The Puzzle Puzzle

This is what you do when you’re not petting me? Seriously?

Memories are a strange thing for us humans.  We might remember to this day exactly what nasty graffiti was written on the third bathroom stall in grade school, yet not be able to recall whether we had just taken our life sustaining medicine 15 minutes ago or not.  There are some things that stay with you forever and ever, and there is the vast majority of things you will experience in this world that fade away from your mind at a negative logarithmic rate from the moment they occur.  And then there are those strange memories that linger in mental purgatory that can be full or incomplete things, but can go years and even decades without being thought about… and sometimes just randomly and suddenly spew forth to the front of your cerebral cortex.

Oh, wait. That’s just the cuckoo bird.

I had such a mental ejaculation Wednesday night… a memory of early childhood that suddenly showed up and introduced itself, saying “Hey, remember me?”  I have a lot of people stop me at work like that and talk to me like I know who the fuck they are, when I actually don’t have a clue.  That’s because I’m horrible at remembering people’s faces and names.  But nostalgic memories…. that’s something I’m usually good at.  And I did recognize this visitor inside my head the other night, and could even remember certain details of what it looked like… but hadn’t seen it in so long, I honestly couldn’t say if I’d even recognize it again if I actually did see it.

Dafuq is this guy talking about anyway?

I remember when I was a little boy back in the early 80’s (Or slightly more mature than I am now), my parents would buy me and my sisters these puzzles to keep us occupied so we wouldn’t drive them to murder.  I’m not talking about complex jigsaw puzzles with 4537289233 pieces (and always missing one in the box), but these kids puzzles with only a few pieces and none of them small enough for us to choke on.

I guess we’ll have to play with the baggies instead.

There were 12 pieces to each puzzle, to be exact.  And in one of those things that only my young but still unusual mind would have noticed was that all of these puzzles we would get were cut out into the exact same 12 pieces.  There were generic images and licensed cartoons and all kinds of pictures on these different puzzles…. yet the pieces themselves were identical.  And much like my fascination with the shapes of the states led me to be able to draw a reasonable map of the country before I even graduated from those big, fat crayons… I knew that outline of the puzzle pieces cold, and would always look for it every time we got a new puzzle.

Now I can put Humpty Dumpty back together again without an instruction manual!

The puzzles eventually made way for more cooler things like Rubik’s Cubes, Garbage Pail Kids and my sisters’ Pound Puppies I’d throw across the room.  The 12 piece grid I had come to know and obsess over eventually took its proper place in a remote corner of my mind along with all the repressed memories about being abducted by alien unicorns.  At least…. it did until I randomly thought about it again during my boring time away from work last week.  Re-armed with this vague idea of what I used to play with, I just had to hit Google Images to see if I could find that old familiar puzzle layout that was a part of my days as a young squirrel.

Dammit Google! I thought you could read my subconscious mind!!!

Unfortunately, so fascinated was I with the cutout design that I never bothered to mentally store away who made the puzzles or what they were called.  So I started with “12 piece kids puzzle 80s” (Which will probably end up on some other blog’s Sandy Awards now), and the number of similar results… as well as a touch of a light bulb going on when I saw them, gave me a name for what I was looking for.

That’s “Meep Meep!”, not “Beep Beep!” morons…

Whitman tray puzzles were a big kids toy in the 70’s and 80’s.  They had all the cool licensed characters we loved, were cheap, and even “developed coordination and motor control” in us budding young hellions.  Awesome!  That’s a start…. but that’s not the piece design I remember.  Way too simplistic… the pieces actually look like generically shaped puzzle pieces.  The ones I recall were a bit more unique looking… and there’s a couple I outright remember their exact shapes.  That is not the puzzle I’m looking for……

But this is!

Ho Ho Ho! Merry late Christmas, little Billy!

As soon as I saw Piece #4 (The howling dog) Piece #8 (The dancing fool), and Piece #2 (Which I always thought of as Montana…. yeah, whatever), I knew I’d found my memory!!!  There is no way I can possibly put into words how stupidly excited I was when I found this image of the puzzle cutout I remember.

Thankfully, I had a bunch of A National 2 Ply Paper Towels on hand.

So I was wondering if I could find a certain racing puzzle in this format that I had a very vague notion of its design… and no, I was unable to find that.  But I did find this, which managed to stick an icepick in the nostalgic part of my brain…

Aww, Kooky isn’t that scary now, am I?

Since a majority of the Whitman puzzles I was finding had alternate cutout designs, I just wrote this off initially as one of the weird ones.  Until I noticed that Piece #6 looked an awful lot like “howling dog.”  In fact, it IS howling dog, turned the other way!  This is my familiar cutout flipped left to right!!!!  Dafuq!?!?  They did that without my prior approval!?!?  Who the fuck does Whitman think they are to mess with my head like this?

Oh, it’s only getting started….

Cats hate disco.

Now someone has stood howling dog and dancing fool on their heads!!!!  This is my iconic cutout design I remember flipped upside down!  What… did Tom and Jerry, Cookie Monster and Santa Claus have different demands in their licensing contracts with Whitman on the layout of the pieces or something?  Nope, the truth is apparently even stranger than that….

I give up…

Exact same Tom and Jerry image on two puzzles, but with the classic piece layout arranged two different ways!!!!  How is this possible!?!?  Was the puzzlemaster at Whitman some kind of evil genius, or just dyslexic and random in how he ran the trays through the cutter?  I guess I’ll never know since the Western Publishing Company stopped making these things several decades ago, and everyone associated with their manufacture may very well have been liquidated or institutionalized to keep from spilling company secrets.  But anyway… there’s how a random lost memory can turn into a gigantic waste of fucking time on the internet.

Plus this post that probably completely ruined your Sunday…


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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16 Responses to The Puzzle Puzzle

  1. I always like following a random “brain teaser” like that and thanks to the internet we can indulge in that hunt – sometimes with success and sometimes with more frustration – but it’s always fun! Maybe whoever the guy who was in charge of setting up the puzzle piece “cutting blades” in the machine that stamped them out had a little too much joy juice the night before and occasionally moved things around counting on the fact that little kids USUALLY don’t care about which piece goes where. You, Mr. Squirrel, DID notice and well – now you’re back to square one……those puzzle memories are the best puzzle of all!


    • That’s just one of those weird random things that stuck in my head, and now I have to wonder if I just never noticed the design was sometimes flip-flopped. I think they did that deliberately to mess with my mind, and make everyone think I’m crazy for even bringing it up almost 40 years later!

  2. ksbeth says:

    i love crosswords, sudoku and jigsaw puzzles. always have.

    • I remember doing the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle every week for a few years on lunch break. Maybe once or twice a year, I’d solve the entire thing. Now I just sleep on lunch break. I’ve gotten old…

  3. Ah well, memory is as memory does. Or something.

  4. I think I had a dozen of those too. My brother probably had a few dozen more. I wonder why we never tried putting them together randomly without regard to picture? That would have been very cool, don’t you think?

    • I’d like to think I’d have done that at some point, but I’m not sure if we ever had more than one complete puzzle at a time. Me and my sisters used to destroy and lose toys faster than your dogs do. It was unreal…

  5. draliman says:

    I have lots of mental ejaculations.

  6. As I always hated puzzles, I hoped the dog would chew a couple pieces up so the whole thing would end up in the bin. I didn’t even mind cleaning when he barfed them up no doubt due to some toxic dye used before we knew Red Dye #5 was bad for us. 😆

  7. I remember these puzzles. Maybe that’s why I generally hate puzzles. Something to ponder…

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