Just a clue


Over the years, I’ve become increasingly reliant upon visualisation as a memory aid, a problem solver and a direction finder. This is generally referred to as having a preference, or tendency, for processing information visually.

If I can see it, either physically or in the mind’s eye, then I can move towards it.

So, a jigsaw with no accompanying image to guide me …. that’s going to be a new challenge.

The jigsaw is a novelty piece I found last year but put off, and put off, and put off. The image on the box is an office in “olden” days. There’s a switchboard, a sand-filled fire bucket, a tea trolley and a manual typewriter. Dresses are ankle length. The delivery truck must be cranked by hand. It’s a cartoon. Brightly coloured. Very busy.

The fine print on the lid proclaims:

The Picture On This Box Is Not The Picture On The Puzzle. It Is Just A Clue.

The picture on the puzzle is a modern day office. It’s also a cartoon. Brightly coloured. Very busy.

Not being able to see what’s ahead requires new strategies. Instead of being drawn to the accent colour, because the pieces stand out so dramatically from the others, it is necessary to start with the dominate colour found around the edge. Instead of asking “where does this piece go?”, the question is which pieces relate to each other, which share something in common.

Eventually, enough of the jigsaw is assembled and the old strategies re-emerge. I can see where it’s headed.


Oregon State University Library published a 1969 paper written by Roger Hayward, a jigsaw puzzler since 1911. It’s a great read.

His wife sets out the puzzle pieces for him. He never looks at the picture on the box. He takes his time. He has a scoring system. If he tries to place a piece and it doesn’t fit, that counts as a error.

“Looking over the array of pieces is like thinking over the many comparatively unrelated memories in my mind. My psyche, like a demented mouse, goes poking about among the pieces, looking for shapes and colors that might fit the memory (just acquired) of other pieces. As I look at the pieces I am simultaneously putting memories of the pieces into my short-term memory for possible future retrieval. When trial proves that two pieces fit then the fun begins.”


I’ve taken some photos of my modern day office. I usually pass the jigsaws to family. I’ll slip prints inside the lid. They can choose for themselves if they want to use them.


The jigsaw

“The Office” by Graham Thompson.  Wasgij.



Hayward, R. 1969.  “The Jigsaw Puzzle and the Inventive Mind”.  Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Research Centre


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