There are jigsaw puzzle nights at coffee shops and libraries. Puzzle groups and puzzle games online. Hand-cut wooden puzzles that cost thousands of dollars. And puzzle designs that range from edgy, original artwork to your own, custom-ordered family photos.
Jigsaw puzzles for grown-ups are in vogue.
“I was not as passionate about jigsaw puzzles at first, but once I started doing them, I saw the loveliness of these puzzles,” said A.J. Jacobs, a writer working on a book about puzzles, including jigsaws and crosswords. “Puzzles are a very soothing and joyous way to spend a couple of hours. They’re physical, tactile pieces and you get an endorphin rush when pieces snap into place.”
Fans say jigsaws provided respite from daily stress, a chance to step away from the screens and be in the moment.
Abby Matson, 37, found them therapeutic after the unexpected death of her dog three years ago.
“The puzzle was the only thing I could do to keep from crying,” she said.
Matson’s friend, Abby McDaniel, 38, joined her. They started a puzzle group that now has six members. It’s informal. Members send photos of a completed puzzle before mailing it to the next person.
“It brings out an inner competition,” McDaniel said.
Jacobs, author of books including “The Know It-All,” enjoys immersing himself in an activity and then writing about it. Part of his research into puzzles took him to the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship in Spain, a timed competition with teams representing 40 countries.
While many puzzlers are happy with cardboard puzzles, there’s also a market for wooden and artisanal ones. Inspired artwork has replaced campy photos. Some enthusiasts buy special frames, glue and other tools for preserving finished jigsaw puzzles.
Vermont-based Stave Puzzles makes a wide range of wooden puzzles, from “Tidbits” to “Tormentors”; they sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
“Our sales are up 25% in the last decade,” said company founder Steve Richardson. “We are now seeing orders from the children and grandchildren of some of our original customers, so it is definitely a generational activity.”
In addition to getting nicer, jigsaw puzzles have become specialized too. There are 3D and two-sided puzzles. Stave’s “trick puzzle” can be solved in multiple ways, rated on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult). Customers cannot buy a 5-trick puzzle without successfully completing a level 4 first.
After noticing a gap in the market for sophisticated puzzles, Kaylin Marcotte, 29, founded Jiggy Puzzles.
Jiggy’s puzzles are packaged in an elegant glass container and feature original drawings by female artists. They come in two sizes, 450 and 800 pieces, and many sell for about $40. The art ranges from New York City scenes to whimsical, feel-good drawings.