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Event includes jigsaw puzzle competition



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Lisel Loudermilk and Lisa Kroll help visitors to solve puzzles National Puzzle Day in the Monroe County Historic Center.  Wenqing Yan Buy Photos

With hundreds of jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered across their tables, multiple teams competed against each other to assemble the separate pieces into a complete image.

When the Puzzle Raptors, a team of four IU graduate students, placed their last puzzle piece, it had only taken them 50 minutes to complete the 672-piece puzzle.   

In celebration of National Puzzle Day the Monroe County History Center was host to a team jigsaw puzzle competition and other puzzle-related events and activities at Saturday’s Puzzle Fest, including a puzzle competition. 

The Puzzle Raptors finished in first place in the competition, which featured 10 teams working on the same puzzle. There were four members on each team. The teams in the competition worked on a jigsaw puzzle designed by Monroe County History Center education manager Erin Anderson.

The puzzle featured a collage of old postcards from Monroe County. All of the images on the jigsaw puzzle are from the Monroe County History Center’s collections, Anderson said. 

The first place winners won a puzzle from Press Puzzles owner Marc Tschida.

“They actually came up and asked for my autograph,” Tschida said. “That’s never happened before.”  

History center volunteer and education committee member Jen Borland said her favorite parts of Puzzle Fest were watching the teams collaborate and celebrating with them when they finished. 

“I like seeing all the different ways people communicate with each other and the different strategies they use,” she said. “There’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush.”

The event also included presentations by Andrew Rhoda, the curator of puzzles at the Lilly Library, and Tschida. 

The activities included crafts where people could decorate a small, blank jigsaw puzzle and a sale and swap where people could bring in their old or unused jigsaw puzzles.

Throughout the event, Tschida demonstrated how he makes his handcrafted wooden jigsaw puzzles using a tool called the scroll saw. He free hands every puzzle cut, he said. 

“Each puzzle is unique,” Tschida said. “While the image may be the same, the cut of the puzzle is unique.” 

As he talked to observers, he cut a wooden puzzle depicting a variation on Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic” painting into intricate shapes. This version, which Tschida called “Bloomington Gothic,” included the Monroe County Courthouse in the background. 

Many of his puzzles feature Bloomington landmarks, like photographs of Sample Gates and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Others are mixed wood creations featuring his own designs, including images like flowers and fish. 

During his presentation, Lilly Library curator of puzzles Andrew Rhoda  gave a brief history of mechanical puzzles and focused on those featured in the Jerry Slocum Collection at the Lilly Library, which has more than 30,000 puzzles in its collection. 

Mechanical puzzles are 3-D objects that have to be manipulated to be opened, taken apart, put together or solved in other ways, he said. 

In a PowerPoint presentation, Rhoda showed the audience images of various mechanical puzzles that spanned both centuries and continents, including Roman padlock puzzles, Native American bags with secret openings and puzzle boxes from Japan. 

Rhoda also brought a selection of hands-on puzzles from the Lilly Library’s collection to the event for people to work with. Both children and adults attempted to solve the puzzles, including one involving separating interlocked links of metal. 

Anderson said she was pleased with the large turnout of Puzzle Fest, and she enjoyed watching the competitors' enthusiasm. 

“It was competitive, but it was a lighthearted competition,” she said. 

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