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Collection of 11 Sure-Lox Puzzles, 7250 pieces total

I've been home from my recent road trip for one week now, and I'm getting back into the puzzling swing of things a lot quicker than I had expected to.  Maybe that's because the first two stops I made at local Goodwill Stores turned up a small bonanza of nice puzzles to add to my infamous To-Do stack.  In fact the first two things I spotted were this great collection of eleven puzzles and another of five different puzzles. This Sure-Lox bunch includes two 1000-piece puzzles, three at 750 pieces, and five at 500 pieces, for a whopping 7,250 pieces in total.

Here's the five-puzzle collection I mentioned:


Collection of five puzzles from Cardinal
All five of the puzzles are 500 pieces, so this adds another 2500 pieces for me eventually to work. Even if I don't work all 16 of the puzzles, it's hard to go wrong when the total cost was four dollars. I like the variety of the first box of puzzles more than this one, but I'm likely to do the Tower Bridge puzzle fairly soon as that's one of my favorite spots in the world.



"New York City," Dowdle Folk Art, 500 pieces, 24 x 18 inches
I prefer a larger piece-count, but I couldn't resist picking up another Dowdle Folk Art puzzle for 99 cents, even at only 500 pieces. I suspect that all of the so similar looking buildings are going to be more of a challenge than they appear to be on the box cover...so this one will probably play as a larger-count puzzle anyway.



"Winter Weekend," New York Puzzle Company, 1000 pieces, 20 x 27 inches
I've come to enjoy the "New Yorker cover" puzzles a lot more than I ever suspected I would, so it was kind of a no-brainer to spend a dollar on this New York Puzzle Company version of a "winter weekend."


"Amish Neighbors," Milton Bradley, 1000 pieces, 23 x 26 inches
This is another of Charles Wysocki's Americana puzzles, and as you can see from the buggies, it's meant to represent the Amish part of the U.S.  I like building the "primitive art" style of puzzle, so another at one dollar was easy to pick off the shelf for home.


Rolling Stones Album Covers, Ant Hill, 500 pieces
I was drawn to this Rolling Stones puzzle because of a similar one I found last year of album covers from the Beatles. I was surprised at how many good memories came from seeing all those old Beatles covers in one place, and I'm hoping that, since I am a fan of both bands, this one will have a similar effect on me.  


"Puzzle Grow," Arte brasil, 1000 pieces
I think this one is rather unusual because it appears to have come to my Goodwill Store all the way from Brazil. Almost all of the writing on the box is in Portuguese, and the puzzle image itself is taken from the work of Tarsila do Amaral (1886-1973). Her work is described in Wikipedia as "Latin American modern."

And finally, this is the only new puzzle I picked up this week:


"Country Auction," Karmin, 1000 pieces, 27 x 20 inches
I bought this one at Tuesday Morning for six dollars (probably a 40% markdown from its normal retail price), and I decided to get it because I'm always on the lookout for something new from artist Susan Brabeau. This one, I think, should be a lot of fun.

So there you have, one week home, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I bought 22 new puzzles (counting the collections) and only worked two. The good news is that my total cost was around fifteen dollars...not bad.
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I have added a formal review of Buffalo puzzles to the "Company Reviews" page and revised (as a result of more exposure to their puzzles) the numeric totals of a couple of others. I have broken point-ties strictly by a gut feel for which for which company's product I would likely reach for first.

That said, I do use a point-system to rank the companies, and there is still surprisingly little difference along that 35-point scale in many cases. It seems that most companies are strong in some qualities and just average or even weak in others, so the overall ranking can boil down to only one or two category "misses" on the parts of the companies. Some companies produce too many damaged pieces, some produce poor colors, or too loose a fit, etc., but whatever it is, they almost all have one or two weak areas.

I rate eight separate categories from 1-4 points each, and offer up to three possible bonus points for exceptional quality in any of the rating-categories. That means that a perfect score would be 35 points (and no company has approached that number yet). This thirteen-company ranking is based on total points (with the percentage of a perfect score also shown strictly for informational purposes}. 

More reviews and list adjustments will follow as I gain more experience with the puzzles of other companies.

Puzzle Company Ranking List:

  1. White Mountain -   29 points, 83%
  2. Aquarius -   28 points, 80%
  3. The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory - 28 points, 80%
  4. Ravensburger - 28 points, 80%
  5. Cobble Hill - 27 points, 77%
  6. Buffalo - 26 points, 74%
  7. SunsOut -   26 points, 74%
  8. Dowdle Folk Art -   26 points, 74%
  9. Hogan's Harbor - 25 points, 71%
  10. Eurographics - 24 points, 69%
  11. Ceaco -  23 points, 66%
  12. Hasbro - 23 points, 66%
  13. Puzz3D (MB) - 15 points, 43%

Detailed Reviews for Each Company Ranked - Click Here





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Focal Point of "Fireside Companions," Buffalo, 1000 pieces, 27 x 20 inches

By the time I left for vacation on June 30, I had completed just over 400 pieces of pieces of Buffalo's "Fireside Companions," a 1000-piece puzzle based upon one of my favorite Charles Wysocki images. (I love the way that the painting works books and readers into the setting as a part of everyday life rather than resorting to the same old collages or bookstore or library shelves.) Anyway, I figured that I would quickly finish up the puzzle when I got home...but I quickly learned that my eleven-day layoff had made my puzzle-working skills pretty rusty. Luckily enough, however, it only took a day or two to regain my former "speed," and my first Buffalo puzzle is now done.

My initial approach was to concentrate on the two large buildings that dominate the image, leading to the good start that gave me the false impression that this one was going to come together fairly quickly. 


So next it was on to all of the action in the foreground, people at the bookmobile and all the rest.




All the time I was filling in as much of the foreground as possible, I knew that the sections I was postponing were going to be a good bit tougher than what I was working on. And I was right, because the sections of the puzzle above the buildings and just below the white house did turn out a good bit harder to complete than the rest of the puzzle.



But finally, all the bare tree limbs and sky were done. (I do have to admit that bare limbs are easier for me to work than heavily leaved trees.)


More foreground detail:

I particularly like the inclusion of  this wagon full of underwear making home deliveries.  (Doolies Woolies - Supreme Underwear)

This lady is apparently on her way home with a basket of books to read.

And this little guy couldn't wait to get home before opening his new book.

Buffalo makes a great puzzle, and I'm looking forward to working more of them (I have eight of them on the To-Do Shelf right now). I particularly like the way that the puzzle lines don't show up as sharply as they do on some other brands (the pictures make the lines stand out a lot more than they do to the naked eye) and how well the puzzle holds together when moved. I'll be doing a formal review of Buffalo Puzzles soon and adding the company to my rankings list. 

All in all, I enjoyed this one a whole lot despite the almost-two-week gap I experienced while working it. I see now why Buffalo Puzzles is so often mentioned when puzzlers are asked to name their favorite puzzle companies.
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I figured that my puzzle solving speed would drop pretty drastically after being away from the hobby for almost two weeks, and I was right. But I was really starting to worry this evening when I struggled more and more to fit pieces into this Charles Wysocki puzzle from Buffalo Puzzles. But just about the time I started to become more and more sure that the puzzle was either missing about 50 pieces or that I had completely lost the skill needed to complete even a 1000-piece puzzle, I picked up the puzzle box for a better look at the cover...and the box made a noise. Turns out that there were at least 60 pieces still inside the box.

Now in my defense, I did complete almost 400 pieces of this puzzle before leaving on vacation for eleven days, so when I finally got back to puzzling a couple of days ago, I just assumed that I had placed all the remaining puzzle pieces on my work-board before leaving home.  Wrong.  All those pieces I was so certain were missing, were right there in the box, and since I had been staring at the puzzle for so long today, I was able quickly to place the first 30 pieces or so that I pulled from the box.  

What a relief! Even though I probably wasted a good two hours looking for the same pieces over and over this afternoon, I'm just happy to find that I can still work a jigsaw puzzle. Lesson learned: shake the box a time or two to make sure that there are no pieces still inside.  #IFeelLikeAnIdiot
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"Little Bighorn Battlefield," Impact, 500 pieces, 18 x 24 inches

When I left on my summer road trip on June 30, I had high hopes that I would visit at least a dozen thrift shops along the way in search of jigsaw puzzles. Turns out that I stopped by a grand total of three of them, and that I purchased only one puzzle. There was just too much to see and do for me to take the time to search for and drive to very many thrift shops as I made my way from Texas and on to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and finally back to Texas. I ended up driving a grand total of 4,586 miles and a total of 83 hours and 29 minutes in eleven days.

All in all, though, I came home with five puzzles in all because I bought four more in gift shops at some of the sites I spent time at. For instance, the one up above is a large-piece puzzle that I purchased in the Little Big Horn Battle Site gift shop. It brings back some great childhood memories, because the second puzzle that clearly remember working as a kid was a classic image of a Civil War battle.

And I bought these two in the Mt. Rushmore gift shop:


"Mount Rushmore National Memorial," Impact, 500 pieces, 18 x 24 inches

"Mount Rushmore," Impact, 1000 pieces, 20 x 28 inches

This SunsOut puzzle is my favorite acquisition, though, what I think is a fantastic image of eight past Republican presidents (including the party's first president, Abraham Lincoln) enjoying each other's company around a pool table. SunsOut makes a similar puzzle for Democrat presidents (including Obama and the party's first president Andrew Jackson) and offers two more puzzles with the same presidents sitting around a poker table. I'm drawn to how the artist, Andy Thomas, shows the presidents smiling and genuinely enjoying each other's company. This one was on sale in the gift shop at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.


Callin' the Blue, SunsOut, 1000 pieces, 19 x 30 inches

And, finally, here's the one thrift shop puzzle that I bought while on the road. It's a nostalgic look back to a time when fire fighters and policemen were still heroes in the minds of every American (I miss those days).


Coca Cola Heroes, Springbok, 1000 Pieces, 24 x 30

And there you have it...five puzzles added to my collection so far in July. The trip was wonderful even though I feel as if I barely scratched the surface of what the states I visited have to offer. I plan  now to get back to regular blogging since WiFi service was generally too slow to do any blogging while I was on the road. It's good to be home...I need the rest.
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Road trip! 

It's that time of year again, and I can't wait to get started. Every summer possible for almost three decades now I've shifted my car into "wander" and hit the gas. Sometimes I have an ultimate destination in mind, and sometimes I don't. This is going to be one of those "let's see what happens trips."

I hope to head out Saturday morning in a general northwest direction, maybe heading toward Monument Valley (around the Arizona/Utah border), then perhaps toward the Wyoming Badlands, and finishing up with a stop at Mt. Rushmore before heading back to Houston. That's something like 4000 miles, so I may not get it all in before my hotel budget runs dry...and that's where the wandering comes in. I really hate packaged tours or even making hotel reservations before I'm ready to stop, so anything could happen. (I've been forced to drive several extra hours in search of shelter on more than one occasion, for instance.)

Anyway, this is all to say that my puzzle-building time is obviously going to be almost non-existent for well over a week beginning June 30 if things go as planned. I do plan to keep an eye out for thrift shops and museums that may add a puzzle or two to my collection, so I'll keep my hand in that way. Too, I'm bringing a laptop with me, and WiFi willing, I plan to post here a few times regarding my whereabouts and progress on the trip. I have a good friend in Phoenix and another in central Wyoming, and with a little bit of luck, I'll be able to check in with both of them along the way.

Road trip!
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"Fourth of July," White Mountain, 1000 pieces, 24 x 30

This one from White Mountain took me a day longer than I expected it would, and that's entirely due to the trees that make up almost one-third of the puzzle. I wish I knew why it was, but trees give me more trouble than anything else I've ever encountered in a puzzle. It just seems as if my eyes glaze over when I see all those leaves and partial branches...and fitting pieces becomes near-impossible. And that was exactly what happened again.


As you can see from the cover, this is a representation of a Fourth of July celebration in a park setting of at least sixty or seventy years ago. It's the American ideal, of course, and I enjoyed watching all the little scenarios come to life as I began to piece things together. 
(But be warned...take a close look at the puzzle cover and you will notice that the puzzle has been blurred beneath the title "Fourth of July." Those words do not exist on the completed puzzle itself, and anyone building this one will be on her own for that section of the puzzle.


This one works almost as if it's one of the White Mountain collages in that it's best just to start fitting the various characters together without worrying too much where or when they are going to attach to the overall puzzle image. Then when you have enough of them completed, they start fitting to the frame and you can take it from there by either continuing with the separate little images or working the puzzle from the bottom up. I decided to keep doing what had already gotten me to this point by taking every separate scenario as its own little puzzle and worry about attaching all of them later.


And eventually they all start coming together...leaving all those pieces of trees and branches sitting around to laugh at what is to come when I dare pick one of them up for the first time. That's when things came to a streaking halt.


Finally, I got the trees started, but only because I could place some around the crashed kite and the balloons that had escaped earth to head toward the sun and their eventual doom.


Eventually, the trees began to fill in, but it would be another three hours or so before I would finally finish that last big section in the center of the puzzle. If you had asked me about the difficulty of this one before I started on the trees, I would have told you that it was pretty easy. But now? I would tell you that it's a pretty good challenge, and a whole lot of fun.
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"Nice," Hasbro, 300 Easy Grasp pieces, 18 x 24 inches

Like so many puzzlers, I often work a "change of pace" puzzle after two or three difficult or large piece-count puzzles. It always seems to give me the jump-start I need to get back to the more difficult puzzles, and "Nice" was no exception. This is a puzzle that I picked up for next to nothing at a local thrift shop, and I failed to notice when I bought it that the puzzle pieces were what Hasbro calls "Easy Grasp" size. That means that I ended up with a relatively large finished puzzle of 18 by 24 inches, all built from only 300 pieces.


I began to get an idea of just how quickly this one was going to come together when I pulled all the "frame" pieces from the box on the first pass. Of course, that probably only happened because the frame itself has a uniform yellow border all the way around it,  because of all the puzzles I've ever worked, this is the first time I haven't had to go back into the box for a second or third pass at the border pieces. From there, the blue pieces really stood out from the rest, so that seemed like the logical place to go to next.


Simply completing the blue sky and and the rest of the horizon meant that about 40% of the puzzle was done, so it was on to the main figure in the image, along with all the supporting characters, and the cars. This would prove to be the slowest part of the puzzle, but would not really be any great challenge either. Instead, the fun from working "Nice" comes from its good variety in puzzle-piece shapes, something that Hasbro does a  very good job on. Even that, though, doesn't add a tremendous amount of difficulty to a puzzle with pieces this large, but it certainly helped to hold my interest.


"Nice" may not be much of a challenge for experienced puzzlers (it took me only a couple of hours, all told, and I'm not tremendously experienced), but the finished product is really quite an eye-catcher. And it did it's job...I'm ready for a new challenge now.



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I am adding reviews of two puzzle producers today to my ranking list of ten companies previously posted: The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory and Hasbro.

I use a point-system to rank the companies, and there is surprisingly little difference in point-totals in many cases. It seems that most companies are strong in some qualities and just average in others, so it's all boils down to one or two category "misses" on the parts of the companies as to where they will rank. Some companies produce too many damaged pieces, some produce poor colors, or too loose a fit, etc., but it seems that they all have at least one major weakness.

I rate eight separate categories from 1-4 points each, and offer up to three possible bonus points for exceptional quality in any of the rating-categories. That means that a perfect score would be 35 points (and no company has approached that number yet). This ten-company ranking is based on total points (with the percentage of a perfect score also shown for informational purposes}. 

More reviews and list adjustments will follow as I gain more experience with the puzzles of other companies.

Puzzle Company Ranking List:

  1. White Mountain -   29 points, 83%
  2. SunsOut -   29 points, 83%
  3. Aquarius -   28 points, 80%
  4. Ravensburger - 28 points, 80%
  5. The Jigsaw Puzzle Factory - 28 points, 80%
  6. Dowdle Folk Art -   27 points, 77%
  7. Cobble Hill - 27 points, 77%
  8. Hogan's Harbor - 25 points, 71%
  9. Eurographics - 24 points, 69%
  10. Ceaco -  23 points, 66%
  11. Hasbro - 23 points, 66%
  12. Puzz3D (MB) - 15 points, 43%

Detailed Reviews for Each Company Ranked - Click Here











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"Lancaster County," Milton Bradley, 1000 pieces, 26 x 20 inches

The puzzle pickings at my local Goodwill Stores were a little bit below par last week, but I still managed to pick up a half-a-dozen interesting puzzles, including this Amish scene produced by the Milton Bradley people. The puzzle is a little dark, meaning that it will probably drive me nuts when I get to that dirt area in the foreground. I always seem to have a real problem fitting together large sections of dark pieces, something that doesn't seem to be getting much better with experience.

"Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!," Springbok, 500 pieces, 24 x 30 inches

This Springbok image is not of a subject that I have a whole lot of interest in, but I got the feeling that I was rescuing this one from a certain date with the trash bin if I didn't buy it. The Goodwill folks had failed to tape the box together and I found three loose pieces  on the shelf alongside the puzzle. That means I'm taking a huge chance that other pieces were separated from the box somewhere along the line too, but for a buck, I decided to risk it. (Too, I really like Springbok puzzles.)

"Along for the Ride," Bits & Pieces, 1000 pieces, 20 x 27 inches

I don't see a whole lot of Bits & Pieces puzzles in the shops, so this nice San Francisco image was too good to pass up.  Not a whole lot of color variation in this one, and that generally translates into a tougher than normal puzzle.  We'll see.

"Neuschwanstein Castle," Buffalo, 1000 pieces

I probably should have left this one on the shelf because I have the identical puzzle in 2000-piece size that I haven't worked yet, but for 79 cents I decided to take it home with me. I've been told that the 2000-piece version is really, really difficult, but honestly, this looks like it would be tough no matter what the piece-count.

"Pencil Pushers," Springbok, 500 pieces, 18 x 24 inches

This older Springbok is the companion to the Springbok shoes puzzle shown earlier. They sat side-by-side on the shelf, but this box was taped together as used-puzzle boxes always should be. I like the colors of this one, and I expect that it will be a nice change-of-pace puzzle one of these days.

"Last Chill & Testament," Bepuzzled, 1000 pieces

This is the second of Bepuzzled's mystery puzzles that I've picked up in the past couple of weeks but I still haven't worked one of them. The image on this cover photo is said not to be what the actual puzzle will show...that's part of the mystery to be solved...so I have no real idea what all I'm getting into here. I just hope it's not quite all as dark brown as this image. The puzzle comes also with a 75-page book to read before building the puzzle and solving the book's mystery.

All in all, I suppose this was not a terrible week of puzzle-hunting at the Goodwill shops. I've certainly had better weeks, but I've also had whole weeks where not a single usable puzzle turned up at the three shops I visit regularly. So I'll take it. (And the new week is already shaping up to be a pretty good one.) 
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