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This MSCHF Puzzle—and the Chance of $2 Million—Brought My Family Closer

This MSCHF Puzzle—and the Chance of $2 Million—Brought My Family Closer

Without a concrete reference image or a single context clue, every bit of progress is tentative. Should this red corner be in the foreground or the background? Is the next piece in this row going to be horizontal or vertical? Does this piece actually belong here or does it just happen to fit OK? It’s a stab in the dark. Every piece is a needle in a haystack that makes no sense. 

MSCHF says that even if some pieces are missing, or aren’t put together exactly how they should be, the big-picture QR code should still work. At this point, I’m not 100 percent certain whether any of the pieces are where they should be. Not even the edges. I wish I was joking. But solving this puzzle has become a matter of pride, and I’m motivated by spite as much as the potential winnings. 

Luckily, I’ve had backup—at least 10 family members, my best friend, my partner, one boisterous Boston terrier, and varying degrees of determination. It’s become a ritualistic bonding experience for myself and my loved ones worth more than $1, $30, or $2,000,000. Call it Stockholm syndrome, but this puzzle is one of my favorite things I’ve bought all year. As of publication, we’re about halfway through solving the first puzzle. The sweepstakes end in February 2024. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about finishing in time.

Big Picture

This puzzle may be irritating, but it isn’t impossible. Others have solved it. We can solve it. Many a pep talk has been had. My mom has said many times, “We have to be smarter than the puzzle.” We’re smarter than the puzzle, right? 

Quickly after unboxing, the puzzle took a place of pride in the center of my parents’ living room. I’d come over to visit and ponder for a moment, putting a piece or two into place. Kids would emerge from their bedrooms to grab a snack and take a gander to try and fill a missing section. Small talk led to hours of conversations around a table, staring at a sea of blue with little black dots, trying to figure out how the pieces fit. I called my 9-year-old sister a psychopath—what kind of person puts together three pieces independent of an edge? My mom scoffed at me—what kind of person moves from one place to another instead of building methodically? (Note: She didn’t ask what kind of person calls a child a psychopath.) 

We laughed about what we’d buy with our winnings, despite “winning” in this context being defined as jumping for joy when we finally got a corner solved. I said I’d buy the lake house of my dreams; my brother said he’d buy the lake house of my dreams and invite everyone else over. We cursed our hereditary myopia and poor overhead lighting. We checked the time, saw it was 3 am, and swore we’d only work on it for a little bit longer. 

This puzzle gave my family something to do with our hands and minds during a particularly difficult chapter of our lives. When maintaining vigil during the last few days of my terminally ill grandmother’s life, she couldn’t respond, but the nurses said she could probably still hear us. The movies make it look easy, but in reality, filling the silence of a room for multiple days is difficult. There are only so many stories you can share, sentiments you can pass on, or passages you can read. We were at a loss for what to do or say. 

Our Favorite Gear for Everyday Sun Protection

Our Favorite Gear for Everyday Sun Protection

We’re finally at the end of summer, after enduring another season of unprecedented droughts and heat waves—and it’s not quite over. We may face weather like this well into the fall, which means you can expect to see a bit more sun than you’re used to during back-to-school season. You should pay closer attention to the UV index, even after summer officially ends. 

Venturing out into the sun, your most vulnerable parts are going to be your extremities, your face, and your eyes. And if you’re going swimming, that includes anywhere that’s exposed by your swimwear. That’s what we’re focusing on: keeping you covered but cool, protected but not smothered. These are our favorite picks to do just that. 

Updated September 2022: We’ve added the Coolibar Sun Blanket, Parasol, Solbari Zip-Up Hoodie, and Sensitive Skin Hand Wraps. We’ve also removed a few items that are no longer available and updated prices throughout. 

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Give Your Back a Break With Our Favorite Office Chairs

Give Your Back a Break With Our Favorite Office Chairs

Not every chair is a winner. Here are a few others we like enough to recommend, but they’re not as good as our top picks above. 

Fully Alani for $379: The Alani, from the maker of our favorite standing desk, comes in a few color combos that blend neatly into any home office. There’s a nice contoured cushion on the base and a mesh back to keep you cool, plus lumbar support for good posture. You can adjust the height, seat depth, armrests, recline tension, and can lock the recline. WIRED reviewer Simon Hill found it comfy for long days of up to 16 hours, and it worked for both his 6’1″ self and 5′ daughter. It’s a solid alternative to the Branch Ergonomic Chair (our top pick), but it’s a smidge more expensive. 

Ikea Markus for $269: The Markus is a perfectly fine office chair. It’s not the most comfortable, but it’s far from the worst. The mesh design keeps you cool, and the tall back lets you fully lean into it. It’s rather thin and isn’t obtrusive in a small home office or bedroom. It was annoying to put together—you might need someone to hold up the back of the chair while you properly attach the seat. Unfortunately, if you often sit with at least one leg up or crisscrossed, the width between the arms will make you uncomfortable.

Mavix M7 for $778: If it looks strangely similar to the X-Chair (see above), that’s because both are owned by the same company. I ran into some issues with assembly, but customer service was able to exchange the model without much effort. The M7 has similarly adjustable armrests and seat angles, but you get wheels that lock. The mesh back and wide seat construction keep you cool and comfortable during a sweaty session of League of Legends, and the lumbar support makes me feel like I’m in good hands. If you’re short, contact customer support while ordering—Mavix offers shorter cylinders so your feet touch the ground. 

Pipersong Meditation Chair for $349: Have a problem sitting normally? If your legs need to be bent and twisted for you to be comfortable, you’ll want to check this chair out. It has a 360-degree swiveling footstool that can accommodate pretty much any sitting position you want. I can go from kneeling to cross-legged to one leg up, one leg down. It’s possible to sit regularly too, with the footstool behind you and your feet flat on the floor. It’s the only chair I’ve found that’s designed for odd sitting habits. There are no armrests, which I didn’t mind because that’s what makes it possible to sit in many of these positions. The actual stool and chair back could stand to be bigger and taller, respectively. I had to use a pillow to keep my back comfy.

The Best Personal Safety Devices, Apps, and Alarms

The Best Personal Safety Devices, Apps, and Alarms

That aforementioned feature is helpful if someone is simply being a nuisance, but when you’re in a dangerous situation where a fake call isn’t enough, you can hold down the Flare button to send a message and your location to your selected contacts. Flare has also established a partnership with Noonlight, so you can set up the Flare device (through the app) to call 911 when you hold the button down. You’ll get a text and call immediately, and if you can’t answer, your location is shared with first responders in your area. If you set it off accidentally and want to cancel, the operator will ask for personal identifiers, like the spelling of your last name and phone number, so they know it’s really you.

The pricing has changed since we first tested this one. Bracelets are now $98 (down from $129), but you must now choose a monthly protection plan. At checkout, you’ll choose 6-, 12-, or 24-month plans, which are $5, $4, and $3 per month, respectively, and each gets one month free.

Flare is currently only available for iPhone users; an Android version is still in the works, but the company hasn’t said when it will be available. The battery isn’t rechargeable, which the company says was an intentional design choice to avoid any frustration with having to constantly recharge the thing. But the bracelet is guaranteed to last one year and depending on usage could last as long as two years. After that, you’ll have to purchase an entirely new bracelet for another $98.

The Flare Bracelet for iPhone costs $98 plus a monthly subscription.

Note: The company picks five people each month who are in need to receive a free bracelet. You can nominate yourself or someone you know here. 

More Wearables With Safety Features

InvisaWear keychains, bracelets, and more

Image may contain Cell Phone Electronics Mobile Phone Phone Accessories Accessory and Jewelry

These charms have a button on the back that can be used to call for help.

Photograph: InvisaWear

If you like the idea of Flare but have an Android phone, or simply don’t wear bracelets, then you might want to consider InvisaWear products, which are backed by the home security company ADT. The InvisaWear lineup includes a wide range of products: keychains, bracelets, necklaces, fitness bands, and even scrunchies. (Yes, you can now buy a “smart” scrunchie backed by a home security company.) Like Flare, these products are mostly designed to blend in with the rest of your wardrobe.

Our Favorite Couches (and 1 Armchair) You Can Order Online

Our Favorite Couches (and 1 Armchair) You Can Order Online

Maybe you have a hand-me-down or a thrifted floral confection that isn’t cutting it. Or maybe being stuck at home during quarantine left your sofa seats sunken in and worse for wear. If you need a new sofa, you’ve come to the right place.

A few of us here on the Gear team have spent several months testing a batch of couches you can order online. We haven’t tested enough to make a definitive Best Overall Couch pick yet, but our current favorites are below.

Much like bed-in-a-box mattresses, ordering a couch online is simpler than it sounds. You simply choose what you want, place an order, and voilà: Several boxes will arrive on your front porch. Assemble the parts and you’re good to go. But it’s important to do your research first. Many couch makers offer sample swatches of fabrics, which you should take advantage of, to ensure that the color and feel is exactly what you want. Make sure to measure the area where your couch will be too, as well as doorframes and stairwells for walk-up apartments.

Updated December 2021: We’ve added the Kova, plus an optional Lovesac upgrade.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED