Todd Webb

Don't Know, Don't Care

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In the Fall of 2008 I got to work on a LEGO jigsaw puzzle.  I had never seen one before, so decided to try.

After completing the basic puzzle pieces (and pre-built frame) to my liking, Obama won the election.  So I got to work on creating an image for the puzzle.

The mosaic is 4 large baseplates in size, tiled over smooth so that puzzle pieces can be easily moved around.  The yellow clues are there to help, mostly on the grayscale face -- otherwise it's nearly impossible to solve.

It is 15x15 puzzle pieces -- there are 225 puzzle pieces in addition to the solid, pre-build frame.

The frame was pre-built in part to help hold it all together (it works great for that, by the way!) but also to help the builders get started.  Because it is LEGO the image is very pixelated and thus very challenging!

I rushed work to overlay the jigsaw puzzle with the final mosaic image so that it would be done in time to reveal at our January WAMALUG meeting, just a week before Obama takes office.

Here, a couple ladies get to work on it, 10:30am at the start of our meeting.  People were slow to approach it -- like they weren't sure what to do with it.

Much progress is made at first (with a little guidance from me).  At first I didn't provide a picture to guide them; I forgot to print one before coming to the meeting.

Here you can see the various colors of the puzzle.  This was important to make it solve-able.  All brown and tan pieces appear in the suit.  The flag background provides natural seperation of colors red, white and blue.

The verbiage "Yes We Can" uses smooth TILES -- one word with white tiles, another with gray tiles, and the third with black tiles.  This greatly helps the trickiest part: the black & white areas which would otherwise be confused with face-pieces.

Three hours later, 12:30pm, it's really coming along.  The "solvers" have traded places and taken turns :)  The few "yellow clues" of the face have been matched with their puzzle parts.

Only the face remains, and it's all grayscale, using just white, black, dark and light grays.  It's the hardest part.

After 5 hours and a dozen solvers taking turns, about 3:00pm, I finally whip out the computer with the photoshopped final image from which I created the puzzle.  It helped a lot, but the face remained very difficult.

A close look at this image one can see the "sunken border."  The border is only 2 LEGO plates tall; the pieces are all 3 plates thick.  The result (more clear in the lower right here) is a jagged looking raised edge.  I liked that, and it makes this MOC clearly different from "just another mosaic."

When I first completed this mosaic in my home, I scrambled the puzzle pieces and tried to solve it myself.  It took 16 hours to solve :(  That's when I went back and added the "yellow clue" pieces and the smooth-tiled wording.

Here, at our WAMALUG meeting, it's nearly done, but the grayscale face still stumps everyone.  Some parts were misplaced and it's hard to un-solve those and correct them!

Six hours later, around 4:00pm, it is done.

The puzzle workers are very satisfied with themselves, and I'm glad they enjoyed it.  I feared it may be too "annoying," but they stuck with it.

This is my submission for the BOARD GAMES theme at BrickFair 2009 later this summer, and will probably make an appearance at Brickworld too.

Up close, the pixelization you can see makes this a very tough jigsaw puzzle to solve.

You can see the smooth gray tiles of the "Y."  Another clue to make this easier to solve is the "halo" around Barack Obama and all the verbiage, YES WE CAN.  It's a white, single-stud ring.

I like to think it mimics the real-life halo that surrounds Obama and his words :)

Me with Obama, holding one removed piece for demonstration.

This distance and angle reveal how good it can look -- when one isn't hunched over the thing with one's face just inches from all the pixels.

Many people are curious where I got the image.  I googled for Obama, of course, and USA flag."  I didn't like any one photo, so the image here is an amalgam of several parts: Obama's face, the flag, his shirt & tie, his suit, and finally the wording.  And each was mosaic-ed individually, first with software, then tweaked by hand (all 10,000 pixels) and finally put back together for the complete image.

If one steps back just a bit further (further than this pic shows), then the furls of the flag become more obvious too.

You never know where life is going to take you.