These Artful Puzzles Are Here to Ease Your Addled Brain


We’re always getting tips and pitches on new brand launches here at SELF, many of which deserve more real estate on our site than a quick one-liner. Very Good Brand is a series where we do a deeper dive, helping you get to know the most exciting newish wellness companies that we think and hope you’ll love. Today, meet Whiled, the anti-hustle culture brand that launched in October 2020 with a slew of artistic puzzles designed to help you sloooooow down and step away from the screen.

I would not exactly say that I am the jigsaw puzzle type. (Sunday? Who is she?) Yet, throughout the pandemic, many other adults I knew seemed to be finding them terrifically meditative, enthralling even. The last time puzzles—which were invented sometime in the early 1760s—spiked this high in popularity was during The Great Depression, which, ironically, is my current out-of-office Slack status!

I’d been coping with pandemic anxiety by doomscrolling on the little screen every morning, typing away at the medium screen during the day, and binge watching Gilmore Girls on the big screen by night. During one of these fugue states I discovered Whiled, a colorful, design-y puzzle company promising me an easy route to tech-free relaxation. Admittedly, I knew my addled brain could use a break. So, characteristically type A, I opened my notepad and scrawled “Try a puzzle” on my new downtime list—the to-do list’s chiller cousin.

Founder Alisha Ramos explains to SELF that the puzzles were concepted well before the pandemic, but agrees that the launch date (October of last year) was well-timed. Whiled, which was named after the 18th century concept of leisurely ‘whiling away’ one’s time, is a logical extension of Ramos’ first business, Girls’ Night In—a self-care newsletter turned media brand committed to helping readers “unwind, take care, and connect.” If Girls’ Night In is the encouragement, then Whiled is the toolkit.

“Our products, I hope, will be a reminder for our customers that it’s important to pause and press play,” Ramos says. “We are all so plugged-in and, as adults, have forgotten what it’s like to tap back into that childlike sense of curiosity, meandering, and daydreaming.”

The idea of celebrating unproductivity is sort of novel in a hustle-loving culture that, since well before the pandemic, continues to do just the opposite. Of course, for some people (like essential workers), the daily grind isn’t a choice. Yet, even in a pandemic, our compulsion for optimization prevails, and is perhaps best summed up in a viral tweet last March that sought to remind us that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined with the plague. (My own family likes to remind me that now is the perfect time to pen that best-seller.) “Even the stuff we do in our free time somehow has to become monetizable, Instagrammable, whatever,” Ramos explains. And to that Whiled says, Enough. Your free moments are your free moments.

The first thing you need to know about Whiled’s puzzles is that they are truly beautiful. On opening mine—a freeform, scribbly scene of languid dogs lazing amongst pot plants, called ‘Spot the Teckel’—it was immediately evident from the cover image that a huge quantity of artist B.D. Graft’s creative labor had gone into this kaleidoscopic rectangle. All of the artists Ramos commissioned—Graft, along with Lan Truong, Tess Smith-Roberts, and Ana Leovy—were scouted from Instagram, and share a similar vibrant, energetic style.

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