I’ve always enjoyed puzzles (had a puzzle party when I was 4, because I loved them so much), but they represent a sort of one-and-done amount of entertainment that has made it difficult to justify the cost. The introduction of local programs that allow you to change out your used puzzles for someone else’s used puzzles (usually with a small fee to support the local business coordinating these efforts since you’re not buying a new puzzle, or using a store credit system similar to buying and selling old video games) has made it easier for me to get my hands on new puzzles and they’ve formed the backbone of my non-electric entertainment over the past year.
Aside from how they appeal to me on a basic level, as tasks that require patttern recognition, good spotting abilities, and a decent level of organization, I love puzzles because they allow to me fully focus my faculties on a single task. I usually keep some music or a podcast running in the background while I’m working on a puzzle, but the amount of muttering and chanting I do makes it pretty clear I’m not actually listening. The noise is mostly there to drown out sounds that might actually pull my attention away, like how my upstairs neighbor sitting on their couch the right way sounds like someone plinking one of my stoneware plates in my kitchen. Which is a very disturbing sound to hear when you live alone.
I say “chanting” because the normal muttering I do while working on a puzzle sometimes takes on an almost ritualistic nature. I repeat key phrases as my eyes scan the remaining pieces, trying to keep my brain focused on what is probably the most distinguishing characteristc of the piece I’m trying to find. Most of which is nonsense. On one puzzle, I called the corner of a puzzle piece between two pockets (officially called “blanks”) a “beef.” No idea why. I wasn’t particularly hungry and I honestly can’t even remember when, during that puzzle, I started calling it that. But I called them that for the entire rest of that puzzle.
The weirdest part is the words change per puzzle. What I called “beefs” on that puzzle, I now called “flanges” on my current puzzle. I took the time to look up some official terminology for puzzle pieces, but it hasn’t had much impact on the chanting and muttering I do while I’m looking for a puzzle piece. I’m kind of glad I live alone and have been working on puzzles alone, because I’m not sure what anyone would think if they heard me during my time working on a puzzle. It’s probably pretty creepy.
As far as the puzzles themselves go, I like colorful pictures and puzzles with 1000 pieces or more. I do an occasional 300 or 500 for a quicker puzzle experience, but 1000 pieces is my prefered puzzles size due to the size of my workspace and the amount of time it takes to complete them. I’ve only done one 5000 piece puzzle ever and it just took so dang long. It started feeling onerous pretty early and that did not change as I worked through it.
It helps if the picture is interesting and complex without being too busy. If it is too busy, it is not only difficult to use the image to put the puzzle together, but it is also very tiring to look at the entire time I’m doing the puzzle. I like simpler, most dispersed images with clearer lines and enough detail that putting the puzzle together feels like getting a better look at the art rather than assembling abunch of unrelated lines and curves into a cohesive but busy single image. I want a puzzle that gives me a better look at the art on the box, since that’s what I’m using to decide which puzzle to buy, not one that makes the box art disappear into the sea of miniscule details that vanish when you look at it from a distance.
I know some folks like to do puzzles with other people, and I know a few couples who do puzzles together, but I honestly have a difficult time imagining what that’s like. I just sort of remember where everything is and where that piece I saw with the bit of red on it that completes this red thing I’ve been building was sitting five hours ago when I sat down to work and I can’t imagine that system working well with another person involved. Maybe I’m just not good at sharing puzzles, but it really does seem like it would just take longer. At least in individual hours worked. the total amount of time that has passed would probably be lower, though.
It’s clear I’ve lost the thread of what I was talking about in this post, so I’m just going to stop here. Puzzles are fun and a good occupation. I recommend them for people who need to keep themselves completely busy.