzzle Fanatic

iStock
iStock

A dedicated puzzle fanatic isn’t satisfied by solving a simple problem. They need cryptic crosswords, tangled mazes, and abstract jigsaw puzzles to feel excited. Here are 11 gift ideas to stimulate the mind of the puzzle lover in your life.

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1. Pop Art Puzzle

Box containing a jigsaw puzzle.
W&P Design

This holiday, buy your loved one a colorful work of art they can assemble themselves. The original image in this puzzle channels the pop art style forged in the 1950s by such artists as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. At 500 pieces it’s no beginner's board, but the 18-by-18-inch layout makes it the perfect size for a small apartment.

Find It at W&P Design for $20.

2. Darwin's Dinosaur Egg Puzzle

Wooden 3D puzzle.
Uncommon Goods

Each puzzle in the “Great Minds” series from Uncommon Goods is inspired by a different famous thinker from history. This 3D brain-teaser takes its name from the revolutionary naturalist Charles Darwin. To solve it, players must join each of the nine pieces to form the right shape. They’re done when they see the wooden “dinosaur egg” sitting in front of them.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $15.

3. Infinite Galaxy Puzzle

Galaxy jigsaw puzzle.
Nervous System

Most puzzle lovers have a logical and a creative side—this puzzle appeals to the latter. The photo, which depicts the Milky Way’s galactic core, wraps around the board in a way that’s impossible to view all at once. After laying down all 139 double-sided pieces, players can flip them to reshape and rearrange the image into a whole new configuration.

Find It at Nervous System for $120.

4. Great Civilizations Brain Teaser Set

3D puzzle games made of metal and wood.
Uncommon Goods

Each of the puzzles in this set of five is inspired by the inventions and achievements of a different civilization: Chinese tea, the Greek water mill, Egyptian pi, Roman keys, and the Aztec passion flower. The wood and metal structures make for chic design pieces, and the stories behind them make for the beginnings of great conversation.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $20.

5. Wooden Fractal Puzzle

Geometric jigsaw puzzle.
Uncommon Goods

There’s no painting or photograph at the end of this puzzle: just a trippy geometric design. The aniline toner-finished pieces of this jigsaw puzzle link together to form a sprawling fractal field. With no colors to guide the journey, even the most seasoned puzzle solver will find this challenging. The plywood fractal puzzle comes in two versions: one with wavy lines and one with sharp angles.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $60.

6. Nat Geo “My Town” Custom Aerial Map Puzzle

Puzzle of town from above.
Nat Geo

How well does the puzzle lover in your life know their home town? This puzzle lets them get to know it even better without leaving their coffee table. The picture shows an aerial view of the surrounding mile or so of their neighborhood, with their home address as the centerpoint. Assembling the 400-piece puzzle might take just as long as touring the streets on foot.

Find It at National Geographic Store for $45.

7. New York Times Front Page Puzzle

Puzzle of newspaper front page.
Uncommon Goods

Mark the holiday by recognizing another special day in your loved one’s life. This puzzle can be customized to show the front page of any New York Times issue published since 1851. You can enter their birthday, an anniversary, or maybe the last time their favorite sports team won a big game. After they receive the memento, it’s their job to put all 500 pieces together.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $50.

8. Aristotle's Number Puzzle

Wooden number puzzle.
Uncommon Goods

An homage to one of the great philosophers of ancient Greece, this puzzle requires a knack for math. Line up the numbered tiles so that each row adds up to the same amount. It may not be as visually detailed as a jigsaw puzzle, but with wood that’s been finished to look aged, it’s just as striking on a desk or coffee table.

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $14.

9. Crossword Puzzle Reprint

Framed New York Times crossword puzzle.
The New York Times

This one’s for the friend who doesn’t let a Sunday pass without finishing the New York Times crossword puzzle. Choose the crossword puzzle from any issue dating back to 1951 and The New York Times will print it on a 6.75-by-10.25-inch sheet of photographic paper and mount it behind a black wood frame. Beneath the puzzle is the authentic signature of Will Shortz, the newspaper’s own master puzzle-writer. The purchase comes with a copy of the crossword plus the answers, so the person you’re gifting it to doesn’t have to see the puzzle go unsolved.

Find It at New York Times Store for $150.

10. 1000 Colors Puzzle

Box of a jigsaw puzzle.
ThinkGeek

This lovely set is bound to be the crown jewel in any puzzle lover’s collection. Designed by Paris-based artist Clemens Habicht, the puzzle comprises 1000 different pieces, each one representing a distinct hue. Rather than referring to the picture on the box, solvers must match the pieces based on intuition, an activity Habicht describes as being “therapeutic.”

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $48.

11. A-Maze-Ball Maze Game

Spherical puzzle games.
ThinkGeek

Some puzzles require weeks and an extra-long table to finish; others are perfect for those moments when you’re waiting at a bus stop or the doctor’s office. This spherical toy can fit inside a pocket to be played on the go. Rotate the orb to guide the ball bearing from one side to the other. The colors correspond to the difficulty of the maze: Red is easy, orange is medium, and blue is hard.

Find It at ThinkGeek for $8.

This Convenient, Comfortable Travel Pillow Doesn’t Wrap Around Your Neck

Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images
Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images

If an angry bit of airplane turbulence has recently whammed your forehead into the window, you probably have the bruises to prove that sleeping on the go can be a dangerous game. Though neck pillows can offer some security, not everyone’s a fan—some people can’t sleep totally upright, some don’t think it provides enough support, and others simply don’t like the feeling of a plush toilet seat curled around their necks.

For those people, there’s the Ostrich Pillow Mini, a tiny, oblong pillow into which you slip your hand, forearm, or elbow, depending on what’s most comfortable for you. It will stay in place and protect your head from airplane turbulence in a way that no balled-up, threadbare hoodie ever could, but it’s not just for those lucky winners (or purchasers) of window seats. You can use the pillow wherever you might be inclined to rest your head on top of your arms, including plane or train trays, piles of library books, and office desks. One Amazon customer even used the pillows as elbow pads to protect himself from unforgivingly hard arm rests.

Ostrich pillow mini
Amazon

Since the Ostrich Pillow Mini essentially works as an extension of your arm, you don’t have to stay stone-still while you sleep. As Travel + Leisure’s Claudia Fisher puts it, “Sometimes, I even wake up from a nap to discover I’ve shifted in my sleep but brought my little arm pillow with me to support my head in its new spot.”

In addition to its main opening, the pillow has two other holes. One is a small, finger-sized opening through which you slide your thumb if you’re keeping the pillow on your hand. The other is a larger hole at the other end, through which you slide your hand if you want the pillow to stay on your forearm or elbow.

Ostrich pillow mini
Amazon

It’s compact enough that you can easily fit it into your carry-on bag, backpack, or briefcase, and understated enough that you can power nap in public without drawing attention to yourself. The outer layer is light gray, and the inner layer comes in Midnight Grey, Blue Reef, or Sleepy Blue. You can order it for $35 from Amazon.

Check out some other ways to make flying more comfortable here.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can pre-order your copy from Amazon now for $20 before its August 27 release date.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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