Every piece counts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am


There is nothing more satisfying, an avid jigsaw puzzler will tell you, than putting that final piece into a puzzle and standing back to admire what you have achieved. On the other hand, there is nothing more frustrating for a jigsaw fan than to get near to completing a puzzle and then finding out that one or two pieces are missing. Please, never pass on a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces to anyone. A jigsaw that can't be completed is as useless as a chocolate teapot.

The first piece

You are missing out on something if you have never done a jigsaw puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle is a picture or image usually made of wood or cardboard that has been cut up into many small, oddly shaped pieces. The aim of doing the puzzle is to reassemble the picture by fitting the interlocking pieces together. Each piece has a small bit of the picture on it, and the fun and skill of doing the puzzle is deciding where each piece fits. There is usually a copy of the picture you are assembling on the jigsaw box.

Let's do a jigsaw

Typical jigsaw puzzle pictures include scenes from nature, famous buildings and even copies of popular works of art. In fact, any picture can be turned into a jigsaw puzzle. Some jigsaw manufacturers will make your personal photographs into puzzles. If you sometimes get fed up with playing computer games or chasing little figures with your fingers on your smartphone, then it's time to do a jigsaw puzzle. Just open the box, empty all the pieces onto the tabletop, take a deep breath and start to have fun.


The origins of today's jigsaw puzzles go back to Europe in the 18th century when mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces for children to play with as an educational toy. You can buy puzzles in 300, 500, 1,000 and 2,500-piece sizes. Guinness World Records claims the largest commercially available jigsaw puzzle has 32,256 pieces and was manufactured by Ravensburger in Germany in September 2010.

You would have to be a jigsaw super-fan to take this one on!


Every jigsaw puzzler has his or her own strategy for completing the puzzle. Some think that it's cheating if you keep looking at the picture on the box as you do the puzzle, but you have to be very experienced and patient to do a jigsaw without referring to the finished picture. Most puzzlers pick out the four corner pieces first then assemble the straight edges of the image. Some puzzlers separate the different coloured pieces before they begin. Everyone has a favourite way of doing a puzzle.

And finally...

There are many claims by jigsaw fans saying they hold records for completing giant jigsaws.

Back in 2008, Eric Smith of Stoke-on-Trent in England, took six months to finish the world's biggest puzzle. If you are interested in beating Smith's time, you can buy the puzzle online and have a go yourself.

On September 24 last year, students at the Economic University of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam seized the official world record for a group completion of a giant jigsaw. One thousand six hundred students, working in two teams, took 17 hours to complete a puzzle of 551,232 pieces measuring 660 square metres.

Word Puzzle

You are doing a crossword. Here are some of the clues. The words you need are somewhere in the article.

1 Extremely eager and interested (4 letters)

2 Being skilled because you have done something many times (11)

3 Having no use at all (7)

4 A plan to achieve something (8)

5 Fitting very closely together (12)

6 Belonging only to you (8)


1. avid, 2. experienced, 3. useless, 4. strategy, 5. interlocking, 6. personal