Every year around this time, I get a puzzling condition. Its symptoms include, but are not limited to, rummaging in the junk room in the basement for unopened boxes, swearing dire consequences upon my cat if she bothers anything on the tabletop–which has never yet been known to stop her from doing so, but one lives in hope–and hours upon hours of fruitless searching for one specific object until I conclude that said object was never packed in the hitherto unopened box at all, roundly curse the manufacturers, and stomp away to do more productive tasks. Whereupon, lo!, the vacuum cleaner finds and eats the piece for which I had been searching.
Jigsaw puzzle fever is a sad affliction, my friends. Once contracted, its periodic flare-ups are intense. I believe from my own experience that the first lighting of the woodstove to take the chill off an early September morning may trigger the puzzling response, as I never puzzle during the active days of spring or summer. But let the leaves start to tinge toward yellow on the maple trees and the clear golden light acquire the least crisp edge, and nothing will serve save hot apple cider, a cinnamon donut, and a jigsaw puzzle.
I do retain some discretion when selecting a puzzle: nothing Disney, thank you, nor anything with cutsie shapes like dragons, handsaws, or football helmets worked into the design. I like my puzzles rectangular, not triangular, round, or ragged with no discernible border pieces at all, because that’s just not sporting. The border, after all, is the first thing most of us put together, and if I can’t even get the #@*! border together, it is unlikely I shall while away many pleasant hours working that particular jigsaw, which would probably go right back to Goodwill. In like vein, what wag first thought to design an all-white, round jigsaw puzzle? May I presume correctly that this person remains on a watch list of some sort?
irrational biases preferences regarding scenes, also. I prefer paintings rather than photographs, although I concede frankly that some of the latter are stunningly beautiful. My favorite puzzles show images of country life as it never was, with lots of gentlemen with handlebar mustaches, clip-clopping horses, and intricate architectural detail on houses and barns. Charles Wysocki’s images are wonderful fun, I think, and I’ve done several of them. (I wish I’d thought to collect them when Mr. Wysocki was in his heyday, because the prices for vintage collectible puzzles now are wince-worthy.) Another artist whose work translates well to puzzles is Rebecca Barker. Her Quiltscapes feature an artistic interpretation of classic quilt block designs. They are devilishly hard to piece because the gradations of color are so subtle, but the end result looks splendid hanging on a wall.
Which brings me to one of the most frustrating parts of the puzzling affliction–preserving and hanging the work afterward. Advise me, fellow puzzlers: how do you do it? I have tried gluing the completed puzzle to either cardboard or foam core and then coating it with Modge Podge, but in both cases the drying glue just bowed the backing up like a taco shell, and when I tried to flatten it, the puzzle cracked apart and fell to pieces. Also, I do not think a ‘varnish’ of white glue is a terrific idea in a coastal climate, because the stuff reabsorbs humidity and grows mold. To date, the best solution I have found is to sandwich the puzzle between two layers of clear Con-tact paper, in effect ‘laminating’ the jigsaw. This works moderately well, the only drawback being a visible seam across the front of the picture because the Con-tact isn’t wide enough to cover the whole puzzle. I have considered buying inexpensive frames of the kind used for posters, but none of the ones I’ve seen are made in the right dimensions for puzzles. This problem of finding a way to display the results of my labors has resulted in having about a dozen completed puzzles stacked between layers of cardboard under my bed, where they snag edges of mops and breed entire litters of dust kitties. It would be well if I got them out of there some year.
Well, enough of this blather. A new puzzle awaits, 2000 pieces of glorious frustration in autumn shades of russet, orange, and gold, a scene of harvest on a pumpkin farm.
Rectangular, with borders.