Putting it all together: the fun of puzzles

Some people like the challenge. For others, it’s a way to unwind after a busy day. Whatever the reason, puzzles have a lot of fans. Puzzle lovers can be found across the country and around the world, and Metro Atlanta has its share.

Photo courtesy of Mosaic Puzzles

Decatur’s Daiga Dunis said the puzzles allowed him to disconnect and focus on relaxing. “It’s a visual thing and I’m a visual person. I like the shapes and colors of the photo. It’s a bit like meditating.

And it’s exciting when things start to adjust. “We get a little endorphin rush when the pieces go together,” she added.

Good for the brain

Medical experts confirm these positive results.

“Assembling a puzzle has many health benefits and can help reduce stress and improve memory,” wrote Jill Riley, senior clinical operations associate in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, in a blog entry from 2020.

“Puzzles are also good for the brain. Studies have shown that doing puzzles can improve cognition and visual-spatial reasoning. Putting the pieces of a puzzle together requires concentration and improves short-term memory and problem solving. Using the puzzle as an exercise of the mind can stimulate the imagination and increase both your creativity and your productivity.

Daiga Dunis (Photo by Isadora Pennington)

Dunis, 72, said she’s especially enjoyed working on puzzles during the pandemic, and she’s not alone.

Lots of flavors

Dunis says each puzzle company has a different vibe for their products. “New York Puzzle Company is a bit squirrelly,” she said. “Normally, when you work on an edge, it’s pretty standard and a good safe bet. Not with theirs… something could change with that.

Dunis prefers puzzles with clear patterns and colors. “I did one that was a picture of a peacock with an open tail. So many colors were exactly the same, it was very difficult,” she said. finish, but I persevered and did it.”

Puzzle makers’ websites demonstrate each brand’s unique twist. Most sites allow you to shop by number of pieces, difficulty, and specific themes, such as “flowers” or “sports,” allowing puzzlers to pick designs they’re willing to stare at for hours so they assemble the images on card tables or dining tables or any other available surface.

Dunis builds his puzzles on a special masonite table. The board has a smooth, flat, hard surface with thin tops that slide like drawers to the side. This allows her to move the puzzle around while she is still working on it.

“I sort the edge pieces first, then I use the trays to sort the other pieces by shape or color,” she said. If she wants to use the dining room table for something else, she “puts the drawers back, picks it up, and carries it somewhere else.”

Once she completes a puzzle, “I look at it for a while, take a picture with my cell phone, and then I bite into it,” Dunis said. “I take the puzzles I’ve made whenever I go to see people who might like to do them. Just like the books, I pass them on.

make it your own

Puzzles can also be personal treasures and unique gifts. Eloise Ragsdale from Decatur has done a lot of photography over the years and has found a great way to share it with others.

“We’ve been going for about 40 years to South Florida, Sanibel Island,” Ragsdale said. There, Ragsdale and his daughter, Emily Grasso, collect seashells. “In fact, we’re going to be Shell Ambassadors there.” Seashell Ambassadors are specially trained volunteers who answer visitors’ questions about the seashells they find.

Ragsdale said after about a week they collected their seashells and laid them out on the sand to be photographed. Then she chooses a photo, retouches it in Photoshop and sends it to make a puzzle that she gives as a Christmas present to friends.

“You’d think they’d be pretty easy to do,” Ragsdale said. “I mean, they’re not all like blue skies. The shells look different. But she admitted she hadn’t finished hers.

She said a friend of hers received a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and “he put it together so quickly I sent him a second one.”

Puzzle places

Puzzles are found everywhere. Stop by the gift shop at your favorite Atlanta attraction, like the Atlanta History Center, and you’re sure to find a selection of puzzles alongside books and magnets for sale. The Atlanta Botanical Garden Gift Shop offers everything from 20-piece children’s puzzles to 1000-piece puzzles for adults.

Book Nook, a used bookstore in Decatur, usually has used puzzles for sale. The shop buys puzzles in exchange for store credit that can be used to buy movies, music, comics, or of course other puzzles.

Puzzle swaps are another option. Organizers schedule get-togethers and attendees get together to swap puzzles they’ve completed and packed.

An online group, JigsawPuzzleSwapExchange.com, has members in North America, Australia and Europe. It claims to be the “largest international group of puzzle enthusiasts who actively trade puzzles with each other, worldwide”. Exchange meetings are for members only and membership costs $60 per year. According to the site, Sandy Springs Library is one of the swap meeting places.

In fact, some local libraries allow patrons to discover puzzles. Atlanta-Fulton County’s Milton Library is one of many libraries that lend puzzles as well as books.

Peachtree Public Library

The Peachtree City Library in Peachtree City has a long row of shelves filled with puzzles of various shapes, sizes, and levels of difficulty. Assistant librarian Diane Starkey said there was a good mix, from 10-piece puzzles for kids to over 1,000 pieces for adults.

“We loan out quite a few puzzles every day,” she said. “Some people come in and check a whole stack!”