Saturday, January 13, 2024



Byter and regular contributor Sue P sent me an email a few days ago;

Hi Otto and happy 2024!

This lady has stimulated a family debate on the “purpose” of jigsaw puzzles: is it the challenge of fitting shapes together (like Tetris) or the slow reveal of an image (usually beautiful) with the sense of satisfaction being like a secondary reward for delayed gratification What were the earliest jigsaw puzzles?

Regards, Sue

Thanks, Sue.

By way of comment:

- When you click on the link, you will see that the person shown designs things that she thinks are fun.

- Her latest is a jigsaw puzzle, all in white, that has one piece missing,

- I don’t know what is fun about that.

- According to Wikipedia:

Simone Luna Louise Söderlund is a Swedish inventor, maker, robotics enthusiast, TV host, and professional YouTuber. She has also previously worked in mixed martial arts sports journalism and was an editor for Sweden's official website

- Unfortunately she is suffering from ongoing major health problems.


However, the point of today’s post is jigsaw puzzles and to respond to Sue.

Before doing so, let me give you my feelings:

I have always hated jigsaw puzzles, even as a little kid. It seems to me such a wasted input of physical and mental effort that the time wasted is not worth the final result or outcome. Likewise crosswords, Soduku etc

You may not feel the same way.


Notes on jigsaw puzzles:

The first jigsaw puzzle was made during the 18th century.

Most historians agree that the English engraver and map maker John Spilsbury is the inventor of the puzzle. As early as 1766, Spilsbury glued a map of Great Britain onto a wooden board, which he sawed along the borders of the British counties. This is where the English term “jigsaw puzzle” comes from. He sold the sawn maps as teaching aids for geography lessons.

"Europe divided into its kingdoms, etc." (1766) Believed to be the first purpose-made jigsaw puzzle

Before they were called “jigsaw puzzles,” they were named “dissected maps.”

As the first puzzles were designed from cutting up sections of a map, they were aptly called “dissected maps.” As they evolved over the years and cutting techniques changed, they were renamed “jigsaw puzzles.”

Jigsaw puzzles haven't been mass-produced for that long.

The mass production and greater availability of jigsaw puzzles only began with the invention of the punching machine in the 20th century. According to ThoughtCo. Individual metal stamps were made for each puzzle, which were pressed onto cardboard or softwood boards to punch out the puzzle pieces.

Puzzles were once reserved for the rich.

Unlike today, the popular game could only be afforded by the rich until the beginning of mass production. Each puzzle has been painstakingly handcrafted from expensive mahogany or cedar wood by gluing a picture onto the wooden panel and then sawing out each piece individually.

When Spilsbury created the original puzzles, among the students that learned with this tool were the children of King George III and Queen Charlotte, who were taught by the royal governess, Lady Charlotte Finch.

Nowadays there are some jigsaw puzzle manufacturers who make their jigsaw puzzles in a similar way again.

Jigsaws have never been used in the making of jigsaw puzzles.

Despite their name, “jigsaw puzzles” is something of a misnomer. While a saw has in fact been used in creating this type of puzzle, a jigsaw has never been used in the cutting process. The fretsaw became the popular tool used to make jigsaws in the 1880s, but “fretsaw puzzle” just didn’t have the same ring to it as “jigsaw puzzle.”__________

Jigsaw puzzles became a popular hobby during the Great Depression.

According to well-known puzzle collector Bob Armstrong, who actually wrote extensively about puzzles and even gave lectures, puzzles became a popular hobby during the Great Depression of the late 1920s. Many of the puzzles were made by skilled workers who were suddenly unemployed. Since few people had the money to travel, people preferred to puzzle exotic motifs.

The study of puzzles is called enigmatology.

It is possible to get a degree in puzzles. Enigmatology is the study and science of puzzles of all sorts, including mathematical, logical, or word-based. Will Shortz, the crossword editor of The New York Times, designed the program at Indiana University via the Individualized Major Program (IMP). Shortz is currently the only individual on the planet to hold a degree in enigmatology.

Americans use jigsaws more than any other table game yearly.

With approximately 50% of Americans buying between three and six puzzles annually and over 1.8 billion jigsaw puzzles sold per year, it’s not surprising that jigsaws are the most loved table game. Even when puzzles seem impossible to complete, we enjoy them. The popularity of the jigsaw spurred the development of International Puzzle Day in 1995 to celebrate this pastime.

The health benefits of puzzles are significant.

Puzzles are beneficial for your brain and brain health. Not only can they increase your mood, but they also improve your mental reasoning and spatial awareness, enhance your short-term memory and help you with problem-solving. They can even lower stress levels, provide your brain with a mental workout, and potentially increase your IQ score by up to 4 points.

I still think they are a colossal waste of time.

The fastest jigsaw puzzle-solving record was completed in less than 10 minutes.

On December 26, 2020, Tammy McLeod of Burbank, California solved the Guinness World Records puzzle challenge in 9 minutes and 58 seconds. The previous reigning champion was then 15-year-old Deepika Ravichandran from East Hampton, Connecticut, who completed the puzzle in 13 minutes and 7 seconds in 2014.

A 1,000-piece puzzle with take you four times as long as a 500-piece puzzle.

While one would think it would only take double the amount of time, every time the amount of pieces is doubled, the difficulty is quadrupled. The length of time it takes to complete a puzzle significantly increases the higher the piece count.

Jigsaw puzzles were often used as an advertising and promotional tool.

As puzzles evolved over the years, imagery moved beyond geographic patterns and nature scenes to include product advertising and promotions. Many times, companies gave out puzzles that featured one of their products or included it for free with purchase.

There are quite a few celebrities that are fond of jigsaw puzzles in their downtime.

Among them are actors Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, philanthropist Bill Gates, and even the late Queen Elizabeth II was a puzzle enthusiast.

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