An . . .ti . . . ci . . . pa. . . tion

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

Love ’em or loathe ’em, puzzles and puzzling have a particular niche in people’s minds. We usually try to have a large puzzle ready or even on the go for family Christmases. I’d guess we split fairly evenly between those who become fascinated by the search-and-see approach and those who are only faintly bemused by the slowly revealed image.

This year it was a tiger’s turn, a present from a dear friend who has extended family and knows about the joys of time lost, time shared, in concentration. In another year we did one of a hundred or so mushrooms. You begin to appreciate how an image might be chosen for its capacity to enthral and frustrate in equal measure. This tiger now, it was fiendish but fun!

One of the things about puzzles of 1000 pieces or more is the question of the missing piece. I’ve spent too much time looking for a specific piece over and over through all the colour-sorted array, only to discover the piece I’m searching for on the floor! So when we had finished the tiger, exclaiming in delight over its idiosyncrasies, our perseverance, and the total absence of any missing pieces as the last one was put in and tapped for good luck, we puzzler participants, we put it carefully back into its box and started on another one: the grey stone city of Edinburgh in faux-3D, with streets, attraction names, green trees and parks. But by this time, the kitchen table was no longer suitable as it was needed for other purposes, like eating.

I found a solution to a puzzle problem that has long bedevilled families: how to deal with a semi-finished puzzle when the flat space is needed for something else. This carrying case, designed for 1000 piece puzzles, is really very clever:

The City of Edinburgh was proving more challenging than we had thought; it wasn’t even a third complete before it was time to say goodbye to far-flung family. So we wrapped the project up in the new handy carry-case and it made the trip back to Edinburgh.

I think it was nearly a month later when the wail came through WhatsApp: there’s a piece missing! The puzzle was finally finished, but what a sinking feeling in the puzzlers’ stomachs. I wondered if somehow that piece had been misplaced here before it was wrapped for travel. The visiting kitties had definitely been having fun with the scattered pieces. On hands and knees, I searched the floor that I’d hoovered, with our new Dyson Animal-2, over several weekend chore stints already. I didn’t see how it was possible I’d missed it, or, worse thought, that it had been scarfed up by the vacuum and was now in a land-fill somewhere, not until I turned out an overlapping carpet edge and found a puzzle piece insinuated into the gap. Ah ha!

Word filtered back from the city that the piece had arrived, though by that time the City of Edinburgh had been returned to its box. So the complete puzzle has never actually been seen in its entire whole, even yet.

That will have to be a joy to anticipate at another family gathering, then.

2 responses to “An . . .ti . . . ci . . . pa. . . tion”

  1. Larry, As always your writing provokes thought & thoughts. Does every family have a jigsaw story? Many years ago we hosted a family picnic. I helped entertain extended family with a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle for completion. Just the right # of pieces for the time we had together. Last moments. People leaving. Brother-in-law completes. Well almost. Just 2 pieces missing. Frantic search. Nothing found. Our oldest dog walks by table at head level. H-m-m-m? Did she? Probably not. Nothing there that would interest a dog.

    A day later I found both pieces when I was “cleaning up” the backyard. Not hoovering but shoveling. Even if the pieces could have been sterilized they were no longer in a usable condition. I guessed that the glue between the many layers of the cardboard might have had flavor that appealed to Coco’s doggy palate. Whenever I had a puzzle out for group completion I warned guests not to put loose pieces at the edge of the table.

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  2. Great story Henry! And yuk, that puzzle would have to be consigned to the bin, for sure. I was just chatting with my brothers over there in North America about puzzles, and my progress on the puzzle that is developing in my third novel as I try to bring things together while keeping the momentum going. It’s a very intriguing time in a novel’s creation, but also fraught with worry: can I really make it work? Time will tell. Keep thinking, eh?!

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