Arts & Leisure

Local puzzlers complete the picture

Brie and Doug Patterson of Shoreham met at the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury (where Brie works) to work on a puzzle together. At home they’ve completed 29 jigsaw puzzles since the pandemic began. Independent photo/Steve James

Did you know that Jan. 29 is National Puzzle Day? 

Yes? Well then, you’re probably one of Addison County’s master puzzlers. Good for you.

“Whether it’s a crossword, jigsaw or Sudoku, puzzles engage our brain in more ways than one,” reads the Puzzle Day page on “Scientists have discovered that when we work on a jigsaw puzzle, we use both sides of the brain, improving memory, cognitive function and problem solving skills in the process.”

They’re also just plain fun. We rounded up a few local puzzlers to tell us more about their love of puzzles.

Meet the Pattersons

“We’ve done 29 jigsaw puzzles since the pandemic hit,” said Doug and Brie Patterson in a call earlier this week. “We’ve always liked puzzles.”

Independent photo/Steve James

The Pattersons were accustomed to a life where Doug wouldn’t be at their Shoreham home for longer than four weeks because of his work. 

“I am the CEO/President/chief coffee maker of Renewable Strategies Inc., which controls my other company — Forest Products Certification Group LLC,” Doug explained. “I do Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain of custody (COC) certifications for small businesses. We currently have 160 companies in 40 U.S. states… I used to have to do on-site audits, but with the pandemic I don’t have to be on site anymore.”

“We had a couple of weeks where I was getting used to having this person in the house with me all the time,” Brie jabbed, lovingly. 

That’s when the couple got really into puzzling. Mostly they do 1,000 piecers and it takes them about two to three days to complete one.

“Well, that really depends on if we make ourselves do other things,” clarified Brie, who also works at Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library and Shoreham’s Platt Memorial Library. “We’re a team. I focus on the colors and the picture and he really looks at the shapes.”

“The puzzles with interesting shapes or a variety of colors are the best ones,” Doug added. 

“Yeah,” Brie agreed. “My favorite puzzle that we’ve done recently is one we got for Christmas that has bunnies with doughnuts. They aren’t cutesy bunnies… they’re really interesting.”

The puzzling bug has rubbed off on the Patterson’s 25-year-old daughter Piper too, and they “invariably get out a puzzle when she comes down from Essex to visit.”

Meet Molly

Molly Saunders speculated in an email to the Addison Independent that she might be one of the “biggest puzzle lovers in Addison County.”

And do you know what? She just might be!

“I complete up to seven puzzles a week,” she said. “I do one every one or two days — 500-1,000 pieces each.”


Saunders’s cat Tessa sits with her while this 30-something does her puzzling work. 

“I started doing puzzles in my early-mid 20s when I was frequently in hospitals for long periods of time,” she explained, clarifying that the hospital stays were due to her battle with “chronic suicidal thoughts.” “I initially got hooked on completing puzzles because I found that it helped my anxiety, putting the pieces into place. Now it has become a major hobby of mine. I like to look for beautiful puzzles, put them together, and then pass them on to others. I am unemployed, so I make some extra money by buying puzzles second hand and reselling the nicer completed ones for $5 each.”

TESSA, MOLLY SAUNDERS’ cat, rests proudly on a puzzle completed by her owner. Tessa and Molly tackle up to seven puzzles every week.

During her time in the hospitals, Saunders also found the power of art therapy. 

“I can draw the world I want with paper, pencils, markers and my own imagination,” she writes on her website “I can inspire and uplift those around me. I can share a little bit of the love I feel, with my community. I can connect with others around me.”

Saunders hasn’t yet been able to solve the employment puzzle, and said that thinking about her future can feel “overwhelming and frightening.” 

“But when I am putting together puzzles everything feels simple,” she said. “Every piece has its place and the outcome is clearly defined by the image on the box.”

Inspired to crack open a puzzle? You’re in luck. The Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury is having a puzzle swap today, Thursday, Jan. 27, from 3-4:30 p.m. Bring your complete puzzles — make sure they have all the pieces — to the Jessica Swift Community Room. Leave them for others and peruse puzzles left by fellow puzzle devotees to take home. Need to reach the Ilsley? Call (802) 388-4095.

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