Jigsaw puzzles have been around since 1767, but the coronavirus quarantine has made them a hot commodity.
“Everybody wants puzzles now and you can’t find them,” says Linda McLeod, 61, of Central Islip, who has been a jigsaw junkie since she was a kid. “Before the quarantine, I’d take weeks to do one. But now I did three in the last two weeks.”
Fun Stuff Toys of Seaford stocked up on hundreds of puzzles earlier this year, which was supposed to last them until September. That has changed.
“We ran out,” says owner Mike Timko, who is awaiting a new shipment. “The quarantine is keeping everyone home and they need something to do.”
Many people say they are turning to puzzles for comfort, as an escape from the intensity of what’s going on around the country.
“When doing a puzzle, you have to really focus so it turns off your negative thoughts,” says Jean Marie Furino-Mimmo of Bayville. “It’s very soothing and meditative.”
Furino-Mimmo is a therapist who often suggests puzzles to her patients.
“A puzzle can bring people together and create great social interaction within a family,” she says. “You are working together toward the same goal.”
The style of puzzles vary from landscapes to collages to solid colors (all white, all black), where there’s no picture (all the pieces look the same) and you simply go by which ones fit together.
“Puzzles are unique because everyone has their own preference,” says Timko. “We sell them from 35 pieces for kids to 3,000 pieces for adults.”
McLeod prefers collage-type of puzzles. Currently, she’s working on one consisting of breakfast cereal boxes. But she has limits.
“I don’t want to go bigger than 1,000 pieces,” McLeod declares. “It can’t be too hard. There are people who do those solid black puzzles. There’s no way I’d be bothered with that. I can’t sit there for hours finding one piece. It would drive me crazy.”
Donna Herman of Hicksville has her own method for doing puzzles with her husband Chuck.
“We pick out all the end pieces first,” she says. “My husband puts the framework together while I separate the colors and patterns into different piles.”
However, McLeod takes a different approach.
“I don’t sort the pieces. I like to rummage through the box. The only time I sort is to find the ends,” she says. “I do the outside first then I look for a place to begin, which is usually something that catches my eye.”
The Cleary family is a bit more casual about their puzzle play working two at once.
“We always do them on family vacations,” says Kevin Cleary, 51, of East Northport. “Each family usually has one in their condo. It’s fun when you get the kids involved with all the adults.”
However, during the quarantine things are getting competitive.
“I challenged my brother Keith as to who is going to finish their puzzle first,” says Cleary. “It’s kind of cool seeing everything come together. When you finish, you feel a sense of accomplishment.”