Puzzles unite the Olympia couple through the COVID pandemic

Puzzlers Gretchen and Jeff Klein finished 90th in the last World Championship.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — What started as a pandemic hobby has turned into an obsession for Olympia’s Gretchen and Jeff Klein.

“It’s definitely something that brought us together,” said Jeff Klein.

In June, the couple finished 90th in the World Puzzle Championship tournament in Spain.

They were the eighth-best team in the United States.

Married in the summer of 2019, the Kleins were still on their honeymoon when the pandemic began in early 2020.

Rather than cooking or binge-watching TV shows, they started doing puzzles together.

“I wasn’t an enigma before I met Jeff,” Gretchen Klein said.

However, the middle school math teacher said she enjoyed the challenge of a 500-piece puzzle.

“We were like, ‘Oh my God, we’re pretty good at this,'” Gretchen Klein said.

They wondered if there was a competitive league and learned that the world championships were held every year in Spain.

In June, they paid the €25 entry fee and qualified for the final, finishing in the first half of 200 two-person teams.

“Gretchen and I did something weird and we survived,” said Jeff Klein, who said the puzzles helped the couple survive the pandemic.

They loved spending time together, with a purpose. The puzzles were an escape from what was happening in the world.

“Doing it with my sweet wife was a pretty awesome experience,” said Jeff Klein.