Understanding the Brain Teaser Section

In most bookstores, specialty toy stores, museum gift shops, and department store, you’ll find a brainteaser section.  Usually a shelf or two tucked in between board games and jigsaw puzzles, these brainteaser sections are full of all sorts of gadgets that make you go “Hmmm,” or “Argh!!!”

To the untrained eye, a brainteaser section might look like a hodgepodge of things that you’re more likely to throw across the room than actually solve in this lifetime. But if organized properly, puzzlers of all ages and aptitudes should be able to find something that piques their interest.

When purchasing products for a brainteaser section, I recommend considering difficulty level, price point, puzzle type and the materials of which the puzzles are made. Buying product with these four different variables in mind will ensure that your assortment is well-rounded and appeals to as large audience an audience is possible.

Difficulty Level

Difficulty level can be determined by how long it would take the average person to sit down and solve this puzzle having no prior knowledge about the puzzle or how to solve it.  Puzzles considered easy should take less than five minutes to solve and should be mostly made up of impulse items retailing for under $5. Puzzles that takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours could be considered a moderately difficult puzzle and should make up the majority of a brainteaser section’s assortment.  If the manufacturer provides a difficulty rating (usually a range of 1 to 4 or 5 stars with 1 being super easy to 5 being omg-pull-your-hair-out hard) a moderately difficult puzzle would be anything in between either extreme of that spectrum.  Finally, it’s important to have some super hard puzzles in the bunch to attract the interests of seasoned puzzle solving experts and more importantly, to convey value to your customers.  The thinking goes, if it’s more difficult, I’ll spend more time trying to solve it and since I’ll be occupied with it longer, it’s worth more money. Pound for pound, harder puzzles outsell easier puzzles.

Price Point

It’s important to offer a wide range of price points in a brainteaser section to capture the most common buying scenarios.  Small, easy puzzles that sell for less than $5 will capture impulse purchases, especially if there’s a demo set available to tempt shoppers as they pass by. The rest of the assortment should be made up of puzzles that range between $10 and $20 MSRP, which is a price that conveys enough value for a gift to be proud of, but doesn’t break the bank.

Puzzle Type

Puzzle type is an important variable that retailers may not consider if they aren’t familiar with all of the different brain teasers available on the market. The first and most widely recognized type of brain teaser is the twisty puzzle.  Ever since the Pyraminx hit stores in the late 70’s, twisty puzzles have seen a healthy sales cycle that swings from popular to super-crazy popular every seven years. After twisty puzzles, a well-rounded brain teaser section should offer some assembly puzzles. These are wooden objects that must be taken apart into it’s individual pieces and then put back together. You’ll also see disentanglement puzzles, which are the metal equivalent to the assembly puzzle; essentially two or more noodle-y pieces of metal that must be taken apart and relinked back together again.


The kind of material that these puzzles are made of should be considered in a brain teaser section as well.  Usually, if you offer an assortment that ranges across the other three variables, you’ll naturally have a wide variety of materials. Twisty puzzles are almost always made of plastic, assembly puzzles of wood, and disentanglement puzzles of metal.

A brainteaser section can be organized by any of these variables but for brick-and-mortar stores we recommend organizing first by puzzle type and then by material.  Twisty puzzles look better next to other plastic items and should stand apart from assembly or disentanglement puzzles.

If you don’t have any brainteasers in your store, or are looking to step up your game, Project Genius offers a starter-pack assortment that represents all aspects of these four variables and comes with plenty of demo sets to make for an attractive, well-rounded brainteaser section.

Joshua Sellers