Cigar Aficionado

Stave Jigsaw Puzzles

The scene: a swanky London mansion. A gala party in full swing suddenly becomes a multiple crime scene, and the authorities swoop in. It’s up to you to help them crack each case and nab the perps.

Sounds cool, but this challenge doesn’t come in the form of an iPhone app or an Xbox cartridge. It’s a jigsaw puzzle, the latest twist on a traditional pastime conjured up by master puzzle designer Steve Richardson.

Richardson’s Vermont-based workshop, Stave Puzzles, has been producing high-end wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1974. “London Larceny” is the most difficult in a new series he calls the Troublemakers. “I finally figured out how to design a puzzle where one extra piece gives you two different arrangements of pieces,” says Richardson, adding, “It was my eureka moment.”

To solve “London Larceny,” the puzzler must first assemble the four rooms of the mansion, each containing multiple clues and suspects. Four crimes are solved by replacing a “suspect” piece in each room with a policeman and rearranging the pieces into a new configuration. The catch: only if the right suspect is removed from each room will the crime scene then reassemble with the policeman in place. To solve the puzzle, you must also solve the four crimes.

Stave specializes in subtle creations that extend the boundaries of puzzle design and drive aficionados to distraction. Puzzles in the Teasers series have repeating shapes, irregular edges, and empty spaces worked in. Puzzles in the more difficult Tricks series are composed of pieces that will fit together in multiple ways, only one of which is correct—sort of a Rubik’s Cube of jigsaws. Stave will also create custom puzzles to your specs.

Stave’s puzzles are a long way from the cardboard clowns and puppies you assembled as a kid on rainy Sunday afternoons. But the satisfaction of tapping in that last piece is still everything you remember it to be.

And of course,  Stave’s puzzles do not come with a picture of the completed puzzle on the box. That’s strictly for amateurs.