The myth about puzzles

Being the owner of a puzzle shop, I naturally get to hear lots of opinions about puzzles.
Filed in: Brain Dump

Being the owner of a puzzle shop, I naturally get to hear lots of people’s opinions about puzzles. 

For some people, a puzzle is a welcome challenge. Something they’ll want to get their hands on and their brain into right away. We have lots of puzzles out to try and some people jump right in as soon as they enter the store. 

These curious minds know the brain work that must go into solving a good puzzle, but they also know the reward of success– the amazing feeling of accomplishment, and elation, courtesy of the dopamine released by your hypothalamus.

For others, a puzzle is a threat. They’ll say, “I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing”, or “puzzles make me crazy”, or “I have a friend that really likes puzzles”. Some will stay far away from our demo puzzles, but sometimes people in this camp will be accompanied by a friend or family member who is curious about or already into puzzles. 

“A good puzzle is like a good book.”
— Christopher, Founder of the Brain Shoppe

Sometimes I’ll hear these folks say, “But why would we buy it? Once you’ve solved it there’s no point in having it any more”. The first time I heard this I almost gasped out loud! I had to think about this one. I grew up with brain teasers puzzles, and I never tossed them away after solving them. Why?

I’m here to dispel that myth. Afterall, I still have the same two-piece pyramid puzzle I got from mom when I was a kid.

There are two kinds of puzzles. There are puzzles with one solution like Martin’s Menace, the Snake Cube, the Cruiser, or Holey Moley.  And there are puzzles that have multiple solutions or game-like puzzles like the Soma Cube, Solitaire (‘the Cracker Barrel game’), Toward Freedom, and the Dice Cube.

For the latter, keeping this kind of puzzle on your shelf or coffee table or game room is a no-brainer. Having multiple solutions or a game-based goal means lots of repeat playability… these puzzles are fun to pick up and solve again and again, and maybe you’ll do it a different way each time.

The Cruiser is a puzzle with a single solution.

But even for puzzles with a single solution… I can think of three good reasons to keep them around:

  1. Share with a friend! And honestly it can be really fun to watch someone struggle with the same puzzle you struggled with– but solved! Hosting a dinner party? Having a few brain teaser puzzles around encourages personal interaction, and they are great conversation starters.
  2. Some single solution puzzles are very hard. The solved puzzle is like a trophy of accomplishment. Go ahead, put it up on your shelf! It feels so good to glance over at a puzzle and say to yourself, “I did that”.
  3. Play it again! I think this is actually the most compelling reason to keep a puzzle. Most puzzles are actually really fun to play again and again! 

A good puzzle is like a good book, or like a good movie. You may want to watch it again right away, or you may keep it on your favorites list and watch it again a week/month/year later. The experience and journey of solving a good puzzle is similar to that of reading a good book or watching a good movie. If you liked it the first time, you’re going to like it again, and you’re going to want to do it again.

You may be saying to yourself, “but I don’t want to try to solve a brain teaser puzzle in the first place”! But listen up, just try working at a puzzle until you solve it, even if it takes a long time. Be patient! Take a deep breath. Puzzle it out. Then that wonderful feeling of having conquered the puzzle will have you coming back for seconds.

(We dare you.)