Puzzle Warehouse
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Puzzle Warehouse

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

I have news for you. It’s time to take a walk on the wild side!

I know what you’re thinking. You like the way you puzzle. It’s comfortable. It works for you.

But what if I told you that trying something different could rock your puzzle world?!

Would you try it?! Yeah … I felt a little shy about it too.

It was a revelation to me that there are different ways to puzzle. My usual way: dump the pieces on the table, turn them over, collect all the pink pieces, and get started!

But I have some puzzle friends on Instagram who don’t puzzle that way. They don’t dump the pieces out. They pick pieces out of the box. Other friends sort the entire puzzle by shape(!) Still others sort the entire puzzle by color.

I had never heard of such things. I felt curious! I didn’t want to change my ways, but what if puzzling could be even more fun than it already is? I decided to be brave…. I took a walk on the wild side!


How to do it: Keep all the pieces in the box. Pick pieces out of the box and construct the puzzle. I chose a 150 mini puzzle (in case I didn’t like Box Picking).

What it was like: As soon as I started, I realize that I had made a mistake. I don’t know the rules of Box Picking. If I pick a piece out of the box and it doesn’t fit, do I have to put it back? How many pieces can be out of the box at one time? Is it cheating to sort pieces into the corners of the box? What would real Box Pickers think if they were watching?

Plagued by thoughts that I was doing it all wrong, I eventually found a focus. I worked on the edges and did not allow stray, non-edge pieces to creep onto the table. Next, I worked on the dark green flowers and kept all the pink pieces in the box. Soon I was onto the pink pieces and done with the puzzle!

Pros: The sound of scrabbling around in the box looking for pieces is utterly delicious. You don't have to turn all the pieces over. The puzzle is contained, you can easily put the lid back on, and the chaos is gone. Provides a feeling of being in control.

Cons: Needed to consult my inner ‘puzzle therapist’ to overcome feelings of doing it wrong. Had to develop ‘Box Picking rules’ as I went.

Survey says: In my small Instagram survey, 65% of respondents had not heard of Box Picking.

How did Box Picking improve my puzzle skills? I got better at looking for a particular shape or pattern in the box. I improved my ability to work a puzzle in sections.

What Did I Learn? I discovered the wondrous experience of stirring the pieces around in the box. I could smugly shut the lid on the puzzle chaos of unmatched pieces every night. I became more confident in developing my own purpose and direction while puzzling.

Would I do it again? Yes, especially if I had a small puzzle space, if I needed to keep unmatched pieces out of reach of small kids/pets, and if I needed to keep visual puzzle chaos to a minimum.


How to do it: Dump the pieces out and sort them into columns by piece shape. I chose a 500 piece puzzle (because there would be less pieces to sort).

What it was like: My initial reaction was, “I don’t want to do this! It’s too hard!” But then I remembered my love of puzzle science and my thoughts changed to “I love science! Let’s do this!” Soon I was presiding over my puzzle universe and putting all my pieces in neat little rows! It was so satisfying to see every single piece so nicely organized. I discovered that I didn't have to turn the pieces over first in order to sort them, and putting a bunch of pieces in my hand made it faster to sort. 

I even had an epiphany! If I combined Box Picking with Sorting by Shape, I would be able to avoid the dumped out puzzle chaos! 

Once I sorted the entire puzzle by shape, I discovered there was nowhere to puzzle! (If only I had read the blog post about traveling with puzzles, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled to fit my puzzle onto this table!)

As I put the puzzle together, it was so easy to find the pieces that I was looking for. It was like experiencing a pinball run of dopamine hits! The only trouble I had was that I oriented the puzzle the wrong way and it was hanging off the edge of the table until I made enough room to turn it around.

Pros: It’s easy to find specific pieces. It’s interesting to see which piece type is the most common/least common. An excellent sorting strategy to use if you want to complete a puzzle from top to bottom or from the outside in.  

Hogwarts (Harry Potter)  |  New York Puzzle Company  |  500 pieces

Cons: I misjudged how many columns to make for each piece shape and kept needing to move my columns over to make more room.

Survey says:  Most people sort their puzzle and when they do, they sort the entire puzzle.

How did sorting the entire puzzle by shape improve my puzzle skills? I increased my ability to identify a certain piece shape that I needed instead of my usual method of looking for a piece based on a particular color or pattern. I was able to quickly find the piece I was looking for, because when I needed a yellow pokey piece, I could find it! 

What did I learn? Keep the columns neat by moving the pieces up in each column to make more room on the puzzle table (unless you have a photographic-ish memory, in which case, you might not want to mess up your memory of where each piece is!) I learned to put pieces back into the right column instead of setting them down randomly on the puzzle table.

Would I do it again?  Yes, especially if I have a large area to puzzle on.


How to do it: Dump all the pieces out (or Box Pick) and sort all the pieces by color.

The Gardener's Palette No. 1  |  Ravensburger  |  1000 pieces

What it was like: As usual, my mature, grown up thoughts went something like this. “Do I want to do this?” No. “Will I be glad I did this?” I hope not. I deliberately chose a puzzle that I thought would be easy to sort into 6 piles. I also decided to time myself while I sorted the pieces. I guessed that it would take me 1 hour to sort an entire 1,000 piece puzzle by color. It should be noted that after 3 minutes of sorting, I wanted to quit. And again at 11 minutes, my resolve faltered. However, in the end, it only took 37 minutes to sort the entire 1000 piece puzzle. A slight sticking point for me was that the amount of pieces in each pile were unequal, when they should have theoretically been closer to equal. But because I am my own Puzzle Therapist, I decided to allow myself to feel all right about the unequal piles because I am a beginner at sorting an entire puzzle by color.

When I was finished, my puzzle table looked like a work of art with all the pieces in color order.

For fun, I continued timing myself as I put together each section of the puzzle. The first section went together like a dream in only 29 minutes, and I wasn’t even trying to work fast!

The 4 middle sections each took approximately 40 minutes. 

The last section took only 28 minutes. In the end, the entire 1000 piece puzzle took me approximately 4 hours, including the time it took to sort it! Now, this time is not going to get me to the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship next year in Spain, but 4 hours is much faster than it usually takes me.

Pros: I was able to sort with both hands. Beautiful puzzle environment with all the pieces in tidy piles in color order. Super high ‘search to find’ puzzle ratio when putting the puzzle together.

Cons: Have to delay gratification of putting together the first piece for approximately 38 minutes while you sort the puzzle.

Survey says: Most people sort their entire puzzle by color first. I would’ve been in the ‘No’ group prior to my walk on the wild side.

How did sorting the entire puzzle by color improve my puzzle skills? My ability to see nuances in color gradation improved a lot.

What Did I Learn? Trying something new takes courage. I noticed that negative thoughts arose as I learned a new way of doing something, but these thoughts gave way to more positive thoughts and new skills sets.

Would I do it again? Yes, in fact, I will probably start sorting the entire puzzle and yes, I will probably start sorting by color.

So, there you have it! Three new ways to puzzle. Are you ready to try something a little different on your puzzle table tonight?

- Tracy @16feet

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