The Informational Age of Puzzles

The Information Age began in the 20th century and continues on today. From being on the computer while watching TV or doing a puzzle and listening to a podcast, more than ever, people are multi-tasking to cram in as much information as possible while completing a task. So, it only makes sense that puzzles would soon welcome itself into this information age in the 21st century - it's "elementary, my dear Watson".

"Sherlock" 1000 pieces - a small excerpt from a 2020 informational puzzle
While puzzles are an ideal hobby for relaxing, after the puzzle is complete there are only a few options.  At some point after the puzzle is assembled, whether immediately or delayed, it needs to be dismantled. The other option is to preserve the puzzle with glue or some other method so that it can continue to be enjoyed, perhaps as a piece of art.

However, in between these two options, we say welcome to the informational age of puzzles! Cobble Hill is presenting a type of puzzle that provides information about a particular subject.  The company started with a few light versions of this "informational puzzle" by creating collages of quotes on different subjects like Dog Quotes, Cat Quotes, Chicken Quotes, Butterfly Quotes, Moth Quotes, but the information was more whimsical in nature in that they were simply quotes.

"The cocks may crow, but it's the hen that lays the egg" from Chicken Quotes 1000 piece puzzle
In 2020, Cobble Hill began introducing a more in depth type of informational puzzle for the more epistemophilic puzzler. Around the image subject, one would find anything from facts, figure, dates, and quotes. When a puzzler has assembled the puzzle, it can then be enjoyed for its information.

Cobble Hill has started out with a few space themes that include interesting facts and some speculation about our solar system. "The Moon" and "The Planet Mars" are two 1000 piece puzzles created from the work of Eleanor Lutz. She is a PhD candidate in the University of Washington Biology Department. She has a remarkable ability to take vast amounts of data and make it visually arresting.  To learn more about her science illustration visit the website (Tabletop Whale).

"The Moon" 1000 pieces with beautiful illustrations and arresting facts.

"The Planet Mars" 1000 piece with a visually appealing layout.
These solar system puzzles are definitely a challenge to put together, but they can be sorted into sections by colour and are completely achievable. We recommend these for the more avid puzzler or for a group of determined individuals.

To see more of these types of puzzles, visit our website's "Shop By Theme" link and click on the "Informational" link.  We'll share one more image of Sherlock so you can see what the excerpt looks like relative to the whole puzzle below.

"Sherlock" 1000 piece box, includes a reference poster.

The Perfect Puzzle for Anytime

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger

Foreword from Cobble Hill: With the new year of 2020 coming upon us, it's the perfect time for reflection. There really is a time for everything and a season for every activity. We appreciate that so many of you have made the choice to spend your time and your seasons with our Cobble Hill puzzle pieces - 2019 has been an outstanding year for us at Cobble Hill Puzzle Co. because of you.  We wish for you and your neighbours to have a peace that surpasses all understanding for this new decade ahead - from piece to peace! May your life be full of joy and laughter in the year 2020.  It has been our sincerest pleasure to serve you. Please enjoy a peek at one of our new 2020 puzzles and latest blog from our dear friend, Elmer Prather. Thank you!

This is the 25th Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is titled “Timepieces” by Shelley Davies. I have been excited about getting to put it together ever since I first saw it, before it was ever released for sale. I need to have a connection with a puzzle before I spend the time and energy to put it together. The reason that I was so looking forward to putting this one together is because I collect clocks and watches. I have a collection of over 200. Most were purchased at estate sales and antique shops.

A portion of the clock collection displayed in custom built shelves!

 I have this collection in my basement office. I display them on shelving that I built in my work shop. This collection has clocks that make different sounds on the hour and some on the quarter hour. I have them set just a few minutes apart so that I can hear the different clocks as they make their individual sounds.

The rooster clock (top right) is bigger than it appears (see it in the picture above, lower right area)

This puzzle fascinated me because of how all of the items in the puzzle were placed and staged. When I saw the puzzle, I wondered how Shelley Davies determined where to place each watch and clock in the display as well as all of the special effect items she included. This puzzle has so much more than just clocks and watches. It has randomly placed numbers and letters, a calendar with Sunday December 24, children playing, cuckoo clocks, a sundial, a digital clock, several grandfather, one granddaughter clock and several pocket watches. Some of the clocks have Roman numerals while others have numbers. The randomly placed number tabs, in different colors, have Roman numerals while others have just numbers.

"Timepieces" 1000 piece puzzle by Shelley Davies. Assembled by Elmer Prather.
The watches are for both male and female users. Most, if not all, of the clocks and watches have wind up mechanisms. With this many wind up mechanisms, keeping them wound and on time would be a full time operation. I know this because of my collection.
Some of the more unusual and unique clocks in the collection.

I really enjoyed putting this puzzle together. The more I added to it the more it came alive. 
From small to large, there are clocks of all kinds displayed here.
I am very proud of my clock collection and by looking at this puzzle, I can tell that Shelley Davies is really into clocks too.

"Timepieces" 1000 piece puzzle by Shelley Davies. A Truly Original Photo (T.O.P.) puzzle

A Road Trip to Remember

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger

As some may know I have to have a connection with a puzzle before I put the time and effort into putting it together. This is the 24th Cobble Hill Puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. This puzzle reminds me of the camping site we used while on a fishing trip that my three fishing friends and I took to Ennis, Montana via the Pas, Manitoba. It is titled “Evening Glow” by Derk Hanson. This is the second Derk Hanson puzzle that I have put together, the first was titled “Rest Stop”. It was my 22nd Cobble Hill puzzle.

"Evening Glow" 1000 piece. Artist: Derk Hansen Photo Credit: Elmer Prather
In order for you to get the big picture I will start from the beginning. I was a much younger man when we took this trip. We started on this fishing odyssey in Atlanta, Georgia. We made this trip in a Volkswagen bus. While traveling in the bus, two of us could sleep, the third could drive and as we say in the south, the fourth rode “shot gun”.

Volkswagen Bus that made the road trip possible!
Our first planned fishing spot was 2000 miles away on Clearwater Lake which is just outside of the Pas, Manitoba. In order to make the best of our time, we only stopped for gas and to use the rest room. We prepared sandwiches for lunch and dinner and had pastries for breakfast. This drive took 40 hours and was approximately 2000 miles long. We fished for lake trout and northern pike for a few days on Clearwater Lake which is a natural glacier formed lake. It is a deep, clear, cold lake. It is one of the few true blue lakes in the world and the clearest in Canada and the second clearest lake in the world. We had a feast each night after cooking the lake trout we had caught along with hush puppies and fresh potatoes. One night we were blessed by being able to watch as the Northern Lights flowed across the Canadian sky. What a beautiful sight to see.

After a few days of fishing, we broke camp and headed west. We drove through Saskatchewan then Alberta. We crossed the U S Canadian border near Glacier National Park in Montana. Our next planned fishing destination was Ennis, Montana. Ennis is located about 50 miles South of Bozeman, Montana and about 25 miles West, as the crow flies, from Big Sky, Montana.

(Just a rough idea of what the trip from Georgia to Montana looked like, as told by Mr. Prather)
We camped and fished on the Madison river which runs through Ennis. This was years ago when we fished there. I have been back to Ennis since then and it has grown and prospered due to the trout fishing available there. Trout fishermen come from all over the world to try their luck fishing for rainbow and brown trout on the Madison river.

The Madison River, perhaps the most famous of all the rivers in Montana, begins in Yellowstone National Park at the confluence of the Firehole River and Gibbon River. From its origin, it flows for more than 140 miles through exceptionally beautiful scenery before it reaches the Missouri River near the town of Three Forks, Montana.

When we fished there, there was a faded sign posted by the river that showed a trout being caught and the caption, “Ennis, Montana 11,000,000 trout 660 people”.

Welcome to Ennis. Pop. 660 People, 11,000,000 Trout
This was a fun trip. We walked out into the river with our fly rods and our waders and the trout would bump into our legs there were so many of them.

We went back to the Pas two more times to fish. These two trips were from Atlanta to the Pas and back to Atlanta. I have many great memories of all these fishing trips.


We hope you enjoyed Mr. Prather's memory. And if you're not able to get out on your own adventure, look for this puzzle box at your local retailer!

"Evening Glow" 1000 piece by Derk Hansen (includes reference poster)

Top 5 Best Sellers from our NEW 2020 Puzzle Release

Every year we release a plethora of new puzzles in a variety of piece counts. Our grand total for 2020 is 95 NEW puzzles! It generally leans heavier on the 1000 piece puzzles as this is our most popular category. This year, we added seven new 2000 piece puzzles, 52 new 1000 piece puzzles, 20 new 500 piece puzzles, eight new Family Pieces 350 puzzles, and eight new Easy Handling 275 piece puzzles.

It's only been just over two weeks since we started shipping off our new puzzles to retailers across North America, but already we can see which new puzzles are leading the pack in sales. As Christmas is just around the corner, our top five best sellers come as no surprise. The winter wonderland scenes are at the top of the list, but number five will warm you up!  So, if you're looking for ideas, here are the top five best sellers so far!

All of these puzzles are available at our Preferred Retailers in store and online. You can search for one using our Find A Store link at the top of our website.

1. Santa's Tree by Tom Newsom (1000 pieces)

2.  Happy Pawlidays by Robert Giordano (Family Pieces 350)

3. Skating Party by Greg Giordano (1000 pieces)

4. Hill of a Lot of Snowmen by Janet Stever (500 pieces)

Please check out the review by our friends over at Jigsaw Puzzle Hobby with close up images.

5. BartistArt by Michael Breach (1000 pieces)

We hope you enjoyed seeing our top five best sellers so far from our new 2020 collection of puzzles. 

The Cobble Hill website will have these available at the start of the new year, but we would love for you to support our local retailers right now by visiting our Find A Store link.

We have seen just about every one of our Preferred Online Retailers order each one of the puzzles on this list, so if you can't find it local - they'll have it for you - if they haven't already sold out!

Life Experiences Raising Quail

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger 

This is the 23rd Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure to put together. This one was a little more challenging than the other ones but the end results were worth the effort.

I have to have a connection with a puzzle before I spend that time and energy to put it together. This was an easy choice because of the year I spent raising bobwhite quail. Of course the quail in the picture are bobwhite quail.

"Quail" 1000 piece. Artist: Rosemary Millette Photo Credit: Elmer Prather
When I was 15 years old our next door neighbors had a modern, functional quail raising facility where they raised bobwhite quail. They had other businesses that they had to manage like a grocery store and a medal fabrication business. When they tired of all of the day to day work associated with raising quail they offered 25 pair of quail to their oldest son and I. He was a year younger than I.

My friend’s parents kept a record of the feed and supplies that were purchased for the birds and when
we sold them they took the expenses out of the money we received from selling the birds and divided the profit evenly between their son and me. By this time I was 16 years old and I used the money that I made raising the quail to purchase my first used car. I learned a lot from this experience.

I learned how to be a responsible entrepreneur, how to manage my time, how to organize work flows, how to deal with customers, how to work with others and how to raise quail.

Having this responsibility and opportunity at age 15 was a godsend for me. It is something that I will never forget. This puzzle is a great reminder of that time in my life.

Quail 1000 piece puzzle - box image - Cobble Hill Puzzles
Item 80194 "Quail" - available at your local retailer

Can't find Quail at a Preferred North American retailer?
You can order from our website with a free shipping coupon. Quail must be in your cart to honour the free shipping code.

Choose Ship to Canada or Ship to USA to purchase. At checkout, enter code: QUAIL

Falling For These Autumn Puzzles

A lot of people have a favourite season and autumn is mine. I love the crisp fresh air, the smell of rain, the sounds of car tires on wet pavement, the beautiful pumpkin patches. It's such a lovely season and if you're a pumpkin spice latte kind of person, you know this is one of your favourite seasons too!

I think the major drawback to fall for most people is they're sad that we lose the long summer nights with all that light. As the days darken, sitting on the deck sipping iced tea in the afternoon becomes a distant memory. 

So what is one to do? Jigsaw puzzles, of course! Bring the outdoors inside your home!  Make your favourite hot drink, sit down, start sorting, and enjoy falling in love with your autumn puzzle pick.

If you're new to puzzles, we recommend starting with a lower piece count to get you familiar with finding pieces by shapes and colours. Fall Feast by artist Jane Maday is a wonderful Easy Handling 275 piece puzzle. This piece count has extra large puzzle pieces so you can easily see a lot of the detail in one puzzle piece. The Easy Handling puzzles include a linen print reference poster, so you could even find a partner to share in building this puzzle with you OR since you have the poster, that means both box lids could be used as sorting trays!
If you're looking for more of a challenge, we have a lot of wonderful fall themed 500 and 1000 piece puzzles.  Some of them are bright and cheerful autumn colours, while others have that misty, moody fall feel.  We recommend having both on hand to suit whatever mood you're in whenever you're ready to dig into a puzzle and a cup of tea.

Apple Pie Kitchen is a Cobble Hill Creation puzzle, which means we either commissioned the art work on it solely for our use or our Creative Team licensed images from an artist and then created our own image using various pieces of work. This one in particular was painted for us and we love the vintage feel of the kitchen and the "smell" of fall apples being baked into a pie!

Apple Pie Kitchen 500 piece by Cobble Hill Creations
Joy Ride and Apple Pie Kitchen both have those beautiful fall colours and lovable dogs.
Joy Ride 500 piece by Anthony J. Padgett

In 2018, we switched over to the new box design that includes posters and at the same time, we also changed the finished puzzle size for the 500 piece puzzles. They used to assemble at 18" x 24", but now the finished size is 19.25" x 26.625", which means each piece is a bit larger. So, if you need puzzle pieces to be a little bigger so you can grip them more easily or if you just like having more detail per piece, then our new 500 piece puzzle size is going to be perfect for you.

The 1000 piece category has a popular fall puzzle called Autumn Bouquet. It's by artist Greg Giordano who is popular for his bird images.  The bright reds and oranges really make this puzzle pop, but those cute little pumpkins are what sells it as a wonderful autumn puzzle.
Autumn Bouquet 1000 piece by Greg Giordano

Another great puzzle with a lot of autumn colours is New Day by artist Mark Keathley. This puzzle has a lot of foliage, so it will be more challenging, whereas Autumn Bouquet puzzle can be sorted into flowers, fence, and ground. But it's a gorgeous puzzle when finished! And it's always a great new day in autumn!
New Day 1000 piece by Mark Keathley
Finished New Day by puzzler Terry Martin
We know that our puzzlers really enjoy our fall puzzles and we hope you will too.  Please feel free to share your adventure with our puzzles on our Facebook page, or Instagram with #cobblehillpuzzles. It's always a pleasure for us to see!

If you would like to see more options for fall puzzles, please visit our website and look under the Shop by Theme->Fall/Autumn link. Thanks for spending a piece of your day with us here!

In the US, click here.
In Canada, click here

Retailer Profile: Bolen Books - a bookstore and more!

It’s been an incredible 44 years for the family owned and operated Bolen Books store.  This amazing bookstore is based in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia on the wonderful west coast of Canada. In fact, it’s on an island!  And let’s just say if you were on the S.S. Minnow you’d be glad that your “three hour tour” gone wrong landed you in Victoria!  From the Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal, you’re just a 43 minute drive to Hillside Mall, and from the cruise ship ports, it’s a quick 10 minutes. Either way, it’s worth the excursion whether you’re from Victoria or just visiting.

Map of Bolen Books location relative to Swartz Bay Ferry and Ogden Point Terminal.

Bolen Books is in a great location at Hillside Shopping Centre, which is a very family friendly residential area.  It’s also surrounded by the Camosun College Lansdown Campus, which serves 19,000 learners a year, and the University of Victoria, which serves nearly 22,000 students.  Between the young students and the retired readers, Victoria bookstores are thriving and VicNews surmised that it was due to education.  According to Statistics Canada, the national average for people with university degrees, certificates or diplomas at or above the bachelor level is 28.5%, while in Victoria, BC that number tops an impressive 42%! Perhaps that is why in this digital age, the city of Victoria still has dozens of successful independent and chain bookstores selling new and used books. And perhaps a matter of opinion, but in terms of gift giving, a book one can touch, turn, and smell, is much more personable than a characterless downloadable link.

Bolen Books storefront facing Hillside road that enters directly into their store from outside the mall (1 of 3 entrances).

You can enter the store directly from the parking lot facing Hillside Road without entering the actual mall or enter from two other locations inside the mall, one of which is by the food court (always a great choice for an entrance). But even with parking wrapping around the entire mall, it can be insane at Christmas time, so start shopping now - we already saw some Christmas goodies at Bolen Books!

A few Christmas cleaning cloths and Krumbs Kitchen spoons – great gift ideas!

For 25 years, Black Press Media has been publishing a “Best of the City” awards voted on by tens of thousands of residents for everything from shopping to sports and recreation.  In 2019, residents voted Bolen Books as the #1 Best Bookstore for New Books, an honour familiar to them in other years.

It wouldn't surprise us if Bolen Books' #1 win was attributed to their excellent customer service. There are 30+ happy helpers staffed at this independent bookstore and while each one will give you plenty of reading room, whenever you're ready, all of them are willing to help you find that perfect book, toy, board game, jigsaw puzzle, coffee mug, book light, book mark, kitchen gadget, greeting card, magazine, plushy, wrapping paper, calendar, reading glasses, journal or whatever you can’t imagine because they have something unique for everyone! Yes, indeed, Bolen Books is a bookstore, and more!

 Hmm… where do those footprints go from the front entrance till? You’ll have to visit to find out!

The place is always full of life with people wandering the various sections of books, magazines, games and gifts – and you can’t miss their huge jigsaw puzzle wall stocked with lots of great brands, including Cobble Hill!

This impressive puzzle wall is full of high quality brands!

Between this impressive wall and the rows of bookshelves, you’ll find many display tables full of games, puzzles, and other goodies (many from our corporate company, Outset Media).  You could spend hours in these sections alone and you wouldn’t even be a third of the way through the store. The games on the table are nicely organized by theme like Family, Classic, and Adults, so you can easily find something for everyone - like the popular Qwirkle from MindWare Games and our favourite party game, Pickles to Penguins!

 Tables full of popular games like Scattergories and Pickles to Penguins! Think game night and gift ideas!

This huge store is sprinkled with seating areas throughout so you can sit while you wait for others to finish perusing the aisles or relax before you take your second tour of this amazing store!

Seating areas in cozy nooks throughout the store.

If you’re looking to take something entertaining home, they sell a lot of games and they even have game demos that give you hands on experience before buying. If you’re craving a new book, be sure to look for their "Staff Pick” stickers, these are always a great choice!  If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with all the options, you may want to consider buying one of their “hot items”, the NeeDoh stress ball.  It’s known as the groovy glob of gratifying goo that always springs back to its original shape, even after being squeezed and smooshed - and it’s available in different colours and styles!

 1. Purchased a couple of cute gifts for a birthday.  2. NeeDoh display at mall entrance area.

The front counters are always stocked with fun trinkets and impulse items that make for great gifts.  Another Bolen Book’s hot item, since 2014, is Jude’s Miracle Cloth – a microfiber cleaning cloth that strategically lifts and traps dirt and moisture.  It makes for no hassle, streak free, spot free, and lint free cleaning without chemicals. And apparently, the University of California-Davis Hospital determined that conventional cleaning materials only reduce bacteria by 30%, whereas microfiber could reduce the number of bacteria by 99%. No wonder it’s so popular!

Nee Doh and Jude’s Miracle Cloth are two HOT items at Bolen Books (food court entrance shown).

If you’re shopping here to find a gift for someone special and you just can’t decide, be assured that you can purchase a gift certificate in any denomination.  And if you’re a frequent shopper at Bolen Books, then you may be interested to learn that they have a physical lifetime discount card available for $50 that will save you 10% off every purchase! These have been sold in limited quantities over the years – and now you know!  Just visit a friendly staff member at one of the three tills located at each entrance of the store.

Tons of gift wrap, gift bags and greeting cards for all occasions.
Bolen Books is fortunate in that it compares in size to large chain bookstores, while being independently owned, so they have that freedom and roominess to hold lots of free events for the community.  They also rent out to folks who need a space to host their own events for workshops or meetings.  We can only imagine how stimulating, creative, and inspiring it would be to host a meeting in this place! It’s incredible the number of diverse guests who have graced this store including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, comedy legend John Cleese, environmental activist David Suzuki, award winning author Ami McKay, Geddy Lee of RUSH, and hundreds more! Be sure to check out their events page so you don’t miss a beat!

Chris Hatfield signing copies of his debut book in 2013. (Photo: Bolen Books website)

In 2018, Bolen Books hosted their first jigsaw puzzle competition in the mall with prizes.  The event was a huge success and Bolen Books will continue holding this event at least once a year.  Winning teams get their team name engraved on the very sentimental family named trophy, “The Piotta”.  If you’re local, keep an eye out for their bulletin board announcing the competition and other great events!

Cobble Hill Puzzle Company had the honour of being the first puzzle brand to kick-off this local event!

One of Bolen Books’ favourite mantras is, “There is something for everyone in our store, but if we don’t have the thing you’re looking for, we can order it!” And from first-hand knowledge, we can tell you that it’s quick, easy, and effortless. This is a place where people care about helping you find what you need whether it’s tangible or an experience.  They’ve already been honoured with the award of “Best Bookstore for New Books”, but if they were ever awarded another title from the city, they’d love it to be for “Best Community Bookstore”.

If you’ve been receiving excellent customer service at Bolen Books since you were a child, please be sure and tell a staff member to pass that message on to the owner, Samantha Bolen or her daughter Madeline, who helps run the store, as this is the best compliment a customer can give them.

Madeline (daughter) and Samantha Bolen (owner).

We’re certain it will put a smile on their face and yours! Thanks for shopping local!