1. a dictionary, encyclopedia, or other comprehensive reference work describing the terminology used in assembling jigsaw puzzles
  2. an elderly person, like myself and possibly born in the Mesozoic Era, who enjoys assembling jigsaw puzzles


With Muka at the hospital

I've been doing volunteer work for over 3 decades, and I currently volunteer with my therapy dog, Mukaluka Dirtypaws, at a local hospital. If you like dog tricks, you can see our video here.

In my spare time I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, almost exclusively those that I own and do again and again. You can see my puzzle collection here.

Terms of Use:  Each of the terms I define below came to mind in the process of assembling puzzles. Most are common terms you'll recognize, but they have been given new meanings. Some are really funny; others will just get you thinking.

Suggestions Welcome:  A special thank-you to Amy Andre, who puzzles Down Under in Western Australia, for her many contributions.

Enjoy, and don't take life too seriously!

Peter Christensen
Vancouver, WA

Jigsaw Puzzle Terminology

The Puzzle Table

Parade Grounds

Laying Out the Puzzle

Cow Tipping

Finding the Pieces


Collecting the Pieces


  • Piling:  Collecting pieces of an area or object that you aren't currently working on into piles for future use.
    • Stacking:  Similar to Piling, except that the pieces are carefully stacked pancake-style in stacks often reaching great heights.
    • 86:  When you return a piece to the Stockyard that didn't belong in a Piling or Stacking.
  • Segregating:  Sorting pieces by color, shape, or any other distinguishing characteristic that make one piece different from the others.
  • Doubting Thomas:  You, when you're starting to think the piece you're looking for was missing when you opened the box, or your dog ate it. In most cases, it turns out to be a Misnomer.

Assembling the Puzzle


  • Marrying:  An emotionally stimulating occasion when two blocks of assembled pieces are joined together.
    • Convergence:  Just as when two tectonic plates of the earth's crust push together and one rises over the other, so it is when marrying two blocks of assembled puzzle pieces. Earthquakes are rare as the upper block gently falls down and interlocks with the lower block.
  • Spontaneous Combustion:  When you have placed a great number of pieces in the area where they belong, but none connect. Then finally one does, and it leads to another and another until most all connect.
  • Critical Mass:  The state preceding a Spontaneous Combustion, which may have a negative impact on mental and emotional stability.
  • Twofer:  When you place a piece that ties two other loose pieces together.
  • Framing:  Assembling the outer pieces of an area containing similar pieces, like those of a brick wall or green lawn. The outer pieces are easier to identify as they contain a partial image of something on the perimeter, and assembling them first reduces the number of similar pieces belonging to the area being assembled.

Chiropractic Adjustment

  • Chiropractic Adjustment:  An adjustment made to the alignment of a partially assembled puzzle so that the pieces fit together properly.
  • Doing a 180 aka Going Down Under:  Turning a puzzle board around to work on the top of the puzzle without having to move to the other side of the table.
  • Flying Blind:  Assembling the puzzle without looking at the box, a technique many reserve for only the last pieces.
  • Black Ops:  Working late into the night with complete disregard for poor lighting and the instinctive human desire to behave in a sane manner.

Lost in Space

Amelia Earhart

  • Amelia Earhart:  A piece that went missing, and you're determined to keep looking till you find it.
  • Missing Link:  A border piece missed when setting out the puzzle, which ended up in the Stockyard with all the other pieces. Note that these are most often pieces that didn't require Cow Tipping, which calls attention to border pieces.
  • Klingon:  A piece that stuck to your hand when you leaned over the table.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight:  A piece that's sitting on top of an assembled area of the puzzle that you don't know is there and keep passing over.
    • Stooping to a New Low:  Bending down so that your eyes are level with the table to look for pieces Hiding in Plain Sight.
  • Vagrant:  A piece you can't fit into the area you are working on and eventually realize belongs in another, similar-looking area of the puzzle.
  • Lost Child:  When picking up a piece you were looking for, you grab the wrong one. Realizing your mistake, you frantically return to the Stockyard trying to remember where you last visited.
  • Black Hole:  A single "hole" in a large area of the puzzle that you thought you had completed long ago. You've been baffled that you haven't been able to find a place for the piece that goes in it.
  • Stray Cat:  A piece that doesn't belong to the puzzle you are working on, and you don't know where it does belong.


Cat Tails

  • Freebie:  Two pieces found locked together when setting out the puzzle. Certain purists would consider accepting a Freebie highly inappropriate and immediately separate the pieces.
  • Kibble:  A piece that fell on the floor and was chewed on by your dog.
  • Cat Tails:  "Knobs" that have been bent upward and won't lie flat no matter how long and hard you press on them.
  • Split Ends:  "Knobs" where the surface of the puzzle has separated from the backing. The backing itself may also be split into multiple layers.

    Those who only do a puzzle once may not realize the damage that is done by folding a puzzle to get it back into the box. Split Ends may be repaired by lightly but thoroughly dampening both sides of a split with water from the end of a toothpick, and then pressing the piece flat overnight.
  • Puzzle Dust:  It comes in the box. Some puzzles come with none, some come with a lot, and some are "the gift that keeps on giving."

Technical Difficulties

Wrong Way

  • Wrong Way:  A border piece, which you believe to be missing, that has been placed in the border in the wrong position.
    • U-Turn:  Correcting a Wrong Way, often resulting in a feeling of euphoria.
  • Misnomer:  A piece that, when you finally find it after an exhaustive search, doesn't look like you thought it would.
  • Coinky-Dink:  When the shape of a piece coincidentally follows the edge of an object in the puzzle image so that the adjoining piece is different in appearance, often leading to a Misnomer.
  • Memory Stick aka USB Flash Drive or Thumb Drive:  A piece that doesn't quite fit until you flip it around 180 degrees.
  • Infringement:  A Piling or Stacking for a particular area that is hiding pieces belonging to an adjacent area you are working on.
  • Hidden Treasure:  Pieces in areas that are obscured on the box top by text or graphics.
  • Northern Lights:  Reflections on the surface of puzzle pieces that make them difficult to see.
  • Death by Lemming:  When you go to pick up a piece from the edge of the table and accidentally knock it off.

The Games People Play


  • Miscreant:  You, when you aren't following your rules for assembling puzzles.
  • Delinquent:  One who doesn't follow any rules for assembling puzzles.
  • Last Call:  You pick up a few more pieces, promising yourself they will be the last as you need to tend to other business or get to bed.
    • Final Call:  The last in a seemingly endless string of Last Calls, i.e., a successful Last Call.
  • Curtain Call:  Your puzzle is complete, and you enjoy the feeling of running your fingers across its surface.
    • Encore:  Any Curtain Call other than the first.

Feeding the Habit

Puzzle Addict

  • Puzzle Addict:  Needing a puzzle fix, you begin late-night searches of marketplace websites. You visit all the thrift stores within driving distance, and hit the brakes at the glimpse of a Garage Sale sign.

    After "the buy" is complete, reality sets in and you wonder why you now have huge boxes filled with puzzles of images you don't like made by manufacturers you don't like. The shame sets in, then dissipates as rapidly as you begin to plot your next offensive.

  • Hoarders:  Those of us who collect more puzzles than we'll ever be able to assemble.

Bead Buy

  • Bead Buy:  Purchasing a great quantity of puzzles for next to nothing via a thrift store or on-line marketplace. The term references the 1626 purchase of Manhattan Island from Native Americans in trade for beads and other trinkets valued at $24.
  • Reasonable Doubt:  The feeling you have, or should have, when you find a very desirable puzzle for sale on eBay at a very reasonable price, but the seller's note reads: "I was told it is complete, but I am not a puzzler so am selling it as is."

The Artists

Drawing by Keri Baker

  • Puzzle Artisan:  An artist who turns the images they create into jigsaw puzzles.

    You can view and purchase this and other works by Keri Baker at Art by Ashkeri.

Puzzle Montage by Tim Klein

  • Puzzle Montage:  A puzzle assembled from the pieces of two or more puzzles manufactured with the same die or cut pattern, creating a unique, new image.

    This montage combines the images of the mansion at the Orton Plantation in North Carolina with Mt. Jefferson in Washington.

    You can view and purchase this and other works by Tim Klein at Puzzle Montage Art by Tim Klein.