20 Brainteasing Puzzles for National Puzzle Day 2021
Ready to flex a little brain power? Test your problem-solving capability with these tricky brainteasers for kids and adults.
Working on puzzles has huge benefits for brain health, says The Healthy, especially as we age. An afternoon jigsaw puzzle or crossword keeps the brain in good shape and keeps stress at bay. Puzzles and brainteasers help develop critical thinking skills because they bolster memory, strengthen intelligence, and refine your methods of analysis—getting you thinking with a focus on details, dissection, and problem-solving. Puzzles are great for kids, too, as brainteasers cultivate thinking skills. Scroll on to test your skills with some challenges, followed by their solutions. Or, if you’re in the mood for a more visual exercise, check out these 25 optical illusions that will blow your mind.
Maze puzzles purposely disorient you, and that is their power. Experiencing a sense of befuddlement presents a great challenge for your brain and makes your inner logician kick in to find a way to help you out. Illustrated mazes on paper are much easier to solve than the life-size mazes they’re named after. Malia Wollen at The New York Times explains that “Humans have been building mazes and labyrinths for millenniums; they arose independently in ancient cultures around the world.” Mazes provide a fun challenge that allows you to flex your innate sense of direction.
Take the challenge above: Start at the red arrow, then carefully chart your way through. When you’re finished, scroll on to learn if the path you took is the right one. Need a break first? Marvel at 9 of the world’s most incredible mazes.
Take the longer path to start, pass the first intersection, then zig and zag your way through from there.
Fox’s shadow: Challenge
One of the most important skills to develop for critical thinking is to look closer. This simple puzzle for children encourages them to look carefully and notice details—it might even stump a few adults because it makes you slow down and notice nuance. This is a puzzle that relies on close examination of shapes and specifics. Often these types of puzzles will have two answers that seem obvious after a quick glance. Finding the right answer requires a precise examination of the finer points to come up with the answer. Want a bigger challenge? Here are 99 brain games to boost your brain.
Rotate the view: Challenge
Brainteasers tease your brain because they extend customary ways of thinking into new positions. This domino puzzle encourages solvers to look from different angles. As the puzzle is two-dimensional, there’s no option to handle the pieces or move your body to gain a different vantage. All those shifts must take place within your mind. You’ll need to imagine the domino pieces from different angles, as well as from the top view. To solve this puzzle, you’ll need to mentally rotate the illustrated pieces. Get moving! These 19 brainteasers will leave you stumped.
Mirror image: Challenge
This brainteaser exercises your spatial aptitude. You’re asked to find the mirror image of the ladybugs. That may seem like something you can figure out with a cursory glance. However, you’ll need to slow down, take your time, and find the trio that best reflects a mirror image. Mirrors don’t just show the reverse or opposite of the image. They reflect the inverse along the set plane. Too easy? Here are puzzles that less than 60 percent of people can solve.
Twin set: Challenge
Your brain gets a workout when you twist it into new perspectives and positions. At first glance, these color block shapes look identical. However, to notice which option is identical with the first image, you have to find ways to distinguish differences. Scan the shapes and once you find a noticeable difference you can discard that option and move on to the next. Once you find the answer, scan again to make sure you’ve got it exactly right. Can you solve these tricky shadow puzzles?
Piece it together: Challenge
This is another visual brain-twister that asks you to mentally pick up the pieces to find the one that fits in the cube. This puzzle works with your visual and spatial intelligence. Look at the sides of the cube and notice the shaded, geometric patterns. You’ll need to align these to find the right cube answer and figure out how it fits in to the larger puzzle. Check out this coffee-pouring puzzle that confuses everyone—can you figure it out?
Look at the sequence: Challenge
For this brainteaser, you’re asked to find the sign to replace the question mark in the sequence. The images in the squares have a relationship with each other. You need to establish the pattern of that relationship in order to apply it and find the missing shape. Look carefully at the first three squares. Notice the similar shapes in the first and third squares. This relationship creates a rule. (Hint! In the first and third squares the top and bottom switch places, while the horizontal components disappear.) Once you crack a rule, use it to solve the puzzle, then try your hand at solving 25 of the hardest riddles ever.
Pencil it in: Challenge
If you want to develop spatial thinking skills, work on puzzles that ask you to change your sense of direction. This puzzle requires a bird’s-eye view to make sense of the pyramid shape. Use the pencil’s colors and their relationship to each other to determine the base pieces and those that create the pyramid. Looking from that vantage should help you find the answer. Got it yet? Here’s a logic puzzle that’ll test whether or not you’re a genius.
At first glance, these equations are befuddling. How could 22 + 81 ever equal 40? Like many brainteasers, this one asks you to look at the puzzle from a different perspective. This puzzle tests your intelligence quotient by testing out your math skills when they’re combined with analysis. If you’re stumped, consider the numbers from different angles. (Hint: read the addends backwards or in reverse.) Don’t miss this challenging puzzle if you’re a math whiz.
Hidden gem: Challenge
Abstract visual puzzles test your spatial reasoning skills and your memory. This challenging puzzle asks you to put together two separate pieces to find a larger whole. Though the answer is right in front of you, it takes reasoning, logic, and discernment to detect the precise pattern and shapes that create the larger gem. You’ll be thinking about details and the bigger picture at the same time. Way to flex your brain muscle! For more fun, see if you can find the missing number in this puzzle.
Match game: Challenge
You develop critical thinking skills when you work on brainteaser puzzles like this one. Analysis isn’t always second nature; it’s a mode you move into by thinking in new ways about familiar problems. Looking at two squares, it’s hard to imagine how you’d manipulate the current shapes to make ten squares. Use spatial reasoning to use the matches from one square to create more. Don’t forget that while you’ll make smaller squares, you can also count the larger square that contains them all. For a tricky word test, see if you can figure out if these funny-sounding words are real or made up.
Bright idea: Challenge
This brainteaser asks you to look closely at the details. First, look for the pattern in sequence by examining the fringe pieces of the lantern. You can eliminate options by looking for the sequence. Next, you’ll have a few choices left and you can continue by finding a distinguishing pattern in the circles and colors and finding its replication in the templates. Puzzles like this force you to look carefully at each panel. Here’s a calligraphy puzzle that gets you looking in new ways.
Holding pattern: Challenge
A great puzzle requires you to look and then look again. This puzzle has six repeating elements, three blue and three red. You’ll need to figure out what those elements are for each color and how the sequence goes in order to figure out the two elements that must be in the final square for the pattern to make sense. When you’re figured that out, see if you can solve this famous riddle that was said to be created by Einstein.
Flipping burgers: Challenge
If you’re a type who can do math in your head, this puzzle will be a breeze. All you have to do is use a little algebra—just substitute variables to solve for unknowns in an equation. You get a big clue in the center equation when you see that juice, fries and the ice cream cone equal 10. The first equation in the image is your second clue because you know their sums are five. Finally, use the last equation to solve for the individual values of the fries and juice (you already know their combined value is five!) From there, you can figure out the value of the hamburger. Check your answers by plugging in the values to each equation. Yum! If you like this you’ll love our list of 20 food riddles.
Think inside the box: Challenge
Spatial thinking flexes your brain. This puzzle asks you to use spatial recognition to solve a problem. The challenge is to figure out how to fit the remaining pencils in the box. Carefully arrange the pencils, making sure to use space efficiently. If you prefer word puzzles, check out these 24 printable crossword puzzles.
Think inside the box: Solution
Start with largest pencil (#8) and go from there.
Roll the dice: Challenge
In this challenge, you’re looking from the top view, and angling it to find the right sequence. You’re home free if you can find a three, two, five, four sequence moving clockwise. Keep your directions straight so you don’t get messed up. Don’t get tricked by the dimensions. Instead, consider your viewpoint as a flat plane from the top. If you’re in the mood for something trickier, try this logic puzzle with a challenging solution.
Make it rain: Challenge
Test your spatial intelligence by looking for patterns, but also by examining them from a different perspective and angle. These brainteasers flex that muscle in puzzles, but the idea is that you’ll apply those same skills to larger, more conceptual issues. Here, you’re looking at the detailed patterns in the umbrellas, but your clues come from looking at them from a different vantage point. That’s a lot like the problems you’ll face in real life. See if you can solve the brainteaser Elon Musk asked in interviews
Thinking cap: Challenge
This mushroom puzzle seems super easy, but only if you’re super methodical! Choose one mushroom to start with and go through the others through slow elimination of details. Be careful! Look at subtle distinctions like the green foliage and number of dots. This mushroom art may appear childlike, but this puzzle is challenging for adults too because you’re encouraged to slow down and examine with precision. These 12 smart jokes will make you sound like a genius.
Card up your sleeve: Challenge
According to Success, critical thinking skills impact your ability to make effective choices and have productive communication. Brainteasers allow you to develop ways to analyze information so you can make better choices across various sectors. Here, you’ve got a 6 card in every suit, but you’ll need to look at the images while noticing spatial direction and orientation. Take your time and be discerning. Here’s a kid’s math puzzle that’s stumped the internet. Can you solve it?
Easy peasy: Challenge
After all these challenging puzzles, here’s a gimme for your brain workout cool down. To solve this child’s puzzle, pay attention to spatial orientation and detailed elements. This brainteaser asks the solver to notice nuances and find the correct placement for the cut-outs on the side. Ready to go again? Check out this puzzle that you can only solve if you’re a true genius. Go for it!
Easy peasy: Solution
The matches are the top right and bottom left. Next, check out these rebus puzzles that’ll keep you guessing.