Competitive speed puzzling boosts adrenaline for participants

Mar 10, 2023, 9:51 AM | Updated: 10:09 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Most people find jigsaw puzzles a peaceful, relaxing activity. Not Kyle Kossin and Mindy Whiting.

“When you’re racing, the pressure’s on, the heart’s going,” Kossin said.

“I do feel my adrenaline gets going,” Whiting said.

They are speed puzzlers. Whiting unknowingly started speed puzzling when she was about 10 years old.

“As a kid, I had one puzzle in particular that I would do over and over and over again, and just try and beat my time every single time,” she said. When she was stuck at home with her kids during the pandemic, she said she needed an escape and turned to that puzzle again.

“I wonder if there’s, like, a speed puzzling community out there,” she recalled thinking.

Mindy Whiting works on a puzzle in her home. (KSL TV)

Whiting entered an online contest and took first place in a beginners’ event.

Kossin, an avid jigsaw puzzler from an early age, discovered speed puzzling through the puzzling world’s YouTube celebrity — Karen Kavett, also known as Karen Puzzles.

Kavett, who lives in Los Angeles, was producing, crafting, and designing videos when she decided to make a few videos about her passion for jigsaw puzzles. Thanks, in part, to the pandemic, it turned into her full-time job.

“Yeah, definitely people got very, very into puzzles. During the pandemic, my channel got so many more viewers and subscribers. If you went on to Amazon, you, like, couldn’t get puzzles for a while,” she said.

Karen Kavett, also known as Karen Puzzles. (KSL TV)

She said speed puzzling has been around since the ’80s, but this latest iteration has gotten a boost from the new puzzle boom. Kavett posted a recap of the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship in Valladolid, Spain. Kossin watched it and then timed himself.

“Turned out, I wasn’t terrible at it. And so I just kept practicing,” he said.

Three months later, he, along with Whiting and Kavett, were at the nationals in San Diego. In the individual competition, Kavett took second place, beat out by Yvonne Feucht by 34 seconds. Whiting and Kossin took 14th and 16th.

Kossin now has plans to compete at the World Championship in the fall. Whiting continues to enter online competitions.

So how fast is fast in the world of speed puzzling? At the 2022 Worlds in the individual category, Alejandro Clemente of Spain took the gold by solving a 500 piece puzzle in 34 minutes and 25 seconds.

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Competitive speed puzzling boosts adrenaline for participants