About Me

I grew up doing jigsaw puzzles. In my memory, we only had a handful of puzzles that were gleaned from jumble sales and they almost always had a piece or two missing - the absence carefully marked on the front of the box so you knew where the hole would be.

Maybe because of that limited pool of puzzles, the pleasure for me has always been in the doing, rather than the completed article. I've never quite understood the appeal of finishing a puzzle and then keeping it as a complete picture - after all, if I want a nice picture on the wall I'd rather not be able to see the thousand cuts that divided it up!

I've always kept my eye open in charity shops, but the puzzles there are often smallish (I prefer 1000+ piece puzzles) and not as economic as I remember my jumble sale finds being. However, recently I've discovered that if you don't care too much about the actual picture, you can pick up job lots of puzzles for very little money on the likes of eBay.

About This Site

So I ended up with a pile of jigsaws about as tall as me, and as I slowly worked my way through them I found myself giving snap reviews to my beloved not-terribly-interested wife about how satisfyingly the pieces went together, or how annoyingly easy it was to end up putting pieces in the wrong place.

And after acquiring one duplicate, I also started worrying that if I kept up this habit I'd soon lose track of what puzzles I'd done and which ones I liked best.

If that doesn't say "that should be on a website", I don't know what does.

About The Score

Jigsaws are, in many respects, pretty subjective things but the pleasure I get from one can be summed up across the following factors:

The Pieces

Are they paper thin and easy to fold and mangle? Are they so thick that you feel like you're doing a puzzle for a 3 year old?

Pieces should be stiff, so you don't risk bending them when you pick them up. They should be about as thick as a CD, so they have substance without being clunky.

And they should be easy to pick up if you don't have fingernails 😃

The Fit

The whole point of jigsaws is that the pieces lock together; if that lock is so loose that every time you brush past the table your puzzle self destructs, then it's just going to drive you crazy.

On the other hand, you need to be able to take the thing apart. If the lock is so tight that you have to gently tease each piece from it's neighbours then you will very quickly regret choosing a puzzle with a 1000 or more pieces when it comes time to put it back in the box.

The Confusion

This ties in a little with the fit, but is also affected by the image design. When you place a piece into the puzzle, how certain are you that it's in the right place?

Ideally, the fit is unique enough that you can feel whether it's right. If not, the image should be different enough that it looks wrong.

There are few things more frustrating than realising that the piece you added 3 days ago was wrong because it should be three spaces to the right despite looking and feeling like a perfect fit.

The Differentiation

The classic jigsaw often has acres of sky, or lawn, or water to make the challenge of putting it all together just that little bit harder - and that's fine. It's what we want.

But in a good puzzle, the sky has some cloud variation. The lawn has patterns or leaves across it. The sea is riven with white horses cresting the waves.

The point is, there has to be some subtle visual clues otherwise you may as well just be doing a blank puzzle (and yes, I know some people do but it's just not fun).

The Picture

Lastly, what does the picture actually look like? I'm not terribly fussy about this, although I do like a nice, classical scene. But occasionally - especially if you buy job lots fairly blind from the internet - you end up looking at the box and wondering what on earth the publisher was thinking.

The Stars

I've ranked every puzzle out of ten for each of these factors; they are then combined into a single overall 5-star rating. Want a puzzle you're sure to enjoy? Find something with 5 (or at least 4.5!) stars and get puzzling.