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Super Mario Bros. in 5 Minutes

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In late 2011, Andrew Gardikis set a record for a "speed run" on Super Mario Bros. -- this means he played through the entire game as quickly as possible (yes, he used the warp tubes). For that 2011 run, Gardikis calculated his time at 4:58.898, or just under five minutes (he's calculating down to the frame level).

Then on January 14, 2013, Gardikis published a new video, in which he broke his old record by 0.1 seconds. In the new video, he put the old run in a little window inside the new run, so you can see how similar his pattern is -- he plays with uncanny timing, jumping at almost exactly the same times (with a few goof-off jumps at nonessential points). Because both audio tracks are included, you can hear how similar the two runs are.

At times one run gets slightly ahead of the other, but they end up syncing up due to the 21 frame rule (oversimplified explanation: when the game goes to a black screen or other such transition, it effectively rounds to the nearest 21-frame boundary, thus effectively re-syncing the clock).

Now, I want you to think back to playing Super Mario Bros., and all the times you died on the dumb water levels. Think about all those times you fell in a pit, and what an achievement it was to finally arrive at the final level after hours of play. Now watch Gardikis demolish the game in five minutes.

Gardikis holds other speed records (many of them tool-assisted). On SMB he can apparently do the whole game without warp tubes in 19:40 (!), and he gets major bonus points for sitting through more than 22 minutes of "Yo! Noid," mentioned in my opus 6 Obscure Facts About the Noid.

See also: Will the Real "Super Mario Bros. 2" Please Stand Up? and These Tetris Videos Will Stress You Out.

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20 Facts About The Muppets (Featuring The Muppets!)
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In this very special List Show, Kermit and Miss Piggy (and other surprise guests) helped Elliott Morgan run through Muppet history.

See Also...

Why Do Things Taste Bad After You Brush Your Teeth? (With Bunsen and Beaker!)
80 Facts About the '80s
The Origins of 62 Last Names

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iStock // ThomasVogel
Watch How Jigsaw Puzzles are Made
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iStock // ThomasVogel

Traditionally, jigsaw puzzles have been made by using, wait for it, a jigsaw—though it's also called a scroll saw. If you've never seen one, a scroll saw has a fine, straight blade that's usually mounted vertically a little bit like the needle in a sewing machine. By running the blade up and down (hooray, power tools) and moving wood through it, you can cut fine patterns into wood. Note that the term "jigsaw" can also refer to a coping saw, which is a handheld power tool with a straight blade sticking out—great for cutting holes in walls, but perhaps not puzzles.

So that's great. But how do people make jigsaw puzzles today?

The short answer is: It's complicated. There are still high-end handmade puzzles on the market today, but commercial makers have typically moved on to other methods. Below, let's examine a few of the most popular methods.


Mass-produced commercial jigsaw puzzles are made of cardboard. Nobody hand-cuts cardboard with a jigsaw. So the game is all about making a cutting die (a sharp metal outline) that emulates that jigsaw cut. Once you have a cutting die, it can be used to stamp out countless cardboard puzzles.

In this video, starting at about 1:30, Ravensburger artisans show how they create their jigsaw puzzles using a "ribbon cut" grid system and a series of jigsaw-style edges. The metal template allows safety-gloved employees to snap in the edges of each piece, allowing for a unique pattern for each puzzle design.


For woodworkers, the only game in town is a real jigsaw. In this video, George Vondriska makes an elk jigsaw puzzle using some plywood, a computer print-out, and a scroll saw.

(Note: If you want to get into this, watch this 100-minute class.)


Steve Richardson says "they pay me to drive them crazy," describing the way he designs incredibly challenging jigsaw puzzles using an X-ACTO knife (which are then actually cut by hand). Calling himself Tormenter-in-Chief, Richardson has some famous clients, including the Gates family, the Bush family, and the royal family of Great Britain, among others.

Richardson's company only sells about 3,600 puzzles per year, all handmade. Every puzzle contains a single "clown" piece, the company's logo—though sometimes he doesn't actually fit in.


In this video, a laser cutter uses the Force on a Star Wars poster. It's fascinating to watch how it accomplishes the cuts, doing all the vertical cuts first (with little oscillations to get the wiggles in), then the horizontal cuts. Watch as, during the horizontal cutting stage, the pieces pop out!


In this video, Allegra Vernon walks us through all the steps that happen before the actual cutting. She discusses how images are selected, photographed/scanned, edited, and generally optimized to become good images for a jigsaw puzzle. Then she gets into the "random cut" process starting around 2:20. Both sections are fascinating. Vernon also explains the "ribbon cut" method employed above by Ravensburger.


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