As soon as I saw this one I knew it had to be mine! Absolutely beautiful. I love bright, fun puzzles as much as everyone but sometimes it’s nice to work on something gorgeous rather than cute.
The box is sealed with plastic shrink wrap, the pieces inside sealed in a plastic bag. Not a fan of the double plastic.
Box is very attractive, I think Cobble Hill has one the best box compositions: the image fills the box top; visible but unobtrusive branding; the sides have large, framed image cutouts; appealing and cohesive font size and placement.
Inside there is a large poster, it is slightly larger than the box image.
There is LOTS of puzzle dust. Oh my gads the dust!
It was simply everywhere. If you look closely at the pieces it’s not a big surprise. I will get to that in a bit. I had flipped the pieces, sorted them several times and was about 75% done with the puzzle before I was finally rid of all the puzzle dust.
Numerous pieces had little bits that hadn’t quite achieved their dream of becoming puzzle dust. Little tiny dust-wannabe bits still stuck to the pieces. Then when you place the piece in that bit of dust gets forced upwards so you end up with not-quite-dust bits sticking out between the pieces. sigh.
Puzzle dust is no pet peeve of mine. As a rule it just doesn’t bother me (like when people complain about how much puzzle dust Ravensburger puzzles have, I am truly perplexed….). But, damn, when it’s this bad? It is obnoxious.
Okay so on to the pieces themselves. The pieces have a moderately glossy, linen finish. The cardboard has a respectable thickness for a sturdy feel, and the layers are glued well. I didn’t find a single piece with lift or frayed edges. Cobble Hill uses random cut so the edges of the pieces don’t align, but the pieces all fall into standard jigsaw puzzle shapes.
Several pieces were still attached at the corners. And I noticed a large number of edge pieces that had denting. The interior pieces did not have that problem but whatever their process is, it is not kind to the edge.
My major complaint about Cobble Hill pieces is the cut residuals. What I mean by that is the residual effects due to their cut process. (This is, by the way, a massive assumption by me. I know NOTHING about their process. I’m working off of observation and leaps of logic here.) Their pieces have a loose, raised edge on the bottom, and it is my supposition that their process causes this loose edge and the loose edge is where the buckets of puzzle dust come from as well as the feels-too-tight fit and the generally not-crisp appearance of the pieces.
Look at all the loosey goosey, ruffley stuff bordering these pieces. About 98% likely that’s the culprit for all that dust.
Overall piecing the puzzle was a mixed bag. The edge was just brutal. The pieces fit very snugly, so much so that it’s difficult to tell if a piece fit correctly or I had just forced it into a spot that was kind of close. Because the pieces are random cut you also can’t use alignment at the piece corners as a clue about whether the piece belongs. On top of that the pieces are so snug they don’t always lay flat. The photo below shows how pieces that fit together will lay in place at different heights and angles, it causes a lot of second guessing.
Once I got the border done, however, the piecing settled down into an enjoyable experience. Random cut is nice because it creates such distinctive shapes while still maintaining a horizontal/vertical grid orientation of the printed image (i.e. the pieces never go into the puzzle at a 30 degree rotation).
So, while working the inside pieces the issue of false fits virtually vanished, apart from one perplexing piece that caught my attention as it had aaaalmost perfect rotational symmetry both in shape and image.
The puzzle itself was a bear. This puzzle kicked my butt! I knew it would be hard, and I wanted a challenge but it was harder than I expected. My initial sorting I was able to pull out the large rain tile, the two dark red sky tiles, and the yellow title tile. After that I was about lost.
I had sorted out a lot of bright green, thinking I could do something with that, but it turned out to be just way too much green, way too many bits-of-green-should-I-include-it-? type pieces. Just not a successful strategy, would not recommend.
This is a details details details, close inspection, memory challenge type of puzzle. The tiles have repeating themes that make it very difficult to remember exactly where you saw something. Loooots of boats, gradient skies, winding rivers, and graceful trees. I’d recommend to scan several times and pick out pieces that seem distinctive.Even if it’s only one or two, set them aside and add to them as you scan a second and third time, until you end up with enough to piece a bit together and match it on the poster.
Once that lost its effectiveness I resorted to the sort and grid technique. I probably wasn’t even halfway through when I gave up trying to group pieces by color or image.
I will admit I am a little disappointed by the experience. Even though this is full of such gorgeous works of art, the impossibility of filtering pieces by tile meant that I didn’t really get an intimate enjoyment and appreciation for all the little tiles. I pieced them through process of elimination, shape sorting, and analysis like “I’m looking for a piece with one medium blue corner that quickly fades to white and has the white edging going through the top quarter of the piece.”
I had really wanted, and anticipated, the experience to be more, “I’m trying to find all the pieces that make up this pleasant little tile of birds walking the river.” In the end I loved how beautiful it looked when it was completed but you better believe when I put it away I separated it into baggies so next time will be less intense.
I feel like I have been talking crap about this puzzle all through this post, but I actually rather like Cobble Hill puzzles. They look beautiful when complete, the pieces are sturdy and can be picked up and moved easily in sections, their prices are good, they are made in the USA, and they put out a large variety of images to choose from. I consider them a quality brand, just not a premium brand. I have several of them and I wouldn’t hesitate at all to buy more in the future.