Rediscovered an absorbing activity from childhood

I was meeting African military at the time and trying to educate myself about the Sahel, seemed like a good plan back then.

The puzzle was too hard!:frowning:

I should have bought the children’s version.

String, I’m avoiding discussion of the neuroscience that must drive the fascination with jigsaw puzzles, because such a topic is too deep, technical, and multidisciplinary for a recreational webpage. However, I must point out some key differences between what your boyhood experienced and what’s happening here.

  • The puzzle was on the floor, and I did not use any chair or table. My body positions varied a lot, for reasons related to both access and comfort.

  • Enforced assigned sitting is not at all like voluntary stillness for a chosen pleasurable activity such as reading or writing. (I hate flying in a plane. HATE it.)

  • My body movements were limited, as close-quarters indoors activities are, but my brain was 100% active.

Remember emerging from completing three SAT or ACT exams nonstop? Remember feeling ravenously hungry? I did at the end of my “dissectology.” There was no sense of boredom or of sitting still. Brain cells use a lot of calories. There’s a lot more going on when assembling a jigsaw puzzle, unless you rely on pure trial and error.

Next up: Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagawa?

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When I was a child back in the 1960’s my father took a second, evening job to help make ends meet. To his three children’s semi-great joy, it was in the Toy Department of Hecht’s Department Store. Though dad was bestowed with an employee’s discount (we kids supposed), he was still a frugal, farm-raised sort. BUT, stretching his discount further, a wee bit we guessed, there were occasions he’d surprise us with a new box or two. Sometimes toys, sometimes games, more than a few times puzzles. In all instances, though, you’d always find scribed to the boxes exterior either, “Broken Parts,” or “Missing Pieces.”

I was/am a great lover of canine human associates, especially then of those cool hunting dogs like my once-a-year visited Uncle Bud in NC had. Sport and Blondie, if I recall correctly, an English Setter and Pointer, respectively. Imagine my aged seven joy as I diligently worked, over the course of a week, my “200 Pieces!” disassembly towards that majestic image on the box top. Imagine my somewhat less than bemused disappointment when I came to realize that magic marker don’t lie, and I was perhaps three-to-five pieces shy. My pointer, unlike that fine specimen on the label, was pointless! Or, pawless, that is, as the card tables drab brown surface gaped through what should have been a foreleg in uplifted pheasant tell. Darn.

Oh well. Least it wasn’t as pointless as the game Mousetrap. Nothing more disheartening than coming to that long assembly and rodent circumnavigation end, only to have no basket clatterin’ its capture down the pole. I suppose my two sisters may have come out of those traumatic youthful days not too emotionally scarred from their amputee Barbie and Skipper days??? I guess???


He might have gotten the defective items for free. Adds to the challenge for sure, but I would not want to receive one as a new product.

That’s a sweet story.

A local artist/designer here in Pittsburgh has puzzles as part of his “Calamityware” series. A bit pricey but high quality – I bought this one (“Ocean Commotion”) last winter (already had the matching black and white design shower curtain) that borrows from the fantastical sea monsters that used to be drawn in the margins of vintage world maps. Have yet to crack it open, but I’ve done others of his before.

My family also had the annual tradition of laying out a large jigsaw puzzle (left under the tree by “Santa”) on the dining table after Christmas dinner so that everybody could take turns working on it over the next few days of the holiday vacation.

I always found it very relaxing and satisfying to work on jigsaw puzzles, though I used to feel a bit guilty about it being such a “pointless waste of time” exercise. Then when I was in field school while getting my Archaeology degree in college, I discovered that puzzles had prepared me to be very skilled at reassembling the excavated shards of ancient porcelain and pottery ware in the post-dig lab work. My prof commented that I was the best at it he’d ever seen! Honing my visual memory to match up subtle colors and edge patterns in puzzle pieces carried over to that lab work. Though it was a bit more challenging: imagine several hundred puzzles which were missing half their pieces, broken up and churned together in a mass of dirt. So I could finally justify that I had not “wasted my time” in practicing that skill. A few of the items of china and stoneware that I was able to reassemble and glue together are part of museum exhibits now.

My favorite puzzles of all time don’t seem to be available anymore. I had several from a company that made two sided puzzles with both images being art masterworks. It might sound maddening to have a puzzle on both sides of all the pieces, but because they chose paintings that had strong overall color differences (like a bluish white winter scene on one side and a brown and orange harvest scene on the reverse), it was no more difficult to flip and sort them than with a regular one-sided set. And the paintings were complicated images with many small area details in the foreground and background to assemble, like the chaotic village scenes of Dutch Renaissance painters like Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch’s scenes of Hell and Paradise. I assembled those puzzles repeatedly over the years and eventually sold them at a garage sale when I was in a purging mood – kind of regretted that since.

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The boldfaced words get at why I think this is fascinating display of our brains’ ability to generalize a learned, practiced skill. (Also why the sneering at doing static brace ignores this side of intelligence.)

The added pleasure of handling physical pieces, even merely to turn them picture-side-up, enhances the visual/thought aspects. I don’t get the same fun from doing an on-screen puzzle.

Speaking of picture-side-up, I stumbled across a site that sold the reversible puzzles you describe. Wish I had saved the link for it. If I find it again, I’ll msg you or post here. Some other site had a puzzle based on a painting of a kayaker on a journey. I should’ve saved that link, too. I had no idea that this old-fashioned, low-tech game was still popular today!

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I do 1000 piece puzzles in the winter; they fit on a fold-up banquet table. I like sunny landscape photos, helps with SADS, but they are hard to find these days.

Ooh. I like that. Starry Night. A fav of mine. Where did you find the cross stitch? Looks like fun.

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Online, although I forget which website as I bought it several years ago.

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I was given a 1000 pc puzzle at Christmas. I really enjoyed it and have dug out an old one I hadn’t done before.


Cool. A long enough time since the first assembling would make it feel new again.

Sunny landscape photo puzzles used to be common. You can probably still buy nice ones from a NPS membership organization, such as the one for the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc.

It does look like most puzzles now being shown for sale are of abstract designs, paintings or other visual artwork, or collages.

My wife and I received a fairly easy, 1000 piece one as a gift just last Christmas. Since then she bought a really tough one, a Van Gogh print; not Starry Night.

We’ve done the edges but the puzzle is on our dining room table and hasn’t progressed much over the last couple of weeks. We’ll get to it though.

As for the Amazon boards I ordered one as a gift last year but I was disappointed in the quality. The China made board was coming apart in several places so we returned it. For our use a sheet of foam core seems perfect.