Puzzling behavior

This morning I finished a 1,000-piece puzzle that I’ve been working on, in spare moments (in short supply these days!) since Labor Day weekend. It probably takes me a lot longer than most people to do a puzzle like this because I don’t have enough table-top space in any one room to do the puzzle in one place; I have two small tables in two different rooms. I dump out all the pieces in one room and start to assemble them, and then take the assembled bits into the other room. When I get a fixed idea of what, say, the next ten pieces I need look like, then I go back to the other room to hunt for them, but usually I end up finding something else, etc. I can’t keep more than about a dozen puzzle pieces in my memory at one time, so there are many trips back and forth.

It also probably slows me down that I don’t spend much time looking at the box to see what the puzzle is supposed to look like. (In fact, back when my vision was better and I had more time, I used to enjoy doing puzzles upside down and then flipping them over to see what the picture was, a game invented and mastered by one of my grand-aunts.) My wife uses the opposite strategy — she spends a lot of time looking at the box and figuring out exactly where each piece goes, so she can put a piece exactly where it’s supposed to go even if she hasn’t found its neighbors. I don’t know where things go in the final image, but I know which pieces are their neighbors. I tend to do things like blue skies, snowy fields, and other monochromatic areas first, because anything that distracts my eye from the shapes slows me down. As I have mentioned before, my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I think my younger daughter uses the same sort of method as my wife, but it all happens too frighteningly fast to be sure. She can put together a puzzle of a painting in less time than it took to paint the original.

A side effect of the way that I do puzzles is that I tend to start at one end and fill in or expand out. ┬áIn this case, I started near middle of the puzzle, where there is a river in the image, and all of the pieces have a characteristic color. In the foreground, on the near side of the river, are some farmers, and a little past them, in the distance, are some people strolling along a river. Beyond them, there is a boat on the river. I finished this part of the puzzle — which contains all the people — by Labor Day. Today I finished the top part of the tree that dominates the entire image, and then stepped back and viewed the image in its entirety. I had been focussing so much on the tree that I’d almost forgotten about the people in the image.

p.s. I’ve done this puzzle before; you might have seen the photos I posted. You can find an image of the original work here. It’s a wonderful work and I’m thinking of buying a large copy to hang in our dining room.

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