Review: “Santa’s Big Night” by RJ McDonald, White Mountain – 9/10

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Publisher: White Mountain (US), published 2013 (still in print)

Title:  “Santa’s Big Night” by RJ McDonald, 1000 pieces pieces

Finished size: 24″ x 30″ (1000 pieces)

OUR RATING: 9/10

Box Quality:  (8/10)

This White Mountain puzzle is from 2013. The box front is shown above. The front shows the image, the puzzle title, and the piece count. It also shows the artist’s name, RJ McDonald, in the lower right. The box size is roughly 10″ x 12″. The front of the box is the only picture you get of the puzzle image, but it is large enough to work from.

Back:
The back of the box is blank. More recent White Mountain boxes have a mini catalog on the back, but not this one.

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Sides:

The sides feature an image of the puzzle, the piece count, and title, and White Mountain logo. The artist’s name only appears in fine print in a copyright statement. The year of manufacture (2013) is on one side. I can shelve this puzzle with any end outwards and have a one-glance reference to what the puzzle is. It would be nice if the artist’s name were easier to see on the side.

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Inside:

This puzzle comes with the bag of puzzle pieces and a single sheet flyer with a few other puzzles on it and a card for signing up for the mailing list. It doesn’t include a box lid stand like the more recent puzzles. There was a fair amount of puzzle dust. The pieces were undamaged and I didn’t see any image lift.

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Overall the box is attractive but basic. I’ve rated it a 8.

The Image:  10/10

I previously reviewed “Merry Christmas to All”, by RJ McDonald, which is a Christmas collage similar to this one. I loved that puzzle and I love this one too. I like images where there is more than one “scene” going on, because it helps break the puzzle up into smaller mini-puzzles. In this case there are five different scenes, all of them including Santa Claus on Christmas eve night.

The colors in this image are beautiful and bright, with lots of pretty bright blues and reds. The art style is painterly and has a good amount of realism and detail. The image appears to have been carefully designed to be a puzzle. Each of the five scenes has different colors and textures to make assembly easier. There are a few areas of blue skies, but the exact color varies a bit from sky to sky, and it’s not so many pieces that it becomes tedious.

As a Christmas puzzle, it’s hard to beat five vignettes of Santa! Plus there’s snow, Christmas trees, toys and gifts, and even a mural of the nativity scene. Uber Christmassy!

I’m rating the image a perfect 10.

(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)

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Puzzle Quality: (9/10)

I recently updated my White Mountain Brand Comparison page. This 2013 puzzle has a similar quality to what I saw in the brand comparison. I did not have any image lift on this puzzle out of the box (image lift is when the top picture part starts to separate from the cardboard background).

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I especially like the larger piece size (and final puzzle size) of the White Mountain puzzles. Because the final puzzle size is larger  than most brands (24″ x 30″ for this 1000 piece puzzle vs a Ravensburger at 20″ x 27″), it feels like a real accomplishment when you’re done and you can really see the artwork. I also like the random cut and the very flat and seamless finish. As you can see in the close-up below, once assembled the puzzle lies very flat with no raised pieces and the cut really blends in. It’s not easy to separate the pieces once joined, so you can move groups of assembled pieces around without them falling apart. However, you do need to use care when separating mis-joined pieces because image lift can occur.

There is a glossy finish, but I didn’t have any trouble with glare on this puzzle. The colors and image reproduction are excellent.

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I’ve given quality a strong 9 score for quality on this puzzle.

Assembly:  (9/10)

I very much enjoyed assembling this puzzle. It’s one of the best ones I’ve done recently.  I’d rate the difficulty easy-to-moderate. It took me two sessions to complete.

DAY ONE :

I first assembled the border and then the yellow oval frame in the center of the puzzle. I also worked on the blue skies and completed the upper right quadrant.

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The yellow frame in the center of the puzzle is a very helpful device for puzzlers! The yellow color is easy to find and, once assembled, the oval frame creates a nice anchoring point in the center of the puzzle. Not only can you then assemble the inner vignette more easily, but the ‘lines’ between the four quadrants (often dark to light in a hard line that’s easy to spot in the sorting trays) can be pieced in off of the inner oval, thus giving you a ‘frame’ for all five vignettes.

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Tackling the blues: The lightest blue sky is in the upper right.

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The blue sky in the central vignette was more of a deep purple.

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The blue skies in the lower two scenes are similar to each other, but not too much trouble to piece together since there is some gradation on the left and a big moon and antlers on the right..

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My favorite of the five scenes in this puzzle is the one in the upper right, and I pieced it together completely first. It’s easy to recognize the pieces for this section because the snowy tree pattern is very distinct, as are the kid’s clothes and the snowman. Super cute!

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DAY TWO :

I completed the puzzle on the second day. First, I tackled the reds, getting all the Santa figures filled in and in place.

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Then I did the mauve scene in the upper left. This section of the puzzle is very pretty and the colors are unique in the composition.

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I next completed the entire inner oval vignette and the entire vignette in the upper left. The fireplace is uniquely colored and easy to do.

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The last part of the puzzle to come together was the snowy ground and hues of brown in the lower left and lower right. There is quite a bit of snow in these two quadrants and the colors aren’t that distinctive from each other.

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The chimney, until it is assembled, just looked like a random brown pattern under nighttime lighting, but it wasn’t large enough of an area to pose a difficulty.

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Overall, the puzzle wasn’t too difficult, but it was large enough to feel satisfying and oh-so-Christmassy. I loved it! I’ve given assembly a 9 for this puzzle.

Summary:

White Mountain’s “Santa’s Big Night” is a classic Christmas puzzle you’ll want to add to your permanent collection. The image is ideal for puzzling with five separate Santa scene vignettes. The colors are bright and cheerful, and the painted artwork couldn’t be more Christmassy. I especially loved the scene in the upper right with the snow-covered fur trees and the children playing in the snow.  This is an easy-to-moderate puzzle that would be perfect to work with a group at Christmas, given the layout of the various story panels. The quality is quite good. I especially like White Mountain’s larger piece size and very flat, smooth finish. Highly recommended for everyone this holiday season!

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Where to find:

Click below to see the puzzle on Puzzle Warehouse.

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Also see: “Merry Christmas to All” by RJ McDonald and White Mountain.

merry

JJ

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