Puzzle enthusiasts gather for the largest competition in the country

Puzzle enthusiasts gather for the largest competition in the country

Puzzle enthusiasts gather for the largest competition in the country

It was puzzle madness at the Union Depot in St. Paul on Saturday as people traveled from all over for what organizers say is the largest jigsaw competition in the country. 

“When you’re doing a puzzle, it’s like the world falls away. You are relaxed, you’re focused, and it’s the problem you can solve,” Cynthia Schreiner Smith, the jigsaw competition’s chairwoman, said. “There’s people who come here with absolutely no intention of winning. They know they won’t win. They just want to be in a room with other people who love jigsaws as much as they do.”

The contest is part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and more than 500 teams showed up Saturday to put their speedy puzzling to the test.

When the doors opened before each round, teams ran and screamed as they tried to snag the best table with the best lighting in hopes of also finishing with the best and fastest time.

The puzzles for the competition are provided by Minnesota-based company Puzzle Twist. Organizers say the designs for the 500- & 1,000-piece competitions were created exclusively for the contest. 

For many, they’ve been jig-sawing in the contest for years. And while putting puzzle pieces together has been a decades-long pass-time for a team of two cousins, Saturday marked their first competition. They came prepared though; Amy Hanson and Maria Anundson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they’ve been practicing for this day for the last two months.

“We wanted to be prepared. We lotioned up our hands so nothing slips from our hands,” Hanson said. 

“No talking to people when they walk by. We practiced, actually, with this brand of puzzle, because we realized we’re very picture-driven, sorting techniques. And We’ve practiced taking the cellophane off!” Anundson said. 

Saturday marked the first time the competition has been held at the Union Depot, as the jigsaw craze is so intense it has outgrown its last two venues. And with more than 100 teams still on the waitlist for this year’s competition, organizers say what the contest will look like next year is something they’re still trying to piece together themselves.