Some of my earliest memories are about puzzling.
In the third grade, we were assigned the art project of making an animal using nothing but those loose felt squares of varying colors, a pair of scissors and glue. All the other students made a cut out the outline of, for example, a horse, and put it on top of a green layer and added a third layer of stripes on top of the horse outline to turn it into a zebra. (It brings to mind the conflict of whether an zebra is a black horse with white stripes or vice-versa. But I digress.) I did not add layers to my project. I cut and pasted puzzle-style to get my mono-dimensional dog. It was complete with gray ears, red nose, brown paws and black dog spots on a palette of green grass and blue, cloudy sky with the sun shining. It was third grade. I was sure that I was the only one doing it right.
I remember being 12 and graduating up to the 1000 piece puzzles.
Fast forward to being sixteen and I’m helping Richard’s mom, Sarah Jo Barron, with puzzles that she perpetually has going in the family room. There were times that I was at least as interested in finishing the puzzle as I was listening to Pink Floyd or Dan Fogelberg. I have some fond memories of the three of us sitting quietly, piecing things together.
You never really outgrow some things.
Enter Metro Merch.
Metro Merch’s premise is that they take overstock and returned items and lay them out on tables on Friday night. When they open on Saturday morning, anything from any table is $5. If it’s still on the table on Sunday, it’s $3. By Monday, it’s $2. We had the fortune of experiencing this on a Sunday and walked out with a few items which included this puzzle. It took about two weeks to finish and was well worth the $3.
There’s another aspect to a few of these puzzles. Their backing has sections of repeating patterns. In this case, the puzzle had the backing separated into six sections labelled A-F. That means that it can be broken down into six sub-puzzles that inter connect. So we sorted the pieces into six different piles, and worked on a section at a time. Another advantage of this backing was that the letters gave away the puzzle piece’s orientation. It took some frustration out to not be continuously rotating pieces to find their mates.
We enjoyed doing this puzzle so much that we went to Metro Merch again. This time I was on a mission to find puzzles. I didn’t exactly hit paydirt but I did pretty well. There were seven of them that I found for a total of $21. That included this ‘Starry night’ puzzle.
Actually, it’s a mini-puzzle. Where most puzzle pieces are an odd inch-ish to a side, these pieces were closer to a centimeter per side. That caused some issues. For one thing, the ‘give’ of the dining table pad meant that when you went to press one piece into the puzzle, the rebound of the cushion could just as easily eject another piece for another location of the puzzle. Just the moisture adhesion of a fingertip caused pieces to come away with my hand on occasion. A few times, I’d be rebuilding a section only to have it pulled apart by my trying to fit in a piece. And then I’d lose track of the piece that I had originally been trying to place.
The backing in the mini-puzzle’s case, the sections were hearts, stars and circles; one section of dark symbol on light background and one of dark symbol on light background.
It could from a purist standpoint be viewed as cheating to use the backing as an aid to solving the puzzle on the front. But when the front image is tiny, black-on-black pieces you take all the help you can get. Besides, it wasn’t all fun and games even with the aid of the backing. Hearts and stars have orientation. But not circles. So even with all the help of the backing, there were places where I put the wrong piece in a place where it ‘fit’ even if not perfectly. But so closely that you didn’t notice at first blush that it only nearly fit. Five times I wound up with a piece that didn’t fit in the middle of the eight pieces surrounding it and had to re-examine the entirety of similar pieces to correct myself.
When I’m tired of patting myself on the back for completing it. ‘Starry Night’ is going to be disassembled, put back in the bag, which will be put back in the box, complete with full-size six-fold template and the extra piece, and sent on to Shel for her enjoyment.
And it goes back in the box with the rest of the pieces. And it gets shipped to Shel. And I’m not even going to mention it.