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Name: Mauro PianezzolaAge: 51Title: Puzzle solver(Day job: Manager of AAFES military clothing store in Vicenza, Italy)

I was told you had a collection of jigsaw puzzles and you spent a lot of time on them. Looking around your office, I count 39 on the walls. It looks like more than just a casual hobby. It’s something that relaxes me when I’m at home. Other than reading, which I do a lot of, it’s my hobby. I’m not a television man. Other than sports. And not even much of that now.

How did you get started? My girlfriend (Anna) brought one home and said: ‘Let’s work on this.’” And we did. That was about six or seven years ago, I guess. Some of the ones I have hanging up here she did. Some of them I did. And some we both did. She has about five or six hanging in her office. She works downtown (Vicenza).

So you didn’t work on puzzles as a child? I can’t remember any. We did have Legos. I built a lot of things with a construction set. I didn’t spend a lot of time playing outside. Of course, we didn’t have PlayStation or all that stuff. All of the presents I got were ones where I was able to play by myself. I played guitar. I am a big Pink Floyd fan. After high school, I started playing volleyball and that was my life.

Are jigsaw puzzles popular in Italy? I think it’s a seasonal thing. You can see the walls (of stores) full before Christmas and Bella Befana and after that they don’t have as much.

So where do you get them? Everywhere. You can find them in the malls. The big toy stores. Even stationers. Everyone sells them. Some of the ones I make are made in Italy, and some, I think by a German manufacturer.

Are you choosey about what you spend time on? I don’t like dogs, castles or views, you know, what you see in many puzzles. I like art puzzles. And maps. Look at my walls. One is for classic art. Over there is modern art. Almost all of them (represent works) I have seen in person.

If you don’t watch television, do you listen to music when you work on puzzles? “I never do puzzles at work. There’s a special room in my house just for puzzles. Because especially for the big ones, you need two or three tables to work on them. If I’m with my girlfriend, then we talk. About everything. Nothing is off limits. When I’m by myself, I listen to music. In the past, it was headphones. Now it’s an iPod. I do most of them at home when other people are asleep. I don’t get home from work until 10 or 11 sometimes. Right now we are really busy with inventory and the upcoming deployment. So I’m not working on any at present.

What’s the largest one you’ve ever completed? 16,000 pieces. Well, 16,240, but when you get to 16,000, the 240 is just like a coffee break. It’s about 3½ yards by 2½ yards. Actually, I look at it as four puzzles. Four maps. Of the ancient world. They came in separate bags and then you put them together. There’s one that has 13,200 pieces and that’s the next big one I want to work on.

Any tricks? I would say 90 percent of the puzzles, you try to do the edge first. But there are some puzzles where the edge is so difficult, it’s better to start with something you can see.

This interview was conducted by Stars and Stripes reporter Kent Harris. Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to:news@mail.estripes.osd.mil


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