Jigsaw Puzzles

by Bill

There are puzzles and puzzles. Crossword puzzles and Jumbles are solved by the verbally inclined, Sudoku and Chess problems by the logically inclined. Jigsaw puzzles are different, a jumble of colorful cardboard pieces which assemble to produce a picture. They are visual, with the additional tactile pleasure of handling each piece as it fits into place.

Some say puzzles are a complete waste of time – except for the consoling thought that one is exercising one’s brain while having fun. Take jigsaw puzzles: Imagine taking a perfectly good picture and breaking it into a thousand pieces, just to spend many hours re-assembling it. One might as well take a beautiful vase, smash it on the floor, then patiently glue it back together.

What’s the difference? Plenty! Assembling a jigsaw puzzle fully occupies the eyes and hands, while leaving the rest of the mind available for hearing, speaking, or just plain thinking. The puzzler can relax while pondering the world’s problems, listen to music, or carry on a conversation. Best yet, the Jigsaw puzzler need not work alone. Puzzle assembly can be shared with as many people as can fit around the table.

Puzzlers vary in their approach to assembly just as with their other activities. The “logical” type assembles a sturdy framework at the start, putting together all the edge pieces, framing the picture. Assembly then proceeds inward from all sides at once until they merge in the center. The “romantic” type creates little islands of assembly which slowly aggregate with others as the completed puzzle emerges.

What about the picture on the cover of the puzzle box? Some choose beautiful scenery, others famous paintings. There is actually an infinity of choices for every taste. However, puzzlers have other criteria for their choices besides the picture – too much sky/clouds/water/snow/dark places, all make for difficult assembly, unrewarding to most. Of course there are the masochists who buy puzzles of one solid color. At another level, the pieces themselves are important – variety of color and shape are attractive features for most of us.

Finally, what about looking at the picture while you assemble the puzzle? Some puzzlers keep the picture before them, guiding them towards their final goal, the assembled puzzle. Others take a quick look at the picture then put the box out of sight, preferring the extra challenge and confusion. At the extreme are those who buy puzzles with a big question mark on the cover instead of a picture. Or even puzzles with pictures on both sides, only one shown on the box.

What to do when the puzzle is done? Display it for a while, of course, for the satisfaction of seeing the completed picture one worked on so patiently. But table space is finite; the puzzle must be disassembled and put back in its box to make way for another puzzle, completing the cycle – a sort of puzzle version of “dust thou are to dust returneth.” However there are some who circumvent this fate, applying glue to the back of the puzzle to preserve it assembled forever, a sort of trophy collection.

If all the above has not convinced you to be a Jigsaw puzzler, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Try it! You’ll like it!

January, 2013

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