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.

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.

11 Thoughtful Gifts For Curious Kids

Indulge inquisitive minds this year by giving the kids in your life gifts that will reward their curiosity well beyond playtime. These 11 options will keep them entertained, stimulated, and might even help them answer a few of their "why" questions on their own.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we 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!

1. The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure Science Experiment Kit

This narrative STEM set lets kids build Pepper Mint's treehouse in the rainforest of Borneo so that she can help on a research expedition. Made for ages 8 and up, the various experiments that kids need to learn to help Pepper make the most of her trip. The projects include making a rotating rain shield, wiring LED lanterns for nighttime, and learning how gears and pulleys can help shift heavy things around the treehouse with minimal effort. And if land-based adventures aren't quite their thing, another Pepper Mint set about an underwater voyage will take them out on the open seas.

Find It at Amazon for $40 and also at these other retailers:

2. TinkerToy Super Building Set

When your preschool-aged cousin has outgrown basic blocks, the next step is building anything with wheels. This giant set of 200 rods, spools, washers, and connectors lets kids engineer cars, buses, bikes … or swords with which to stab you in appreciation. But, even then, imaginative STEM play! The pieces are durable, flexible, and made in a zero-waste green facility in Pennsylvania, so you'll feel less bad when you step on a missing spoke.

Find It at Amazon for $50 and also at these other retailers:

3. Worldwide Buddies Mexico Story Box

This culture-in-a-box set will teach kids all about the customs and traditions that make various countries unique and special. The first Worldwide Buddies kit is full of Mexican treats—it includes a book, bilingual playing cards, a stuffed axolotl toy (the critically endangered underwater Mexican salamander), and various other games and activities that will keep los niños engaged and occupied for weeks. And in January, the Chinese culture package will be debuting, just in time to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Find It at Worldwide Buddies for $39.

4. Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit

When we first learned about this coding wand, we couldn't wait to get it for the little Hermiones and Harrys we know. Kids ages 6 and up can create their own Wizarding World with a few flicks of the wrist while reciting a spell (err, programming the code). It's compatible with Mac, PC, Android, and iOS, so no matter which house they get sorted into, their spells should work flawlessly once they've completed their lessons.

Find It at Amazon for $80 and also at these other retailers:

5. Kidvelope

For adults who want to spend more time bonding with distant kid relatives (and not have to resort to Fortnite or some other video game), try some classic snail mail and silly selfies. Kidvelope is a new activity kit that emphasizes intergenerational communication through mission-based play. Kids and adults will work together, sending messages back and forth through the Kidvelope site and the good ol' USPS to solve puzzles, create secret messages, break codes, and, in this first kit iteration, attempt a rescue mission in outer space. As an older generation might say: Far out!

Find It at Kidvelope for $22.

6. LittleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit

They want to be a superhero? Let them build their own gear! Kids 8 and up can design, code, and customize smart-gloves with their own sounds and powers. Voice command? Check! Matrix light design? Obviously. Save the world? One kid at a time.

Find It at Amazon for $84 and also at these other retailers:

7. Nintendo Labo Variety Kit

Created around the concept of "Make, Play, Discover," the Nintendo Labo kits let kids build and customize pre-cut cardboard sheets into items they can then code with the included software for interactive, experimental play. The variety kit comes with cars, a house, a piano, a motorbike, and a fishing rod—so even if your intended recipient doesn't like getting their feet muddy, they can still tell outlandish fish stories with the best of them.

Find It at Amazon for $70 and also at these other retailers:

8. Fishing Boat Model Kit

Speaking of fishing, encourage teens to make model boats the new model cars. This wooden cut-out craft kit from HouhaDesigns would pair nicely with a copy of Moby-Dick. (Just don't let any play-acting destroy the sweet rowboat!)

Find It at Etsy for $15

9. Brio Builder Activity Playset

Let toddlers and preschoolers put their penchant for hitting things to good use by working on their fine-motor skills in the process. Kids can hammer away on these durable nuts, bolts, and wheels as well as practice using a wrench. They'll be ready to help you put together your IKEA purchases in no time!

Find It at Amazon for $70 and also at these other retailers:

10. DIY Fermentation Kit

Kids love helping out in the kitchen, but if they're hanging around too much while you're home-brewing, let them try fermenting something that they can actually sample—like pickles. This kit comes with plenty of recipes for when they're ready to branch out into other condiments (like sauerkraut or kimchi), plus it'll teach them patience. Cukes don't pickle overnight!

Find It at Uncommon Goods for $42.

11. MindWare Pattern Play

Need a quiet-time activity that won't leave crayon marks all over the walls? This rainbow-bright wooden puzzle set comes with 40 distinct pattern cards to master again and again. Kids will be so distracted by the vivid colors and pretty patterns that they won't even realize they're getting a solid introduction to math and geometry concepts like symmetry, congruence, and spatial judgment.

Find It at Amazon for $30 and also at these other retailers:

11 Brilliant Gifts for the Doctor Who Fan in Your Life

Ben Blackall, BBC America
Ben Blackall, BBC America

For Doctor Who fans, December 25 has always a big day because of the legendary sci-fi series’ annual Christmas specials (though this year's will be a New Year's Day affair). It’s during that annual holiday to-do that viewers have gotten their first glimpses of incoming Time Lords, as was the case with 2017's "Twice Upon a Time," the special that gave us a first look at Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor (and the first female Doctor).

A lot has happened in the 12 months since then. In addition to making her debut to record-shattering ratings, it's already been announced that Whittaker and her trusty team of companions will return for another whole new season ... though it won't air until 2020.

To help the Whovian in your life pass the time until then—and scratch yet another gift off your ever-growing holiday list—may we suggest one of these?

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we 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!

1. Thirteenth Doctor Barbie doll

Doctor Who Barbie doll
BBC and Mattel

In addition to being the first woman Doctor, Jodie Whittaker managed to become the first Doctor to get the Barbie treatment. The iconic doll brand, which is beloved by kids and adults alike, teamed up with the BBC to release this limited-edition doll. It bears an impressive resemblance to Whittaker, too—and sports her now-standard rainbow-striped T-shirt, suspenders, cropped trousers, trench coat, and lace-up boots. She’s even carrying her new take on the sonic screwdriver, a.k.a. a Swiss army sonic.

Find It at Hot Topic for $50

2. Thirteenth Doctor Funko Pop!

Thirteenth Doctor Funko Pop! toy
Funko

If your toy aesthetic is more square-headed and whimsical, then Funko's Thirteenth Doctor Pop! will make a fun addition to your cult toy collection.

Find It at Amazon for $11

3. Tardis Teapot

Jumping from one century and planet to the next can be a tiring business, so it’s always prudent to make time for tea. This ceramic teapot, which is a detailed recreation of the Doctor’s iconic time-traveling call box, holds up to 25 ounces per serving—enough for your giftee and any companion they might have tagging along.

Find It at Walmart for $28.

4. Eleventh Doctor Green Coat

Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Green Coat
BBC Shop

Regardless of who your favorite Doctor is, there’s no denying that Matt Smith’s double-breasted green coat is one stylish frock. The lined, moleskin coat gets it right down to the very last detail, and also comes with plenty of pockets.

Find It at The BBC Shop for $330.

5. The Doctors: Time And Space Collection

Even if you didn’t know his name, you probably spent part of your childhood with Roger Hargreaves, the author behind the Mr. Men book series. Now your giftee can relive those days with this eight-book collection of Doctor Who-inspired Mr. Men titles, created by Hargreaves’s son Adam. The books’ bold illustrations are accompanied by fun little stories and jokes from the series, which makes them fun for the whole family. (Though the Thirteenth Doctor isn't included in this series, she does have her own standalone title, which is available for $6 (paperback) or $14 (hardcover) on Amazon.)

Find It at Amazon for $31

6. Monopoly: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Everyone’s favorite ode to capitalism gets a Whovian makeover with this special edition of Monopoly, where properties like Park Place take on the name of classic Doctor Who episodes like "The Poison Sky" instead, and old-school tokens like the race car and thimble have been replaced by iconic trinkets including the Fourth Doctor’s scarf and the Eleventh Doctor’s bow tie.

Find It at Amazon for $50 and also at these other retailers:

7. Tardis Watercolor Throw Blanket

Help your giftee show off both their fandom and their creative side with this cuddly throw blanket, featuring a watercolor-like rendering of the Doctor’s TARDIS. Measuring 4-by-5 feet, the blanket is perfect for cuddling up with a Doctor Who binge-watch.

Find It Hot Topic for $20 and also at these other retailers:

8. LEGO Ideas Doctor Who Building Kit

Doctor Who fan Andrew Clark designed this detailed LEGO set via the company’s LEGO Ideas site. The 625-piece building kit replicates the TARDIS’s iconic trans-dimensional engineering quirk, with its small-on-the-outside and enormous-on-the-inside look. The collection's four minifigures, including both the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, mean that you can even role-play a Time Lord regeneration, LEGO-style.

Find It at Amazon for $115.

9. Fourth Doctor Scarfs

Does your favorite Whovian want to go old school with their Doctor Who style? This recreation of the Fourth Doctor’s oversized scarf—available in lengths of either six or 12 feet—makes a great winter accessory.

Find It at Amazon for $25 and up.

10. Sonic Screwdriver BBQ Tongs

With these tongs, your giftee will want to drag the grill out of storage and cook up a fresh batch of fish fingers (and custard) with these sonic screwdriver-style tongs. Yes, they even have sound effects.

Find It at Amazon for $20 and also at these other retailers:

11. Doctor Who: The Official Cookbook

Fish fingers and custard may not be a traditional dish in most parts of the world, but if you’ve ever wondered what the Doctor’s favorite foods taste like, this book is chock full of 40 “Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Recipes.” Fandom never tasted so delicious.

Find It at Amazon for $14 and also at these other retailers:

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