I’m not entirely sure what it is about jigsaw puzzles that makes them so awesome and entertaining. Putting a puzzle together doesn’t seem very exciting. It’s a slow and gradual process and it isn’t in any way competitive or really even very challenging. It’s tempting to treat jigsaw puzzles as an intellectual activity; at least that makes them seem a little more worthwhile, but they really don’t require that much intellect to solve. It’s true that there are aspects of intelligence that might help; I’ve seen questions on IQ tests that require you to be able to mentally rotate a shape or to match patterns on the edges of shapes, and those are basically the skills that one uses when doing a jigsaw puzzle. Still, while those abilities might save you a little time on the puzzle, they aren’t as important as the patience to sit there and work on it. There are so many pieces that the act of looking at them and moving them around on the table/desk/floor is the most time-consuming aspect of assembling a puzzle, rather than the act of actually thinking. I don’t really see how it can be considered intellectual to have the patience to sit there sifting through puzzle pieces, and I also don’t understand why that isn’t boring.

But it isn’t boring at all. Jigsaw puzzles are lots of fun and they’re extremely addictive. For the last few years, every time I have started a puzzle, I have intended to spend a minimal amount of time on it and to do it over an extended period of time, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Just having the puzzle in my room is a distraction from anything else I’m doing. For a little while, I can resist the temptation to ignore my homework or other important things in favor of the puzzle. Sooner or later, though, my resolve has been worn thin and I can’t resist the puzzle-assembly urge any longer. This is particularly an issue late at night, because sleeping time is more readily adjustable than doing-important-stuff time. So I decide to spend just a few minutes putting just a few pieces into place. The next thing I know, it’s several hours later and the puzzle is finished. Then I say to myself, “At least it won’t be distracting me anymore.”

Last night was one of those nights.