The Mentalist shows two 11 x 14 inch jigsaw puzzles; one is fully assembled in a thin poster frame and the other is still boxed. He quips, "One of the reasons jigsaw puzzles are - well, puzzling - is that they often use a picture that provides one set of patterns, cut into completely random shapes formed by yet another pattern. Most folks solve such puzzles through a process of elimination: they assemble the straight edged, outside pieces into a 'frame' and then work their way toward the middle. Some puzzle addicts find it more challenging to assemble the puzzle face down."
The performer shakes the pieces inside the box, then opens it for everyone to see the assortment of pieces inside. "Each of you take one piece, please," he offers to three nearby participants, "and do your best to memorize its unique shape."
Taking another piece from the box and handing it to the first participant for comparison, the performer instructs. "Cup them in your hands and mix them. It will still be simple to pick out your piece because there are but two choices." He retrieves them from the helper and tosses them back into the box.
Approaching the next person, the mentalist withdraws three or four more pieces from the box and hands them to that helper, saying, "Now you try it. It gets tougher with more pieces, yes? Although I suppose with fewer than half a dozen different shapes, it's still fairly easy." Those pieces are also returned to the box.
For the third helper the performer says, "Toss your piece back into the box." He gives the pieces a shake and holds the lidless box for the participant to view the contents, "Your challenge is more complex; with a 250 piece puzzle, the odds against you finding your piece on the first try are 249 to 1."
"Unless," reminds the performer, "you have assembled that puzzle so many times it's burned into memory, as I have with this one." He places the lid on the box, hands it to helper #3 and instructs, "Give the pieces a good shaking, please, then lift the lid just enough to take just one hidden in your hand. Don't take a right angle corner piece - there are only four of them. Find an inside piece with no straight sides; there are more of those."
When the piece has been removed the performer sets the box aside and says, "When I'm ready, hold up that piece, with the back side toward me, as I count to three. Understood? (Yes.) Go! One..two..three. Got it!"
The performer picks up the assembled puzzle, moves his finger back and forth just above the surface as he views the shapes, stops over one of them, pries it from the puzzle, and says. "This is it. I'm positive."
"If you just compared the pieces," instructs the Meutalist. "not everyone could see the result. Instead, try your piece for fit where I made the hole." The selected puzzle piece slips easily into place - a perfect match!
Here are the details that will drive you nuts: The puzzle box and frame are totally ungimmicked. There are no switches. Every piece taken is freely selected. When the participants compare their pieces there is no question that each is a truly different shape. You employ no sleights or moves and no memorization is needed. Nothing else is used, added, or taken away (ie: no plastic baggies, ugh!). You get both custom made puzzles (one is fully assembled in the frame and the other is in the box) plus complete presentation instructions.
Puzzle Paradox is as clean as clean can be from the guys who originated the concept.