A few months ago, I discovered the world of speed puzzling. I mentioned it on the blog for the first time in October. In that post, I said:
"I've never timed myself or even tried to puzzle quickly. Maybe I'm a fast puzzler and I just don't know it! (I'm not.)"
Well, it's time to find out for sure! I selected Springbok's 500-piece round puzzle called Crafty Colors (affiliate link here and below) for my very first attempt at speed puzzling. I really like the design, but that's not why I chose it. I picked it because it's the only 500 piece puzzle I own that I haven't solved before. I intentionally did not study the design or spend any time thinking about the puzzle before jumping in.
I started the timer on my phone, which was my first (of many) mistakes.
- Mistake #1: I should not have used my phone as a timer. Because of the battery saver, every time I wanted to pause and take a photo, I had to reenter my password, pause, switch to the camera app, take a photo, switch back to the timer, and start the timer. I will be using a dedicated timer next time.
Almost without exception, speed puzzlers start by sorting the pieces. So that's what I did. It took me 17 minutes and 55 seconds to go from what you see above to what you see below.
Not only is that a painfully slow sorting time, but I didn't sort intelligently.
- Mistake #2: I didn't make a plan. Instead of looking at the box for a few seconds to figure out a strategy and what I should be sorting, I just jumped in sorting things. I kept sorting until every piece was right side up and with like pieces. I'm pretty sure I over-sorted (different shades of blues and greens, for example).
- Mistake #3: I didn't use puzzle trays for each category I sorted. Now I can't move the sorted piles out of the way.
- Mistake #4: I put my starting pile of pieces in the back left and brought them towards me into groups. It would have been much smarter to put the starting pile near myself and push pieces away from me. That would have left a space for puzzling and it would have saved my back, which I was already feeling after 17 minutes of leaning.
- Mistake #5: The box is on the puzzle board, taking up valuable real estate. I should have used a puzzle stand or propped it up somewhere.
Time to get puzzling! I moved the box out of the way, scooted my piles to give myself a small space to work, and jumped in with putting the yellow pieces together. This is how the puzzle looked about 7 minutes later, at 25:26.
At this point, I still hadn't looked at the box.
- Mistake #6: I didn't take any time to understand the puzzle design. If I had, I would have realized much sooner that the size of (or lack of) white spaces between the colored pencils are important clues to where a piece goes.
Here is my puzzle at 37:06. Incidentally, this is approximately the same time it took the World Jigsaw Puzzle Champion, Alejandro Clemente Leon, to solve a more challenging 500-piece puzzle. That puzzle hasn't been released yet, but I'll be adding it to my wishlist when it is. I'd love to see where I rank among the top 180 puzzlers with recorded times. (Spoiler: I'll be #181).
Back to my puzzle. I was happily solving with no plan. I worked on whatever pieces were closest to me first, even though they were closest by accident instead of by design.
- Mistake #7: I didn't tell my family I was doing this. Steve came in to chat, which would ordinarily be completely appropriate and welcome to do while I'm puzzling. I lost some time trying to stop the timer unexpectedly.
By this point, I was finally using the clues I would have noticed from the get-go if I'd studied the box. See that row of purple and red pieces along the bottom? They all show part of the sharpened wood of the pencil. Sorting out those would have been smarter than sorting everything only by color.
- Mistake #8: At this point, it was too dark to continue. I was relying on natural light on a rainy afternoon, in a location with poor artificial light.
I covered the puzzle (so that I wouldn't peek) and left it until the next day. When I restarted, I propped the box up where I could see it. In just minutes, I put those sharpened edges together.
This is at 51:37.
By 1:22:11, I had the inside done and only the border remained. I've been pointing out all my mistakes, but I think this is a good time to acknowledge that this was something I did right. I always used to start with the border, but with this puzzle, it's actually the hardest part. Saving it until last was the smartest thing I did with this whole puzzle.
Once all the pencils were in place, it didn't take long to add their tips - much less time than it would take to put the tips together with all the white in between them. I finished the puzzle at 1:35:16.
While my time is ridiculously slow, I already know that it will be much faster the next time I solve this same puzzle. And I think what I learned from my first attempt at speed puzzling will help me with different designs as well. And speaking of designs, there were some pros and cons to this one. Topping the pros list: the colors are in distinct areas, in (mostly) rainbow order. There are no tiny details or false fits. The puzzle is high quality, with sturdy pieces that interlock fairly well. Cons: The few pencils that are not in perfect gradient order threw me off. It was the first time I've ever done a round puzzle. I haven't done a Springbok puzzle since I was a kid; the puzzle cuts are very different than I'm used to.
I am dying to give this puzzle another try and see if I can beat my time. Stay tuned!