Review: Stave Puzzles Champ the Sea Monster

Steve Richardson calls himself the Chief Tormentor of Stave Puzzles. He is, in fact, the president — and the designer of the company’s fiercely difficult jigsaw puzzles. Rather than churn out 1,000-piece cardboard crap- packs that assemble into Hallmarky scenes of rosy-cheeked children skating on frozen ponds in Fantasyland, Stave hand-cuts its oddly shaped puzzles from cherry-backed plywood and adorns them with confounding patterns. Take Champ the sea monster. Its 44 pieces assemble 32 different ways, but only one is correct. That’s because Richardson engineered in five “swap points,” where two pieces can fit together but lead to an incorrect solution. “It takes some people — experienced people — days,” Richardson says. “And that’s not even my trickiest puzzle. Olivia the octopus has 10,000 possible solutions.”

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