Rediscovered an absorbing activity from childhood

Jigsaw puzzles. I received a puzzle as a gift for donating to a conservation organization. It’d been probably more than 50 years since I last worked one, and I remember how immersed I would get. That losing sense of time from being wholly in the zone is something I cherish. I had in fact eyed a puzzle last week in a museum shop, almost buying it. What serendipity to get one in the mail!

And down the rabbit hole I vanished, only stopping to take pee breaks. I kept telling myself, just a few more and I’ll go to bed. I was tired and still sick from a cold I picked up late last week.

Next thing I knew, the thing was Done. Watch said it was now 00:50.

When I was kid, at one point I wondered why I was spending the time to reassemble something that didn’t do anything “useful.” Yet the time spent was so enjoyable, and though I couldn’t describe why, it remained way back in my mind, only to be phoenixed ablaze with little provocation.

Now with insight from age, I do know why this simple thing so engages me* and I’m not going to let it lie dormant again. It’s time to look for a source(s) of good jigsaw puzzles.

*The topic of WHY is fit for a separate post entirely.


There should be a way to incorporate this activity on the fore deck of your kayak. That might help to distract you from the scenery. Somebody should invent an apparatus that allows this even in violent seas.

Then I guess I had better not tell you that there are a ton of jigsaw sites on the internet. Jigsaw planet is one of the ones I like; they have a fractals section.

If you have a ton of money to spare, check out Stave Puzzles.

I’m glad you found the activity again, esp given where you live.
As a kid, I couldn’t tolerate any activity for very long that required remaining in one spot . Now , I enjoy reading and I’m thinking about starting to carve again.

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My family (in-laws but family) does a pile of puzzles every Christmas and they’re always fun in a “We conquered that!” sort of way.

This year we did one of a Kandinsky painting and it was extra rewarding, it really gave me an appreciation of the ways that the colors and shapes interacted. As somebody who’s not super into abstract art, I really got a lot out of being forced to slowly look at it, and think about both the big picture and the details.


I looove jigsaw puzzles, but living on a boat I have a pretty small table so am limited to 500 pieces tops. Kind of a bummer as I really do enjoy them. I’ve been trying to finish a very hard counted cross stitch pattern (so that I can start another, more fun one!) as that is a better “boat activity” that I also enjoy.


My wife likes jigsaw puzzles as much as I like kayaking. There, that makes this on-topic for a kayak forum.

She has a puzzle tabletop with drawers that she really likes. It’s not fancy, just unfinished Masonoite with a simple wood frame. But she can move it around from one table to another, and the four drawers let her sort pieces. For her puzzles, she gets them from Thrift stores. Most people do a puzzle once and then many seem to donate them for resale. She’s on the hunt on the day certain items are a dollar at her favorite store.

Here’s the puzzle table:

Amazon Puzzle Table


Oh, I found out when I went a-huntin’ that there are jigsaw fans a-plenty. There’s even an international jigsaw club that swaps puzzles by mail or, in some locations, holds swap meetings. Each puzzle loaned from the club collection comes with a sheet listing where that puzzle was previously mailed. It makes me think of messages in glass bottles set out to sea, all these tiny filaments of commonality and connection in a giant web. The fact that the traveler is a physical object puts it in a higher level of connection than, say, an electronic puzzle that someone else did

Check out the puzzles shown in the gallery’s second and fourth photos. The pieces are shaped to match the theme of the puzzle! No prices shown on the site. I’ll visit the place when they reopen. In the meantime, I’m heading to the site you linked. Thanks!

Wood sheets were probably the original medium used centuries ago, though without the laser cutting.

You nailed it. The attention to seemingly simple variables such as color and shape that is forced onto you (if you don’t like pure trial and error) is a big part of the appeal. I also enjoy the mental workout of mentally rotating a piece before picking it out to place in the puzzle.

Another fun thing was categorizing the kinds of shapes and refining details BEFORE choosing a piece to fit in. For example, instead of just grabbing several pieces that have the basic kind of shape needed, I would add other qualifications, like the dongle on the longer axis portion is roundish or squared off or lists to one side. Sometimes it was easier to just think of it as Mr. Magoo’s nose or a traffic bollard or a skinny spoon.

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That looks a bit like Starry Nights.

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It is. I can say that cross stitching impressionist paintings is not easy!!

No worries if you are the impressionist.

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I happened upon a set of 7 jigsaw puzzles of the 7 Wonders of the World, so bought them a few years ago. Three were put together then I lost interest. Is it tacky to want to display them? Do any of you somehow frame them for display?

Almost my entire family and in-laws are a puzzle… I mean puzzlers if that’s a term. At holiday get togethers there is always a puzzle table. It becomes a constantly evolving social gathering spot.

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Very cool…I like that table!

According to Blue Kazoo, who make high-quality but not heirloom-collectibles puzzles, your family members are dissectologists. That term comes from the what the inventor of jigsaw puzzles (John Spilbury) called his maps that had countries cut into the shapes of their borders.

The actual hand tool that was used way back was the fretsaw (coping saw), not the jigsaw.c

Two info-packed yet different websites for your den of dissectologists:


I bought a giant puzzle of Africa to learn the location of all the countries but each country was a hundred pieces and I didn’t have the patience for it. I give myself an F.

His puzzles were world maps intended to teach young kids geography. Yours is an adult puzzle. Ooooo, that sounds so risque.