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At our big family holiday confabs, there are the requisite food, conversations, games, introductions to new additions, family feuds—and the jigsaw puzzle.

Typically spread out on a side dining room or card table, the general process follows a familiar pattern: Someone scrounges up a puzzle (minimum pieces in the high hundreds to low thousands), dumps it on the table, places the box top in easy view and digs in. They may or may not be joined by curious passers-by, but over a period of time the puzzlers rotate in and out of the action as their time allows and interest determines. Various well-honed puzzle techniques are implemented: straight edged pieces over there, the similarly colored ones over there, those clearly sharing some portion of the various images over here. Soon various fragments take shape, borders appear, joy is expressed as combinations arise (hey, your part there fits mine over here!) and slowly the puzzle takes shape.

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