Trying... and failing to complete the world's largest puzzle : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Comedian Maeve Higgins and Emma build the world's largest puzzle.

Trying... and failing to complete the world's largest puzzle

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EMMA CHOI, HOST:

Hi, everyone. I'm Emma Choi, and welcome to EVERYONE & THEIR MOM from Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. This week, we're talking about the hottest new thing in puzzles with Wait Wait panelist, comedian and a woman who I think - and I cannot stress this enough - should never operate a forklift. It's Maeve Higgins.

(APPLAUSE)

CHOI: Hi, Maeve.

MAEVE HIGGINS: Beep, beep, Emma.

CHOI: Don't...

HIGGINS: (Laughter) That was me reversing. That was me reversing into the studio on my forklift.

(SOUNDBITE OF FORKLIFT BEEPING)

CHOI: (Laughter) Well, that's the sound I'm going to hear in my nightmares, so thank you so much. But, Maeve, this week I'm coming to you with some huge news from the puzzle world.

HIGGINS: Great.

CHOI: You can now buy a 60,000-piece puzzle. The future is now.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HIGGINS: Wait. That's, like - how many pieces did you say - 60,000?

CHOI: Mmm hmm.

HIGGINS: I think the most I might have ever done is 600.

CHOI: OK. You might have some trouble.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: Let me tell you a little bit more about this puzzle, so you can decide, OK?

HIGGINS: OK.

CHOI: So, I mean, first of all, who doesn't love a good jigsaw puzzle, right? It's meditative. It's tactile. And buying one is the perfect way to show the world - hey, I'm a little lonely. And I can say that, Maeve...

HIGGINS: (Laughter).

CHOI: ...Because I love jigsaw puzzles. And yeah, maybe I am a little lonely.

(SOUNDBITE OF AW SOUND EFFECT)

CHOI: So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Costco is now selling a 60,000-piece puzzle.

HIGGINS: Hubba-hubba.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLING)

HIGGINS: Yes. Is that an old lady propensity or is it, like, actually just a thing that you've done all your life?

CHOI: I think that it is something I've done my whole life. OK.

HIGGINS: Yeah.

CHOI: Well, so something we've been talking about is that puzzles are - you're either a puzzle person, like, you love puzzles, or you just - you've never been into them. Which one are you?

HIGGINS: You know, I don't - I think probably I could - I love doing things that involve just, like, sitting extremely still, almost pretending I don't have a body...

CHOI: (Laughter).

HIGGINS: ...And just moving the very tops of my fingers. That's why, like, I write a lot. Like, I knit a lot. I just text on the phone. So I think I could do puzzles, but they seem a bit too physical for me.

CHOI: This is more - it's not just fingers; it's arms.

HIGGINS: Arms - you have to reach.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Pretty sedentary lifestyle, yeah.

HIGGINS: Yeah. It's just a little bit too - I'm not, like, an athlete in that way.

CHOI: Sure, sure - you're not do (ph) one that way, and I respect that.

(LAUGHTER)

HIGGINS: But, I mean, if you were - if it just meant that I could just kind of, like, glance over and say to you, like, Emma over there, you know, left, left, left, left - something like that - if I could guide you towards it or if I had a little clipper - you know, like a little (laughter)...

CHOI: You're just wiggling your thumbs.

HIGGINS: ...Tongs - a tongs in my hand...

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: ...That I could pick the pieces up - but if I had to be standing up, reaching across, sitting back down...

CHOI: You know who you would like is my...

HIGGINS: Yeah.

CHOI: ...Grandfather because the way he does puzzles - OK, one hand, tweezers, other hand...

HIGGINS: Oh.

CHOI: ...Red wine.

HIGGINS: Legend.

CHOI: And it was a 1 by 1. And he calls me sometimes, and he's like, Eun-joo...

HIGGINS: Yeah.

CHOI: ...This puzzle came with only - not all the pieces. Like, they gave me the wrong puzzle. So I go over there, and I look. And he's taken the tweezers and smushed the pieces into the places to make sure they fit - not remotely the same color.

HIGGINS: (Laughter).

CHOI: So what - I go, Epi (ph), are you colorblind? Two, this is not how you do puzzles, so...

HIGGINS: He's like, ah, another malfunctioning piece. And it's like, sir.

CHOI: He's never the problem to himself.

HIGGINS: I love that confidence.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: Last time you did a puzzle - right? - how do you go - what's your process?

HIGGINS: The last time I did a puzzle, it was with a 6-year-old, and it was a Disney princess puzzle.

CHOI: OK.

HIGGINS: So I was like, all the redhead one together, you know?

CHOI: OK. So you sort.

HIGGINS: All the - yeah, I do. Yeah.

CHOI: OK, me too.

HIGGINS: I'm trying to think when I did the puzzle with the 6-year-old, I beat her so...

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: That idiot.

HIGGINS: It was epic. No, to be honest, she did win that one. But my - you know, 'cause she was, I guess, racing. Like, she was like, I'm going get - you know...

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: ...This is Ariel, you know. And this is Belle. And I wasn't totally familiar. I was like, is she from "Frozen"? And she was like, what? You know, so I was at a disadvantage because I'm not a 6-year-old myself.

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: And also, I think she had done that puzzle before a number of - she just seemed to be very fast. So we fell out over that. We did. You know...

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: ...I haven't really been in touch with her.

CHOI: Yeah. And I - that's hard. I'm sorry.

HIGGINS: I'm sorry for her.

CHOI: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Who do we think this puzzle is for?

HIGGINS: Yeah, yeah.

CHOI: You know, like, what prince - what nerd prince has, like, a casual six-hundo (ph) to drop on a puzzle, right? And I don't know, but I want to be that nerd prince so bad.

HIGGINS: Yeah.

CHOI: It sounds so cool.

HIGGINS: Yeah. It's a real, like, you know, commitment, you know?

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: Like, some people, they're like, I'm going to have a child...

CHOI: (Laughter).

HIGGINS: ...Or like, I'm going to go buy my mom a house, you know?

CHOI: Yeah.

HIGGINS: But this is more like - it's less like that, I suppose (laughter).

CHOI: A little bit. Maeve, apparently if you buy the sucker at Costco - if you buy two, you can save a whopping $10. So...

HIGGINS: Oh.

CHOI: ...Are we doing this?

HIGGINS: Are you allowed to buy two or is it, like, a really...

CHOI: You can buy two.

HIGGINS: ...Like somehow - sometimes, like, if something's very precious, you're only allowed one per customer.

CHOI: No, I mean, they're offering a deal, so I really think we should jump on this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: I got the email from the mail room to say it was here, and I immediately knew which package it was.

We, of course, sent this puzzle to my dorm room.

And it is one heavy boy. It says it's a hundred pounds. On the box, it says two-person lift required, 100 pounds. Will you open the door for me?

WILDER FLEMING, BYLINE: Yes, I will open the door for you.

CHOI: Cool.

I'm here with producer and newly minted lighthouse expert Wilder Fleming. We're going to gather the puzzling community of Boston and just, you know what, build this freaking puzzle together.

Oh, wow it just - it's truly the size of the backseat.

FLEMING: It's almost like three children. All right.

CHOI: I know.

FLEMING: Awesome.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR DOOR SHUTTING)

CHOI: OK, I'm out of breath.

OK. So the puzzle's in the car, and we're heading to the meeting spot. Basically, what I've done is put up fliers, message people on Facebook, harass all my friends, get everyone I could think of together so we can build this thing. When it was all said and done, we got, like, 25 people to come. That's more friends than I've ever had.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Is this the Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me jigsaw puzzle thing?

FLEMING: Sure is.

CHOI: Hi. Welcome.

All right. So we're in this event hall right now, and people are coming in. Puzzlers are very nice, so everyone's helping us set up. We've got about 15 big, round tables - kind of like Knights of the Round Table vibes. And people are coming in, parka after parka, and everyone wants to get their hands on this baby.

Does everyone want to convene to watch the unboxing of the puzzle?

Thank you, everyone, for coming. Today, we're doing the 60,000-piece puzzle from Dowdle Puzzles. It's 60 individually-wrapped 1,000-piece puzzles, so it's a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOX RIPPING)

CHOI: Let's do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOX RIPPING)

CHOI: Yea. Oh, my God. Wow. The world's largest puzzle. And it's going to be eight feet...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: That's so crazy.

CHOI: ...By 29 feet.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOUD THUD)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Laughter).

CHOI: Yea. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Oh, that is crazy.

(APPLAUSE)

CHOI: Whoo (ph). OK. I guess before we start, our general strategy is that we're going to sort, and then we're just going to go ham. Good strategy?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CHOI: Great. So inside of this box are puzzles 1 to 20, 21 to 40...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Oh, my gosh.

CHOI: ...And 41 to 60. OK. So cool. Who wants one?

(SOUNDBITE OF PLASTIC BAG BEING THROWN)

CHOI: One. Two. Who wants 2?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Let's keep the plastic so we know which one is which one.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: Yes.

CHOI: We got the two. Two. Nice.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLASTIC BAG BEING THROWN)

CHOI: Who wants three?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: I'll take eight.

CHOI: You - OK, eight. Three?

GRIFFIN ANDRES: Yeah. I'm Griffin Andres. I'm a lifelong puzzler. My aunt would always have this nook in her house where there would always be a puzzle ongoing. It's a very wintry, sort of homely, comfortable activity, so I jumped at the chance. Especially - I've never understood a puzzle of this magnitude, so it's exciting just to see.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: This is my puzzle.

CHOI: Griffin, can you describe the energy in the room right now?

ANDRES: Definitely very intently focused. People here are serious puzzles - puzzlers, it seems. I'm pretty intimidated, if I were to be completely honest.

LINDA CHIN: If there were 60 people here, piece of cake.

I'm Linda Chin, C-H-I-N, and I'm from Cambridge. And I often do 500-piece puzzles because I like to finish them in a sitting. So if my husband's been watching a show and I don't particularly like it, but I want to be in the same room, I'll be doing my puzzle, and then I'll look up occasionally and say, there's a lot of sex in "Game Of Thrones," you know? I was like, OK, you know? But I like to complete things. That's why people like puzzles.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #12: I was told there were refreshments also. Is that true?

CHOI: Yes, we're on the way to go order pizzas.

It is a much bigger puzzle than I originally anticipated. But there's one family, particularly, that I feel like has a lot of potential, the Borggaards.

So we noticed you guys were really going at it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #13: Yeah.

CHOI: Are you guys a puzzle family?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #14: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #13: Yeah, I'd say so. We're pretty intense, I guess, when we do them. So - we don't do that many, but we're kind of full body when we do it.

CHOI: Yeah, there's a hardness in your eyes right now.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Do you think we're going to finish today?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #15: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #16: No.

CHOI: OK. How much do you think we're going to get done?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #15: We're going to get done maybe two panels.

CHOI: OK. Well, good luck, you guys.

Basically, we didn't really get close to finishing at all. I think we're probably, like, one-eighteenth of the way there. So I'm looking at this room, and it kind of feels like that point in the movie where, like, all the Avengers are dead and there's, like, one kid waiting on the street to be rescued. So the vibe is a little defeated. So I decided that I had to inspire and reassure them one more time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: Hey, everyone. It's 5:53, so we got 7 minutes, which I know we're going to finish the puzzle in.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Yeah. So before we end, we have a couple of questions for you guys. What do you - I mean, I don't know what to do with this guy now. Do you have any suggestions of where it should go?

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Please help me.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: Would you be willing to ship it to someone?

CHOI: Maybe. Who do you think...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: I'm part of a group called the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association. If anyone's interested, it's like $15 a year and they host a bunch of events. But they have a Facebook page. If you post it in there, someone might take it 'cause a lot of...

CHOI: Interesting. Interesting. Would I be feeding big puzzle corporation America, though?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: No. They're a nonprofit organization.

(LAUGHTER)

CHOI: Interesting. OK. It's on the list (laughter). My only worry is that now that I am the owner of this puzzle, it feels like a curse upon my family. And I'm afraid of transferring it on to another innocent person.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: Yeah.

CHOI: Yeah. It is a burden.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #18: Can you find a person you don't like?

CHOI: An enemy? Yeah.

That was the perfect idea. So you know what? This baby's going out to Elon Musk. Let's see you try to solve this, money boy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: And now it's time for the most puzzling part of the podcast - the credits. This show was brought to you by Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! This episode was produced by Hayley Fager and Hoja Lopez, with help from Wilder Fleming, Blythe Roberson, Lillian King, Sofie Hernandez-Simeonidis, Olivia Oldham, Chris Danforth (ph) and Timothee Chalamet. Our supervising producer is Kelli Wessinger. And our male feminist is Mike Danforth - so brave. Once again, Lorna White, you are a sound wizard. We worship you. Thank you. Thanks to Dowdle Puzzles for creating the most cursed thing I now own. And to the fellowship of the puzzle, thank you for spending 6 hours of your lives working on this monster with me. I love you all like brothers, and now we share a traumatic experience. Thank you to my co-host, comedian, Wait Wait panelist and yarn heiress, Maeve Higgins. Her new album, "A Very Special Woman," is now on Bandcamp. I'm Emma Choi, and you can find me @waitwaitnpr and deep in the Mojave Desert, digging a shallow grave to finally lay this puzzle to rest, far from any wandering witness' eyes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHOI: OK. that's it. This is NPR.

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