As this is the fifth time, I have written about winter puzzling, I guess you could say this has quietly become one of my annual blog topics just like the best books I have read or my travels over the year. Given the year we have all had with the pandemic, I suspect many of you may have actually taken up puzzling for the first time while sequestered at home with no place safe to go. I normally just puzzle in the winter starting sometime towards the end of December and carrying through to the end of the national puzzle month of January.
Usually, it is not until after Christmas—when I have actually received puzzles in the form of birthday or Christmas presents—that I begin to puzzle, but I started a bit earlier this year before the middle of December. As soon as I had finished the second of two doll houses, I built in 2020 for my two granddaughters (another story to come), I cleared my big table for the fun activity. I was quite anxious to try out my new puzzle table that my wife gave me for my birthday back in May.
I had never seen these tables before, so it was a most pleasant surprise when I opened it and found this inside. On the X-Y axis of the table (bottom (X) and left side (Y) for you non-graphic types), there is a raised strip of wood to square up your puzzle as you build it and four drawers below to house puzzle pieces when not working.
Another reason that I did not have to wait until after Christmas is, in addition to having one puzzle left over from my 2020 winter puzzling season, my wife accumulated over the summer four different puzzles, she got free from a neighborhood “Share” site.
I must say I don’t think that I would have necessarily purchased these four puzzles in normal times but as the old saying goes, and even more so during a global pandemic: “Beggars can’t be choosers.” In fact, the only reason I had one puzzle left over was because I bought two BEFORE the pandemic was declared and the entire world-wide stock of puzzles was depleted!
Of the four free puzzles I had, I chose to start with the one that at least had cars in it, albeit from the early 1900s.
As usual, I sorted the 1,000 pieces into edge pieces and all others, with the left and right table sides holding the additional pieces that would not fit into the four drawers.
And as usual in spite of touching every single piece, when I went to assemble the edges, I was missing one of the 120 or so edge pieces (later to be found).
But even before I had assembled all of the edge pieces, I ran into a slight problem. The puzzle I was building was a 19 X 30-inch rectangle. Turns out the puzzle table was 21.5 X 29.5 inches. Maybe this was designed for a standard metric dimension puzzle but not an English dimension puzzle measured in whole inches.
For a while, I just slightly pulled out the two right side drawers to keep the edge pieces from falling off the table while I continued to work the middle of the puzzle and ponder what to do.
After exploring a couple of fairly complex fixes, I finally decided to take the easy way out and simply tape about a two-inch strip of poster board to the right side of the table to serve as an extension. This seemed to work fairly well as long as I didn’t use to much pressure pressing the pieces into the edge pieces.
At the point at which I had about 50 pieces left, my almost 6-year-old granddaughter just happened to be spending the day with us and my wife suggested she help me with the puzzle. With only a small amount of guidance, she quickly snapped in a number of pieces and before we knew it were down to only ten left. Each time she found the right location for a piece, she exclaimed with glee what fun this was. Then she got the idea of getting one of the cars off my bookshelf and delivering one piece at a time on its roof.
When I saw we had six empty spots left and only four pieces remaining, we all began to search the floor looking for the missing pieces. Not finding them as we sat back down in our chairs, I looked over to the left of the puzzle and saw the last two pieces sitting on top of the puzzle (not sure how they ended up there).
It was with sheer delight that my granddaughter snapped in the last piece!
For my next puzzle, I decided to put together the puzzle my wife gave me for Christmas.
I figured working on a puzzle that was about 100 different beer labels would be a good way to ring in the new year as I figured I would still be working on it then.
The size of this puzzle was 24 X 30 inches which meant it also would not fit on my puzzle table. But since my poster board extension worked out well before, I thought I would just add a 2.5-inch extension above the top to accommodate this larger puzzle.
Using my usual technique of separating out the edge pieces from the others, I actually had a fairly easy time finding them as this puzzle featured a distinctive red line along the edge. But once, I got the edge pieces all together, I still had a box full of left-over pieces, even with the four hidden drawers full. So, my solution was just to place the remaining pieces in the middle of the puzzle board figuring I could move them out of the way as I assembled the puzzle.
To Be Continued…