PERTH’S puzzle pros are preparing for the WA State Jigsaw Competition, a race to put together a 500-piece brainteaser that’s a closely-guarded secret until the big day.
Australian Jigsaw Puzzle Association president D’Arne Healy says “a lot of people don’t realise there’s a big speed-puzzling world out there”.
Ms Healy has long been into puzzles, starting around eight years old. “I enjoyed my own company and found it really soothing,” she says.
She first heard of competitive puzzling a few years ago and then competed in 2019.
“I was going to Spain for, of all things, a soccer tournament. And I found out there was a jigsaw competition … I thought, I can’t miss this.”
The tournament was a bit bigger than she anticipated.
“I went to the one in Spain only to find out it was the World Jigsaw Championships. I was a little bit out of my depths, but absolutely loved it.
“The kinds of people are incredible. I’ve never seen such a diverse group of people, and I wish others would witness it.
“The room is full of adrenaline, excitement, anticipation.”
And then when the comp starts, countless thousands of pieces are upended from boxes and a cacophony of sorting starts.
“The sound is quite unique. Everyone stops talking, and all you hear is the flipping over of thousands of pieces of jigsaw puzzles.
“People handle competitive puzzling differently,” Ms Healy says. “Some people are really chill and relaxed and puzzling away, and some people are sweating and taking it seriously.”
While the state comp will attract some of WA’s fastest puzzlers, newcomers to jigsawing are also strongly encouraged to attend.
“We go out of our way to make it enjoyable for all puzzlers, all ages, all levels of ability,” Ms Healy says, and everyone gets to take their puzzle home so you can finish it there if you run out of time.
Serious competitors often plan ahead, finding out the brand of puzzle to be used by the competition and practicing hard to get used to that brand’s particular puzzle shapes.
For the WA comp, puzzlemaker La La Land has created two new 500 piece puzzles.
“That’s part of the excitement of a competition,” Ms Healy says. “You have no idea what puzzle will be presented to you.”
Ms Healy founded the AJPA in 2019 after the finals in Spain, wanting to bring the competitive scene here. But it’s proved to be a social endeavour too, as shortly afterwards Covid lockdowns began and puzzling enjoyed so much renewed popularity it was hard to find them on shelves.
Puzzlers solved the shortage by swapping them between each other once finished and making connections along the way.
“It’s actually developed into something bigger and better than I ever imagined,” Ms Healy says. “It has become a social platform, it has become a real networking place for the community, especially through Covid when people were disconnected; the association has become a place to connect in ways we never imagined.
“Puzzling is very private and in some ways a very solo act, so for the first time ever we are finding groups of other people doing the same hobby they can connect to and relate to.”
The state competition is on March 12 at the WA Italian Club from 9am. Register
for pairs or the solo race via australianjigsawpuzzle.org.au, check it out on the day or take part in the free puzzle exchange.
The winners go on to represent WA at the nationals, where the Australian representatives will be chosen for the next global competition in Spain.