Note: Before gathering any family, please make sure those who are able to be vaccinated are fully vaccinated, and use other recommended precautions in general.
Today is apparently National Jigsaw Day in the UK, and we’re celebrating by talking about some really neat puzzles.
Jigsaw puzzles are a fun activity for family gatherings, especially those during the holiday season when you can often just hang out together for a while and have a variety of shared experiences. I’ve enjoyed jigsaw puzzles for as long as I can remember, especially when building them with one or two loved ones for a shared experience. Puzzles are a good way to enjoy the festivity of the holiday season, especially with holiday-themed designs.
If you’re like me and keep every puzzle you obtain, building them over and over, the cardboard pieces can get bent or split over time. I prefer wooden puzzles, as they are more fun to assemble and they last for a really long time. Wooden puzzles aren’t ones that you trade back into the used game store; they’re ones that you pass on to your kids. Most of the wooden puzzles we have had (until recently), though, have larger pieces and are designed for children.
Recently I was able to try out some wooden laser-cut jigsaw puzzles for adults (or older children) made by a company called Wentworth Puzzles. They’re based in the UK and have a very large selection of puzzles in all sorts of designs. There are hundreds to choose from. Whatever your visual style, they are likely to have a puzzle to match. You can order many of the puzzles in multiple numbers of pieces, too, depending on the size of the challenge you’re looking for, and your budget. Depending on the style, the puzzles come in sizes from 15 pieces to 1500 pieces, with prices to match, ranging from $12.50 to $289.00. The smallest ones are perfect stocking stuffers, while the largest ones will keep a family busy all weekend.
You can also order personalized puzzles for special occasions or “just because.” You can learn about their philosophy and details about their puzzle creation on their website. Also check out their “extra difficult” puzzles if you need an even bigger challenge.
The best parts of Wentworth’s puzzles are the special pieces hidden amongst the more jigsaw-y pieces. Even though the puzzles are made with very challenging irregular pieces, these additional “whimsy” pieces really make the puzzle special, and each puzzle has some that relate directly to the theme of the puzzle. For example, a puzzle based on Park Avenue in New York City has the Statue of Liberty. And a calm, meditative puzzle includes someone sitting with their legs crossed. A garden-based puzzle has a spade and some vegetables. And, for their new holiday collection, the special pieces include things like snowflakes, Santa Claus, presents, ornaments, reindeer, winter birds, candles, and more. Some of the whimsy pieces spell out messages, like “Happy Holidays” and the like. The whimsy pieces also have additional texture carved into them. Note that the puzzles with more pieces also have more whimsy pieces.
Since the puzzles come in a variety of piece numbers, there is something for everyone from the casual puzzle do-er to the diehard fan. The samples we were sent were all 250 piece puzzles, but don’t let that number fool you. These puzzles are more challenging than conventional cardboard puzzles because the piece shapes can be deceiving. Sometimes assembling the 250 Wentworth puzzle pieces might feel more like a 500 piece puzzle, depending on the intricacy of the image.
We tried out four of the Christmas/winter puzzles (Icy Lights, Christmas Magic, A Winter Gathering, and Holiday Wreaths), and completion time ranged from a little over an hour for one person to do Holiday Wreaths (the one with all the different wreaths) to a couple of hours for two people to do Christmas Magic (the one with Santa!). The trickery of the pieces plus the image on the puzzle contribute to its difficulty, beyond the piece count.
Strategy spoiler alert: Unlike conventional cardboard puzzles where most pieces follow a similar general shape, even the non-whimsy pieces in these puzzles can fool you. The normal strategy of collecting and connecting the edge pieces first is an exercise in partial futility here, since not everything that connects the border together is obvious; it’s better to just work on notable image sections and let the edge develop secondarily. Often pieces that appear to be edge pieces really aren’t!
Though you might think that these whimsy pieces would make assembling the puzzle more difficult, we found that it simplified the process considerably. We first gathered up the whimsy pieces, and then found other pieces that obviously abutted those pieces. That got us going and helped us complete some of the more difficult sections as well.
Wentworth Puzzles would be really fun to do with kids, even little ones who might be challenged by some of the tricky assembly. They can hunt for the whimsy pieces, and collect together pieces of certain colors. Putting together puzzles has always been a fun activity that easily crosses generational lines.
The wood used in Wentworth’s puzzles has been sourced from sustainably managed forests, and they don’t use plastic in the packaging process. Each cardboard box is very sturdy, and the puzzles pieces are stored in a cloth bag inside. When you first open the puzzle and bag, the puzzles smell strongly of wood and manufacturing smells, but airing the pieces out for a while quickly gets rid of the smell, and odor should be minimal from there on out. Still, if you’re sensitive to the smell, I found that running a ceiling fan really helps.
If you’re looking for a special puzzle this holiday season, whether to complete with your family or to do all on your own, I highly recommend Wentworth Puzzles. Their products are of high quality, the puzzles are fun challenges, and the variety of what you can order is pretty astounding. They have a really nice selection of Christmas jigsaw puzzles, puzzles based on fine art, lots of flowers and nature, and generally plenty of jigsaw puzzles for adults and children. There are even some jigsaw puzzle gifts that would make great stocking stuffers (the smaller-sized puzzles).
If you order, order early! Something something supply chain something international shipping something.
I’m excited to make putting these puzzles together an annual tradition!
Note: I received sample puzzles for review purposes.