Baffledazzle
2013–Present

Biggest Lesson Learned: Guard solutions diligently. Oftentimes, solvers must reach that I-have-no-idea tipping point before the pieces slide into place. Be patient.

Favorite Moment: Hosting a hands on event at a local games shop. Seeing kids’ eyes go wide at the puzzles, and their parents’ eyes go wider when I showed them the riddles and hidden meaning in the puzzle.

Hardest Part: Iterating hundreds of different puzzle cuts to figure out what worked with both the laser and the material, for both durability, aesthetic appeal, and mental challenge.

I have always loved jigsaw puzzles, but once you’ve done a handful you know exactly what each new puzzle box has in store. The puzzle pieces are similarly shaped and there is no goal beyond replicating the image on the outside of the box. After graduating from Cornell, I decided to start a jigsaw puzzle company to make the puzzles that dedicated puzzlers deserved.

Baffledazzle puzzles are a discovery in a box. Each one is made up of quarter-inch thick, laser-cut solid wood puzzle pieces. As the puzzle is assembled, a design, etched into the top of the pieces, appears. It contains clues that lead the puzzler to figure out what the puzzle is showing them, be it a historic event, a little known animal, an ancient board game, or a famous Lucha wrestler’s mask design. Baffledazzle puzzles are not self-contained activities for passing the time; they’re bread crumb trails that lead puzzlers back out into the real world in search of answers.

The Process

To create the puzzles, I taught myself every stage of the puzzle design and production process. I learned how to design vector-based artwork in Adobe Illustrator and experimented with the laser variables of power, speed, and pulse frequency until I could cut my prototypes without burning the wood.

I iterated each of my puzzle designs dozens of times and subjected them to ruthless durability testing (to broke my heart to snap puzzle pieces in half, but it had to be done) until I had puzzles I felt confident would last for decades. Some of the puzzles required additional pieces, like the game-based puzzle, which needed specialized playing pieces in order to be played. I took the time to source each specialized piece so the finished product would be flawless. These included custom ordered 4-sided dice for the Royal Game of Ur that I hand-painted to match the ancient pyramid dice discovered with the original 4000 year old board game.

Once I had my puzzles designs complete, I raised $14,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to purchase my own laser and begin production.

What it Means to Me

Baffledazzle was the perfect next step for me on my journey to produce products that inspire curiosity, deliver thought-provoking experiences, and invite unconventional solutions. It pushed my technical skills and dedication to my creative vision. Furthermore, puzzle solving is a precise little dance and I love, that even as a puzzle artist, I’m still “choreographing” movements.

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