Questions About A Puzzle

April 27, 2011 · 5 comments

This past Christmas, Rick brought three new 1000 piece puzzles into our world, God bless him.

Puzzles are as much a part of the deep freeze of January as is chunky home-made chicken noodle soup, waking up to blindingly brilliant soft rime frost, and the awareness that the time has come to settle in ’cause Christmas is over, and it’s going to be a freakin’ long time until you can walk around outside in your bare toes.

Accordingly, we started this Ravensburger puzzle when we were in our home in Teton Valley in January. Ravensburger puzzles are usually a delight to work with: no hanging chads where the blades didn’t cut deeply enough, a lovely matte finish that is silky to the touch, and a satisfying heft to each piece that results in a brisk “snap” when they find their way home.

This particular image is derived from a 1992 painting called “The Singing Butler” by the Scottish artist, Jack Vettriano, and it was my favorite of the three puzzles Rick had bought.

I’m not sure it counts as “fine art,” but as far as puzzle subjects go, it’s a beautiful image. Deeply romantic, yet filled with many layers of anthropologically significant variables, it pairs the visual search for related colors and shapes with an intellectual search for answers to questions that arise as the figures emerge.

Who is this couple, and why is she barefooted in an exquisite red silk evening dress on a windy beach in the rain?  What is the significance of the servants wearing hats while both socialites go bareheaded? And where the hell is that piece that’s missing on the horizon?

At first it was brisk going.

However, once we had all the differentiated colors neatly snapped into place, we were left with approximately 300 pieces of stiff cardboard spread across the east end of the dining room table, all roughly the same color of muddy gray.

There aren’t many fun questions one can ask about 300 pieces of stiff muddy-gray cardboard.

I confess: I bailed. Rick, on the other hand, doesn’t bail easily. He methodically sorted all the pieces into their like shapes: single “outies” with single outies, doubles with doubles, and so on. He would then sit with his morning coffee and patiently review angles and shapes and outies and nuances of mud, occasionally making that begrudging grunt of success that comes with a smidgen of satisfaction incommensurate with a ridiculous amount of effort.

Eventually, it was time to return to California. We actually discussed offering to pack up and mail the disassembled pieces to the first person who responded that they would promise to complete the puzzle and send us a photo to post. The question at that point was all Rick’s to answer: Cry “uncle” and send it to a more worthy puzzle doer? Or leave it to mingle with the dust bunnies and pick up where we left off the next time we were in the Valley?

Did I mention Rick has a teeny tenacity streak in him?

We left the project in stasis to wait for our return.

And the dang thing was still there when we got back.

It mocked us every time we sat down to eat.

Rick did not do the only sane thing left to do at that point, which was to quit. He did the only other thing left to do, which was to painstakingly work his way around the space, piece by grunting piece. And this was the biggest question of all: why? Why does a person continue to patiently stay the course in a leisure activity where the maximum return on investment that can be hoped for is that you can finally say, “I finished.”

I don’t know. It’s not the way I roll. When something I’m doing for fun ceases to feel like fun, I’m already out the door in my new roller skates.

However, this is why we make such a good couple. When I’m ready to quit, Rick’s ready to persevere. When I’m ready to panic, he’s ready to stay calm. And when I’m ready to stick a brown bag over my head to block the sight of a stack of correspondence, he’s ready to pick up the letter opener and deal with the bills to be paid and the forms to be filled out and returned.

I’m good at finding the stamps, though.

It’s a symbiotic relationship. We both play our part.

One early morning last week I woke up to find a very chilly Rick-shaped spot in our bed. He had woken at 4:30 a.m. to the siren call of the Ravensburger and was just finishing it when I dragged my caffeine-craving bones downstairs to the dining room.

Boy! Were we ever glad we had NOT gone with The Great Puzzle Challenge to our readers.

No one would have thanked us for sending them a VERY difficult puzzle that was missing three pieces, straight out of the box.


For sale: One gently used puzzle.

BTW, we figured out that Winston LOVES to sneak and hide puzzle pieces. Bad dog!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave May 30, 2011 at 3:32 pm


I’ve had a 12000 piece Ravensburger “Finger of God” puzzle hiding in the back of my closet for years. Today my fiance and I decided to pull it out and give it a go–hehe. The puzzle comes in three 3,333 bags, one of which we have opened, thinking they had packed the puzzle into the bags in sections…but now we’re not so sure. I’ve emailed Ravensburger but have not gotten a response. Stumbled onto your site after wandering around google searching for an answer, so I was wondering if you’d know…do they pack the puzzle in sections, or is it all mixed up between the bags?




rickandkathy May 30, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Hi Dave!
Wish we could help you out, but so far, we’ve only braved Ravensburgers of 1000 pieces, all of which (except three pieces!) came in one bag.
Let us know what you find out, and congrats on your ambitious undertaking… wowzers.
Are you guys members of Mensa? 🙂


Sue April 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Winnie took the 3 pieces.


scott christensen April 28, 2011 at 8:06 am

I took a look at that puzzle when you two had it goin!!
That is some persistence..!!

I think you may need puzzle therapy, if you keep doing this to yourself!!
It has to be right up there with self abuse! Damn..


Kathy P. April 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Thanks, Kath. A great idea (besides online crosswords!) to help us pass the time during those loooong Montana winters!!


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