May 27 – The world’s largest commercially sold jigsaw puzzle featuring memorable moments from the Disney film has 40,320 pieces and covers 140 square feet. Completion time? Six hundred hours.
That’s quite the puzzle, considering it takes one person three to four hours to solve a typical 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, whether it’s rushing horses, a Lamborghini Countach, or of a plate full of colorful donuts.
While nationwide shutdowns, supermarket shortages, mask-wearing and social distancing eased somewhat in 2022, a remnant of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic that has not seen any abatement is a fun hobby that has been around since the mid-1700s – the jigsaw puzzle.
Sales of puzzles have skyrocketed during the pandemic as safety and health restrictions have forced millions of Americans to stay home and find safer and easier ways to entertain themselves. Even though these restrictions have eased, sales of puzzles have remained stable.
“I’ve probably (completed) a dozen in the last two years,” said Evan Spiers, a southeast Kansas resident. “I used to play with them as a kid, but until the pandemic hit I never looked twice at a puzzle. Now I’m always looking for them.”
In mid-2020, the demand for puzzles was so high that there was a temporary shortage of puzzles around the world, especially 500 and 1000 puzzles.
“I love doing puzzles, but my wife hates them…especially if they sit on the coffee table for a very long time,” said former Joplin resident Ted Conn. “My kids, while loving the process, quickly lose interest if the puzzle is ‘too hard.'”
Puzzles aren’t meant to be easy, of course. One of the toughest puzzles currently on the market is a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a nebula snapped by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope – it’s a nightmarish collage of precise colored lights, swirls of interstellar dust and bands of total darkness.
“We get requests,” said Susie Davidson, co-owner of Changing Hands Book Shoppe in Joplin. “We send them to Target, Books-a-Million and Walmart because more and more people prefer quantity over quality.”
While Davidson’s store doesn’t carry puzzles because they take up too much space and require a different type of shelving, an Airport Drive-based bookstore has one of the largest collections of puzzles in town.
Always Buying Books has between 400 and 500 box sets for sale, according to store manager Alyse Foley. Before the start of 2020, when the pandemic first hit, the store did not sell any puzzles. It was, after all, a second-hand bookstore.
And when a customer donated 30 of her puzzles to the store at the time, Foley said she didn’t think much of it at the time – “if nothing else, I couldn’t bring them back to home for my children,” she said.
But that’s when “things really took off,” she said. People “were excited and brought their puzzles, 20 or 30 at a time, (while) as many people came to trade or buy them”.
The popularity of puzzles has never slowed down, even though the severity of the pandemic has diminished over the past 12 months. In fact, Foley said they needed to create a second Facebook page, called “Always Buying Puzzles,” to promote their growing collection.
Each puzzle is sold at half or less of the original price, she said, and the majority of them are 300-500 piece puzzles, although they have a vintage ALF puzzle under 50 pieces, based on 1980s television. Display.
None of this is really confusing to Foley, a puzzle fanatic who has about 100 boxed puzzles at home.
“It’s just mindless entertainment,” she said. “I like games, so I like puzzles. I always have.”
Kevin McClintock is editor for The Joplin Globe.