Category Archives: Puzzle Review

Sunny May Days and Baseball!

Tonight my baseball team, the Boston Red Sox will play against the Seattle Mariners.

Team loyalty is a strong human trait. Most people “choose” their sports teams early in childhood and rarely switch them. I’m no different. My first baseball memory is my Grandpa Roy (maternal grandfather) taking my brother and I to a game when I was around 8 or 9. That was 30 years ago. Grandpa Roy was a diehard Mets fan, and while he failed to give me a love of the Mets, he did teach me to love baseball.  At the time, I was living in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Naturally, I was a Red Sox girl. When we moved to Upstate NY, I found myself in enemy territory. The dread Yankees merchandise was everywhere!  I clung to my beloved Sox fandom, throughout the long years of no Pennants or World Series wins. I celebrated with the rest of the Red Sox Nation when in 2004 we broke the Bambino’s Curse at last!

When I saw the new puzzles that MasterPieces  and Major League Baseball had created, I knew I needed to do one! This is the Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle, which is a mouthful to say! Thankfully, the title tells you all the pertinent details; it’s 500 pieces, is shaped like home plate, and features the Red Sox! This puzzle is officially licensed by the MLB.

I don’t have my usual frame picture, because I started to assemble the puzzle on my new puzzle board, not having checked to see if it would fit first! Ooops! I ended up having to slide my frame onto the puzzle board SC made me. Shaped puzzles can be tricky, as the nonstandard dimensions may not fit on your puzzling surface.

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This was a really fun, and challenging puzzle. Not only is it a shaped puzzle, but it has 5 shaped pieces, known as whimsies. The whimsies are larger than all the other pieces, and added to the difficulty. That being said, this is a random cut puzzle and the pieces fit together amazingly well.

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Home plate, cleat, glove, cap, and jersey

I haven’t been to Fenway Park since I was a little girl. I live in Virginia now, but visit family and friends outside Boston often. Eventually, I’ll get a chance to cheer my Sox in their home stadium like I did as a kid. In the meantime, I watch from home and wear my colors proudly!

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PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: MasterPieces® Inc.
  • Title: Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Artist: Not listed
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style: Random
  • Finished size: 22x 22 in
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy but lightweight, 10.5 x 10.5 x 2 inches
  • Board: Medium thickness, recycled chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Minimal
  • Piece shapes: Irregular pieces and 5 whimsy pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very good, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Where to buy: Boston Red Sox 500 Piece Home Plate Shaped Jigsaw Puzzle is available on the MasterPieces website for $19.99 USD.

MasterPieces Puzzles: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

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Puzzle Board as a Disabilty Aid?

Living with a chronic disease sucks. When it is one that also happens to be invisible, life can be very hard indeed. Like many people, I have a ton of hobbies. Most of those hobbies form the basis of this blog and do double-duty as a way to keep my brain and body active. Puzzling and diamond art are wonderful mental exercises, but they are absolute murder on my back and neck.

Over the last few years, I’ve had to accept that mobility aids are a part of life. They help me expand my quality of life. So I’ve been looking at different products that other puzzlers use to help them. When I was at Toy Fair, I was intrigued by their puzzle board and the possibility that it could help me on bad days.

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The board  came in a rather intimidating box, but once the travel packing was removed it revealed a really nice traveling box.

I was really surprised to find that the puzzle board comes pre-assembled. This is already saving me spoons! The board is beechwood with a blue velour covering. It is 20 inches high by 27 inches long and somewhere between 15-20 lbs.  Ravensburger says it can handle puzzles from 300 to 1000 pieces. It has 4 possible settings, so that you can adjust the tilt to your preferred angle.

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I decided to test the puzzle board in my two main puzzling locations, on the coffee table in the living room as well as on my bed in the bedroom. The velour cloth that covers the puzzle board creates a slightly static environment that allows pieces to stay in place on the board, even when the board is at its most extreme tilt.

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Hurricane resting under my puzzle and not on it!

I found that I liked the third notch position, and that my puzzling was much less painful after several hours. The non-slip velour kept my pieces on the board and the few that fell were caught by the ledge at the bottom. My back and neck didn’t cramp up from leaning over! The only issue I had it that the puzzle I started didn’t fit the board! this was my fault, because it was a specialty shaped puzzle and I forgot to check the dimensions before starting.

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Yes, my messy bed. With SC out-of-town, I live in a nest of blankets.

I also tried puzzling on the bed. the puzzle board’s base is too long to fit my bedtable, but I found that I was equally comfortable balancing it on my legs or sitting cross-legged with it on the bed itself. Obviously, I couldn’t spend as long puzzling in bed; my legs have issues being stuck in the same position for long periods of time. However, I was able to assemble a 100 piece puzzle and not overstress myself. Due to the nature of my illness, I expect that the puzzle board and I will be great friends this next winter!

Because I live with cats, when not in use, I’ll be keeping the board in its travel box. I’ll also be investing in a really good lint roller! Overall, I think this will be a wonderful aid in my puzzling. At least now I have a way to assemble larger puzzles in bed on bad days!

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy cardboard with a plastic travel handle
  • Board:  Lightweight Beechwood, sturdy wooden pieces, blue velour surface
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Weight: Estimated 15-20 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20 x 27 inches

Disability Notes: Obviously, there is the weight of the board if you have any weight restrictions. If you cannot lift 20 lbs, have someone help you move the puzzle board to your preferred puzzling location. Like most Ravensburger products, you will pay for the quality. That being said, saving up for a puzzle board is much like saving up for any upgrade to a mobility aid. I don’t need the shiny glow-in-the-dark cane tips. But I like them and they make my life easier.

Where to buy: At the moment, the only place you can buy a Ravensburger Puzzle Board is at one of their physical store locations. The price of the Puzzle Board is not listed on the website, but I did a bit of research and found that it retails for $149.99 USD on EBay and Amazon.

Ravensburger : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle board from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Traveling From My Couch, and Happy Birthday Eric Dowdle!

Okay, to explain my title for this post… Yesterday, May 2nd, was Eric Dowdle’s 51st birthday. I’m incredibly fond of Eric’s artwork, which is the basis of Dowdle Puzzles. For his birthday, Dowdle puzzles is having a 51% off sale that ends today, May 3rd. Code: ERICBIRTHDAY

What? you’re still reading?!? Scroll to the bottom of my post, hit the link to the Dowdle website and get shopping! I’ll wait…

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You’re back? Ok. So the other part of my title has to do with the fact that SC has been out-of-town for a week now, and I’ve been busting butt and stressing more than usual. So of course, my body decided I needed a few days of pain flares and unbelievable fatigue. No matter how much I wanted to be active and do a ton of chores, I just didn’t have the spoons.  Thankfully, SC reminded me I’d received a wooden travel puzzle at Toy Fair.

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Dowdle’s Travel Puzzles were not what I expected! Most travel puzzles are either magnetic or have too small a piece count to be a challenge. This is a wooden puzzle where the image is giclee-printed directly unto the wood before being laser cut. At 150 pieces, there is enough complexity to keep my fuzzy brain engaged.

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Such pretty pieces!

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As you can see in the above picture, the pieces fit snugly in the frame, which works just as well on my lapdesk as it would in a car, train, or hotel room! Like the other wooden puzzles I’ve done, to connect the pieces, you have to slide one piece on top of another. Due to the precision of laser cutting, this makes for a really tight fit.  While I was assembling this puzzle, I watched a documentary on Roman Catacombs, just so I’d have the full “travel experience”. 

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I really love the sheer number of animals that Eric has managed to fit into one image! There are the usual suspects: lion, elephants, giraffes and hippos. But there are some real surprises as well. I found a fennec fox, African painted dogs, a rhinoceros beetle and even a tortoise!

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All Done!

The best part of this puzzle? It’s so easy to store! It is only a quarter-inch high, and a little bigger than a sheet of paper. If you travel a lot, space can be at a premium. Or, if you’re like me, my puzzles war with the cats for space on the bookshelves. Collecting all of the travel puzzles currently available would take the same space as a standard puzzle box from one of the other puzzle brands.

About the Company: Dowdle Puzzles is a part of Dowdle Folk Arts. The artist and owner is Eric Dowdle, who has over 200 folk art paintings, mostly focusing on American cities and national parks.  

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Dowdle Puzzles
  • Title: Wild Africa
  • Artist: Eric Dowdle
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces: 150
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 9 by 11 inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: N/A Plastic sleeve
  • Board:  Lightweight , sturdy wooden pieces
  • Cut: Laser Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss, with great color saturation
  • Puzzle Dust: None
  • Piece shapes: A good mix of traditionally cut and irregular pieces
  • Piece Fit: Very tight!  Some of the irregular pieces make it so that pieces can only be moved in small groups.

Disability Notes: The smaller piece count and wooden pieces are wonderful for someone traveling or trapped in bed! I can recommend this for people with mild arthritis or good to excellent hand/eye coordination.

Where to buy: The Wild Africa Travel Puzzle is not listed on the Dowdle website, making me think it is a Toy Fair/Vendor Exclusive. However, there are currently 5 different designs available on the Dowdle Puzzles website for $34.95 usd.

Dowdle Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page.To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Earth Day, Yesterday, and All Year Long!

Yesterday was Earth Day, a holiday started in 1970 that focuses on environmental reform and the human impact on this world we inhabit. Yesterday was also the day after Easter, and my mom and little sister headed home. I was wiped. Chronic illness means that I “hit the wall” and can’t push myself any further. Last week was a whirlwind, and by Monday, I was very much done. I spent Earth Day in bed.

Today, I’m still tired, but I wanted to bring up a thought. Earth Day was yesterday. Yesterday is over. Does that mean I can just put Earth Day and all it means on the shelf until next year?

Earth Day isn’t like most other holidays… It’s a way of life.

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This year, I managed to convince White Mountain Puzzles to allow me to do a few reviews. I immediately fell in love with Amazing Sea Turtles. It reminded me of the Earth Day commercials and shows I watched as a kid in the 80s and 90s.

I’ve never done a White Mountain puzzle, so I was surprised by the box stand that was included. Made of recycled cardstock, it holds the box lid so that you can have the puzzle image at hand. As this puzzle didn’t come with a separate poster, the box stand came in handy.

 

 

 

 

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My work space, border set up and ready to go!

I found this to be a delightful puzzle. It’s advertised as an E-Z Hold 300, which means it is made with slightly larger than normal sized pieces, on recycled blue chipboard. The grid-style cut was not challenging, but I don’t want a challenging 300 piece.  I do 300 pieces to relax and let me think.

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Look at my awesome turtles!

 

Back to my original point. Earth Day as a way of life. It’s daunting, isn’t it? especially as a person with disabilities. I love my straws, as they keep my hands from spilling drinks down my front, I like modern conveniences. But even I can do small things all year-round to help the planet. I can and do choose to buy puzzles made with recycled materials. I recycle and reuse items. SC and I have furnished our home in furniture that had been discarded but was still serviceable. I use public transit often, and I donate to earth-friendly charities when I can afford to.  I have in the past, planted trees. Small things, sure, but small things, like puzzle pieces add up.

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This is my Earth Day Big Picture.

This puzzle features a handful of sea turtles swimming through a busy coral reef. It’s a great image to show what we could lose, and what we need to protect. More importantly, it makes me happy. I love sea life and aquatic scenes.

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: White Mountain Puzzles
  • Title: Amazing Sea Turtles
  • Artist: Gerald Newton
  • Year released: 2017
  • Pieces: 300
  • Cut-Style:  Grid
  • Finished size: 18 x 24 inches
  • Bonus poster: No
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Light-weight, 10 x 12 x2 inches, Glossy Finish
  • Board: Thin and sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Glossy
  • Puzzle Dust: A bit more than I prefer, but not too much
  • Piece shapes: Grid style, 4 shapes
  • Piece Fit: Excellent, nice tight fit that if careful, I could pick up

Disability Notes: The E-Z Hold pieces are really nice. They fit my hands well and I had no difficulties in assembly. I can recommend this size puzzle for kids and adults, and I think that people with hand or eye difficulties will enjoy it as the colors are amazingly bright!

Where to buy: Amazing Sea Turtles is available on the white Mountain website for $13.99 USD.

White Mountain Puzzles : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs!

I don’t know about you guys, but Easter is one of the few holidays that I get excited about the food. As a kid, I loved my Easter basket filled with marshmallow Peeps, jellybeans, and chocolate bunnies. The best part wasn’t Easter supper with its ham and fixings, but Easter breakfast; where after searching the whole of the house for hidden eggs, I got to crack those colorful shells and roll my hard-boiled eggs in salt and pepper.

This Saturday, I’ll be helping my younger sister Hime and my god-daughter Bug fill my kitchen with the scent of vinegar and a veritable army of brightly colored eggs! Lucky for me, one of my favorite puzzle companies, Cobble Hill, unveiled a perfect Easter puzzle for the 2019 year.

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Easter Bunnies by Donna Race is a springtime delight! It’s a 500 piece random-cut puzzle that has three sweet bunnies guarding a nest of colored eggs among a field of early Spring flowers.

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The included mini poster! A super helpful puzzling tool!
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Ignore the cat hair, check out these weird shapes!!

I had help assembling this puzzle. My sister Hime is in town for the holidays, and she and Mom helped sort the border and started work on the bunnies. My Bestie Angel came by the other day and helped finish the bunnies and made a serious dent in all the flowers.

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Such bright colors!

I can’t express how happy this puzzle made me. It really brought home the fact that Spring is here, and that while my neighborhood flowers haven’t bloomed, they will soon! IMG_5372

I know that only some of my readers celebrate Easter, because some are observing Passover or Ostara this week. To all of you, I wish the best of holidays and I’ll see you on Monday, which is both Earth Day and Half-priced candy sales!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Easter Bunnies
  • Artist: Donna Race
  • Year released: 2019
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 19.25 x 26.625
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Medium-weight, 10″x14’x2.5″ Matte-Linen Finish
  • Board: Thick and sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Satin, linen texture
  • Puzzle Dust: Almost none
  • Piece shapes: Random
  • Piece Fit: Very Good, nice tight fit that if careful, I could lift it up completely

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a teen, an adult, or for a person whose hands have good and bad days. I had fun.  My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard.  I can happily recommend a large piece puzzle for people with fine motor skill issues, or arthritis.

Where to buy: Easter Bunnies is available on the Cobble Hill website for $15.99 USD. It is still in stock, so I suggest ordering in advance for next Easter!

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

1500 Pieces!My Largest Piece Count Yet!

The fun part of being a puzzle blogger is finding new brands to try to stretching myself as a puzzler. Before I’d started PuzzlePaws, the largest puzzle I’d done was a 1000 piece, and honestly, I preferred 750’s.  While I don’t hold with New Year’s Resolutions, I do want to challenge myself and to be active in the puzzling community. Next year, I want to be able to join World Puzzle Days, and Jigsaw Jubilee. To do so, I  know I need to increase my piece count to include 1500 and 2000 piece puzzles! It’s a bit scary for me.

Thankfully, while I was at Toy Fair this year, I discovered Playview Brands, which is the spin-off company of Karmin International and their puzzle line. When I explained that my goals, I was offered a chance to try a different sort of large count puzzle.

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This is a triptych puzzle, or a three-in-one puzzle. There are three separate 500 piece puzzles that make a single 1500 piece image. It was perfect to help me work on this year’s goals!

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The puzzles came individually bagged and included a lovely poster to help with assembly.56706146_334053790799201_115726012595044352_n

I got a bit lucky, while the bags aren’t labeled as to which image they hold, I guessed by using the pieces I could see and managed to assemble them in order! Assembly was an adventure!

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I found the pieces to be on the small side of an average 500 piece puzzle, thin, but incredibly sturdy! They connect well and hold tightly.

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Puzzle 1

Puzzle 1, day 1, I had friends who had swung by to pick up some firewood SC had split and they stayed and spent a good hour or so helping me build the image. Elyse refused to go home until she found the piece of deer that was eluding her!

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Puzzle 2

Puzzle 2, day 2, I got a late start, and assembled it all by myself. Because of the late hour at which I finished and took the photo, my overhead glare is awful. Lesson learned, take photos in the mornings!

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Puzzle 3

Puzzle 3, day 3, I started this puzzle the night before, but had only managed the frame and sky before running out of spoons for the day. One of my besties came over in the morning to help me puzzle. She hadn’t done a puzzle since she was a little girl, so it was fun to show her tips and techniques.

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The Big Picture!!

This is a huge puzzle! When fully assembled, it is 24 inches high by 54 inches long! It completely took over my 6 person dining room table and I had to stand on a chair to take a picture.

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Karmin International Puzzles/ Playview Brands
  • Title: Mountain Cabin Scene
  • Artist: Geno Peoples
  • Year released: 2018
  • Pieces: 3×500, or 1500
  • Cut-Style:  Grid
  • Finished size: 24″x 54″
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made in China

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Medium-weight, 12″L x 8″H x 4″W
  • Board: Thin and sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Semi-gloss
  • Puzzle Dust: Almost none
  • Piece shapes: Grid style, 5 shapes
  • Piece Fit: Very Good, nice tight fit that if careful, I could lift it

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a teen, an adult, or for a person whose hands have good and bad days. My friends and I both had fun, and the full assembly only took us roughly 3 days. My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard.

Where to buy: Mountain Cabin Scene is available on the Karmin International website for $14.99 USD wholesale, I do not know if they do direct retail sales.

Karmin International Company : Website 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!

Cherry Blossoms and Chickadees! A Springtime Review

Spring is finally officially here!! Huzzah!

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So pretty!

It’s silly, but Wednesday was both the first day of Spring and the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. I’ve never gone, but I have friends who hit it every year. This weekend I’m in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for Zenkaikon, an anime convention. Before I left, I started Cobble Hill’s Chickadeedeedees.  It’s a 500 piece puzzle featuring chickadees and cherry blossoms by the amazing Karen Latham.

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Pardon the warm tones, I was trying to reduce my night-time glare.

This is one of the new 2019 designs, and one of the rare puzzles SC insisted on. I’d never known that my spouse liked chickadees, but there he was, reading me the Wiki and listening to bird calls on YouTube. If you want an awesome video about chickadees, I recommend LesleytheBirdNerd’s video.

Honestly, I find it cute when he gets excited/inspired by something out of the ordinary. He listens to me explaining the difference between ribbon and random cut puzzles. By the way, this is very much a random cut puzzle! SC likes the random cuts, finding them to be a great mental challenge. “That piece doesn’t go there at that angle…Shit, yes it does!”

I mentioned that I started this puzzle, however, I didn’t manage to finish my assembly before having to leave. SC, bless him, took some of his spare time to finish it and gave me his analysis. He also did my amazing cover photo!

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Two thirds finished and yes, that’s a dice catalog in the corner.

I’d managed to do about 2/3rds of the puzzle, finding it to be of moderate difficulty. It’s a 500 piece puzzle, so the pieces are comfortably large and with a random cut, the placements are not always obvious. SC did the final third, noting that I had mistakenly placed a piece where it didn’t belong, so he spent a bit of time looking to place a piece that belonged in the space I’d filled.

His sorting style was thus: flowers first, then obvious leaves, then twigs, then oddball shapes, and finally the standard shaped pieces. He did say it was of moderate difficulty, and that a couple of pieces nearly achieved flight (he was frustrated and want to throw them across the room)! SC notes that the large piece size confused his eyes, but made his hands happy, and that the pieces fit and click in securely. Both of us liked the new small poster included with the puzzle that was printed with the same linen texture as the puzzle and that both puzzle and poster images matched!

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All done! I couldn’t have done it without my Spouse-Critter!

 

PUZZLE SPECS

  • Company: Cobble Hill
  • Title: Chickadeedeedees
  • Artist: Karen Latham
  • Year released: 2019
  • Pieces: 500
  • Cut-Style:  Random
  • Finished size: 19.25 x 26.625
  • Bonus poster: Yes
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Made in USA

QUALITY: 

  • Box: Sturdy, Medium-weight, 10″x14’x2.5″ Matte-Linen Finish
  • Board: Thick and sturdy pieces
  • Cut: Steel-cut Die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, great color saturation
  • Finish: Satin, linen texture
  • Puzzle Dust: Almost none
  • Piece shapes: Random
  • Piece Fit: Very Good, nice tight fit that if careful, SC could lift it up completely

Disability Notes: I can definitely recommend this for a teen, an adult, or for a person whose hands have good and bad days. SC and I both had fun, and the full assembly only took us roughly about 6 hours over 3 days. My hands didn’t ache after assembly, and the difficulty level was certainly up to adult standard.  I can happily recommend a large piece puzzle for people with fine motor skill issues, or arthritis.

Where to buy: Chickadeedeedees is available on the Cobble Hill website for $15.99 USD. It is currently out of stock, but it’s on order, which means there will be more made soon!

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company : Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I received a complimentary puzzle from the manufacturer in exchange for review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

Thanks for reading, and please click the Follow Button under my profile on the right side of the page. To support posts like this in the future, consider joining my Patreon!