I Want To Be Alone… With TCM’s New 500-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle

by Rachel Bellwoar

Early into the pandemic (which unfortunately isn’t over) I remember wanting to order a jigsaw puzzle. I kept acting like it would be the last jigsaw puzzle I’d ever own so it had to be perfect, but all that did was create a Sisyphean task. Now, thanks to Running Press, the perfect puzzle does exist, and it’s from Turner Classic Movies.


What You Get: Besides 500 pieces, the TCM Leading Ladies/Leading Men puzzle comes with a booklet and double-sided reference sheet for what the completed puzzle should look like.

Double-sided, you say? Well, that’s the best part. Not that there haven’t been other double-sided puzzles before, but the way this one is designed is one side has all the Leading Ladies and the other side has all the Leading Men. One nitpick about the reference sheet is it’s on really thin paper which, if you plan to look at it a lot like I did, means it probably won’t hold up long. Had it been printed on cardstock or some kind of postcard material, I would’ve even considered displaying it (that’s how cool this puzzle looks), but it’s still two puzzles in one, so that’s amazing.

How does it avoid becoming impossible? While the puzzle pieces are double sided, one side of each puzzle piece is flat (that’s the Leading Men puzzle) and the other side is slightly curved (Leading Ladies), so depending on which puzzle you’re doing, it’s easy to tell them apart. You don’t have to wonder whether the right side’s facing up.

Other Helpful Tips: Another way this puzzle steers you in the right direction is by using fill colors and borders around some of the photos, so it’s easier to figure out which pieces go together. While it’s not required, it also helps if you know the actors and actresses on the puzzle, or maybe “helps” is the wrong word. The puzzle certainly accounts for people not knowing who’s who. That’s what the booklet is for. TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde wrote mini bios for all of the actors, and also names some of their key works (interestingly, Shirley MacLaine’s photo is the only one in the booklet that’s different from the photo that appears on the puzzle, so I wonder if that was changed at some point). It’s more fun, though, when you recognize people and realize that, hey, I can pick Barbara Stanwyck out by her coy smile, or “I’d know Joan Crawford’s eye anywhere” (overall, I found eyes easier to identify than lips).

More About The Photos: There’s always going to be some contention over which actors get chosen and which aren’t included. Would I substitute Miriam Hopkins for Greer Garson? Absolutely. Would I trade Bing Crosby out for James Cagney or Harry Belafonte? In a heartbeat but, that being said, so many articles or film lists these days seem to cap off at the ‘80s. Jack Nicholson‘s career broke out in the ‘70s, but for the most part TCM’s puzzle celebrates actors from the ‘60s and earlier (including silent film stars, who deserve recognition).

Even More About the Photos: For actors with long careers, there doesn’t seem to be much consistency, when it comes to which photos were chosen. Laurence Olivier is fairly young in his photo, while Henry Fonda is on the older side. Marlene Dietrich is wearing her iconic costume from Morocco, while Esther Williams isn’t in a bathing suit.

Final Thoughts: Without having used a stopwatch, the puzzle took my mom and I about four hours to complete. It’s not easy. Even when you get down to the last few pieces (which in my case were a lot of black and white body parts) it’s tricky. I even started to panic that there might be some pieces missing (because of course, blame the puzzle, not the person doing it), but it was a false alarm.

I did the Leading Ladies side, but I’m really looking forward to starting over with the Leading Men side. If you love classic Hollywood, then I wouldn’t think twice about gifting yourself this puzzle.

The Turner Classic Movies: Leading Ladies/Leading Men 2-in1 Double-Sided 500-Piece Puzzle is available now from Running Press.

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