Jim Levine is a puzzle man. Jigsaw puzzles, that is.
The Island summer resident is not only a fan of solving puzzles, not long ago, he created one himself.
Mr. Levine’s 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle debuted over Labor Day weekend at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s farmers market, and is currently being sold at the Historical Society’s Havens Store, with a portion of sales benefiting the society.
“I figured there were enough people here who do puzzles,” said Mr. Levine, who reported that early sales have been encouraging. “People got the concept and just loved it.”
The Historical Society is an appropriate venue for this particular puzzle, given the fact it depicts history itself — a vintage map of Shelter Island, circa 1905.
“I think a map lends itself to jigsaw puzzles, with the lines and the words,” Mr. Levine said in a phone interview. “The one that I found was a good period map that shows property ownership.”
Mr. Levine explained that he came across the map in the collection of the New York Public Library, which, he noted, is gracious enough to offer their images free of copyright.
“That’s a path I didn’t want to go down,” he said, referring to the process of navigating copyright law.
When asked to describe some of the ways in which the 1905 map depicted on the puzzle differs from the roads and properties we know today, Mr. Levine explained that while the Island’s overall shape remains the same, South Ferry has since been relocated.
“Mashomack was split into chunks of smaller land,” he said, “and [in 1905] Sylvester Manor was enormous.
“I’ve been coming to the Island my whole life in summer,” Mr. Levine continued. “There are street names and people’s names that are familiar. Then you look back at the map and see names like ‘Dickerson’ from Dickerson Creek and ‘Wade,’ from Wades Beach and you get a sense of the property they once owned.”
This puzzle may have a decidedly local theme, but Mr. Levine took his design halfway around the world to produce the 500 copies that arrived on the Island toward the end of summer.
“I went on [the website] Ali Baba and I typed in ‘jigsaw puzzle manufacturer,’” Mr. Levine said. “Within a day or two, I had 10 emails from different companies. I communicated with a number of them and developed a relationship with this guy from Turkey.”
The finished 1,000 piece puzzle is 48” x 68” centimeters — that’s roughly 20 x 28 inches. For the record, Mr. Levine has completed the puzzle himself. He said it took a couple of days and the help of a few friends.
“We cheated a little,” confessed Mr. Levine who assembled a sample puzzle that the manufacturer sent prior to production. “He hadn’t mixed the pieces up really well. There were some squares of 20 pieces.”
“Because there are a lot words and lines, it’s not impossible,” he said. “But it’s not easy.”
When asked why he decided specifically on a 1,000-piece puzzle, Mr. Levine explained that he was looking to appeal to true puzzle aficionados with his product.
“When you get below 750 or 1,000 pieces, it’s not really what puzzle people think of as a challenging puzzle. I wanted a legit puzzle,” he said. “It’s a high quality puzzle.
“This is going to sit on a bridge table for a week or more, depending on your addiction level,” added Mr. Levine, noting his product makes the ideal holiday gift for people who love Shelter Island or those looking to bring something nice to a host when staying at an Islander’s house for a few days.
“When you’re on Shelter Island and it’s raining, you need something to do,” he said.
With winter firmly on the horizon, we can imagine that being snowed in would be another great reason to have this puzzle on hand.
But hurry — if you’re thinking of it for someone on your list, Christmas and Hannukah are both this Sunday!
The Shelter Island map puzzle sells for $25 at the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens Store in Havens Barn, 16 South Ferry Road. Hours are 10 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24. Call (631) 749-0025 for more information.