Traditionally, we've described the difficulty of our puzzles by assigning it to one of 4 vague categories: easy, average, kind-of-hard, and really hard.
We've kept those categories pretty broad because puzzle difficulty is so subjective.
How we assign puzzles to those categories is based on theory (like puzzles with irregular edges are more difficult, for the same piece count), the image content, the type of pieces, and alpha-testing.
For our new Ecru line of puzzles, we're trying out a new more "data-driven" (so 21st century of us!) way to rate puzzle difficulty.
For each Ecru puzzle, we plan to report a Mim Time, which is how long it takes our alpha-tester Mim to complete the puzzle, without ever looking at the image.
For example, the Mim Time for the 327-piece Hokusai Wave puzzle was 5 hours and 5 minutes.
Comparing Mim Times can help you compare puzzles better, for example, the similar piece count 318 piece Auguste Herbin puzzle Mim Time is much higher at 7 hours and 43 minutes.
Your actual time might be faster or slower, depending on how good a puzzler you are and your personality and puzzling habits:
- do you look at the image to get clues?
- do you sort pieces by color before you start?
- is puzzling a causal activity to spend time chatting with your family,
- or more of a focused meditation practice to rest from day-to-day worries?
- do you like savoring your free-time, or racing against the clock for fun?
Also, to make it easier to compare smaller and larger puzzles, we'll report the normalized Mim Time per piece. For example, the Hokusai Wave puzzle is of average difficulty in that it took Mim an average of 56 seconds per piece, whereas the Herbin puzzle is more challenging at an average of 87 seconds per piece.
But compare those to Mystery Puzzle #4, only 105 mini-hex pieces, but it is one of our most challenging puzzles at 137 seconds per piece! Though probably you'll still find it easier than our Crystal Grove puzzle - for which one amazon reviewer said it took them about 10 min/piece, which is also what it felt like to me when I tried it (admittedly, I only got about 1/10 of Crystal Grove figured out- too darn hard for me, and at some point I needed that table back!).
Of course, no difficulty rating is going to be perfect. The 209 piece Snowbirds clocked in at a moderate 63 seconds/piece, which doesn't sound too hard, but Mim noted she found all the non-unique shapes pretty exasperating (personally, I really enjoyed the challenge of this one, though you need good light for it!). So we will also try to give you a warning in the product description as to whether a puzzle is easy/average/hard/extra-challenging.
And each puzzler is unique, so we do encourage you to share your experiences in customer reviews, including any notes on how difficult or frustrating/satisfying you found a puzzle.
We may not always have the Mim Time available upon releasing new Ecru puzzles, but we'll try to get it to you soon, and we will be updating these pages listing the Ecru Puzzles by their Mim Time and normalized Mim Time for those who want to pick or avoid the really hard puzzles.