You might associate jigsaw puzzles with quiet evenings in front of the fire, perhaps with a glass of eggnog and a cozy chair. Comforting, relaxing, reassuring: an untaxing pastime that's more soothing than stressful.
Don't expect such a mellow experience out of today's tougher jigsaws, however. Gone are the gentle 300-piece puzzlers of your youth, replaced by a range of multi-piece mindbenders that use every trick in the book to make your life difficult. Get ready to meet some of the hardest jigsaw puzzles in the world.
Some puzzles have hard pictures. Others owe their difficulty to their complex shapes. But this one is hard purely by virtue of its sheer scale.
"Life: The Great Challenge" is, according to Guinness, the world's largest commercial puzzle -- and according to us, it's also the world's ugliest. A vivid composite of balloons, clownfish, yachts, and planets, the illustration is one that could charitably be called "nightmarish," which is also a good way to describe its difficulty. Boasting a terrifying 24,000 pieces bursting with bright colors, when completed -- if completed -- it'll be over 14 feet long. We hope you have a large table, plenty of patience, and lots of spare time. Buy now
This bewildering puzzle is not so much about 101 Dalmatians as it is about 529 pieces of Dalmatians. Though its piece count might be on the low side, and the pups might be cuddly, don't let that fool you into thinking it's an easy ride.
For one thing, the picture is a near-uniform mass of black-and-white doggies. For another, the entire puzzle is double-sided, and the picture on the back is a 90-degree rotated version of the front. In other words, not only are you not going to know where a piece goes, you're also not going to know which way up to put it. Maker Buffalo Games offers a variety of similar jigsaws in an assortment of themes, and they're all unfeasibly difficult. Buy now
Question: What's the first thing you do when solving a jigsaw puzzle? If you're like most puzzle-solvers, you start by sorting all the edge and corner pieces into a pile and tackling them first. That tactic won't serve you well with this puzzle, though: all the pieces have at least one straight edge.
Oh, and the picture is of a cat eating pie -- with a fork, no less. You can't go wrong with a cat eating pie. Buy now
Ravensburger Silver Krypt
If even that's too easy, try this one on for size. A release from German puzzle maker Ravensburger, it may look like one big misprint, but the absence of picture is entirely deliberate -- its 654 pieces are all a uniformly unhelpful shade of silver.
Which, as luck would have it, will also be the color of your hair by the time you slot the last piece home. Buy now
Puzz3D Imperial Star Destroyer
Bored by flat jigsaw puzzles? Looking for something that'll push your jigsaw puzzles into a new dimension? Here's the perfect next step.
This 3D model of an Imperial Star Destroyer boasts a relatively modest 823 pieces -- but considering most of them are flat, gray, and plain-looking, we suspect you'll have more than a few late nights putting them all together. Buy now