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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Puzzling Update

My last puzzling update was November, so it’s time to show you what my mom and I (and other family members) have been putting together since that time.

I said she had a group of kittens ready, but it turned out to be just one cat. This was an interesting puzzle, with a big central piece located on the cat’s white bib, and circular layers outward from that. Had this been my puzzle to do alone, I would have made myself build the entire thing one circle at a time, just for the interest and to see if I could do it. But this was not my puzzle. My mom wanted to do some of the interesting parts, so she did parts of the cat, the butterfly, the fountain, and flowers. The bushes were the hardest part, of course. When my brother arrived for Christmas vacation, he helped us finish this puzzle.

The next thing we did was a murder mystery puzzle. This was based on Agatha Christie’s short story, “The Affair of the Christmas Pudding” (aka “The Theft of the Royal Ruby”). You are supposed to read the synopsis, put together the puzzle, and solve the mystery. However, we all knew the story too well. This kind of puzzle has no image on its box for the puzzler to follow; however, the colors are simple, the pieces large, and the patterns easy to figure out. We did think there should have been a body on the snow outside to match our story, though. At least footprints.

Puzzles with no image are approved by my sister-in-law, who holds that looking at the image on the box is a form of cheating. My mother maintains it is a form of sanity—if the puzzle is too hard, then what is the fun of being beaten because you aren’t supposed to look? I used to do puzzles with my sister-in-law for years (before I met and married her brother), and because it was her house and her puzzles, we followed her rules. Back in those days I was up to the challenge, but these days my time is limited, my patience not what it once was for puzzles, and frankly, I’m out of practice. I look at the box image whenever there is one available.

The day after Christmas my sister and nephew were also visiting us and helped us finish this puzzle. However, one piece was missing. It was not a piece vital to the solving of the mystery, but since we all knew the solution to the story anyway, our mystery became What Happened to the Puzzle Piece? We looked under the rug. We moved all the furniture. We took the grate off the heater vent and explored as far down as possible. The next day when my son dumped out the remains of his Christmas stocking, there was the puzzle piece. How it landed in his stocking is still a puzzle that nobody has yet solved.

After New Year’s my mom and I started our next puzzle. This is one of our traditional kind, with a painted scene of moderate complexity and a satisfying image on the box for those pieces that “should” belong “right here” and don’t. Mom did the flowers, dog, and the stream; I did the car, the tree, and as much grass as possible without taking away the stream. We did the barns and the bushes along the right side together.

When we completed it, my mother decided there was a mystery after all: what happened to the fisherman? I thought he was behind the camera, taking the picture of his car and his dog and that pretty background. But, the rest of my family pointed out, if that were true, the dog should have been looking, as it were, at the viewer. What is the dog looking at? I constructed an elaborate scenario with a fishing friend arriving just at that moment with pet dog in tow, and this dog is just about to jump up and greet his friends. Whatever! It was a fun puzzle to complete.


My sister returned for a visit in February, and my mother brought out her 3-D puzzle. This was a gift from my cousin and her husband, picked up in their travels in Russia. My sister, a veterinary surgeon with nimble fingers, wrestled with that puzzle all day, trying to poke the tiny pieces into place. She finally resorted to strategically placed transparent tape. She said we must never take that puzzle apart, because nobody in their right mind would want to do it twice. My mother acknowledged that she would not be able to do it, and I frankly did not and do not want to. We threw away the instructions and the box. So the Russian church stands on top of a tall piece of furniture in my mother’s room. Not quite an icon, but watching everything.

We next had two murder mystery puzzles in a row. The one set in the Wild West was deceptive, which is perfectly in keeping with a murder mystery, in that it turned out that it was not set in the Wild West, but instead it was a company party enacting a Wild West theme, and one of the company used the setup to commit a murder. We put together the puzzle before reading the story setup, and I kept thinking that this puzzle couldn’t match the box image or it would give everything away, but it turned out that it matched the box image perfectly.
We read the story. It seemed that a couple of people were embezzling, a couple were engaged in blackmail, and several were conducting extramarital affairs, sometimes with more than one other person. The key turned out to be the fact that the killer had run down the muddy alley to shoot the pretend sheriff. Everyone thought the woman in blue had done it, but her boots weren’t muddy. If you can spot the problem, great! If not, I’m not telling anything more.

The next puzzle was from the tv show Murder, She Wrote. In New York City, Jessica Fletcher was asked to look at this desk under which the body of the victim was found. The victim was an artist working on ad copy. Her copywriter-partner was a suspect (she often had to do his copywriting for him and hated it), an executive working in the same building was a suspect (they were having an affair that she wanted to end), and a British artist she met on a business trip in London and had a fling with was also a suspect (he had flown to New York to get together with her—his story—or to protest their breakup—the partner said). Jessica took one look at the desktop and solved the puzzle. And so did I.

This was another puzzle for which we had no image, but again, the colors are simple, the shapes dramatic, and the pieces large and easy to fit together. When it came down to finishing all the black areas, we simply lined up the pieces and tried each one according to size. My husband helped a lot with these murder mystery puzzles. Our next mystery is where our next puzzles will come from. We have finally put together all the puzzles my mother was given a year or more ago.

If any of my relatives are reading this, send puzzles! One thousand pieces or fewer, please!

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