Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Kilroy was here!

...and he's now blind.  I was unable to put eyes into his head.  I could try for hours to solve these things and I'm unable to solve any of them. This puzzle intrigued me.  George and I were moving the cabinets around and I came to a complete stop when I saw these puzzles. It brought back memories of my childhood when I first learned of Kilroy.  

Because I'm beginning to realize just how old I am, I'll explain Kilroy.  I first encountered Kilroy when I was in grade school. At that time, he was becoming harder and harder to find.  I'm not sure if he's around anymore at all other than on wikipedia and in a few movies.  Kilroy as I heard the story first showed up during WWII.  He was supposedly engraved on the bolts of ship hulls being built during the war.  These bolts were later found by shipmen who spread the early meme throughout Europe and later Asia.*

As is usually the case for these puzzles, I was unable to solve them.  Why?  I have no patience for dexterity (or patience) puzzles.  I guess I have the attention span of a gnat.  There are too many other things to entertain myself with right now.  These puzzles are both made of a glass top with a cardboard base and 2 steel balls to place in the eyes.  They are from the WWII period so must have been produced after 1940. The Lily library credits this puzzle to 1942,  (was it purchased by them in London circa 1942?).  My research has discovered that Kilroy first appeared on British shores when it was painted on the wing of a glider for Operation Market Garden in 1944.  According to the same webpage, Kilroy was spotted in Italy in 1943.  He was said to be in the African theater earlier than that.  Who knows when he showed up, but I'm glad he did.  It makes for a good run down a rabbit hole* and a good old man joke: 

Knock knock
Who's there?
Kilroy who?
Kill Roy Rogers, I'm a Gene Autry fan. 

On to the museum update: 
We have been staying here for the past few weeks again.  I'm now on a reorganizing kick.  When I first put all of the puzzles on the shelves, I tried to organize them by alphabetical order but not having a master list who the builders/designers were I didn't succeed. I think I'm doing well with names now and have been doing it the right way.  Currently I'm up to the H's and should be able to finish by weeks end.  At the same time I am reorganizing, I am photographing the pieces.  This is a major part of the job.  All of the ceramics have been photographed as they were placed on the vase wall (Yes James, I know these words are not interchangeable, but it is our place and these are the names I have chosen for them.  It makes it easier when turning out the lights.) 

When our young photographer comes in, I switch to working on cataloguing the library books. I've not gotten a master list from James, just a vague number.  Fair enough.  There are a lot!  I have a few books I want to purchase, but don't want to do it until I have an idea of what we are holding.  This process has been made so much easier with the invention of the barcode and ISBN's.  Sadly, not all books have an ISBN and need to be manually processed.  The convention didn't start until 1969, and even then not all books can be found using that number.  You can see a start of the collection at my google books page. We have chosen to make this public to help other puzzlers find books they may be looking for.  The 154 books that have been catalogued so far took me 3 hours to enter.  Those are only 1/8th of the collection including our own contributions to the library.  I expect to have this finished by the end of the month.

Until next week, Happy Puzzling!

*Upon searching the internet later as my curiosity has now been engaged, I came across this little blip from Wikipedia:  "The Lowell Sun reported in November 1945 that Sgt. Francis J. Kilroy Jr. from Everett, Massachusetts, wrote "Kilroy will be here next week" on a barracks bulletin board at a Boca Raton, Florida, airbase while ill with flu, and the phrase was picked up by other airmen and quickly spread abroad.[9] The Associated Press similarly reported Sgt. Kilroy's account of being hospitalized early in World War II, and his friend Sgt. James Maloney wrote the phrase on a bulletin board. Maloney continued to write the shortened phrase when he was shipped out a month later, according to the AP account, and other airmen soon picked it up. Francis Kilroy only wrote the phrase a couple of times.[6][17]"  I guess it is fitting that these two pieces ended up here. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


 I never thought I would be writing about enjoying jigsaws.  After having bought that 42,000 piece monster and spending way too long on it only to put it back in the box, I vowed never to look at another jigsaw.  

Well, the day has come for me to look again.  It all started because of one puzzle.  This one came as a part of the Hordern-Dalgety collection that we acquired and after a bit of back and forth, it was decided that this would not be one of the 500 James kept (to be later sent on to join the collection in Florida).  As I was unboxing, I saw more and more boxes with Jigsaw written on them and was beginning to feel a bit crestfallen.  After all, I stated publicly that I needed to stop the madness I had gotten myself into. The last thing I wanted was more jigsaws that I would feel obliged to complete.  

This particular puzzle (Europe divided into its Kingdoms. London: J. Spilsbury, [c.1766]) comes with an interesting provenance and story.  The puzzle is thought to be the worlds first jigsaw. It is a hand drawn map of Europe, which was produced by John Spilsbury in 1766. The cuts are rather interesting in that they follow along the lines of the countries and waterways. One article I read states that the designer was a cartographer who produced the maps so children of aristocrats could learn the countries of Europe so when it was their turn to rule for Great Britain they would know geography. According to a recent Christie's auction, "[This is] A very rare example of the earliest known jigsaw puzzle, in remarkably fine and near-complete condition. The formulation of the earliest jigsaws, known as ‘dissected maps’, originates in John Jefferys’ A Journey Through Europe, a map game published by Carrington Bowles in 1759. Though the exact relationship between the cartographic engravers and the publishers John Jefferys (fl.1720-1750) and Thomas Jefferys (c.1710-1771) is unclear, they operated in close proximity, the former at Westminster, the latter at Charing Cross. Thomas became Geographer to the Prince of Wales from 1746, and later to the King. In 1753 Spilsbury entered into an apprenticeship with Thomas Jefferys, and may have first become acquainted with John's game at this period. Upon leaving Thomas’ employ in 1760, Spilsbury established his own business in Russel Court, Covent Garden. He appears at this address in Mortimer’s Universal Director for 1763, where he is described as ‘Engraver and Map Dissector in Wood, in order to facilitate the Teaching of Geography’. This suggests Spilsbury was already making jigsaw maps by this time, although no earlier ‘dissected map’ appears to have survived. Only one copy of the current map is known with a printed date of 1766. Linda Hannas, The English Jigsaw Puzzle (1972), pp.15-20, 84; Tooley, Dictionary 4, pp.196-7."   As our version has the date on it, perhaps this is the puzzle the author is referring to.  You can see the date stamp just below Iceland along a latitude line.

This piece measures 450mm x 480mm and is made up of 50 pieces.  (Two of which are replacement parts) it is 3.5mm thick and is paper glued to mahogany.  It comes with an oak box that has a label that gives the name of the puzzle, designer, and the year of 1766.  The cuts of this piece are along county boarders and longitude and latitude lines.  There are no fancy cut pieces in this one.  Each country is outlined in four different colors red, green, aqua, and yellow.  The scales in the upper left-hand corner list five different units of measure: British miles, Italian Miles, German Miles, Wersts of Russia and British and French Leagues.  As you can tell, I don't do a lot of these things because that fascinated me. The puzzle came from Rollo Maughfling, Arch Druid of Stone Henge.  Now how is that for a provenance!  

 I of course had to assemble it and take a photo.  Breaking my (new) rule to not assemble any more jigsaws.  

And now on to the museum progress.  Believe it or not, we have just emptied the last box that came in! This was a very happy day for me.  Now for the next task.  Alphabetizing the great room and the chest room.  I will then put all of the puzzles from our collection into the museum rooms.  I have to also redo the IPP wall as it is now very crammed in.  

We have finally finished the vase wall and it looks as impressive as we thought it would. I will only say that photos will come later when the scaffold comes down.  Every puzzle on it was photographed as it went up.  It took George and I 2 1/2 days to complete the work. 

We have engaged the services of a young man to take photos of the puzzles for us and place them all in folders so George can add them to the database.  He had two weeks off while quarantining after a cold. Thankfully he didn't have anything more sinister than that.  This is slow painstaking work.  He has to remove the puzzles from the shelves,  label unlabeled puzzle, then return them to the shelves.  As it turned out, on many of them, he also had to reassemble the puzzles.  On Saturday after watching him struggle for 1/2 an hour on a Coffin puzzle, I told him the best thing to do was to leave it for George.  I think he was grateful.  By the time this project is over, he will be quite the solver I'm sure.  When he is not working, I will be starting on one of the other rooms.  Everything in both houses needs to be photographed, and I'm quite certain this will be a multi-year project.  While James has photographed many of the puzzles, we are starting over. Mostly for ease of database entry, but also because we want to be assured that the identifier of each puzzle is visible in at least one photo of the puzzles.  We are also adding photos of the puzzles from at least 2 different angles.  In the case of the ceramics that I have just photographed, every piece has 5 photos minimum.  Some have more if I felt the internal portions of the puzzle or the base of the puzzle was of particular interest.  On one 'joke mug' I took over 15 photos.  All to be added to the database in future.  

One other thing George has plans to do is to add a section for solutions.  We would be very grateful of any 'digital donations' of solutions you may have for puzzles you have designed.  

Stay tuned for next weeks update...Same Bat time, Same Bat channel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Thank you and a list of great blogs!

I want to send a very special thanks to all who helped me identify the unknown puzzles in our collection from my last post.  I will be posting more at some point in the future.

I would also like to thank all who have been supportive of my blog over the last 11 years.  It's been a trying time to say the least.  I realize that I haven't posted every single week during that time period, but I have published an average of 35 posts a year.  (Forget the period of my divorce-I'd like to.) Over this time period, I have helped to bring more puzzlers into the fold.  I've reviewed puzzles both good and bad.  I've been honest in my opinions and have never faltered from telling the truth as I see it. Not once did I accept money or free puzzles from anyone for a review.  Not once did I ask others to send me information to help fill out my blog.  

Sadly, not all folks appreciate the work that goes into posting a blog every week.  When I posted my request for help on a face book "friendly" page, I was banned for spamming.  Apparently, it's no longer cool to post about your blogs.  So to help out my fellow bloggers I shamelessly take a list from elsewhere and give a shout out to all fellow bloggers!  Go read please.  We spend a long time writing and reviewing these puzzles.  

All the rest aren't worth reading. :)

Enjoy the rest of your week.  I'll be back next week with another update on the museum.  This week was my last week with my daughter before she leaves for university again.  I'm sure all you parents out there will understand.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Special post for VMPP #5

 While I have your virtual attention, I'd love a bit of help.  I have a number of puzzle boxes that either George or I bought over the years and I don't know who made them, where they came from, how old they are....

If you can identify any of the following puzzles, I would be eternally grateful.  No major prizes to be given other than your name here at some point in the future acknowledging your superior puzzling intellect.  I expect that Nick will know these off hand and no one else need reply but I'm sure even he is fallible. 

George and I have decided that once the museum is up and running and the database is underway, I will be posting a puzzle or two each week that we have no information on.  I've said it before, but all help is greatly appreciated.  

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Storage for small items

 What does one do with puzzles that are so small they can get lost or easily walk away?  To solve this problem, we had to get creative with our storage solutions.  This week I give you a peek into the workings of my simple brain.

I started out using jewelry boxes on the walls at Puzzle Palace.  These were used to store keychain puzzles and well, jewelry-puzzle rings, necklaces...When we acquired the HD collection, we recieved with it many vesta match boxes, cricket boxes, small banks, secret opening boxes and more tiny objects that I didn't want to lose on the shelves. 

I started with the jewelry boxes at the museum for the small dexterity puzzles, the Hoffmann balls, and some small kumiki puzzles.  I soon realized that this wouldn't work for some of the other objects we recieved so I took a trip to Michael's in search of shadow boxes.  I found two types that work perfectly: baseball bat boxes and shot glass holders.  Both open from the front and have spaces large enough to hold the small or delicate items we don't want people to play with.  A word of warning, these are an expensive display solution if you purchase them in store.  Online, the price drops in half.  

Off the kitchen there is a long wall between rooms that we could not put cabinets into for lack of walking space. This wall is now covered in these display cases.  This area houses most of the match boxes and quite a few of the smaller secret opening boxes.  

Above each room entry door there is a baseball bat box filled with some of the curiosities you will find in that particular room.  So for example, the Jigsaw puzzle room has some wooden jigsaws, a metal one, and a few paper jigsaws in it.  

James was nice enough to send along a large number of storage units with the puzzles and these have all been placed in the garage.  Many of these are simply too small to hold anything thicker than a 2D packing puzzle and have been used for just this purpose.  These units also store all of the matchbox puzzles that came with the collection and those we added to it.  

On to the weekly museum update.  Ikea finally delivered our order of shelves!  400 came in on one day.  George really has his work cut out for him over the next few weeks.  He had to start with the vase wall so I could begin unboxing the vases.

I finally finished unboxing the puzzles in the dexterity room, but now I need to put all of them into their permanent home.  Currently, I have 'piles' of wire that need disentanglement and hanging or placement.  The problem I have is that I do not have any shelves in the room yet.  

Shelves are a real problem.  We have to wait until Ikea has them in stock and then we order all we can. It's been over a month since our last order. I expect it will be a month before we are able to place another order.  

We have hired a young man to photograph the puzzles.  He's a 17 year old high school junior who has zero interest in puzzles and 100% interest in making money.  So far this has proven to be a good working relationship. He comes over 2-3 times a week and takes photos for five hours.  He then takes the photo disk home and processes the photographs.  I'm hopeful that we can continue with this relationship until the puzzles are all photographed.  I expect at some point in the future we will hire a second student to help with this process.  

As I unbox, I have been taking all of the IPP puzzles to Puzzle Palace. We are working our list of missing puzzles down. As of 1 August, we were missing only 232 of the exchanges from IPP10 onward. I am hopeful that as I unbox more and shift puzzles around I will find the missing items. 

Until next week, keep puzzling!