Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Lost in a Jigsaw" by Buffalo Games, Inc.

(originally published in the Missoulian of Missoula, MT on 05/29/05)

As a child, I visited my grandmother for two weeks every summer. She lived alone in Fort Worth, Texas, having lost my grandfather some years before. She was sixty years my senior, yet she always managed to do everything for me, which included making homemade meals three times a day, doing laundry, and when I was really little, cleaning the dirt between my toes during my baths.

My grandmother knew I liked games, so every summer, we’d go to the store and pick out a jigsaw puzzle with pictures of the countryside. We’d spend hours putting those puzzles together. While I was fast at finding matches, my grandmother kept up with me without a problem.

Jigsaw puzzles of the grandmother-grandchild variety are still around. But if you look carefully, you’ll notice that others have sprung up. Puzzle creators have altered the number of pieces since the beginning, but variations on the images and piece shapes have kept jigsaw enthusiasts on their toes. Nowadays, you’ll find no less than a dozen distinct variations of the jigsaw puzzle, from the handcrafted sets of Wentworth to the more recent three-dimensional puzzles.

For months now, I’ve seen a puzzle called "Lost in a Jigsaw: The Diagonal Maze Puzzle," and I finally decided to try it out. Don Scott Associates, Inc. came up with this 515 piece jigsaw puzzle which creates a maze that can only be solved when assembled correctly. In addition, the jigsaw uses only three kinds of pieces: the corners, the edges, and the interior pieces.

From the very beginning the challenge is evident. How do you construct a jigsaw puzzle when the shape of each interior piece is irrelevant? During those summers with my grandmother, we had used a combination of color matching and shape matching. With "Lost in a Jigsaw," I realized how stiff my mind had become with the normal method of puzzle making.

For example, the easiest part of the jigsaw puzzle for me had always been the edges. In "Lost in a Jigsaw," even the edges took me two to three times the normal amount of time. I basically spent the first couple of days getting used to the puzzle. It took me a week to complete it, and there was still the maze to figure out.

There’s nothing to fear, though. Included in the box is a list of hints and strategies to help you out. The picture on the back of the box portrays the puzzle "assembled incorrectly," but even so, it is a tremendous help. I love a good challenge, and that’s exactly what "Lost in a Jigsaw" gave me.

My grandmother turns 90 in a few months. She’s still as active as she’s ever been, cooking, cleaning, and driving for herself. She recently told me that I was the only grandchild in our family to stay with her so long after she retired. She also reminded me about the puzzles. "You sure did like those jigsaws," she told me.

My mind was filled with the memories of our days together, our jigsaw puzzles, her home-cooked food, her high-pitched giggle. I smiled and replied, "Yes. Yes, I did."

Cost: $12.00
Players: 1 and up
Age: For puzzle enthusiasts young and old
Time to play: Differs
Rating (1 to 10, 10 being the best): 10
Additional Comments: I loved this jigsaw. So hard and so rewarding.


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