Puzzle Party with Local Jigsaw Genius Elizabeth McElveen 

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Puzzling is a fantastic activity for kids, offering numerous developmental benefits while providing hours of engaging fun. Experts suggest that working on a puzzle is a great mindfulness exercise that can lower heart rate and promote a sense of calm. Greenville resident Elizabeth McElveen, 47, can attest to these benefits, having found solace and creativity in puzzling. Her journey from casual puzzler to competitive athlete highlights the profound impact puzzles can have on mental health and overall well-being. 

a woman standing in front of a book shelf filled with books

The Therapeutic Benefits of Puzzling 

Puzzling can help lower heart rate and foster a sense of tranquility. It serves as a creative outlet and a means to slow down and relax. For kids, working on puzzles can provide a calming and meditative experience, helping children to manage their emotions better and reduce anxiety. This activity encourages mindfulness, as children become absorbed in the task, which can lead to a decrease in stress levels and an improvement in overall emotional well-being. 

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018, Elizabeth’s condition requires structured rest, as stress can trigger flares. Elizabeth, a pharmaceutical sales rep, finds puzzling a creative outlet during rest periods. “I try to do anything I can to keep my stress levels in check,” explains Elizabeth. “Puzzles give me an outlet for creativity when I’m forced to slow down and rest.” 

a woman sitting at a desk with a puzzle

From Hobby to Competitive Sport

Elizabeth’s journey from casual puzzler to competitive athlete has connected her with a global community of puzzlers. This year, she represented South Carolina in nationals, and she will represent the US in an international competition in September. 

Elizabeth’s love for puzzles began with her mother. After her mother passed away in 2019, Elizabeth participated in The Longest Day fundraiser with the Alzheimer’s Association, puzzling for 24 hours to raise money. This event reignited her passion for puzzles. “I decided to do The Longest Day fundraiser and puzzle for 24 hours,” recalls Elizabeth. “It reignited my passion for puzzles.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, she joined an online group for speed puzzling and the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association. Since 2020, she has competed monthly and started an Instagram account dedicated to puzzle reviews. 

Elizabeth joined the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association in 2020. “What was once a hobby has now transformed into a competitive sport,” says Elizabeth. “I’ve met so many incredible people through this community.” 

a woman is assembling pieces of a puzzle

The Life of a Competitive Puzzler 

Daily Puzzling Routine 

Elizabeth works on puzzles every day, completing a 500-piece puzzle every night and saving 1000-piece puzzles for the weekends. Her personal records are 51:36 for a solo 500-piece puzzle and 2:19:53 for a solo 1000-piece puzzle. 

Puzzle-Solving Strategies 

Strategy varies depending on the puzzle’s shape and image. For detailed frames, she starts with the edges; if edges are similar, she begins in the center and works outward. Elizabeth always sorts edges when flipping the pieces initially. “It changes from puzzle to puzzle,” she explains. “If the frame is busy, I’ll start with the edges. Otherwise, I begin with a few sections in the center and build outwards.” 

the wonder club puzzle party with a jigsaw genius

Learn from a Jigsaw Genius  

Elizabeth will be leading a Wonder Club workshop at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate on Saturday, July 13, at 10 am. Titled “Puzzle Party with a Jigsaw Genius,” this workshop offers a unique opportunity to learn speed puzzling techniques from one of the country’s top puzzlers. 

  • Learn speed puzzling techniques from Elizabeth “Turtle” McElveen. 
  • Great for all ages, puzzling enhances spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination, and concentration. 
  • Each participant will receive a puzzle to take home. 

“I’m thrilled to share my love for puzzling with others,” says Elizabeth, who will compete in the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship in Valladolid, Spain in September. “Puzzling is not just a hobby; it’s a way to enhance cognitive skills and have fun.” 

Whether you’re looking for a new way to relax or are inspired by Elizabeth’s journey, puzzling might just be the perfect activity for you. Dive into the world of puzzles, join the workshop at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and discover a new way to find calm and creativity. 

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