CT family of puzzle enthusiasts complete massive 18,000 piece jigsaw

Photo of Andrew DaRosa

For Kim and Jason Zentz, puzzle-making is more than a family activity — it is a part of their regular lives.

“We certainly grew up doing puzzles here and there but we weren’t the enthusiasts for it as we are now,” Jason said. “It was perfectly timed for the pandemic.”

Jason Zentz, an assistant dean at Yale University, and his wife Kim, a Woodbridge preschool teacher and science tutor for Trumbull Public Schools, have been building puzzles with their three children for the past two years. Together, the family has completed over 200 different puzzles in that time. 

Their most recent endeavor has had followers flock to their Instagram page: an 18,240-piece puzzle called “​​Evening Walk in Paris.”

The family, who lives in Trumbull, said that they had “looked for awhile” for this specific puzzle, which has been out-of-print for some time. After setting up alerts on sites like eBay and Mercari, the couple eventually found it.

It took the Zentzes 80 days “plus a few breaks” to complete the mammoth puzzle, which is now dismantled and being resold by the family to other puzzle makers. 

The Zentz children lay across the “Evening Walk in Paris."

The Zentz children lay across the “Evening Walk in Paris."

Contributed photo/Jason Zentz

“Our kids really do enjoy puzzling but they did not enjoy the large puzzles,” Kim said, adding that the family “needs a break” from the larger puzzles.

Jason said the family’s puzzle obsession started during their holiday travels in 2019 when they were at his mom’s house and began to build puzzles, which was a tradition for Jason’s family when he was growing up. 

“We kind of realized that it was something that was relaxing and enjoyable that our kids enjoyed,” Jason said. “They liked being able to do something with their grandparents or great-grandparents, and certainly with us.”

The couple gets most of their puzzles from second-hand retailers, at local libraries and through a Connecticut-centric Facebook group dedicated to puzzles: Jigsaw Puzzle Fans of Connecticut.

“We look for different kinds of puzzles, in some ways, depending on our mood or what we feel like doing,” Jason said. 

The Zentzes started their own Instagram page, @doublezpuzzles, in April of 2020. The page, which has amassed over 1,300 followers, shows off all the puzzles the family has done throughout the past two years. Jason said that most of the other puzzle pages that follow him also started at the beginning of the pandemic, which he credits for the current resurgence for puzzle building.

A look at the finished version of “Evening Walk in Paris," a 18,000 piece puzzle the family has recently completed.

A look at the finished version of “Evening Walk in Paris," a 18,000 piece puzzle the family has recently completed.

Contributed photo/Jason Zentz

“Things kind of just blew up, the demand for puzzles, as soon as the pandemic started,” Jason said. “People have returned to this just like they went to sourdough and all kinds of other fads during the height of the quarantine.”

Kim said that puzzle building has brought their family closer together, with the family sometimes even listening to audiobooks while building puzzles.

“It’s been a really good way to connect with our kids without a screen,” Kim said. “It’s been a really fun way for us to connect to our kids with something that ties us all together”

“It’s nice to have a passive thing that you can be doing to keep your mind engaged while still talking about something else or while other things are happening,” Jason added. “It’s nice to have a place where people can gather without needing to have something else going on.”