What is the “exception to the rules” or how do puzzles work?

Okay, here is how I SEE this, just a random thought :

On the topic of “exception to the rule” or commonly referred to as “black/bad sheep” – which I assume most people only have a vague idea about, because they never actually ask.

There is a saying “you need to see the BIGGER PICTURE” and a saying “the DEVIL is in the DETAILS”.

so… the first one says that there is the importance in the big picture, and the second one asks to pay attention to the small parts. So it’s a PARADOX! You have to be farsighted and close sighted at the same time?!

SOUNDs, complicated… Well, actually, not at all. The very FIRST expression IS the missing LINK.

Here is an example: A Puzzle

You are in a bookstore or in a toy shop. Somewhere there on the shelves, you have probably seen boxes with puzzles. I personally love gathering puzzles and I have done a 1000 and 3000 pieces (I think? it doesn’t matter). The point is that no one else in my family could last in front of the thing longer than 20 minutes. At the same time, I was able to assemble these for hours. Which means that I must have spent more than 100 hours doing an activity which basically consists of looking for a piece of cut cardboard in the pile of other cardboard pieces. It is deathly boring. Unless you know what you are doing!

Now, one can claim that the main point of a puzzle is patience. But that would be inaccurate because patience is involved in any task that you deem as a task worth your time. Otherwise, you would just think “this isn’t worth my time” and you wouldn’t do it.

Back to the puzzle. The main point of a puzzle is to figure it out. And here is a solution to a puzzle of any type (numbers/shapes/colours/sounds). It’s the same principle in everything, just takes forever to understand it. You have to, figuratively speaking, watch the universe die, and it’s just the slowest thing ever, and no commercials. Like that ballet, you never went to. At least an opera has acts and pauses in it. That’s why we prefer opera, honestly. But puzzling teaches you to approach this as just a problem and that’s the beauty of it. You will either solve it or you won’t. But once you learned something you can never actually unlearn something unless someone hits you on the head. That’s called “amnesia”. But don’t we forget things? Well, yes, because of the “exception to the rule”. And after a while, you just realise that this can be applied to anything. So here are all the elements of “How to solve any puzzle for Dummies” (sorry if this insults you, dear reader, but you wouldn’t be here otherwise)

Where are you making the puzzle?

– a flat surface that needs to be big enough to fit the finished picture and also to have a “frame outside of the work”. The frame is a space where you tend to put pieces that are “suspicious” because you are “zooming in” on their position and you don’t want to lose them the bigger piles.

What do you know about the puzzles?

– you know that you are gathering a bunch of random-ish shapes (the pieces have actually different cuts if you pay attention) into a bigger particular shape (usually square or rectangle).


– can you see the picture at all? It might be on the box, which is usually the case. If not, you just got to a new level of hard because:

a. There might be a black and white picture (2 colours)

b.  This might be a coloured picture (pray to your gods, HAHA, that it’s relatively un-mixed, otherwise you are in deep trouble)

c. No picture (I hope you are ready to die, basically)

And you are missing the context completely.

So, let’s not even think about there not being an instruction manual (the picture) cause that’s the thing about puzzles. You see the instruction literally on the box. It’s not a piece of paper inside… actually there are no instructions inside. So if there is no instruction, then you might as well just turn off the light and start learning to locate shapes with a sonar, like bats. It will probably take the same amount of time to learn how to piece together a 10000 puzzle by just the shape. Which is funny, because you can technically do that if you instead make 10000 identical pieces but with a picture. So, basically without a glimpse of the picture, you don’t know anything. Now, back to the puzzle instruction:

-Flip all the pieces. Have fun!

– Now try and fail with the following steps. Repeat infinitely until this can’t be repeated.

A. take a piece and try to fit it with another random piece without any point of reference. Repeat infinitely until this is impossible.


B. Sort by observable shapes (pssst, the frame is the easiest cause it’s missing one side, and after that, you don’t have to think about shapes until you actually notice them) and colours (big juicy spots are easiest to spot. Curse all the picture with a giant BLUE SKY that takes up half of the thing. They are absolutely the worst to piece together).


There is no mystery to this. It’s just time perception on a different level. We spend 1-5 seconds assessing data about a piece we looking at to establish if we know anything about its colour or shape that would correlate with any other piece we already remember. Which is why we need to watch the bigger picture to remember a bigger list of already existing data. Get it? The bigger picture, haha.

So, what does all of this mean? I’m getting there.  First, you need to be aware of both the data of the individual piece and the intended bigger picture. However, you have to keep switching between those to keep assigning the data until you remember, in which case you will simply feel like stopping to check. The point of the puzzle is only detectable when 999 of those damned pieces are in place. You reach for the last one and … it not there. And your head explodes. Because you have spent days on this stupid thing, and now you are denied the satisfaction. THAT is the “exception to the rules”. It is the painfully obvious knowledge of the fact that this puzzle is not complete. It’s like knowing that you are holding a cold fork or a warm cup in your hands. I mean… have you actually realised how “knowing” feels like? If the answer in your head is “no” you should really reconsider some things. I mean, seriously, just stop for a second and think about what you are doing, because chances are that there is something naaaaasty happening. As yet another school shooting in a country whose name we shall not mention, but you know which liberty loving, oil craving, gun defending enthusiasts I am talking about.

If the answer was “yes” you can stop reading now. Congratulation, you figured it out!

But if you hesitated for even a second…

And so, there is the understanding of the fact that you can’t actually finish this work. Your life was spent in vain because you can’t make that perfect picture. Oh, yes, people might not notice, but YOU will know that there is a piece missing. And it might be missing somewhere at the edge which is not that noticeable. Or in the middle, which is super noticeable for obvious reasons. And you can start to double check the box, around the table, in the entire room. You asses that the puzzle piece is missing and you realise that you are obsessing about that and you need a solution. You spend the entire next day thinking about where it could have possibly gone and where to buy high-quality paint so you can cut out an exactly fitting piece and colour it in a perfect way. No one will notice, for sure. As long as you say nothing, it will be fine. You talk to your colleagues, you talk your friends, you talk to the guy that works in the shop that sells those tiny weird figurines called Warhammer something? The topic of the subject is that damned piece. Does it even matter to them? Not to your colleagues – they don’t get it. Not to your friends – they tell you are just overthinking it. That guy at the weird shop gives you a weird look. Like he understands? Please, what does he know about you? But at least he helped you pick out the correct colours.

And so you are home, with that tiny bottle of coloured poison, your tools of murder ready to perform the crime of a century (as long as there are no witnesses!) and you feel your head spin in front of that table, where you have been slaving away for moments that felt like centuries that you could see unravel, and sometimes other moments were just passing by unnoticed. They wouldn’t understand anyway. Who knows? Does it even matter? It’s not like it’s the first time this happens…

And you think to yourself “Okay, let’s just calm down and give this place one last look before we do this”. You realise that you did this with your eyes closed. Suddenly you hear a voice say:

– Do what?

You have your eyes closed. You are annoyed at the comment.

– The missing piece, obviously!

– You mean the puzzle piece?

You feel annoyed, confused, tired, annoyed again? And then you think to yourself that it kinda already took forever to piece the puzzle together and a whole day to obsess about finding the shop with the paint, so you can bother your royal self to lower your jaw just this one more time…


You sigh and for some reason add:

-i mean the puzzle piece that I can’t find.

-Is that the piece that is right there on the table?

You open your eyes and you see that indeed there is the frame, the picture and on the edge, there is this one piece. You hesitate.

-It’s ok, you just didn’t notice it.

You get distracted from the piece and turn your head to see that there is a person sitting in the corner of the room. You are at such a loss.

-how could I have not noticed it? i was obsessing about it the entire day!!!

-Actually, you have been obsessing about it for three days. The first day, the piece was there, but you forgot to put on your glasses, so naturally, you missed it. The second day I took the piece aw—


– shhh… Don’t you want to know what happened?

And you feel compelled or too confused to actually just listen instead of doing something… else… that you are used to doing… in similar situations?

-So, I hid the piece on the second day and you came with your glasses on and looked around and thought to yourself that clearly you can’t see the piece, which was not actually there. And today I put the piece in the exact same place. And I do mean the same, I actually made a marker. And you didn’t notice anything again.

-ok… that sounded weird? Why would you do that?

-To prove my theory.

– …and what would that be, oh you, the mysterious shadow in the corner that I don’t even know who you are and what are you doing here!

– I was betting with the world whether you would actually figure this out this time. You see, I and the world made a wager. I am stuck in this corner and the only way for me to leave is to get noticed. However, people seem to be super efficient at ignoring my presence. So, I can leave my spot for a short moment to hide something small. To maybe draw someone’s attention. It’s boring, so I make the bet against the world. Would you like to know what the details of the bet are?



At this point you are frozen and you can’t really force your tongue to move, because there is something about the eyes that you realise are starring at you. You know for a fact this eyes looked at you for a very long time. A very, very long time. You are sensing how you are slowly being crushed by minutes. You are getting crashed by hours. Days are crashing you. Crushing months. Years… How could it be that you sense this in just… a second? But that is the time it took you to look into those eyes.


-Of course, you would like that. I was always betting that the person would notice because I was stupid enough to believe in humanity. And finally, I couldn’t listen to the world laughing every time I bet on you no more.


Your tongue unfreezes. Your… anger? is allowing to squeeze out a small:

-you bet against ME?!

-No, that was two games ago.

– I … don’t…. understand?

– Well, you see *eyes roll*, I decided that it didn’t matter that the world was laughing, but I was just annoyed at it. So for once, I decided to give up my faith in humanity and try to surprise the world. I mean, come on, I have bet against it for 135971539. I thought that this time it will not suspect for sure. But it did. And the world laughed even louder. Which made the whole situation even more unbearable. So I decided that it was a punishment for me losing my faith in humanity. And I went back to betting on you again. And I lost again.


-Because you have forgotten.

-what have I forgotten?

– You are doing it right now.

-Am I?




*eyes roll*

All you hear is silence.

You try to focus. You try to remember something. Your tongue moves slowly as if it is unused to the concept of moving:


-So, what happened after you lost when you bet on me again?

-Oh, the noise got even louder.

-And what did you do?

-I realised that there is one way to make the world shut up. Which is how I am speaking to you now.

-And how did you do that?

-I gave up betting because it doesn’t matter. I knew that will happen. It’s the same thing happening over and over again with a slight variation.

-What do you mean?

-Well, you see I bet on humanity before. But every time I lost it was so painful, that I would convince myself that it didn’t happen. Now that I have finally, kinda won, but not really, because there was no bet, I also realised how many times I did bet after all.

-Sounds… bad?

-Not really, I’m ok with this, it is entertaining to watch, I just wish you would realise one thing.


– Not that it matters, because we will forget any way probably, but there is a thing you can always do.

– What thing?

– You can just ask.

– Really?


– Что?!

– No, not THOSE nazies. The grammar Nazies.

you wake up

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