The best science-y jigsaw puzzles for this most auspicious National Puzzle Day
NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbiter, in 435 pieces.
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Today, January 29, is what the powers that be—public relations firms, one would have to believe—have designated National Puzzle Day. I’m not sure what exactly is going on, but I’ve been spotting groups of all types of people huddled around jigsaw puzzles. I’ve even been thinking about adding a monthly jigsaw puzzle into my routine just to feel that sense of accomplishment that sweeps over you as the last puzzle piece neatly fits into your beautiful jigsaw, revealing the complete picture. Little else offers that kind of gratification.
Celebrate the “holiday” with a science-minded jigsaw puzzle that’ll keep your brain working the entire time. (Not much for puzzles? Well then I don’t know why exactly you clicked on this article, but regardless, you can check out my favorite board games here.)
Before we get into the actual puzzles, there’s a specific puzzle situation I came across this December. What happens if you’ve just finished a puzzle, but aren’t quite ready to take it apart? Or aren’t completely finished and need the tablespace? This Lavievert mat allows you to roll up your puzzle—so long as it fits on the 46 x 26-inch mat—and store or transport it. An inflatable tube fits inside one end of the felt mat. Carefully roll the puzzle up using the inflatable tube and then keep it secure with the included elastic bands. The black felt mat is also a great area to start working on your puzzle. $17.
This 200-piece option is good for kids, and measures just 13 x 19-inches when completed. It’s educational—and definitely won’t be a Bohrium. $9.
For a more challenging, artistic periodic table, the Elements Puzzle is based on Theodore Gray’s book, The Elements. Instead of just names on the table, each element is represented by a photograph. It’s a 36 x 16-inch puzzle with 1,000 pieces. $18.
Based off Rachel Ignotofsky’s stunning, best-selling book, this 500-piece puzzle highlights 15 female pioneers of science and technology. It also comes with an 18 x 24-inch poster to hang on your wall. $10.
MoMA’s 1,000-piece puzzle looks incredibly hard. The puzzle pieces shift colors when you move them. Get it if a regular 1,000-piece option is too humdrum for you. Or if you really want an excuse to break up. $81.
Gradient puzzles kind of want to make you smash your head into the coffee table, but in a good way. All the more satisfied you’ll feel when you finally put it together. When I take this one on, I’m going to work from the middle outward. This one has 1,000 pieces and measures 20 x 28 inches when complete. $35.
I’ve always been a fan of Pop Chart Lab’s artwork. This 500-piece puzzle on the history of space travel is an aesthete’s way to learn about every space mission since 1961. It also includes a full-color poster with a timeline of all space missions. When built the puzzle measures 18 x 24-inches. $16.
They’ve also got the same artwork on their playing cards. The cards come with a trivia booklet.
I’d argue that your kids will spend more time looking at sweet space facts when they’re putting together a puzzle bearing its likeness, and may even retain some of the information. It’s a 1,000-piece puzzle that ends up being 20 x 27-inches when complete. $16.
For gearheads, Ravensburger’s 3D Porsche 911 R is a sweet puzzle made of plastic pieces. It’s only 108 pieces, and small enough—10 x 4 x 2. 75-inches—to look great on your shelf or mantel once completed. $29.
Exploring the parks that highlight the United States’ incredible geographic diversity is a wonderful thing to do—when the weather is good. When the clouds open up, this puzzle, which showcases National Parks and their unique features, brings nature inside your warm, dry home and gives you an educational activity to do with actual people. $18.
To get younger kids into learning about space and our solar system, check out Ravensburger’s 200-piece jigsaw puzzle. The piece are XXL, so the puzzle still comes out to 19 x 14-inches. It’s a great puzzle if you’ve got the space. $13.
This blank Ravensburger puzzle boasts “Softclick technology” that means you can hear a click once a piece is in the correct place. It’s got 654 unique pieces, arranged in a circular pattern inside of a square. I’ve never seen a puzzle quite like this. $19.
This 1000-piece rendition of Charles Darwin’s evolution “Tree of Life” is 100 percent recyclable. Per one review on Amazon: “From a biologist’s perspective, this puzzle is accurate and amazingly complete. All of the history of life is represented (bacteria, archaebacteria, eukarya, fungi, protists, plants, animals…)” $20.
I’ve never done a round puzzle, so the idea immediately stresses me out. This 1,000-piece puzzle from LRRH is a perfect circle that ends up being 26.57 x 26.57-inches when finished. The Round Color puzzle is on the top of my list to tackle this year. $17.
These 1,000 puzzle pieces are the building blocks that make up the building blocks of our world. It measures 19.25 x 26.5-inches, and gives you a closer, historical look at the atom. $25.
Do you believe it when a burger place you’ve never heard of says it has the “Best Burgers” in the city? I typically don’t, but this Paul Lamond Games Dalmatians puzzle looks like it very well may be one of the “world’s most difficult puzzles,” as it claims. It’s only 529 pieces, but they are double-sided with the same image. *$17*.
If you really love puzzles—and inevitably lose your mind—check out Kodak’s 51,300 piece puzzle. If it takes a day to finish a 1,000-piece puzzle, imagine how long this’ll take. Anyone want to join me? It measures up to 28.5 x by 6.25 feet when finished so you’ll need a large surface. This is the biggest puzzle I could find. $564.
This 216-piece, 3D puzzle comes with five colors of LED to make your Empire State Building pop. $29.
This was the first largest puzzle I found. The 24,000-piece behemoth is intended for ages 14 and up—though you probably won’t finish until you’re about to leave for college—and measures 168.50 x 61.81-inches when finished. It features a surreal landscape ranging from the sea to outer space, featuring animals, sailboats, and more. $260.
Just Padawan piece at a time until the 1,000-piece puzzle is complete. $15.
While not the most science-based puzzle on this list, this 833-piece Metropolis is in fact a 4D city, which is cool enough to earn itself a place on this list. Don’t worry, the puzzle comes with an instruction poster. $35.
I’m terrible with geography. If your kid’s got a geography test coming up, snag one of these puzzles that includes information like highways, rivers, and state capitals. It’s 1,000 pieces. $18.
Recreate NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbiter with Wrebbit’s 3D jigsaw puzzle. When assembeled, these 435 thick pieces measure 18 x 11.5 x 8 inches when assembled. $23.
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