According to Ceaco’s president, Jigsaw puzzle sales roar up to 300% during the second week of March 2020. When shelter-in-place was ordered, many people sought help from pandemic puzzles. Isn’t it obvious? Many people wanted to get away from mental exhaustion. Killing time became important. So, many seek refuge in puzzle boxes.
With lockdowns still going, this craze won’t end soon.
Before going further, let’s put the pieces together and see how puzzles became a thing in our lives.
History of Puzzles
A mapmaker in the 1760s, John Spilsbury, invented jigsaw puzzles in Georgian England. Back then, these puzzles were not used to pass the time; rather, they were used as a geographical piece. These “dissected maps” were used as a political tool to inform the masses, as maps were used to teach the populace about “the conquest lands of England.”
Often expensive, puzzles were pieces of art. Hand-colored and crafted beautifully, they were backed with a mahogany board. The wooden boxes were also made from mahogany.
In 18th century England, puzzles were an important part of leisure time, with mothers teaching their children about them. Scholarly Victorian society started giving them as Christmas gifts. Puzzles even found their way in HE Dudeney’s “The Canterbury Puzzles.” HE Dudeney had a special talent for finding a solution to tricky puzzles; therefore, he presented 110 incidents in a book series.
Time went by, and in the 19th century and 20th centuries, puzzles found adult audiences. A 1908 New York Times headline reads, “New Puzzle Menaces the City’s Sanity. Young and old, rich and poor, all hard at work fitting cut-up pictures together. Solitaire is forgotten. Two clergymen, a supreme court justice, and a noted financier among the latest converts to the craze.”
People rode this new craze, as it was a major psychological puller, and people seemed to forget when playing it. Hell, Teddy Roosevelt even enjoyed it. However, he was not the only president to like puzzles. Bill Clinton loved solving crossword puzzles.
The Great Depression and Puzzles
Earlier, puzzles were only associated with the rich, as they were expensive. However, during the Great Depression, puzzles became affordable due to cardboard puzzles. People would visit libraries, solving challenging puzzles, and earning rewards. Puzzles became a soothing friend. Puzzles were so on the rise that in 1933 manufacturing companies produced 10 million puzzles in a week. And, people were even renting them.
Pandemic puzzle trend in 2020
It’s no surprise why sales of puzzles skyrocketed in March. Humans have always found ways to unwind themselves in uncertain times. Like people in the Great Depression era, puzzles provided people with an escape route, getting away from mental strain.
While you have no control over the societal issues, you have control over puzzles. In an interview with CNBC, Anne William, a puzzle historian, said that it is common for Americans to turn to jigsaw puzzles in these uncertain times. When comparing the current pandemic puzzle with the Great Depression, she said, “It’s something you can control, whereas they felt that their lives were totally out of control as far as the economy went, it’s also a challenge over which you can prevail.”
Working on the puzzles requires a sharp brain. You have to plan every move. If you think you can solve it in a flash, think again. It can take hours or even days to solve a puzzle.
The point is puzzles act as a challenger. It dares us to go beyond our average level, and until it is finished, it feels like an unresolved task. It drives you to take action. Therefore, there was an increase in puzzle purchases.
Much of this has to do with human psychology. Like life, puzzles present a challenge, and our cerebral cortex takes them as a test. IQ tests often time how quickly a child can complete the puzzle. Hence, puzzles command you to take action.
Tim Morris, in his article, wrote, “The damn thing just sits there in thousand pieces, commanding you to restore it to the form it took before a machine in some distant factory cut it apart.”
This seems like a time-consuming thing, but you will do it when you have all the time to kill. And that’s how pandemic puzzle boxes became a major hit.
Politigory provides in-depth reviews of science, history, humanities, religion, social sciences and arts 🌎