The World's (previous) Largest Jigsaw Puzzle
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LIFE: The Great Challenge   -   by Royce B. McClure
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March 17, 2009
Andrew Kult   -   Burnaby (Metro Vancouver), British Columbia, Canada.
Assembled between 10 October 2008 and 17 March 2009.


I have been working Jigsaw puzzles on and off for most of my life. The great thing about a Jigsaw puzzle, unlike many other things in life, is that it is done when it is done. That's the Zen of Jigsaw puzzles. It's all about the journey; there is no rushing a Jigsaw puzzle when attempting to derive maximum enjoyment.

I first noticed this puzzle over the summer of 2008. My initial reaction was, 14X5 feet, how could I ever fit this into my apartment! After reading about how other people had assembled this puzzle and the subsequent discovery of foam board, the decision was made to initiate the project. The puzzle and foam board were acquired, and other puzzle projects with priority were cleared out of the way. I purchased five pieces of foam board in 4.0 by 8.0 feet sheets and had it cut into sections of 5.5 by 4.0 feet and 2.5 by 4.0 feet, the later sizes being "working" sections.

This saga begins on a warm early fall weekend in 2008, Canadian Thanksgiving in fact. The pieces from the four bags were mixed and the battle field was set, the actors had taken the stage. I began sorting the pieces for the planets/moons, the nebulae, and the dark star filled sky. It was not long before the scope of what I had unleashed became fully apparent. Never the less, I pushed forward.

The general tactic I use with jigsaw puzzles is to sort easily recognizable pieces and assemble those first, using them as "seed" sections to assemble larger regions. I also use the subtle changes in colour and texture. No other tricks such as repeating shape patterns are necessary. It was not long before the planets and moons came together and within a couple of weeks, the nebulae as well.

Next up were the sails from the boats. I sort in rolling waves, trying to get about 80% of the pieces for two or three features. This breaks up the sorting process into manageable chunks. Then, on future sorting iterations, I will inevitably come across the pieces from previous iterations that I missed. Next, came the "fun" part, the stars of the darker night sky. The only guides were the variance in stellar densities and the placement of ancillary features such as the Andromeda galaxy, Ring Nebula and double helix nebula.

The gulls were also of above average difficulty. Finally, the stars in twilight were assembled. Next the hot air balloons, the sky and mountains were worked. At this point Xmas was approaching, and the puzzle was largely assembled from left to right down to the water line except for the animals and rocks. The animal hoard, the clown fish, the water surface and the underwater city were next. The later did not seem as hard to me as some have indicated.

As spring approached, the bottom of the puzzle was well in progress. The number of pieces left was decreasing rapidly and progress was accelerating. Finally, as mid March approached, all that was left was the coral just below the waterline on the left side of the puzzle. This was quite challenging as well. On March 17th, victory was declared with the surrender and placement of the final piece. The final piece had fled to a remote corner of my apartment to live off the land and avoid capture and placement. The final piece was located easily by the search teams so tasked with foiling this plan.

Normally, I prefer puzzles of places and scenery. This was the first panorama I have completed. The puzzle as a whole is probably the most diverse and colourful in terms of content I have ever assembled. Certainly, this puzzle takes the "logistical" part of your jigsaw puzzle assembly game to a whole new level. Previously, the largest puzzle I had completed was a 5000 piece puzzle. I would rate this puzzle as medium difficulty based on the picture, and hard to difficult when size is factored in. This is definitely not a project to be considered "lightly".

The next challenge awaits, gluing and mounting the puzzle. I expect I will do it in seven foot sections, to allow it to one day to be moved from my apartment. Stay tuned for pictures of the final product. I eagerly anticipate the next great challenge, presumably a 30,000 piece puzzle. Hopefully, its picture will be as colourful and rich as this one!

Andrew Kult

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