Check out these 40+ winning speed puzzling tips & strategies (in no particular order):
Speed Puzzling Planning and Preparation
- Time yourself using a variety of puzzle piece counts--300, 500, 1000, etc.
- Time yourself using a variety of puzzle cut patterns--grid, ribbon, random, all one shape, etc.
- Time yourself using a variety of puzzle styles--landscape, collage, gradient, photo, art, etc.
- Time yourself using a variety of puzzle brands--Ravensburger is the most common brand used in contests, but dozens of others are also used.
- Keep a record of your speed puzzling efforts and results.
- Talk to people about speed puzzling so you can find swap partners, practice partners, teammates, challengers, etc.
- Share tips & strategies with others.
- Sign up for as many in-person and online speed puzzling events as you can.
- Watch available contest videos from the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation (YouTube channel here), the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association (YouTube channel here), Karen Puzzles (YouTube channel here), etc.
- Practice & time yourself doing the "flip & sort" stage: dumping the pieces on the table, flipping them all right-side up as fast as you can, and sorting the edges at the same time.
- Practice speed puzzling with different puzzles of the same piece count as the upcoming contest.
- If you know the brand being used in an upcoming contest, practice doing as many of that brand as possible.
- Practice speed puzzling alone, with a partner, and as a team of 4.
- Practice speed puzzling with and without music--of different varieties. Classical music may help you focus, or fast-tempo music may help you speed up your pace.
Speed Puzzling Contest Setup
- Maximize your available light, preferably natural light, ensuring there is minimal/no glare on the puzzle surface.
- Ensure your puzzling space is big enough to hold all the pieces of the puzzle when they are spread out outside the edges.
- If possible, use a table or surface that is all one color (preferably black or white) and has no seams. For example, stone countertops blur the outline of your puzzle pieces.
- If needed, use a large posterboard to cover a table that has non-optimal color or texture.
- Use a box top holder to make the puzzle image more accessible while saving much-needed table space.
- If using sorting trays, try those without a lip around all the edges--so you can easily slide pieces around.
- For remote events, make sure your camera angle is easy for the contest judge to view your entire puzzle. Overhead, opposite side, or side views, all in landscape format, are best. Over-the-shoulder angles risk you getting between the camera and the puzzle. The distance from the camera to the puzzle surface should be such that the completed puzzle takes up most of the video window.
- For remote events, ensure you have reliable high-speed internet.
- Have a timer ready.
- Minimize possible distractions from pets, children, or adults who may act like children.
- Ask any questions you may have when given the opportunity.
Speed Puzzling Contest--First few minutes
- Open the inner package carefully so pieces don't scatter off the table.
- Dump all the pieces out on the table and quickly spread them out into a thin layer. Try not to hand-pick pieces out of the box for sorting.
- Remove any packaging debris, ensuring no pieces are left in the bag, under the box or poster, etc.
- Flip & sort: turn all pieces face-up while sorting out the edges at the same time, if possible.
- If you're a speed puzzling ninja, you may be able to sort by color during the "flip & sort" stage.
- Begin assembling the edge OR set the edge pieces aside for later.
- Begin assembling the easiest section first.
Speed Puzzling Contest--During & after the event
- If you started with the edge pieces and didn't find them all during your first sort, DON'T waste time trying to find the last few. They will show up later.
- Don't stack any loose pieces on top of other individual pieces or on the completed puzzle image.
- If your edges are assembled, try to keep the interior clear of unplaced pieces.
- Lift completed sections and place them in the correct position as soon as possible.
- If you get stuck (you haven't placed a piece for several seconds or more), switch to assembling the edge or another easy area.
- If you get stuck, change positions or vantage points, or slide remaining pieces into a different location or configuration.
- If you are left with large sections of similar colors/textures, sort by piece shape (as a last resort).
- Try not to take snack or potty breaks during the contest.
- When the contest is over, celebrate the winners' successes and learn from your own experience. Don't get down on yourself if you didn't finish when/where you wanted to.
- Know that frequent, timed speed puzzling practice is an effective way to improve your results!