Wheaton’s Way

Old-school puzzles clearly require young eyes

After a couple of weeks using my column to rail against the devil that is technology (ahem), I decided to completely change tack this week and talk about the joy of simple pleasures.

I may or may not have told you that it was a big birthday for me in September. ‘Twas also for my best friend Lynne, who is older but, annoyingly, looks younger.

I bought her a few gifts, including a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle (old school, physical pieces). “Wot?” You may exclaim. “You got a puzzle when you live in a house full of cats?” Ah, dear reader – let me tell you the rest. It turns out that Book Nook sells puzzle holders/carriers that not only allow you to carry your puzzle-in-progress from one location to the next; they also protect it from curious moggies.

A fair bit of time had passed since the birthdays and the party etc. before Lynne finally broke the puzzle out and we cleared the table in preparation. The scene was a hillside in Europe at dusk, with some impressive-looking dome in the front. The sky on the left, turning from a deep pink to a light blue, was a good place to start, as the dark hillside on the right with indecipherable topography looked a bit daunting.

As it was already 9pm and we were fast approaching AARP status, we figured we would start easy by just getting the border done. We began to sift the pieces into different colour categories and anything with a flat edge went into section B.

An hour went by and we were making good progress. We had the corners and a fair bit of real estate sorted along the sides. Yes, there was the odd mistake, but those were quickly rectified. “The light over this table really doesn’t help,” muttered Lynne, as she robustly attempted to jam an obviously incorrect piece into place with her fist. Typical. Blaming an innocent chandelier for her eyes’ limitations. “We need to switch it out for a better one,” she sniffed.

By 11pm, we should have been done, but there was space for one missing piece near the top on the right and we had a spare edge piece that definitely didn’t fit it.
Lynne started to sift through all the remaining 900-pieces like she was panning for gold by the light of that supposedly substandard lamp. After one complete go-through, the missing piece was still eluding us. The next step was to undo all our earlier good work and forget the separated colours. We had to turn all the pieces over so we weren’t distracted by the patterns on them.

Forty-five minutes later, not only had the situation not changed, but our eyes were watering. Ravensburger was touted as a premiere puzzle-maker, yet here we were with a missing piece and an extra piece that clearly didn’t belong anywhere. I was going to write such a letter to that company.

Just as we were about to give up, I heard Lynne’s voice from across the table. “Hey,” she said, “these two pieces fit together.”

“Which two?”

“The two where the piece is missing.”

“Waitaminnit. You didn’t check to see if the two fit?”

“Well, apparently not,” she replied, visibly bristling.

“Seriously? We went through allll those pieces twice and now you’re telling me nothing’s missing??”

Turned out, not only was nothing missing, but the ‘extra’ piece actually fit further down on that side, somewhere where we thought we had everything correct, yet clearly didn’t.

It was now 11:30pm. We had spent nearly half of our puzzling time trying to find a piece that didn’t exist, but we had the edge completed. Maybe we’d leave it out for the cats after all; they’d probably finish it before we would, and their eyesight is better than Lynne’s.