Hidden cows and complaining chickens populate cartoonist Sandra Boynton’s puzzles

Puzzles saw a surge in popularity last year as many turned to the calming pastime during the pandemic. And for those looking to add more puzzles to their growing collection, Sandra Boyton got you covered.

Boynton is a publishing phenomenon who has worked since the 1970s as a writer and cartoonist. Many of his works feature quirky animals that enjoy eating chocolate and sharing puns.

In addition to the many books and music albums Boynton has released — including a 2002 Grammy-nominated album “Philadelphia Chickens” which featured Meryl Streep — she’s also recently released a collection of puzzles.

“I couldn’t help but notice that everyone I knew was doing puzzles,” she says.

Although Boynton admits she’s not good at puzzles, she figured she’d be able to design some. And the result is simply fantastic.

A puzzle features cows hidden in a living room. Another features chickens complaining about the puzzle itself.

“Seriously? A puzzle with nothing but complaining chickens!?!” asks a chicken on Boynton’s puzzle. “No puppies? No kittens? Not even a cute bunny?”

For this puzzle, Boynton says she worked with her editor and received a myriad of feedback each time she submitted revisions to the puzzle.

“We need more space. It needs less space,” she says. “So at some point I did this puzzle as a joke, … and to their credit, they loved it.”

Boynton says her grandfather was “phenomenal” at putting puzzles together and she always helped him as a child. His contributions, however, were minimal, such as arranging the border pieces of the puzzle or finding pieces in a straight line.

One puzzle Boynton remembers his grandfather doing was called Bull’s Eye. While it was just a giant red circle, she remembers him finishing it in no time, a feat that seemed impossible to her.

“He was a very precise person and had that kind of spirit,” she says. “My mind is a bit more chaotic.”

A Boynton puzzle features a group of animals wearing party hats. Rather than saying “Happy Birthday”, a hippopotamus, a bird, a deer and some sheep say “Hippo Birdie Two Ewe”.

The witty pun is also one of Boynton’s most popular greeting cards and has been in print since 1975.

“So really my life since then has been a complete failure,” she jokes. “I just can’t compete with my younger self.


Emiko Tamagawa produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Jill Ryan. Jeannette Muhammad adapted this interview for the web.

This article originally appeared on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sandra Boynton: Complaints 500 piece puzzle.  (Courtesy of Workman Publishing)

Sandra Boynton: Complaints 500 piece puzzle. (Courtesy of Workman Publishing)