Expert Puzzler

Besides penning her excellent Samuel Craddock mysteries, TERRY SHAMES is an Expert Puzzler.

When my Cable Guy and I got a 3000-piece puzzle as a gift some time ago, we said, “No way,” and put it on the giveaway table. Terry Shames took up the challenge, and here’s the result.

The puzzle on March 18, 2020

She shares her story here!

First, you do understand that 15 pieces are missing, right? My dog (or dogs) (Editor’s note, “Sparky”) snacked on them. Because it’s so big, it hardly matters.

I started it March 18, which is when my husband and I went into serious lockdown. It turned out that the only surface big enough for it was our large dining room table. Which was fine. I figured we wouldn’t be having people over anyway. 

Here’s the fun thing: I don’t look at the picture when I do a puzzle. I challenge myself that way. Turned out to be a huge challenge. And also turned out to be a huge mistake (see below) 
I usually try to organize pieces one way or another—by color and texture. There were simply too many pieces to do this. I had to slog ahead.

The puzzle on March 30, 2020

About a week ago, I got sick of it and decided I had to really make a push to finish or throw it away. Of course I’m too stubborn to quit, which meant if I was going to get it done, I had to spend hours every day for a week. But by then I knew that every piece I found a home for meant fewer pieces to have to look at.

The puzzle on May 6, 2020

As for the big mistake. Here it is: I had a big chunk that I had put together separately and as I neared the end, I realized it didn’t go anywhere. So I had to peek at the cover. And found that I had put two sections together wrong. The lower left-hand corner and the upper right-hand corner were switched—I mean really switched, like around 100 pieces in each section. The odd thing was that pieces fit together nicely—wrong.
So two mornings ago I got up and said, “Go for it!” I loosened each offending section and then slid them around to slot in where they were supposed to go. Needless to say, it answered some puzzling (pun intended) questions about what the thing was supposed to look like. An hour later, I was done!
Here is a better photo of the finished product. I had to stand on a stool and try about 10 photos to make it work: 




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5 Responses to “Expert Puzzler”

  1. Terry Shames says:

    Thank you, Camille, I had no idea I would become such a celebrity for completing the puzzle!

  2. Liz V. says:

    My sister loves puzzle, and I had the (not so) brilliant idea of sending her a do-your-own-colors puzzle. No color, no context. It took quite awhile, even with Camille’s hint on manufacturers using their templates repeatedly.

  3. Maryellen says:

    So amazing!!! I broke my humerus on the March 6 and a friend sent me a lovely 1000 piece tea cups puzzle. Unfortunately I was in two different splints for about 3 weeks and could not reach close enough to the puzzle at the right angle to see the pieces with my bifocals. Once I graduated to bandages, I would work at the puzzle one handed (harder than I thought) and gradually was able to put the border together. No grandchildren were visiting so things progressed nicely. Then we had an emergency babysitting for a necessary in person meeting for a mama and the puzzle was unassembled. This time I started working on a board so the puzzle could be easily removed from sight. I was over a 1/3 completed and things have relaxed. Yesterday I had four grandchildren here. While feeding a bottle to the baby, 3 preschoolers discovered my hiding place and disassembled the puzzle. I will not accept defeat! I am starting over this weekend!

  4. Camille says:

    Wow, some puzzlers have a determination that should get an Award! I’d love to see photos of the effort!

  5. Al Garrotto says:

    My wife Esther is on a puzzle binge during shelter-in-place. Wishing you well, as always, dear friend.