Marietta resident completes massive puzzle
September 9, 2021 6:31 AM   Subscribe

County Public Defender Ray Smith, a US resident of Marietta, Ohio, has completed a massive puzzle with over 40,000 pieces, according to a non-satirical news source. "When Smith was working on the 32,000-piece puzzle, Judge Janet Dyar Welch asked if he’d be interested in displaying it in the municipal building. He told her that he would be working on a larger puzzle, as well, and she invited him to show it at the courthouse. Smith enjoys working on puzzles as a way to relieve stress. 'I have a very stressful job. And I’ve got a very analytical and mathematical mind, so it’s relaxing. I play music in the background,' he said."

"Puzzles, or dissected maps, were invented in Georgian-era England, probably by a mapmaker named John Spilsbury in the early 1760s," according to JSTOR Daily. "At the beginning of the pandemic, puzzle makers saw sales go up by 300 to 400%, and, due to the pandemic-related pause in production, quickly sold out of popular items." Ravensburger North America’s sales nearly quintupled during the first few months of the lockdowns, according to the Wall Street Journal, which asked CEO Filip Francke if people will still want to do puzzles after the pandemic in an article behind a paywall, so I can't read it either. Puzzle giant Ravensburger has been making jigsaw puzzles in Germany since 1883. It makes other games as well but the focus here is on jigsaw puzzles.

Why jigsaw puzzles? "Jigsaw puzzles are great because they exercise both the left and right sides of your brain at once. Puzzles require both logic, intuition, and creativity, and it’s easy to get lost for hours working on them," claims one unknown wordsmith at Healthline. Putting together puzzles may help reduce anxiety and stress. Some say assembling a puzzle makes us feel in control and accomplished. A monthly puzzle subscription service is available from woman-owned JIGGY, which claims that every puzzle features work by "an emerging female artist from around the world."
posted by Bella Donna (73 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Metafilter: according to a non-satirical news source.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:35 AM on September 9, 2021 [7 favorites]

What do typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles once they've completed them?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:39 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

We've started doing a lot of 100-200 piece puzzles with our five year old and it's delightful, it's really fun to see her developing the skills to do puzzles (spatial reasoning, logic, and so on) and it's a super nice activity to do together. We end up doing the same puzzles over and over but it's totally worth it, would recommend jigsaw puzzles with a small child.
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Previously: "Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable..."
posted by Paul Slade at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have no idea what typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles when they are done with them. I don't know any, and I'm not one myself. This FPP was inspired by the 1500-piece puzzle I bought at a thrift shop earlier in the week. I can't decide if it was a good idea or a bad idea. I can say that every JIGGY puzzle supposedly comes with directions for gluing it together and framing it.

If I make it through this puzzle, I expect to disassemble it (with all the edge pieces in a separate bag) and just put it together over and over again over the years. Like an octopus IRL's five-year-old, actually. I think my ADHD brain will find the eventual repetition soothing.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:45 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Paul Slade, I had no idea! Alas, that link doesn't work for me. Does it work for other folks?
posted by Bella Donna at 6:46 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

What do typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles once they've completed them?

Some use a fixative or roll-up mat so that the puzzle can be stored or displayed in its completed state. Some just take a satisfied look at it and then break it back up, mandala-like.
posted by jedicus at 6:48 AM on September 9, 2021 [12 favorites]

I started working on a largeish puzzle of the N.Y. skyline when the pandemic lockdown started, but my then new kitten also started working on it, IYKWIM, so that didn't last very long.
posted by signal at 6:51 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

posted by whatevernot at 6:52 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Some just take a satisfied look at it and then break it back up, mandala-like.

I think this is a very interesting perspective! This is indeed what we do in our house, and I like the link to spirituality and the nod to the non-permanent nature of art and humanity, although the components of the puzzle (or mandala I suppose) are still there, so it continues to exist in potentia, it just takes human focus and effort and ingenuity to make it live again. It makes me think too of how people make beautiful art creations out of food, e.g. cakes, and then those are consumed and gone forever. But now we can take pictures! So they live on! But on the other hand the image is not the cake (ce n'est pas un gâteau), the cake itself is gone forever, so does it live on through the picture? What IS art and what are puzzles? Much to ponder, thank you for this comment!
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:58 AM on September 9, 2021 [10 favorites]

I find the stress of jigsaw puzzles is only equaled by the stress of country western line dancing. Like most puzzles, you can either successfully complete them, and then so what? Or not be able to, and feel like a fool and failure. I find no upside, so the fact that this guy, like so many, find them relaxing is really interesting.
posted by cccorlew at 7:03 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I feel like having 10 different images in 10 panels is sort of cheating for a giant puzzle design.

Somewhat related, I'm a fan of Nervous System Design: they're doing interesting work with generative art and fabrication technologies. They just released a new puzzle called Baffling Bubbles with Chris Yates. The coolest thing to me is they're painting the pieces by using an inkjet directly on to wood, not paper. The ink soaks into the wood and then they cure it with UV light. Looks lovely in the photos.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 AM on September 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have refrained from jigsaw puzzles in recent years because of the lack of physical space to leave them spread out (yes, I know about rollup mats, but I have never bothered). But a few months ago I started doing puzzles on my phone with a game app and I love it. It is tremendously soothing and just the right level of engagement for my brain while also delighting my eye with colour.
posted by alicat at 7:12 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Small correction: This is in Marietta, Ohio (there's no Marietta in WV). The TV channel writing this up is in Parkersburg, West Virginia since that's the closest larger city.

But I think it's cool he has the dedication to do it, that he's a public defender, and that the Court decided to display it! All good sutff.
posted by skynxnex at 7:13 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’ve been doing puzzles for years because I find them soothing in the same way I find coloring or cross-stitch soothing - something semi-repetitive but with enough variation to keep me interested, and fills a rainy Sunday afternoon with a big mug of tea at hand. When I’m done I do indeed look at it for a few minutes with a mild sense of triumph and then it goes back in the box. My mom has been doing them my whole life and she has a giant shelf of them in her basement. In my experience I can do the same puzzle every year or two without getting tired of it.
posted by skycrashesdown at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

You can do online jigsaw puzzles for free and then you don't have the roll-up issue, although of course you can't exactly roll up an online jigsaw puzzle even if you want to. I gave myself a repetitive stress injury doing online jigsaw puzzles!

Although actually as someone who has trouble with spatial reasoning, reasoning generally, all things mathy, etc, I was pretty pleased when I did, like, a 175 piece puzzle of The Apotheosis of St Ignatius. A 175 piece puzzle isn't a lot but it was a real achievement for me.

I was horribly bored by jigsaw puzzles as a kid, but during the pandemic something clicked in my brain and now I understand some of the techniques for solving them and they're more fun. I've actually considered buying a large one.
posted by Frowner at 7:21 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

What do typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles once they've completed them?

Many friendly local board game stores have a puzzle exchange program, where you can turn in a completed puzzle, and then for a small fee ($1 or so) exchange it for another in the library of previously-completed puzzles.
posted by xedrik at 7:26 AM on September 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

My grandmother would do jigsaw puzzles, and I'd help her. She had her whole process and was methodical, and it's some of my fondest memories of our time together.

Before Covid we had a "puzzle table" at work that's a tall table in the middle of the building, and we'd have one or two jigsaw puzzles going on it all the time. People would stand around the puzzle table and talk about a problem, casually working on the puzzle, or they'd just stop and work on it for a moment between tasks. It's meditative and relaxing, and I loved walking by it on the way to the restroom and seeing how much progress had been made. When a puzzle was completed it would stay for a few days and then be replaced by another one.

My boss hated the puzzle table. "I can't believe we have all these projects that need work done on them, and those people are just standing around that table working on jigsaw puzzles. If the CEO walked in right now what do you think he'd say with four salaried employees doing puzzles?" I tried explaining to him that while we might be in the building for eight hours, you know, we're not actually capable of working for eight hours. We have to take breaks EVENTUALLY, you know, the same way you use your personal gaming laptop in your office that we all know about but aren't saying anything about, because hey, puzzle table.

As soon as Covid hit and 99% of the office started working remotely, he boxed up the puzzles and now the puzzle table is empty.

I switched departments last week and my new boss lets me work from home. I might get a puzzle to work on. My three-year old LOVES puzzles, specifically these jigsaw puzzles that are about 3'x4' and have pieces about the size of your hand. She works them from the inside out, not from the borders in, so we'll have to keep an eye on other anti-social behavior cropping up.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:27 AM on September 9, 2021 [17 favorites]

My grandfather used to do jig-saw puzzles: he'd start at the top left-hand corner and find pieces row-by-row. It was, bangs-for-bucks, a more efficient pass-time, but seems like a dull, patriarchal pursuit. For recent Christmases three generations of family have completed 3,000 piece puzzles together: it's lovely, interactive and mobilizes everyone's complementary skills - we have a blue sky expert. Last time [2019!] I was required to add a prosthesis to the board to accommodate 4,000 pieces. The board can slide under the sofa: CastleBob being too modest to support a games-room.
I have a young Venezuelan-Irish friend who glues completed jigsaws onto boards and frames them. I think it's better to pass them on so that another family can have a go. I hope that won't be seen as depriving the creatives at Ravensburg of their dues.
I love the idea of a puzzle-table at work. A bit of play keeps the mind ticking over.
posted by BobTheScientist at 7:31 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Previously: "Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable..."

When my dad went on a puzzle bender, I sourced a few gifts from Liberty Puzzles, who do very cool pictures with intricate pieces that have shapes, several of which are themed to match the picture. This is enough of a feature that their site catalog typically shows not just the design on the front, but also the designs on the blank side of all the cuts
posted by rubah at 7:32 AM on September 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

I was leaving work one day a couple of years ago and found a single puzzle piece on the stairs. It’s not “baby shoes for sale,” but it does paint a vignette of disappointment.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:42 AM on September 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Many friendly local board game stores have a puzzle exchange program, where you can turn in a completed puzzle, and then for a small fee ($1 or so) exchange it for another in the library of previously-completed puzzles.

Whoa, I never knew this was a thing! I'll have to look into this the next time I complete a puzzle that I don't want to keep (and that my mom, who also does puzzles, doesn't want to take).
posted by May Kasahara at 7:46 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Getting back to origins cited in the JSTOR article at the top, one may buy a 400 piece, 500mm x 300mm, 1:50,000 scale, Ordnance Survey map jigsaw centred on any UK postcode.
posted by BobTheScientist at 7:48 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

FWIW. Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to keep tabs on how well an elderly person can remember things, and larger puzzle pieces are available for those with poor eyesight. Look for puzzles with people and faces.
posted by Beholder at 7:49 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also, thrift stores are a treasure trove for puzzles.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:54 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

What do typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles once they've completed them?

My Grandmother would glue hers to a foam board and then spray a protective coating on them. Any hobby shop or store that sells puzzles is also going to sell the supplies you need.
posted by Beholder at 7:54 AM on September 9, 2021

The huge puzzle I bought, huge for me at 1500 pieces, is cheating I suppose because it’s a zillion different things that are red and a bunch of different squares in different colors. But since it’s for my pleasure I figure none of it is cheating because I’m doing it for myself.

There is the possibility that some of the pieces are missing, which is going to be hard on my nervous system if that happens. But I’m not willing to shell out a fortune for a new puzzle when I’m not even sure that this is something I like. Also, it would be very Swedish to make sure that you had all the puzzle pieces before you donated the puzzle to the Red Cross thrift shop. If it does have all the pieces, that will be delightful. If it doesn’t, I will get to work on mindfulness once I realize that.

My mom and I used to work on jigsaw puzzles when I was in junior high and high school and it was pleasant to have it just sitting out there for us to work on as we talked. That boss who hates the puzzle table does not understand humans very well. Puzzle tables are a great way to think about things in the background while you outwardly put together the puzzle. Also a good way to spend time with people you love who are not super chatty.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:56 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Like most puzzles, you can either successfully complete them, and then so what?

Is time an arrow, or a circle?

I break them up knowing I can do them again in a few years (or give them away).
posted by acantha at 7:59 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Corrected the location in the post; carry on.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:05 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Around our house there are two groups: those who look at the picture on the box and those that do not.

Also, we break them up, but what's up with "disassemble it (with all the edge pieces in a separate bag)"? Half the challenge is roughly sorting the pieces in a way that strikes a balance between being effective and not taking forever.
posted by Cris E at 8:15 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Cris E, in our household those who do not look at the picture are also the ones who insist on putting away the completed puzzle in separate bags, each for a different region, so next time it would be like doing several smaller puzzles.

I'm not in that camp but have long lost the argument.
posted by of strange foe at 8:34 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you're like me and like to take the fun out of it, I spent some time getting loosely image recognition/machine vision to classify and solve the puzzle. Like most academic projects it sort of works in isolation but getting it to work in the real world is fun. If I could find an arm to manipulate it that would be the next step but I don't know enough about robotics to know what I need to buy.
posted by geoff. at 8:34 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, thrift stores are a treasure trove for puzzles.

Literally treasure, sometimes – I bought this cool-looking Escher puzzle (3000 pieces, almost 4 metres long) for ten bucks at a thrift store this summer only to discover it's highly collectible and sells on eBay for $400 or more.

Thrift stores can also be a great place to find larger puzzles (5000 pieces or more), which can be super expensive to buy new.
posted by oulipian at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

Around Puget Sound you can leave a puzzle on the ferries, where they are done desultorily by tourists and communally by commuters. I think a lot of them lose pieces in the process, so that’s probably last stop for puzzles.
posted by clew at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2021 [6 favorites]

what's up with "disassemble it (with all the edge pieces in a separate bag)"?

My particular brain finds the search for the edge pieces excruciating. I imagine that putting together puzzles is very much a "your mileage may vary" activity. I am not interested in the "challenge" of sorting through 1500 (small! so small!) pieces to find the edge pieces more than once. Enjoy your challenges, I'll stick to mine. :-)
posted by Bella Donna at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another type of fiendishly fun puzzle is made by this company, Artifact Puzzles. They laser cut on wood in shapes reflecting the image. This is a 180 piece wooden jigsaw puzzle showcasing Eric Joyner's "Comrades." Designed by Tara Flannery, this puzzle features larger split tendril connector pieces and super fun large whimsies. Really is there anything better than Frida Kahlo, robots, donuts, and split tendril connectors? This puzzle is harder than average.
My plan is to build a display box with inner frame edges so the puzzle is held in place, and can be swapped out.
posted by winesong at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

As someone who appears in courtrooms from time to time (waiting right now for judicial conference to start), that's great for Public Defender Ray Smith! That is a dream of mine, to appear in a courtroom where I have made a contribution of some sort to the courtroom itself.

Also, the puzzle solution is a good metaphor for the judicial process.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:24 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

what do you do with them afterwards? you put them back in the box and throw them in your closet. occasionally you'll dig through and re-do them on a rainy afternoon, but then they ultimately get re-boxed and re-shuffled back into the closet of increasingly worrisome puzzle bulk until you realize that now you have like 45 puzzles taking up more cubic square footage that most of your clothes and fuck this is what people call a problem, so you desparately try to send all guests home with a complimentary gently used art house puzzle that i will try to insist is a great way to get familiar with classic art save for missing a piece or two eaten the robo vacuum.

these are the woes of living next to a puzzle warehouse.
posted by zsh2v1 at 9:45 AM on September 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

Also, fitting the puzzle pieces together is a good metaphor for the scientific process.

I guess, since I appear in research laboratories more often than I appear in courtrooms, that's the metaphor that comes to my mind first.

Actually, exploring that metaphor is pretty much always part of the meditation while doing jigsaw puzzles, for me. First, there's a pile of clues and information that doesn't make any sense. It's just a random pile of wood chips. But if you try, you can find a way to start -- maybe find the edges, if your puzzle has edges. Maybe sort by color, or sort by shape, and something will click into place. As the pieces come together, it also becomes easier to pull multiple factors (shape, color, pattern) together to help make the next additions. As it completes and the picture emerges, it is so satisfying... especially if the back of your mind, you are thinking: "yes, soon, my research project will also make sense and look beautiful like this, rather than just being a pile of random fact chips in my lab notebook." So, it inspires faith, which is so important for motivation and creativity. To push the metaphor further, scientific faith is justified by (or corresponds to the belief in) an objective reality, which is the picture that emerges when the pieces all fit together.

Of course, there are some problems with that metaphor, too. But I'll take it, if it helps me go back to my pile of random fact chips with more energy to try to make sense of them.
posted by brambleboy at 9:54 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

As it completes and the picture emerges, it is so satisfying

I guess I'm more partial to the difficulty level 10 puzzles where traditional algorithms (corners -> edges -> infill; color grouping) fails until you find a critical insight. Or, really, partial to watching someone else solve them.

Probably the key difference is that puzzles are designed to have a satisfying solution, but reality has made no such promise.
posted by pwnguin at 10:05 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

what do you do with them afterwards?

It turns out in my case, that they are boxed up, and sit in the storage area of my mother's apartment for about 20 years, until the pandemic strikes. At which point they were unearthed and have been keeping her amused during lockdowns and restrictions.

As it happens one of my local department stores actually sells that 40320 piece Ravensburger. (At least, it has it for sale. I'm not entirely sure that they have actually sold one.)

(I should confess that I find it difficult to do a puzzle with someone else. I get a little impatient when they can't seem to see the place where the piece they're holding *obviously* should go.

The one exception to this is with kids, when it's fun to either deliberately put pieces in the wrong place so that they can be all superior, or try to subtly hint where a piece should go so they can find it.)
posted by scorbet at 10:11 AM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

My company also has (had?) puzzles in the break room. Back when people actually went to the office, I LOVED when there was a puzzle in progress. I would contribute, but appreciated others jumping in and moving things along. People would buy cool puzzles and gift them to the office.

Probably EVERY TIME there was more than one person working on the puzzle one of them would say "I've been working on [some work thing] and needed a break" - and often, that break using a different part of your brain was just what you needed to figure out the difficult problem, or relieve the writers' block, or whatever. It's one of the things I really miss about working in the office; with three cats there's no way I could get one started at home, plus I think I would get more frustrated working on one solo when there's no one else to swoop in and figure out a tricky bit while I was off doing something else.
posted by misskaz at 10:23 AM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have this absolute gorgeousness coming in the mail and cannot wait. Love a good puzzle! But I'm not ambitious. Too hard is not fun. I tried a gradient puzzle and hated it. There's no way to avoid a brute force approach. Since this post is full of jigsaw puzzle fans, here to recommend two puzzles I did recently that were very fun, satisfying, and (for me) neither too easy nor too hard: 1, 2.
posted by prefpara at 10:25 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a cousin who works in a crafts shop and buys good puzzles with her employee discount. After she's solved it, she breaks it up into the box and forwards it to the next family member, who does the same thing, and on it goes.

I'm not involved in that circle because I only rarely enjoy jigsaw puzzles, but it'd be nice to know I could tap into a regular stream of 1000+ puzzles for the price of postage, if I wanted to.
posted by ardgedee at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Weird. Not ten minutes ago my wife and I finished this puzzle, a 1000-piece Ravensburger and one of the strangest images I've ever seen. It's the typical "cute things in a cupboard" style of puzzle but also with aliens and ghosts and little eyes peaking out of dark places. We can't figure out what it's supposed to be, aside from someone's LSD trip.

We are at a cottage in Quebec, a place we have not been able to get to in two years, and jigsaw puzzles, along with making cookies, are the #1 rainy day activity up here. We have done a lot of puzzles, some of which are made of actual wood, cut by hand on a scroll saw, and have probably been up here at the cottage since the 1930s. We've added to the collection over the years so there's always one available to pull out when we need it.

Right when lockdown started I bought a few of them, knowing we were going to be stuck at home for a while, and I was fortunate to get some before everyone sold out. I find 500 to 1000 pieces to be the ideal size. Challenging, but not maddening, and you can usually complete them in a week. I love having one set up on a table and every time I walk by I "just do one piece", which means I sit down for ten minutes until I do a dozen or so pieces.

There are maybe three things in this world my wife and I argue about and looking at the box vs. not looking at the box are one of them. I had literally never heard that looking at the box is cheating until she told me it was. I even once took a poll of my twitter followers (both of them) and I think it was about 100-1 for looking at the box. She and her sister had a "no looking" rule growing up and I guess it stuck. I look at the box. In fact, I find scanning the box top for the pattern on the piece you're holding to be one of the more challenging and satisfying parts of doing a puzzle.

If I ever get to design another house I am going to have a spot for doing puzzles. A little nook that is out of the way but just off the main flow of traffic so you pass by it frequently and stop for "just one piece."
posted by bondcliff at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

What do typical puzzle hobbyists do with the puzzles once they've completed them?

In our house, we collect old Parker Pastimes, often from Bob Armstrong's annual puzzle auctions, and new Liberty Puzzles. Once we finish a puzzle, we take it apart and put it away – and always add a note in the box reading "NO MISSING PIECES AS OF" and the date, so future puzzlers who come up a piece short know it's on the floor somewhere.
posted by nicwolff at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am currently part of a used-puzzle conduit. My mom picks up puzzles either at a thrift store, or at "the boutique" (a shed at the dump where people leave still-servicable stuff that they don't want anymore) she does the puzzles, and then gives them to me to give to one of my friends who is a puzzle enthusiast. My friend is then supposed to give them away to someone else. The only puzzle my Mom has asked to get back so far is one I gave her of her favourite painting.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

The idea that looking at the front of the puzzle box is cheating completely baffles me. If you don’t want to look at it, awesome! That just gives me more time to stare at the image.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2021

I love puzzles, but have yet to figure out what to do with them and two extremely curious table top cats!
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use them as decor. I have yet to run out of space, I’m pretty slow.
posted by bq at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

In our house, we collect old Parker Pastimes, often from Bob Armstrong's annual puzzle auctions

This is amazing and deserves its own FPP
posted by bq at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am guessing he meant this NYC skyline puzzle from Ravensburger, but does anyone know if there is actually a 32,000 piece skyline puzzle of just Brooklyn?
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2021

intricate pieces that have shapes, several of which are themed to match the picture

These are called "whimsies," and I think are relatively common among higher-end puzzles. My mom is perpetually tickled by them; possibly her top pandemic discovery.

When she's finished with hers, she just lends it to another of her friends. Except the handful of fancy (>$100) ones I've bought her for Christmas, birthdays, etc. Those need to stay at home.
posted by praemunire at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

(BTW, in case you are gasping at the idea of a $100+ jigsaw puzzle, let me tell you that that is small potatoes in the hand-drawn wooden puzzle market.)
posted by praemunire at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Georges Perec's novel, Life: A User's Manual offers a unique and intriguing suggestion on what one might do with one's completed jigsaw puzzles. Not that I would recommend this to every puzzle fan. The local puzzle exchange sounds like a much more sustainable option, especially for non-reclusive non-millionaires.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 3:36 PM on September 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

My girlfriend got me a thousand piece puzzle for Christmas. We were lucky that it fit exactly in the space provided by the coffee table. My sweet little wonderful darling, optimist that she was, thought we would finish the puzzle in an hour or two. The pieces fit exactly in the correct spot, but fit very closely and lots of other spots, so it could be really confusing especially if you didn't double check your work. It took us till we had about a hundred pieces left to actually finish the edge.

Since the puzzle had all of four colors, we started in February and finished in May. There was some other stuff going on during the time of course, but it definitely took way closer to days than hours. I enjoy puzzles, the order from the chaos and the AHA moments where things start really clicking. It's also easy for me to get into a flow, a meditative puzzle solving zone where each fitted piece is an elusive but satisfying triumph that is so often lacking in real life.

My girlfriend had neither the patience nor the attention span to successfully do the puzzle, and would have given up 100 times if it wasn't for my persistence. By the time the puzzle was complete and revealing the one missing piece, we burned it.
posted by Jacen at 4:58 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Last year my wife and I finally finished this Ravensburger 18000-piece puzzle. Only took us about 11 years! (Of calendar time, working very gradually--probably only a few months actual working time.)

Don't know what on earth we're ever going to do with this massive 6' x 9' puzzle. Right now it's sitting under the bed, in 16 pieces, packed into my grandma's old puzzle caddy. I wish she were around to see it.

40000 pieces is pretty amazing, have thought about trying that same puzzle, but I just hate the Disney theme(!). Would love to get this Keith Haring one, but man, that's expensive...

I wish they still made the "World's Most Difficult" brand, those were a lot of fun. 529 pieces square, double-sided, same picture on both sides, rotated 90 degrees on the back, and cut once from each side--so for any given piece, you can't tell which side is which!
posted by equalpants at 5:36 PM on September 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

The idea that looking at the front of the puzzle box is cheating completely baffles me

I'd put it the other way around - looking at the box isn't cheating, but not looking at the box is an added challenge. Particularly if you're doing a puzzle for a second time.

Weird. Not ten minutes ago my wife and I finished this puzzle, a 1000-piece Ravensburger and one of the strangest images I've ever seen.

After a look at the Ravensburger website, that seems to be part of a "Curious Cupboards" series, that is only sometimes actually marked as such. Among others, there's a garden shelf and a magical bookshelf in the same style. (Links to their German website, as I'm not actually sure how to get to the US version. Possibly more coffee would help.)
posted by scorbet at 2:40 AM on September 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I cant be the only one who, when discovering a piece is missing, has slipped a piece of paper behind the gap, traced the outline of the empty space, found a piece of cardboard just the right thickness and glued the paper to it, carefully cut it out with an exacto knife, put it in the puzzle, and used fine tip markers to color in the missing piece?
posted by evilmomlady at 4:48 AM on September 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Thank you, evilmomlady! I am short 3 edge pieces. If they never turn up, I will use your approach just long enough to convince the grandkids that the puzzle is done. That would never, ever had occurred to me. Bless you!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:30 AM on September 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

A fondness for jigsaw puzzles is something I inherited from my father, and one of the few pastimes we shared. He had a rule about not looking at the picture on the box, but I noticed that by the time he was in his 70's and 80's, that rule no longer applied to him. in my 60's, I've loosened up on that also- 2 of the last 5 puzzles I did required serious study of the box.
When I was a kid we had a dozen or so small 4"x6" size puzzles, maybe 50 pieces, and after a while my brother and I did them upside-down (without looking at the bottom of the box, of course)

I don't like puzzles that are designed to be purposely difficult. Impressionist paintings are hard enough without adding interior pieces that look like edges. I also prefer them to hold together easily.

The thing I like about jigsaw puzzles as opposed to other types is that, when you get two pieces that go together, it's almost always progress. (Sometimes two pieces seem to go together but do not, but that can be soon discovered). So if I get a difficult 1000-piece puzzle going, and only manage to get 10 pieces in place a day, I can still expect to get it done in a few months.

I don't display them, but at the village store down the street, there used to be a completed puzzle hung up on display that was a picture of the neighborhood pond. We don't live in a particularly famous location, so it was surprising to find a commercially made puzzle of our neighborhood. I went looking online and found one, bought it, put it together, and found out it was a different one from the one at the store! Furthermore, my wife looked at the picture and saw an outbuilding that used to be by the pond, but now is on our property.
And this store, during the pandemic (that is to say, still) has a puzzle exchange. It used to be outside on a covered rack, but is inside for now.
posted by MtDewd at 5:54 AM on September 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Before I go ahead and use an Ask on this: what companies make "fine art" puzzles?

I know that in theory this is a bit Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, but I've noticed that when I do these online it actually helps me to understand how the paintings work - how negative space is used, how colors are balanced, the rhythm of the shapes - because I have to spend a lot of time staring at the painting and thinking of how the bits fit together. Also often they are very fiddly without being, eg, a gradient.
posted by Frowner at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Frowner: I've done a few of these Eurographics puzzles and have enjoyed them. (I've had the same experience as you; I've definitely acquired a greater appreciation of Kandinsky.)
posted by dfan at 10:18 AM on September 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Those look exactly like what I want - good selection, not too expensive. I've never seen Chagall ones before.
posted by Frowner at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2021

I like puzzles big enough that the texture and style of the paint stroke is part of the clue.

I don't think of looking at the box as cheating, because I don't think of putting together a jigsaw as something you... win? earn? I much prefer doing them without having seen the picture, because it feels to me much more like deduction and less like being obedient. Even that is a feeling, not a think!

A sister-in-law who had never thought of not looking at the picture tried it at a joint holiday, and is not exactly converted but does it sometimes now, and also very kindly now gives me puzzles decanted into different boxes with the original box taped over. She knows my taste well enough that this is perfect.
posted by clew at 2:15 PM on September 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm a jigsaw puzzle addict. What I do with my increasingly numerous jigsaw puzzles after I've finished them varies. Some (like $2 cheap and nasty ones which I will never do again) go in the recycle bin. I've donated some to the library which in pre-pandemic times will often have puzzles available for people to do, especially people spending time there to escape weather extremes as they cannot afford to heat/cool their own houses. I've done puzzle swaps with people but we generally return them. I haven't yet donated them to op shops or similar but am reaching the stage where I expect that will be a thing.

I have a couple of puzzles by Colin Thompson, a children's book author and illustrator whose work frequently appears on Ravensburger puzzles - plenty to explore there bondcliff! They are gorgeous and funny.

Karen Puzzles channel has reviews, tips on doing different types of puzzles, gaining an appreciation of art history from puzzles, replacing missing puzzle pieces, what she does to try to keep her puzzle collection under control, and is all round very soothing. She has a recent series on doing a 24,000 piece puzzle which is one continuous picture rather than a series of several discrete puzzles linked together like the guy in the post did.

Frowner, another good puzzle brand for art puzzles is Pomegranate Puzzles. I have more than a few of theirs and yes, you really do get a new appreciation for the complexity of people's art by doing them!

I'm currently doing a gradient puzzle which can get a bit tough - this one is only 1000 pieces and does have a pattern in it which makes it a bit easier than the 2000 piece gradient I did a few weeks ago. But my favourite one that I did recently was the Mystic Maze from the Magic Puzzle Company - this was just so gorgeous and had a surprise ending as well. Really lovely and exceptional.

Oh and for those of you who don't like to look at the picture on the box, there are mystery puzzles which have a different picture on the front from what the finished puzzle looks like. They involve using the assembled puzzle to give you clues to solve a mystery (murder, robbery etc) that is included with the puzzle.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Magic Puzzle Company! Their puzzles are A-MAZ-ING. The surprise endings are so fun, plus there are visual clues that make solving it easier once you "crack the code."
posted by jeanmari at 5:19 AM on September 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I ended up pulling out my own puzzle stash over the weekend, and came across my favourite type - these 4D Cityscapes which manage to combine my love of history, maps and puzzles.

They're a two layer puzzle - the bottom layer is a standard style puzzle, with an old city map on them (this can be difficult, as there's often a large amount of empty land!), with a foam layer with the modern city streets. Finally, you add the model monuments and buildings.
posted by scorbet at 5:47 AM on September 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Very cool puzzles, scorbet. Of course they are all sold out. $40 seems incredibly reasonable for what you get, and I say this as someone who does not take spending $40 casually.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:43 AM on September 14, 2021

I have ordered a 1000 piece secondhand Pomegranate puzzle of a very kitsch Alma-Tadema painting on eBay. Even if it's missing a piece or two I'll be able to tell whether I'm going to be Serious About Puzzles going forward. I was sorely tempted by a very expensive wooden Breugel puzzle but managed to stick to budget.
posted by Frowner at 9:00 AM on September 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also something I enjoy about puzzles: when your unconscious mind identifies the pieces faster than your conscious mind - like, you pick the one exact light blue piece with a wiggly bit out of all the light blue pieces with wiggly bits because your unconscious has put together the exact shade of light blue and the exact degree of wiggle for the one precise spot on the sky and you know it's going to be correct but not because you have reasoned about it. In a flow state, it's almost as though I myself am not controlling my hand.
posted by Frowner at 9:36 AM on September 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Frowner: “[W]hat companies make "fine art" puzzles?”
25 years ago when I couldn't afford them, I greatly coveted Stave puzzles. I see that they are even less affordable now, but I still love the idea of a bespoke hand-made puzzle.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:36 AM on September 14, 2021

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