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Hidden Cows And Complaining Chickens Populate Cartoonist Sandra Boynton's Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles saw a major surge in popularity last year as many turned to the calming hobby during the pandemic. And for those looking to add more puzzles to their growing collection, Sandra Boynton has you covered.

Boynton is a publishing phenomenon who’s been working since the 1970s as an author and cartoonist. Many of her works feature quirky animals who love to eat chocolate and share puns.

Along with the many books and music albums Boynton has published — including a 2002 Grammy-nominated album “Philadelphia Chickens” which featured Meryl Streep — she’s also recently published a collection of jigsaw puzzles.

“I couldn’t help but notice everyone that I knew was doing jigsaw puzzles,” she says.

Although Boynton admits she’s not good at puzzles, she figured she would be able to design some. And the result is nothing short of whimsical.

One puzzle features cows hiding in a living room. Another presents chickens complaining over the puzzle itself.

“Seriously? A puzzle with nothing but complaining chickens!?!” asks one chicken on Boynton’s puzzle. “No puppies? No kittens? Not even an adorable bunny rabbit?”

For that puzzle, Boynton says she was working with her publisher and received a myriad of reactions whenever she would submit revisions on the puzzle.

“It needs more space. It needs less space,” she says. “So at a certain point I did that puzzle as a joke, … and to their credit, they loved it.”

Boynton says her grandfather was “phenomenal” at putting together puzzles and she would always help him as a child. Her contributions were minimal though, like organizing the puzzle border pieces or finding pieces that had a straight line.

One puzzle Boynton recalls her grandfather doing was called Bull’s Eye. While it was only a giant red circle, she remembers him completing it in no time at all, a feat that seemed impossible to her.

“He was a very precise person and had that kind of mind,” she says. “My mind is a little more chaotic.”

One puzzle of Boynton’s features a group of animals wearing party hats. Rather than saying “Happy Birthday to You”, a hippo, bird, deer and a few sheep say “Hippo Birdie Two Ewe”.

The witty play on words is also one of Boynton’s most popular greeting cards and has been in print since 1975.

“So really my life since then has been a complete failure,” she jokes. “I just can’t seem to compete with my younger self.


Emiko Tamagawa produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Jill Ryan. Jeannette Muhammad adapted this interview for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sandra Boynton: Puzzle Complaints 500-Piece Puzzle. (Courtesy of Workman Publishing)
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Sandra Boynton: Puzzle Complaints 500-Piece Puzzle. (Courtesy of Workman Publishing)