Ceaco, the parent company of board game publisher Gamewright, has introduced a new line of jigsaw puzzles called The Baffler. Designed by Chris Yates, The Baffler is billed as “the most unique puzzle ever,” no overlapping images, unique shapes, and without the traditional straight-edged border. There are three puzzles in the series, with 67, 69 and 78 pieces. I received a sample of the 78-piece Bindu Truss puzzle, and I was curious whether it would be as baffling as it claimed to be.
First impression: the puzzle is smaller than I expected, at about 8 inches square. It actually comes assembled in the box, in this sort of cardboard tray/frame, and the rest of the box is actually just a spacer. The first time I worked on the puzzle I actually had to take it apart first, which is a little less work than punching out a bunch of cardboard tokens for a board game but finicky as I worried that I’d damage some of the tabs.
Although it’s advertised as having “no straight edges,” you can see from the picture that there are a few straight edges here and there. However, it doesn’t have a traditional straight-edged border—all of the border pieces have at least a few tabs and notches. Of course, having the frame means that when you assemble the puzzle it’s kind of like somebody has already completed the border for you anyway.
The pieces are all individually colored in a sort of spatter-paint style, with a black border along all the edges. So you can’t tell from the image and color what two pieces go together—that is, until you realize there’s a pattern to the colors. Also, each ring of pieces has a slightly different size or shape, so I was able to pretty easily pick out all the pieces for one set, place them all in, and then find the next set. That simplified it to the point that I could hand my 4-year-old an appropriate piece and she was able to find the right spot for it. (I should mention here that my 4-year-old has pretty good spatial recognition skills, a bit better than her 6-year-old sister.)
I felt like the pattern of the Bindu Truss puzzle made it less baffling than advertised, at least once you picked up the patterns. The other two puzzles don’t seem to have the same radial symmetry and may actually present more of a challenge, but ultimately I think having the frame makes the puzzle a lot easier. A bigger challenge may be to assemble it just on a table, but because of the way the pieces fit together, the frame is really what holds it together. Without it, the pieces slide apart pretty easily.
Just to be more thorough, however, I also asked my wife to try it out and then set my 6-year-old on it, without telling them anything about the patterns, and both of them did say it was a bit of a challenge. I actually got quite frustrated working on it with my 6-year-old because she’d hold a piece, compare it to the correct slot for it, and then move on to another area. The suggested age range for the Baffler puzzles is 12 and up, so that’s probably a good target to start with: any younger and they’ll need a significant amount of help.
Overall, I think it’s a fun diversion (and at $9.99, not too pricey) but personally I didn’t find it nearly as difficult as the marketing materials seem to suggest. (And “most unique”? What does that even mean?) If you like abstract puzzles and want something a little different, check out the Bafflers—but be forewarned that they’re smaller than they appear. For my money, the Pajaggle puzzle boards offer a lot more replayability and variety.
Wired: Unique shapes, spatter-painted design, no overlapping colors or images.
Tired: Tiny puzzle, the pattern of the Bindu Truss puzzle makes it easier to figure out.
Here’s the video commercial for the puzzles: