My Mum used to do jigsaw puzzles and I can remember as a kid thinking it was odd, but being pulled into the challenge of visual identification every time I’d walk past and glance at the table. Whether it’s the 20-piece puzzles for infants that help build a sense of image identification, continuity and shape recognition or the hundreds – or thousands – of puzzle pieces that make up a full size puzzle, there’s a certain Zen to it all, a meditation and calmness about the focus required to scan the unplaced pieces and compare them to the specific piece you seek. There’s also a tiny ‘a-ha!’ moment every time you look at a piece and realize you know exactly where it fits in the bigger puzzle.
No surprise then that when Pressman Toys reached out and asked if we wanted a few of their jigsaw puzzles to try, I was psyched. Not only do I enjoy puzzles, but my kids do too, particularly K-, my 15yo. The company sent along three of their Images of America line: Hollywood Dreams, Monument Valley Arizona, and Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California. They’re about $20 each on Amazon, if you’re curious.
After much thought we decided we’d start with Hollywood Dreams, and so dumped out the box and began:
You can see that I was working on the wheels of the vehicle in the foreground independent of K’s efforts to build the edges. In fact most jigsaw puzzle fans start by extracting all the edge pieces from the pile then building the frame. We were surprised that it was relatively small for a 504 piece puzzle when we’d built out the entire edge:
If you don’t do jigsaw puzzles, you might assume they’re all the same and the only difference is the picture and the price, but fans know that some companies have top notch cutting machines and it’s clear and obvious when you have a “fit” because it’s a perfect fit of the two pieces. Great jigsaw puzzles are also thicker and made from a heavier board material so they are rigid if you have to remove a piece because it’s not actually the right piece after all. Pressman absolutely has figured out in its almost 100 years of operation (the company started in 1922) how to make a premium puzzle and it was fun and satisfying to slowly build up the painting we were working on.
It’s obvious, but the further you get along the path to solving a jigsaw puzzle, the less pieces there are to consider for each subsequent hole. And yet, sometimes there are pieces that just don’t quite match your mental model and you can end up piece blind. For example, the hole on the lower right in the above picture? It’s just part of the roadway, should be easy, right? Somehow it took a remarkably long time – including a moment of doubt that maybe it was missing? – before the right piece materialized in my hand and fit perfectly into the space.
This puzzle proved to be more than a project for my daughter and I, however, and at various times my older daughter, my son and my daughter’s boyfriend all contributed to the slow path forward. As I said, even if people aren’t into jigsaw puzzles, having a half-solved one is like a magnet, and lots of people will sit and stare at it, pleased as punch for correctly adding even a single piece.
And then we were almost done:
At this point momentum is dragging us over the cliff and we stayed up late to finish up the last 20 pieces or so, with a cheer and high fives all around once we’d placed that very last piece:
In this final photo you can see how bright and colorful Hollywood Dreams proved to be, with over a hundred celebrities. I was unable to identify them all in the final puzzle, but there are plenty you might recognize even from the above photo.
Once done, we then disassembled it and dropped it all back into the box. A much faster process. And now the puzzle’s ready for someone else to solve as we move on to another of the terrific Pressman Toys jigsaw puzzles.
Now, how about you? Do you like jigsaw puzzles? And if so, what company do you like in terms of pictures and puzzle quality?
Disclosure: Pressman Toys sent us these jigsaw puzzles in return for this review. Thanks, Pressman!