Without a concrete reference image or a single context clue, every bit of progress is tentative. Should this red corner be in the foreground or the background? Is the next piece in this row going to be horizontal or vertical? Does this piece actually belong here or does it just happen to fit OK? It’s a stab in the dark. Every piece is a needle in a haystack that makes no sense.
MSCHF says that even if some pieces are missing, or aren’t put together exactly how they should be, the big-picture QR code should still work. At this point, I’m not 100 percent certain whether any of the pieces are where they should be. Not even the edges. I wish I was joking. But solving this puzzle has become a matter of pride, and I’m motivated by spite as much as the potential winnings.
Luckily, I’ve had backup—at least 10 family members, my best friend, my partner, one boisterous Boston terrier, and varying degrees of determination. It’s become a ritualistic bonding experience for myself and my loved ones worth more than $1, $30, or $2,000,000. Call it Stockholm syndrome, but this puzzle is one of my favorite things I’ve bought all year. As of publication, we’re about halfway through solving the first puzzle. The sweepstakes end in February 2024. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about finishing in time.
This puzzle may be irritating, but it isn’t impossible. Others have solved it. We can solve it. Many a pep talk has been had. My mom has said many times, “We have to be smarter than the puzzle.” We’re smarter than the puzzle, right?
Quickly after unboxing, the puzzle took a place of pride in the center of my parents’ living room. I’d come over to visit and ponder for a moment, putting a piece or two into place. Kids would emerge from their bedrooms to grab a snack and take a gander to try and fill a missing section. Small talk led to hours of conversations around a table, staring at a sea of blue with little black dots, trying to figure out how the pieces fit. I called my 9-year-old sister a psychopath—what kind of person puts together three pieces independent of an edge? My mom scoffed at me—what kind of person moves from one place to another instead of building methodically? (Note: She didn’t ask what kind of person calls a child a psychopath.)
We laughed about what we’d buy with our winnings, despite “winning” in this context being defined as jumping for joy when we finally got a corner solved. I said I’d buy the lake house of my dreams; my brother said he’d buy the lake house of my dreams and invite everyone else over. We cursed our hereditary myopia and poor overhead lighting. We checked the time, saw it was 3 am, and swore we’d only work on it for a little bit longer.
This puzzle gave my family something to do with our hands and minds during a particularly difficult chapter of our lives. When maintaining vigil during the last few days of my terminally ill grandmother’s life, she couldn’t respond, but the nurses said she could probably still hear us. The movies make it look easy, but in reality, filling the silence of a room for multiple days is difficult. There are only so many stories you can share, sentiments you can pass on, or passages you can read. We were at a loss for what to do or say.