By Matthew Weatherman
Did you know that jigsaws have never been used in the commercial production of puzzles? Or that the first puzzles were made of wood? Those early puzzles were maps used for teaching geography. Since those formative years, jigsaw puzzles have been made of any and everything, in a myriad of shapes, not just squares and rectangles. There are even 3-D puzzles.
The shelter-in-place order has helped puzzling reach a popularity peak that hasn’t happened since the Great Depression.
You don’t have to have caught puzzle fever to get through a box of 500, 1,000 or even 2,000 pieces — all you need is to figure out which type of puzzler you are, sign up your teammates and begin your project. Puzzled? Keep reading.
All puzzle pieces are different, but if you are just looking at the number of inlets and outlets in a piece, a kind of kindredness begins to appear between pieces. The Shapist is all about finding the right-shaped piece to fit a given negative space. Often baffling to their teammates, a Shapist will try all the possible pieces in a space, regardless of color or context, only to surprise everyone by finding that one weird fit that no one else could figure out.
More of a sorting task, the Generalist groups the greens with the green, the blues with the blue and the grays with the gray. They leave it up to others to find out where the pieces actually go, whether the blue is the sky or the sea. The Generalist may or may not participate in the actual placing of pieces, but their organizational skills are vital to the longevity of any puzzling project.
The Missing Piece
Not necessarily a participant, the Missing Piece is filling waters, making lunches, finding literal missing pieces that might have fallen off the table or been nabbed by curious pets. This support role is vital for those all-day/all-night puzzling sessions. While they haven’t caught puzzle fever (yet), their love of the puzzling participants keeps them a part of the puzzling project.
Often seen as a “beginner role,” the Edger is there for one thing and one thing only: to find all the edge pieces. Their ability to detect an actual flat line helps them discern the “false edges” from the true. Once their rectangular frame is complete, their obligation to the puzzling project is done. Many an Edger ends up retiring as a Missing Piece. Yes, technically, The Edger role is a sort of specialized Shapist role.
Whether or not they are using the box as reference, the Specificist is all about finding exactly where a piece goes. Sometimes that is as a way of connecting already fit pieces, sometimes they just leave a random piece floating where no connections have yet been made. These puzzlers are often seen asking, “Is this red the same as that little spot of red there, or is it a different red?” Their attention to detail helps sort the sky from the sea.
Without using the box, or paying too much attention to the shape of the pieces — or their colors, even — this participant seems to have an uncanny knack for grabbing a random piece and finding its pair. More of a now-and-then puzzler, this role baffles the hard-working Specificists and Generalists in the group. Also helpful for joining together two clumps of already solved pieces.
The Puzzle Master
Anyone willing to open a puzzle box with the determination to finish. Their skills are often made of a hodgepodge of the roles listed. They just have that little something extra that pushes them forward when everyone else has given up. And extra table space. And the time and energy to stare at little oddly shaped pieces of paperboard. Whether it takes a day, a week or a month, they are determined to finish the puzzle.
Whether you are a Master or a Missing Piece, consider opening up that dusty puzzle that’s been lingering on your shelf for who knows how long. None of us knows how long this will last, so you definitely have time for a puzzle or two.
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