by SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
Like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, jigsaw puzzles sold out during the pandemic’s early days, and, according to Margaret Taylor, owner of The Book Corner, they still don’t stay in stock. “Puzzles have been very hard to get,” she says. “There’s an order I placed last May for over 500 puzzles, and I’ve maybe received 100 of those.”
“There’s a whole world of puzzle people out there,” Taylor continues. She and her family are certainly among them. They peddled puzzles via Bloomington’s Book Nook in the 1960s. Her father sold jigsaw puzzles as a magazine wholesaler during the 1930s. One of Taylor’s daughters even won a national jigsaw puzzle championship—and $10,000.
These days, Taylor routinely offers nearly 600 jigsaw puzzle designs, including hundreds of kid-friendly options and local, photographic puzzles. “Some feature the IU campus, Nick’s English Hut, and the Bloomington courthouse,” she says.
And there are puzzles featuring dinosaurs, rocks and gems, the circulatory system, van Gogh works, dragons, World War II bombers— even a specialty line for Alzheimer’s patients. What won’t you find? Anything by artist Thomas Kincade. “I’m very choosy about the puzzles I get,” Taylor admits.
Facebook’s “Bloomington, IN Puzzle Swapping” group is, perhaps, slightly less choosy—but just as dedicated. The group’s nearly 150 members have been sharing puzzles since January 2020. “We had no idea there was a pandemic on the horizon,” Laura Hohman, one of the group’s administrators, says. “Then, with everyone stuck at home, puzzles became a big deal.”
Members have since swapped hundreds of jigsaw puzzles—typically through contactless porch pick-up. “It’s great to be able to reuse things and give a puzzle to someone else who’s going to be excited about it,” Hohman says.
As for missing pieces? “I always put a note in the box— that way people aren’t frantically looking under the table or checking their dog’s mouth,” she laughs.
There is at least one distinct puzzle that’s really made the rounds on the swapping site. “I picked it up at Goodwill,” Hohman explains. “It has one missing piece and one duplicate piece. So, you have two of one piece and then a different piece that’s just missing entirely. It makes me laugh every time I see it. It’s definitely the same puzzle.”
Missing pieces and all, puzzles still hold up. “A 5-year-old, a 55-year-old, and a grandmother at 85 can all work the same puzzle,” Taylor says. “It’s multi-generational, and I think that’s really a lovely part of it.”