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—March—

There is an interesting range from Beverly of "Puzzler's puzzles," just chosen to be different or difficult. The latest they have called "Jigsomania" (the way "Jigsaw" is written in Japanese looks like ji-gu-so-o, hence the 'o'), consisting simply of a photograph of a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces. I did the 1000-piece version; there is also a 300-piece.

I don't normally look at the box ("cheating"!) and I don't normally start with the edge pieces, as I enjoy watching the picture emerge from chaos. But here it is all but impossible to sort the pieces by basic area - the sky pieces, the grass, the boat, and so on - so I settled on the edge pieces first. This didn't actually take too long, but then the real struggle begins. I would go through the pieces, choosing some distinctive colour, and just try to find any pair of pieces that fitted together. Ever so gradually, bits got joined together; but unlike a normal puzzle, where there are always coherent areas of the same texture, here the pieces just joined in random squiggly clusters.

Keep going...

Although I ended up with several large "lumps", connected pieces with no connection to the edges, curiously the corners definitely filled in first. I'll leave the explanation of this to the "spoiler" box below.

And eventually it was just a question of filling in the holes. (Sorry, I would have put the puzzle on a more contrasting colour if I had thought more carefully about photography!)

To give you some idea of the difficulty, there's a close-up of some of the pieces on the right. I have taken out two pieces from the middle and separated them... just look at the match! If you have the lower piece, you will be looking for a piece with light blue on the left and pink on the right, which are barely visible on the upper piece. If you start looking from the upper piece, you will be expecting a dark blue-green piece to match the bottom lug, and this simply isn't there at all! Because the pieces in the picture are more or less exactly the same size as the ("real") pieces, the boundaries may line up, sometimes even more closely than here.

Spoiler

Well, not really quite a spoiler, because there is no simple solution! But here are some hints on cracking this one...

Click to show/hide...

Technically the photograph in this puzzle is a bit of a disaster. You would have thought the art department would be given the job of making a nice pile of pieces, then reproducing it "flat" – with the axis of the lens perpendicular to the subject, and appropriate lens and aperture to make it crisply in focus everywhere. (Just as if you put the pieces upside down on a photocopier.) But this looks rather as if someone said "No need for anything technical; my phone's got eight squillion pixels..." The result is that very little of the image is even in focus, and it was taken at an angle, with a wide-angle lens, so the bottom corners in particular are totally blurred.

The counter argument would have to be that someone could see how hard the puzzle would be, and thought they would offer some clues. There are actually two ways in which it is easier: identifying the degree of blur tells you a lot about where the piece might go, and the viewing angle means that for almost any piece, you can immediately see which way up it goes. The latter is extremely unusual: for most "hard bits", the sky for example, you can at least look at the paper grain on the back of the piece to see if it is vertical or horizontal, but when trying a piece you automatically check whether it might go in upside down. I found myself having to consciously avoid wasting time doing this!

So here's my suggested best strategy:

  • Sort the pieces into four sets: edge pieces, really badly out of focus pieces, just rather fuzzy pieces, and moderately sharp pieces.
  • Start with the edge pieces; then the really fuzzy ones will fill in from the corners. As the pieces get sharper they will be closer to the middle.
  • Try working on one colour at a time, just trying to get pieces joined together.
  • Also sort out all of the "nonstandard" shaped pieces: those that do not have one pair of opposite sides both "out", and the other pair "in". These should fit together in clumps.

You will need lots of space to keep the groups of connected pieces, and it hardly needs saying that you will need enormous reserves of patience. Good luck!

... photo of completed puzzle follows shortly - once I have it framed!

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