Cluster Puzzles


First, what exactly is a ‘cluster puzzle’ tessellation? From this bare description alone, the premise is not at all obvious. Simply stated, these pieces can be described, in jigsaw terminology (of which genre these are generally to be found), of ‘every piece a picture’ that is, each piece is of a (ideally) whole real-life figure, such as an animal, or object. Ideally, these are of many different individual pieces so that a jigsaw like appearance is obvious. Contrast that with a ‘normal’ jigsaw, where the piece is only a very small part of the picture. However, this can also describe a ‘normal’ tessellation. The difference here is that the tiles do not repeat in any way.

Cluster Puzzle Derivation
The term ‘Cluster Puzzle’ (of which I now propose to serve as the defining description of the genre; it not previously having a categorical title) is taken from the work of Alex Palmer, of the US. Palmer can be considered as the founding father of these who in the 1960s so titled these (as well as ‘Jumble Fits’), with the insinuation of the pieces ‘clustering’. However, he was not the first person to have conceived the idea, the first instance being in 1909, with Margaret Richardson, titled ‘A Bad Dream’. Rather, Palmer can be considered to have brought jigsaw tessellations of this type to prominence (although as I learnt from his son, Kelvin, tessellation per se was not the guiding principle here) in which he produced a series of seven such puzzles, in contrast to his predecessors, which were very much of a one-off (or very near) nature. Likely, indeed almost certainly, the earlier references are all likely independently of each other. However, Palmer’s work, in contrast to the other, earlier references, can be considered as of a more thoughtful, considered nature. And furthermore, although again he was not the first to produce these commercially, his commercial efforts were of a different league to previous efforts. First by himself, and then with the help of the family, and then later more seriously with the Cadaco toy and game company of Chicago, these went into serious commercial production selling about 750,000 units before the company discontinued the line. By the relatively high number of puzzles produced (seven), their inherent quality, and the sheer volume of sales, I consider that Palmer should have the honour of the title of their type, hence ‘Cluster Puzzles’. Indeed, there is no official description of the genre, which makes research most difficult.

Escher’s Contribution

Of note is that the master of life-like tessellations, M. C. Escher himself tried his hand at instances of this type, with two instances, separated by six years; Plane Filling I (PD 83) of 1951 and Plane Filling II of 1957 (numerous books on Escher show this). Escher described these as ‘Free plane fillings, based on rectangular system, with 36 different motifs. Design for a mezzotint’. Incidentally, note that Plane Filling II has been produced as a jigsaw with individual pieces by the Iproject company.

As an aside to this, Doris Schattschneider, in Visions of Symmetry p. 306, relates a letter from Escher of 1963 to George J. Paulus, an American architect, in which Paulus sent Escher examples of his own work in this field, to which Escher replied ‘You are the first who shares my secondary hobby for irregular filling’. From this, it is clear that Escher had no inkling of the numerous predecessors in this field.


As can be seen from the chronological listing, the earliest instances are spasmodic, with for instance no less than fourteen years between the first (Richardson) and second instance (Dodd). Such spasmodic instances occurred subsequently throughout the following decades: 1930s (Eagle-Clarke), 1940 (Schoonderbeek, Paulus, Hahn) and 1950s (Escher, Mari), with just a handful of instances. However, in 1960s (Palmer), they began to increase in frequency. That said, this is in relative terms; even as late as the 1980s (Wright) there was but just two instances. Subsequent to that decade, the concept seems to have become more and more popular, although likely most are independent ‘discoveries’ of the genre. Certainly, upon correspondence with latter day designers, they are generally unaware of the history.

Format and Premise
Within the broad description, the format and premise can be loosened somewhat, sometimes considerably so. Seen are broad cluster puzzles as rectangles, triangles, squares and circle formats. Other instances are in the form of an animal or object outline. Many examples contain motifs that for the better portrayal of a realistic figure have been ‘loosened’ much beyond a tight interlocking jigsaw principle, with much open space. However, this is, I consider, sharp practice, as it negates the principle of tessellation; if taken too far, one may just as well place objects in a ‘close’ fitting manner. There is a world of difference between this and the tessellation principle. Indeed, I object most strongly to examples of these types. Certainly, a small amount of ‘rounding of’ at awkward joins is acceptable, but most people go beyond this. Sometimes, full-bodied motifs are not shown, such as with heads. Such instances are much easier to achieve, as the great bulk of the motif is dispensed with.

A frequent occurrence can be seen to be of a overriding theme, such as Noah’s Ark, Nativity and Country. Naturally these are pleasing in the sense of being unified, as contrasted with a collection of arbitrary unrelated motifs, which arguably can jar. Needless to say, these are more difficult to accomplish due to the restrictions involved, and so are more worthy of praise if of a high standard. As such, there seems to be a predisposition for examples of these types from the ‘woodcraft community’, other, non-cluster puzzles can be seen of this.

For unclear reasons, this type of puzzle appears to be highly popular in Japan, with numerous designers; indeed, Japan is the world leader. Unfortunately here, the language barrier makes for correspondence largely impractical. These are typically ‘simple’, in which the motifs are portrayed somewhat stylised. 

Faux Cluster Puzzles

The term ‘cluster puzzle’ can also be applied to other puzzles of what at first glance appear to be bona fide cluster puzzles, but upon closer inspection be seen to fail, and of which I so title as ‘faux’, but perhaps not evident to the tyro, and so false appreciation may be awarded. Note that this should not be though of as a criticism of the designers below, as almost certainly they were not setting out to produce a bona fide cluster puzzle, but rather had their own agenda. Three different types are identified:
1. ‘Overlapping’. For example, there are well-known jigsaw puzzles such as World’s Most Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle where a multiplicity of dog heads shown. Although in the strictest term this is indeed a cluster puzzle, there is no skill here whatever; all the designer has done is in effect overlap dog head images to form a composition; anybody could do this. In silhouette, this would just be a collection of arbitrary shapes with cat or dog detail. A similar premise is of a crowd scene, as in a school group photograph or military parade.
2. ‘Close Amalgamation’. Another type that could be mistaken is where the designer has simply gotten a collection of motifs, themed or otherwise, and has simply manoeuvred these as a ‘close amalgamation’, with numerous, in relative terms, gaps between the motifs. Again, there is no skill here whatsoever. An example of this is of Charley Harper’s Tree of Life.
3. 'Outline Puzzle'. Yet another misinterpretation is that of an interlocking puzzle in the form of an animal, such as an elephant (illustrated), or others such as a snake, or horse. Here, the overall outline in indeed representational, but the individual pieces are simply arbitrary jigsaw-like pieces, without pretence as to resembling anything. Again, this lacks skill in the context of cluster puzzles. Contrast instances of this type with a cluster puzzle where an outline is indeed recognisable, but with pieces representational, as with Bobby Bogl. There is a world of difference. 

Faux Cluster Puzzles: (i) Overlapping, (ii) Close amalgamation and (iii) Outline puzzle with abstract pieces


The medium varies too. Seen are ‘traditional’ jigsaw puzzles, of both cardboard and wood, these being the most frequent, but also plastic, drawings, silverware and bakeware. Some of the pieces in wood are designed to be as playthings in their own right, and can be stood up.

Background Detail of Designers

As can be seen from the examples below, this type of puzzle is now over a century old, and typically, especially so for some of the earliest examples, background details as to the designers, and indeed the puzzles themselves are decidedly lacking, which is only to be expected given the passage of time. I would be pleased to receive any further details of the puzzles themselves, and/or their designers, no matter how small or insignificant it might thought to be.


Research Difficulties

Note that as some of the puzzles are extremely old, and so hard to obtain (indeed, if available at all), I do not always have these in my possession to examine. Without the puzzles always to hand, assessing these is not always straightforward. For instance, counting the number of distinct pieces from pictures is not always a straightforward task as it might appear, as in discerning the individual elements of some, especially of the photographic type renderings, of the motifs tend to merge. Consequently, on occasions, the number of pieces is prefixed with ‘about’. The research here is primarily web based picture searching, aided by contacts in the field, mostly from the jigsaw puzzle community.


Listing Desirable Features

The puzzles seen differ widely in regards as their degrees of inherent quality and style, and so consequently, assessing their aesthetics is not a straightforward task. All these aspects combine to make a cluster puzzle of merit (or otherwise!). Just as in life-like tessellation, the quality varies immensely, generally caused by a lack of understanding of the issues. These aspects I now discuss in a little more detail (more exact details can be found in my series of essays): A desirable listing, in a rough order of importance, includes:


1. Compelling silhouettes (rather than inferior ‘surface decoration’)

This issue is at the crux of the matter, and can be considered as the litmus test, with all other aspects, in relative terms, paling to this aspect. Simply stated, in isolation, as a silhouette, the figure should be immediately recognisable. A formless shape, reminiscent of nothing in particular, no matter how good the surface decoration may be, is simply not acceptable. Just about any shape can be rendered as ‘life-like’ with the addition of a dot for an eye, without any other detail. However, this misses essence of design, of being recognisable in silhouette. Such instances can be considered as mere surface decoration, requiring no skill.


2. Whole bodied motifs or whole objects (rather than easier ‘heads’ or amputations)

As a general statement, ‘whole bodies’ or whole objects, i.e. of the entire motif are to be preferred, as against what I term as ‘amputations’, such as ‘heads’, as by their nature the latter are inferior, being easier to accomplish, as the greater part of the body is dispensed with. (Note that Escher’s two instances as detailed above are all this type.)


3. Tight interlocking, without gaps or overlaps (rather than large to minimal ‘wriggle room’, and overlaps)

Ideally, the pieces should not require ‘wriggle room’, as this destroys the principle of tessellation, of a line of a double contour purpose, with a line representing two aspects of a motif at once. Also, there should be no overlaps, this again destroys the principle of tessellation. Some artists take considerable liberties here, with both aspects, indeed too much. Where possible, one should adopt the high moral ground, i.e. no wriggle room, no gaps, whatsoever, and certainly not large expanses of space or excessive overlapping.


4. True-to-life animals or objects (rather than easier to achieve ‘whimsies’ or ‘fantasies’)

True-to-life animals, or objects, are much to be preferred. In contrast, other categories, such as ‘whimsies’ or ‘fantasy figures’ have considerable more leeway in outline, and so lack challenge. In addition, the motifs should ideally be proportionate.


5. Themes (rather than a disorderly collection of arbitrary animals, and objects)

Ideally, for the sake of consistency, a general theme is considered best, such all the pieces being of human figures, all animals, all inanimate objects, or whatever. Alternatively, for even more of a challenge, all of a single motif, such as all cats (as by Susan Brack and A. K. Dewdney). Without a theme, the composition can appear a little disjointed.


6. M. C. Escher styles of portrayal for easier identification of motifs (rather than photographic realism, in which the individual motifs tend to blur)

Various possibilities arise as regards styles of portrayal of the motif in question. In increasing order of complexity: without interior design, interior line design, cartoon, a photorealistic portrayal.  Related is colouration. Ideally, the individual pieces of the puzzle should be readily identifiable, the eye should not have to ‘struggle’ to make out the motifs. What is ‘best’ is thus subject to debate. In themselves these are all fine. However, as alluded to in 1 above, for a given silhouette, with the unique feature of tessellation, of a figure ground principle, the portrayal should be one that results in the motif being readily identifiable, at-a-glance. to this end, I consider that Escher had the right approach, these being balanced in the centre, certainly not photorealist, nor minimal. In this regard, the works of Escher serve as the exemplar. If a photographic rendering is tried, typically this is too detailed, with definition of each motif lost.

In short, the portrayal should echo Escher’s, although as this is a matter of teats, I am not too dogmatic here.


7. Motifs upright (rather than a ‘disorderly’ collection in a variety of orientations)

As a general statement, upright motifs are to be preferred rather than upside down, or at an unlikely angle, all of which jars against the senses (again, Escher railed against such instances in his writings, calling these ‘absurd’ [6] page 77; of note is that in Escher’s two instances the motifs are upright). However, in the context of cluster puzzles, this can be overlooked, given the difficulties involved. Certainly, I am less dogmatic here than in other categories.


8. Large number of motifs (rather than of just a small number of motifs)

Ideally, the composition should be of a substantial or ‘large’ number of motifs, arbitrarily stated. I have seen instances from just two pieces (Oguru) to a nearly a hundred pieces (Richardson), with a typical average of 20-30. It stands to reason that all things being equal (which is not always so), an instance with large numbers is more praiseworthy than that of fewer numbers. Consequently, if for a given puzzle the pieces are of about equal degrees of quality, a puzzle with more pieces is more worthy of praise, say 24 piece is better that a 12, a 36 over 24 etc. Furthermore, the few in number largely do not have to address themselves with double function of line, as at the borders one can have free reign, with no ‘central pieces’ to take into account. To put figures on the above, I would consider a 10 piece puzzle to be a bare minimum, with 20 or higher pieces more desirable.


That said, there may indeed be occasions on which these guidelines in the context of cluster puzzles may be freely broken. Achieving a cluster puzzle that is of compelling silhouettes, is of whole-bodied motifs, is true-to-life, is themed, has all motifs upright, is of a large number of pieces, of no wriggle room or overlaps and is of M. C. Escher style rendering is a Herculean task! Indeed, I know of no such instance of an ‘ideal’ cluster puzzle. And likely to even ask or to aspire is simply impractical; the demands of the premise are simply too great. An analogy, as George Orwell said in connection with matters of grammar with his famous sixth rule: ‘break any of these rules sooner than say (do) anything outright barbarous’. The same policy should be adopted here. Of course, although this is the ideal to aim for, as might be imagined, such an ideal cluster tessellation is asking a lot of the designer! Consequently, where otherwise one should be critical of such inferior elements as described above appearing in a ‘normal’ tessellation, to a certain extent these can be overlooked in these circumstances.


Upon having given a broad history and a discussion of what constitutes a good cluster puzzle, I now list the individual puzzles in more detail, in chronological sequence, upon which I discuss individually under each designer:


Chronological Listing of Designers:


1847–1852, Yoshifuji Utagawa. ‘Supernatural cat’, drawing
1903, John Sloan. Blackbird puzzle in newspaper

Bona Fide

1909, Margaret Richardson. A wooden jigsaw titled ‘A Bad Dream’
1921, Roger Hayward. Although tenuous in the extreme
1923, Mark D. Dodd. A patent title 'Toy'
c. 1930, 1933, Arthur W. Nugent. Three puzzles:  ‘25 Wooden Standup Dolls’, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ and ‘Noah’s Ark’.  
1936, Elspeth Eagle-Clark. Patent and two cardboard jigsaw puzzles, titled ‘Dragon’s Land’ and ‘Elfin’
1942-1947, W. Hahn. Commercial puzzle
c. 1945-1960, Simplex. Wooden jigsaw puzzles, of a variety of subjects
1946, Jacobus Hendrik Schoonderbeek. A patent, various animals
1947+, George J. Paulus, drawings of ‘interlocking animal shapes’
c. 1950. Aymara Indians. Bolivian Nativity Scene
1951 and 1957, M. C. Escher, two drawings, animals
1957, Enzo Mari, two wooden puzzles, Animali and Pesci (Animals and Fish)
circa 1960s Estrela, two commercial puzzles, of animals and cars
circa 1960s, Rochester Folk Art Guild, Animal Puzzle
1960-1967 Alexander D. Palmer, Cadaco cardboard jigsaw puzzles, figurative motifs
1963, Dave Lyons? Crowded Car Illustration from ‘Count the People’ puzzle, Humpty Dumpty magazine
1964, David Ashe, Nativity themed scene, in Better Homes & Garden magazine.
1967, Lakeside Toy company, anonymous designer, a series of six plastic puzzles: 16 Trains & Planes, 18 Horses & Riders, 19 Animals, 20 Cars and Trucks, 21 Fish & Birds and 25 Ghosts.
1967, University Craftsmen Inc. Two wooden puzzles, of zoo animals and trains
1970, Hasbro, 'Puzzle & Play' Animals
c. 1970s, Geni-Inc, animals
c. 1970s Yamada Design/Art Originals, animals

1971, Todd Jannell
c. 1972 Simplex Animal Mosaic
c. 1975+, George Luck, wooden puzzles, notably of country theme 
1975+, Sabu Oguro, apparently began designing numerous instances 

1975+ Götz-Peter Reichelt, wood animal carvings
1975 (possibly from 1960) Donald L. Grundy
c.1979, Angiolo Logi silverware, country outline, of Australia
c. 1980, ACRE (an off-shoot of Simplex?) Netherlands, animals
c. 1981, Anna Powell, one animal puzzle
1982, 'Ducks in Formation', CD Cover
1982, Craig Vesor, Circus
1982 Philip Gell, Noah's Ark

1984 Shigeru Koyabshi
1984, Barbara Stork for the John Wright bakeware company, animals
c. 1985, Pacific Puzzle Company, sea-type creatures
1985, AIMS
1988, Wayne P. Godinet, patent, a bed and mattress with animals
1992, Porter’s Puzzles. Arctic Animals
1993+, Rob Reger, Emily the Strange
1994, Steve (Stephan) Shumaker and Annie Power of ‘Pieceful Solutions’ company compiled a series of puzzle of a cluster puzzle within the outline of a motif. 
1994, Anthony Prischl and Paul Gibbs, silverware, country outline, Africa and USA
1994, Jim Fambrough, Corvettes and Critterfits
1994, Bits and Pieces
1995, Michael Angelo, drawing, animals
1995, Debi McGary, 1995. ‘Wonderful Wood Puzzle’ book, six puzzles

1996, Stanford A. Graham patent and produced three commercial puzzles, ‘An Amazing World of Dinosaurs’, and ‘Beneath the Sea’, by the Anything’s Puzzable company
1997, Rene Soriano, patent, Noah’s Ark 
1997, Denise M. Stevens, patent, Nativity scene
1998, Susan Brack, as a drawing, of cats
c. late 1990s, Pacific Puzzle Company
2000, Csilla Flatthy, as a jigsaw puzzle, country (Australia) outline
2001, Daryl G. Clerc and Pamela A. Clerc, patent, animals
2001, Ton Schotten? Pentominoes, animals
2002, Sam Brade, as a drawing, animals
2002, C. Todd
c 2003+, Dave Janelle, of ‘Creative Crafthouse’, a puzzle company, various themed, of both animals and inanimate objects
c. 2003, Yumeya. Country Outline, North America, Australia
c 2005+, Bobby Bogl. As a series of drawing
2006, 2015. Michele Wilson Company, three animal puzzles 

c. 2008, Artsoftheheart ebay ID
c 2008, ‘Smartkit’ company has two electronic examples, ‘Olla Podrida’
2009, Oswaldo Rosales, countries, Venezula and US
2010, Tozzwoods, a Singapore company, as a jigsaw puzzle, animals
c. 2010, Jean Richardou? Bestiare, animal drawing
c. 2011, Carolea Hower, Book, of farmyard wooden animals
2011, Designer unknown. Mushrooms
2012, Juan Calle (Onakaiser). Drawing
2012, David Netto. Arctic Animals
2013, Ray Delgadillo. Wood puzzle, The  Oak and its Family
c. 2013, BeginAgain [sic] Animal Parade:
2013, Ray Delgadillo. A single puzzle, ‘The Oak & Its Family’ (in oak) of seven pieces.
2014, Aminal [sic] puzzle, by Studio DUNN
2014, Alessandro Calogero, cookie cutter puzzles, with animals
2014, Hayley Ho and Thomas Guest, Orochen Family forest animals
2015, Mirim Seo, Chomp ecology puzzles
c. 2016, Art For Kids, Children's Rug

? Animuzzle:

? A. K. Dewdney, as a drawing, of cats
? Adam Laurance, Country outline, of Australia, wooden jigsaw puzzle
? 'Automatika', a clip art design of animals

? Bestiary
? Benho, a Chinese company
? Will Witham, commercial wooden jigsaw puzzles, birds, fish
? Buttonworks:
? Caroline Phlucker, Peru, animal drawing
? Creema (Japan), animals
? Cat Stax. Polyomino puzzle.
? Dan Bowe, a US woodworker, a single puzzle of sea creatures, titled ‘Urchins’
? Design Child
? Doron Laleyed Ltd, Israel, animals and fish
? East Yorkshire Woodturner, animals
? Made in Holland puzzle, c. 1960s?
? Shackman, a US company, a copy of Simplex
? Midori, Japan, Erasers
? Inhabitots, wood puzzle designed to stand upright, Safari animals?
? IKEA circus
? Iglehaus (Japan)
? Juan Calie, (Onakaser). Computer drawing, of animals
? Jean Dit, Toys and Patterns Animal Crazy. One wood puzzle, heavily stylised
? Jean Claude Constantin
? ‘Kailyn’. Farmyard scene of uncertain provenance
? [Lucy?] Everitt
? Land of Nod. Heads 'Face It’puzzle. Company founded in 1996, so not before then
? Yana Skaler, Ponoko, Animals
? ‘Ryan’, animal and human figures combined
? Sri Lanka
? Reclaimer
? Selecta, a German company, one animal puzzle
? Tuzzles, Country outline, Australia
? Jerry Krider, Claywood Creations. Animals
? Q Toys. Wood animal puzzle

Frequency listing by decade:

1900s (1)

1910s -

1920s (2)

1930s (2)

1940s (4)

1950s (7)

1960s (3)

1970s (10)

1980s (9)

1990s (12)

2000s (12)

2010s (12)


The Designers

All these aspects combine to make a cluster puzzle of merit (or otherwise!). Just as in life-like tessellation, the quality varies immensely, generally caused by a lack of understanding of the issues. These aspects I now discuss in a little more detail (more exact details can be found in my series of essays):

1903, John Sloan, forerunner 'Blackbird'

c. 1909, Margaret Richardson/Mrs Hayden Richardson. 

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. A Bad Dream, c. 1909, 90 pieces

This puzzle is noteworthy on different accounts; the first apparent instance, and the most number of pieces. The background to the designing of the puzzle is unknown, as indeed of Richardson. The only background detail I have of her is that she was a jigsaw puzzle designer, between 1908 and 1910, and is of New York City [1]. Richardson was quite well known in the jigsaw puzzle community, with other, ‘standard’ puzzles; but it would appear that this is the only instance of tessellation that she did.

Not themed; a large and wide variety of living creatures are portrayed, from strict likeness to whimsies; however, the whimsies are few in number, and largely inconsequential. As such, the quality varies, between instantly identifiable, and not. No concession is given to orientation concerns, with the motifs appearing ‘every which way’ something of which subsequent artists address. Of note is the large number of pieces, 90, the largest so far. As detailed above, as a rule this is more worthy of praise, all things being equal.

© Bob Armstrong

Satirical Maps, 1914

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

Although perhaps not strictly not a cluster puzzle in intent, what is termed as ‘Satirical Maps’, popular in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, undoubtedly have a relation to such matters, and so I thus include here. The genre draws upon national symbols and stereotypes, such as a British bulldog, Russian bears etc., with each figure broadly filling out their respective country outline to greater or lesser degrees. The best as regards cluster puzzle/tessellation matters is probably by Louis Raemaekers, of the Netherlands, titled ‘Het Gekkenhuis’, translated approximately as ‘The Lunatic Asylum’. Raemaekers was an artist of some renown, said to be the best-known propaganda cartoonist of the First World War (although I was previously unaware of him). This is the only ‘tessellation’ instance of his I have found. His work was apparently common knowledge in the Netherlands, and indeed worldwide. As an aside, it would be interesting to know if Escher knew of this particular work. I am unfamiliar with any reference in this regard. Some other instances of note of the genre, but by different artists, are ‘Humoristische Karte von Europa im Jahre 1914’ and ‘Satyrische Europa Karte’.

Het Gekkenhuis

Humoristische Karte von Europe im Jahre 1914, and Satyrische Europa Karte

1923, Mark F. Dodd

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Toy, 1923

Mark Dodd has a US 1923 patent, of a ‘toy’, which historically is of significance, this being the second such instance. This consists of children at play and farm animals and a few inanimate objects, such as a house, kennel, fence, trees and ball. Telling is Dodd’s text, where he states:

‘These blocks are constructed in irregular shapes but with a definite predetermined relationship one to another so that when properly placed in the space of body 1 they will snugly and compactly fit therein’. Without doubt, a cluster puzzle premise is thus intended. The purpose appears to be two-fold, both as a (implied) cluster puzzle, and a ‘play thing’ in its own right as individual elements (as can be seen in later examples, for example see Tozzwoods).

The pieces themselves are quite respectable in quality, albeit of relatively few pieces, with nine main characters. Of note is that these lack the double contour top and bottom of a larger instance, in that as the main pieces generally have no contiguous figures, one can have a little leeway in outline, and so can be made more life-like without this restriction. Of note in the patent is that no mention is made of a jigsaw puzzle likeness, or indeed of any precursors; Dodd appears to be unaware of earlier instances.

Nearly all detail of this toy remains unknown. Whether the toy was actually manufactured I have not been able to find out. Likewise, Dodd himself remains unknown, save for information contained in the patent, the only biographical detail being that of a US resident of New York city, in the county of the Bronx. As ever, does anyone know of the ‘toy’ and Dodd?

c. 1930, 1933, Arthur W. Nugent

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. ‘Noah’s Ark’, of 41 pieces, c. 1930s (George Leis)
2. ‘25 Wooden Stand Up Dolls’, of 25 pieces, c.1933 (Frederick H. Beach)
3. ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, of 45 pieces, c. 1933 (Frederick H. Beach)

Arthur William Nugent (1891-1975), better known as Art Nugent, created at least three cluster puzzles, c. 1930 and 1933, although he was not primarily a jigsaw puzzle designer/maker. Rather, he was a cartoonist and children’s puzzle designer for the Funland comic, notable for his long-running syndicated puzzle features (also known as Uncle Art's Funland), which he drew for four decades, with games, riddles, connect-the-dots art, crossword puzzles and anagrams. However, as far as I can ascertain, none of these featured cluster-type artwork.
Historically, Nugent’s work is of the utmost significance, the second commercial instance, after Margaret Richardson (negating Dodd's patent, which may not have been made).
Nugent shows three examples, all of a commercial nature, manufactured by George Leis and Frederick H. Beach, notable jigsaw puzzle makers of the day.

The figures themselves are of the highest quality in regards of the representation aspect. In particular, I am most impressed by ‘25 Wooden Standup Dolls’, in which this has many indicators of high quality:
Numerous motifs of commensurate quality, excellent articulations, and themed, with dolls/human figures in national costumes.  (Too many by others, especially modern-day instances, are, for me at least, far too simplistic in their outline; many are effectively unrecognisable.) Both 25 Wooden Standup Dolls’ and ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ are of arguable alike quality.
Another feature here is that the pieces are designed (as with others) as play pieces in their own right, that is can stand up.
Another pleasing feature is that this is not just a ‘one-off’ by Nugent, but with two other instances to his name; many people just do a single instance and move on, although this should not necessarily be thought a criticism. Furthermore, are all pleasingly of care and consideration, with numerous motifs, themed, and of high-quality, of Type A, without wriggle room.
Background details are taken from Wikipedia [*]. Does anyone have more to add on Nugent?

© Anne Williams
© Anne Williams

1934, Mrs Elspeth Eagle-Clarke

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Dragon’s Land 1933, 43 Pieces

2. Elfin, 1933, 63 Pieces

Dragon’s Land, and box


Elfin, and box

The background to the two puzzles is unknown. The only background detail I have of Eagle-Clarke is that she is of Broomfield, Filey, Yorkshire, England. Eagle-Clarke has a 1934 Great British patent for this, 407,185, as shown

© Kelvin Palmer, Patent



Not themed; a large and wide variety of living creatures are portrayed, from strict likeness to whimsies; however, the whimsies are few in number, and largely inconsequential. As such, the quality varies, between instantly identifiable, and not. No concession is given to orientation concerns, with the motifs appearing ‘every which way’ something of which subsequent artists address.

A feature of these is that the rendering is of a more true-to-life image, of a near photographic quality, with much fine detail.

Of note is that the box states ‘every piece a picture’, the first reference to the term


Dragon’s Land

Not themed; a large and wide variety of living creatures are portrayed, from strict likeness to whimsies; however, the whimsies are few in number, and largely inconsequential. As such, the quality varies, between instantly identifiable, and not. No concession is given to orientation concerns, with the motifs appearing ‘every which way’ something of which subsequent artists address.

A feature of these is that the rendering is of a more true-to-life image, with much fine detail.

1942-1947, W. Hahn

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Title unknown [Framyard], 17 Pieces
2. Title unknown [People], 15 Pieces

W. Hahn, a Dutch puzzle maker/designer created two cluster-type puzzles (albeit with reservations) from c. 1942-1947 (as told to me by the Dutch puzzle authority, Geert Bekkering). These are somewhat alike in style to those of the Simplex company, of a like date, although whether this is coincidence or not is unclear.
    These are both in a square format, without a title (or is at least known), of a farmyard scene and another not so easily described, with people in every day scenery, with an oversize house in the centre. For simplicity, I refer to the puzzles as ‘Farmyard’ (the better puzzle) and ‘People’. ‘Farmyard’, of 17 pieces, bears the text ‘Ondwerp W. Hahn’ and ‘Een USN Product’, which translates as Designer W. Hahn, and of which USN, the full title as Uitgeverij (publishing house) Schoonderbeek Nederland (in The Hague) was the manufacturer, a well-know company of the day. ‘People’, of 15 pieces, just gives ‘W. Hahn’. ‘Farmyard’ was apparently designed as both puzzle and plaything; the pieces can also be made to stand up in their own right. Both of these are only loosely cluster puzzle in nature, with liberties taken with the premise. Indeed, there are vast open spaces here, not to mention the drawing of figures (primarily of ‘People’) inside a tile without recourse to double contour matters. Nonetheless, these still retain enough of a cluster puzzle nature to be deemed worthy of inclusion.
    Seemingly little is known of Hahn. Does anyone have more detail on him? Indeed, not even his first name is known. I know of one other (non cluster) puzzle with flags. Did he produce others? What was his background? No detail is too small to know.

Type B-C (mid-range to lowesr category). Themed; of farmyard animals and people (with houses). Farmyard is the better of the two. The articulations are lacking in intrinsic quality, although better with Farmyard. The number of motifs, 15 and 17, although apparently ‘respectable’ is somewhat misleading; both have considerable vacant spaces, with in particular ‘People’ simply having numerous motifs drawn on a single piece, with no skill required. Overall, both puzzles, in their own ways, leave a lot to be desired.

© Geert Bekkering

1945-1955, Simplex company, Netherlands


Puzzle inventory, in alphabetical order, without dates and number of pieces (dating these exactly is not possible, as they are not individually denoted):

1. Boats
2. Buildings
3. Circus

4. Cowboy
5. Garage
6. Ships
7. Train

First, what is known of the company is largely due to the sterling efforts of three people: Betsy and Geert Bekkering, who wrote about them extensively in their book on Netherlands jigsaw puzzles [1], Nico Stalenburg, a Simplex enthusiast [2], and a local community website [3], and of which the details below is an amalgamation taken from the above. However, there is indeed a degree of originality, of which I enquired with George Escher, Escher's son, as to what, if anything, they knew of the puzzles.

The Simplex company, at Aalst near Eindhoven of the Netherlands, under the direction of Mr F. J. van der Vlugt and a little while later Mr H. A. W. Steinmeier, from 1945-1955 produced a limited range of cluster puzzles in intent. However, this is with considerable reservation, as none of these are ideal examples of the genre, and indeed at time barely qualify, and furthermore such examples were very much a small, insignificant part of a large scale production of children’s puzzles in general.

Simplex was for a few years after the Second World a household name in the Netherlands, and of which for many Dutch children made a welcome game. Indeed, in most houses you could find them. A common feature is that of a circle format, albeit with an occasional rectangle. The choice of a circle format was dictated to by the materials to hand. These are in fact made from ‘waste wood’ from the Phillips radio screens. These were then used these to make dolls furniture at first. It was an English officer who suggested making them into round jig-saw puzzles. The cluster puzzles were very much part of a small remit, and ceased after 1955, albeit the more traditional puzzles continued. Whether there was a single or multiple designer of the cluster puzzles is not clear. Furthermore, it is not possible to put an exact date on any one puzzle. The company was certainly prolific, with production runs of millions a year. Indeed, the marked was soon flooded with circular puzzles and they stopped producing them in 1976. Indeed, they are widely available to this very day on auction sites. The puzzles bear the occasional titles ‘Cowboy’, ‘Circus’, ‘Train’, ‘Buildings’, ‘Ships’ and ‘Garage’.

Of interest with the Simplex puzzles is of whether M. C. Escher knew of them, and if so did they influence his own works in this field, namely of Sun and Moon, Plane Filling I and Plane Filling II, which were undertaken subsequently, in 1948, 1951 and 1957 respectively. Escher in his writings never mentioned Simplex. To this end, I then contacted George Escher [4], his son, for any possible thoughts on the matter. In a mail he told me:

… I can tell you that although we were familiar with some Simplex puzzles, I cannot remember ever discussing their designs with father, or him showing any interest in them. When talking about Plane Fillings I and II he mentioned that he created them just out of curiosity, and that Plane Filling ii allowed him to use "real" objects with "reality" constraints on their contour (e.g. the guitar), and also that he had the freedom to choose how many designs of one colour he wished to use to delineate a design of another colour. In general, the lack of constraints killed his interest in this kind of tessellation.

From this, it would thus appear that the Simplex instances had no influence on his work.

As to the puzzles themselves, the weakness of these as regards inherent quality can be seen by observing the puzzle in reverse. For instance, ‘Circus’, bears no resemblance to an even half recognizable motif! All the artist has largely done is draw interior detail inside an arbitrary boundary. There is no skill here whatsoever. The same principle applies to the others, to equal or lesser degrees.

Note that subsequently, in 1972, Simplex, produced more cluster puzzles, but of a completely different kind, in which the inherent quality is much better. Likely, this was a Fisher Price influence, the company having been taken over by them in 1970. Furthermore, these are of a different format, with more numerous motifs, and can only have been designed by different designer. These are discussed separately, under 1972.

Assessment: Type C puzzle (the lowest), of typically 10-12 pieces, a noticeably low number. However, these are at least themed, albeit in this instance the lack of articulation makes such matters of little consequence. The puzzles invariably have issues with silhouettes and articulations, and are sadly all too lacking, and so consequently these are some of the poorest examples to be seen. Selecting a best here is an onerous task, as they are all of a par, of such poor quality.

As ever here, does anyone know of further details of the above? No detail is too small to know.

[1] Betsy and Geert Bekkering. Stukje Voor Stukje: Geschiedenis van de Legpuzzel in Nederland. 1988 (In Dutch) Translated: Piece by Piece: A History of the Jigsaw Puzzle in the 
Netherlands, 57-58
[2] Nico Stalenburg:
[4] Private Correspondence with George Escher, 5 March 2017


© Geert Bekkering


1946, Jacobus Hendrik Schoonderbeek

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. [Animals], 13 Pieces, 1946?

A puzzle, patented in 1946? by the J. H. Schoonderbeek company from the Hague, Netherlands, which was later manufactured, albeit details are sketchy. Animal theme, of a simple detail interior, of a small number of pieces. The motifs appear in a variety of orientations. The intrinsic quality is respectable; by far from the worst, but of a lower order from the best.

1947, George J. Paulus, Various Puzzles

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

Another sketchy reference is that of George J. Paulus, of 1947, who, much later, in 1963, sent Escher some ‘irregular tilings’, as according to Doris Schattsneider in [6] page 306.

Escher commented: ‘You are the first who shares my (secondary) hobby for irregular fillings’, from which it is obvious that Escher, as late as 1963, was wholly unfamiliar with the instances prior to this date. Also see a 1968 reference of Paulus, of an alphabet puzzle.

c. 1950s, Aymara Indian Nativity Scene

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. ‘Nativity Scene’, of 24 pieces, c. 1950

A nativity-themed puzzle, from the Aymara Indians, an indigenous people (population one million) from South America, of Lake Titicaca, on the border of Bolivia and Peru. This was hand-painted in their own likeness, and made of clay (a unique instance). The puzzle is of some considerable interest, in many ways. However, much background detail remains unknown, and likely will remain so, for a variety of reasons, such as an obscure location and rarity (of only one known instance), and without any leads to pursue. The puzzle was found advertised on the site and described as below:

This unbelievable nativity in clay is constructed as a puzzle. The parts will stand independently or place in box for scene that fits just as a puzzle. You can see the Bolivian Chullo Hats, the Bowler hats worn by the women, and the baby Jesus small cap. I love the animals that show the area of the country - the llama, chicken, lambs, bull, goats, water jugs, all the vegetation. The clothing, faces and colors depict the Bolivian culture of the Aymara Indians.
This piece measures 11 x 11½" inside the box - the puzzle. The outside of the box measures 12 x 12½". The Christmas puzzle weight is 6 lbs. 12½

Unfortunately, for various reasons too detailed to mention here, I was not able to contact the seller for further details. The year given, c. 1950, is stated to be an estimate. I would not be all surprised if this was wrong by many decades; there is no indication on the puzzle itself on which to base this date. Details are at a premium, there does not appear to be any accompanying details on the box or a leaflet; the designer’s name is not stated. Whether this is a ‘one-off’, or mass-marketed to tourists is not clear.
As to the puzzle itself, it can be seen the figures, curiously for a nativity scene, wear bowler hats! The explanation here is that such apparel is a fashion statement; seemingly nearly all the women wear this headwear, to this day, and of which their introduction per se dates from 18th Century or 1920 (sources differ as to the date). Researching the story, of the above dates an English bowler hat salesman endeavoured to save his ailing business by selling bowler hats in
Bolivia. These hats caught on amongst Bolivian women and are still worn by their descendents. However, there are subtleties to be observed when wearing bowler hats. Widows wear them tilted to one side, married women wear them on the top of their heads, and women who are looking for action, so to speak, wear them on the crown of their heads. So before you approach make sure you get your angles right. How about that! The things you learn….

Background matters aside, these are of a reasonable standard, of no gaps, but certainly not of the highest standards, nor of the lower ratings. It has a relatively high number of pieces, 24. As with other puzzles, this has a dual purpose, as a puzzle in its own right or as a plaything.

Can anyone add to what is given above? In particular, I would like to know of the designer’s name and the date. As ever, no detail is too small to mention.


1951, M. C. Escher

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Plane Filling I, 1951, 36 pieces

2. Plane Filling II, 1957, 40 pieces

Escher’s commentary:


Regularity of construction can be recognised in this rectangular mosaic in that, both as regards height and breadth, three light and dark alternate like the squares on a chessboard. With the exception of the shapes around the edge, every white one is surrounded by four black ones and every black by four white. The sum total can immediately be ascertained: 36 pieces, 18 white and 18 black.



I should like to round off this introduction to my periodic patterns with these two tessellations, which contain no repeating figures whatsoever. So they do not really belong to the subject of this talk, but I show them all the same because they clearly illustrate my two main requisites recognisability and colour contrast. If one couldn’t recognise them as living beings or a well known object (the guitar, for instance), it would have been a senseless game to put them together; and without a shade contrast between two adjacent figures they would simply be invisible!

The first of two like instances, the second being of 1957, below. Note that tiles here are not in the jigsaw forms as above, albeit the cluster premise remains, and so is this thus included. Escher commented on both these in [2, page 11] and [3, 1964 Canada lecture, page 32]. However, both comments do not illuminate these in any way, and are in any case exceedingly brief. In [2] he does not really address the all-important matters of the design process, but rather just gives a simple description of generalities, mostly concerning contrast and totals of the pieces. Whilst in [3] these are although of reasonable length, they essentially mentioned in passing:


Escher notes on the drawing ‘Free plane-filling, based on a rectangular system, with 36 different motifs (design for mezzotint)’. However, the term ‘rectangles’ is not to be taken literally, rather than rectangles per se quadrilaterals are used, presumably within a ‘rectangle system’.

Escher here essentially revisits a previous idea of composing a tessellation with numerous motifs, of periodic drawing 71, birds, but with a new idea, namely with no restriction as to choice of motif and a large increase in the number. As such, some of the motifs are highly fanciful, of fantasies, essentially of necessity due to the demands of the idea. As this is then, in Escher's own words, a 'free plane filling...', the motifs extremities around the border thus have more freedom in that greater attention can be paid to their veracity, as there is more room to manoeuvre.

Of interest as regards technique is the design procedure. As such, he ‘retains’ his existing design method used for his ‘normal tessellations, of an underlying polygon (here a quadrilateral), whereas the other instances by his predecessors, are, without doubt, more of a ‘free style’ procedure (curiously, the later 1957 instance is not so structured in this regard, consisting of a series of ‘unstructured’ motifs; likely Escher here applied the ‘free style’ procedure).

Of note is that all instances are of whole bodied motifs, with generally good articulations, and furthermore all upright, and not of the lower quality ‘amputations’ and upside downs as used by others above. That said, unlike others, such as Alex Palmer, there is no general theme here; they’re just an assortment of animals, some true to life, some fantasies. However, they are all rendered to a high quality, and do indeed have contrast, and so are readily identifiable, something which is generally lacking in others


1957 M. C. Escher, Plane Filling II, 40 pieces

Escher's commentary:

In this case the only regularity to be noted is the rectangularity of the complete surface. There are but few of the inner figures bordered by four adjacent ones. The direct environment of the frog consists of two figures; the guitar is hemmed in by three, the cock by five and the ostrich (if that is what it really is) by six. The sum total can be arrived at by careful counting.

Escher here repeats an earlier ‘free filling’ idea of 1951, albeit quite why he chose to, for once, essentially repeat himself is not known. One possibility is there is a slight increase in the number of pieces, from 36 to 40, but this is more or less negligible in percentage terms, and so it is not likely that he set out to raise the numbers. Interestingly, there is indeed a noticeable difference between them; likely Escher here applied the ‘free style’ procedure; there are no ‘standard size’ quadrilaterals underlying this.

As this print has much in common with the preceding one, the general comments above are also relevant to this as well, of which I thus defer to.

The text once again does not shed any light on the design itself. The one aspect noticeably different here is the underlying polygon. Whereas previously Escher used an ‘average’ quadrilateral, without excessive lengths, the underlying tiles here are of a different nature.


1957, Enzo Mari

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. 16 (Sedici) Animali 16 pieces

2.  16 Fish (Pesci) 16 pieces

The Italian designer Enzo Mari (1932- ) who in 1957 made contact with the Italian plastic products manufacturer Danese and agreed to develop a series of mass-manufactured products, and not just cluster puzzles. Specifically, germane to this page, he designed two wooden puzzles, of 16 pieces each, of two themes, of animals and sea. These are of a somewhat simplified, stylized nature, of relatively few pieces. A variety of orientations are shown. 



16 (Sedici) Animali 16 pieces

1959, Shackman

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Garage, 1959

Very little is known as to the background to the Shackman instance, save for being a disreputable US manufacturer of toys and games. The puzzle includes a laughable copyright notice of ‘Shackman copyright 1959 Made in Japan’, no other detail is given, or known. I say ‘laughable’; of note to the Shackman instance is the resemblance to the Simplex style, above, see the entry under 1945. Indeed, this could easily be mistaken for the latter company, and it is indeed more or less an exact copy, derived from Simplex. Upon researching the company, I found the following quote:
Shackman products often closely resemble those of major manufacturers. Although Shackman carefully avoids copyright infringement, the similarities are noticeable
Seemingly as with other products, Shackman plays fast and loose with matters of copyright, and so shame on you Shackman!


circa 1960s, Rochester Folk Art Guild

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animals, c. 1960, 21 Pieces

The Rochester Folk Art Guild, of Middlesex, NY, US, an artists’ collective, made a 21 piece animal puzzle, suitably titled 21 Animal Puzzle. The puzzle itself bears no other detail than description and the source, as above. Anne Williams, who drew this puzzle to my attention, was only able to tell me that it is of the 1960s, and measures 17½” x 13¼”. Upon the Rochester reference, I made inquiries on the web, and of which I found that the Guild is still going strong, and upon direct contact with Michael Hunter, of the Graphic Arts department, he told me that this was a production piece, of perhaps 25-50 units, perhaps more, silk screened on wood before being cut as a jigsaw puzzle. Generally, there was no documentation with the puzzle. The designer is unknown; the Guild policy is that of a collective, with all work done signed only with the name of the Guild and not an individual. Possibly this was a collaborative effort, as a lively exchange of ideas was encouraged. Likely this was a one-off in terms of the puzzle type. Although unlikely given the passage of time, does anyone know of the designer/s?
Type A (the highest category). Themed; of animals. The articulations are very good indeed, with high quality outlines in silhouette. The number of motifs is reasonably high. Overall, a good quality puzzle, with much of merit. 

© Anne Williams

circa 1960s, Estrela

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, of 24 pieces, c. 1960
2. ‘Cars’, of 14 pieces, c. 1960?

‘Estrela’, a major Brazilian toy company, and indeed a household brand, was founded in Sao Paulo in 1937, when it started producing dolls and wooden toy cars. Among its product range, and possibly of the 1960s and later, they produced two known wood cluster puzzles, of animals and (interestingly given its background) cars. However, these are of different styles, and so likely different designers, and also possibly chronology. Although a detailed company history is available on their website, there is no mention of jigsaw or cluster puzzles. Therefore, much background detail remains unknown, and likely will remain so, for a variety of reasons, such as an obscure location and rarity (there is only one known instance of each puzzle, albeit they were obviously mass produced), and without any leads to pursue. The car puzzle was found on Etsy, albeit despite contact made with the seller no response was received. This was described as ‘Vintage item from the 1960s’, albeit the caption is wrong, referring to the animal puzzle, although this is not pictured! However, presuming a correct attribution, there is no apparent documentation to support this statement. Whether there is some indication with the puzzle or not is unclear; it may simply have been a throwaway remark, for the sake of an approximate date. I would not be all surprised if this was wrong by many years; there is no indication on the puzzle itself on which to base this date. Details are at a premium, there does not appear to be any accompanying details on the box or a leaflet; the designer’s name is not stated, hence the considerable uncertainty here. The animal puzzle was found on eBay, with no detail worth the mention.

As to the puzzles both instances are themed, of animals (titled ‘Wooden pre-school animals puzzle’ on the box) and ‘cars’; no official title can be discerned. As alluded to above, these differ in style, with ‘Animals’ being of the higher standard A type, whilst ‘Cars’ is of B. Both puzzles measure 9” x 9”, and the puzzles are of 24 and 14 pieces respectively. Likely, these also are playthings in their own right; the puzzles are apparently designed to stand up.

Assessment: As both puzzles are fundamentally different in nature, these I thus discuss individually, rather than overall.

Animals. Overall pleasing, of a decided higher tariff, of A, being themed and of the motifs being reasonable of quality, with high quality articulations, albeit within a stylized puzzle, of relatively simple outlines. Puzzles are themed; of animals, of a like quality in style.


Overall pleasing, being themed and of the motifs being reasonable of quality, albeit of a decided lower tariff, of B to C. However, within the category, this is still of worth

As alluded to above, there are very little background details are available, with only two references found; the above is subject to (considerable) revision. The date is a best guess. Can anyone add to this in any way, and in particular with firmer dates and the designer?


1960, 1964-1966, Alex Palmer

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animal Jumble Fits 1965, 34 pieces

2. Figments, 1965

3 Sports, 1966

4. Make-Up, 1966

5. Doodles, 1966

6. Whimsies, 1966

7. Unlikely Story No. 1 1967, 48 Pieces

By far the most notable contribution to the genre is that of the late designer and artist Alex Palmer (1920-2013), of Chicago, US, who between 1964 and 1967 (an earlier one-off 1960 instance can be described as a prototype) took these to a new level in the number of instances and intrinsic quality. Palmer undertook a series of seven puzzles of largely themed instances, with a relatively large number of pieces, and furthermore all of an ideal upright orientation: 1 Animals, 2 Figments, 3 Sports, 4 Make-Up, 5 Doodles , 6 Whimsies, 7 Unlikely Story No. 1 (shown below)


© Kelvin Palmer. Unlikely Story No. 1, and the die used, and Doodles

These went into a commercial production, first on a home-grown basis (with the self-styled Tek (technical) Method Company), and then later with the Cadaco Company producing and selling his original puzzles, over the years in their thousands, with an estimate of about 500,000-700,000 [sic] in total sales, up to 1977. Sale numbers after that date, with complications as to figures arising from Cadaco, is a little hard to say. Cadaco stocked the product until 1988. And yet somehow, despite the large number of sales, these had escaped my attention, and I dare say the tessellation community at large! Certainly, I am unfamiliar with any reference to these in the literature.

© Kelvin Palmer: Cadaco advertisement
From information obtained from his son, Kelvin, the term ‘Cluster Puzzles’ and ‘Jumble-Fits’ emanated from him. On the box covers these are titled as ‘Cluster Puzzles’ and ‘Jumble-Fits’, and so given that his contribution is by far the most extensive, and this is the name by which they have become prominent in the jigsaw puzzle community, it seems appropriate to describe any generic instances under this term.

A pleasing feature of all seven of the puzzles is that they are all based on a theme (although on occasions the term is used a little loosely here), of which as detailed above, is an ideal attribute. These can be differentiated in two main ways. Truly themed are 1 Animals, 3 Sports, 6 Whimsies, 7 Unlikely Story No. 1. Of a vaguer premise in this regard are 2 Figments, 4 Make-Up, 5 Doodles. Nonetheless, these remain of inherent quality per se; it’s just that I have concerns over the titling and content thereof.

The puzzles differ in their degree of interlocking. Puzzles 1 Animals, 2 Figments, 5 Doodles, 6 Whimsies, 7 Unlikely story No. 1 are of an ideal, close interlocking nature. On occasions, minimal ‘wriggle room’ with these is introduced, for a better portrayal, but this is largely of a minimal nature. Indeed, the preliminary pencil sketches of 2 Figments, 5 Doodles and 6 Whimsies show no ‘wriggle room’ whatsoever. Simply stated, the finished works show a general ‘rounding of’ on occasions in places. Certainly, I myself, of which I regard this issue of fundamental importance, have no qualms about this usage here. Certainly there is nothing ‘excessive’ here (as much beloved by other so-called deluded ‘tessellation’ artists that permeate their work, with wide, open spaces that destroy the principle of tessellation). However, Puzzles 3 Sports and to an extent 4 Make-Up do indeed have a considerable degree of ‘wriggle room’, and so are consequently marked down in comparison.

Curiously, the rendering of them echoes the differentiation above; 1 Animals, 2 Figments, 5 Doodles, 6 Whimsies, 7 Unlikely Story No. 1 are of a cartoon-like appearance, whilst 3 Sports and to a certain extent 4 Make-Up are more lifelike. Generally, Palmer favoured a cartoon-like portrayal, with a multiple colouring (with a black surrounding outline), of which perhaps due to the demands of the cluster premise is arguably ideal, in that such a presentation seems to fit in well with the  motifs, which typically adopt a series of unusual poses, perhaps best displayed in a cartoon-like manner.

The puzzles typically have a consistent and high range of number, from 29 to 34 pieces, a relatively high number. One exception, of a larger number, is that of 7 Unlikely Story No. 1, with 48 pieces. Such a relatively large number, given the quality aspects involved, is most pleasing. (Contrast this with those puzzles of a poorer quality, with fewer pieces.)

Aside from puzzle 1 Animals, a recurring aspect is that these is that they feature the adventures of a fictional character, Alec Zandimer Plerp (based on Palmer himself), with his secretary, Merma. These two characters are then surrounded by the theme.

As a rule, save for 1 Animals, for each instance there is a mix of types, whole bodied, amputations, true to life, fantasies.

Kelvin has produced a book [4], which I highly recommend, and website [5] which goes into more detail of their introduction, both of which are invaluable sources.

1963, 'Dave Lyons'?

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Crowded Car, 1963

Crowded Car Illustration from "Count the People" puzzle, Humpty Dumpty magazine, September 1963. Illustrator unknown but possibly Dave Lyons.

1967, University Craftsman Inc.

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Zoo Animals, 1967
2. Transport, 1967

Two puzzles, of zoo animals and transport. Little detail beyond what is given on the box is known. Does anyone know of the designer or of the company? Are there any others from them?

1968 Patent, George J. Paulus, 26 Pieces

A patent for an alphabet cluster puzzle. Quite whether this should be included in this listing is a moot point; as it is unlike the other animal and inanimate object instances here. However, as a ‘cluster’ principle can be discerned, for the sake of thoroughness I include.

1968, Lakeside

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Trains and Planes, 1968, 16 pieces

2. Horses and Riders,1968, 18 pieces

3. Animals, 1968, 19 pieces

4. Cars and Trucks,1968, 20 pieces

5. Fish and Birds,1968, 21 pieces

6. Ghosts,1968, 25 pieces

25 Ghosts, Designer unknown, 25 pieces

Very little as to the background of this cluster puzzle is known, and indeed, all that I have to hand is that from the box description. This was produced by Lakeside Toys, a division of Lakeside Industries Inc, of Minneapolis in 1968, of 25 pieces. This consists of a theme, of ‘ghosts’, of varying degrees of realism, albeit such a ‘category’ is somewhat vague; broadly, any shape can, or could be, with the addition of eyes be interpreted as ‘ghost-like’! The ‘ghosts’ are portrayed in a simple manner, with the only interior detail being of two eyes. Nonetheless, these all resemble humanoid figures, with largely respectable articulations, i.e. heads, body, arms and legs clearly defined. Of course, there is the odd exception of a contorted and awkward figures, but this is due to the demands of the cluster puzzle type, and as detailed above, can in this instance (of genre) be overlooked. Of its type, this is quite pleasing, and opens up the possibility of a cluster puzzle entirely of human figures.

19 Animals. Courtesy, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Apparently of the same period, Lakeside also produced other themed instances, with 16 Trains and Planes, 18 Horses and Riders, 19 Animals, 20 Cars and Trucks, 21 Fish and Birds. However, these are not particularly of any degree of artistic merit, the tiles as a rule bearing little resemblance to the object they are supposedly portraying. Background details to this are non-existent. Likely the designer of the 25 Ghosts puzzle also designed these, but who he is remains unknown. As ever, an open plea to any reader for further details, no matter how small for further details. Further pictures of these are at:
(Scroll about 1/5 of the page.)

Circa 1970s, Yamada Design/Art Originals

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, c.1970, 5 pieces

‘Yamada Design’, a handcraft maker in Japan, has brought out two known (are there others?) alike square composition wood animal cluster puzzles, and imported to the US by ‘Art Originals’ of New Canaan, Connecticut, c. 1970s. Little background details are available, with only two references found. First, the ‘Frag-ment-ed’ blog page, which shows the two instances, along with an overall, brief discussion:
Disappointingly, they did not respond to my request for further information and permission to show images.
Second, from Mary of ‘Tipple and Snack’, an Etsy seller, and of which upon finding her page has kindly supplied the pictures and added more details. The packaging states ‘Yamada Design, Hand Craft Maker, made in Japan’, and ‘Imported by Art Originals of New Cannan, Conn’ Note the mis-spelling of New Canaan. No title of the puzzle or pieces are given, of which for purposes of discussion is a little inconvenient. Thus, I describe these as according to the largest animal pieces respectively, namely ‘Hippo’ and ‘Elephant’. Likely, these also are playthings in their own right; the puzzles are apparently designed to stand up. The assembled square measures 5¼" x 5¼" and is just over ½” thickness. The date stated is of a recollection of the box, 1970s. However, I am informed Art Originals imported pieces like this from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Therefore, this could be considerably earlier.
Assessment: Both puzzles are themed; of animals, of a like quality in style. Each puzzle consists of just five pieces, a noticeably low number, and of which these are thus not fully surrounded at their outlines (save for a single piece, a tortoise), and so pale in comparison, noticeably so, with other more numerous examples of more exacting double contour standards. Indeed, one could almost say this is a minimal number to remain cluster puzzle in intent. Both puzzles are of Type A, albeit with minor rounding off, and one instance of introduced articulations (snake), and so I thus give this an A-. The pieces are reasonably articulated, with easily recognizable animals, with the Hippo puzzle having a cow, whale, tortoise, whale, ram, whilst the Elephant puzzle has dolphin, snake, rhino and a large cat of some description; possibly a tiger? Overall, a pleasing puzzle, albeit qualified by the significant lack of number of the motifs, which is a major shortcoming.

Does anyone know more of the background to the either the company (Yamada) and importer (Art Originals) and their puzzles? Note that I am not entirely sure of the correct spelling of the name here. There is also ‘another’ Japanese puzzle company, Yumeya, of which these being such similarities may indeed be the same company.

© Mary of ‘Tipple and Snack’ (Etsy) 

c. 1970s Geni Funware Puzzle

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. ‘Animal Puzzle’, of 13 pieces, c. 1970s

‘Geni’ has produced single loosely themed cluster-type puzzle, of animals, in plastic, suitable, or aimed at, young children, with an indented tray as guidance. The puzzle measures 14” x 10½”. Much background detail remains unknown of the Geni instance. Who or exactly what Geni as a company are is unclear. All that is known, from a company leaflet included with the puzzle, is that they are (or were) a company from California, Cerritos, USA, of c. 1970. All that is given for their address is of a PO Box number. The designer’s name is not stated. Upon researching, I cannot find any reference to them as regards games and puzzles, or indeed anything else. As such, the puzzle seems to have been designed with a multiplicity of purposes in mind, with the leaflet stating: ‘a cast of sand characters at the beach’, ‘imaginative cookie cutters’, and ‘molds for the most appealing gelatin deserts’. Such novel usages are the first recorded instance of a food application.

Background matters aside, these are of a rather simple nature, with relatively few pieces. Indeed, save for one contrived instances, not a single animal is wholly surrounded, and so the principal of a double contour throughout is seriously weakened here. The animals are of a greatly simplified, and of at times contrived nature, albeit still largely recognisable, albeit by far off the higher standards, and with occasional faux articulations to boot. Likely, it was not designed with ‘high art’ in mind. Can anyone add to what is given above? In particular, I would like to know of the designer’s name.

1970, Hasbro Romper Room Puzzle & Play Animals

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animals, 1970, 14 pieces

1971, Todd Jannell

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:


1972, Simplex Animal-Mosaic

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animals, 1972, 23 pieces

PIctures from Nico Stalenburg

1976, 1980, Nativity Scene

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Nativity,  c. 1976

Nativity scene, attributed to Better Homes and Gardens, December 1976 and a sister publication Better Homes and Gardens Treasury of Christmas Crafts and Foods.1980, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Idaho pp. 6-7, 15, 19
    Unfortunately, details are sparse here as to the designer and year. The first apparent reference is in Better Homes and Gardens, December 1976, p. 49, who published a project called a ‘Pine Creche’ by David Ashe. Unfortunately, I have not been able to view this (it is quoted in various places, such as a patent by Denise M. Stevens). A slightly later instance (which I do have) of presumably the same premise is in Better Homes and Gardens Treasury of Christmas Crafts and Foods.1980, and in the credits, p. 376, refers to David Ashe. However, whether he is the designer or ‘mere’ photographer is not made clear here.

    I am looking for the 1976 reference but have not been able to find it. Does anyone have that issue or could tell me anything about it? And what of David Ashe? Where are you?

    Background matters aside, although themed, with a nativity scene, the intrinsic quality here is quite poor and indeed, of questionable worth. Some of the pieces are strictly unidentifiable, of which a commentary states that these represent Mary, Joseph and the cradle, with the three magi and shepherd, wise men and animals. The picture frame represents the stable. Broadly, the pieces lack articulation, of which little to no skill is shown. The general impression is of a puzzle in the form of those by Enzo Mari.

c. 1975-1997? George Luck (more or less defunct)

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. UK

2. Australia

3. Africa

4. North America

5. New Zealand

6. Amazing Animal Alphabet,  26 pieces

7. World

8. Noah’s Ark

George Luck’s cluster puzzles, of a commercial venture, and of substance, at least in terms of numbers produced, are unashamedly aimed at the children’s market, and of which these are extensively promoted as such, with ventures in the UK, Germany, New Zealand and Japan. Furthermore, these are only a relatively small part of his woodworking puzzle oeuvre, with other numerous wood jigsaw-type puzzles. Tyler [7] p. 36 states ‘a total of five hundred designs…’, whilst Amazon lists a No. 313), the boundaries of which are at times a little blurred as to cluster puzzle intention. Eight puzzles are unambiguously of the cluster type. Although of a minor nature in relation to his more ‘orthodox’ puzzles, to compile eight puzzles in which the intention here is indeed of a true cluster premise, of a high intrinsic standard, without compromises much beloved by others, and of such a high number in relation to others, who typically show only one or two, is a notable achievement.

Background details as to these puzzles are rather sketchy, and indeed, even basics as to who is the designer. ‘George Luck’ as a person appears strictly to be somewhat of a misnomer. Tom Tyler [*] in a history of UK manufacturers, p. 36 states ‘… he produces high-quality children’s wooden jigsaw puzzles designed by [his wife] Kay Luck and Philip Gell’. (As an aside, does anyone know of Gell? I have not been able to find out anything about him.) However, although this is indeed categorical, it seems almost inconceivable that he has not done any designing per se. And further, the above quote is of a generalised nature to the puzzles overall, without reference to Cluster puzzles, and so who designed these is unclear. For simplicity, albeit with the possibility of inaccuracy in mind as to the actual designer, I will refer to the puzzles below as by George Luck (seeing is this is how the puzzles are invariably described) pending further detail becoming known. The now largely defunct website of Luck gives minimal background details (a single page), stating that he has been making jigsaw puzzles for nearly forty years, and of which recently (2013) he has retired, emigrating from the UK to New Zealand. No other detail of note or of contact is given:

Upon further research, these are marketed on a wide variety of educational and children’s jigsaw puzzle websites worldwide. Wood is the exclusive medium. Of his work as regards cluster puzzles, these are pleasingly themed, with eight unambiguous examples; four of a country theme, with native animals of the UK, Australia, Africa, North America and New Zealand; Amazing Animal Alphabet of 26 animals, ‘World’, and Noah’s Ark. As a rule, these are quite good, albeit with the occasional contrived motif, with all the advantages (and difficulties thereof, and so more worthy of praise of a more arbitrary collection, all things being equal) of a cohesive theme. ‘World’ is very good, of which this shows the continents with what appears to be their respective native animals. Of perhaps most note as regards a highlight of his work is that of ‘Noah’s
Ark’ (available from £109 on Amazon), of no less than sixty pieces. As an aside, such ‘Noah’s Ark’ cluster puzzles are a popular theme, with other instances by other artists. This puzzle is described many times (likely repeating the reference) on Pinterest as ‘featured in Good Housekeeping and Homes & Gardens’, but without the all-important issue detail as to month and year. Does anyone know of this? The posts also states that further details are available at the National Gallery in the UK, but I cannot find this:

Another query arising from the Tyler book is of a ‘Design Award in 1982' awarded to the company. Whether this is of a generic award, or of a more specific puzzle, not necessarily of a cluster puzzle, is unclear. I cannot find details of this. Does anyone know of this at all?

Of interest is to whether Luck was familiar with the cluster puzzle genre, or whether these are independent discoveries and whether he was aware of other such ‘country’ instances, such as Csilla Platthy (Australia), Angiolo and Ilaria Logi (Australia), Adam Laurance (Australia), and Anthony Prischl and Paul Gibbs (Africa and US) although likely he precedes all these save for possibly the Logis.

As a simple description, the individual creatures can be described as simplified with minimal detail, of relative high quality, of the higher standard,  of true interlocking, of type A. Dating these is a little uncertain. The only definitive date I have in printed matter is from the United Kingdom puzzle, of 1997, from a reference by Tom Tyler [8], although from the text on the website these are obviously much earlier, stating that (as of 2013) that he has been making puzzles for ‘nearly forty years’. Are there any other references to him in print? I am sure there must be, but so far I have not been able to find anything.

Does anyone know more of the Lucks and their associate (and ideally of their contact details)? I would dearly like to know more background details of these puzzles.


United Kingdom, 1997                                                   Africa

Australia                                                                       New Zealand
Amazing Animal Alphabet                                              World

Noah's Ark

1975, Sabu Oguro

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Two Heads, c. 1975

The wooden cluster puzzles of the Japanese artist Sabu Oguro are notable for their sheer number, albeit not always of commensurate quality. As a simple statement, he specialises in ‘simple’ cluster puzzles, often of only two creatures. Frankly, I don’t think much of these as regards their inherent quality; even for such a simple type, these are typically contrived. However, he has others, of more motifs that are much better than these two-creature puzzles.  Also of note is an instance based on the set of 12 pentominoes. As such, he seems to be more concerned with numbers (and marketing thereof) of his puzzles rather that quality; he has hundreds on the web site

Background details on him are relatively scarce, not helped by his nationality. However, he was born in Tokyo, 1936. In 1960 he graduated from Oil Painting, Department of Painting, Tama Art University. The beginnings of his wooden cluster puzzles seems to be of 1975, when he devised wooden animal puzzles and improved upon them. In 1980 he signed a design contract with Naef Spiele Ltd, and in 1983 founded a wooden toy manufacturing company, ‘U-PLAN’. Later, in 1995, he opened a kumiki (wooden puzzle) house.  


1975 (possibly from 1960), Donald L. Grundy

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 16 pieces

Donald L. Grundy, of Connecticut, US, an amateur wood toy maker, created one definitive cluster puzzle, of animals (with others of a weak relation), of at least 1975, although possibly dating back to 1960. As such, his contribution is relatively minor, of a small-scale cottage production, with a notable marketer, in relative terms, being the Spectrum India chain. These also have a dual purpose of playthings in their own right that is can be made to stand up. The puzzle was featured in the local ‘The Day’ newspaper, of 3 February 1975, of which most of the story above is drawn.
Type A (highest category). One themed puzzle, of animals, of reasonable articulations. The number of motifs, 16 is average. The general impression is of a somewhat cursory approach to the undertaking. Does anyone know of Grundy? Are there other puzzles by him? Likely he is not alive any more, the newspaper piece would know make him 96.

1975+, Götz-Peter Reichelt

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. The Children's Zoo (Bastelstudio, J.Pape) 1975, A limited edition colour version of this puzzle was produced in 1992.
2. Pig Puzzle, 1978 (Jutta, later SM)
3. Zoo, 1978 (SM)
4. Whales, 1991 (First prototype, produced in 1992)
5. Crèche, 1992 (First prototype, produced in 1993)
6. Frogs, 1994 (April)
7. Fish and Whales, 1994
8. Noah's Ark, 1994 (2. Kangaroo?)
9. Chinese Horoscope, 1996
10. Cat (February), 1997
11. Gecko (October), 1997
12. Crocodile (February), 1998
13. Large version of Noah's Ark, 1999
14. Dogs (October), 1999
15. Farmhouse (March) 2000
16. Whales (Class.Vari. 2), 2000
17. Chinese Horoscope (second attempt/January), 2000
18. Seven Jungles (February), 2002
19. Chinese Crèche, 2003
20. Dolphin puzzle, 2005
21. Native Indians Crèche, 2009
22. Small Crèche, 2010

Götz-Peter Reichelt, a photographer and wood carving artist from Germany, but primarily based in Indonesia and Bali, has created a most impressive and substantial collection of cluster puzzle works, all carved in his favorite medium, wood, and to be exact pulai wood (common in Bali). A feature of these, not seen in other cluster puzzles, is of the third dimension.
    The first puzzles date from 1975 onwards, with ‘The Children’s Zoo’, and of which he has consistently produced new work up to the present day, albeit with an interlude between 1979 and 1990.
    Putting an exact number on the puzzles is a little difficult, as there are minor variations or repeats; however, about 22 distinct puzzles are identified. These are all of an animal motif or human, and pleasingly, without exception of a themed nature, which gives a pleasing coherence to the puzzle overall, such as with Nativity scenes, Zoos, Noah’s Ark, or all of a single animal, such as geckoes, crocodiles, whales, frogs, cats, dogs, and Yin Yang. Another unique feature is the frame in which they are surrounded, in which this is taken from the wood the animals were created from, thus giving a certain, and pleasing, unifying concept.
    The puzzles vary in being of slight rounding off (and so leaving gaps) and true tessellation. However, these are indeed are based on tessellation principles, and any rounding off is most minor. Here, the main aim is of veracity of animal portrayal, rather than allowing these to be too distorted by adhering to a strict tessellation premise.
    Yet another feature is that these have been widely exhibited, in Germany, in a variety of institutions, on no less than eleven occasions.
    In contrast to other artists, Reichelt freely discusses his work on his website, and of which I wholeheartedly recommend a (long) visit. Also on the site is his numerous press cuttings, and he also tells me of appearances in DIY magazines, such as Selbermachen and Das Tier. And there is yet more! Reichelt’s work is also mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records of 2000 (see certificate), where his 71-piece Noah’s Ark (of 142 animals, 2 of each type), of a majestic 1.5 metre in length, made the book. Beat that if you can!
Most are available for purchase, with prices from 60 to 1000 Euros. A premise of animal welfare and the environment promotion underpins much of the subject matter. The website also shows his book, ‘Animal Worlds’ available as a PDF, with much more comprehensive coverage than here, of 44 page.

Type A-B-. Themed; Nativity scenes, Zoos, Noah’s Ark, or all of a single animal, such as geckoes, crocodiles, whales, frogs, cats dogs, and Yin Yang. Selecting a best here is an invidious task; they are all of high standard, and so of which I pick out a few personal favourites to discuss. As a general statement, the adherence to a theme is most pleasing. The number of motifs is also of an impressive number, much more so than with other people. Perhaps of most note is that of ‘Noah’s Ark’, a detailed above. The number of motifs, 71, is exceptionally high, and all of which retain there integrity. ‘Nativity’ is also impressive, again with a large number of motifs. A theme of Chinese horoscopes, with a Yin Yang premise is also most pleasing, due to the constraints, namely of a specific number of motifs, of a curved dividing line, all within a circle format. Overall, the collection is a veritable delight, and shows what is possible in this field. Bravo Götz-Peter!

A full listing of the puzzles, as according to chronology:

1. Zoo, 2. Nativity

3. Noah's Ark, 4. Yin Yang
All images © Götz-Peter Reichelt

1979+, Angiolo Logi

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Australia Puzzle (Discovery Puzzle), 1979, 23 Pieces
2. The First Black Swan, 1980. 12 Pieces
3. The Southern Cross. 1983. 7 Pieces
4. Land and Seas, 1985. 10 Pieces
5. Japan Puzzle, 1986. 27 Pieces
6. U.S.A. Wildlife Puzzle, 1987. 33 Pieces
7. U.S.S R. c. 1991. 44 Pieces
8. Dreaming (Australia theme), 1992. 24 Pieces
9. Brolga Puzzle (Australia theme). 1999. Never done in metal. 20 Pieces
10. Australian Birds Puzzle, 2001. Never done in metal.
11. Australian themed Standing Puzzle, 2002. 9 Pieces

Angiolo Logi (1939-), an architect, and his wife, Ilaria Cornaggia Medici (1954-2009), with a background in silversmithing, migrated from Florence, Italy, to Sydney, Australia, in 1979, and established the silver workshop, 'Puzzle', in the inner-city suburb of Paddington from which they have made their home ever since. Among their artworks they have produced, mostly of silver (in limited editions, typically of 1000 – 1500), a most impressive collection of eleven cluster puzzles, all of a theme, primarily of countries of indigenous animal, and in particular, naturally enough, of Australia. As detailed in the introduction, such example is of an extra degree of difficulty, and so there is much to be recommended here. Primarily, these were based their new home, Australia, with no less than eight instances, but also single instances of Japan, USA and USSR. Pleasingly, since the first essay here, I have made contact with Angiolo, through Lorenzo, his son. Consequently, through their goodwill, I have been able to find out considerably more detail as to the puzzles than was previously on their website, and had in effect open access to their archives, and of which below I show a history ‘as sent’, which admirably details their background.

In February 1979, my wife Ilaria and I arrived in Australia we settled in Sydney and to discover some of the country we decided to take a trip to visit a friend who lived in Maryborough in Victoria.

We drove an old, nth generation Panel Van we had just bought; on the way there we had taken the leg from Sydney south on the beautiful coastal road that passes beaches, coves and capes and cuts through beautiful forests of columnar spotted gums.

In those days, far from the big cities there was very little traffic and there were kangaroos and emus running in herds along the way before diving back into the countryside. We were impressed by the incredible number of birds of all kinds that took flight as we passed, and finally, in the Grampians, we were able to discover many placid koalas through the leaves of tall eucalyptus trees.

The return took us through the arid interior: Mildura, Canberra, Yass, Goulbourn, Sydney, and everything we saw was fascinating. We realized that staying in populated areas, we were confined to a thin strip of coastline with few cities that were the only ganglia of human activity: all around was the void of the oceans, and inside another void made of wind, hot stones and red dust, of which the only thing we knew was that there were strange plants and improbable animals.

We felt ourselves in a precarious balance between these two 'voids', we needed something to lean on, and, since I am an architect and I can draw, Ilaria asked me to try to put together a 'puzzle' of the kind of the great Dutch graphic artist MC Escher, but made of Australian animals.

She wanted this to be a project for her silver work and composing the design of this 'puzzle', I thought to contain it within the silhouette of Australia. Thus, I traced its unmistakable geographical shape and began to cross it with faint and uncertain lines which, like the 'Songlines' of the aboriginals, crisscross the empty space of the continent.

Slowly, adjusting and retouching, moving and deleting, those lines found their sense and the images began to emerge.

The first was that the central aboriginal man leaning on his didgeridoo in a contemplative rest, then in the background, marsupials, birds, fish and reptiles, gradually defined their positions in a dynamic interpenetration which symbolizes the continuity of the real-world ecological carpet.

Finally, the whole silhouette of the continent was filled with the 'characters' of this land.

Ilaria rendered the individual pieces with hard wax which she then lost wax cast in silver. She worked on the metal with a chisel, file and brush until she felt that every detail was as it should be and when all the pieces were joined together and formed the shimmering outline of the Australian continent, the result appeared to us to be of dizzying splendour: we took a step back from to distance ourselves and it immediately found its identity and took its own name: AUSRALIAPUZZLE, our first "Geographic Puzzle".

This "object" is not so much a 'dilemma' as the word 'puzzle' would imply, but rather suggests the 'solution' of the modern ecological dilemma of living in harmony with nature. When we showed it around, people of varied education and tastes were so fascinated that some even asked us for iterations made of solid gold.

The theme of the contiguity of natural forms that comprise the real ecological environment became our research; Ilaria read complex theoretical texts on creativity which she then explained to me while at the drawing board I was composing for her drawings of Australians 'geographical puzzles'.

The Escher compositions take place in a geometric division of a plane, they are typically contained within a rectangle and are made of complementary images of fantastic creatures depicted in a Nordic 'Gothic' style.

Our 'Puzzles' are much less severe and have a fluid pattern that develops with the continuity of animal bodies in their realistic dynamic lives to occupy the interior of Australia's geographic silhouette.

The silver pieces have a pleasant tactile value, but are not very good in photography, which is why along with their photos we also present their design drawings, the details of which are more perceptible.

Thus “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, but the one that gives true meaning is the central figure of the man, for he has caused irreversible changes in the environment, and for better or for worse, he is now responsible for what is happening to it.

We then went on to design and produce silver puzzles for more than twenty years, but we stopped working in 2002 because unfortunately Ilaria became ill and passed away in early 2009.

One month ago, (October 2016) my son Lorenzo was contacted by an English gentleman, Mr. David Bailey, who is devoted to the collection of contemporary designs made of complete elements, which he called "Cluster Puzzles", which in turn sometimes combine to form the geographic silhouette of a country.

There are also some done with the Australian profile, which until then I thought was our 'exclusive', and the first of these was made in 1905.

In fact, until then, apart from historical cases such as Arcimboldo and Escher, I had never heard of this kind of 'Cluster Puzzles'.

I will send to Mr. Bailey many of our 'Cluster Puzzles' which are a dozen or so, so that between all of these we can inspire each other reciprocally.

From the above, one can see a strong ecological aspect and concern underlying the puzzles. Further, there is yet more indication, if indeed more was needed, of the isolation of people doing this kind of work, with Angiolo unfamiliar with other instances, even in is own country.

The Logis can be seen to have some reputation in the world of silversmithing, and the price these puzzles command reflect this; at the top end of the market, from $1,650 (Didgeridoo) to $3,250 (Dreaming). Further, the puzzles have been introduced to a celebrity audience, with recipients Her Majesty the Queen, a 60th birthday gift given by Bob Hawke from the people of Australia. More recently the Three Tenors received a puzzle each and SOCOG (Sydney Organising Committee for Olympic Games) presented a puzzle to Athens to congratulate them on their successful Olympic bid. Other notable collectors include Harrison Ford, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. And indeed, presidents too! A passing Mr Gorbachov was suitably presented with a USSR puzzle upon a Sydney visit. The puzzles have frequently been discussed worldwide in the popular press (a rare occurrence for cluster puzzles!) both home, in the Sydney Morning Herald and abroad, for instance in New York Magazine, of 11 February 1985. Further, the Logis also have a book, Australia Puzzle, which shows their work per se, and includes many of the puzzles above [*].

Overall, there is much here to be impressed about. Such a relative abundance of works, and number of pieces thereof, all of a good quality artwork, of a challenging specific nature, countries, is thus indicative of excellent quality work, which is indeed the case here. Picking a ‘best’ is an invidious choice; they are all of a high standard. However, if pressed, I would select ‘Land and Sea’, based on Australia, on account that it has one extra, pleasing innovation not shown by other  ‘country designers’, in that  it also has creatures of the sea surrounding the country. A very nice nuance indeed!  Others, not withstanding the intrinsic quality, by sheer number alone are also impressive, such as USA and USSR. Indeed, the USA puzzle has a further nuance; not only are the animals indigenous, but also are to be found in their respective regions! Overall, I am most impressed with these; a challenging subject (a specific country), with overwhelmingly good articulations and relatively high number of pieces, not to mention the two innovation of their own devising.

1. Australia Puzzle and 2. Land and Seas

3. Dreaming and 4. Brolga

5. Japan, in Silver and 6. Japan, design drawing

7. USA design drawing and 8. USSR design drawing

© All images Angiolo Logi

c. 1980 ACRE

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1980 or 1981, Anna Powell

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 1989 or 1981

Anna Powell, with an interest in tessellation and Escher, has created a single cluster puzzle, in a square format of an animal theme with 24 pieces of two versions, simply titled as ‘flat’ and ‘3D’, with the latter given as a more realistic rendering. These were not undertaken simultaneously, but rather of different years; the ‘flat’ was created in 1980 or 1981 and ‘3D’ in 1998. The puzzle was hand cut as a wooden jigsaw as a gift for a neighbour's child.

© Anna Powell

1982, Ducks in Formation, CD cover

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Ducks, 1982, 

Nothing is known as to the background designer here, and next to nothing of the band itself and their recording and cover. Apparently, they are an Australian post-punk band and this is the only record they released, in 1982, and beyond this morsel nothing else is known. Of interest would be to know of the designer. Does anyone know who this is? Is the band contactable, or as seems likely, after one release have disbanded and gone their separate ways? In concept, this is similar to Escher's Sun and Moon, as the designer uses a single motif, of a bird (duck) in a broad square overall outline. However, in contrast to Escher's instance, with strict adherence to no gaps, more leeway (or strictly liberties!) is taken with the outline, with at times considerable wiggle room diluting the tessellation premise of no gaps. Indeed, there are more liberties taken here with the outline than I would like, somewhat masked by the use of a thicker overall outline. Pleasingly, an overall theme is used, of ducks, with thirty-one motifs shown, a reasonably high number (Escher’s instance has 28). Furthermore, the ducks are of relative high quality (albeit of a lower tariff motif), albeit ‘assisted’ on occasion by the ‘liberties’ taken. However, the tessellation premise nonetheless still remains, and although one can find fault with this in regards of the liberties taken, it still retains much of merit.

1982, Craig Veser

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Circus, of 21 pieces (motifs),1982

Craig Veser, of whom little background is known, but is likely of the Boca Raton, USA, has produced for Faroy, Inc., Houston, Texas in 1982 a single loosely themed wood (furniture grade plywood) circle cluster-type puzzle, of 12 circus animals, and circus related equipment totalling 21 pieces. The puzzle comprises of an elephant, tiger, lion, camel, bear, two horses, a panda, bear, monkeys, and seals, and in addition to the puzzle, a teeter totter and other circus props, Measurements: 14" wide x 14" long x 1.5" (box) with 9/16" deep background and 15/16" deep characters. This is suitable, or aimed at, young children, described as ‘an intriguing two ring circus toy that is also a puzzle’.

This was produced commercially (albeit to what extent and was successful or not is not clear), and was made (curiously) in Spain, but likely it is now unavailable save for the second-hand market. The puzzle, like many others, appears to have had a dual purpose, as a playing in its own right, as the pieces can also be made to stand up.

Much background detail remains unknown of the Veser instance; Veser himself is anonymous on the web, save for a brief association with Boca Raton, where he is described as a ‘design director’. Faroy are (or were) a non-games and puzzle company, described as ‘a wholesaler and retailer that made and shipped luxury candles and other goods around the world. Their retail operations eventually included two popular shops in Houston in the 1960s and 1970s’. They were later taken over by successive companies.

Background matters aside, these are of a rather simple nature, with relatively few pieces, twelve, albeit with circus themed accompaniments (such as an acrobat’s balancing board). The motifs are in general somewhat contrived, and lack articulations, and are occasionally truncated, albeit still largely recognisable, and so by far from the higher standards. Not a single animal is wholly surrounded by another, and so the principal of a double contour throughout is seriously weakened here.

Can anyone add to what is given above? In particular, I would like to know more on the designer.



c. 1982, Philip Gell

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Noah’s Ark, c. 1982, 62 pieces

Philip Gell, a graphic designer of the UK, has produced a single, themed cluster puzzle in wood, of a Noah’s Ark, measuring 19½” x 12”, and of which with he won the London Design Centre Award in 1982. As such, the puzzle is most pleasing indeed, with mostly high quality silhouettes (the pieces are without interior detail, save for the eyes). The puzzle is available commercially, from Amazon and the manufacturer Hape, a German company, of whom they have taken over George Luck’s production, which included the puzzle by Gell:
The puzzle is described many times (likely repeating the reference) on Pinterest as ‘featured in Good Housekeeping and Homes & Gardens’, but without the all-important issue detail as to month and year. Does anyone know of this? The posts also states that further details are available at the National Gallery in the UK, but I cannot find this:
Of interest would be to know more of the background of Gell and the puzzle. Next to nothing is known, and what little detail there is was supplied by George Luck in a series of mails. Does anyone know what became of Gell? Are you there, Philip? If so, do tell me your story!

1984, and onwards, Shigeru Kobayashi

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Cats
2. Elephants
3. Rabbits

Shigeru Kobayashi, a Japanese puzzle maker, has composed many cluster puzzles, in a variety of formats and styles, marketed by his company ‘Ginga Kobo Toys’. Upon asking him for background details as to his work, he told me (by email) that he began this type of puzzle in 1984, and upon my noticing that his work was of a similar nature in style to his compatriotic Sabu Oguro, he said that any resemblance was coincidental, and whose work was not an influence. Rather, Escher was instead indirectly his main influence, as like Escher, he, as a child, imagined animals appearing in a variety of ways, such as in wood grain and cloud formations.
    The cluster puzzles shown are of a limited range of animals (such as rabbits and cats), are of a somewhat simplified, stylized nature. This is almost certainly as of necessity, due to the considerable demands of the compositions, in which he strives for a variety of themes, such as all rabbits, all elephants etc., as well as various motifs in combination, rather than just an ‘easier’ arbitrary collection of animals, and of different scales. In particular, ‘Rabbits’, consisting of 43 rabbits, is impressive in its own way. Although on occasion the articulation here is a little weak, this can hardly be avoided given the restraints imposed upon the demands of a single theme. Note also that he has striven to have all the motifs more or less upright; again, yet another level of complexity and difficulty.
    The ‘purity’ of a ‘no gap’ premise is on occasions stretched a little, such as with ‘Elephants’, with notable gaps, likely purposefully so, as a variation, although this is relatively rare. Again, these are themed.
    A pleasing innovation is a ‘puzzle within a puzzle’, with an animal outline subdivided into further animals. Some of the combinations are consistent, whilst others are not. For instance, an overall elephant outline consists of six subdivided elephants. As might be imagined, with numerous constraints, this is a difficult type to compose, and of necessity at times the elephants are a little contrived. However, it retains artistic merit, as Kobayashi skilfully masters the inherent difficulties. Other subdivided animals are also shown, such as cats, rhinos, bears, camels, donkeys and rabbits, although these are not always themed, for example, the rabbit is made up of a rabbit, elephant and dog. Even so, they still retain merit.
    A favourite device of his is to frame the animals, such as with a triangle (described on the site as a pyramid). These are largely themed, specifically with ‘Kitty’, ‘Bunnies’, all of cats and rabbits, and ‘Animals 1’ and ‘Animals 2’, of a variety of animals. In particular, I very much like ‘Cats’. Here, 22 cats are shown, albeit again, the articulations area little weak, but this is for reasons as stated above; the composition retains much of merit.
    Overall, a most impressive collection of cluster puzzles, with many positive aspects, mostly of good quality motifs, numerous instances, mostly of themes, and hard to achieve ‘puzzle within a puzzle’ type.

From left to right, top to bottom: 22 cats in a triangle; Elephants; 43 rabbits; Elephants as a puzzle within a puzzle

1984, John Wright Company/Barbara Stork

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 1984

The John Wright company, of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, USA, in association with the artist Barbara Stork of The Greater New York City area, USA, produced a most unusual instance of the cluster puzzle premise with a series of cast iron bakeware molds, from 1984-2011 (the product is now discontinued, but is widely available on eBay and elsewhere). These vary in cluster premise, with strict adherence to tessellating principles, to considerable open spaces. Three examples of note can be seen: ‘Animal Puzzle’, ‘Sleigh O’Toys’ (a Christmas theme) and ‘LL Bean’ (eight teddy bears in a variety of poses). Note that there are a few others seemingly quite close, and arguably could be included here, but are omitted. 

c. 1985, Pacific Puzzle Company

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Sea Life
© Anne Williams
A ‘sea-life’ (my own description, given that there is no title or documents with the puzzle save for a company logo) instance from the now defunct (late 1990s) Pacific Puzzle Company, of Guemos Island RoadAnacortesWashington. Little is apparently known of the background to this company. Whether this was a large company or one-man concern is unknown. This appears to be the only cluster puzzle instance they produced, and of which the date of creation is unclear. Of the company itself, I have found only three other unrelated puzzles, of a Dymaxion World puzzle, a wooden apple and a sandwich. All that is known of them is due to Anne Williams, who states on [*]:
Pacific Puzzle Company shut down in the late 1990s. They made terrific children's puzzles for several decades.
For now at least, pending more detail being found, I date as according to when the puzzle was obtained by Williams, in 1985. Open questions abound. When were they founded? Is there a named designer here?
Assessment: Type A puzzle, of * pieces, themed, of mostly fish, with occasional other creatures, such as starfish. The puzzle has occasional issues with silhouettes, not all are readily identifiable, but still this is better than most.
As ever here, does anyone know of further details of the above?

1985, AIMS

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1988, Wayne P. Godinet

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 1988, 

‘Bed And Mattress Formed By Animal Shaped Nesting Play Cushions’, United States Patent  4,719,656. 1988

1993+, Rob Reger, ‘Emily the Strange’

Rob Reger, an artist of San Francisco, California, USA, with his company ‘Cosmic Debris’, has created ‘Emily the Strange’, a young girl character who appears in a variety of cluster puzzle type artwork surrounded by a variety of fantasy creatures, titled ‘Zonsters’. The premise of Emily is a black cat loving thirteen-year-old girl who tells the world to ‘Get Lost’, ‘Be Yourself’ and ‘Do it Yourself’, followed by a series of adventures. Emily the Strange is the original teen brand with attitude. Emily has garnered considered widespread media interest worldwide, in a variety of ways: books (a four-book series by HarperCollins), comics (a New York Times best seller), apparel (celebrities including Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, and Björk have all worn the brand). Beginning in 1993, Emily the Strange was created and drawn as graphics for merchandise, and the stories and fine art grew out of that.

© Rob Reger

1994, Jim Fambrough

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Cars (Corvettes), 1994, 10 pieces

2. Critterfits, 1994, 20 pieces

The background to the puzzles of Jim Fambrough are largely unknown. The only detail I have is that from Anne Williams, who told me Fambrough produced two puzzles, ‘Critterfits’ and ‘Corvettes’, in 1994. He lived in Georgia, US, and that’s all the detail known! The pictures are taken from eBay listings. Whether he produced more is speculation. A search on the web for him proved fruitless. Does anyone know of him, or know of more puzzles?

Assessment: Assessing these is not ideal, due to the limited pictures I have, of just one of each puzzle, and not of the greatest clarity, as above. Be that as it may, these still poses enough detail to permit a fair, although not wholly ideal, assessment. These differ in their respective types, but are both pleasingly themed:

1. ‘Corvettes’ (cars), of ten pieces, with occasional overlap, and gaps, and is described loosely Type B-. As such, they essentially lack articulations
2. ‘Critterfits’, (the better of the two overall), is of about 20 various animals in a circle format, not all readily identifiable, but I am hindered slightly in identifying due to the raking angle of photo. Occasional rounding of is given, and faux (‘introduced’) articulations, assessed a Type A-. Some of these possess reasonable articulations, whilst others do not.

As such, I am ambivalent on these. Both have weaknesses thereof in terms of types, although these are at least both themed. As a broad statement, these are of a lower to mid-range quality. Although not without merit, being themed, with largely identifiable motifs, they essentially lack articulations to greater or lesser degrees. Certainly, they are not of the top range, indeed, far from it, but that said, there are far worst examples on this page.

© Anne Williams

1994, Paul Gibbs and Tony Prischl of Makoulpa Company

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Africa, 1994, 5 pieces
2 Africa, 1994, 34 pieces
3. USA, 1994,

The company Makoulpa, with owner/designers Anthony Prischl and Paul Gibbs, goldsmiths and jewellers, have produced three cluster puzzles of a country outline theme, two of Africa (of different forms, detailed below) and later one of the USA. These all show indigenous animal motifs in relief form, in different constitutions, of gold, sterling silver, and more recently in pewter. Such a metal medium is rare; the only other instance I am aware of is by Angiolo Logi. These were in effect begun in 1984, or at least in idea form, and subsequently in a simplified manner, without detail, before a definitive, final form in 1995. Each piece is detachable, and can be worn as a pendant. All these are available as commercial items, and are presented in a sumptuous way, complete with presentation box, details as on the website link. Concerning the puzzles themselves, the two African puzzles differ in format and number of motifs and inherent quality of design:
Small format, with just 5 animal motifs, of ‘heads’
Large format, of 34 animal motifs and shows the creatures ‘whole bodied’.
The ‘small format’ instance is of lesser consequence, being of a lesser category of difficulty. The large format is by far the more impressive, with whole bodied creature, and with a considerable number, but all the while retaining inherent quality, which is not always seen with others of a comparable premise. The inherent quality of the motifs is most high indeed, with easily recognised motifs and with good articulations. Only minimal ‘wriggle room’ is needed on occasion.

The USA instance is also of a large format with many whole-bodied motifs, and is likely equally impressive, although the exact number of motifs and quality is hard to discern from the photo, shown at a raking angle.

Finally, of note is the country outline concept, which is not an isolated, unique offering. Such a concept can be seen in the work of others, namely George Luck (UK, New Zealand, Australia), Csilla Plathy (Australia), Angiolo Logi (Australia) and Adam Laurance (Australia). 

© Paul Gibbs and Tony Prischl

1994, Steve Shumaker and Annie Power of 'Pieceful Solutions'

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Fish, 1994, 



The background to this is obscure. I have not been able to find any details of Shumaker and Power. A mail to Shumaker went unanswered. Does anyone know of them? A fish instance is shown on a black and white plate in [8].

1994, Designer unknown, Cat and Pigs (Not seen)

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Cats, 1994

A 1997 patent by Denise M. Stevens refers to a journal/magazine? titled ‘Bits and Pieces’, December 1994 (and 1995), pp. 41 and 50, who advertised two puzzles called "Heeps [sic] of Cats" #05-K2717 and "Heeps [sic] of Pigs" #05-K2719. This is described as ‘…Although a couple pieces have their own significant shapes when apart, the remaining pieces are distorted-requiring the other pieces to be attached in order for the animals to look complete’.

The background to this is obscure. I have not been able to find any details whatsoever of the journal/magazine. Does anyone know of it and the two puzzles? Does anyone know of Stevens?

1995, Michael Angulo

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Synergy, 1995
Interdependent, 1998
3. Complementary, 2001

Michael Angulo, an American artist, has created three instances all comprised of animals, titled SynergyInterdependent, and Complementary, of 1995, 1998 and 2001 respectively. These are all hand-drawn with coloured pencils, and are all approximately 18” x 24” in size. These slightly differ from the others here in that they fan out from a central point, with a ‘triple repetition’, i.e. with order three rotational symmetry; no other artist of the listing here presents their work like this. Also, the works are shown ‘as is’; although the impression is given of an artificial rectangular border, as one might expect the motifs to continue with the rotation theme, but this is not so.

    As such, these are once again an independent discovery of the genre; Angulo was unaware of the premise until a later chance sighting of the dinosaur/sea-animal puzzles in a toy store around 2000, and found it uncanny how much they resembled his original piece titled ‘Synergy’.
    Of interest is the high degree of detail of the animals, with a near photographic detail; with the various coats, patterns, and plumages of the creatures rendered as accurately as possible. Generally, other people do not show such details, preferring simpler renditions. Note that this is not to say that any one type of presentation is ‘better’ than others. Indeed, arguably too much detail is detrimental for the eye to easily recognise the motifs; for example, see Escher’s, which are indeed simplified. What suits one artist does not necessarily suit another. What is pleasing here is the care and attention given to the various articulations, with the motifs overwhelmingly portrayed in their most typical presentation, and so readily identifiable at a glance, which is the ideal to aim for. Although on occasions due to the demands of the genre a few are stylised in the sense of limbs combined/merged (such as a sitting down camel), this can hardly be avoided at times (indeed, all the examples from the other artists show such compromises). Such examples are at a bare minimum here, and should not be thought of as criticism, but rather observation; certainly none of the motifs are twisted beyond recognition or unduly contrived and lacking in artistic integrity. Overall, I am most impressed with these, of a relatively large number of animals, of inherent quality.

Synergy, 1995

Interdependent, 1998                                                Complementary, 2001

Preliminary sketches for Interdependent and Complementary

1996, Debi McGary

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with titles, dates and number of pieces if known:
1. Grandpa's Farm, 1996
2. Ocean Friends, 1996
3. Forest Friends
, 1996
4. Dino & Friends
, 1996
5. Children Of The World
, 1996
6. Noah's Ark
, 1996

Debi McGary has produced six themed wood cluster-type puzzles: ‘Grandpa's Farm’, ‘Ocean Friends’, ‘Forest Friends’, ‘Dino & Friends’, ‘Children Of The World’, and ‘Noah's Ark’, shown in her book Wonderful Wood Puzzles. The premise is of an arts and craft/tole nature, with instructions on how to make these. However, although are indeed of a ‘cluster puzzle’ nature, there are indeed liberties taken with the premise, with much open spaces and faux articulations, far too much for the purist’s liking; nonetheless, the premise broadly remains, albeit with considerable reservation at times. Of course, she may not be approaching this as according to the stricter standards of tessellation, and so such comments are out of place, at least in an arts and craft sense.
    Seemingly little is known on McGary herself. Indeed, I have not been able to find any background details on her or her work whatsoever! As such, she seems to be one of those people who delight in near anonymity. Given that the book is a US production, I presume she is a US citizen. Frankly, I lack the desire in general to investigate such people, even more so in this case, given the low-level quality of her work. Does anyone have more detail on McGary?
The puzzles vary in format. ‘Noah’s Ark’ and ‘Dinosaur’ have an apt outline, suggestive of their respective themes, whilst the others are of a non-related nature, such as a circle to contain the motifs. The number of motifs is relatively small, of about 8-12 pieces.
Type B-C (mid-lower range category).
Although themed, the puzzles themselves lack articulation and are of low intrinsic quality. The best is ‘Ocean Friends’, without noticeable vacant space. Contrast this with ‘Grandpa’s Farm’, which is little more than farm animals and people drawn inside arbitrary tiles with much vacant spaces. . The number of motifs is relatively low. Overall, the puzzles are of a decidedly low intrinsic quality.


c. 1996, Stanford A. Graham

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with titles, dates and number of pieces if known:
Our World’s Most Amazing Endangered Species, c. 1996, 100 pieces
An Amazing World of Dinosaurs, c. 1996, 75 pieces
An Amazing World Beneath the Sea, c. 1996, 69 pieces

The ‘Anything’s Puzzable’ company, apparently under the ownership/design of Stanford A. Graham, has brought out three themed and alike circle format cluster puzzles as jigsaws of animal motifs (widely available from Amazon), titled Our World’s Most Amazing Endangered Species, An Amazing World of Dinosaurs and An Amazing World Beneath the Sea. These are all of 1996, of a large 25¾” circular composition (also see Simplex puzzles for this format, although their respective puzzle are indeed distinct). At least two of these were patented (‘dinosaurs’ and ‘sea’, whilst ‘endangered species’ has not been found). See:
Stanford A. Graham ‘Educational Puzzle Toy Set’. United States Patent 5,720,481.
Little background details are available beyond the company catalogue (below, and of which the website is defunct), offering guidelines as to the puzzle, and stating that the company is based in Layton, Utah, US, and apparently designed by Graham (although he is not credited on the catalogue itself). These are of an educational plaything nature, with details of the individual creatures on the reverse (also see the earlier (1994) Pieceful Solutions of a like idea).

Assessment: Type A, three instances, all are themed, of ‘endangered species’, ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘sea creatures’, and are of a relative high quality, with numerous pieces, 100, 75 and 69, with good articulations and quality artwork. There is much to praise here.
Does anyone know of Stanford A. Graham?


An Amazing World of Dinosaurs and An Amazing World Beneath the Sea

Stanford A. Graham ‘Educational Puzzle Toy Set’. United States Patent 5,720,481

Catalogues © Anne Williams

1997, Denise M. Stevens

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with titles, dates and number of pieces if known:

1. Nativity, 1997, 11 pieces

United States Patent 5,615,883

This is obviously based on David Ashe's nativity scene in Better Homes and Gardens, as described above

1998, Susan Brack

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Here Kitty, Kitty, 1998, 100 pieces

Susan Brack is a self-taught folk artist from the Midwest in the USA. ‘Here Kitty, Kitty’ was created as an exercise in primitive folk art. There are around 100 cat figures, built around the tabby cat centred in the middle of the design. The work measures 14 x 17 inches and was created in 1998. It is mixed media on illustration board and is a combination of watercolour, ink and coloured pencil. 

Here Kitty Kitty © Susan Brack

c. 2000, Csilla Platthy, of Mr Puzzle company, 16 pieces

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Australia, c. 2000, 18 pieces

Csilla Platthy, of SydneyAustralia, has created an Australian theme cluster wooden puzzle, but with a twist in the tail. Various creatures of Australia are produced as in a ‘traditional’ cluster puzzle, but this has an additional aspect, in that these are contained within an Australian country outline. As might be imagined, this is of an order of extra degree of difficulty, albeit tempered by having relatively few pieces here, although each country poses its own problems. Such interwoven elements give a pleasing cohesion to the composition.

This idea, of native animals within a country (or continent) outline can also be seen in the work of others: George Luck (UKAfricaAustraliaNew ZealandNorth America), Anthony Prischl and Paul Gibbs (Africa and US), Oswaldo Rosales (Venezuela, US), Angiolo and Ilaria Logi (Australia), and Adam Laurance (Australia). Australia certainly seems to be a popular theme!

© Csilla Platthy

2001, Daryl G. Clerc and Pamela A. Clerc

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animals, 2001,

'Figural Puzzle’. United States Patent 2001/0052670A1. 2001

Does anyone know of the Clercs?

2001, Ton Schotten?

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Pentomino Zodiak, 2001, 

2002, Fat Punk Studio

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Fantasy creatures, 2002, 

Sam Brade, owner and lead designer at Fat Punk Studio has created one instance, comprised of multiple motifs, titled Plane Filling, which was first hand drawn of 2002, and then later with a vector illustration carefully crafted into a final, fully scaleable vector illustration in November 2009. Subsequently, the English arts and computer journal Computer Arts saw this, of which they then asked Fat Punk Studio to write a tutorial on how they did it, this appearing in the May 2010 issue of Computer Arts.

In style, this resembles very much Escher's own two Plane Filling instances, although this is indeed an original work. The work has many pleasing features that point to a quality production:
Themed, all with animals (save for one human figure), albeit fanciful at times
Numerous motifs, without a reduction in quality as commonly occurs
More difficult to achieve whole-bodied motifs, with one exception, of a head
Good articulations, with the motifs shown in a ‘typical’ pose
Upright motifs, and so the composition appears ‘sensible’
Contrasting colour, so that each motif is readily discernible
A ‘true’ tessellation, without any ‘wriggle room’ whatsoever, never mind gaps and overlaps that sometimes pass as ‘tessellation’
    Of interest is the high degree of detail of the animals, with a precise and incredibly skilled computer rendering. Overall, I am most impressed with these, first of the computer technique, and second in the inherent quality of the motifs in the round, as detailed above.

Plane Filling © Fat Punk Studio                                                         Montage of article in Computer Arts, 2010 © Fat Punk Studio

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Sea Creatures, c. 2003, 8 pieces
2. Cats and Dogs’ c. 2003, 8 pieces

‘Creative Craftshouse’, under the leadership of Dave Janelle, has a varied puzzle making business (in the ethos of a Jerry Slocum nature) in Florida, US. Under the sub title ‘Picture Frame Puzzles’, he brought out many wood puzzles (about 50 distinct) of a variety of themed objects of a cluster-like nature, albeit there are concerns here as to cluster intent. These are of a mostly square composition, 7” x 7”, of a ¼” thickness, from 8-22 pieces. However, most of these are simply representational objects loosely ‘pushed together’ to form a ‘packing puzzle’, and so thus diluting the tessellation principle of a double contour. Indeed, none of these is ideal. However, they are indeed a few broadly worthy of the description, although there is no hard and fast dividing line here. Consequently, the discussion here is somewhat subjective. Upon correspondence with the designer asking for more details, I learned that he was unfamiliar with the strict cluster puzzle concept, and so as he was not aiming for the concept, one should not be too critical here in treating these as ‘failed’ examples of the genre. Rather, they should be judged as according to their type (‘packing puzzles’), and of which there are many pleasing examples. For pictures of all 50+ puzzles see the above link.
As alluded to above, the puzzles are available commercially. The puzzles vary slightly in price range, of $25-$49, mostly of $25-$30; the $49 is a special edition, of ‘Sea Creatures’.

Assessment: As alluded to above, what to include here is fraught with difficulty. What should I include? All, or a subjective choice? There are pros and cons here. However, I have chosen to be selective, and have chosen what I have considered to be cluster puzzle in intent, and disregard he rest. Those puzzles most in intent are ‘Sea Creatures’ and ‘Cats and Dogs’ (both of eight pieces). However, both remain questionable, both of Type C (lowest category).  Both puzzles are themed; of animals, of a like quality in style. Each puzzle consists of a relatively low number of pieces and of which these are thus not always fully surrounded at their outlines and so pale in comparison, noticeably so, with other more numerous examples of more exacting double contour standards. Indeed, one could almost say this is a broad minimal number to remain cluster puzzle in intent. The pieces are with easily recognizable animals. Overall, with reservations as to type, two relatively pleasing puzzles, albeit qualified by the significant lack of number of the motifs, which is a major shortcoming.

c. 2003 Yumeya

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:


c. 2005+, Bobby Bogl

1. Tessepuzzlation
2. Technicolor Tessellation
3. Interlocking Creatures
4. Interlocking Everything
5. Unbound Tessellation
6. Interlocking Canines
7. Animal Puzzle
8. Karoake

Bobby Bogl shows eight instances on his webpage, three of which are shown below Interlocking Everything, Unbound, Canines. These are loosely themed, and consist of a collection of animate and inanimate motifs. The motifs are all in an upright orientation, of an exceedingly high number. All four instances are very much alike in style, and are nicely rendered, to a realistic degree. Although there are a few ‘amputations’, these are few and far between, and indeed, one has to search very hard to find any serious distortions here, which is credit to the artist (contrast this with others). Of note is how generally ‘strong’ these are in silhouette and not just formless shapes with interior decoration much beloved by other inferior tessellation artists. Although there is the odd example of the lower degree of difficulty of ‘heads’ here, this is almost inevitable, and should not be looked upon as an inherent weakness. All in all, some pleasing compositions indeed.

1. Interlocking Everything,  2. Interlocking Animals, 3. Interlocking Canines
All images © Bobby Bogl

c. 2006, 2015, Michèle Wilson Company, Designer François Tard

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Animaux Familiers en Folie, 12 pieces

2. Animaux en Folie, 24 pieces

3. Dinos en Folie, 24 pieces

The Michèle Wilson Company, of France, with a showroom in Paris, has been cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1975, and has established a notable concern of 300 puzzles, of which in 1997 the business has been taken over by Sophie Ollé-Laprune and Julien Vahanian. Among their extensive range are three themed cluster puzzles, designed by François Tard (with the number of pieces in brackets),   

Dinosaur Puzzle
© Michèle Wilson Company

c. 2007+, Plexus Puzzles

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

First, to whom the Plexus series of puzzles should be credited to is not at all clear. I have received no response to two perfectly reasonable requests for permission to use images and background details a year apart (and I know of another correspondent who has suffered a similar fate, so it’s just not me). Somewhat oddly, they seem to delight in obfuscations. There is not a single named person stated on their website! The puzzles appear to have been devised by the company ‘Plexus’, based in the US, ostensibly under the leadership of one ‘Ryan J.’ (no surname given), of which for now at least I thus credit. Furthermore, to what extent the artwork is of their own is unclear. At least once (cotostudio.comthey have contracted the design out. Possibly, Plexus have an initial idea, and then contract the work out; the finished artwork shows different styles. Even seeing the images is not straightforward! The website itself is not helpful, with which generally only portions of a whole puzzle are seen! They seem to be scared of showing the whole, for unclear reasons, with the whole puzzles only available for purchase as a download on the Apple App Store as an online game. The best means of seeing their images is a Google image search on ‘Plexus puzzles’. This seems to one of those (few) artistic websites that are strictly ‘business matters only’, and ‘don’t bother us on anything else’. Strictly, on account of all this they are undeserving of my time, but such matters are their own business, and so nonetheless I assess their instances in line with the others here for the sake of consistency. However, with so much underlying uncertainty, the following should be taken as a rough guide.
The company appears to have been formed in 2007, with about six cluster puzzles identified, their first puzzle apparently being ‘Olla Podriga’, of 2007. Some are titled sensibly, ‘Hollywood Gone Wild’ and ‘Summertime’ whilst others are not, with Olla Podriga’ and ‘Hs Kero Athletics’.  Some may have been licensed and or sold through the ‘SmartKit’ web site. They may be wholly related or otherwise!
As a general impression, the artwork, computer rendered, of a cartoon appearance is certainly good, and worthy of praise. Furthermore, these pleasingly appear to be largely themed, and of a qualifying number of motifs to pass muster. However, they are not of the superior Type A category, but rather Type B, albeit leaning towards the higher end of Type B.
Why so secretive and unresponsive Plexus?

c. 2008, Jack Zylkin

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Sea creatures

2. Zoo

3. Bugs

4. Pets

Jack Zylkin, of the US, has compiled a series of four themed cluster puzzle instances. These were originally designed as a ‘long strip’ to wrap around a lampshade when joined at the ‘short edge’. However,  although strictly this thus means that the motifs repeat lengthways, and so loose the ‘openness’ of a true cluster puzzle, this is essentially a minor quibble; the motifs could have been designed without this aspect, and as the intention is overwhelmingly of a cluster puzzle, it is thus included in this collection. The motifs are rendered in a simple manner, with a single colour for each motif, of a relatively small number of motifs.

Pets © Jack Zylkin

c. 2008 Artsoftheheart ebay ID

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

2009, Oswaldo Rosales

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Venezuela, 2009, 34 pieces
2. USA, 74 pieces

Oswaldo Rosales has created two cluster puzzles, of a country theme, namely of Venezuela (his home country) and the US. ‘Venezuelanimals’, created in 2009, is of 34 pieces, and represents different species of animals on air, land and water, and took two years to design. ‘USAaminalpuzzle’ of 74 pieces, depicts animal species of the USA fauna, and is a big laser cut puzzle of 21" x 17" x 1/4". The inspiration for these came from seeing, when he was a child, the work of the Italian designer Enzo Mari, namely of the ‘16 animals’ puzzle.
Both puzzles are available commercially, from

© Oswaldo Rosales

2010, Tozzwords, a puzzle company

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:


The ‘Tozzwoods’ company, of Singapore, has produced within a wooden puzzle category aimed at children a variety of cluster-type puzzles, all of an animal premise. However, who the designer is and year of making uncertain. The company at least appears to be of 2010.
    Most of these are of a theme, such as all cats motifs. An especially pleasing instance is of what I terms as a ‘cluster puzzle within a cluster puzzle’, with for instance an elephant made up of subdivided smaller elephants. Such a type is most difficult to achieve, given all the restraints involved. Although the quality here is a little compromised of necessity, one can still recognise quality elephants. Others of a like premise can be seen, such as rhinos, dogs, seals, rabbits, although the quality here is perhaps a little more questionable. A variety of other formats can be seen, such as a ‘tree’, with ’Tree of Cats’ (although the tight interlocking principle is compromised here with considerable wiggle room, albeit this is not excessive. Nonetheless it remains noticeable);‘Pyramids’, with ‘Farm Animals’, and a more ‘traditional’ rectangle, with ‘Mother and Child Set’, of a variety of animals.
    Generally, as a broad statement, these are pleasing examples of the art.


All images © Tozzwoods

2010, Juan Pablo Quintero

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Elephants, 2010, 2 pieces
2. Doves, 2010, 2 pieces
3. Horses, 2010, 2 pieces
4. Foxes, 2010, 2 pieces
5. Snakes, 2010, 2 pieces
6. Fish, 2010, 2 pieces
7. Rabbits, 2010, 2 pieces
8. Monkeys, 2010, 2 pieces

‘Zoomaderita’ puzzles, designed by Juan Pablo Quintero and manufactured in wood by his Mediodesign company, come in eight different animals to complete an original zoo: elephants, doves, horses, foxes, snakes, fish, rabbits and monkeys. These are of a minimalist nature, with each puzzle of just two pieces. Arguably, such types are too simplistic in style for inclusion here, but I have decided to include nonetheless. 
© Juan Pablo Quintero

2010, Johan Olin and Aamu Song

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Finland, 2010, 15 pieces

Johan Olin and Aamu Song, from Helsinki, Finland with their design practice COMPANY, designed in 2010 a single cluster puzzle titled ‘Animals of Finland Puzzle’, of a country outline theme (such a country theme can be seen in others) with indigenous animals, not unsurprisingly of an obvious connection. The puzzle shows 15 indigenous animal motifs, of a fox, owl, weasel, wolverine, grouse, wolf, lamprey, bear, ringed seal, moose, marten, salmon, squirrel, rabbit, and swan. This is of birch veneer wood, and of which the ‘standard size’ puzzle measures 270 x 150 x 19mm, although there is a larger version. This was largely an independent idea, although of note is that the designers were familiar with Enzo Mari’s work in this field.

The puzzle is made by a small Finnish concern, Haapareppu, in Joutsa. Underlying this is of a commercial nature, with the puzzle available in their own shop in Helsinki and in museum shops, selling for 42 euros, with sales going well. The puzzle is notably in the permanent collect of the Design Museum in Finland, of which this is free for visitors to assemble.

© Johan Olin 

2011, Designer unknown

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Mushrooms

2012, Juan Calle

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 2012

By ‘Onikaizer’, on Deviant Art. This was a discarded design for an activity book for children, ‘Papermania’.

© Juan Calle, 'Onikaizer'

2012, Yana Skaler

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals

‘Nesting Animal Puzzle’ Of note (following correspondence) is that this is not a independent composing (as is usually the case), but was inspired upon seeing an ‘16 Animali’ Enzo Mari puzzle. For those interested in owning this, it was designed as a ‘Ponoko’ (an on-line design and manufacturing company) give-away file; see above link (scroll to bottom

©Yana Skaler

2013, Ray Delgadillo

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
The Oak & Its Family’, 2013, 7 pieces

Ray Delgadillo, a US designer, has created, in 2013, a single, animal-themed wooden cluster puzzle titled ‘The Oak & Its Family’ of seven pieces. This is of a didactic nature that teaches children about the different animals that coexist in an oak tree; the interlocking pieces create a visual metaphor for the coexistence. The pieces are based on data from the National Wildlife Federation and are made from (what else!) white oak lumber. The idea for the puzzle was influenced by seeing the work of Italian designer Enzo Mari (such an influence can be seen elsewhere). All in all, a pleasing, cohesive puzzle on various counts.

© Ray Delgadillo

2014, Studio DUNN Aminal (sic) puzzle

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals
© Studio DUNN

2014, Francesc Crous and Alessandro Calogero

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 2014, 15 pieces

Francesc Crous and Alessandro Calogero, from Barcelona, Spain with their design studio CrousCalogero designed in 2014 a single cluster puzzle of 15 animals, of a commercial nature, of a cookie cutter of a circle format, made by the Italian company Lékué. The work was loosely inspired by both Enzo Mari and Escher’s tessellations. Such an application is a first, although there is a similar idea, of molds, by the John Wright company (see 1984).

© Alessandro Calogero

2014, Hayley Ho and Thomas Guest

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Orochen Forest Family, 2014, 14 Pieces

Hayley Ho (UK and Hong Kong), a graduate of Central Saint Martin’s art college in the UK, having studied product design and Thomas Guest (UK), a graduate of Nottingham Trent University having also studied product design and now a furniture designer, have produced a single themed wooden circle 204mm diameter, 30mm depth format cluster puzzle for children.
    The puzzle is based on the craft of one the smallest remaining nomadic tribes, the Orochen, from the Khingan Mountains in the Northeast of China, who they met and stayed with in China in 2010 whilst  travelling in search of traditional crafts, and consists of the Orochen people in the centre surrounded by forest animals. The 14 pieces consist of a Hunter and Girl, Dog, Roe Deer, Wild Duck, Fish, Lynx, Wild Boar, Horse, Elf, Hare, Eagle and Reindeer. The characters of the toy wear graphics inspired by the patterns found on Orochen clothing and objects. Each puzzle is cut by hand and made of birch ply, smelling of the forests that surrounded the Orochen when they were nomadic hunter-gatherers. These wooden toy blocks were designed to inspire children (and adults), and to raise awareness about little-known ethnic groups in China.
    In addition as to their primary purpose of being a puzzle, the pieces are also designed as playthings in their own right, and can be made to stand up to play with.
    The puzzle was also featured in Monocle Magazine, of April 2015 and Time Out Hong Kong December, also of 2015.
    The puzzle is commercially available, from their website, for £45, with free delivery in the UK and Hong Kong. Hayley tells me that she was unaware of the cluster puzzle premise, but were rather very much inspired by the concept of wooden toys in general.

© Hayley Ho and Thomas Guest

2015, Mirim Seo

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
Forest, 2015, 6 pieces

2. Ocean, 2015, 6 pieces

3. Arctic, 2015, 6 pieces

4. Jungle, 2015, 6 pieces

5. Desert, 2015, 6 pieces

Mirim Seo, a graphic designer/illustrator from Philadelphia, USA (originally from South Korea), with a keen interest in animals and animal welfare, has produced five maple wood cluster-type puzzles in 2015, mostly of an animal theme, suitable, or aimed at, young children under the title of ‘Chomp’.

    The premise for each puzzle, pleasingly of an original nature, is predicated on a food chain. The food chains include producers, consumers, and decomposers who play a role in the chain. When put together, they show the eating process. For instance, in the Forest puzzle, a bear-like creature devours a fox that slays a frog who snacks on a snail that gnaws a leaf, which slurps up a mushroom.
    These are all of a rather simple nature, with relatively few pieces, with each puzzle of just six pieces; furthermore, any one motif is typically not wholly surrounded by another, and so are thus of an easier degree of difficulty to achieve. Although that said, as one is restricted by the theme here, and so such matters may be overlooked of necessity on occasions, as here, although of course, one should still adhere to high standards.
    The puzzles were seemingly intended for mass production, but the project does not seem to have been realised.
    The designs were thought up after Seo discovered the work of the famed Italian designer, Enzo Mari, as described above, a not uncommon finding with others.

2015, Denitsa Krapova

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 2015, 4 pieces
2. Fish, 2015, 5 pieces
3. Fish, 2015, 7 pieces
4. Ghosts, 2015, 8 pieces

Denitsa Krapova, a woodworker from Plovdiv, Bulgaria of Piron Woodworks, an Etsy concern, has produced four loosely themed wood cluster-type puzzles, of animals, fish (2) and ghost, suitable, or aimed at, young children. These are of a rather simple nature, with relatively few pieces; indeed, any one motif is not always surrounded by another, and so are thus of an easier degree of difficulty to achieve.

    The puzzles were influenced by Montessori Materials (although her work is indeed original) and the principles of the early development, by the proven positive influence of natural shapes and materials in kid's environment.
    Upon contact, Denitsa told me this was an independent idea, and although she was indeed familiar with Escher’s work, like many others she did not consider the genre in a tessellation-like manner.
© Denitsa Krapova

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. ‘Animals’, of 16 pieces (motifs), c. 2016

‘Art for Kids’, a French fabric collective company, has produced a single loosely themed cluster-type puzzle, of animals, of a rug/carpet, suitable, or aimed at, young children. As such, by its very nature, this is of a design rather than a puzzle. The company is primarily focussed on fabrics, with a variety of applications, such as carpets, cushions, textiles, storage units, only one of which is of a cluster puzzle nature. The product is marketed outside of France, such as in the UK in a like range of stores (and likely others too), for £174, and is available in two sizes, 120” x 140” and 160” x 190”. The design featured in the Le Parisien newspaper, but the date was not discernable.

Much background detail remains unknown of the Art for Kids instance, despite a good web presence and Facebook postings (a mail to them went unanswered). The date of creation is unclear, but the puzzle is presumed of c. 2016, from a posting on their Facebook page. The designer’s name is not stated; whether this is an in-house design or otherwise not clear. The company advertises for designers to send in their work, and so this is possibly the latter.

    Background matters aside, these are of a rather simple nature, with relatively few pieces, sixteen, or here, motifs. Indeed, the motifs are in general somewhat contrived, and occasionally truncated, albeit still largely recognisable, albeit by far off the higher standards. Save for the elephant, not a single animal is wholly surrounded, and so the principal of a double contour throughout is seriously weakened here. However, likely it was not designed with ‘high art’ in mind. Can anyone add to what is given above? In particular, I would like to know of the designer’s name.


Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals, 14 pieces

Nothing is known as to the background of the ‘Benho’ instance. From the box alone, it is of Chinese origin, but as to designer and date, nothing. Likely, it is a modern-day product.
In quality of motifs, this pales noticeably compared with others. Although the motifs are listed, and of which on occasion is a must to identify, they remain lacking in definition.



Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:
1. Animals

The Selecta ‘Tierpuzzle’ instance, apparently of German origin, is another modern-day commercial puzzle, and is yet another of the ‘simple’ instances, perhaps with the intent of emulating Enzo Mari in style. Again, details as to designer and background are lacking. Does anyone have information on this?



A. K. Dewdney

Puzzle inventory, in chronological order, with dates and number of pieces:

1. Cats

Cats © A. K. Dewdney

Dewdney shows a single instance on his webpage, Cats. As might be imagined by the title, these are themed, with 37 motifs. The cats appear in a variety of orientations, of a high number, especially so for such a specific motif, with less leeway than an arbitrary selection of animate and inanimate motifs. The overall quality is good. This is easily seen as high quality, as the cats adopt a series of typical different poses, with the silhouette largely easily recognisable, and so these are not merely cat decoration features added to a formless shape. As can be seen, without the restriction of a duality of line at the edges of the composition, this enables the cats to be even more lifelike here, and as such is noticeably ‘looser’ at the extremities than with Escher's model. All in all, a pleasing composition.



Geert Bekkering, for history and details of J. H. Schoonderbeek, W. Hahn, and Simplex puzzles

Susan Brack, for drawing my attention to the John Wright bakeware molds

Kelvin Palmer, for much helpful discussion concerning the history of his father’s puzzles, and numerous photo requests

Anne D. Williams, for much guidance in a generalised way, and in particular for background details as to: Margaret Richardson; Pieceful Solutions, and for bringing to my attention puzzles by: Art Nugent; Jim Fambrough; Rochester Folk Art Guild; Stacey Roberts; C. Todd of Jigtime; Pacific Company Puzzle; Anything's Puzzable details, with a catalogue and ‘Endangered Species’ puzzle, together with various background details thereof and details of Donald Grundy, Portland Puzzles

Bob Armstrong, for details of the Margaret Richardson ‘A Bad Dream’ puzzle

Primitivo Familiar, for details of the 'Hasbro Romper Room Puzzle & Play Animal' puzzle

Judy Gehman, for details of Margaret Richardson

Melinda Shebell, for drawing my attention to a cluster puzzle forerunner, by Yoshifuji Utagawa

Michael Hunter, for background details of the Rochester Folk Art Guild puzzle

Mary of 'Tipple and Snack', for background details of the Art Orignals/Yumeda puzzle

Dave Janelle, for background details as to his company, Creative Craftshouse

Götz-Peter Reichelt, for background details as to his wood carved puzzles, and for drawing my attention to two Dorin Layeled Ltd. puzzles

Heather Coyle, for details of John Sloan, and in particular his 'Blackbird' puzzle

Yoshiaki Araki, for details of Japanese puzzles

Laura Kutney, for details of George J. Paulus puzzles

Ryan Martin, of the John Wright Company, USA, for telling me the name of the animal bakeware designer, Barbara Stork

Lorenzo Logi and Angiolo Logi, for background details as to Australia Puzzle, and others, and for sharing their archives, and much assistance in a generalised way

Hayley Ho, for background deteils as to the Orochen family forest puzzles

George Escher, for his commentary as to his father's knowledge of Simplex puzzles

Becky Raynor, for kindly forwarding my query to George Escher


[*] Armstrong, Bob. Website:

[*] Burns, Tony and Joy Burns.

[*] Escher, M. C. The Graphic Work of M. C. Escher. Oldbourne, London 1970.

[*] Ford, Karin (translator). Escher on Escher Exploring the Infinite. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1989.

[*] Fox, Linda (Editor), Daniele Ravenna (text) Mario Tedeschi: Australia Puzzle Contemporary Silverware & Jewellery 1994 (Re Angiolo Logi)

[*] Hower, Carolea. Making Wooden Puzzle Playsets. 10 Patterns to Carve, Scroll & Woodburn. Fox Chapel Publishing 2015
[*] Hunter, Michael. Personal Correspondence, 1, 6 April 2016

[*] Palmer, Kelvin (1). The Collector’s Guide to Cluster Puzzles of the 1960s and 1970s. 2003

[*] Palmer, Kelvin (2). Website:

[*] Schattschneider, Doris. Visions of Symmetry. Notebooks, Periodic Drawings, and Related Work of M. C. Escher. New York. W. H. Freeman and Company 1990.

Revised edition 2004.
[*] Tyler, Tom. British Jigsaw Puzzles of the 20th Century. Richard Dennis 1997 

[*] Williams, Anne D. The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History. Berkley Books, New York 2004

[*] Wikipedia - Art Nugent:

Created 22 November 2013. Previously, a small part of this essay, featuring the works of Bobby Bogl and A. K. Dewdney, was placed under another title, of  'Free Plane Filling'. 1 


27 March. Michael Angulo and George Luck puzzles added. 

22 May. Bobby Bogl Interlocking Animals and Interlocking Canines added. 

2 June. Susan Brack's Here Kitty Kitty and Lakeside's 19 Animals added. 

10 June. Sabu Oguro, Mark D. Dodd images added. 

June. John Wright Bakeware added. 

26 June. Fat Punk Studio added. 

9 July. Patent pictures of Clerc, Godinet Graham, and Stevens added.

14 June. 'Tozzwoods' added. 

23 July. Introductory test rewritten and greatly expanded

Jack Zylkin added.

9 September. Shigeru Kobayashi text and pictures added


20 May. Anthony Prischl and Paul Gibbs and Angiolo Logi sections added

18 June. Rearragement and revision of material for a better read/presentation

1 July. Angiolo Logi text added

8 July. Mark D. Dodd text added

13 October. Romper Room Puzzle & Play Animals, Ducks in Formation, and Emily the Strange all added

6 November. 'Onikaizer' added

19 November 'Zoomerderita' added

7 December. 'University Craftsman' added

31 December. Arthur W. Nugent entry added


10 February. Simplex Animal Mosaic, Aminal (sic) puzzle by Studio DUNN added

26 February. Oswaldo Rosales - Venezuela and USA added

3 March. George Luck revised and notably expanded

10 March. Dave Lyons 'Crowded Car' added

14 March. Faux Cluster puzzles. Section noticeably expanded, and illustrated for the first time

15 March. Art Nugent text added

17 March. Oswaldo Rosales text added

21 March. Pacific Puzzle company pictures and text added

22 March. 'Anything's' Puzzable', update, with a major text revision and expansion, catalogue pictures and 'Endangered Species' added

29 March. 'Plexus Puzzles' added

31 March. Rochester Folk Art Guild pictures added

4 April. Jim Fambrough discussion and pictures added

8 April. Rochester Folk Art Guild text added

4 May. Art Originals/Yameda puzzles added

6 May. Dave Janelle, of Creative Craftshouse text added

10 May. Art Nugent - 25 Stand Up Dolls and Noah's Ark pictures added

11 May. W. Hahn. Text added

16 May. Simplex text greatly expanded. Circus pictures added

26 May. Götz-Peter Reichelt pictures and text added

2 June. Donald Grundy picture and text added

18 August. Yana Skaler picture and text added

29 September. Anna Powell pictures and text added

4 October. Ray Delgadillo pictures and text added

12 October. Johan Olin pictures and text added

19 October. Francesc Crous and Alessandro Calogero pictures and text added

2 November. John Wright Company/Barbara Stork text updated in the light of finding the designer

28 November. Michèle Wilson text and pictures added

2 December. Debi McGary pictures and text added

14 December. Angiolo Logi entry completely revised, with substantial new text and pictures

19 December. Denitsa Krapova pictures and text added

22 December. Mirim Seo text added

23 December. Dave Janelle, of Creative Craftshouse text minor revision, and update of format


2 January. Rob Reger, 'Emily the Strange' pictures and text added

9 January. Orochen Family forest family pictures and text added

10 January. Geni Funware pictures and text added

11 January. Art For Kids text added

12 January. Craig Vesor pictures and text added

24 January. Aymara Indians, text only added

2 February. Estrela text and pictures added

21 February. Philip Gell text and picture added

7 March. Simplex entry updated, with George Escher commentary, and minor clarifications overall