Without a concrete reference image or a single contextual clue, every piece of progress is provisional. Should this red corner be in the foreground or background? Will the next piece in this row be horizontal or vertical? Does this piece really belong here or does it just fit well? It’s a stab in the dark. Each piece is a needle in a haystack that makes no sense.
MSCHF says that even if some pieces are missing or not put together exactly as they should be, the big picture QR code should still work. At this point I’m not 100 percent sure if each of the pieces are where they should be. Not even the edges. I wish I was joking. But solving this puzzle has become a matter of pride, and I’m motivated by resentment as well as the potential gains.
Fortunately, I had backup – at least 10 family members, my best friend, my partner, a rambunctious Boston terrier, and varying degrees of determination. It has become a ritualistic bonding experience for myself and my loved ones worth more than $1, $30, or $2,000,000. Call it the Stockholm syndrome, but this puzzle is one of my favorite things I’ve bought all year. At the time of publication, we are about halfway through solving the first puzzle. The contest ends in February 2024. I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about finishing on time.
This puzzle can be annoying, but it’s not impossible. Others have solved it. We can fix it. There have been many pep talks. My mother often said, “We have to be smarter than the puzzle.” We are smarter than the puzzle, right?
Soon after unpacking, the puzzle took pride of place in the middle of my parents’ living room. I would stop by to think for a while and put a few pieces in place. Kids came out of their bedroom to grab a snack and take a peek to try and fill a missing portion. Small talk led to hours of conversation around a table, staring at a sea of blue with little black dots, trying to figure out how the pieces fit. I called my 9-year-old sister a psychopath – what kind of person puts together three pieces independent of an edge? My mother scoffed at me – what kind of person moves from one place to another instead of building methodically? (Note: She didn’t ask what kind of person a child calls a psychopath.)
We laughed at what we would buy with our winnings, despite ‘winning’ in this context being defined as jumping for joy when we finally cleared a corner. I said I would buy the lake house of my dreams; my brother said he would buy the lake house of my dreams and invite everyone else. We cursed our hereditary myopia and poor lighting. We checked the time, saw it was 3am, and vowed we’d work on it just a little bit longer.
This puzzle gave my family something to do with our hands and minds during a particularly difficult chapter of our lives. As she watched over my terminally ill grandmother’s last days, she couldn’t respond, but the nurses said she could probably still hear us. The movies make it look easy, but in reality it’s hard to fill the silence of a room for several days. There are only so many stories you can share, feelings you can pass on, or passages you can read. We didn’t know what to do or say.