There’s just so much Candy Crush Saga you can play. I gave up at level 425, and none of the other iPad games I tried afterward grabbed me for long. My old standby, Solitaire, seemed a drab second best. Very 20th century.
Casting about for a new time waster, I downloaded a jigsaw app. Then another, and then a couple more. There are lots of them in the iPad app store. Soon I was hooked. I’ve been compulsively doing jigsaws ever since.
I don’t know what made me think of jigsaws, since I never do them in real life. Who has the patience to devote hours—or days—to snapping together tiny pieces of cardboard on a tabletop? For that matter, who has an empty tabletop? In this cat-loving household, the potential for havoc would be ever present.
And then, jigsaws just seemed uncool—something for kids and old people. Indeed, at my mother’s senior living complex, multiple tables decked out with half-finished puzzles are strategically placed around the great-room area, just waiting for someone with time on their hands to sit themselves down and finesse a piece or two.
But the virtual version is different. There are scads of intriguing puzzle images to choose from, from the standard jigsaw landscapes to edgy graffiti art. You can pick your difficulty level, from too easy to impossible, and then swipe and drag the pieces to your heart’s content. I mute the musical accompaniment—it’s meant to be relaxing but gets annoying fast. But I do enjoy the satisfying sound effect when you snap a piece correctly into place.
At my preferred intermediate-difficulty level, a puzzle might take 10 to 20 minutes to solve. Q.E.D. No tabletop required.
My initial download coincided with the news that one of my oldest friends was gravely ill. All that weekend as I awaited updates, I obsessively did jigsaws. I found them soothing and mindless, with the payoff of seeing all the pieces cohere at the end into something that made sense—the opposite of real life, where nothing did.
My friend died, and I did iPad jigsaws throughout the week of her funeral. Later in the summer, my mother suffered a stroke and lingered for several days before she too died. Again I found consolation in my jigsaws, this time recruiting a companion in my grandnephew Michael, 8. The puzzles were something he and I could do together during family gatherings.
Years ago I attended a smoking-cessation program at our local Penn State cooperative extension. One of the tips for success in quitting was to do something with your hands—something that involved repetitive motion. I took up knitting. Everyone got a scarf for Christmas that year as I knitted and purled my way out of my addiction.
The jigsaws are a little bit like that. You start with what looks like a lot of scattered nothing and wind up with—well, something. You simply have to persevere, trusting that all will work itself out right in the end.