Posted in Travel, Writing

Puzzled? You Will Be…

On the power of lateral thinking, the joy of jigsaw puzzles, chance meetings and the fun to be had in museum shops

Wentworth Wooden Puzzle with whimsies
Where my whimsies take me

While musing in my last post about the similarities between writing stories and assembling jigsaw puzzles, I  mentioned the fabulous Wentworth Wooden Puzzles, a near neighbour, whose jigsaws include fancy shapes called “whimsies”.

Clearly the whole experience of rediscovering the joy of jigsaws jump-started my brain, because as soon as I’d finished the post, I had the bright idea of sending its link to Wentworth Wooden Puzzles, on the principle that everyone likes to see themselves mentioned in a blog post.

I was pleased to receive a lovely message back, saying they’d enjoyed my post and had given it an honorable mention on their own website. When I asked if they’d like to offer a puzzle as a prize for my readers, they kindly said yes and invited me to choose a design.

Your Chance to Win This Jigsaw

Image of jigsaw puzzle with a bookshelf design
250 piece Wentworth Wooden Puzzle – free for one lucky YoungByName reader!

This is the one I chose. I hope you like it! It’s clearly the bookshelf of someone teetering on the idea of filing all their books in colour order – something I’d love to do myself, but lack the stamina. (Have you seen how many books there are in my house?!)

The books have entertaining titles, such as War and Peas and Lord of the Pies, plus other witty details. Better still, it includes whimsies on a library theme, i.e. there are pieces shaped like things you might find in a library – a magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, a book, etc. Great fun.

For a chance to win this puzzle, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post. On Valentine’s Day, I’ll put all entrants’ names in a hat and ask my daughter (who started this whole jigsaw craze off for me) to pick one out without looking. I’ll contact the winner to arrange despatch direct from Wentworth Wooden Puzzles. They’re kindly stumping up the postage too!

Puzzles on the Brain

Suddenly I seem to see jigsaw puzzles wherever I go – a phenomenon known as the Papua New Guinea syndrome. Not because they’re keen on jigsaws in Papua New Guinea (though they may be, for all I know) but because Papua New Guinea is one of those things you’ve never heard of or heard much about, but then, like buses, several mentions of it all come along at once.

Accordingly, I spotted lots Wentworth Wooden Puzzles on Sunday in the National Gallery in London, where I had gone to meet my two old schoolfriends, Jane and Susanne. We wanted to visit the new Van Gogh Sunflowers exhibition, much hyped but actually a very simple proposition: two of the seven Van Gogh sunflowers paintings hung next to each other in a darkened room. The display looked startlingly like a child’s spot-the-difference competition. I wasn’t  surprised to see both pictures were covered in glass, just in case someone was tempted to circle the differences with a marker pen.

We didn’t take long to complete our viewing (we spotted the differences quite quickly!)  so then we sauntered, chatting, through a few more rooms, enjoying our favourite pictures and fondly remembering a trip up here with our RE teacher, Miss Hocking, a frighteningly large number of years ago. Our class went to see the Leonardo cartoon of the Virgin and Child and the Michelangelo Madonna of the Rocks, and had to say which we liked best, and why. I was on Team Leonardo.

As with school outings, Jane, Susanne and I didn’t consider our trip complete without a visit to the museum shop, where I spotted the ubiquitous Wentworth souvenir puzzles. You’ll find them at many tourist attractions, featuring relevant pictures, because they make great souvenirs – I’ve a little collection of them in our camper van.

An Artful Coincidence

Street theatre man appearing to float in air
A further puzzle in Covent Garden – how does he do it?

A less expected sighting occurred just outside the National Gallery. Seeing a cute little toddler stomping along through the rain, I thought “Ah, she looks just like that little girl who lives down the road from me!” Exchanging indulgent smiles with her mum, I realised that her mum’s face  also looked familiar. It took a second or to for the pieces to fall into place (to continue on the jigsaw theme), by which time we were out of each other’s sight. Only  next day on Facebook did I have confirmation that they were the originals, not doppelgangers – the mum had posted a photo of the little girl inside the National Gallery, which is 100 miles from our village. What are the chances of that happening, as comedian Harry Hill likes to say?

My Artfull Computer

Confronted by this reminder on Facebook of my lovely trip to the National Gallery, on a whim I thought I’d make a return visit across the ether. I needed to check the exact name of my favourite Rousseau picture, the gorgeous, huge portrait of a bewildered tiger caught in a tropical storm. I wanted to tweet it to a new Twitter friend, exchanging our favourite paintings. In my head I’d always thought of it as “Tropical Storm with Tiger”, but its actual title turned out to be a very Twitter-friendly nine characters long: “Surprised!” (I was.)

I also discovered that not only could I view my favourite painting on the Natoinal Gallery website, I could also summon up any picture in its vast colletcion, to admire at my own leisure at my desk. Use this link to fill your idle moments with wonder: What a gift to any writer in search of a story idea!

Even without this prompt, I’d already started writing a short story, set in one of the Gallery’s many rooms. It was inspired by that close encounter with my neighbour. This story is destined for my forthcoming flash fiction collection, Quick Change, to be published a little later this year. For free story samples and advance notice of new publications, sign up for my free e-newsletter by sending a request via this contact form.

Image of jigsaw puzzle with a bookshelf design
250 piece Wentworth Wooden Puzzle – free for one lucky YoungByName reader!

For a chance to win this fabulous wooden jigsaw puzzle, courtesy of Wentworth Wooden Puzzles, leave a comment below! 

In case you missed my previous post about jigsaw puzzles, you can read it here:

Why Doing A Jigsaw Puzzle Is A Bit Like Writing A Book



If you enjoyed this post, you might like these  museum-inspired posts: 


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

33 thoughts on “Puzzled? You Will Be…

  1. I have never heard of Wentworth Puzzles..but they are beautiful. I really enjoy doing jigsaws as it is a calming thing to reading a nice book..thank you Debbie for accepting me in Facebook. Gave a beautiful day everyone!

  2. We love jigsaws! Good for the brain, fun to watch them grow, inhale that lovely scent of wood! Daughter when small would arrive at playgroup, throw off her coat, and head for the puzzle table…has possibly been solving puzzles (or trying to) ever since…Love the look of that prize puzzle too…thanks for these thoughts & the competition!

  3. I’ve never heard of Wentworth puzzles, but they look beautiful. When I puzzle, I always do so with my daughter and mostly around Christmas.
    I could even see this beautiful bright puzzle as a quilt design, with those lovely colors. And what fun, with the extra details. Those puzzles are the best, just like quilts that seem perfect, but have an inperfection somewhere.
    Thank you for the chance to win!

    1. What a fabulous idea, Simone – a book quilt design! I wouldn’t be surprised if Wentworth have jigsaw puzzles in quilt patterns – but if they don’t, I’ll suggest it to them! Wentworth is a small company operating from a village not far from where I live, but they export around the world – a great British success story!

  4. Oh, yes! Wentworth puzzles are as popular in the states as in the UK! My “wish list” on their website is a mile long…Would love to win this lovely puzzle…enjoyed reading your blog :0) We have many similar interests.

  5. The jigsaw puzzle picture looks good and I like the idea of an anthology based on unexpected meetings. I usually bump into someone when I’m sodden with rain and look like I’ve crawled through some muddy puddles.

  6. OOOOooooooh!!! I LOVE Wentworth puzzles! I had a lovely Wentworth puzzle done of m=one of my classes once. Lol. But I love them So nice to know you can still get hold of old fashioned well crafted jigsaws and the shaped ‘whimsies’ are lovely! Great promotional idea for your blog sweetie, you clever lady you! 😀 x

  7. Comment, comment!!! I have always loved a good jigsaw – and I vaguely remember from my psychology undergrad days or perhaps one of the parenthood guides I read years later, that doing jigsaws can really help children learn to read. Something to do with making sense of patterns, I think. This one looks lovely!

  8. I absolutely love the chunky wooden jigsaws. Must be the ‘clunk’ sound as you press the piece into place that does it for me. Also not so easy to lose…many a time we have been disappointed to ‘find’ lost pieces of the cut out cardboard type years later. Would love to see a jigsaw version of my books – The Adventures of Eric Seagull would certainly appeal to my younger readers. I could frame it on completion and hang on the wall of my study, which is currently full of packing boxes yet to be unpacked due to our recent move to sunny Brixham. Lovely idea just popped into my head – jigsaws for each piece of art on my colourful pages… A book-jigsaw, even. You heard here first, guys! 😊

    1. You’re on a roll today, Caz – all lovely ideas! I was thinking a jigsaw puzzle made of a book cover would be a great prize of offer for a book launch – but your illustrations would all lend themselves well to puzzles! What fun!

    1. It’s too easy to dismiss jigsaw puzzles as something for children, and every time I do one I always think “Why don’t I do this more often?” Great fun!

  9. I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles and this one looks wonderful – just right for book lovers. I’ve realised I don’t really notice the name of the maker of a puzzle, so I’ll look out for Wentworth. On the seeing someone you know in unexpected places theme, I can imagine an unexpected meeting with far more serious consequences!

    1. Wentworth have an amazing range of puzzles at their website, Lindsay – (how cool a URL is that?!) They also offer a service to make up a puzzle from your own photo, which is a lovely idea for a special wedding, birthday or anniversary present. Might stash that idea away for a book launch… imagine one with one of your book covers in the picture!

      Also I’ve just thought what fun it would be to run a blog hop on the theme of unexpected meetings – it would be fascinating to see what different writers came up with. Maybe even a short story anthology – what do you reckon?

  10. I never really ‘got’ puzzles as a form of entertainment, although hubbie loves them. He completed a 1,000 piece one on our first static caravan holiday in Swanage, Dorset (we knew how to live it up even pre kids!) But since having children, and completing hundreds of simple 24 puzzles when the child has got bored, I have found them very theraputic. I’m definitely a ‘do without the box’ person, but that’s easy for a child’s giant floor puzzle and makes it a tiny bit challenging!

    1. I find them very therapeutic too, Amanda, and ought to make myself do more of them – I need the therapy!! I love my daughter’s puzzles too and was always glad of the excuse to do them. We have a couple of lovely ones for under 7s that we still can’t bear to part with now she’s 10 – a beautiful doll’s house one and a Goldilocks and the Three Bears one. I had a doll’s house puzzle when I was little and can still picture it vividly from the hours I spent poring over it!

  11. What a gorgeous puzzle! And the perfect one for you to have picked, too. I had never heard of the Papua New Guinea syndrome — is that a real thing? The phenomenon of encountering something rare once, and then having it pop up over and over sure is — that’s happened to me recently (but of course I can’t remember for what now).

    1. Do you know, Laura, I am now wondering whether Papua New Guinea syndrome is actually a phrase made up by my first husband, because I just googled and got no exact matches! Long before I knew him, he went to work in Papua New Guinea as a commercial pilot for a while, so he may have invented the phrase because people kept saying “WHERE??” every time he told them his destination!

  12. What a charming puzzle design — love it! And so kind of Wentworth to offer it as a prize. (I’m guessing postage to the US would be too dear; but if they would consider it, then please include me in your drawing!) I also enjoyed the rest of your blog post; it’s always fun to see a familiar face somewhere completely unexpected! And as for the museum link you shared, I was happy to discover that many London museums feature images and descriptions of their collections online. There were so many works I would have loved to linger over longer during our trip to London last fall; so I took photos of my faves, and then looked them up on the museum websites when I got home. I spent quite a lot of time on the and sites!

    1. I think they’ll be happy to post it anywhere, Shay – and if not, I will, if someone wins it beyond the UK. I’m wondering whether they’ve cracked the US market yet – I’m sure their puzzles would go down really well there as they have a really traditional, historic feel to them. The pieces are wooden and make a very satisfying clunk as you put them into place. People generally associate wooden puzzles with easy ones for kids, but these are REALLY tricky, as the shapes are so unusual and every one is completely different. You can even get straight edges on pieces in the middle of the puzzle – how unexpected is that?! Thanks for sharing those museum sites – I can see I’ll be spending a lot more time in future doing online museum tours! 🙂

  13. Always looking forward to a challenge in life..and what a way to relax but challenge the brain at the same time..fingers crossed I win the jigsaw puzzle..thanks

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