The New Puzzle Craze

No Sneezing
Gesundheit! How am I going to disinfect this puzzle now?

These are interesting times we’re living in, that’s for sure. Many of us are in our homes most of the time now; and when we’re not disinfecting doorknobs and drawer handles we have plenty of extra time for puzzling. It’s the “newest” thing, have you heard?

Those of us who aren’t new to this fabulous indoor activity and have large stashes of puzzles to do are very lucky indeed; the demand has increased mightily as housebound families look for activities to keep themselves occupied. On my last trip out to stock up on puzzles, the bookstore where I normally feed my puzzle addiction had really been picked over; there were still puzzles on the shelves, but not nearly as many as there usually were.

Our beloved jigsaw puzzles are becoming hard to come by, as many online retailers have stopped taking orders, some have hiked up prices, and many retail stores that carry puzzles are not considered “essential businesses” and are now closed in places with stricter quarantine rules. There are still some online retailers with reasonable prices taking orders, and a few places you can sneak a puzzle into your cart if you are shopping for groceries, but those are becoming fewer by the day as everyone is getting in on the latest puzzle craze.

So I hope you’re well stocked and ready for plenty of puzzle time; perhaps your family might be interested in helping you with your next puzzle. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing for you or not, as many people prefer to puzzle in solitude. I’m good either way, puzzling with my loved ones makes me happy, as does quiet alone time with my puzzle pieces – and luckily I have a stockpile that should last me roughly 3 to 4 years. Or more.

I think it’s wonderful that more people are coming to appreciate the hobby that we PADS sufferers and puzzle addicts know and love. It’s a wonderful way to pass the time, and helps keep our minds occupied with shapes and colors rather than the latest bad news.

They’re good for our overall health too, which is some good news that we dyed-in-the-wool dissectologists and puzzle newbies all need to remember. Each little success that working on a jigsaw puzzle brings – completing a section, or just finding that piece we’ve been searching for – encourages the production of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine regulates your mood, and studies have shown that a positive mood can enhance your immune system; I think all of our immune systems could use a boost these days, don’t you? So turn off the tv, put down your phones, and puzzle on my friends – it’s good for you! 🧩

Happy puzzling!

 

*The picture above is from the back of the box of the current puzzle I’m working on, a 1500 piece Jan van Haasteren shaped puzzle called “Hotel”. It isn’t part of the image; it’s just a cute little drawing by JVH on the back of the box, and it seemed oddly appropriate for today’s post. 🙂

The 1970’s

The 1970's
The 1970’s – Re-marks – 1500 pieces

I can’t even express how much I loved putting this one together, it was a trip down memory lane and I loved every memory and every piece that clicked together. To be honest the fit wasn’t great, but for this puzzle it was all about the image. Almost every small section brought back memories and I had the best time!

Get ready for a long post rambling on and on about the days of yesteryear and my memories of these things in the 1970’s. This puzzle is a fantastic image, and for those of us that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s this collage will bring a smile to your face. 🙂

The 1970's 1

Now if you’re a young’n, this will blow your mind; the way we used to get music much of the time was compilation albums like this one. If you couldn’t afford to buy all the albums this was a much cheaper way to get all the music you loved. No downloading songs or smartphones anywhere in sight. Times were tough! There was another way too, if you had lots of time to sit and listen to the radio with your boombox you could hit record when a favorite song came on and make yourself a mix tape! I used to do that especially around New Year’s when the stations would play the top 100 or so songs of the year. The trick was to wait until the DJ stopped talking. 😉

The 1970's 2

My parents loved Laugh-In, and watched it every week. I definitely didn’t understand all the jokes, but for a child it was perfect; lots of colors and camera movements, and skits that were very quick for our short attention spans. I loved it too, but at the time I didn’t know all the reasons why. Ruth Buzzi’s character Gladys was a favorite, as was Arte Johnson’s Tyrone. Great show!

The 1970's 3

I’m sure many readers will recognize some or all of these songs, but I am old enough to remember when they were playing on the radio – not as classics, but as new music! I used to have 45’s of My Sharona, Y.M.C.A, and I Will Survive. If only I still had them they might be worth a lot of cash! (45’s were small vinyl records with only one song [per side] that you played on a turntable)

The 1970's 4

I don’t have much recollection of Richard Scarry’s books when I was a child, but my children LOVED them when they were young. I read them to my kids a lot, and my youngest even had a rug in his room with a map of Busytown on it, he adored playing with it and lining up his cars along the streets.

The 1970's 5

This is the one of the smallest sections of the puzzle, but it holds the most memories for me. My sisters and I had this album (and 8 track), watched the television special, and knew every word and every song by heart. If you’re not familiar, it was created by Marlo Thomas and released in 1972; it promoted gender neutrality, basically saying that boys and girls could be anything they wanted regardless of their gender and achieve amazing things. It had an all star cast; Rosey Grier (former pro football player), Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Harry Belafonte, Mel Brooks, Dustin Hoffman, Kris Kristofferson, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Alan Alda, Dionne Warwick, and many more. It was a fantastic album for kids and I can still remember all the songs and scenes more than 45 years later. 🤍

I could write a little blurb about almost every section in this puzzle, but I had to stop somewhere. The Carol Burnett Show was one of my favorites – I loved all things comedy as a child (and still do). Sesame Street was another favorite when I was very young – in fact I’m older than Sesame Street. Oh my! Today’s post was brought to you by The Letter “O”. O is for OLD LADY. 👵

I loved this puzzle more for the memories than anything else, but that doesn’t mean the assembly was bad. In fact it was quite the opposite. Even with the loose fit it was great fun with a great image, and brought back great memories!

Lady in the Meadow

Meadow
Lady in the Meadow by Kinuko Y. Craft – Sunsout – 1500 pieces

I found this puzzle at mom’s house, and I don’t know what in the world I was thinking when the decision was made to assemble it – it’s so difficult! It’s got all the things I don’t care for in a puzzle image, why in the world did I start assembling it? Honestly, I have no idea, other than because mom loved the image so much. I think I did it for her. 💗

I put this on my second, larger board and only worked on it a little bit at a time, I didn’t want to become too frustrated with the dark, difficult image. It took me several weeks to complete, but I think that was the best way to assemble it; when I found myself getting annoyed with the difficulty that was my cue to walk away and work on something a bit less demanding.

This is my second puzzle with an image from this artist, and although I love her style and artwork, I much prefer her lighter and more colorful images. This one is so dark!

Meadow 1

The double border was quite difficult, and I’m not sure why there were the 2 border lines down the center – perhaps we’re viewing this scene through a window? In a cave? It’s odd, but who knows what the artist was thinking. All I know is that it made an already dark and difficult image even more of a challenge.

Meadow 2

Not only is this a pretty face, but you can also see that the quality wasn’t great; there is quite a bit of image lift on the tabs and the puzzle did not lay flat. The image lift is something you get used to when you buy secondhand puzzles, many times disassembling causes image lift; it does interfere with the enjoyment I get from running my hands over the completed puzzle though. With all the tabs sticking up I worry that I’ll tear part of the image off, so there was no satisfying puzzle massage with this one. 😦

You can also see that it’s cut like an Educa puzzle, all the pieces are ballerinas except for the humpback/swayback pieces. This is odd for a Sunsout puzzle, I’ve worked many of them and have never seen this piece shape before. The fit was this puzzle’s best quality – it was exceptional – not too tight (which some Sunsout puzzles can be) and not too loose; it was almost perfect, and you could lift the entire puzzle without any pieces coming off at all.

It’s a beautiful, if odd, image and I’m extremely proud of myself for finishing it! When I come across more interesting and crazy difficult puzzles at mom’s house I think they’ll go right into the donate box – I’ve learned my lesson! 😉

1980’s

80's
1980’s – Re-marks – 1500 pieces

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you won’t be surprised by this – I absolutely loved this puzzle! Even though it’s 1500 pieces there was zero anxiety about starting it; it’s a collage puzzle about the 1980’s, what’s not to love? I remember every single thing shown, and even if I wasn’t a fan of The Police or never watched an episode of 21 Jump Street that doesn’t mean I didn’t love putting every single piece of this puzzle together. Many sections brought back memories that put a smile on my face, and even just looking at this picture of the puzzle makes me happy. 🙂

Since the last Re-marks puzzle I assembled had a stain over the image, I’m happy to report that this puzzle had no problems. The pieces were a good thickness and fit together well, and the reproduction had no issues other than being slightly shiny. There was only one piece shape, but it didn’t bother me much because there weren’t any large areas of one color (and most likely because I enjoyed the image so much). 1500 pieces with all one shape would normally be quite annoying for me, but it’s all relative; with a great image on the puzzle and good quality otherwise it wasn’t much of a bother at all.

80's 1.JPG

My family loved The Muppet Show, and never failed to watch it every week. This was back in the time of only three tv channels – yes youngsters, you heard that right – only three! There was cable tv, but that was basically just HBO (and they didn’t make tv shows or movies, they only showed movies that had once been in the theaters). So on Saturday or Sunday nights we had only 3 choices, it definitely made deciding what to watch much easier that’s for sure! My dad loved Statler and Waldorf, mom loved Kermit, and I loved The Swedish Chef and Beaker (odd choice, I know, but I was an odd child). The show was fun and funny, and sometimes a little bit raunchy, and thinking of it brings a smile to my face.

80's 2

These are two more things I loved. Spirograph kept me entertained for hours and hours and I used to make cards and gifts for my family with it when I was young. Mom used to get out her colored pencils and help me color the images in sometimes to make the “artwork” even more beautiful. Sometimes she would take a spirograph picture she really liked to work and make copies for us to color over and over.

As for Clue, we found the board game boring for the most part, but we absolutely loved the movie! Back in 1985 there weren’t DVD’s, but we did have a video cassette player and as soon as we were able to find the movie on VHS we most definitely had a copy. I’m sure the statute of limitations has run out, so I can tell you that we rented the movie and made a copy of it. 😇 The movie was so unusual with it’s many different endings, and we were a family that loved a great comedy. (How awesome were Madeline Kahn, Tim Curry, and Michael McKean? Just an awesome cast in general, and we adored this movie)

80's 3

This was another great action/comedy movie, and we all loved it. I can’t see anything about this movie without saying “Hey you guuuys!” in my head, and sometimes out loud. My kids loved it too when they were younger, it’s just a great all around family movie. (Well, it was PG, so there were some not so family friendly moments, but in 1985 my sisters and I were teenagers, and I didn’t show it to my kids until they were ready 😉 )

If I were to reminisce about every section of this puzzle it would be a very, very long post indeed. There are things I would have to explain to the younger generations, and most of the explanations would draw blank stares and looks of disbelief. How in the world would you explain Max Headroom, or the popularity of the Trapper Keeper?! Ah, the 80’s. What a decade! It made for a thoroughly entertaining puzzle though. I’m giving it two pairs of Calvin Kleins, standing way, way up! 👖👖

Doors of Europe

Doors of Europe
Doors of Europe by Dominic Davison – Educa – 1500 pieces

Usually when I think of puzzles with artwork by Dominic Davison I think of lovely cottages and countrysides; this puzzle has those, but only as glimpsed through doorways. Even though it had been almost a year and a half since I’d worked a 1500 piece puzzle, the image drew me in and I was ready to work on it with no anxiety at all about the number of pieces. It’s a gorgeous image and exactly what I was looking for when I wanted a collage to assemble.

Collages are my some of my favorite puzzles; it’s like having many mini puzzles to assemble and figure out how they connect together. It reduces the amount of stress for me because I don’t have to work the puzzle as a whole, just little sections at a time. I also love the look of collages; whether they are a hodge-podge of images all smushed together or an orderly collection of similar objects, I find the overall effect to be pleasing to the eye.

This puzzle was beautiful, just the right amount of challenging, and thoroughly entertaining to assemble. The doors were relatively easy to sort, though the scenes behind them sometimes presented a challenge. I started with the easiest and brightest colors, and in the process became more familiar with each of the scenes and the slight differences in shades of colors that allowed me to determine where they belonged.

Surprisingly, there weren’t very many pieces at all that were just the brick background – once all the doors were complete it didn’t take much time to fill in the rest of the pieces. It was a completely engrossing puzzle with a beautiful end result!

These two doors were the most fun to put together; London looks amazing, and I’m not ashamed to say I have no idea what the other is. I’m fairly certain it’s a Mediterranean city, but have no clue as to which one it may be. It doesn’t matter much, I still enjoyed the assembly of it.

IMG_5235

This door was the most difficult, and it was the last one completed; many of the pieces looked like they might fit in other sections. It’s a mysterious set of doors though, isn’t it? Who’s on the other side?

The cut of Educa puzzles is one thing about this brand that I’m not crazy about. Most of the pieces are ballerinas (2/2), and with the limited variety of shapes there are many places where the pieces seem to fit where they do not belong. This is especially frustrating in larger areas of one color and along the edges. That said, they also have their humpback/swayback shaped pieces, which are quite easy to find and match!

IMG_5349

My other issue with this brand is the puzzle image on their boxes. Their logo, piece count, and the words “Educa Puzzle” in very large font take over the far right side of the box; this effectively obscures one entire edge of the image! Why? As an avid puzzler, I feel I can speak for many of us when I say that you could reduce the size of the image a bit, as long as there’s an unobstructed view of the image as a WHOLE we would be very grateful. (We are not grateful, however, for the tiny 1 x 1.5 inch whole image on the side of the box, it is not helpful!)

Complaining aside, I really did have a great time with this puzzle, I promise. Bad cut and covered picture aside, it was an entertaining assembly and a beautiful finished puzzle. Loved it❣