Review: “Christmas Cuckoo Clock” by Randy Wollenmann, Vermont Christmas Company – 9.25/10
Publisher: Vermont Christmas Company (US), published 2013
Title: “Christmas Cuckoo Clock” by Randy Wollenmann, 1000 pieces
Finished size: 24″ x 30″
OUR RATING: 9/10
CHRISTMAS IN JULY WEEK:
This is Christmas in July week here at Jigsaw Junkies and Puzzle Warehouse. That means you’ll get triple points for new and existing rewards club members and $4.99 flat rate shipping all week long [thru Sunday 7-17-2016]. Here at Jigsaw Junkies, we’re featuring a couple of fun Christmas puzlzes this week and we’ll have a new brand comparison for Vermont Christmas Company on the weekend.
Box Quality: (8/10)
The Vermont Christmas Company box is rectangular and had a solid, sturdy top. The packaging design is basic but attractive on the tops and sides.
The bottom of the back is made of less sturdy cardboard and is plain white. It could be easily damaged if you’re not careful with it.
All four sides of the box are different. Two sides have a photo of the puzzle, the puzzle name, piece count and dimensions. Missing is the Vermont Christmas Company logo, which I like to have on the side for easy reference when shelving. One side has has a little information about the company provided in three languages.
The box contains the bag of puzzle pieces and a promo flyer for Vermont Christmas Company. It shows a few of their other puzzles.
The Image: 10/10
This is a super cute Christmas image, compelling enough to me personally that I bought it the first time I saw it several years ago (usually it takes repeated viewing and consideration). I was happy to finally have a chance to assemble it.
Clearly, I’m a bit of a Christmas puzzle nut, so right away the theme is a plus for me. I like the illustrated art style, the color combination of bright gold, blues, and reds, the little characters and scenes going on around the clock, and the old fashioned “German glockenspiel” feeling of it. The image holds up well during assembly, with lots of small details to discover and a high level of quality in the illustration. This image gets a full 10 score.
(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)
Puzzle Quality: (8/10)
This is the first time I’ve ever done a puzzle from Vermont Christmas Company. I’ll be doing a full brand comparison over the weekend.
First, the cut. As you can see in the close-up below, it’s what I would call an off-center grid cut or “semi-random” cut. Mostly there are horizontal and vertical rows, but the corners of the pieces don’t align, so pieces overlap. It’s a decent compromise on the random-vs-grid connundrum, and provides more interest than a standard grid cut. There’s a large variety of piece shapes, as you can see. There was perhaps once or twice when I wasn’t sure if a piece fit or not, but upon close inspection it didn’t. I liked the cut and I would definitely not hesitate to do more like this.
The second thing of importance to me is the thickness of the pieces. Here, too, VCC has decent quality. Right out of the bag you can tell if a puzzle is going to “feel thin” or not, and my first impression of this puzzle was that the pieces, while not super thick visually, were quite hard and solid, not bendable or frayed. The image was firmly bonded and not going anywhere. There was no image lift and a small amount of puzzle dust.
The interlock has normal snugness, neither super tight nor super loose. Pieces will fall apart when you move them or pick them up, so you have to use care. But the fit wasn’t so tentative that nudging things made them fall apart. Overall, I’ve given the quality an 8. I’ll get more into it in the brand comparison.
Easy-to-medium difficulty. I enjoyed assembling this puzzle a lot. Maybe part of my enthusiasm was not having done a Christmas puzzle since last Christmas. But I really like the image composition and how it affects assembly.
There’s a lot of gold and a lot of ‘dark sky background’ pieces, but in both cases clues abound about where the pieces go. There’s a nice balance between highly distinct areas, like the inner clock face and elves, and areas which require a bit more thought. For example, there are four different ‘peaked roofs with snow’ in the image. Similarly, there are ten green bells along the bottom (with a black background) and eight green bells in the lower level of the clock (with a gold background). So once you have found all the ‘bell’ pieces, and more or less assembled each bell, you can try to figure out which bell goes where in the composition. Similarly the red on the clock face, the roofs, and various gold bits had multiple areas where they might go around the clock, so it was fun to assemble them and then look at the box to figure out which section went where.
After assembling the puzzle border, I did the red areas, the inner clock face, and the green bells. This led to filling in most of the bottom of the puzzle (where the background is black). Next, it was easy to find all the pieces that had bits of elves on them and put together the areas around the elves.
The green on the elf costumes was easy to recognize. Also, there are lots of ‘gifts’ around the elves in pastel colors. The cherry red sleigh was easy to spot too.
In my second session I focused on finishing up the clock, doing the various reindeer around the scene, and the light blue pine trees. Although there’s lots of gold on the clock, there are a variety of textures that are unique, like the balcony (slightly greenish with vertical posts), the window interiors (a vague interior scene), the gold scales on the chimney, etc.
At this point, only the blue background and some all white pieces remain. You can see roughly what percentage of the puzzle that is in the photo below. I’d guess something like 20%.
The background at the bottom of the puzzle is black and easy to spot among the pieces.
The gold windows had a distinct texture thanks to the window panes and the very sketchy interior scenes. Santa! Reading a map! Obviously, he’s too proud to wear his reading glasses.
Completing the blue background wasn’t frustrating or difficult. There are a lot of ‘tips’ of trees or snow around the edge of the clock and snowflakes scattered in the sky. Also, the color graduation from light to darker blue helps you place the pieces.
Overall, I’ve rated assembly a ‘9’, which is the highest score I give unless there’s something really extraordinary about a puzzle.
This is a delightful Christmas puzzle with easy-to-medium difficulty. The Vermont Christmas Company quality is good with hard, solid pieces. The image is bright, crisp, and well adhered to the backing. The cut is an semi-random cut with a wide variety of piece shapes. I particularly enjoyed the illustration style with lots of detail throughout the image. Assembly is a nice mix of easy elements, such as the elves and inner clock face, and areas that require a little more thought, such as the gold features of the clock, the snow, and the gradated blue background. It’s a very doable puzzle, though, and never frustrating. Highly recommended.
Where to find:
Click below to see the puzzle on Puzzle Warehouse.