Puzzle Contest Rolls Into The Depot


It’s Winter in Minnesota, what is there to do? This season’s lack of cold and snow might allow some to enjoy trail walking or biking. Others might be completely bored not being able to ski, snowmobile or go ice fishing. Love it or hate it, short daylight hours and fewer social events drive people indoors looking for something fun to do. It may come as no surprise that Minnesota is a leader in one activity that is gaining in popularity—speed puzzling.

The first known Speed puzzling contests began in the early 1980’s. There are speed puzzling Facebook groups and online contests. Avid participants can even earn a Black Belt in puzzling, no athletic skill required. Recently, contests have been popping up at local restaurants and are a great way to improve mood and mental health, connect with others in the community, maybe win prizes and mainly have fun. Players compete solo or on teams to complete identical puzzles in the least amount of time. Contest information and dozens of tips can be found on www.speedpuzzling.com but the best way to prepare for a contest is to practice.

Dissectologist is a term used to describe a person who has a passion for jigsaw puzzles and the process of completing one. Some jigsaw puzzle solvers consider themselves hobbyists or enthusiasts, but some are actual professional puzzlers. Sarah Schuler of St. Paul left her IT position in 2021 for a full-time job revolving around puzzles. She consults with different companies, helps connect them with influencers and creates content for their social media accounts. She has competed in speed puzzling contests for over a decade including at the Minnesota Winter Carnival and the World Jigsaw Championship in Valladolid, Spain where her team placed second in 2023.

310 Teams, totaling more than 1,200 participants, competed in the St. Paul Winter Carnival’s annual puzzle contest at Landmark Center. The winning team was from Minnesota but others came from as far away as California. All the puzzles used in the Winter Carnival competition were donated by PuzzleTwist, a company that works predominantly with local artists to design puzzles. The “twist” is that each puzzle is slightly different than the picture on the box, which adds another layer of challenge.

Laura McCurdy and her nine-year-old son, William of the Red Wing/Goodhue area competed in the family category at the Winter Carnival. Laura, William and relatives Jessica Hoehne and her daughter Katherine Stock (age 10) of Pine Island have been practicing and recently won the contests at Bridget’s Café in Zumbrota and The Depot in Goodhue. They say they go in with a strategy and a plan and completed the 300 piece puzzle at The Depot in about 40 minutes.

Looking for places to practice, Hoehne and McCurdy approached The Depot owners, Jeff and Carolyn Ryan about hosting a puzzle contest. The Ryan’s followed through by ordering five different puzzle designs from Portrait Puzzles ( www.portraitpuzzles.com ), a company in LaCrosse, WI owned by Goodhue native, Jay McNamara. The first design shows The Depot and a train, a gravel foreground and white sky with “The Goodhue Depot” written across the top. The puzzle is now available to purchase in the gift shop with the other designs reserved for future contests.

Goodhue’s first jigsaw competition came to The Depot on National Puzzle Day, Monday, January 29th. Ten teams consisting of four players each, filled tables across the venue. The $25.00 entry fee entitled each person to Italian appetizers, beverages and a chance for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams to win a prize. The next competition is scheduled for February 26th. Watch their Facebook page for updates and come in the shop to register.