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Jigsaw puzzles are a lockdown habit that might stick after coronavirus


Australian Jigsaw Puzzle Association founder D’Arne Healy said the community grew during the pandemic as people embraced puzzling at home as well, and the “travelling puzzle” became a popular pastime.

Travelling puzzles were promoted and shared via social media. Participants would receive a jigsaw puzzle in the mail, complete it, take a photo of the finished product, disassemble it, pop it back in the box and mail it to the next player with a brief message of encouragement jotted in the accompanying diary.

“We sent a puzzle on a holiday because no one else could holiday, we gave it its own little travel passport,” she said. “It was a lovely way to bring the community together without actually being together.”

That kicked off a trend of travelling puzzles in the community with puzzlers posting to the association Facebook group to offer up a jigsaw once completed, sending it on to whomever responded first.

One travelling puzzle circulating is in memory of an association member’s brother.

“He’s terminally ill and can no longer do jigsaw puzzles, which he loved doing. I think it might have been his last puzzle. They’ve written a spiel inside the puzzle box and that is being passed on in his memory,” she said.

Now, as the community emerges from lockdowns, Ms Healy said 2022 was going to be “crazy” for puzzle events for those who want to match their freshly-honed skills against others.

State puzzle competitions will resume in New South Wales, Victoria, WA and South Australia with a national event to be held in Victoria.

The National champions will win a trip to Spain to compete in the 2023 World Jigsaw Puzzle Championships.

“We have individual divisions, and depending on which, they will either have a pairs division or a team of four. A lot of the pairs divisions you’ll see fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, and sisters, and grandparents and grandchildren pairing up,” Ms Healy said.

Liz Ho hard at work on her latest puzzle.

Liz Ho hard at work on her latest puzzle.Credit:Nine

“It is the most diverse group of people you’ll see in a room at one time, every age group you can think of, every corner of the community is represented. It is absolutely beautiful.”

Retailers have enjoyed a surge in demand too. Funbox Puzzles owner Daniel Gocin said his most popular puzzle is one called 2020 Time Capsule.

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“It’s an image of all the things that we went through in 2020. We re-ordered and re-ordered a ton of those and sold thousands.”

Games World owner Geoff Macauley saw a huge increase in puzzle sales to locked down states.

“I guess you could say scenery is probably the highest one that seems to be being selected,” he said. “People are selecting one, two or three puzzles, it’s not just going out in ones.”

Chiropractor Liz Baker started sharing her puzzles when Melbourne went into lockdown last year, and they were suddenly in short supply.

“Patients were having difficulty sourcing new puzzles, and money was an issue, so a very informal lending library began,” Ms Baker said.

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“For many of us, puzzles are like confectionery to small children. It is the ultimate desirable thing, to be seized and consumed, and once it is finished it is as if it never existed.”

Ms Ho is not certain she would ever take her interest from the loungeroom to a competitive environment.

For now, she is simply enjoying putting on some music, sitting down to a puzzle and letting her mind wander.

“I’ve got a puzzle of New York City, I put on Lady Gaga and Beastie Boys, and it’s just perfect, you know, at a time where you can’t travel I felt like I got a little trip around New York with that puzzle.”

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