23 Across: A gift for an awesome aunt
March 13, 2012 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a great puzzle-type gift for my aunt. A snowflake is falling.

My Aunt will be turing 52 next week. She has a learning disability - so for the sake of this question, let's pretend she is in the 11-15 age range.

She is really great at puzzles, patterns and brain teaser type things. She mentioned MindWare in the past. I took a look at the site, but I don't know... there doesn't seem to be a lot for older kids. I haven't really found anything on there that pops out.

She will need something that she can do solo, since she is often alone or with my Grandmother.

Some things she likes:

-all kinds of "regular" and 3-D puzzles (I think she's probably getting bored with these)
-Find It
-rubix cubes
-fill-ins/logic puzzle magazines/books
-arts & crafts
-those wooden/metal brain teaser puzzle things that you usually have to unlink somehow

My budget will need to be between $25-60. I usually give several small gifts instead of one big gift.

What do you think?
posted by KogeLiz to Shopping (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Set is an awesome game, and easy for anyone to learn. You can play it alone or with others (I have been known to get pretty competitive). Definitely something that someone who enjoys patern recognition would have fun with.

It's cheap (under 15 bucks) so it would be a good small gift.
posted by phunniemee at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

You don't mention them explicitly, but if she enjoys physical maze/puzzle type toys, the Perplexus Puzzle Ball is an amazingly cool thing. I have yet to meet somebody with even a passing interest in puzzles who's able to put it down. However, I've also owned one for about a year now and have not actually been able to finish it, so if she gets frustrated by not being able to complete things it may not be a great choice.

You may also want to check out the Games and Puzzles section of ThinkGeek for a good selection of unusual puzzles.
posted by duien at 11:28 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thinkfun has a great selection of just these kinds of puzzles and games. Also might want to consider a subscription to Games magazine.
posted by cross_impact at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I grew up on Games Magazine. A subscription to it (and a box of #2 pencils) would be a great starting point.

It has a variety of different types of puzzles inside; some I love, some I don't love, but I eventually just do them anyway because I, like many puzzlers, can't even let the stupid/crappy puzzles go undone if they're just sitting there and I have a minute.

Oh, and for the teen-aged me, this was the best part, as it taught me how to get better at crosswords mostly by identifying cryptic clues:

Each "Pencilwise" [section] also contains "The World's Most Ornery Crossword", a large standard crossword puzzle which has two sets of clues spanning three pages; one set, which is revealed by folding one page in half to hide the second page, are clues rated three stars, while the clues under this fold are rated as one star; the answers to both sets of clues are the same.
posted by heyho at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would there be someone there to play with her? Because I loved the hell out of WFF 'n Proof when I was her "age" or a little younger. It's a game that scales well with increasing complexity as you master it.

Snort - you never "master" WFF 'n Proof, you just start sucking less at it.
posted by workerant at 12:04 PM on March 13, 2012

Stave make some of the most complex/weird and highest quality jigsaw puzzles I've ever seen.
posted by atbash at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rush Hour is a sliding-blocks puzzle with pieces (cars in a rush hour traffic jam). From the initial set-up, you have to slide the cars in order to let the red car reach the "exit" square. The set comes with bunch of (50?) cards that show you different initial set-ups, so you can re-play the puzzle many times. The series has several other sets too. It's made by "ThinkFun" and you can look up their inventory to find similar puzzle sets.

Tantrix is a nice gift set of bakelite tiles with little sections of path on them; you put them together to form continuing paths. You can play single-player (at various levels of difficulty) or multi-player.

Tangrams or Tangoes comes in many different forms - but it's a set of shapes, and it comes with a set of goal pictures, and you have to figure out how to put the shapes together to create the goal picture.

Set can be played solitaire, as can the word game Boggle (which usually uses shortish words).

Spot It is a find-the-matching-symbols game, in a convenient carrying case.

Kanoodle is a travel-size set of 3-D blocks (made of balls glued together in different ways) which you rearrange to match a given pattern. It's somewhat Tetris-like.

Buckyballs and similar magnetic toys are fun, to fiddle with, but very dangerous if swallowed by a human or animal (so be sure she is able to keep them away from little kids and pets).

Ricochet Robots is a game you can play with others or solitaire. It's a boardgame with a grid, with fixed barriers at various points. You draw cards that show a starting point and goal/endpoint for your robot. Your robot can only move in a straight line until it hits a barrier, and then it can turn 90 degrees - so your goal is to figure out a path your robot can take from start to end. (example board) It's similar to a maze that's different every time, but you need to hold the path in your head. This would probably take some in-person explaining.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

And seconding Games Magazine. It's a somewhat expensive subscription but they have minimal advertising and they do a great job providing puzzles of varying types at many difficulty levels. It does tend toward verbal and logic puzzles, though - there are some visual-matching or find-the-difference puzzles but not many.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:18 PM on March 13, 2012

I suggest a Japanese puzzle box like this. They are very beautiful and can be extremely tricky. Plus, you could hide something fun inside. Movie voucher, money, a ring, etc. The more steps, the harder they are to solve. Because they are handmade, they can be expensive, and the more steps=more complexity, so more money. But you can get a reasonably challenging one for about $30 on amazon.
posted by fuzzysoft at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Former game and puzzle store employee here!

Tucker Jones Iron Tavern puzzles are really well-made and beautiful, in addition to having high value as puzzles. The guy who makes them is a trained blacksmith. Fun story: George H.W. Bush received their "Dirty Dog" puzzle as a gift, couldn't solve it, and wrote the company a frantic letter asking for the solution. If you ask the company nicely, you can get a copy of his letter.

Seconding Set, Spot It, Bucky Balls, and the Perplexus ball. Swish, by ThinkFun, uses similar spatial reasoning as Set and can be played with one or many people.

Creative Crafthouse is a small family-run company that makes beautiful, very reasonably priced, wooden puzzles at varying levels of difficulty. The Soma Cube was one of the best sellers at my old workplace, though there are several harder puzzles too.

Yikerz (aka "the magnet game") was another one of our all-time favorites. The premise is simple, but the game play is surprisingly strategic. You can do it as a one-player game by trying to fit all the magnets on the mats at once, but honestly, the rules are simple enough that your grandmother may be able to pick it up. (My grandfather, who has pretty severe dementia, used to play it with his nurses.)
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:12 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about a Knifty Knitter? It's a set of round and rectangular knitting looms and pretty easy to learn. It can take a few hours to make a scarf or a hat, so she might like the repetition and creating things for others.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2012

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