Even by my standards, the cold weather this year has been giving me a touch of cabin fever. Such a thing led me to do the unthinkable to pass the time when I attempted to assemble a 1,000-piece Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle.
A quick look through our online archives revealed that the words “Jigsaw Puzzle” had been used on a consistent basis in our paper going all the way back to the beginning, with only two “bumps” in the timeline; one being the year when one of the senior centers always put jigsaw puzzles in their weekly calendar, and the other in 1933. Which is why I bring to you pictures of the Journal Gazette’s two-day experiment in puzzle promotion: jigsaw puzzles featuring the cast of “State Fair,” a movie apparently more controversial than I ever would have thought possible, and starring some folks with a few pretty interesting tidbits in their biographies. Those former silent film stars...you gotta keep an eye on them.
The idea was simple. Correctly assemble the puzzle, then glue or tape it together (assuming Scotch Tape existed) and send it on in to the Journal offices and boom, you got free tickets. According to the follow up article in the paper after both puzzles ran, the promotion was a pretty big success. Not a huge surprise. People love their puzzles after all and free tickets to things even more. Perhaps most surprising? We had an actual “puzzle editor.” Not the worst idea ever. I can tell you first hand that nothing makes our phone lines light up more than when we accidentally leave out the solutions for the Jumble.
So what in the world led me to a 1,000-piece puzzle? I actually purchased it for my mother as a Christmas present but discovered it wasn’t sealed; just 1,000 loose pieces in an unsealed box. And because a puzzle missing even one piece is essentially useless, I promptly sat on the floor and attempted to count all 1,000 pieces. And if you think that’s easy let me point out that I had to attempt this task twice, the second time utilizing a more “scientific” approach of counting out puzzle pieces in groups of 10 and then arranging them in a grid on my dining room table. And even then I still came up with different numbers each time -- first six pieces short, the second time 11 pieces over.
After the flu passed I just had to know the truth of those puzzle numbers so I dumped the entire thing out on a table and told myself that I was going to put it together even if it killed me, despite the fact I hadn’t put together a puzzle since the 300-piece “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future” puzzle I purchased last year with the misguided intention of turning the narrow wall space between my kitchen and my living room into a shrine for Captain Power, perhaps my second favorite forgotten sci-fi toy next to Max Steele’s Robo Force.
And while this 1,000-piece puzzle did not attempt to murder me, it certainly did try to drive me into insanity. Once I got past the “I’m never going to be able to do this” hump which occurred as I was unable to even assemble the outer border correctly, something in my brain clicked and from that point forward I spent about a solid five hours a night, seven nights straight, working on that puzzle. It was the very definition of obsession. That Thursday night, no lie, I got off work, got home, took off my shoes, retreated to the workshop, cranked up my Hi-Fi and worked on that puzzle until it was time to go to bed, skipping dinner entirely. That Friday morning, sitting at my desk, let’s just say I didn’t feel quite right, almost as if, you know…I forgot to eat an entire meal, thus requiring a quick trip to Taco Bell for an A.M. Crunch Wrap. And even then, all I could think about was getting back to…the puzzle.
There was a time when I scorned you “puzzle people.” During my six months working at the seasonal calendar kiosk at Waldenbooks, I can’t tell you the number of people who would amble up to my cash register and ask me if I had puzzles and would react almost as if I was straight out lying to their faces when I told them that’s not what I sold. If only I had known about the 1933 Journal Gazette contest I would have quickly ripped up a picture of “State Fair” from a Classic Film calendar and thrown it on the floor to use as bait so I could run away and hide.
I wouldn’t say I’m a puzzle person now. My table is now free and clear to finally do what I intended it to do -- put board games on it. And regardless of what you puzzle people may feel about making sure puzzles get passed from person to person, I slathered about five layers of Mod Podge on mine, stuffed it in a frame, and hung it my dining room wall as a testament to the one week I went a little bit crazy with puzzle fever. Meanwhile, two Captain Power figures and a matching puzzle hanging on the other wall stare at me as if to say “remember when you thought we were the coolest thing in your house?”
And because I couldn’t think of a more clever way to end this week’s column, I also bring to you this 1989 C&M Video ad for the direct-to-video film “The Jigsaw Murder” which doesn’t have anything to do with jigsaw puzzles (that I can tell) but does have a tagline on the poster that says “Solving this puzzle could prove fatal.” Gulp. I’m glad I was careful with mine. Regardless, there’s something else to put on my wall someday. Meanwhile, if any of you dear readers want to send me jumbled up pictures of Yaphet Kotto or Chad Everett, feel free. I can’t promise you a free copy of the film, though. I’m no puzzle editor after all.