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Puzzle Warehouse

Intentional Kindness (With a Twist)

Hello there! We’ve taken one whole trip around the sun together since I started this Puzzle Ambassador gig, so I feel like we know each other well enough that I can share my art projects with you. Don’t worry, I won’t send my clippings, just art projects. 

When I’m not busy Googling myself, I occasionally search the Puzzle Warehouse website for my own design, a PuzzleTwist puzzle called Intentional Kindness. And I was delighted to find it available a couple of months ago.

Intentional Kindness puzzle

Intentional Kindness by PuzzleTwist

Slow down – I will answer all your questions. This whole thing came about when the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association put on a jigsaw puzzle design contest. I’m not an illustrator, as evidenced by the fact that everything I’ve ever drawn since first grade has started with googly eyes, but I do have a hard case of nearly boundless puzzle enthusiasm and a copy of Adobe Fresco. 

So, I came up with an idea that I hoped would resonate with all sorts of folks, something we could all agree was a good idea – being kind to one another on purpose. 

I listed ideas for illustrating that concept in my trusty list notebook, right between a years-long-running list of National History Day topics that might be interesting for some kid some day and a list of allium varieties I was considering buying the previous fall. You see why people surround me at dinner parties? Next, I set about drawing googly eyes and then filled in around the eyes with animals being kind to one another.

Most of the animals took two to three hours to research, sketch, and finally draw, color, and shade. It would have been faster to work from models, but even if you watch a dog for hours, it turns out, they rarely start vacuuming. The sheep, at least, went much faster because…well, sheep. Then there was the hand lettering of the title and words, a watercolor-style background, and finally a doodled border around the words and around the edge of the puzzle. After about three months of drawing in all my free time, I had my submission!

You can imagine my almost-complete freak-out when my design was selected to be printed and then the final-boss-level freak-out when they told me my puzzle would be printed by my favorite puzzle company on this or really any planet: PuzzleTwist 

PuzzleTwist is a Twin Cities-based company that has sponsored the St. Paul Winter Carnival Jigsaw Puzzle Contest for years. I am a (how do my kids pronounce it?) “puzzle nerd” who has been entering the Winter Carnival Puzzle Contest for years. So I have done one or two (or 60) PuzzleTwist puzzles in my day.

If you are unfamiliar with PuzzleTwist, it is a brand in which the finished puzzle is slightly different from the puzzle image that appears on the box. I know what you’re thinking: in this direction madness lies. But they’re actually super fun! There are a few types:

In a 4More puzzle, there are four images on the puzzle in addition to what you see on the box. 

State Fair After Dark

State Fair After Dark by PuzzleTwist

A Mixed Up puzzle is usually a collage-style puzzle in which the images are shuffled to different positions. 

Woodland Critters puzzle

Woodland Critters by PuzzleTwist

What’s Up puzzles have a big surprise that is revealed as you complete the puzzle. Pro tip: Don’t have a mouthful of seltzer when you put that last piece in!

Rural Life puzzle

Rural Life - Fall to Winter by PuzzleTwist

And there are other types of twists as well. 

My puzzle would become a Something’s Amiss, my favorite type of PuzzleTwist!

They asked me if I would like to have their graphic designer do the twists or if I would like to do them myself. I don’t remember the last time I elbowed people out of the way while yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” But I did. And they did.

They explained the Something’s Amiss twists: First, there’s the a-ha twist. This is the most noticeable way that the puzzle is different from the box. Maybe it’s a major object within the scene that is in a completely different place in the puzzle. The a-ha twist has definitely tripped me up in a contest once or twice.

Then there are 10-12 mid-level twists. These are things you might notice as you put the puzzle together. Maybe a cloudless sky on the box has several puffs of white in the puzzle or, as in this example image from Garden Tea Party, a tea cup on the box is now being stepped on by a goldfinch (and I don’t see any newspaper underneath it).

showing Box and image changes

Finally, there are 10-12 hmmm twists. These are the little things that you might notice after you’ve put the puzzle together and are looking for all the differences between the box and the completed puzzle. Maybe instead of one bird in the sky, there are two. Or perhaps the mittens on one of the kids are purple instead of blue.

Armed with this information, I set about reworking my design. A couple of weeks later, I had my final artwork. 

There was also the learning process. The people at PuzzleTwist told me my narrow doodled border around the edge was risky for a puzzle because if the die were to be off by even 1/16”, the border would go from a cute symmetrical frame to a thick-and-thin mess with potentially some of the artwork clipped. But if I got rid of my border and allowed the image to run off the edge, any error in die positioning would be invisible. 

They also thought my hand-lettered phrases might be too small to be legible, so they recommended a different font. They also recommended the bubble letters to draw attention to the key words and add color and whimsy. I admit, it was strange going from my tablet to my computer screen to a full-sized puzzle. I didn’t have a good sense of how big the finished project would actually be when I was drawing and then compiling on my devices! I still see the original image floating around the internet, even though it was significantly altered before it went to print.

Seeing the puzzle printed out is a dream come true (and not that dream where people from high school show up at a party I’m attending with a litany of things I had done to offend them and then I have to drive home by weaving through a cluster of tornadoes)! And I love that several of my friends sent me images of themselves and their kids putting it together.

The JPA used Intentional Kindness for their inaugural speed run. For about six months, people could time themselves putting the puzzle together as many times as they wanted to see how fast they could put it together. The winning times were ridiculously fast. Some people put it together in under half an hour!

As for me…I’ve got my idea cookin’ for the next JPA puzzle design contest (hopefully they will do it again soon). First I’ll start with some googly eyes…

Kindly yours,


Comments - Add Comment 5.0 Stars 3
5 Stars
Lisa J. - Windermere, FL

How cool is that, seeing one of your designs turned into a puzzle - I love PuzzleTwist too. Well done!

5 Stars
Alyssa Z. - Stevenson Ranch, CA

This is amazing, Robin!!! I love learning about the process. I’m so impressed!

5 Stars
Gail M - State College, PA

So neat to hear your process and learn the history of this puzzle! I knew this was a speed run puzzle, but didn't know of its origin.

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