A big puzzle

Categories:Country life

My family knows I enjoy jigsaw puzzles. On my last birthday in August, my daughter and son-in-law gave me a 4000-piece world map jigsaw puzzle.

4000-piece world map jigsaw puzzle

4000-piece world map jigsaw puzzle

It's a beautiful, full-color illustration of the world complete with every country's flag. It is meant to replace a 1600s reproduction Blaeu map that was destroyed by water from the leaking Paola Mini Storage unit we rented while waiting for our house construction to be finished. One would have thought that the primary purpose of a storage unit would be to protect stored household goods from the elements; however, the owners of Paola Mini Storage did not share that view. But I digress.

As I said, I love puzzles, and the day after my birthday, I began laying out all the pieces. I'd never tackled such a big puzzle, so just getting all the pieces laid out and face-up was a challenge. Plus, the pieces wouldn't all fit on the two, five-by-two-foot tables we'd set up and pushed together, so I had to stack some of the pieces.

My usual strategy is to find and assemble all the edge pieces, so I know how big the puzzle will be when it's done, then fill in the center pieces. But that proved difficult because the edge pieces were so similar, it was hard to tell whether they truly fit together.

Eye glasses and magnifying glass

The right tools for the job

The most challenging aspect, though, is that the print on the pieces is so small, I can't see it. I have to use cheaters (those are the reading glasses you can buy off the shelf at places like Walmart) AND a magnifying glass with a built-in light to read the cities on the pieces, so I can place the pieces in the puzzle.

Plus, to give the illusion of roundness, the landforms and oceans along the right and left sides of the puzzle are repeated. For example, I have two Alaskas and two New Zealands to contend with.

It is now seven months later, and I am almost done with parts of all the continents, but not 100-percent done with any of them. To further complicate matters, I've been using a geographical dictionary that I received as part of a scholarship when I graduated from high school. In that dictionary, the world had East and West Germany and the United Socialist Soviet Republic, which have not existed since 1991.

Thankfully, Google Maps has come to my rescue. I can quickly type in a city name to find out what country it's in, then find its approximate position in the puzzle. It'll be interesting to see what Google Maps will do about the trade winds and other ocean details the puzzle contains.

Visitors always comment on the puzzle, which is hard to miss because it is in the middle of our dining-living area. It's been called an evil gift because of its difficulty and because no one wants to help with it. I guess that's kind of true, but despite the difficulty, I am enjoying it.

Even after I have conquered the initial challenge of fitting all the pieces together, one last challenge will remain: figuring out how to turn it over, so that I can affix contact paper to the back to get it framed and mounted on the wall.

But one step at a time. Oh, and Kevin reminds me that he DID help. He put one edge piece in.