Eddie Williams on Community and His Puzzle Podcast
Eddie Williams, also known as The Mad Hatter, is a self-proclaimed “puzzle junkie.” He hosts challenges, reviews puzzles, and even has a puzzle podcast. He’s also a marriage and family therapist who works in the crisis unit of Valdosta State Prison and is the pastor of Macedonia First Baptist Church. When he’s not clicking pieces together, he’s running around with his two daughters and wife. We chatted with Eddie about the puzzling community, his podcast, and how the hobby helps him with life.
Why do you puzzle?
My start in puzzling was by chance. In October 2019, I bought an 8-pack of puzzles thinking it’d be something fun to do with my daughters. When I whipped out the first puzzle, they joined me for maybe two minutes before heading back to their tablets. But I couldn’t stop puzzling. Before I knew it, I had the first one done and was tearing into the next.
Puzzles help me enjoy life and they remind me I don’t have to solve everything right away. I can just focus on one piece at a time. They also remind me there’s a bigger picture everything falls into.
You mentioned that building community is important to you. Since puzzling can be more of a solo pursuit, how have you created community?
Everyone I know in the puzzle community is spread out across the globe. So even in non-COVID times, it’s hard to get together in person. So I came up with this idea for “remote puzzle battles” so that we could challenge each other no matter where we lived. I’ve battled people from California, Washington, Minnesota, and even Austria! The Puzzle Nation community is one of the best I’ve ever been a part of.
Aside from the “remote puzzle battles”, you also started a Weekly Puzzle challenge. What is that?
A lot of people reached out to me saying they’d love to puzzle together, just for fun (instead of as a “battle”). So @puzzleproblem and I created #TogetherWePuzzle so our global community could puzzle together and share their work. Each week, we pick a new theme like “Flora” or “Fantasy” and you have to do a puzzle in that category. Anyone can join and when you’re done, you post your photo of your work with the hashtag so everyone can see.
Which BetterCo puzzles have you done and how were they for you?
I’ve completed the Gradient and Modern Art puzzles. I’ve noticed that your puzzles are remarkably light, yet sturdy, with minimal puzzle dust (which I love). They’re also uniquely shaped cuts with strong locking for moving chunks at once. BetterCo’s puzzles are challenging yet fun. I have the Milky Way Galaxy puzzle and I gave Purple Succulents to a friend as a gift.
You've even started a puzzle podcast, which is amazing. It's the first we've seen. What made you start the podcast and what’s your goal with it?
I thought some people might want to watch a puzzle being put together in real-time. But just me piecing together a 1000-piece puzzle might feel like watching paint dry, so I wanted to add another element. Since I’ve also always wanted to talk about current events, I combined the two which resulted in The Mad Hatter is Puzzled podcast. On it, I also highlight other puzzlers and puzzle makers doing amazing things in the community.
Many people enjoy puzzling for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which is helping them relax after work. For you, what are the benefits of puzzling?
Puzzling, to me, is a paradox. Sometimes puzzling helps me relax and decompress, other times just thinking about it stresses me out. But when I need the boost of a good solve, puzzles definitely do that. Whether I’m trying to feel zen, or am looking for a shot of adrenaline, puzzles seem to hit both.
It also helps open my mind. There’s more than one way to solve a puzzle. I’ve learned that if I stick to the same way—as with life—I won’t improve.