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Jigsaw Puzzle Competitions - Part II

Hello from Sarah & Michaela!

Last week we discussed the basics of what puzzle competitions entail. This week, we are discussing the things to consider when hosting a competition! Puzzle competitions are a great activity for community involvement, and can be excellent fundraisers or business builders as well. In this post, we will be discussing in-person contests!

There are seven main things to consider!

map of world with red push pin flags


How popular puzzling is where you live will determine how big of a space you will need to host a competition. They are typically most popular in the Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific Coast. Do a little research to see if there are other competitions near you, and how many people they have previously registered for those competitions.  Based on your venue, you will need to set a limit for the number of teams or participants you let sign up for the competition. If you are hosting this at a business that will be open during the competition, such as a brewery or bar & grill, you need to account for people who will be at the locale, but not competing. 

When determining the number of maximum entries, consider that each team needs their own space to complete their puzzle on. If you have longer, lunchroom style tables, you can divide tables with a piece of tape to create separation between teams. Be sure that whatever the table set up is, that the team will have enough space to spread out pieces without mixing them up with other teams! We suggest giving at least 2x the length of the longest side of the puzzle for space.

Another important part of location scouting is lighting. Natural lighting is best, but depending on time of day and location, you might need to think about other modes of lighting. You might want to consider assigning tables at random for fairness of lighting between teams. 

hand holding a small clock


The time the competition takes place is an important factor. Some groups do evenings at breweries and some are Saturday mornings at the library. Consider your venue, competitors, and volunteers and what time would work best for them. Depending on the puzzle you choose, a two hour time limit is pretty standard. It’s also important to consider the lighting when planning the time so you can get the most natural light possible. 


The Puzzle

First and foremost, everyone should have the same puzzle! Competition puzzles are typically 500 pieces as it’s the perfect size to complete in that two hour window. If you are doing a family event where children are participating, you might choose to do 300 pieces instead of 500. If you have hosted or are in an area with more competitions you could consider going up to a 750-1000 piece puzzle, but your time frame will also increase if you go with higher piece counts. If you want you can also add a 150 piece Micro Puzzle sprint as a bonus to your event.

Make sure the puzzle you choose is a fun puzzle and not terribly difficult, especially if puzzling competitions are newer in your area. The main thing about competitions is making sure they are fun, otherwise no one will want to do them again if they dreaded the puzzle. Make sure there is enough variation and fun patterns to focus on. It’s okay if it has a sky that’s the same color for a few rows, as that adds a little difficulty to the puzzle. However, you don’t want half of the puzzle to be an all blue sky, especially if you know you are going to have low lighting for some tables.

puzzle hand jigsaw puzzle

Contact puzzle companies or local stores that sell puzzles to see if they are willing to sponsor puzzles and/or prizes. Many state-based puzzle companies are more than willing to help where they can, even if it’s offering a discount on bulk orders instead of ordering off of sites like Amazon or Target. DO NOT just go to the dollar store and buy cheap puzzles to save/make more money. The puzzle quality is an important factor of competitions. If the puzzle constantly is falling apart every time you move it, or is peeling layers because of poor fit and quality, it becomes more of a pain to complete. 

Additionally, some puzzle companies might choose to debut a puzzle to ensure no one has completed that puzzle ever before as there is a curve of learning if you have already completed that puzzle previously, potentially giving some an unfair advantage. 


The cost of your puzzle competition registration is going to depend on who and where you are hosting this. Obviously if you are paying for a venue, you will need to build that into the cost to ensure it is covered. If you are doing this as a fundraiser you might be able to find a venue who volunteers their space for free to help out. If you are doing the competition as a fundraiser, make sure you are making at least $5-10 off of each entry and make sure people know what you are raising money to support. The big competition in Duluth, MN is one of 4-H’s largest fundraisers! If you are a business selling things, such as food, you can expect to make profit there and might be able to lower your cost of the competition a bit. 

Consider the price of the venue, the price of the puzzle, the prizes, and if you want to make money off of the event when you are setting your price. Typically live puzzle competition prices range from $10-50.



Typically everyone will start a puzzle at the same time. To make it more fair, usually you pass the puzzles around with the image facing down, or in a bag. Other common rules include no use of tools, such as spatulas or pieces of paper to help move sections of the puzzle into place, cutting tools to open the plastic wrapped box and puzzle bag, and sorting tools. These rules are more common in larger competitions, and if this is a first time puzzle in the area, you might play with these rules a little bit. 


Prizes will depend on sponsors and venue. Prizes range from money (part of the money raised by entry fees), new puzzles, gift cards, liquor etc. Typically 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place all get prizes. And all teams leave with the puzzle they completed.

Spreading the Word

It’s important to get the word out about your contest. Facebook events can be an easy way to do this. There are many facebook groups for puzzlers that you can post the link in. Instagram also has a large puzzler presence and posting there can definitely help with gathering participants. You should also look into local facebook groups and newsletters, hanging flyers in the community, and local papers. Also look into EventBrite for easy registration. 

Are you hoping to host a puzzle contest when everything opens back up? Let us know! 

Until next time - Stay Calm and Puzzle On!

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