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One piece at a time: Time, dedication bring puzzle project to a close

By Harrison Epstein - | Nov 29, 2021

Harrison Epstein, Standard-Examiner

Allen Mouritsen stands in front of his recently completed 40,320-piece puzzle in Layton on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

LAYTON — For 10 months, Allen Mouritsen had a goal. For Father’s Day in 2020, his wife, Susan Mouritsen, bought him a puzzle, and every day since then, Allen has worked on it.

“It was a big project,” he said. “I never dreamed it was going to be that big.”

Now, covering a wall of their basement, is a completed 40,320-piece puzzle called “Mickey Through The Years.” The puzzle is measured at 6.2 feet tall and 22.3 feet long — 138.26 square feet of traditional-sized pieces.

“I saw it up on top of the shelf and thought, ‘Oh that’ll be good for him,’ and I walked around and it was $525 and I thought ‘500?’ And I walked away,” Susan said. “I looked and I looked and I looked and finally I went back and bought it.”

While expensive, Susan said it was beyond worth it for the yearlong entertainment the puzzle provided.

Harrison Epstein, Standard-Examiner

The one missing piece in Allen Mouritsen's 40,320-piece puzzle, shown in Layton on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

While a daunting project, Allen kept his eyes forward and worked. “It was just about every day,” he said. Susan added that he probably spent about four to six hours a day working on it.

The first step, obviously, for Allen was to open it up. When opened, he was confronted with 10 bags, each one containing 4,000 pieces that formed a single section.

Then came putting the first one together. Actually, that came second. First was Allen’s building of a table that could actually hold the entire project.

Taking out an iPad with a photo album dedicated to the construction process, Allen said, “Tables and everything we had to put up and move, getting it mounted to the wall took, what, two weeks?”

Family members would be gathered for the finishing of each section, brought down to the basement for a status update. There were also neighbors who would come by periodically to check in with the couple and see how the puzzle was coming along.

Harrison Epstein, Standard-Examiner

A 40,320-piece puzzle that nearly covers the wall of Allen and Susan Mouritsen's basement in Layton is shown on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Allen’s granddaughter also took part in the endeavor — though mostly as a spectator and beloved company keeper.

There is, near the puzzle’s top-left corner, just one missing space. Though later found, that one piece was not connected for the layers of Mod Podge sealant — 0.00002% of the total project. It took two coats of Mod Podge on the front, one more on the back and a layer of glue attaching everything to cardboard.

Before retiring in 2009, Allen worked as an equipment specialist at Hill Air Force Base. This is the largest project Allen has taken on in his retirement, according to his family. It took over as the main hobby, replacing work on the pond outside his home.

It was also completed just in time. The floor space previously covered by puzzle was needed to have enough room for Thanksgiving dinner.

“I don’t think there were very many days that would go by without him working on it,” Susan said. “And he enjoyed it!”

Harrison Epstein, Standard-Examiner

Allen Mouritsen stands in front of his recently completed 40,320-piece puzzle in Layton on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Next up for Allen is a puzzle of slightly smaller size — a 1,000 piece family portrait of the grandkids and great-grandkids he may be looking forward to even more.


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