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WFAE's "Finding Joy" explores stories of joy and hope, offering you a bright spot in the news landscape.

Kannapolis man completes 'world's largest' 60,000-piece puzzle

Francisco Camacho of Kannapolis completed a 232-foot, 60,000-piece puzzle inside the North Carolina Research Campus on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.
A.J. Camacho
/
Courtesy
Francisco Camacho of Kannapolis completed a 232-foot, 60,000-piece puzzle inside the North Carolina Research Campus on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.

Piecing together the world is something the news industry as a whole strives to achieve, but a man in Kannapolis did it all by himself — and it only took him 13 months.

In this case, the world was a 232-square-foot, 60,000-piece puzzle depicting the world. It's billed as the "world's largest," and it features the artwork of puzzle-creator Eric Dowdle.

Francisco Camacho of Kannapolis said his wife purchased the puzzle for him as a Christmas gift in 2022, and he started piecing it together the following January. He had had plenty of puzzle experience to lean on going into the project.

"I've been getting into puzzles a lot over the past several years," he said. "I became an empty-nester relatively recently, and I had a lot more free time, so I just started doing more puzzles."


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A scientist by day, Camacho said he thinks he connects with the problem-solving aspect that completing a puzzle involves.

He worked on the puzzle during nights and weekends at home, building it in 1,000-piece sections, before assembling the entire thing in the main atrium of the North Carolina Research Campus on Sunday, with help from his wife and two sons.

"It was pretty cool," he said. "I was just doing one piece at a time. I wasn't thinking about the whole thing, and to pull it all together and realize how big it was was pretty amazing."

After completing the puzzle and snapping some photos, Camacho and his family disassembled the puzzle in sections and packed it up for transport back home.

Despite laboring over the puzzle for more than a year, Camacho said he's not too broken up about finishing the project.

"I'm not that sad, because I'm ready to do something else. But I am tempted to stick it in the closet, pull it out when I retire, and do it again," he said.

For now, Camacho plans to move on smaller, more manageable puzzles. His brother-in-law recently gifted him a book of puzzles, and his wife also gave him some new puzzles for his birthday. But completing the massive 60,000 whopper will be a piece in his memory he's certain not to lose.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal