If you have been a regular reader of mine for the last couple of years, you know how I love to work on puzzles in the wintertime. And ever since the weather began to grow cold last fall, I anxiously looked forward to another winter puzzling season. But when we had a rare-for-Memphis snow the week before Thanksgiving…
…my very cold and skin-cracked fingers began to just itch for the satisfying feel of snapping little colorful puzzle pieces together.
For this puzzle season, I waited until after Christmas to get started as we had wonderful little guests with small curious fingers in town for the holiday.
Throughout the year, between gifts and purchases I made myself, I accumulated a nice little collection of puzzles to assemble, one of which was a family photo, turned puzzle that was a birthday gift from my oldest son and daughter-in-law; what a fun thought to assemble a puzzle of familiar looking faces including my own!
Now I realize some of my readers might be moaning, “oh no, not more posts about puzzles” so to break from how I have written these posts in the past, I’ve decided to just post the frame and the final puzzle with a few thoughts on the fun I had and spare you the blow-by-blow difficulties each one presented.
The first puzzle I selected to work on was one my daughter gave me for my birthday, a 1000-piece puzzle of a vintage TWA poster
Ever since we jointly discovered the joy of visiting the Museum of Flight in Seattle with her first son, she has been giving me airplane-themed gifts. And this poster is one from the good old days when TWA was flying what was at the time, the luxurious triple-tailed Connie (Lockheed Constellation). But not only was this puzzle airplane-themed, it also featured one of my favorite cities on the planet—San Francisco.
As I laid out the pieces, I was very pleased to see that there were many that had unique shapes. This would help in assembly, especially in the sky where minor gradations in color were the only other distinguishing feature. After piecing together the frame (with the ubiquitous missing few pieces), I started at the bottom and worked my way up the poster. It was very satisfying to see the street, cable cars, and buildings take shape.
It took me about a week to finish the puzzle working alone since my wife was out of town and once complete, I hated to take it all apart so I carefully moved it to the coffee table so I could continue to enjoy seeing it as I worked on the other puzzles.
For my next puzzle, I chose the one of our entire family. It was a puzzle made from one of the professional photos we had taken several years ago when all our family members came to town to help me celebrate my 60thbirthday. When I opened the box, I was pleased to see the glossy photo finish and the fact that it had many uniquely shaped puzzle pieces.
Getting the frame together was fairly simple as the top, bottom, and two sides were quite different. With the frame set, I again started at the bottom since it was closest to me and managed to get most of it together with only a few missing pieces. I then decided to start working on the eleven family members choosing to assemble myself first. As I worked on the other family members, getting their faces together seemed fairly easy; identifying their eyes and smiles a cinch. But then my assembly process became a macabre scene.
To make finding the pieces easier, I accumulated different body parts in separate locations on my worktable; feet and toes together, fingers together, arms, etc. As I did this, it made me pause to think that this is what the forensic collection process must be like after an airplane crash. An unpleasant thought I quickly put out of my mind.
When I was finished with this process, I was left with a lot of skin and non-descript pieces. These remaining pieces arrived in their correct location more slowly but in the end, I was rewarded with a very large and satisfying print of our family.
I know I said I was not going to pore over the painful details of how difficult a certain puzzle was but I feel I need to make an exception for this next one.
I certainly thought a mere 500-piece puzzle would be easier than the 1000-piece puzzles I normally work on but as you can see, I could not even correctly assemble the frame before I had to launch in to the core of the puzzle. And from the box photo, you can tell that while this puzzle does have some iconic Italian images, it does not have a lot of color in it. So, I first focused my efforts on the few colored sections and then was left with a number of black and white or grey colored pieces.
It wasn’t until I had pieced together this much of the puzzle before I finally corrected all of my edge piece errors and completed the frame. No matter how difficult, I have never given up on a puzzle but as I stared at the minimalistic colored pieces left, I pondered how long it would take to finish.
But I kept plugging at it, hour after hour and my efforts were finally rewarded when I snapped in the last piece and viewed the finished puzzle.
My fourth and final puzzle of the winter season was the one I purchased at a gift shop while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). I chose this one because the BRP poster was right in the middle of the puzzle. The interesting fact I learned after reading the box was that seven percent of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) budget went for arts projects and WPA artists painted these national park posters. Of the 35,000 posters produced, only 42 survive, this puzzle showing 30 of them.
As usual, I laid out all the pieces this time randomly since there were not any predominate color themes. After assembling the puzzle frame, I started at the top left corner to begin to assemble each poster as best I could, pulling the necessary pieces from the mass of pieces. Some of the posters were easier to assemble since they had limited color themes, a throwback to the very first hand-painted posters that only used two colors.
After struggling with individual posters scouring the entire work surface, I finally applied some logic and segregated all the pieces with words or letters into one area on my work surface. This vastly simplified the assembly since I could start each poster with these pieces and then scan all the other pieces for the ones that made up the park feature pictured.
I finally finished this last puzzle the day after Groundhog Day. Viewing the many beautiful posters, I was very pleased with the outcome but also realized that there were a lot of national parks that I would need to visit one day. So pleased that I also did not want to take this puzzle down for a while and so left it in place to admire until the weather turned warm and my outside projects would begin. And given that Punxsutawney Phil just the day before predicted an early spring, I should be out working in the yard in no time!