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Puzzle Strategy: Solve Puzzles Like A Pro

July 2, 2020

As you move from easy puzzles to those that are more difficult, you might want to start improving your strategy so that you can finish efficiently and reduce frustration. The goal of the strategy laid out below is to minimize the amount of time that each piece is handled, therefore reducing the total amount of time it takes to finish the puzzle.

Breaking up puzzle assembly into smaller tasks will help you to finish efficiently and allows you to have more defined milestones or break points. The overall strategy is that we break up the puzzle into manageable sub-tasks and then complete the easier tasks first. The reason we start with the easier tasks is because the harder tasks become easier as we have more of the puzzle complete.

Task 1: Organize Your Puzzle

Start by turning all your pieces face up. As you are turning them over, start to sort them into 5-7 groups based on the puzzle you are completing (e.g. sky, sea, cars, grass, etc.). All the edge pieces should be sorted into their own group regardless of color. Try to refrain from assembling any of the puzzle until you have sorted the entire puzzle. Having all your pieces sorted will save you time in the long run.

Task 2: Assemble the Border

Start your assembly with your border. The border is generally the easiest part of the puzzle and gives you a good starting point for the rest of your puzzle. Completing the border will help drastically when trying to find the position of other pieces/clusters of the puzzle.

Task 3: Complete other Distinguishable Clusters

In the groups that you previously sorted there will generally be some distinguishable features of your puzzle. For example, if you are working on a landscape with sky, a lake, and a barn, the barn is a distinguishable feature that would likely be easier to complete than the sky or lake. Start your assembly with the easier, more distinguishable, clusters so that you have more to work/build from with the harder parts.

Task 4: Extend Your Established Clusters

This is where you will start running into some difficulty when completing your puzzles. The goal here is to extend the edges of your clusters as far as possible. What you are trying to do is finish the entire cluster you are working on with a bit of a margin around it. Once you have a margin, or at least the full cluster, you can move on to the next step.

Task 5: Join Your Clusters Together

Attach your clusters to the borders and to each other wherever you can. By this point you should be able to make a few connections that will be extremely helpful in completing the rest of your puzzle. You should really focus on the picture of the puzzle on your box during this step to properly situate your clusters. This stage will require you to match the puzzle picture but also pay attention to the shape of the pieces as they will give you some hints on where things need to be.

Task 6: Fill in The Gaps

This is the part that you have been preparing for! Hopefully by now you have gotten a good base and you only have a few areas to fill in. You should start this step by revisiting Task 3 where you used the features of the picture to match and build clusters. Look at the remaining pieces and identify their general location on the puzzle by matching their color or other distinguishable features.

If things have become unorganized, re-sort your pieces into new groups based on their pictures. This will help you to eliminate placement options. Then start working on the smallest groups first. Again, working on smaller groups will help fill in gaps and give you more to work from on the harder parts. There will likely be a time when your pieces will be relatively similar in color and you will have to start working through piece by piece.

Task 7: Finishing the Puzzle

Once you get to the point that you have many similar pieces with no distinguishable features, you will want to reorganize. Start lining all the pieces up by color and shape. For example, work from lightest to darkest piece with the knobs pointing down. Try to match your colors up with their location on the actual puzzle and test your pieces. Look for unusual shaped pieces on your puzzle and try to match them to your remaining pieces. Also, pay close attention to color gradient. Once you get down to a manageable number of pieces, you may have to start testing each possible piece until you find a fit.


Are there other ways to build a puzzle? Absolutely! Will this strategy work every time? Maybe not, but it is a good place to start. I’m curious to know what other people think is the best strategy for solving a puzzle. Have an idea better than mine? Drop me a message below.

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