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After seven months, Alabama woman completes 60,000 piece puzzle
The 232-square-foot world map is considered the world's largest commercially available puzzle
AUTHOR’S NOTE: As a community, we’re often overwhelmed with complex and challenging news. Below is a palate cleanser for your weekend.
Piece by piece. That’s the only way to do it.
And for seven months, that’s what Amy Dean did. Piece by piece, panel by panel, Dean put together What a Wonderful World — a world map its manufacturer claims is the largest commercially-available puzzle in the world.
This week, Dean finished the task, and in the days since, hundreds of people have flocked to her mother’s Springville home to see the 60,000 piece, 232-square-foot puzzle on display in the driveway.
Dean, who’s lived in Springville, Alabama, her entire life, said she’s been putting puzzles together since she was a little girl.
Belinda, her mother, said even in preschool, her daughter was always “puzzles and Barbies.”
Hard work is also in her blood, Belinda said of her daughter.
“She’s a driven person, and when she sets her mind to something, she goes for it,” she said.
For Amy Dean, though, putting together puzzles is a hobby — something that helps her unwind.
“I’ve had lots of hobbies in my life, and this is the only one I stick with,” Dean said.
Dean, a departmental administrator at UAB, began putting the puzzle together in November, she said, working as often as she could in her off time. She completed the puzzle in 60 groups of 1,000 pieces, often taking over her mother’s large dining room table simply to have the required space.
Dean said that, for her, the process of completing a puzzle can be meditative.
“I think it’s just calming,” she said, the Springville sun beating down as she admired her work. “I like putting things nice and orderly, and I feel accomplished when I’m done.”
Dowdle, the folk art company that produced the puzzle, claims it is the largest puzzle for sale in the world. It retails for just under $800.
“What a Wonderful World features the art of 187 different paintings from the Dowdle art studio,” the company’s description of the puzzle explains. “These beautiful and vibrant paintings showcase the wonders of our magnificent world. Explore the islands of the pacific, twinkling lights of Paris, beauty of the Taj Mahal and the majesty of America’s National Parks on your puzzling journey.”
The Guinness World Record for the jigsaw puzzle with the most pieces is currently held by the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City. That puzzle, which was custom-made, included more than 500,000 pieces but was put together by over 1,600 students.
Dean, on the other hand, was on her own. Before this, the largest puzzle she had completed was just 1,000 pieces. She had attempted to complete a 40,000-piece puzzle before but ran into a familial complication.
“I gave a section of it to my sister, and she lost some pieces. So I got mad and didn’t finish it,” Dean explained. “It’s a very sore subject.”
This time around, the only issue was the manufacturer’s. Dean said that one piece came in triplicate and that three pieces were missing. She reached out to the company and is hoping to get the missing pieces soon.
For its part, Guinness has yet to formally recognize What a Wonderful World’s record-breaking status (the puzzle went on sale for the first time in late October 2021, just before Dean purchased it), but the previous record holder for the largest commercially-made puzzle measured just 22.3 feet wide and 6.2 feet tall, according to its manufacturer.
As for the ultimate destination of Dean’s completed puzzle, which measures 8 feet tall and 29 feet across, she said a complete disassembly of the puzzle isn’t in the cards.
Instead, her neighbor, a pastor at NorthPark Baptist Church, has agreed to display the completed puzzle inside the church.
“It can either sit in my attic and collect dust, or it can be somewhere people will actually look at it,” Dean said.
She’d definitely prefer the latter.
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