Continuing health problems (fortunately, more annoying than serious) have left me pretty fuzzy for the past week, so I haven’t been able to do much in the way of creative work. Which has fortunately given me time to work on my latest frivolous challenge: 5000 Colours!
This puzzle is exactly the same as the 1000 Colours jigsaw puzzle from my last blog post, only much, much larger and with more pieces. To accommodate the huge puzzle, I had to dig out the extensions that came with our dining room table ten years ago and haven’t ever used. And instead of 1,000 pieces, of course, it has 5,000.
Since I would like to put together a 5,000-piece puzzle rather than a 4,997 piece puzzle, and I expect this puzzle to take weeks to finish, I have given some thought to foiling the two beautiful, wonderful, and wickedly mischievous puzzle gods who share the house with Mike and me. Leaving all 5000 pieces on the table while sorting them by color would of course result in delighted cats and missing pieces. So I decided to start by sorting the colors on the giant sheet pans that I use during chocolate season. Here’s what my system looked like at the outset:
Each sheet pan gets a different hue, shaded from dark near the bottom to light at the top. One sheet pan holds all the unsorted pieces, and gets stored in the baker’s cart which sits in a corner of the dining room, out of feline reach. One plastic container contains edge pieces (for later use), and the other contains unsorted puzzle pieces (it’s easier to use the plastic container than to work with the tray directly).
Of course, I couldn’t just leave the trays out,, lest my beloved puzzle gods steal pieces or knock the trays off the table, gleefully catapulting pieces everywhere. So I have, terribly unsportingly, taken up the habit of stacking the trays at the end of every session, and putting an empty tray on top:
So far things seem to have gone well, though of course, like the afikomen at Passover, one doesn’t find out until the very end whether the kids managed to steal a piece when you weren’t looking.
Sorting the puzzle pieces by color, while necessary (I think), is going slowly. Here’s what things looked like after five hours of sorting:
And here’s where I am now, 11.5 hours after starting:
As you can see, I’m almost done (the right-hand plastic container holds the few unsorted pieces remaining). The placement isn’t exact, but I’ve tried to get each piece within 3 inches of where it “belongs”. I figure that’s good enough for now; as I put together each section, I can sort the pieces more precisely.
I’m enjoying the sorting process immensely. Not only is it fun to pick up pieces and move them around in the color range to see where they belong, but I’m developing a much better eye for color. The biggest challenge in sorting out the pieces is placing the very light and very dark colors, since the hues are only weakly visible at the ends of the value spectrum. So I wind up picking up a lot of nearly-white pieces and trying to guess what “color” (hue) it really is.
Fortunately, while it isn’t easy to figure this out by looking at the pieces by themselves, comparing it to already-sorted pieces usually reveals the answer. The eye may not be great at determining hues in the abstract, but it is very good at saying “this color is bluer than the one next to it”. I take my best guess, move the piece around until I find the spot where it fits, and note whether I got it right. I’m getting much better at guessing the location correctly – so my eye for color must be improving.
Soon, of course, it will be time for Part II of my evil plan to foil the puzzle gods. I haven’t quite figured out how to protect the half-assembled puzzle from the cats yet. One option would be to put a plastic drop-cloth over the puzzle when not working on it, and set some weights on it so nobody can pull the drop-cloth off the table. (Tigress loves yanking off tablecloths, and doesn’t seem at all concerned about small objects flinging themselves wildly across the room as she does so. If she weren’t the most perfect and wonderful cat in the world, she’d have been sold to the circus years ago.)
Another option would be to do most of the assembly on the trays, and only transfer finished sections to the table for storage. This seems like a better idea, but I haven’t yet figured out how to transfer the finished sections. I’ve lined the trays with large sheets of parchment paper (also left over from chocolate season), but I’m not sure whether this will work effectively for transferring finished sections. Clearly, experiments will be needed.
I am undoubtedly accumulating terribly cat karma by refusing to share my toys with Fritz and Tigress, but so it goes. I am certain I will pay for this later…
However, in an attempt at redeeming myself, I did spend some time this year trying to persuade Mike that we needed a Christmas tree. I told him, “I just realized we’re being awful cat parents! Fritz and Tigress are over four years old now, and they’ve never gotten a chance to do all the Christmas cat things! They’ve never had an opportunity to climb a Christmas tree and knock it over. They’ve never gotten to chew up the wiring for Christmas lights. And they’ve never had a chance to bat at, and destroy, all the beautiful shiny cat toys that humans hang on the branches. They’re leading a terribly deprived life, and if we don’t get them a tree this year, I’m certain we’ll hear about it from their therapists later.”
Mike, however, was strangely unmoved by my impassioned plea. Nor was he excited about my suggestion that, after the season was over, we could take the dried-out tree into the backyard and set it on fire. “But they go up like huge napalm torches as soon as you light them! It’s really cool! What could go wrong?!?”
(I feel for Mike sometimes. It must be hard to be the only adult in the house. 🙂 )
Lest you feel that Fritz and Tigress live a deprived life, however, here is a photo of Fritz getting his daily belly-rub:
And here is Tigress, looking as innocent as possible for a cat with a mouthful of feathers:
We’re going away for the holidays this year, but we’ve got the best cat-sitter ever. She loves cats, and sends us photos and video of her playing with the kitties every day that we’re away. (Judging from the videos, they have more fun with her than they do with us!) She also knows what toys cats go nuts over, and which pet stores sell the freshest catnip. She adores both Fritz and Tigress, and always remembers their names.
Of course, our cat-sitter is also super popular (which is why I haven’t told you her name 😉 ), and she books up very quickly, especially right around the holidays. So this year Mike and I made our travel plans about a month early to make sure we could get onto her calendar. We may be awful humans for running away from our cat-slave duties over the holidays (and for not letting them burn down the house while destroying “their” Christmas tree), but at least Fritz and Tigress will get the very best in substitute servants while we’re away.
Despite the health issues, I’m hoping to make more progress on my color class while I’m away. The feedback I’ve gotten has been that it’s too abstract, so I’m trying to add some more practical elements. Stay tuned for more on that…