These Are Puzzling Times…

I am not a jigsaw puzzle doer. Oh sure – I’ve paused at the table a few moments to work out a piece or two when someone else was doing one nearby, but I know my patience level and I know it doesn’t have the endurance for a tedious project like puzzle hobbying.

But quarantine takes us to a whole new level, no?

I’ve had this puzzle in our game closet for over a year and thought it was time to take a crack at it.

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After only 8,273 hours, I had the edge pieces in place. (Was I insane for doing this??) Turns out the answer was yes. It wasn’t until much later that I noticed the ‘Challenge Series’ notation on the front of the box. CHALLENGE?? I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in years. Was this really where I should start?

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I ordered a different puzzle and was much more pleased with the design. Before I started, I looked up some puzzle tips to see if I could work a little smarter.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a novice puzzle gamer

You need a colander, ziploc bags and foam board.

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Before dumping all the pieces out onto the table, first pour them into a colander over the sink. This will get rid of all the puzzle dust and it won’t get all over your workspace.

Speaking of workspace – if you don’t have a dedicated table for the puzzle, work it on a large piece of foam board. The foam board is very lightweight and easy to move out of the way when you’re not working on the puzzle.

We all pull out the edge pieces first, right? And that’s cool cause they’re the easiest to work. But then try to group all of the same colors together. Even if the reds don’t all go in the same place, you’ll have a stockpile of them when you need them. For the puzzle I was working on, the colors were very segregated so I put the individual color piles into separate ziploc bags.

After I’ve worked on a section for a while and started to feel ‘stuck’, I then grouped my puzzle pieces into ‘like sizes’. I put all the horizontal pieces together and all the wide pieces together. It’s not always easy to tell which is which but a lot of the time it is. Again, it just gives you a stockpile of similar sizes when it’s obvious the next piece HAS to be an up and down piece.

Many people suggested turning your puzzle occasionally to give you a different perspective, but that seemed to work against me so I didn’t use this tip very much.

It still took me quite a few days to complete since I was working on it in between other projects. Poor Scott asked me if he could help when I was nearing the end. I said “Sure!”, and handed him the ziploc of black pieces – the hardest section!

As with most things in life, the color is relatively easy. It’s the shadows that take the most time and care…

Once we finished we were faced with the universal puzzle-making decision: Do I break it all up and put it back in the box to do again at another time? (which we probably never would) or do I try to preserve it?

I liked the colors and the topic of books so I decided to hang it in my home library/office.

If you decide to break up your puzzle and save it for another time, I read a couple of tips I thought were helpful.

  • Break off all the edging pieces first and put them in a separate bag. It will save you time the next time you do the puzzle. If you want to separate and bag all the separate color pieces you can also do that – but don’t make your puzzle-making toooooo easy for the next time! Where’s the fun in that?!
  • If you own a number of puzzles, make sure you bag all the puzzle pieces in each of their boxes to avoid a catastrophe of toppling them all over and pieces getting mixed up together.

But I had decided to preserve our finished puzzle.

There are many puzzle products that can help you save your puzzle, but since we are in Quarantime, I wanted to use things I already had at home.

I placed a large piece of wood over the puzzle so I could flip it over to the backside. I then Mod Podged the back of the puzzle. Many people suggested Mod Podging both the front and the back to make it sturdier, but I wanted to try to maintain that authentic puzzle look on front so I just did the back and then laid newspaper over the glue as a ‘webbing’ of sorts to hold it all together. (Extra bonus points if you can glue Tom Brady’s head to the back of a puzzle!)

I let that all dry overnight. If there was any newspaper showing, I trimmed the edges.

So far so good! I was liking the way it was all turning out. I then asked Scott if he could make a frame for me. I just wanted a simple black frame.

He backed the whole puzzle with a piece of thin plywood. He made the frame and put a groove in the wood so the puzzle would slide right in. I wanted it to be in the front of the frame and not against the wall.

I’m not sure this is the final spot for it, but I like the way it works with my books and bookshelf!

This puzzle will forever and always remind me of the sequestered days of Corona 2020. In the midst of the scary and unknowable, it was nice to work on something kinetic together to occupy our minds for a few hours.

While he was making me a frame, Scott also made a book rest for me. No bookmarks or dog-ears needed – simply lay down your book where you left off and pick it up when you’re ready for it again. Cute, huh??

I’m not chopping at the bit to start a new jigsaw soon, but I’m glad I learned a few ‘pro tips’ for the next time I tackle one.