Curiouser and CuriouserWhat Makes A Good Puzzle?
According to Pat Duncan, the president of the Great American Puzzle Factory, “The key to a good puzzle is it has to be visually appealing with lots of detail and lots of color. The image itself can be a theme such as movies or martinis or a collector's item such as John Deere puzzles or an emotionally appealing image such as a cat staring at a fish bowl.”
SunsOut Inc.’s Diane Skilling thinks “in the end, it’s the design, at least in our experience, the color, the balance of details. Too much makes you crazy, but you need enough to give yourself a clue as you go along. For every one puzzler who wants the most difficulty, the others want something that’s fun and won’t drive them screaming into the night.”
George M. Kurzon, the owner of Battle Road Press thinks, “The quality of manufacture is very important, too. It should have no missing pieces or dust; it should be well cut. The thickness of the board is important; people like to handle thicker pieces. Wooden puzzles are very popular now; here again, the handling of the pieces is something very subjective. All things being equal, a puzzler would prefer wood to cardboard, but wood’s more expensive.”
U.S. distributor Challenge & Fun’s (ToyDirectory) Rob Wilson, director of marketing, found that, “For us, the main things that set our puzzles apart are the fineness of the wood and the printing and the esthetics. The printing process is different; it’s not paper glued on, which has the potential to peel off; ours are printed on the wood. We have a couple of new products, add-ons; puzzles that link puzzles. The outer boarder is in a puzzle shape, and links up with another puzzle, making a bigger picture — a park and next to it is a zoo, which expands into a city.”
Puzzled (ToyDirectory) owner Oren Cohen strives for “an interesting character or shape. Is there add-on stuff? Is it 3D? With a 3D puzzle you can play with it and paint it afterwards. Like our pirate ship.”
Ceaco’s Jason Schneider, product development and marketing manager, looks for things that go beyond the traditional puzzle. “We have a line of Joan Steiner’s “Can You Find?” puzzles which are a game within a puzzle. The Yo-Ho-Glow for children has hilarious images and glows in the dark. On the horizon is a special collectable addition commemorating 10 years of Thomas Kinkade. Should be a huge hit. We sold so many Kinkade puzzles, that they’d form a line of puzzles from San Francisco to Rome.”
Robert Fathauer, owner of Tessellations, explains that, “Multiple solutions increases the play value, but that’s not real common.” Tessellations’ puzzles always work in an educational component. “We always have a theme. We’re working on one now that will teach about irrational numbers — our puzzles deal with concepts that students will learn and thereby reinforce their learning.”
Charles Andresen, sales manager for A Broader View, has a more niche market. “The philosophy to our puzzles is to help spread geographical awareness, to help teach geography. To do this it is critical to have pieces that are shaped like the countries of the world on our map-based puzzles. A lot of extra design and manufacturing expertise goes into perfecting this, but the educational benefit is worth it.”
Andy Snowie, president of R&A Media Inc., goes after particular niches: “I have completed a short cylinder to represent a hockey puck. I'm calling it the CyliPuck. A play on words, but since that NHL strike last year was rather silly it seemed quite appropriate — putting together pieces to reach a settlement.” Snowie smiled as he said the last bit.
Mark Predko, director of sales & marketing for Buffalo Games Inc., explained: “We’ve seen the puzzle market grow over the last three years. Up until this year, our 1000 piece puzzles were always the strongest sellers. We’re finding a strong interest this year in a smaller piece count, especially a 300 piece series we introduced for adults. Not only are they appealing to novice puzzlers but also to the older puzzler as well: the larger pieces are easier to handle and there’s a full foldout poster in the package. People over 65 and families really appreciate that. What was somewhat of a surprise was to hear how 30 to 49 year olds enjoy the size, too. It’s a puzzle you can do in three or four hours; and in today’s day and age, it’s very satisfying to have a puzzle you can finish in one sitting.
Square Root Games’ president Gary MacLeod thinks it’s “the challenge. It can’t be too easy, or too hard, but it’s got to have a certain amount of challenge — that’s what a puzzler is looking for. Sliding block puzzles are still very popular as is Mancala.”
b. dazzle, inc (ToyShow) executive vice president, Marshall Gavin sums it all up: "Scramble Squares puzzles are 'Easy to Play, But Hard to Solve.'" These award-winning nine-piece puzzles, in over 100 styles of exquisite original art, teach patience, perseverance and critical thinking skills, while providing stimulating cross-generational entertainment, either as a solitaire game or as a cooperative activity for children, adults and senior citizens.
Easy to play, hard to solve: That’s what makes a good puzzle.
On a dark oak board, this one-player game is won by moving 21 marbles in grooves until only one is left on the board. It includes a marble bag and instructions.
On a dark oak board, this one-player game is won by moving 21 marbles in grooves until only one is left on the board. It includes a marble bag and instructions.— Of the many products made by Square Root Games that Games of Berkeley stocks, supervisor Gabriel Dominique said this game sells best.
Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author