Pandemic puzzling

Competitive leagues are a thing

Thanks to the stay-at-home order, we’ve all been forced to use our free time in ways we may not have previously.

Me? I’m in training. Because apparently, there’s such a thing as competitive jigsaw puzzling.

I was once a hockey player. Now, thanks to age, inactivity and (let’s be real) a complete lack of skill, I puzzle. I’m a puzzle guy.


Puzzle No. 5 of our quarantine: “Local Book Store.” We got it from Gibson’s in Concord, and it’s produced by White Mountain Puzzles, in Jackson, N.H.

I lean over a coffee table for hours at a time, rising to discover that even that small amount of activity makes me sore. Although I’m not sure stretching out over 500 to 1,000 tiny cardboard pieces with “North Woods Law” marathon on in the background for a Sunday – the whole Sunday – is good for my back. But it is good for my competitive jigsaw puzzling prospects.

My own personal Olympics were held overseas last year. The 2019 World Jigsaw Puzzle Championships were decided at the Millennium Dome, in Valladolid, Spain, which means I’ve got more time to train, because I’m not sure we’ll be jetting off to Europe any time soon. The event marked the first time the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation (that’s a thing, too,) ranked competitors.

Day one is “team day.” I have a friend from Salem who I’d recruit. He’s an engineer at Raytheon, and approaches everything scientifically. He’s the person who introduced me to sorting pieces by shape, not color. It was a complete paradigm shift in our house when we adopted his strategy. Our underlying assumptions were shaken. (It’s been a long quarantine, OK?)

Day two is individual day, when competitors have a maximum of two hours to complete the same 500 piece puzzle.

As I took a break from puzzle no. 5 of the pandemic, I came across this piece about competitive puzzling. And lo, a revelation from the experts: “The lengthy sitting and reaching for pieces is tough on the back.” So it’s not just old-man-me, then.

And then, another revelation – there are team jerseys.

There are few rules: No messing with other competitors’ puzzles, and the clock keeps running even if you stop to eat or answer the call of nature.

Assists like lamps are allowed, and puzzle piece sorters are typically OK.

Though I am enthusiastic, I may have a ways to go before my training gets me to world champion levels, because when I finished the piece, I was left with one burning question… There’s such a thing as puzzle piece sorters?

I’d rather be on the other side of all this, but until then, I guess I’ll have time to find out.

Categories: Dad on Bored