When you’ve watched everything on Netflix and don’t want to go out in the cold, it’s puzzle time. Puzzles have surged in popularity in the past year, offering a device free activity. After months in lockdown, Anna Marie Jennings, a longtime puzzle fan and Greenpoint resident, had a stack of completed puzzles and wanted to try something new. She launched Brooklyn Puzzle Pals, an Instagram puzzle swap in late January, to help puzzle enthusiasts share puzzles.
“I’d just been doing an obscene amount of puzzles and ran out of space for all of them,” Jennings said. There’s a social aspect to puzzles as well, “You can compare which one you thought was easier or harder and it’s nice to know what other people are working on.” When she launched the Instagram, she was, “Hopeful that other people in the area were interested—it felt more interesting than going out and buying new puzzles.”
Since launching, Jennings has done more than five in person swaps, all masked in McCarren Park. She times the hand offs with her visits to the dog park and thinks of Brooklyn Puzzle Pals as a library system. “You can come grab one whenever, and I’m open to people taking multiple,” she explained. The puzzles can be swapped multiple times, as people have told her to keep passing on their puzzles. When the weather improves, she hopes to make the swaps more social so people can discuss their experiences with the different puzzles over coffee or a drink.
When Jennings hands off the puzzles, she tells people to, “Let me know when you’re done and then get another one from my collection. It is fun to post a stack of completely new puzzles from the community. People get excited to see what’s available.”
Shopping local is important to Jennings, who didn’t feel like “ordering a bunch more [puzzles] on Amazon” when she ran out of options. Throughout the pandemic, she’s purchased puzzles at Word Bookstore and Lockwood, a gift shop.
When asked about plans for the project, Jennings grew excited, “The goal is to get as many people on board and see how it grows from there. Already, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much interest there’s been. I’ve been taking it at the speed people are open to. So there’s always stuff available. It will be exciting to see as people finish them and share how it went.” The puzzle community is passionate, Jennings explains, “People are hardcore into it, it’s something to chat about and compare what is easier or harder.”
Puzzles are a great pandemic hobby, especially at this point. “I love to sit and binge watch TV or movies or cook. But everything has started to become a chore, even stuff that people really enjoy. It’s nice to zone out. I put music on in the background. And it can be social or a little bit competitive if you want it to be.”
To swap or try a new puzzle, send Brooklyn Puzzle Pals a DM on Instagram. She’ll arrange a meet up in McCarren Park.