40,320 pieces and 423 hours later, Marshfield man is jigsaw puzzle king

Jack Brait posed for a portrait with his completed Ravensburger Puzzle at his home in Marshfield.
Jack Brait posed for a portrait with his completed Ravensburger Puzzle at his home in Marshfield.

MARSHFIELD — In April of 2014, a teenage boy in Marshfield named Jack Brait completed the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, which contained 32,256 pieces, weighed 42 pounds, and came with its own hand trolley.

Brait, who has autism, had always been exceptionally good at solving jigsaw puzzles and was forever gluing them up to give as gifts to his teachers and therapists. To make them more interesting, he would have his parents time him while he did them.

It took him 20 months to finish the puzzle, which featured images by the artist Keith Haring, and his parents mounted the 17-foot record-maker on a wall in their basement, the only place it would fit. With the “World’s Biggest Puzzle” officially accomplished, Brait declared himself retired and moved on to other interests — such as skiing, Academy Awards trivia, and teaching himself to do 2-D animation.


Then, this year, the German puzzle maker Ravensburger came out with an even bigger puzzle. This one had 40,320 pieces and, when done, would measure 6½ feet by 22½ feet. Brait couldn’t resist.

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This time, though, he wasn’t just going to put it together. He was going to do it faster than anyone.

The $600 puzzle was ordered, and, on Aug. 17, Brait poured out the first bag of pieces on two tables pulled together in his room and started the timer on his iPhone.

The puzzle is composed of 10 classic Disney scenes — one of Brait’s favorite things — and each scene is bundled in bags of roughly 4,000 pieces. Brait began with a depiction from “The Jungle Book,” which is his favorite. The first pieces he assembled were of Mowgli sitting on the belly of the bear Baloo.

Brait, who is now 20 and works at Road to Responsibility, an organization for adults with disabilities, worked on the puzzle for an average of five hours each day, and he found the time was soothing. “It makes me feel calm and tired,” he said.


In 10 days, he had finished “The Jungle Book” and chugged on to the second panel, moving as fast as he could, and he is very fast. He pushed through “Peter Pan” and “Bambi” (his fastest section, at just 28 hours), “Fantasia” and “The Lion King,” until he arrived at his last panel, “The Little Mermaid.”

On Nov. 5, 80 days and 423 hours after he began, he began to count down (or up) to the last piece.

“40,316, 40,317, 40,318,” he said, as he rapidly rotated and snapped the final pieces into the giant mural. “40,319, 40,320!”

And then, once again, he retired from puzzles.

The Ravensburger Disney puzzle now sits on a massive, custom-built wooden frame in the Braits’ basement, held up by a pool table and several sawhorses. They’re waiting for a giant pane of glass to come before they brush it with a gallon-and-a-half of glue and mount it on the wall where the old puzzle used to be. That one has been installed in a corridor at Brait’s former middle school.


The new puzzle will just barely fit on the wall at their house. “If they get any bigger, I’ll need a bigger house,” said his mother, Michele.

‘People in the world could have many different talents, and this one is mine.’

— Jack Brait, Marshfield resident who completed a 40,320-piece jigsaw puzzle in what is believed to be record time 

And, of course, they already have gotten bigger. There is now a 48,000-piece puzzle made by a company in England, and talk that Ravensburger is coming out with something even larger. (There is also a puzzle with more than half a million pieces that was solved by a group of 1,600 students in Vietnam, but it is not for sale; it was created solely to break the Guinness World Record.)

But for the moment, Jack Brait remains happily retired, relishing his latest accomplishment. He has hunted the Internet and contacted Ravensburger for anyone who has finished faster. So far, the closest contender he can find is a Danish woman who did it in 460 hours, 37 hours more than Brait’s time. He believes he is also the first American, as well as the youngest, and the first person to complete both the Haring and Disney puzzles.

He beams when he repeats these facts to people; he shared them with the Globe — through the Globe Spotlight tip hot line — because he’d seen the movie “Spotlight,” which, he can quickly tell you, won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2016. (He makes it a mission to see every nominee before Oscar night, and a favorite trick of his is to ask people the year they were born and then tell them the winners in every category.)

His future goal, he says, is to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short.

But for now, as he stands in front of the absolutely massive expanse of 40,320 puzzle pieces snapped together, he runs his hand over it and says he likes the way it feels when it is done.

“People in the world could have many different talents,” he said, “and this one is mine.”

Brait, with the completed 22½-foot-long puzzle of Disney animated movies.
Brait, with the completed 22½-foot-long puzzle of Disney animated movies.

Billy Baker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.