Maggie Hales puzzle

Maggie Hales sits on the giant 18,000-piece puzzle she recently completed. It took the Hillsborough teen five weeks to finish.

There’s a common belief that today’s youth suffer from a short attention span — that they’re unable to focus on one task for more than a few moments. Maggie Hales blows that idea to pieces. 18,240 pieces, to be specific.

The Orange High School sophomore, who regularly knocks out three 1,000-piece puzzles a week without batting an eye, took seven weeks and three days to complete the mammoth 9’X6’ puzzle of a nature scene with elephants, giraffes, zebras and a rhinoceros. Here’s the kicker: she was out of town two of those weeks.

“She is the most puzzle-doing person I’ve ever known,” said Maggie’s mom, Shannon. “Initially I think she was a little intimidated.”

The puzzle was a “shelter-in-place” challenge from one of her aunts. Maggie assembled it in the family’s dining room, which required moving their dining room table to one side to allow enough space for the puzzle.

Just for the record, most puzzle pieces for puzzles this size are about an inch wide. If you set each piece side by side, the pieces would stretch almost 1,500 feet, nearly the length of five football fields.

Maggie wasn’t intimidated, but she had never before taken on a puzzle of this size. “I had done two 2,000-piece puzzles, but that was it for my large puzzles,” Maggie said. She put on her headphones and listened to music, or maybe an audio book. She estimated working on the puzzle for three to four hours each day, all while sitting on the floor.

“Maggie did every single piece,” Shannon said. “When she went out of town for two weeks, I said to Maggie, ‘If I see a piece and I know where it goes, can I put it in?’ She said ‘I kind of want to do it all by myself. No one else put any pieces of this puzzle together.’”

Even before Maggie was finished with the 18,000-piece puzzle, she started talking about wanting to do another huge one.

“I think there are puzzles with 42,000 pieces, but I’m not sure,” Maggie said, while her mother laughed (or cried). “I kind of want to try a larger puzzle, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to. It takes up a lot of space in the house.”

Amazingly, not one of the 18,240 pieces was missing when Maggie finished. In case you’re wondering, the Hales do not have any pet cats.

Now that she has finished the puzzle, Maggie plans to bag the pieces in smaller sections, number the bags and send the puzzle to one of her cousins. So, her cousins can’t say they haven’t been warned.