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The Elegance of a New Yorker Puzzle

Ahh, September. The last official day of summer may be September 23rd, but let’s face it: the moment the Labor Day cookout ends, the white clothing items are safely stowed away, and the first crisp breeze commences and cools the back of one’s neck – by then, it’s fall for all intents and purposes. 

Fall means so many things to so many different people. The first pumpkin spice latté of the year from Starbucks. Memories of going back to school. The end of those languorous Summer Fridays that seemed to stretch on for eternity. 

One of my favorite films of all time is Nora Ephron’s underappreciated 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, in which Tom Hanks’s ‘NY152’ writes to Meg Ryan’s ‘Shopgirl’: “Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to go and buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

Well, Dear Reader (pardon me – Dear Puzzler!), instead of a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils, if I knew your name and address, what I would send to you, to invoke that crisp autumnal spirit, would be a short stack of New Yorker Puzzles from New York Puzzle Company (Disclaimer: Unfortunately, you’ll have to buy your own. FortunatelyPuzzle Warehouse has you covered with many options).

There’s just something about a New Yorker puzzle. Something elegant. Something classy, and a bit witty as well. Here in New York City, carrying a New Yorker tote (typically sent out as a free gift with subscriptions to the magazine) has become a calling card for the urban professional because of the reputation of the magazine, which since it was founded in 1925 has been a source for serious longform journalism, cracking good short stories, cultural criticism, and pithy commentary.

Open Vistas puzzle

First on my list of New Yorker puzzles to try this month was a 750-piece puzzle called Open Vistas, with artwork by the brilliant Cannaday Chapman. On Instagram, Cannaday writes that the piece – which was her second New Yorker cover, released on May 30, 2022 – was specifically designed for the magazine’s travel issue and features a scene in New Orleans. Even so, aside from some of the architectural flourishes in the background the image captures a very ‘lazy New York Sunday’ feeling to me, with its central figure sitting outside while enjoying a coffee and some pastries. 

Open Vistas puzzle in progress

I started out, as I usually do, with as much of the border as I could finish, as well as the pieces making up the name of the magazine.  Most of the New Yorker puzzles feature a solid-colored stripe on the left-hand side, including this one, which makes it quite easy to identify that edge. 

Even so, for this particular puzzle I realized that I must have had a couple of pieces mixed up, since the border didn’t completely come together as I had expected. 

Open Vistas puzzle in progress

This puzzle had a really interesting cut. It’s not quite a random cut, but it’s certainly not a standard cut either. There are lots of angular curves and angles to the way the cut is carried out throughout the puzzle. As part of my sorting process, I singled out various colors and textures – the wood grain of the table, the yellow of the straw hat, and so on. The central figure of the woman in sunglasses was the next to emerge. 

                                                                                                  Open Vistas puzzle in progress             Open Vistas puzzle in progress

From there on out, this puzzle was a breeze and a pleasure to complete. I sorted and completed it in one blissful weekend afternoon, savoring the sturdy linen-finish texture of the pieces and the colorful, crisply-printed image. 

Open Vistas puzzle complete

Doesn’t this puzzle look smart completed? I’m not typically one for framing puzzles, but these New Yorker puzzles are ones that I could totally see hanging up on the wall and enjoying for years to come. Something about the coral and teal in the background, and the lush illustrated greenery, puts me in a tranquil mood. 

City Living puzzle

For a more literally New York puzzling experience, I turned to this 500-piece New Yorker puzzle, City Living, with artwork by Harry Bliss. Bliss is a prolific artist with over 25 New Yorker covers to his name, and his playful, cheeky art style on this particular cover is just perfection. 

City Living puzzle in progress

It’s been fun this month to try out these New Yorker puzzles, which are manufactured and sold by New York Puzzle Company, and to compare the difference between the 500-piece and 750-piece puzzles I’ve done. Both are 18” x 24”, so the pieces for the 750-piece Open Vistas are slightly smaller than the pieces for this 500-piece City Living puzzle. This puzzle had fewer different patterns within it, but what it had going for it were two particularly bold textures: the red brick wall, and the gray concrete of the balconies. 

Once I started on this puzzle, I noticed fairly quickly that the pieces were in a much more orderly grid pattern. There were still a variety of piece shapes (not just ‘standard’ two-ins, two outs), but fewer of the curves and swerves from the last puzzle.

City Living puzzle in progress

You can see that my sorting of the brick and concrete textures paid off. I focused first on putting together as much of the borders within the puzzle as I could before moving on to the interiors of the apartments, the occupants of the balconies, and the brick pieces. I loved the quirky depictions of people within this puzzle, as well as the cute cat lounging in one of the apartment windows.

City Living puzzle in progress

 Once those balconies and apartment interiors came together, the puzzle really started to take shape.

City Living puzzle in progress

I quickly realized I was going to need to sort the remainder of the piece in order to really make any headway with the brick wall section of the puzzle. Once I did that, it was smooth sailing up to the finish line.

City Living puzzle complete

Here it is completed! I’m really happy with how it looks. Finishing one of these beauties has the same satisfying feeling of closing an issue of the magazine after you’ve finished reading the very last article. I think my favorite detail is the resident about to pound a broom handle on the ceiling because of the tango dancers making noise above their apartment. Any city-dweller has experience with some noise issue or another. Personally, I like to use a Swiffer handle to accomplish the same ends! (I’ve fully entered my curmudgeonly era).

I hope very much that  you’ve enjoyed seeing the process of piecing together these two lovely puzzles. If these two particular images don’t strike your fancy, Puzzle Warehouse carries a number of other New Yorker options in different piece sizes, ranging from 100 mini-puzzles up to 1,500-piece ones. Here are a few of my other favorites:

Summer Getaway puzzle

Summer Getaway (500 pieces)

J.F.K. International Rocketport puzzle

J.F.K International Rocketport (1,000 pieces)

Bay Watchers puzzle

Bay Watchers (100 pieces)

- a charming mini from the early years of the magazine.

The New Yorker’s covers employ since a diverse variety of art styles that it’s very easy, within New York Puzzle Company’s catalogue, to find a choice of image (and size) that fits your taste and your mood. I hope that, whichever one you choose, you settle in with a drink (preferably one with piping-hot steam vapors emanating forth) and a nice autumnal podcast, and bask in those September puzzle vibes. You deserve it! 

-Richard (@piecebypiecepuzzler / YouTube channel: Piece By Piece Puzzler)

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Amanda - Cincinnati

Such a well written, well thought out blog! Fall is my favorite season, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one!!

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