We’re big fans of Cronicas Puzzleras, the Spanish puzzle bloggers who review puzzles (including several of our own) and have been attending puzzle competitions since 2016.
We got the chance to interview Jimena, who runs the blog with her partner Jose Luis, and got to learn more about them, their competitive puzzle strategies, and their upcoming puzzle plans!
How did you each get into puzzling? What do you do outside of puzzling? What is the puzzle ‘culture’ like in Spain?
I have been puzzling all of my life. When I was very young this was one of my favourite hobbies, but with university I had very little time and stopped for some years. When I finished studying, I got back to puzzling and haven’t stopped since! Jose Luis began puzzling when we got together about four years ago. He had done a few when he was a kid, but then he stopped. With time, we’ve made many friends and the main reason we travel to participate in puzzle events is to see them!
We are very lucky; in Spain there is a lot of puzzle culture. We have puzzle contests throughout the country, every month of the year. Also we have regular puzzle meetings – these give us a chance to see friends and do puzzles, including 18,000 piece puzzles!
You’ve reviewed tons of puzzles, including nearly the entire Cloudberries library, from Gradient to Flowers to Poolside! What made you want to start a reviewing puzzles online?
We started the website for family and friends, so they could see the puzzles we had done. But the word got out, more people started visiting the website and we started receiving requests to review puzzles, do brand reviews and even time-lapse videos.
What makes a puzzle stand out to you, for better or worse? What makes the ‘perfect’ puzzle?
For a puzzle to stand out, the image is the most important aspect… it has to draw your attention. This is difficult because people have different tastes.
Our favourite puzzles are animals and comics – but what we like the most are very difficult puzzles and challenges. A perfect puzzle would be an image that I like, with a small box (so it doesn’t occupy a lot of space), plus little or no puzzle dust, great printing, and tight-fitting pieces.
Last year Cronicas Puzzleras reviews began including fun timelapse videos of you completing a whole puzzle in under five minutes. How long does a typical puzzle actually take you to complete?
The time depends on the image of the puzzle and whether you are doing it for fun or a contest. We usually do 500 pieces puzzles in 40 to 90 minutes, and 1,000 piece puzzles in 3-5 hours when we are just doing them for fun.
We know you are also really into competitive puzzling. What has been your favourite experience competing so far?
We started participating in puzzle competitions and events as a way to travel through Spain and meet more puzzlers.
We’ve met a lot of friends and been in several cities, and even went to Belgium. Our favourite competition is the Spanish National Championship, where we get to see a lot of friends we’ve made through the years. A couple of years ago we went to Pamplona with about a hundred puzzlers to build a 42,000 piece puzzle. Puzzlers came from Argentina and Mexico, and it was a beautiful experience.
How do you prepare for competitions? What is your puzzling dynamic like as a couple?
Many couples prepare before the competitions by doing several puzzles from the brand that will be used in the event and timing their performance. We try to do one puzzle from the contest brand before the event, but with no timing. We like to enjoy doing the puzzle… and leave the rush for the competition!
Once we are sitting on the table and the contest is about to start, we look at the image on the side of the box (they usually are placed with the image facing down), and try to prepare a strategy. First, we turn upside all the pieces and separate the edges, then we sort the pieces by colour. One of us does the edges and the other one starts with the image.
What are your tips for puzzling for competition? Any expert-level strategies you’re willing to share?
First, and most importantly, have fun. Second, communicate with your partner and help each other. Being organised and sorting are the clue to finding the pieces you are looking for.
When you get stuck, you can change places, or sort the pieces by shape. Some people recommend starting with the edges and some, the opposite. We think it depends on the image!
What do you have coming up, any special competitions?
The most important one is the World Puzzle Championship, held in Valladolid on September 28 and 29 (individual, couple and team tests), and 24h puzzle content in Belgium on October 26 and 27.
Thanks again to Jimena and Jose Luis of Cronicas Puzzleras for this look into the world of competitive puzzling! We can’t wait to see what’s next for you and your blog! You can follow Cronicas Puzzleras on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram.