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I Wouldn’t Do a Puzzle If It Were the Last Activity on Earth

Photo: Getty Images/EyeEm

I don’t begrudge anyone a bit of happiness right now. If there is something that can offer you an escape, or something that can make the stale air in your home feel momentarily a bit fresher, by all means, indulge in it. This isn’t a time for judgment; it is a time for compassion and empathy.

However, if the “something” you’ve chosen for your moment of escapism is “a puzzle,” I regret to inform you that what you have chosen is an interminable chore befitting only those souls in the fires of Hades being punished by God for heinous crimes committed knowingly and with profound malice.

And I am so sorry!

According to a report by the Guardian, sales of board games and puzzles increased by 240 percent during the first week of the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown. I understand. First of all, some of that percentage is attributed to board games, and board games can be fun, depending on whom you’re playing them with. But you have to be careful. I’ve found that some of the most vocal advocates of board games are vocal advocates because they are afraid of boredom to the extent that they have not allowed themselves sufficient time to develop a personality, and thus supplant the need for one with a board game at every available opportunity. These are not the sort of people you want to play a board game with. (Otherwise, board games can be fun.)

I even understand the desire to buy a puzzle. I, myself, was once tricked into the possibility of a puzzle. A few years ago, while spending days in a wintry cabin with a fireplace and wine, a puzzle — supplied by the owners of the cabin — looked like a wonderful option. What could be more relaxing than a puzzle, particularly in such a quaint atmosphere?

It took about 11 seconds after the contents of the puzzle box were dumped onto the floor before the truth of the puzzle revealed itself to me plainly. A puzzle is unpaid labor for no one’s benefit. A puzzle is a chore with nothing to show for itself. A puzzle is about as much fun as a list of slightly difficult math problems on which you aren’t even being graded. A puzzle is a trick.

A puzzle is bullshit.

I realize it seems almost hackneyed to comment on the mundanity of the puzzle, as a puzzle is so mundane in its concept that there is little humor to be found in pointing it out. A puzzle is: You put together a thousand pieces of an image that you’ve already seen. Okay. The fact that a puzzle is plainly ridiculous is no fault of mine.

Along with puzzles, an activity many in my social circle seem to be turning to right now is the baking of sourdough bread. This seems to annoy people, because everyone is doing it and talking about it all the time. But at least with bread, you get bread at the end. What do you get with a puzzle? Merely another chore, which is: putting away the puzzle.

And, of course, in the putting away of the puzzle, you lose a piece of the puzzle. Like a lone burnt bulb in a string of otherwise perfectly fine Christmas lights, the lost piece ruins the entire experience. And speaking of this, I want to tell you a story.

Once, a few months ago, very early in the morning, I was riding in an Uber with my dog on the way to the vet. He was going to have surgery on his broken elbow. The idea that he was, at this moment — and would continue to be for some period of time — in pain, was horrifying to me, but it was a dream compared to the idea that occupied most of my mind: that he was about to be put under anesthesia, and that there was a chance he could die. I had to sign all sorts of forms confirming that I knew this, and the thought was suffocating as I sat in the backseat holding him. Then, an ad came on the radio. It was for the “Jigsaw Doctor.”

The “Jigsaw Doctor” is a service where, if you’re missing a piece to your puzzle, you take a photo of the missing spot, pay in the range of $13 to $19, depending on the size of the puzzle piece — PLUS SHIPPING! — and wait for two weeks (TWO WEEKS!) while the Jigsaw Doctor makes you a replica of your missing puzzle piece. Can you imagine this? Can you imagine the sort of puzzle person looking at their puzzle with a missing piece, thinking, Well, before I put this away again … I wonder if there is a service that would be able to make a replica of the piece I lost within two weeks for about $20. I was very grateful in that moment for the absurdity of the Jigsaw Doctor. I laughed and texted my friend, “Remind me to tell you about the fucking jigsaw doctor.”

Well, doesn’t that story sort of show that puzzles are good?, you’re wondering now. That they could bring you a little bit of joy in an otherwise dark moment? Well. Doesn’t that sort of prove the exact opposite of your thesis? No! I’m not sure what the story was meant to convey. I’ve sort of lost the thread. But it’s barely even about puzzles at all! Shut up! You’re twisting my words! Shut up and go do your stupid puzzle!

I Wouldn’t Do a Puzzle If It Were the Last Activity on Earth