A jigsaw puzzle is a type of tiling problem that calls for the assembly of frequently asymmetrically shaped, interlocking, and mosaiced pieces, each of which usually contains a section of an image. The completed picture is created when the puzzle parts are put together.
Jigsaw puzzles were first made in the 18th century by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, then chopping it up into tiny pieces. It was never a jigsaw puzzle, despite the name. Around 1760, a London cartographer and engraver named John Spilsbury is credited with popularising jigsaw puzzles. His plan involved taking world maps and cutting out the individual countries so that students could reassemble them as a geographical teaching tool. Since then, they have evolved into being mostly constructed of snap-together cardboard pieces that include a range of images and designs.
Around 1760, John Spilsbury is thought to have used a marquetry saw to create the first jigsaw puzzle.
Early puzzles, referred to as dissections, were made by mounting maps on sheets of hardwood and cutting along international borders to create a geography-related problem. Such “dissected maps” were used by the royal governess Lady Charlotte Finch to instruct the children of King George III and Queen Charlotte. When cardboard jigsaw puzzles first arrived in the late 1800s, producers were hesitant to replace wooden ones out of concern that cardboard puzzles would be seen as inferior and because wooden jigsaw puzzles had higher profit margins.
Due to their simplicity and low cost of production, paperboard is the most common material used to make modern jigsaw puzzles. A cardboard sheet is adhered to a printed or enlarged image of a painting or other two-dimensional artwork before being run through a press. A puzzle dies, or collection of hardened steel blades in the correct design is forced through the board by the press until it is completely cut.
The puzzle die is a flat piece of wood—often plywood—with slots burned or carved in it that match the shapes of the knives being used. The cut puzzle pieces are ejected from the knives after they are inserted into the slots and wrapped in a compressible material, usually foam rubber.
Cutting resembles using a cookie cutter to create shaped cookies. However, there are stronger forces at play: On average, it takes 700 tonnes of effort to push the die through a 1000-piece puzzle.
When adjacent pieces are connected so that they remain together when one is turned, a puzzle is said to be “fully interlocking” in many cases. On occasion, the connection is secure enough for one piece to be used to pick up a solved portion.
Some puzzles feature pieces of a similar shape that have rounded tabs (interjambs) on opposing ends and equivalent indentations (called blanks) on the other two sides to receive the tabs. These puzzles are fully interlocking. While the tabs and blanks on other fully interlocking puzzles may be positioned differently on each piece, they typically have four sides, making the total number of tabs and blanks four. The most challenging puzzles are those that include uniformly shaped, fully interlocking components. These puzzles are sometimes referred to as “Japanese Style” because of how subtly the shapes differ.
The majority of jigsaw puzzles are square, rectangular, or round, with four corner pieces (whether the puzzle is square or rectangular) and edge pieces having one straight or smoothly curved side. However, some puzzles feature corner and edge pieces that are carved like the others but lack straight sides, making it more difficult to distinguish between them. When joined, other puzzles’ more intricate edge pieces create distinctive designs like animal profiles.
According to the tessellation principles of the geoid primitive, the pieces of a spherical jigsaw, like those of an immersive panorama jigsaw, can be triangular.
“Jigsaw Puzzle 29” was created by designer Yuu Asaka. It contains five corner pieces rather than four. The puzzle is unadorned and composed of light blue acrylic. It received the 2018 Puzzle Design Competition Jury Honorable Mention. He made “Jigsaw Puzzle 19,” which is made entirely of corner pieces, as retaliation because many puzzle solvers had done so effortlessly. It lacked an image and was constructed from clear green acrylic pieces.
The globe in the Wikipedia logo is constructed with jigsaw puzzle pieces. The gap in the sphere represents the opportunity to add fresh knowledge.
A jigsaw puzzle piece can be seen in the foreground of the logo for the Colombian Office of the Attorney General. It was dubbed “The Key Piece”: The Office of the Attorney General should be represented graphically by a puzzle piece since it encompasses the ideas of search, solution, and answers, all of which the agency seeks to achieve through its investigative work.
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