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Primetime for Puzzles? A Global Pandemic

Start with the edges

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Above image credit: One of Karen Planchak's completed Springbok Puzzles (Courtesy | Karen Planchak)

Forget toilet paper, the world is running low on jigsaw puzzles.

In a recent interview with NPR, Carol Glazer, president of Massachusetts puzzle and family game company Ceaco, shared details about the company’s spike in sales that she never saw coming.

“Around the second week of March, we noticed sales at one of our largest retail customers … were up 300% over the same week the previous year,” Glazer said.

In Kansas City, Springbok Puzzles — a longtime Hallmark product, founded in 1963 — also is feeling the impact of a world stuck indoors.

A message on the company’s website reads:

“Springbok has received an unprecedented amount of orders due to the need for indoor activities. To meet this need, our staff is diligently shipping puzzles left and right all the day long, which unfortunately means. . . no phone orders or calls will be accepted or answered at this time.”

Springbok, America’s oldest puzzle company, would seem to be right in the thick of the jigsaw boom. Apparently, the company is so swamped sending precisely cut and colorful care packages of all sorts across the country that folks there can’t even answer the phone.

“I’m actually waiting on an order I placed last week,” says Karen Planchak, who keeps an impressive puzzle collection in her Pennsylvania home. 

Planchak’s jigsaw stockpile includes around 240 puzzles from the Springbok line, in addition to 50 or 60 other brands, meaning there’s close to a quarter of a million pieces to sift through.

In grade school, her family worked Springbok’s “The Night Before Christmas” each holiday season. Planchak was so inspired that she bought the first puzzle of her own, “Jim Henson’s Muppets,” which remains a lifelong favorite.

A completed Night Before Christmas puzzle.
Planchak’s family Christmas puzzle. (Courtesy | Karen Planchak)

She now scours thrift stores and eBay regularly for her next challenge. And before you ask, Planchak says she won’t sell any of her puzzles, not even the retro 1970s Springboks that could go for a solid chunk of change — global pandemic or not.

“You have to find the puzzle that speaks to you,” says Karen Kavett, or as her 17,000 YouTube subscribers know her, “Karen Puzzles.”

Kavett grew up in a family of puzzle lovers and can’t help but smile when talking about her life-long hobby finding its way to the limelight.

The New Jersey native, now living in Hollywood, offers both jigsaw puzzle and craft expertise on her own YouTube channel. She also occasionally appears on HGTV’s DIY craft channel. 

Karen Puzzles does a vintage Springbok puzzle.

Kavett’s viewership has gone up with stay-at-home orders, as journalists reach out left and right, covering her niche hobby in the new normal. 

“It’s been my favorite hobby for my whole life and now everyone is recently getting into puzzles,” Kavett said. “I’ve noticed the attention.”

She recently shared a video explaining ways that puzzlers like Planchak can challenge themselves at home, bored in the age of the coronavirus. The pair of puzzlers are in agreement when it comes to what type of jigsaw to pick out.

It all starts with the image.

“Pick one that you’re OK with staring at for a while,” Kavett said, noting that bold color separation could also make life easier, in addition to paying close attention to the shape of the piece that you need and the image’s texture.

Planchak's large puzzle collection on shelves.
Planchak’s puzzle collection. (Courtesy | Karen Planchak)

Planchak says she likes to spread all of the pieces out over a table or large surface, rather than picking through the box, and then starts with the edges (obviously), before picking a dominant image and going from there.

Whether it takes a few hours, the whole afternoon or comes to an abrupt end because of a curious cat, Planchak says puzzling is a great way to get away from a screen or app.

“You’re just sitting there quietly and I find that you stop thinking about what’s going on and you can just concentrate on the puzzle. It just gives your mind a place to rest, it’s a sense of accomplishment,” Planchak said.

“It’s just good old-fashioned fun.”

20 Puzzle Challenges To Do While You’re Under Quarantine

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