Warrnambool family crack the code of giant puzzle

Complete: Ben Philpot, with sons Matthew, 9, and William, 7, and dad John in front of the 33,600-piece jigsaw puzzle. Picture: Rob Gunstone
Complete: Ben Philpot, with sons Matthew, 9, and William, 7, and dad John in front of the 33,600-piece jigsaw puzzle. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Solving one of the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzles was an 18-month labour of love for Warrnambool’s Ben Philpot.

After spending almost a year doing the “easy stuff” on the 33,600-piece puzzle, his dad John Philpot decided to help.

“It was extremely hard,” Ben said, admitting he gave up on it for a few months. The last puzzle Ben completed was 24,000 pieces and only took two months.

“Despair set in when we’d done all of the identifiable parts, there was lots of spaces where there was nothing going on. Siberia was the word,” John said.

The breakthrough came when John discovered the puzzle’s code – the same shapes are replicated 40 times throughout the jigsaw.

They then sorted thousands of pieces into piles of the same shapes and, using Lego, created a grid on the puzzle to work from.

While the puzzle comes in 10 different bags, Ben mixed them all up. “We did that on purpose, otherwise you are doing 10 3360-piece puzzles,” Ben said. But after 18 months of painstaking work, they couldn’t finish the puzzle because there were four pieces missing.

Piece by piece: Warrnambool's Ben Philpot and his father John have just finished a 33,600-piece jigsaw puzzle. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Piece by piece: Warrnambool's Ben Philpot and his father John have just finished a 33,600-piece jigsaw puzzle. Picture: Rob Gunstone

They had to order replacements for four missing pieces from Spain, as well as 15 other pieces that had been damaged. But that was not an easy task. The company needed to know which edition of the puzzle it was because the shape of the pieces varied, but the piece of paper that contained that information was also missing.

They eventually found it and ordered the pieces but before they arrived, the four missing pieces turned up – hidden under one of the boards the puzzle sat on.

The puzzle cost $600 to buy and was then the biggest in the world. They will mount it on the wall in their home after recently completing some renovations to make room for it such as moving a power switch, the central heating return-air vent and an archway.

They will open their house at 11 Thackeray Drive on Saturday, July 29 between 10am and 3pm for people to view the puzzle. Entry is gold coin donation which will go to Relay for Life.