In the 2018 film “Puzzle,” a stifled, suburban Connecticut woman finds unexpected liberation in the world of competitive jigsaw puzzling. “When you complete a puzzle, when you finish it,” her puzzle partner tells her, “you know that you have made all the right choices.” It’s an appealing thought, especially in a time of heightened uncertainty. And you don’t have to go pro to experience that same satisfaction — or the sense of tranquil determination that precedes it, when you are fully focused on the task at hand, and not, say, on a global pandemic. Advocates of puzzles cite their meditative, anxiety-reducing effects; they have also been shown to keep practitioners mentally sharp.
And then there’s the simple fact that, now that New York City’s bars, restaurants, libraries and theaters have shuttered, leisure activities are strictly limited. In the absence of studio fitness classes, everyone is a runner now, and parks have become a contemporary agora. For a mental workout (or break) that keeps you away from your phone — and may even alleviate the tension that can come with a wealth of aimless together (or alone) time — try a puzzle or game. Here are a few of T’s favorites, from whimsically illustrated decks of cards to design-conscious dominoes.