I do not know if I have inspired any of my readers with my annual puzzle posts to join me in wintertime puzzling so I thought I would give it one more try. This year for me it was an abbreviated season as I only had three puzzles to work. The first of which was one I created myself.
Last year in May when I was in Montreat with my sister, I found that the giftshop overlooking the waterfall had a puzzle of the rock gate, that iconic welcoming feature for anyone who is a regular visitor to this peaceful retreat nestled among the mountains of western North Carolina. I had been hoping they would have one for some years now but when I picked it up, I saw that it was only a 550-piece puzzle. Since I much prefer the challenge of a 1,000-piece puzzle, I placed the box back on the shelf.
Fast forward to the end of July when my brother and I make plans to visit Montreat in August. I then decided, making my own puzzle would remedy the problem I encountered and at the same time, offer a new birthday idea for my brother. In 2010, I had taken one of my best photos of the gate (I take a picture every time I go), one of which my sister had digitally painted a rendition of, so I felt I had the perfect picture from which to make the puzzle.
As usual, my puzzling season started out shortly after Christmas with my first step to just clear off my work surface that had become cluttered with all of my consulting work. Next step, as usual, was to lay out all the pieces and assemble the edge pieces.
I decided to start at the bottom with the road as these pieces were easily identified among the many other pieces. This gave me my first taste for what would prove to be a very difficult puzzle (sorry Bro). With the color uniformity of most of the pieces, it became a one-for-one trial and error approach. But it gave me a good relief from commercial breaks while watching college bowl games.
Continuing the road through the gate, I began to additionally build the gate thinking this would be the next easiest part to assemble. I was woefully wrong. While some of the pieces differed slightly in coloration, it was again for the most part a trial and error approach.
Knowing the gate would probably have to be last, I began to assemble around the gate with sky and foliage pieces that would surround the gate. Here is where having the original photo from which the puzzle was made provided a helpful aid. Rather than using the small photo on the box top as a guide, I was able to zoom in on the digital photo to help clarify small details.
After spending numerous hours just assembling the small amount of sky, …
…I finally decided to organize the pieces by color to simplify the process.
But still on more than one occasion even with this more centralized approach, I found myself repeatedly searching for a single piece, even thinking it was missing, only to find that I had placed the piece in a wrong location that looked very similar to where it should go. I realized I had to be very careful going forward to ensure that even if a piece fit, it had to match color on all four sides as well.
Over the next several days, I slowly made progress piece by piece, occasionally having a rapid burst of success by fitting five or six pieces together in just a minute or two, but then falling into a lengthy drought. Whenever I became stuck in one section of the puzzle, I would move to another section. But as the hours of dedicated, but often frustrating puzzling continued to rack up, I began to wonder what my brother would think of his birthday present: a fun activity or a puzzle nightmare from hell.
As I grew closer to completing it, on several occasions I found a piece in the wrong place even though it was a near exact match of the correct piece with just slightly different coloring.
In fact, when I just had this section on the far right left, I even discovered that I had misassembled the right edge pieces, having been confused by the near black greenish color of them. Some of these pieces were so similar in color that I even had to resort to shining a flashlight across them to see what color they actually were.
It was with deep satisfaction that I snapped in the last piece…and it fit! My fear as I approached the finish was that I would end up with one or two pieces that didn’t quite fit and then I would have to search for my other mistakes among the thousand pieces placed in order to complete it. My other fear was my brother would never forgive me for giving him such a hard puzzle for his birthday. Only time will tell.
To Be Continued…