The Fun Activity That’s Keeping My Friends Connected Until We Can Be Together (in Person) Again

updated Jan 7, 2021
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I live alone, but when the lockdown abruptly began last March, I suddenly felt really alone. As I sat isolated at home on an endless loop of sanitizing, streaming, and stress-eating, I knew my friends were feeling the same way in their own little corners of the world. But while the pandemic took away our ability to socialize in person, it gave us something, too. Instead of being out on Friday or Saturday nights mixing and mingling, we were all home, which meant that thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, and the like, we had more time to hang out together than we had in years.

So in April, I went on Amazon and ordered two identical puzzles: one to be delivered to me, and one for a friend who lives 1,600 miles away. If you took a snapshot of the two of us at any point in time, whether we were having playdates as kids or spending long holiday weekends together as adults, there’s a good chance we’d be doing a jigsaw puzzle. Fast forward to 2020, and my idea was that we could FaceTime and assemble them at the same time as if we were actually in the same room. It didn’t take long for two more friends to join in the virtual fun, so now we are a puzzle-ing foursome scattered in different states and territories. When we find one we agree on, we each order our own and set up our next date. I don’t even want to think of how much longer 2020 would have seemed without them!

If you’re like my friends and me—aka in need of comfort and connection more than ever as we start the new year—the solution might be as simple as a jigsaw puzzle. Take a look at some of our favorites below, (virtually) round up your own squad, and get ready for some much-needed fun and friendship.

1 / 7

While we usually do 1,000-piece puzzles, the group agreed that this soothing gradient image from Areaware looks so challenging, we'd opt for the 500-piece version instead (it also comes with 100 pieces). This design by Brooklyn-based artist Bryce Wilner comes in a variety of color combinations, including black to white, red to yellow, and purple to blue. We're planning on doing the bigger version together in person once it's safe to gather again.

2 / 7

Piecework puzzles arrive in a beautiful box, which is just a taste (ahem) of the beautiful imagery that lies inside—once you put it together. This Rise and Shine puzzle features all of our breakfast faves, like bagels, fruit, and coffee. We haven't done it yet, but we all agree it'll be perfect to frame and hang in a breakfast nook. Plus, all of Piecework's products are printed on ultra-thick, 100% recycled art paper.

3 / 7

This Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg puzzle is next up on my group's list, and we cannot wait to pay homage to one of our heroines. It features one of her (many) iconic quotes: "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made." It's thanks to her that so many of us are.

4 / 7

Breathe in, breathe out, place piece, repeat. Did you know that the Calm app has gotten into the puzzle business? Each of their zen landscapes—which all come with a free 30-day membership—is glare free, high quality, and designed to be completed in two to three hours so that you don't have to stress about leaving it unfinished. Plus, each piece is completely different and snaps into place, which puzzle enthusiasts know is oh-so-satisfying.

5 / 7

I absolutely love Jiggy's concept. Their puzzles are designed to be pleasing to the eye throughout the entire process: assembly, storage, and display. Each one arrives in a reusable glass jar, along with puzzle glue, a straight-edge tool to spread the glue, and a print of the image you'll be putting together. This gorgeous piece of art by Jamaica's Natasha Cunningham is certainly worthy of being hung up for all to admire.

6 / 7

White Mountain is one of our favorite brands because the pieces are sturdy and the designs are always super fun. We love their collage puzzles, which feature images based on the same theme, like nostalgic vintage toys, irresistible Hostess sweets, and the totally tubular '80s.

7 / 7
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We bought one of these custom photo puzzles for a group member's birthday this year, and she couldn't stop smiling. Shutterfly makes it incredibly easy to create something totally personalized; just choose a design and number of pieces (60, 252, 520, or 1014), then upload your photos, arrange them, and get ready to make a fellow puzzle doer's day.