A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person's ingenuity or knowledge. In a puzzle, the solver is expected to put pieces together in a logical way, in order to arrive at the correct solution of the puzzle. There are different genres of puzzles, such as crossword puzzles, word-search puzzles, number puzzles, or logic puzzles.
Puzzles are often created to be a form of entertainment but they can also arise from serious mathematical or logistical problems. In such cases, their solution may be a significant contribution to mathematical research.
The 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary dates the word puzzle (as a verb) to the end of the 16th century. Its first documented use (to describe a new type of game) was in a book titled The Voyage of Robert Dudley...to the West Indies, 1594-95, narrated by Capt. Wyatt, by himself, and by Abram Kendall, master (published circa 1595). The word later came to be used as a noun.
The word puzzle comes from pusle, meaning "bewilder, confound", which is a frequentive of the obsolete verb pose (from Medieval French aposer) in the sense of "perplex". The use of the word to mean "a toy contrived to test one's ingenuity" is relatively recent (within mid-19th century).
Puzzles can be divided into categories. For example, a maze is a type of tour puzzle. Some other categories are construction puzzles, stick puzzles, tiling puzzles, transport puzzles, disentanglement puzzles, lock puzzles, folding puzzles, combination puzzles, and mechanical puzzles.
Solutions of puzzles often require the recognition of patterns and the adherence to a particular kind of ordering. People with a high level of inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving such puzzles than others. But puzzles based upon inquiry and discovery may be solved more easily by those with good deduction skills. Deductive reasoning improves with practice.
Puzzle makers are people who make puzzles.
Some notable creators of puzzles are:
Jigsaw puzzles are perhaps the most popular form of puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles were invented around 1760, when John Spilsbury, a British engraver and cartographer, mounted a map on a sheet of wood, which he then sawed around the outline of each individual country on the map. He then used the resulting pieces as an aid for the teaching of geography.
After becoming popular among the public, this kind of teaching aid remained the primary use of jigsaw puzzles until about 1820.
The largest puzzle (40,320 pieces) is made by German game company Ravensburger. The smallest puzzle ever made was created at LaserZentrum Hannover. It is only five square millimetres, the size of a sand grain.
There are organizations and events that cater to puzzle enthusiasts, such as: