Difficulty Rating Explained

Difficulty Rating Explained

Rating puzzles in order of difficulty is very subjective. Everyone has different abilities when it comes to puzzle-solving, but we’ve attempted to give relative difficulty ratings based on a combination of our own experience and watching others solving puzzles.

The most important point to remember is that solving a puzzle is about taking it apart, putting it back together, or vice versa, and UNDERSTANDING exactly how to do it. Understanding what the mechanism is and how it works,  WITHOUT consulting the solution. It does not mean you can follow the solution steps. It does not mean you can copy what you have seen on YouTube. It means you have worked it out for yourself.

Brian says by way of explanation “I remember many years ago the first time I did a basic 6 piece burr from a disassembled state and it took me a little under a couple of hours. This has become my benchmark and I call it 7/10.

I grade puzzles up and down from that. I don’t consider ‘fluking’ it once as solving a puzzle. Memorising the solution to be able to do the puzzle at will is part of solving the puzzle to me. Perhaps this rating scale has become a bit outdated with the advent of all these really high-level burrs being design but in reality, any rating system is arbitrary at best because every person will solve differently.

Difficulty rating 1 are the easier puzzles to do and memorise the puzzle’s solution.

Difficulty rating 10 is the most difficult to do and memorise the puzzle’s solution.

Something else to consider: Price has no direct correlation to difficulty.  Look at our Very Difficult Puzzles page. 14 puzzles A$25 and under. Something like Tricky Dick at A$12.50 is one of the hardest puzzles for the price around! But that doesn’t mean that collectible puzzles like Brian Young’s Abraham’s Well are not worth paying for. This 10/10 puzzle has stumped many puzzle collectors around the world this year!

To explain how we rate puzzles:

Difficulty rating 1 are the easier puzzles to do and memorise. Difficulty rating 10 is the most difficult to do and memorise.
Puzzles rated 1, 2 or 3 may not take hours to do but there will always be some challenge involved. Don’t write off these puzzles as too easy for adults.
For a puzzle to be rated a 9 or 10 it must be VERY difficult to complete the puzzle, and VERY difficult to memorise the puzzle’s solution.
For example, a puzzle rated 7 could take an average person a couple of hours to do and then memorise.
A puzzle rated a 9 we expect that most people – say 80 % or so – will NEVER be able to master the puzzle without assistance from the solution.
How we present some of our puzzles will also have a bearing on the rating we give them. Some of our Interlocking puzzles are sold apart which adds the challenge of having to put the puzzle together without having first taken it apart.

There are also some specific difficulty ratings for Hanayama as they have rated their own puzzles.
And some puzzles for kids have specific age-related difficulty levels attached to them.

If you’ve given puzzles before and the person has always been able to do them quickly then you may wish to give them puzzles rated between 8 and 10.
Whilst it is important to present the person with a challenge you don’t want to discourage them by buying a puzzle they have no chance of ever doing. So, if you’re buying a person’s first puzzle, but you still want it to be very hard, it may be wise to begin at a puzzle rated 5 to 7 rather than going for a 10 first up.

Of course, sometimes the most fun can be had with the easiest puzzles. Puzzlers always get a lot of enjoyment from sharing a seemingly simple puzzle amongst friends; the ones that you know you should be able to do but often take a little longer than expected (it always seems a lot longer when someone else is watching) so don’t discard the idea of buying a level 1 or 2 puzzle out of hand. You can get that “Ah-Ha!” factor from them too.

Nova Plexus Limited Edition Puzzle Sculpture stainless steel

And what about that common saying “thinking outside the box”…. or is that outside the puzzle box?

People enjoy puzzles for the mental challenge they offer. The more puzzles you do the more you come to understand how to approach them, what the designer might have been thinking when they conceived the puzzle.  Thinking outside the box is really about training your mind to look at the problem in more and more different ways, ways you didn’t instinctively know, but ways that you can learn just like any other skill you learn.  You’ll learn them from doing more and more puzzles across a variety of puzzle makers and designers and types.  

DON’T DESPAIR….. If all else fails most of the puzzles on our website come with a printed solution. That’s MOST of the puzzles; so be wary if the description states that there is “No Solution Included”.

Use our Search option to search by Difficulty Rating or go straight to the Very Difficult Puzzles category!