The jig(saw) is up: A piece of the action at YMCA puzzle swap

Jan 30, 2023

After Maria Zaragoza had her left leg amputated below the knee, she was stuck at home with nothing to do. To pass the time, she did jigsaw puzzles.

“I became obsessed with it,” Zaragoza said. “I have such a fetish for puzzles.” 

Not only were puzzles relaxing, but they were also a chance for Zaragoza to bond with her niece, Tish Lopes.

“We go through them so fast,” Lopes said. “Some of them we get done in one night.”

On Saturday, Jan. 28, Zaragoza, Lopes and over 20 other puzzlers participated in the Gleason Family YMCA’s first Puzzle Swap. Starting on Jan. 8, community members dropped off their used puzzles at the YMCA. On Saturday, they came back to pick up each other’s puzzles. 

YMCA Special Events Coordinator Cathy Longfield came up with the idea when she discovered that Sunday, Jan. 29 was National Puzzle Day. 

“I think a lot of our seniors do puzzles and it becomes something that grandchildren do with their grandparents,” said Longfield, who used to do puzzles with her own grandmother. “It’s a great cognitive exercise. Here at the Y, we exercise all of our muscles, but what about your biggest muscle, your brain?” 

Longfield was “shocked” by the amount of puzzles that locals dropped off, with some leaving bags full of them. A 94-year-old woman dropped off her puzzles, then decided to pick some up for herself. 

“There’s a lot of avid puzzlers in the community who want to swap,” Longfield said. 

The diverse lineup of puzzles included nature scenes, cartoon characters, famous landmarks and fine art.

“Is that a Van Gogh?” Longfield said, picking up a puzzle of Vincent van Gogh with the head of a sloth. “It’s very Van Gogh-ish.” 

Many of the puzzles featured nostalgic images of small coastal towns resembling Wareham.

“I think people do puzzles that remind them of places they’ve been or where they live,” Longfield said.

For Zaragoza, it was hard to pick out puzzles at the swap because so many of them once belonged to her. One such puzzle was a seven-in-one set of famous landmarks, with 3,750 pieces in total.

“We probably did them all in a week’s time,” she said. 

Zaragoza perused puzzles of turkeys, cats, dogs and a 1,500-piece Paris street scene. Every puzzle caught her eye, but she enjoys puzzles of natural scenery most of all. 

Ultimately, she and Lopes left with six puzzles. 

The YMCA plans to hold more puzzle swaps in the future, possibly one every two months, as well as freestyle puzzle builds and a puzzle building competition on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Zaragoza has already signed up.