I hope you’ve had a great weekend. Mine was spent working this patriotic puzzle I purchased before the COVID-19 pandemic started, thank goodness.
Media focused on the toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, but there’s another shortage going on—a pandemic jigsaw puzzle pandemonium.
As people tire of binge watching Amazon Prime and Netflix, they’re doing jigsaw puzzles. Worldwide puzzle sales are up more than 370% since March.
It’s understandable. Fitting puzzle pieces together is a diversion. And during these months of social distancing and sheltering in place, heaven knows we need diversion.
Jigsaw puzzles aren’t a new thing. John Spilsbury, a map engraver in England, mounted a world map to a sheet of hardwood and used a hand saw to cut around country boundaries in 1760. He called them “Dissected Maps” and sold as a tool for teaching geography.
Centuries later, I used map puzzles in my classroom for the same thing.
With the invention of the foot-pedal jigsaw in the 18th century, puzzles became more easily produced and new cardboard die-cutting techniques created puzzles like we see today. Styles have advanced with more technology. Modern 3D block puzzles let you create multiple puzzles using the same pieces.
Jigsaw puzzles provide cheap entertainment because they can be completed, scrambled, and passed around within a family or community. With increased pricing and limited availability, people have come up with creative ways to share puzzles.
The Irish Athol Congregational Church created a drive-thru puzzle swap. You stay in your car, drop off a puzzle to be disinfected and move forward to pick out a disinfected puzzle.
In Omaha, Nebraska a bookseller runs a puzzle exchange. You trade a puzzle for a puzzle or a donation to the local food bank.
This puzzle mania may be to relieve coronavirus boredom, but psychologists say puzzles are so much more than just a way to pass the time.
Angela Garcia, PhD, a professor at Bentley University who has been researching puzzles for more than 20 years, says, “Puzzling lets us experience the closure and success we do not always get to experience in real life.”
I’ve always been a puzzle lover. There’s always one working around here . The enduring lure of puzzles is they’ll always be an escape.
Want to try a puzzle? Here are some sites that offer free online puzzles:
The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Canada https://www.jigsawplanet.com/FisherLibrary
Jigzone.com has a variety of puzzle sizes and shapes. You can even upload your own pictures and make them into jigsaw puzzles or send a jigsaw puzzle postcard. My favorite feature is the daily jigsaw puzzle in my email.