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Puzzle Addiction

Earlier this year, I posted about one of my favorite wintertime activities—putting together puzzles. In that post, I postulated that the popularity of puzzles was likely due to an addiction. Well I now have to admit that I too have succumbed to that addiction.


In my last post, I mentioned that I had ordered another puzzle as soon as I had completed the first one. Whether I did it consciously or subconsciously I picked another puzzle that had a number of individual scenes rather than one main scene, which makes it almost like a number of smaller puzzles within a larger puzzle. With this puzzle type, you can focus on finishing one scene and gain a quick sense of accomplishment even though there are still a large number of pieces remaining to be placed.


Obviously the first step with any puzzle is to lay out all of the pieces on your work surface, trying to isolate the side pieces in one area as you remove them from the bag. As with the Door puzzle, once I began to assemble the side pieces, I found that several were missing leaving three distinct gaps in the puzzle frame. But as before, I forged ahead knowing that they would eventually turn up.


As I was laying out all of the pieces, I noticed that this puzzle, unlike most I had worked in the past, had a number of unusually shaped pieces. The four pieces at the top are shaped similarly to puzzle pieces I have assembled before. But the other pieces were rather oddly shaped. I could see that I would have to abandon my old approach of organizing pieces by shape for easier placement in the puzzle since some of these pieces seemed almost one-of-a-kind.


As with the door puzzle, I started working on individual scenes that had some unique colors that would make their assembly easier. By the time I had almost completed four of these, I had finally located all of the side pieces.


One helpful quality of this puzzle was that there was a brown border around each of the individual scenes. This made framing these simpler as I could look for the pieces that had this detail. But then I noticed the center scene (the Eames chair) had a turquoise frame around it. Therefore I decided to focus on that one next since those frame pieces would be easily distinguishable from the other ones that had a brown frame.


With the center scene complete, I then focused on the other frames that each had a unique color combination.


And before I knew it, I had only about four incomplete frames left…


…and my pace quickened, aided by the diminished number of pieces remaining, until I had just one scene left to assemble.  At this point I couldn’t stop and so proceeded to work until the puzzle was complete.


This puzzle I assembled in less than a week which is pretty amazing given that I had already returned to work (although I must admit I did multi-task on my work-from-home day adding pieces while in teleconferences).


And at the end of the week, we had a snow day from work which gave me some additional time for puzzle assembly.


But I also recognized that uncontrollable itch, that just like a drugged-up junkie; I was looking for my next “fix” even before finishing this puzzle and so ordered my next puzzle using my wife’s accelerated 2-day shipping.


For this purchase, I decided to go with a more traditional single-scene puzzle. Exploring the world of puzzles online, I debated between train scenes, landscape scenes, and car scenes but anyone who knows me well enough could have predicted that the car scene would be my first pick, this particular one of the famous Woodward Avenue in Detroit, home of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

Obviously what caught my eye on this one were the 1960s era muscle cars. What I failed to notice was that nearly one third of the puzzle was an almost monochromatic night sky.


This realization was validated once I had laid out all the pieces into four groupings: side pieces, colorful pieces, road pieces, and sky pieces. The sky pieces, mostly in two shades of purple are to the right. I decided that part of the puzzle would have to be last and I would likely have to use my trusty tool of organizing the individual pieces by shape just like I did for the snow scene puzzle.


I got an early taste for what this would be like just assembling the sidepieces as the road at the bottom and the sky at the top required a one-by-one trial and error approach to completing the puzzle frame.

With the puzzle framed, I decided to focus first on the front three cars. If this approach allowed me to additionally place the road pieces around them, I would have half the puzzle complete before working on the center band of color leaving the sky to tackle last. With this plan of attack, I forged ahead.


Turns out, starting with the blue car was harder than I thought. As I looked closer, I could see that the car was not a uniform blue color but had reds, yellows, and whites throughout it. I kept plugging at it but eventually gave up when I had only partially completed the hood and the tires.


As can be seen, I actually had better luck with assembling the road, which I thought would be more difficult. With the headlights reflected on the road in the picture, it transformed what might have been a single colored road surface into rainbow shades of purple and tan.

Sticking with my original strategy, I decided to work on the red car next. Although it had some “surprising” purple and flesh tones colors incorporated into its picture, it actually proved much easier than the blue car to assemble.


At this point, I decided to modify my strategy and rather than working on the yellow car, I moved all of the “suspected” blue car pieces over to the right and focused on the famous Totem Pole Drive In.


This turned out to be a very wise detour as in no time; I had the iconic structure assembled.


And if you look closely around the famous marquee, you will see it is outlined with what I thought were blue car pieces but were actually sky pieces, brightened by the sign’s lights from the evening purple sky to almost daylight blue. No wonder the blue car had been so hard to assemble; its pieces were hiding among blue-sky pieces that repeatedly would not fit anywhere on the car.

Before returning to the blue car, I decided to assemble the yellow car, which proved a wise decision as the two cars overlap and as I added yellow pieces, small bits of the blue car on the yellow pieces helped it get assembled as well.


Then returning to the blue car, its assembly was much easier and any piece that didn’t go to it became part of all the other cars in the background.


At this point, I was left with about 200 pieces of various shades of purple almost evenly divided between dark and light.


I semi-organized them by shape and jumped in.


I started with the lighter colored purple pieces first to build the sky from the ground up. I occasionally ran across a piece with small black dots on it (bits of tree) which made them easy to place.


Once I had finished with the lighter colored pieces, it was a one-by-one trial and error approach to complete the darkest part of the sky. This process took a while as I might try 30 or 40 pieces in a single location before finding the right piece. Some of the pieces had unusual shapes, which made them much easier. After several days of this approach, I finally completed the puzzle.


I was most pleased with the outcome.

As I mentioned before, once you complete a puzzle, a part of you just does not want to take it apart. After all, you probably spent hours and hours working on it only to have it torn apart in just a few minutes.


This puzzle included an advertisement on the side of the box to preserve the completed puzzle in a frame for those individuals who just couldn’t bear to take it apart. Being a car-loving guy, I must say I was briefly tempted to frame it but in the end, I knew it wouldn’t look as nice as just a framed poster of the same scene due to all the “crinkled” lines.

So I took it apart satisfied with the three puzzles that I had completed prior to the end of January, which interestingly is National Puzzle month. But I think the time I spent this January working on these three turned me into a real “puzzler” and I look forward to next winter and the puzzles I will assemble then.

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