The puzzle guru of the Netherlands, René van der Zwet, talks about bizarre scenes. “Puzzling has been popular for a few years now, especially to relax in a hectic life. But now that everyone is staying indoors because of the virus, it is completely hot,” says the organizer of the Dutch jigsaw puzzle championship.
The final of that event was supposed to be held on April 5 in the event hall of Roelofarendsveen, but has been postponed to September due to the corona outbreak. “It’s unbelievable. Regrettable. We had fifteen preliminary rounds with 2,800 participants. The 180 finalists will now remain in training for a while.”
Van der Zwet (50) sells the famous Jan van Haasteren puzzles through his website. Comic scenes, a lot of hustle and bustle to make you desperate, usually a thousand pieces, licensed by game manufacturer Jumbo. “Not to be dragged on. Something happens in every piece. Even if you have never laid one before, you immediately know that it is a Van Haasteren. Very lively; if you want alpine meadows and blue skies, you should definitely not buy a Van Haasteren.”
The grandmaster himself, now 84, still likes to work on new chaotic puzzle boards in his office in the seaside resort of Bergen. The illustrator once started at (Maarten) Toonder Studios, later became a cartoonist for magazines such as Donald Duck and Pep.
It’s nice that laying my puzzles helps people get through this difficult time
He has now completed more than a hundred puzzle pictures, about three a year. Van Haasteren, born in Schiedammer, enjoys the revival of the board game. “I think it’s very special that there is so much demand for the puzzles. And then it’s nice that it helps people get through this difficult time.”
Leading game makers such as Jumbo and Ravensburger are signaling a rapidly increasing sales of jigsaw puzzles, in all possible shapes and sizes. They are also increasingly trendy at toy stores such as Intertoys. Internet sales are currently even beating those of the Sinterklaas period and Christmas, says Carola Davids of Puzzleplaza, which scores with well-known brands Falcon de Luxe, Gibsons and The House of Puzzles.
,,We have been extremely busy for days, comparable to the month of December. Young and old apparently find it a nice pastime now. And you notice that they have a lot of time, because they now also dare to start puzzles of three thousand pieces.”
18.000 pieces of Paris
State portraits of Willem-Alexander and Máxima, the experiences of Buurman & Buurman, the inevitable city and vistas, historical figures and colorful bouquets remain in demand. Still fairly new are 3D puzzles, such as the Volkswagen T1 that you have to build from 162 parts. There are also outliers in size, for example Ravensburger’s Evening Walk through Paris. Then you’re talking about 18,000 pieces, or a puzzle plate of 276 x 192 centimeters for about 170 euros.