An In-Depth Review of Tiger Majesty in 357 Pieces
by Bill Huot (Original Post)
I pre-ordered this puzzle when Puzzle Lab first gave its regular customers a sneak-peek at the artwork. Actually, I had already decided to order it even before I saw the image.
Puzzle Lab is in Victoria, the city where I live, and I had already bought and assembled five of their puzzles before this one – the most of any brand I have bought. Back in February I had assembled their challenging limited edition Lovebirds puzzle that used the classic “Victorian” style of cutting as well as an irregular outline and drop-out voids, and I absolutely loved it!
Most of their puzzles use a mathematically-derived parametric design as the basis for their cutting. It is not that I don’t like that style, but I do have an affinity for wood puzzles’ hand-cutting and human-design heritage, and I have dropped more than a few hints with the company that I would like to see more in this style.
This dramatic artwork reinforced my eagerness to get and assemble the new puzzle as soon as I could. When I got an email on Tuesday that my puzzle was ready for pick-up I immediately went down to their workshop to get it. It turns out mine was the first one delivered to a customer. Tinka (one of Puzzle Lab’s co-founders) asked that I not publish this review until after the puzzle was first made available to buy from their store, yesterday. But I began the puzzle later the same day that I picked it up.
Opening the puzzle and assembly walk-through
As with all of their puzzles, Tiger Majesty comes in a compact attractive matte-black magnetic-closure box. It includes a cloth bag to hold the pieces within the box for future safe storage and an information card about the artist, Ella Mazur.
Upon dumping the pieces out on my puzzle board my first impression was how mild the campfire smell was from the freshly-lasered puzzle. My second was how bright the orange and white tiger-face colours are on the pieces compared to the dark jungle context pieces. Then I noted how sharp and crisp the pen & ink drawing in the image looked, and how delicate the shading was. Great printing!
When I began sorting I noticed that most of the connectors were perfect little circles of varying sizes rather than a variety of shapes and sizes. I also noticed that there seemed to be very few straight-edge pieces, and there were no whimsies.
Although I purposely avoided studying the picture to plan my assembly strategy the image was still fresh in my mind. I knew it was a big tiger face surrounded by green foliage. Since beginning the puzzle with the edges seemed to be out of the question I knew that I would need to assemble it inside out and with clusters of target-of-opportunity pieces.
When I picked up the puzzle, Andrew, the puzzle’s designer, mentioned that the colour-line cutting was in the foliage part of the puzzle and that the tiger’s face had a different style of cutting. (This wasn’t a spoiler; this is also mentioned on the posting for this puzzle on their website.) I could see this in the pieces before me. The orange/white/black ones tended to be small or more complex shapes, and the foliage ones seemed to be bigger and longer.
I expected that the eyes would be my starting place and the puzzle would grow out from there. Instead, the few pieces with the tiger’s pink nose turned out to be the place from which it grew. The pieces with pink led to the white muzzle, pieces with whiskers, and the distinctive orange texture going up the nose.
Getting the eyes in place (and onto the correct sides of the face!) started to bring the tiger to life. It was at this stage that I recognized that the tiger’s face isn’t actually symmetrical, even though that is the overall effect. I guess that nature doesn’t work the way that people (including William Blake) see things.
For the whole rest of the assembly, and even now since I haven’t disassembled it as I write this, the tiger stares directly at me. He (or is it a she?) doesn’t look threatening. She doesn’t look judgmental. The word “cuddly” never came to mind. But the tiger was always watching me; challenging me to complete the puzzle. (In my mind I began to think of the tiger as embodying Andrew’s spirit, as the designer posing a personal challenge to me as the assembler.)
It was also at about this point that I began thinking of this as being two puzzles in one. There is a tiger puzzle and a jungle puzzle. The orange/white/black pieces were beginning to dwindle away, while the disorganized cluster of foliage pieces that I was ignoring at that stage seemed to be getting bigger.
Getting both ears attached seemed like an accomplishment. That really gave my tiger more personality.