Jigsaw puzzles

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I have loved doing jigsaw puzzles ever since I was a small child, quite why I don’t know! Perhaps I like the sense of achievement that comes from transforming a box of colourful cardboard pieces into a finished picture, or the order that comes from finding the right place for every piece. Whatever the reasons, when I want to relax I choose a puzzle and start putting it together, and then become engrossed as the picture takes shape before my eyes.

At first I always used to hunt through the box of pieces to find those with a straight edge, to make the frame of the picture. With this you can soon see how big the puzzle will be, but puzzle makers have become sneaky. Not all pieces with a straight edge form part of the frame, and I have one puzzle with no straight edges at all. So now I look for patches of colour—a house with a red roof, perhaps, or a girl in a yellow dress. I search through the pieces trying to find those of the wanted colour and build up the picture feature by feature.


Many of the puzzles I do depict landscapes, for example English cottage gardens, quaint fishing ports or rolling prairies with farm buildings. I also like those with cats, and I think I have well over a hundred cats posing in different ways across several puzzles. I even have one puzzle in the shape of a large cat, with pictures of many other cats inside. One of the cat puzzles is especially challenging. It has the same picture on the back of the pieces as on the front, but rotated through 180 degrees, so for each piece I have to work out which picture I need, the one on the front or the back.


Some jigsaws have abstract pictures. I have one in black and white that portrays dozens of snowflakes, each different in its delicate beauty. In this puzzle all the pieces are identical in size and each is shaped like a lizard (salamander) and yet they all fit together. My hardest puzzle, though, depicts a large pile of Smarties (M & Ms), just countless circles of colour that are almost completely featureless. There’s no easy way to do this puzzle, and I have to want a real challenge before I take it on.


What does my love of jigsaws have to do with my work as a writer and editor? In some ways, they require the same skills. As a proofreader I have to be able to spot the letter that is out of place even though it is surrounded by other, similar letters. In the same way, with jigsaws I have to find the right piece from a boxful of others that are similarly sized and coloured. Psychologists call this field independence and it seems to be an innate skill, although one that is improved with practice.


Contact me if you have a document that needs to be perfect and put my proofreading skills to the test.


Best wishes



ã Eileen Clark 2009