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‘World’s largest puzzle’ pieced together in Newport Beach garage

Newport Beach resident Ken St. Sure, 78.
Newport Beach resident Ken St. Sure, 78, spent over a year assembling a Kodak World’s Largest Puzzle in his garage. The boxed set is made up of 27 individual puzzles that includes 51,300 pieces.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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He’s got the whole world in his garage.

Newport Beach is itself a destination, but on the concrete floor of the St. Sure residence in Newport’s Dover Shores are images of some of the world’s true wonders in the format of desktop-sized jigsaw puzzles: the Great Pyramids of Giza, the State of Liberty, the canals of Venice, and 24 more locales, interlocked together into a collage.

The 27 iconic scenes, connected by rows of solid black pieces as connective tissue, are billed as the World’s Largest Puzzle, a 51,300-piece creation by Kodak. It measures 28.5 feet by 6.25 feet. It cost $500. It took Ken St. Sure, an experienced “puzzler,” 13 months to complete.

About three weeks ago, he announced he had good news: he finished his puzzle. He also had bad news: he finished his puzzle.

“It’s like a good book,” he said. “You want to finish, but you don’t.”

The puzzle representing Hong Kong is one of St. Sure's favorites.
The puzzle representing Hong Kong is one of St. Sure’s favorites.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is another of St. Sure's favorites in the jigsaw puzzle it took him 13 months to put together.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is another of St. Sure’s favorites in the jigsaw puzzle it took him 13 months to put together.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Although it was a diversion during this spring’s coronavirus lockdown, St. Sure, 78, didn’t need the stay-at-home orders to commit to the project. He took up jigsaw puzzles about 10 years ago after retiring from a career as a restaurant executive. He says it keeps his mind sharp and instills patience.

Some people do crossword puzzles or crochet, he said. He snaps together iconic and fantastic scenes and candid family photos, custom-printed into large-format 1,000-piece puzzles that he has sealed, matted, framed and hung around the house.

As puzzlers do, St. Sure had a system of sorting by color and assembling the borders on his Kodak opus. Each panel, at 1,900 pieces, was individually packaged. He worked on large flat boards atop a table in the garage before laying the panels on the floor and sealing them without about a dozen bottles of special puzzle glue.

St. Sure completed a Kodak World's Largest Puzzle that includes 51,300 pieces.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

His garage isn’t quite 28 feet wide, so he rearranged the panels to stack about as tall as the chassis of his and his wife’s cars are long. Before the cars come into the garage, wife Judy covers the puzzle with heavy paper. She nudged it just so, so that the tires come to rest just outside the borders.

St. Sure often worked with his door open, and neighbors of all ages came by to see what he was doing. Children pitched in. Adults gaped. The St. Sures talked to a neighbor who had lived down the street for 24 years but who they didn’t meet until he walked by with his poodles and asked about the puzzle. Another man who had seen it from his car made several slow passes before finally stopping.

“‘I see you, and you must be an architect,’” St. Sure said the visitor said. “‘What are you building?’”

Only some of the world’s most significant cultural sites and stunning vistas: the New York City skyline, the Colisseum, Neuschwanstein Castle, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the blue dome rooftops of Santorini Island in Greece, the Taj Mahal, Tower Bridge, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the U.S. Capitol, a shore on the British Virgin Islands, a school of brilliant fish coursing through the Great Barrier Reef, the Hagia Sophia, Mount Fuji, the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, the Borobudur in Indonesia, cityscapes of Prague, Venice, Hong Kong and Copenhagen, Nasir al-Mulk (the Pink Mosque) in Iran, Park Guell in Spain and Niagara Falls.

Newport Beach resident Ken St. Sure, 78, spent over a year assembling a Kodak World's Largest Puzzle in his garage.
Newport Beach resident Ken St. Sure, 78, spent over a year assembling a Kodak World’s Largest Puzzle in his garage. The boxed set is made up of 27 individual puzzles that includes 51,300 pieces.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Judy, a globetrotting former travel agent, has been to all but three: the Taj Mahal, the Pink Mosque and Niagara Falls (“if you can believe it.”)

To honor the effort, the St. Sures want to leave the jigsaw mural in place for a while. But they don’t expect to leave it there forever.

Before this massive undertaking, St. Sure completed another puzzle once considered the world’s largest by Guinness, a 33,000-piece jungle scene. Eventually, it was dismantled and thrown away.

Like the grains of a sand mandala, a jigsaw puzzle is complex, precise and ephemeral.

On a shelf, to the right of Park Guell and near a stack of lawn chairs, is a box containing another jungle scene, ready for construction: elephants, hippos, zebras and others gathered at a watering hole —a mere 18,000 pieces.

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