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Families and friends have fun together in these puzzling events in the cities of JoCo

Few are perplexed to find that puzzles have made a big comeback recently. Contests have sprung up throughout Johnson County to accommodate the increased interest.

Olathe’s Indian Creek Library held its annual competition on February 4th. Now in its second year, the puzzle challenge has garnered a lot of interest from local residents.

Angela Parks, the library’s teen services manager, said she got the idea from a similar program called “Puzzle Palooza” run by Leawood Parks & Recreation.

“I was like, ‘I’m really curious about this. Why couldn’t I take it to the library and have people meet and have a lot of fun?’” Parks said. “He was really well received last year.”

They have divided it into two divisions: children up to 12 years old and teenagers/adults. The caveat is that children can have up to two adults helping them, making it the best time for a family activity.

“During COVID, so many people have really started doing puzzles as a family,” Parks said.

This year’s children’s puzzle had 252 pieces and the junior/adult puzzle had 500 pieces. Both groups have a two-hour time limit to put their projects together.

Everyone has their box turned upside down, hiding their picture, until time runs out. Then they flip it over and work as fast as they can.

“This is the most pressing puzzle we’ve ever put together,” said Olathe resident Nathan Paulson.

Overland Park resident Landry Naik, 7, felt so confident in the work he was doing on the puzzle with his mom and sister that he declared, “I’m the puzzle master of this table.”

Last year, the library made a custom puzzle, but with all the preparations for the opening of the new downtown Olathe Library, this year the event organizers used commercially available puzzles. Parks said he hopes next year they can return to custom puzzles, perhaps embossed with images of Olathe’s libraries.

Axel Whitthar, 10, Jordin Dedrick, Kobe Whitthar, and Eliya Cano, 7, work together on a jigsaw puzzle during the jigsaw puzzle contest at Indian Creek Library on Feb. 4.

“I love watching them have so much fun putting them together,” Parks said.

While the winners received Amazon gift cards, no one went home empty-handed.

“The cool thing is that even if they’re not a winner, they get to bring the puzzle home,” Parks said.

While some competitions, such as the Lenexa Puzzle Tournament, have entry fees, the library does not.

The upcoming Lenexa tournament has two sections, 10:00 to noon and 1:00 to 3:00 pm on February 19 at the Lenexa Public Market.

Originally, there was only an afternoon competition, but slots filled up so quickly that event organizers added a morning session as well. There are still slots available for the morning contest. The entry fee is $40 per team of up to four people.

This competition features a 500-piece puzzle, and like Olathe, there’s a two-hour time limit. The winners get $50, with the runner-up taking home $25.

The target demographic for this contest is adults and teenagers, although children can also be part of the teams. Each session has room for eight teams.

Susanne Neely, supervisor of recreation for Lenexa Parks & Recreation, said they scheduled their first puzzle competition shortly before the pandemic, but it was canceled and didn’t take place until 2021. She said a colleague who loves i puzzle suggested Esso.

Another occurred in late 2022.

“People love them so much. It was fun to see how much excitement there was,” Neely said. “There was a real desire to have that kind of family-friendly business.”

Neely said she would like to have a bigger tournament in the future.

“I think it also creates a community in a way. It’s just a fun way to get together and do something different together, especially in cold weather when it’s harder to do things outside,” she said.

To enter the Lenexa contest, visit lenexa.com/getactive and search for “puzzle” activities.

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