Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"One picture puzzle piece
Lyin' on the sidewalk,
One picture puzzle piece
Soakin' in the rain.
It might be a button of blue
On the coat of the woman
Who lived in a shoe.
It might be a magical bean,
Or a fold in the red
Velvet robe of a queen.
It might be the one little bite
Of the apple her stepmother
Gave to Snow White.
It might be the veil of a bride
Or a bottle with some evil genie inside.
It might be a small tuft of hair
On the big bouncy belly
Of Bobo the Bear.
It might be a bit of the cloak
Of the Witch of the West
As she melted to smoke.
It might be a shadowy trace
Of a tear that runs down an angel's face.
Nothing has more possibilities
Than one old wet picture puzzle piece."
~ Picture Puzzle Piece, Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)
Puzzle me this! Are you a fan of jigsaw puzzles, or maybe crossword puzzles, word-search puzzles, number puzzles, relational puzzles, or logic puzzles? The earliest citation of the use of the word puzzle as 'a toy that tests the player's ingenuity' comes from Sir Walter Scott's 1814 novel Waverley, referring to a toy known as a "reel in a bottle". Jigsaw puzzles are perhaps the most popular form of puzzle and were invented around 1760, when John Spilsbury, a British engraver and cartographer, mounted a map on a sheet of wood, which he then sawed around the outline of each individual country on the map. This type of puzzle, which became popular, was used mostly as an aid for the teaching of geography. In 2013, puzzle enthusiasts joined an online effort to solve an archaeological puzzle by attempting to put together 3D representations of thousands of stone fragments to reconstruct the chiseled design on a 1,200-year-old Scottish monument, the Hilton of Cadboll Stone, likely erected by the Picts near the eastern coast of the Scottish Highlands around the year 800. 🧩
The origins of jigsaw puzzles go back to the 1760s when European map makers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. The "dissected map" has been a successful educational toy ever since. Puzzles for adults emerged around 1900, and by 1908 a full-blown craze was in progress, especially in the United States.
The puzzles of those days were quite a challenge. Most had pieces cut exactly on the color lines. There were no transitional pieces with two colors to signal connecting pieces. And, unlike children's puzzles, the adult puzzles had no guide picture on the box. If the title was vague or misleading, the true subject could remain a mystery until the last pieces were fitted into place.
Parker Brothers, the famous game manufacturer, introduced special figure pieces into its "Pastime" brand puzzles. Figure pieces made puzzles a bit easier to assemble. The fascination of pieces shaped like dogs, birds, and other recognizable objects offset the somewhat reduced challenge. Eventually, Pastimes and other brands moved to an interlocking style that reduced the risk of spilling or losing pieces.
After World War II, the wood jigsaw puzzle went into a decline. At the same time improvements in lithography and die-cutting made the cardboard puzzles more attractive, especially when Springbok introduced high quality reproductions of fine art on jigsaws.
In 1965 hundreds of thousands of Americans struggled to assemble Jackson Pollock's "Convergence," billed by Springbok as "the world's most difficult jigsaw puzzle" (see picture below).
Today there are double-sided puzzles and puzzles with up to 32,000 pieces. In 2015 a puzzle billed as the world's hardest jigsaw puzzle was released. Named '1000 Colours,' each of the 1,000 pieces is a completely different and have to be placed according to the CMYK system (as in cyan, magenta, yellow, black, used in printing systems). Click the Jackson Pollock's "Convergence" puzzle for more on these newer puzzle challenges.