Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Puzzle People

You've seen them. They sit there for hours on end, fingering the edge of a piece of cardboard and oblivious to the world around them. Or perhaps they're sitting in a busy airport, pen in hand and inking letters into a black and white grid.

Puzzle people. They're a unique breed of determined, methodical individuals who know that sticking with something all the way to the end nets a grand reward. Oftentimes, jigsaw puzzlers start with the easy part, assembling the framework, then they work inward either by shape or color recognition or image alignment. Be forewarned though, looking at the box may be considered cheating by some serious puzzlers.

DIDJA KNOW: Jigsaw puzzles of the same size and series from the same manufacturer often have identical cuts and piece shapes.

In today's high tech world, assembling a jigsaw puzzle (or a crossword puzzle or a Suduko) may seem archaic and unimportant, but the activity has diehard enthusiasts and now the medical community is onboard singing the praises of puzzles.

DIDJA KNOW: Working on a puzzle stimulates your brain. Some say it may even ward off Alzheimer's, a memory impairing disease.

I'm one of them. A puzzler, I mean, though I probably have my share of memory issues. There's nothing I like better than seeing how something fits together. I've never been much of a take-aparter, but I dearly love putting together a puzzle. I couldn't imagine starting my day without a Sudoku number puzzle. I usually tackle the crossword puzzle for lunch. In the evenings, I engage my brain with whodunits in books or on TV.

At a mystery conference I once roomed with a woman who loved doing Sudoko puzzles on a handheld device, and she was always trying to best her former times. That's serious puzzling.

With aging relatives, I've been in and out of nursing homes over the last three years. I can recognize a puzzle person on sight. And the cool thing is, they recognize me right back. No introductions are necessary. You just slip into a chair and pick up a puzzle piece and you share in a wonderful fellowship.

If only everything in life were so easy!

Maggie Toussaint
Death, Island Style coming in February

PS ARE YOU A PUZZLER? Be sure and leave a comment about the kind of puzzles you enjoy or tell me if your relatives enjoy puzzles. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I enjoy puzzles, but the convenience of Sudoko on my cell phone or in small magazines spread around my home is better!

  2. Hi Maggie,
    I enjoy doing crossword puzzles and the traditional puzzles as well. They're fun, and it's satisfying to find that perfect piece. :) Have a wonderful Christmas, and may Santa spread the gift of your fabulous stories! *Hugs*

  3. I love crosswords and sudoku. I also assemble online picture puzzles and the occasional real-life puzzle (always a mystery puzzle, because I get more bang for my buck). There's something about putting stuff in order that I find comforting. Too bad this doesn't extend to straightening my house!

  4. A big shout to my pals Anne and Diana, and fellow puzzle sisters! Thanks for stopping in at Mudpies!

  5. Hi Sarah, Your comment about housework brought a big grin to my face. I'm the same way. I think its because I've put the house back together so many times the thrill of that particular puzzle is long gone! Thanks for the visit and your puzzle thoughts.

  6. I used to do jigsaws as a kid, and I still have an old Star Trek jigsaw puzzle that was favorite. These days, I don't like to spend the time driving myself crazy. However, about a year or so ago, I bought one for the family to do. It was all intricate music scales, black on white, with tiny pieces. That took us forever but it was fun to keep working at it forever and it got done. I have another one here waiting: the Sistine Chapel.

    I do crosswords, also. Not regularly, and I'm not good at them, but I have a few crossword books. Have to keep that brain sharp!

  7. Maggie,
    I have always loved puzzles. I think it's because I had a lot of them as a child and loved to work them from the earliest time I can remember. Once I get my office cleaned out, I would love to set up a table to wrk a jigsaw puzzle on--where I won't have to listen to my husband gripe about the "mess"--(No he is not a puzzle person.) Love crosswords, word searches--I've never tried the soduku, but my sis loves them. Believe it or not, I have given this subject some thought too, because I have a niece who views puzzles as a waste of time, and always did from the time she was little. My artist daughter loves puzzles and crosswords. My son didn't like puzzles when he was young, but he loved blocks and legos--which is also a kind of puzzle. By the time he was 5, he could put together lego kids that were meant for 8-12 year olds. I think it has to do with so many things--male/female, perfectionist personalitiies, and just the way our brains work to understand things. (My daughter couldn't do legos, though she wanted to so much!)LOLVery interesting post, Maggie!

  8. Well, I should have checked for typos. "wrk" should have been "work" and "kids" should have been "kits".

  9. Hi Loraine, A Star Trek puzzle? Be still my heart. That's probably worth something, though I wouldn't be able to part with it. The music puzzle sounds challenging.

    Cheryl, Isn't it interesting how some folks are puzzle people and some just aren't? My husband can sit down at a puzzle with his mom, and make a huge effort, but only last about five minutes. Then he has to get up and do something else. He can think circles around me, but puzzles aren't for him. I could sit with a puzzle all day.

    Hi Rose, I've often thought that book writers and puzzlers might be related sets of people! Thanks for stopping in.

  10. Maggie, I work from 10 pm to 615ish am in the morning and 3/4 of the watch, about 40ish people work on puzzles at night. They LOVE their puzzles. We have a whole room stacked with puzzles. They ask me why don't you do puzzles. I tell them I have NO head for it - I've got stories in my head.

    For them, it keeps them up and that's the most challenging of my job when you work those hours staying awake enough to be sharp.

    I see puzzles as a challenge - in much the same way as my writing. We all have outlets. As long as your challenge your intellect, and keep your mind sharp, I think you can take that into your old age with grace. I can totally see where it would ward off Alzhiemers. Excellent food for thought this week.


  11. Interesting.Oh, I hate jigsaw puzzles. A certain kind of person loves them...I'm not one. But I do love crossword puzzles and so does my husband. It's his daily puzzles, though, I never begin it. That's his territory. But what I really love is when he gives up and says, "your turn." I really love filling in those spots he couldn't get. Most days, I can get them in a minute or two. But there are days and puzzles in which we simply cannot figure a section out--foreign words, weird clues, etc.
    But...we do not quit. It's a matter of principle...the puzzle will not defeat us. I haven't kept count, but we have eventually completed probably hundreds without giving up, saving it until the next day's paper to see the answers.
    Why is this important? It's just one of many tasks we do on a daily basis as a team. Team effort. One fun thing we always do together.

  12. I'm not a puzzle person. I simply don't have time. I write, or read, or socialize, or cook. But we usually buy and do one big puzzle at Christmas time with the kids. Most of the time I'm the first one to leave to tidy the kitchen. My husband would stay late with my son to finish it. My sister always has a sudoko in her purse. I tried once and got impatient after working for two days on the same one. According to her--she's a M.D. and psychiatrist-- it's excellent to keep the mind functionning, just like writing, she said. But reading doesn't.

  13. I am, I guess, addicted to crossword puzzles. The newspaper I subscribe to has two daily puzzles, one NYT Sunday puzzle and three good-sized ones (including the LA Times) in the Sunday entertainment section. I've also bought a bunch of the NYT puzzles in bound books. I have a friend who married her husband because while on a train, she saw him dong a NYT puzzle in ink, in CURSIVE. I sure can't beat that! Great blog.

  14. Thanks Steph, Mona, Celia, and Michele for stopping in. I value your comments. Glad to see that everyone is working hard to keep their brain alive!

  15. Good post, especially after I just finished all the morning newspaper puzzles. I did a 6000 piece puzzle map of the world once. It's hanging on my wall. Took two years.

  16. When my husband was hole up in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant(Rickter's Transformation lymphoma)there was always a jigsaw puzzle on a table at the end of the corridor. The families of the patients would gather day or night and while slipping another piece of the puzzle into place, we would slip another piece of our lives back into place as well.

  17. Hi Lisa and Sue!

    Lisa, congrats on that 6000 piece jigsaw puzzle. These days I tend to gravitate to the smaller ones, about 500 pieces.

    Sue, I loved your comment about people using puzzle therapy to piece their lives back together.


Thank you for visiting Mudpies, the blog for Maggie Toussaint, Rigel Carson, and Valona Jones