NESTLED IN AN OLD TOWN COURTYARD, Puzzled may look like just another shop in the Albuquerque neighborhood’s collection of adobe homes turned boutiques and restaurants. But much like its selection of puzzles, board games, ciphers, and other toys, the three-year-old store might surprise you. “Sometimes it’s hard to describe,” says Melanie Kintigh, who co-owns Puzzled with her partner, Dan Janelle. “A lot of these games just look like pieces of wood until you pick them up and try to follow the directions.”

The couple’s path to opening Puzzled came with as many twists and turns as a classic game board. Eight years ago, Janelle learned woodworking from a cousin in Florida whose family-owned business, Creative Crafthouse, has carved puzzles and brainteasers since 2003. The couple then hit the road to sell Creative Crafthouse wooden games at trade fairs and festivals until eventually settling in Albuquerque just before the pandemic hit. “When things started to open up, we decided to open this,” says Janelle, whose family still makes the majority of the store’s products.

Puzzled's toys and brainteasers.

1 Double-sided roadrunner puzzle, $30; 2 Double-sided hot-air balloon puzzle, $35; 3 Decision Maker—dinner decider, $35; 4 Double Trouble New Mexico state and balloon, $10; 5 Dawning saguaro wooden jigsaw puzzle, $104; 6 Hexagon 10, $30; 7 Land of Enchantment New Mexico picture frame puzzle, $40; 8 Shut the box 1–12, $40; 9 Woodie man, $20; 10 Janelle cipher, $60; 11 Penny drop premium, $30.

Inside, tables set with brainteasers and puzzles encourage shoppers to hang out and play a game of pegboard checkers or attempt to escape the Crazy Loops Handcuffs. “The shop may be filled with adults, but they’re playing like kids,” Kintigh says. “They forget about their phones, and they connect and have a great time.”

Nostalgia plays a big part at Puzzled, rekindling memories of childhood games and simpler times. “These are things maybe their grandparents had when they were kids,” Kintigh says. “We have a lot of older people buying games to share with their children or their grandchildren. We say we’re the land before Nintendo.”

Read more: This entrepreneur ties her work to the Land of Enchantment.

Find Puzzled at 326D San Felipe St. NW, Albuquerque, or online.