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.

These Atlases Map Out the Unique Histories of New York City, New Orleans, and San Francisco

University of California Press / Amazon
University of California Press / Amazon

When thinking of a map, your mind most likely pictures a seemingly unruly network of colorful lines showing roads and city limits. But what if a map could go beyond geography and show just what makes a particular place so unique? For over 10 years, author Rebecca Solnit has compiled three unique atlases of New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, with each one giving readers a look at these distinct cities that goes far beyond tourist attractions and subway lines. Now, for the first time, you can buy all three atlases in a set at Barnes & Noble ($68) or Amazon ($51).

In Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Solnit, along with artists, writers, and cartographers, created 22 colored maps of the city, with each one focusing on a different aspect of its character. For example, the "Poison/Palate" map displays the dichotomy between the artisan food shops and restaurants that exist alongside the toxic mines and chemical factories found in the Bay Area. The "Green Women" map, on the other hand, celebrates the women of the city that have fought for the environment. You can find the first of the series on Amazon for $21.

The second in the series is Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, written by Solnit and co-authored by Rebecca Snedeker, a native to New Orleans and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker (Witness: Katrina). Alongside 22 maps, this atlas features more than 20 essays written by musicians, prison activists, and many other local experts. Readers can see the aftermath of the BP spill in the “Oil and Water” map, while “A City in Time” allows viewers to see how New Orleans has been settled over a period of 300 years. Find this edition for $21 on Amazon.

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the last in the series, and you can find it on Amazon for $22. Written by Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, a geographer and writer, this edition has 26 maps, highlighted by “City of Women.” At first glance, it looks like a typical subway map, but when you look closer, you’ll see the stop names have been replaced by those of women who have impacted the city in some way, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Dorothy Parker. If you buy the set, you'll receive an updated fold-out poster of this popular map, which includes more recent names like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Alongside the many women that have shaped the Big Apple, readers can see a mapped-out version of the different languages spoken throughout Queens and much more.

The set also includes two other color fold-out posters of New Orleans and San Francisco and an essay by Solnit reflecting on this project.

Once you're done looking through these unique maps, check out some of the most important ones in history.

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!

Wrap Yourself in the Sweet Smell of Bacon (or Coffee or Pine) With These Scented T-Shirts

adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images
adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images

At one point or another, you’ve probably used perfume, cologne, body spray, or another product meant to make you smell like a flower, food, or something else. But what if you could cut out the middleman and just purchase scented clothing?

Candy Couture California’s (CCC) answer to that is “You can!” The lifestyle brand offers a collection of graphic T-shirts featuring scents like bacon, coffee, pine tree, strawberry, and motor oil. If you have more traditional olfactory predilections, there are several options for you, too, including rose, lavender, and lemongrass. There’s even a signature Candy Couture California scent, which is an intoxicating blend of coconut, strawberry, and vanilla.

candy couture california bacon shirt
Candy Couture California

According to the website, CCC founder Sara Kissing came up with the idea in 2011 while working in the e-commerce fashion industry, and her personal experience with aromatherapy led her to investigate developing clothing that harnessed some of those same benefits. The T-shirts are created with scent-infused gel, which “gives off a delicate, mild smell—just enough to boost your mood.”

So you don’t have to worry about your bacon shirt making the whole office smell like a breakfast sandwich, but you yourself will definitely be able to enjoy its subtle, meaty aroma whenever you wear it. The shirts are also designed to match their scents—the chocolate shirt, for example, features chocolatey baked goods, while the coffee shirt displays steaming mugs of coffee.

candy couture california chocolate shirt
Candy Couture California

The fragrances don’t last forever, but they’ll stay strong through 15 to 20 washes before they start to fade. CCC recommends using unscented detergent so as not to conflict with the shirt’s aroma, and you can further prolong its life if you’re willing to wash it by hand.

Prices start at $79, and you can shop the full collection here.

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