Monday, January 19, 2009

Beelzebub in a Box

Several years ago, George started a sort of on-again, off-again tradition of buying me really cool puzzles for Christmas. They are beautiful works of art. You can find them on the web at I'm not kidding when I say that these are beautiful works of art. Beautiful works of art that are hand cut in to tiny little pieces sent directly from Satan headquartered in the netherworld. They are amazingly frustrating, yet oddly compelling. Even the owner of the place describes himself as Chief Tormentor. He hires little she and he-devils to help him.

They arrive in these cute little blue boxes - - kinda like the blue of Tiffany's - - but without the shiny baubles inside. There is no photo. Beyond hitting the web-site to figure out what you are about to attempt to construct (which is verboten in the puzzling world), you haven't a single clue what you are doing. You simply dump the pieces out and start to see what fits together.

There is no "flat side vs curvy side" to get you started. The key, and only, strategy is to start with one piece and try it against every other single piece. One by miserable one, by miserable one, by miserable one. After many hours of "puzzling" (the euphemistic term that the ardent fans of Stave Puzzles use to describe the hellish action of trying to construct the unknown), you are rewarded by getting two morsels to fit together. Clouds part, angels sing and you look for someone nearby to fist-bump cause you're so damn thrilled. What's really crazy about it is that you keep on doing it. Hour after hour. Hence, the oddly compelling part of it.

My newest cherry wood conundrum is 270 pieces of swirly red/white/orange pieces. There is some variation of color which you think would help. It doesn't. I dumped it out the day after Christmas. I am still not finished. Sadly, and somewhat embarrassingly, I pulled an old card table up from the basement and put the puzzle on it. Now my living room looks like some old lady's that builds puzzles of kittens and porpoises frolicking in the ocean. I also, embarrassingly, tend to drink a lot of hot tea while I am "working" on it. What has become of me?

BUT, I have not yet given up despite the social ramifications of being known as a person with a puzzling card table in their living room. And, more importantly, Henry's initial prediction that it would take me 140 days to put it together (assuming the two pieces per day average in the beginning), I have only about 50 devilish little chunks of befuddlement to fit together. It goes a bit faster now that there are only 50 fragments to try at a time.

When it is done I will take a photo of it. According to the website, if I send in the photo of my finished puzzle, I earn Stave Points towards my next purchase. This seems wrong. I should earn Stave Points towards either a) psychiatric counseling to determine why I would want to do it the first time, let alone repeat the puzzle, or b) a week long visit to a spa that does massages and serves drinks.

In the end, one thing continues to nag at me. As I said, I get these from George. What do you figure he is trying to punish me for? When I am "puzzling" he sometimes strolls by, or looks up from the couch and just laughs quietly. The laugh has the Mwa-ha-ha of Dr. Evil sound to it. I think I even heard him mutter under his breath something about "idle hands, devil's play thing." What's up with that?

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