25 delightfully distracting jigsaw puzzles to occupy your mind and boost your mood

25 delightfully distracting jigsaw puzzles to occupy your mind and boost your mood

I’ve long been a fan of jigsaw puzzles but I never could have guessed this would turn out to be the Year of the Puzzle. When the pandemic began, so did the puzzle shortage as people, who were suddenly spending all their time at home, looked for a way to distract themselves. Puzzle makers scrambled to catch up, as safe practices allowed.

One silver lining is that puzzle makers have released a dizzying array of new designs as they caught up to the need. Puzzles are really here to stay and I’m so grateful. They’re helpful with managing anxiety, preventing overthinking, and plain old passing the time. Plus, they make fantastic gifts! Here’s a roundup of puzzles that are surefire mood boosters, delightful distractions, or captivating challenges.

Note: some companies are still catching up and availability can change quickly.

All puzzles featured here were chosen because we love them. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission. More info here.

Holiday puzzles

Galison Michael Storrings Bethesda Fountain 1000 piece puzzle. This makes me want to watch every holiday movie with a scene at this fountain.

Litographs Twas the Night Before Christmas 500 piece puzzle. The poem in puzzle form!

Cobble Hill Ugly Xmas Sweaters 1000 piece puzzle. It’s quite something to see them all together like this.

Galison Christmas Chorus 500 piece puzzle. These aren’t your typical Christmas carolers.

White Mountain Puzzles Tis The Season 550 piece puzzle. A quintessential scene.

Bookish puzzles

Litographs Emma 500 piece puzzle. Litographs is now making puzzles! There are so many great ones to choose from too. Each one has words from the book in question as part of the design.

Ben Gilles Blooming Books 750 piece puzzle. My two loves combined!

White Mountain Puzzles Writer’s Paradise 1000 piece puzzle. This is a dreamy setup.

Buffalo Games Charles Wysocki Frederick the Literate 750 piece puzzle. If someone loves books and cats, this is the puzzle for them.

eeBoo Jane Austen’s Book Club 1000 piece puzzle. A reader emailed me about this one and it looks so cute.

State Parks and Great Outdoors puzzles

Cavallini & Co Vintage National Parks 1000 piece puzzle. This retro-style puzzle features a number of state parks and I want to visit them all.

BewildernessPuzzles Night Sky 330 piece wooden puzzle. This gorgeous puzzle may only have 330 pieces but it looks like quite the challenge to put together.

Galison Painted Desert 500 piece puzzle. A fun one for the whole family.

Lantern Press Acadia National Park, Maine – Monument Cove 1000 piece puzzle. I want to go to there!

Buffalo Games Mountains on Fire 750 piece puzzle. The next best thing to seeing these mountains in person.

Plants and flowers puzzles

Galison Houseplant Jungle 1000 piece puzzle. Someone gave me this one and I really enjoyed it, although it was harder than I expected.

Galison Wendy Gold USA State Flowers 1000 piece puzzle. This one went straight to the top of my wish list.

EuroGraphics Tulip Field – Netherlands 1000 piece puzzle. Oh, to be able to walk through this gorgeous field!

Galison Plant Life 1000 piece panoramic puzzle. I love the colors of this one!

Springbok Garden Goodness Puzzle 1000 piece puzzle. This has me thinking about what I’ll plant in my garden come spring.

Destination puzzles

EuroGraphics Neuschwanstein 1000 piece puzzle. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this castle in Bavaria, Germany.

Galison Michael Storrings Brooklyn Bridge 1000 piece puzzle. Such a darling illustration!

EuroGraphics Yosemite El Capitan 1000 piece puzzle. I wish I could magically transport myself there.

True South Kentucky 500 piece puzzle. I’ve heard great things about True South puzzles and they have so many states to choose from.

EuroGraphics Paris Eiffel Tower 1000 piece puzzle. All that sky and water makes this a great choice for anyone who’s looking for a real challenge.

Do you share my love of puzzles? I’d love to hear about your favorite puzzles in the comments.

P.S. 16 jigsaw puzzles to brighten up your winter days, plus 20 favorite board games to beat the rainy day (or chilly day) blues.

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47 comments | Comment

47 comments

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  1. I saw on Cup of Jo yesterday that you can get a puzzle of the front page of the NYT for any day you choose. I thought that was really cool/unique! It’s not cheap at $50 but would be a fun gift for a day that was important to someone – like the day they announced the Biden/Harris win!

    https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/new-york-times-custom-front-page-puzzle?clickid=xLzzG42s5xyLWrqwUx0Mo36AUkEwfLXmSWnkW00&irgwc=1&utm_source=rewardStyle&utm_medium=affiliates&utm_campaign=8444&utm_term=Online%20Tracking%20Link&trafficSource=Impact&sharedid=

  2. Kelly says:

    Does anyone remember the type of puzzle where the pieces are wooden (or maybe just thicker) and shaped like objects from London? I believe Anne shared it on stories last year and have been trying to find something similar ever since!

  3. Liza says:

    I bought my son a gradient puzzle for his birthday. It goes from blue to green. There’s no picture so it’s all about matching the shape with the gradual color change. I’m thinking about getting him a solid black one for Christmas. I got it from areaware.com, which has puzzles and other cool little gifts.

  4. Michelle says:

    I’d love suggestions on favorite brands. We invested in a ‘puzzle keeper’ which holds a felt/flocked board and loose pieces zipped up with handles. You can carry it without the pieces moving, store behind a sofa, slide under a bed, etc. I was a bit skeptical but it’s been fantastic.

    • Anne says:

      A quick survey of my puzzle cabinet shows Galison and Ravensburger as our most-puzzled brands, but I’ll try almost anything if I like the picture enough! (We also adore Liberty Puzzles, which are more of an investment price-wise and are difficult to get right now because of the pandemic.)

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks for the recommendations, and tip on Galison. I was able to find a winter themed one! Our first couple were Ravensburger and we got spoiled! The others aren’t ‘bad’, there’s just more dust, the pieces don’t seem to fit quite as nice, etc. On the other hand, it’s been really hard to get puzzles this year. Like everything else that doesn’t seem to fit quite right this year, I try to roll with it and adjust expectations.

  5. Jill W. says:
  6. Gayatri says:

    I’m a jigsaw puzzle fan. I love Stave puzzles! They are pricey but you get value for money. Spent months solving a 100 piece “trick” puzzle. Don’t need many pieces to make a puzzle difficult when the shape of the pieces are weird. Beautiful wooden pieces and no pictures of the finished puzzle.
    https://www.stavepuzzles.com/basics/
    (Saving up for a limited edition)

  7. Kristan Greenberg says:

    I’m a huge puzzle nerd and my current favorite puzzle company is Pomegranate. They have a ton of different puzzles based on beautiful art pieces and they are very high quality. Check them out!

  8. Jo Yates says:

    I’ve been using an app on my phone called Just Jigsaws. The nice thing about doing jigsaw puzzles on my phone is that the pieces are always turned the right way and my table is free! You can select the number of pieces & the complexity of shapes. I’m partial to the fractal designs which are very intricate.

  9. Sherry says:

    Some favorites: White Mountain Puzzles and puzzles created by Debbie Mumm. Charles Wysocki puzzles are great. He describes his travels all over rural America in a book, Heartland. You can tell by his drawings that he has been there! USPS has produced puzzles picturing actual stamps on various themes: Love, Christmas, etc.

  10. Kim Anne Lennie says:

    I haven’t done puzzles in a long time. I used to work in this small bar and the owner loved puzzles and always put out a puzzle for everyone to work on whether staff or costumers it used to be so fun but these puzzles were really hard like one was a needle in a haystack another was all pretzels. I have no idea where she would get these but it was fun had by all.

  11. Leslie says:

    The New York Puzzle Company does puzzles using the front covers of the New Yorker Magazine. They’re great fun, good quality and you can vary the difficulty by your choices.

  12. Mariah Hanley says:

    I have bought a LOT of puzzles this year. Just bought one that’s the HP Marauder’s Map that I’m very excited about.

    My favorite puzzles are the ones with the image on a separate piece of paper rather than just the front of the box. Galison and Buffalo are my favorite brands.

    My favorite puzzle this year has still been the first one I completed, Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf 1000 piece.

  13. Mary Duncklee says:

    I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles. I usually stick to 500 or less pieces. I’m also careful about avoiding ones with too much sky or too much white for example.
    Those Litograph ones would not be for me!
    I’ve seen people on Facebook trying puzzles for the first time and giving up because they were too challenging/ too much of the same color/ too many weird shaped pieces. You need to start small/easy and work your way up!

  14. Keren says:

    Love puzzles so much! I just treated myself to some from the UK Discworld Emporium. For any fellow Pratchett lovers out there – when they ship to you the package has specially designed “stamps” from the Going Postal book! 😀

  15. Kat Stevens says:

    If you like Wendy Gold’s flower puzzle, you might also like her butterfly one – and also she does actual paintings on globes which are very cool. Check out her website: Wendygold.com. (I am in no way affiliated with her – just a fan who stumbled across her studio one day after completing one of her puzzles.)

  16. Kim says:

    Great suggestions – I want to give my dad a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. I gave him one for his birthday, and the pieces were so small he still hasn’t let me forget it! (Each piece was smaller than my thumbnail.) So now I pay attention to the number of pieces, but also the total dimensions of the puzzle.

    • Michelle says:

      Ravensburger has some large format puzzles that are 500 pieces. When they are done they are the dimensions of the normal 1000 piece puzzle. I just ordered one so I can’t give a glowing recommendation, but it seemed intriguing for my tiring eyes that require reading glasses.

  17. Debbie says:

    I discovered Dowdle puzzles a while ago and got hooked! They are folk art puzzles of cities around the world as well as in the US. I bought puzzles of places we visited in the past as another way to “travel” this year but they have so many more of places I want to visit! Just finished the Prince Edward Island puzzle which has Anne and her friends scattered throughout the scene. I found they sell them at Costco during this time of year so I stocked up…

  18. Carol Quan says:

    Love these puzzles! My favorite thing to do these days is to work on a puzzle while listening to an audiobook. So relaxing! I have always enjoyed puzzles, but usually would do a Christmas one and continue until through winter. Now that I am in lockdown mode, I have been doing them continuously. I joined a FB puzzle group and have found so many nice ones. My favorites are colorful ones with a sense-of-humor. Yesterday I logged in Puzzle #200 and still have a box to unpack. Between that and my books, I am having manor storage issues🤪.

      • Carol Quan says:

        Not exactly. I take pictures of my puzzles when I purchase them and have an separate album on my phone with photos. That is to help me avoid duplicates. I usually work on puzzles seasonly (Christmas now) or I use the Random app to pick my next puzzle using the photos on my phone. I also take photos of my books by year purchased and yarn stash.

  19. Carol Kubala says:

    When I think of growing up one of my happiest memories was doing jigsaw puzzles. There were many that I loved and I always did one on New Years Eve into the new day. As an adult time and commitments did not seem to allow this fun hobby. As soon as I retires (7 years ago) I got in the puzzle habit once again. At firs I would start one around Thanksgiving and work on until done. A few years ago my husband had hand surgery in which he lost dexterity. One therapy was doing puzzles; the picking up of the piece was good for him. He got hooked and we have been doing them year round ever since.
    Love this post and thank you all for the suggestions.
    A shout out to our local libraries that do puzzle swaps.
    Brand favorites are Ravensburger and Pomegranate.
    Themes – anything to do with books inc. White Mountain’s 1000 pc, Bookmarks
    Favorite puzzles Buffalo Games 2000 pc. Hidden Tigers
    So many favorites – listed a few
    Pomegranate 1000 pc. Charles Russell In Without Knocking
    Pomegranate 1000 pc. ArtPiece John James Audubon 1000 pc. Reddish Egret
    Ceaco 2000 pc. Disney Villians
    White Mountain 1000 pc. Tapestry Cat
    Ravensbrger 1000 pc. Dragon Cierulo Cabral
    Hinkler Mindbogglers 1000 pc. Peacock

  20. Lee says:

    I always thought puzzling was a waste of valuable reading time until COVID-19 and the subsequent stressors. Puzzles have been the only thing that have helped when I’ve been too anxious to focus on my book. We always have one going now.

  21. CarolK says:

    This link (from murderandmayhem) is to a group of mystery puzzles. I have done a few of these and always enjoy reading the enclosed booklet mystery, putting the puzzle together and solving the crime. Though many of these link to Amazon, if you’re not a fan, I’m certain there are other places to purchase.
    https://murder-mayhem.com/mystery-puzzles?sid=00f15c5a280ac86668db5e1ed9a02cee&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Murder%20%26%20Mayhem:%20Holiday%20Gift%20Guide%202020-12-13&utm_term=Murder%20%26%20Mayhem

  22. Elizabeth says:

    My daughter-in-law and I spend the winter months doing puzzles. We always work a Christmas one (usually Santa). Typically work 1000 piece. We’ve discovered a series of 2000 piece Star Wars puzzles and have done four of them. A new one is out now! YIKES!!
    Thank you for the ideas!

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