Virtual Puzzle Diary

By Guest Writer: Roberta Shore

Our Guest Writer, Roberta Shore, has been keeping notes about her progress as her new jigsaw puzzle hobby has developed. She has taken it very seriously, doing a lot of research which helped speed up her knowledge regarding the little details surrounding the topic.  

As a result of that, she has quickly determined which puzzle image types she prefers. She didn't just dive in with complex puzzles, she 'schooled' herself and likely saved herself  from having several unaccomplished  puzzles.

Special thanks Roberta for your wonderful commentary and fresh insights as a newbie for the jigsaw puzzle hobby.

Roberta's diary begins...

Even after 7 months into this hobby, I realize there is nothing I am not willing to share. Maybe some of it will feel familiar, or be something you hadn’t thought of, or even something that has you nodding “Yes! Exactly! “

I needed a new hobby to replace an activity I chose to give up. Quite a transition actually, from for many years, spending my entertainment budget in Las Vegas 6 times a year to staying home doing Jigsaw Puzzles. My mind was made up about the former, the latter perhaps no more than on a whim. I hadn’t done any jigsaw puzzles since my grandkids were tiny, and I’m pretty sure they did not have hundreds of pieces.

Little did I know that when COVID shut down the world, a huge new population of puzzlers took root, while I was reading hundreds of books. I was definitely late to that party. So many newbies now practiced puzzlers. Hopefully there are still some newbies out there, or you are reading this and appreciating my journey.

I was determined! I set up the best puzzle station I could leave in place. I did some research to find highly rated puzzle brands. I learned about puzzle piece cuts, and what comes after finding the edge pieces and sorting by color. I invested in some puzzles. I found Puzzle Hobby and learned so much more! My ego would not let me start with fewer than 500 pieces.

I chose this one (Cobble Hill, Love Triangle). Not the easiest 500 piece puzzle with all those big areas of the same color. But I did it! Slowly. And, 7 months later I do not puzzle with a stop watch. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent on any puzzle I’ve completed. I am still slow. It’s not a race. As long as I see progress it doesn’t matter. If time is the measure out of newbie, I may be one forever!

Next I did a 500 piece round puzzle (eeBoo, Crazy Bug Bouquet), then a 750 piece one (Master Pieces, Pop’s Soda Shop). All quite different. My focus was on if I was enjoying what it took to finish. I was. Time for the leap to 1000 pieces. . .

Hmmm - another puzzle with large areas of color. (Springbok, State Plates) I loved it! Until — the dreaded missing piece. But, I didn’t realize how significant that was at the time. I read a lot of reviews that demoted a puzzle to 1 star because of it. And I’m thinking — um, you did 999 pieces, applaud that accomplishment and move on.

“Can I sort this?” Was and still is, my first priority. Well, first I had to like the illustration - on it’s own it was attractive, it reminded me of a pleasant memory, somewhere I had been, it was humorous, or it was a challenge I wanted to take on. Then the sorting — in a way that makes the fun part of construction doable in a comfortable way. I am a super sorter whenever possible.

For example, I sorted every one of those completed circles and left the Tardis for the end (Cobble Hill, 1000 pieces,  The Doctors). It was still challenging but I was having fun! As for a different style -it didn’t take me anytime to decide I did not want to do the mishmashed up “collage” type puzzles. (day 2 when I looked at the one I bought -White Mountain, 1000 pieces, I Had One of Those- and returned it.) I will take on one that is at least orderly.

I did this one (White Mountain, Great Paintings). I sorted each of the paintings and therefore had 19 little puzzles to do. It still wasn’t my favorite, but it was fun feeling clever.

All that said, my stash has a variety of illustration styles and levels of difficulty. And some 500 piece puzzles as well. Piece count does not mean easy. A 500 piece puzzle just gets to the satisfaction of completion faster.

This was 500 pieces (Ravensburger, Typefaces). It was not at all easy to sort by “letter” (I didn’t), similar or same colors were all over the place. Sort by color helped some, but in the end it was more like old school puzzling - put together a few pieces, put them where they probably will go. But again, I had fun doing that.

For me a puzzle doesn’t have to be challenging to enjoy the puzzling experience. But I suppose it adds to the accomplishment factor. I think FUN is the operative word. It seems to be running through my story here. Now, near 5 months in. Twenty four puzzles completed — every one I started. Once the pieces are dumped out I’m committed. Failure is not a choice. (I’m a perfectionist — at the tender age of 75 I can’t change that.) There were 2 more puzzles with missing pieces and I got the disappointment in those reviews. There is a big difference in satisfaction putting in the last piece and seeing the puzzle complete. All but one got a high grade for fun factor, and that one was because the puzzle was fraught with technical issues. More on no fun in a little bit.

I’m not going to go through the last 14 puzzles I’ve done - hopefully I have not bored you so far - but a few of them finish my story.

This is what puzzlers say is a “busy” puzzle. (Gibsons, Lifting the Lid Department Store) 1000 pieces, I took it on. Totally out of my comfort zone. I managed to sort out quite a bit, but was left with a lot of multicolored pieces. For quite a while it felt like work. Then, for reasons I can't explain, somewhere in the middle I was having fun. Go figure. Still, it is not the style of puzzle I would choose again. Yup, no mishmash collage, no busy. There are still lots of other puzzle types out there.

This is the 1000 piece puzzle I just completed. (Cobble Hill, Candy Shelf) I did not have fun and it wasn’t the puzzle’s fault. Part “busy”, part collage - I don’t know. I bought it early in this adventure and wondered what I was thinking. I guess I thought I could sort it by candy jar. Um, no. When I finished sorting everything but, I was left with 6 trays of puzzle pieces of candy parts. It made me tired. I lost patience. I gave it a fun factor of C-, probably awarded for having it finished. That is not what puzzling is all about, I am sure of that!

This was 1000 pieces of pure joy (Clemens Habicht 1000 Colours). Gradient puzzles are so popular, and this one is unique. Each piece is one of 1000 different colors. Apparently I have excellent color vision because, well, I sorted it and built the frame one evening and finished the next day before noon. I know what I said, but even I was excited to finish 1000 pieces that fast. Of course it was fun. And, it is the only puzzle I have done I want to do again. It is still not my favorite if I want a challenge.

No question, everyone’s taste is different. Ribbon cut or random cut — I like them both! But I seemed to know from the very beginning what my favorite kind of puzzle would be. And I know it is a style many people dislike. Look at the very first puzzle I chose, then the first 1000 piece I did — large areas of one color.

This is probably the most challenging, time consuming, arduous 1000 piece puzzle I have done (a recent addition in month 7) and I savored every minute of the challenge. (Heye, Sweet Squirrel) Basically 4 colors. No question. Piecing large areas of similar / same color is my favorite puzzling activity. But, no, I have zero desire to do a one color puzzle. No matter the particular style or difficulty level, I want to enjoy the illustration I just made whole again.

Lastly, what do I do when a puzzle is completed? I take it apart, bag it up, with the corners and edge pieces bagged separately. There is one exception.

I fell in love with this artwork and convinced myself I could sort it. And I did, including the 40+ trees and bushes! Yes, putting it together was a fun challenge, I’m sure, in part, because I had plans for it. Days later, finally completed, the piece fit was so tight, the whole thing stayed together when I picked it up off the table. So I framed it and hung it up without glue. It can become a puzzle again! Then I had this brilliant idea. I neither have the inclination nor the wall space to do that again, but I could do this . . .

I like this idea, maybe you might too. BTW, the horizontal pic is one I really enjoyed doing (White Mountain, Cafe on the Water). It was sharp and bright, and easy to sort because the buildings were distinctly different colors. Of course I sorted out more objects, the sky, etc., etc, etc. Oh, did I mention fun? It was.

Happy entries all, even the one about candy. Because, I’ve learned a lot about puzzling, maybe even about myself. I hope I can make many, many more entries to my virtual diary. Because, getting lost in the process of puzzling is the most calming, mind clearing, peaceful hobby I have ever done. It’s such a good thing.


ABOUT THE AUTHORWith her self-published book and  over 300 jigsaw puzzle reviews,  Linda has established herself as a prominent social media marketing influencer and jigsaw puzzle-preneur.  If you want to send Linda a quick message, visit her contact page here.


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