Title:
User-customizable children's puzzles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Provided herein are puzzles useful primarily by children, but also enjoyable by young adults and others. The puzzles of the invention permit a user to remove a piece of the puzzle from the overall construct, to reveal an image, the identity of which is customizable either by the user themselves, or by another person, which often may comprise a parent of the intended user. The images so revealed may thus be any image placed into the puzzle at the will of a person so capable, but are anticipated to often comprise images of the user's relations, including family members, famous persons, siblings and others. Additionally, geographical locations, images of outer space, images of famous persons, famous places, landmarks, pets, etc. are within the realm of potential images viewed. The instant puzzles are especially well suited to inspire learning in toddler-aged users, for stimulating cognizance of images, commensurate with provoking a physical response by the child. Although the present invention finds particular utility amongst enhancing the skills of special-needs children, it is well-suited to be enjoyed by children of all ages.



Inventors:
Martin Jr., Paul E. (Ithaca, NY, US)
Martin, Angela P. (Ithaca, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/251274
Publication Date:
04/19/2007
Filing Date:
10/17/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Christopher J. Whewell;Western Patent Group (6020 Tonkowa Trail, Georgetown, TX, 78628, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A puzzle construction, to be enjoyed primarily by children and young adults, which comprises: a) a substantially planar, rigid bottom panel having a top surface and a bottom surface; b) a substantially planar, rigid top panel having a top surface and a bottom surface, said top panel comprising at least one cutout hole through its surface, wherein said at least one cutout hole exists in the form of a geometric shape; c) at least one attachment means for removably attaching said top panel to said bottom panel in a position having the bottom surface of said top panel facing the top surface of said bottom panel; d) at least one puzzle piece; and e) optionally, at least one image disposed on the top surface of said bottom panel, in a location which corresponds substantially to the position of said at least one cutout hole in said top panel, when said top panel is disposed atop said bottom panel, wherein said puzzle piece and at least one of said cutout holes are both shaped sufficiently similar to one another as to enable the puzzle piece to be removably inserted into said at least one cutout hole, and to substantially hinder the ability of a person to see through the surface of said top panel, when said top panel is disposed atop said bottom panel and said puzzle piece is in position within said cutout hole.

2. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said top panel and said bottom panel are attached to one another such that the bottom surface of said top panel is in substantial contact with said top surface of said bottom panel.

3. A puzzle according to claim 1, wherein at least one of said top panel and said bottom panel is of singular construction.

4. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said top panel is attached to said bottom panel, by an attachment means disposed at a location selected from the group consisting of: an edge portion, the top surface, the bottom surface, and an end portion of said top panel.

5. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said top panel is attached to said bottom panel, by an attachment means disposed at a location selected from the group consisting of: an edge portion, the top surface, the bottom surface, and an end portion of said bottom panel.

6. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said top panel is hingedly attached to said bottom panel, so as to permit said top panel to be opened in book fashion with respect to said bottom panel such that the planes of the top panel and the bottom panel are not substantially parallel when the puzzle is in an open position.

7. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said at least one image is selected from the group consisting of: photographs, mirrors, sketches, and drawings.

8. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said geometric shape is a regular geometric shape or an irregular geometric shape.

9. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein the top panel and the bottom panel are oriented such that their planes are substantially parallel, and wherein at least one puzzle piece is removably disposed within at least one of said cutout holes.

10. A puzzle according to claim 6 wherein the top panel and the bottom panel are oriented such that their planes are substantially parallel, and wherein at least one puzzle piece is removably disposed within at least one of said cutout holes.

11. A puzzle according to claim 1 wherein said puzzle further includes: f) a locking means for securing said first panel and said second panel together.

12. A puzzle according to claim 6 wherein said puzzle further includes: f) a locking means for securing said first panel and said second panel together.

13. A puzzle according to claim 1 comprising at least 3 cutout holes having perimeters of different shapes, and wherein said at least one puzzle piece comprises at least 3 differently-shaped puzzle pieces, each having a portion which corresponds substantially in shape to the perimeter of said cutout holes.

14. A puzzle according to claim 1 comprising at least 3 cutout holes having perimeters of the same or similar shapes, and wherein said at least one puzzle piece comprises at least 3 identical or similarly-shaped puzzle pieces, each having a portion which corresponds substantially in shape to the perimeter of said cutout holes.

15. A puzzle, enjoyable by children and young adults, which comprises: a) a substantially planar, rigid bottom panel having a top surface and a bottom surface; b) a substantially planar, rigid top panel having a top surface and a bottom surface, said top panel comprising at least one cutout hole through its surface, wherein said at least one cutout hole exists in the form of a geometric shape, said top panel being attached to said bottom panel such that the bottom surface of said top panel is facing the top surface of said bottom panel, or is in substantial contact therewith, said top and bottom panels collectively comprising a construct; c) at least one puzzle piece, wherein said puzzle piece is shaped sufficiently to be removably disposed in said at least one cutout hole of said top panel, sufficient to substantially hinder the ability of a person to see through said cutout hole; and d) a means for receiving at least one image, which means is adapted to enable an image to be disposed in a location beneath the top surface of said top panel but above the bottom surface of said bottom panel, and beneath the location of at least one of said cutout holes in said top panel, so as to render an image disposed within the means for receiving viewable through said cutout hole, when a puzzle piece is not disposed in the cutout hole.

16. A puzzle according to claim 15 wherein said construct has a top surface, a bottom surface, two edge portions and two end portions.

17. A puzzle according to claim 16 wherein said means for receiving at least one image comprises at least one slot disposed in a location selected from the group consisting of: an end portion and an edge portion of said construct.

18. A puzzle according to claim 17 wherein said slot is substantially rectangular.

19. A peg puzzle comprising a plurality of puzzle pieces and cutout holes corresponding substantially in shape with a portion of the puzzle pieces, which puzzle is adapted to enable the user to selectively place and/or remove images to within and from within the construct of the peg puzzle, in such fashion that one or more images are in the ready view of the user of the puzzle when a puzzle piece is absent from a cutout hole, and wherein one or more images are obstructed from the view of the user when a puzzle piece is present in a cutout hole.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates generally to toys and particularly to puzzles which are intended to be played with by children. More particularly, it relates to children's “peg puzzles”, which may be customized by the user to incorporate images selected by the user.

BACKGROUND

Children's puzzles have been known in the art for some time. One popular type of children's puzzle is known in the art as a “peg puzzle”. A peg puzzle generally consists of a first flat, substantially rectangular backing board, which in one embodiment comprises a sheet of plywood or particleboard. Bonded to the backing board is a second substantially rectangular planar board, corresponding roughly in dimension to the first backing board and which has various shapes cut out of it (cutouts), which second planar board is further bonded to the first backing board to provide a construct which is adapted to receive shapes corresponding to the cutouts. Shapes of board material corresponding to the cutouts (puzzle pieces) are equipped with a peg on their top surface, which renders the puzzle pieces to be readily grasped by a child of age in the general range of between about 1 year old and 10 years old. By providing a plurality of differently-shaped puzzle pieces and correspondingly-shaped cutouts in the second planar board, a challenging game is provided to youngsters and toddlers in which the child may pick up the puzzle pieces and insert them into the cutouts in order to complete the puzzle. Such puzzles are well-known and are available from Lights, Camera, Interaction!, Inc. under the tradename of “Doug & Melissa”, who are now relatively famous among the younger set and parents alike for their marketing and distributing of a wide range of peg puzzles.

Numerous workers have previously sought to provide new puzzles for children, a few of which are now recited to illustrate the popularity of the art to which the present invention pertains. U.S. Pat. No. 1,714,127 provides a puzzle toy, comprising a top open chamber having a flat bottom surface with an affixed picture, and a plurality of blocks to be inserted into the top open chamber and supported upon the flat bottom surface. As the blocks are removed, the picture is revealed. Thus, the removal of blocks to reveal a picture beneath is known in the art and broad coverage for the process of doing this is probably not available. U.S. Pat. No. 2,954,616 discloses an underlay for puzzles having a holder having a groove in which a slide can be inserted. After the slide is inserted in the holder, the pieces are laid upon it. The slide is removed and the holder is held to enable the pieces to fall down into the holder portion. U.S. Pat. No. 3,574,017 sets forth a multi-layered ornamental system; however, no photographs or the like are involved. U.S. Pat. No. 3,599,361 shows a display frame for photographs which comprises two separable panels, each of which have magnetic means sufficiently attached to retain the panels in a closed position. The photos 17a and 17b are shown to be slid into position. U.S. Pat. 4,111,425 teaches a jigsaw puzzle apparatus comprising: a) a work area for the assembly of component puzzle pieces, with the work area being configured and arranged so as to hold a completed puzzle substantially in place; and b) a cover overlying the work area in a manner to impart a compressive force upon the puzzle pieces in further holding the completed puzzle in substantially aligned relationship. The work area includes a construction platform, a raised border surrounding the construction platform, and a resilient pad atop the platform to receive the puzzle pieces and to permit the puzzle pieces to be compressed inwardly thereof when the cover is placed in overlying relationship therewith. The resilient pad is selected of sufficient roughness to provide a sideways frictional force to hold the puzzle pieces in place during the construction of the jigsaw puzzle, and the construction platform and the surrounding raised border are dimensioned for the particular accommodation of the given puzzle to be held. There is also included a tray fixedly circumscribing the surrounding raised border and construction platform for the containment, assortment and organization of individual puzzle pieces during the construction of the jigsaw puzzle. U.S. Pat. No. 4,142,726 describes a jigsaw type picture puzzle and retainer frame combination which permits the picture puzzle to be stored in the frame and viewed therein in assembled form. The device comprises a set of picture puzzle pieces of predetermined thickness that in assembly together form a picture of predetermined outer dimensions and thickness, The retainer frame comprises three laminated layers: a) a backing member; b) an intermediate spacing member substantially the thickness of the puzzle pieces; and c) an upper member comprising a border member. The spacing member defines an aperture larger than the viewing aperture to thereby form a ledge between the border member and backing member. The border member is affixed in place to the frame and defines a picture viewing aperture of smaller dimensions than that of the assembled picture with the ledge thereunder substantially registering with the assembled picture dimensions. The backing member is affixed in the frame, and the ledge has a depth to the backing member substantially registering with the picture puzzle pieces thickness. At least those of the puzzle pieces that fit around the outer edge of the picture have a resiliency and shape that permit bending for fitting into and removing from under the ledge so that the picture may be assembled and disassembled into the retainer frame. U.S. Pat. No. 4,302,013 discloses an apparatus useful for assembling and displaying at least one jig-saw puzzle comprising; a) a storage tray means capable of storing unfitted pieces of the jig-saw puzzle; and b) an assembly tray means located in spaced relation to the storage tray means and having a surface on which the jig-saw puzzle is assembled. The surface has a plurality of perforations so that a stop means may be inserted therein to prevent the assembled puzzle from moving along the surface. The display tray means is at least partially transparent to allow the assembled puzzle to be displayed and is located in spaced relation to the assembly tray means so as to be capable of cooperating with the stop means in the perforations to effectively immobilize the assembled puzzle. There is also a fastening means to hold the storage tray means, the assembly tray means, and the display tray means together. U.S. Pat. No. 4,486,018 provides a puzzle assembly having a plurality of pieces which are identical and which interfit without interlocking which are assembled in a recess of the base of a container. The container is closed by a cover hinged to the base. When the cover is closed, the puzzle pieces are disposed between top and bottom walls formed respectively on the cover and the base. The pieces are made of a resiliently yieldable material and their normal thickness is greater than the spacing between the walls when the cover is closed so that the pieces are clamped between the walls and are held against sliding even though only some of the pieces have been assembled. The puzzle has a design on both sides and the top and bottom walls are transparent so that both designs may be viewed with the cover closed. U.S. Pat. No. 4,799,680 describes a child's puzzle comprising: a) a plurality of puzzle pieces formed from a transparent plastic material substantially free of any puzzle indicia permanently disposed thereon; b) a base defining a puzzle recess dimensioned to receive the transparent puzzle pieces, with the base being defined by a bottom wall formed from a transparent plastic material substantially free of any puzzle indicia permanently disposed thereon, and a frame connected to and extending from the bottom wall; and c) a means for removably placing indicia on the puzzle pieces and on the bottom wall of the base, whereby the child can place the puzzle in proximity to an illustration within the child's cognitive repertoire, and trace a puzzle therefrom using the means for removably placing indicia thereon. U.S. Pat. No. 5,310,184 shows a transparent prize presenting game having a puzzle or challenge to be solved or completed. The game is capable of presentation of a paper prize, thereby motivating a player to solve and complete the puzzle or challenge. The game comprises a hand held manipulable, transparent container wherein the paper prize is viewable. The paper prize is removably disposed in the container, so that access thereto without successfully completing the puzzle or challenge is prevented. The puzzle or a challenge to be solved and completed being disposed in the container, and means for providing access to the paper prize only upon the successful completion of the puzzle or challenge wherein the player gains access to the container to retrieve the paper prize. U.S. Pat. No. 5,573,246 sets forth a building block-jigsaw puzzle comprising a case, a first layer of building blocks, a second layer of building blocks and a third layer of building blocks, each the layer of building blocks having a plurality of divided building blocks and placed inside the case. The building blocks of each layer can be combined to form a picture. Each the layer of building blocks have respectively a circular building, block, between each the circular building blocks and the other building blocks. Situated around the circular building block are some gaps so that each the layer of building blocks can be taken out easily from the gaps. The first layer of building blocks show the title of the picture, as the first layer of building blocks are taken out, and the player can combine the second layer of building blocks to form a picture the same with the first layer picture. The second layer picture shows a brief explanation concerning every part of the title, as the second layer of building blocks are taken out, the player can combine the third layer of building blocks. The player can find the detailed explanation and function to every part of the title in the third layer picture. U.S. Pat. No. 5,577,728 teaches a jigsaw puzzle, comprising: a) a substrate having first and second sides, and having a painting provided on the first side thereof, and cut into a multiple of irregular and interlocking pieces defined by cutting lines; and b) a transparent member provided thereon a second painting having close relationship with the painting of the substrate, and adapted to be laid on the first side of the substrate in such a manner that a part of the painting of the substrate is concealed by the second painting, thereby the second painting of the transparent member can be seen emphatically in relation to the painting of the substrate with the cutting lines concealed. U.S. Pat. No. 5,769,418 provides a slide puzzle comprising: a) a frame having a top image plane and a bottom image plane beneath the top image plane; b) a set of regularly shaped tiles slidably held in a top image plane in the frame and having at least one free space such that the tiles may be slidably moved relative to each other in the top image plane to any position within the frame, with each of the tiles providing at least a portion of a top image formable in the top image plane by the proper positioning of the tiles. The bottom image plane has a bottom image therein that is associated with the formable top image in the top image plane. The set of tiles is transparent such that the bottom image plane can be seen through the first set of tiles and such that a desired composite image constituting a desired solution to the puzzle is formed by the formable top image and the bottom image only upon proper manipulation of the set of tiles within the frame. U.S. Pat. No. 6,098,980 describes a puzzle connected with a story, the puzzle comprising: a) a story board having a front side and an opposing back side; b) a puzzle assembly area formed on a portion on the front side; c) a story printed within the puzzle assembly area providing information prior to assembly of the puzzle; and d) multiple puzzle pieces forming a pictorial representation of the story when assembled in the puzzle assembly area and covering the story printed within the puzzle assembly area on the story board. U.S. Pat. No. 6,663,732 specifies a method of forming a picture puzzle collage from a plurality of separate individual photographs, each having a picture displaying front surface and a rear surface, the method comprising: a) providing a board having a plurality of removable separate mating contiguous puzzle pieces that fit together to cover at least a substantial portion of the board, each separate puzzle piece having a circumferential edge; b) removing each of the separate individual puzzle pieces from the board; c) removing a film covering from a front surface of each of the separate individual puzzle pieces to expose an adhesive covered front surface of each the separate individual puzzle piece; d) affixing a rearward surface of each the separate individual photograph to the adhesive covered front surface of the puzzle piece; e) trimming away portions of each of the separate individual photograph photographs extending beyond each of the separate individual puzzle piece's circumferential edge; and f) replacing the separate individual puzzle pieces each having a trimmed separate individual photograph adhered thereto to the board in a mating contiguous relationship. U.S. Pat. No. 6,705,022 shows a tool for determining pinion adjustment, the tool comprising: a) a first portion having a plurality of temperature gradient reference marks including a first mark and a second mark; b) a second portion having a gradient grid representing pinion adjustment distances; and c) a third portion having at least one first reference point and a second reference point fixed relative to the at least one first reference point. The third portion is movable relative to the first portion and the second portion to reposition the at least one first reference point from a first location proximate the first mark to a second location proximate the second mark and to reposition the second reference point from a third location proximate the grid to the fourth location proximate the grid, wherein a distance between the third location and the fourth location corresponds to a determined pinion adjustment distance. U.S. Pat. No. 6,752,678

describes a combination puzzle toy comprising a case. The case has a top open chamber and the top open chamber has a flat bottom surface. There are a plurality of blocks capable of being inserted into the top open chamber and supported on the flat bottom surface of the top open chamber and coupled to one another in a flush manner to form any one of a number of combinations. The blocks each comprise a flat rectangular first block member and a flat rectangular second block member asymmetrically fixedly arranged in a stack.

Thus, although the prior art is replete with puzzles of various sorts, none thus far has provided a peg puzzle which is customizable, as provided by the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, the present invention provides a puzzle construction, which is intended to be enjoyed primarily by children and young adults. A puzzle according to one form of the invention comprises: a substantially planar, rigid bottom panel having a top surface and a bottom surface; and a substantially planar, rigid top panel having a top surface and a bottom surface. The top panel comprising at least one cutout hole through its surface, wherein the at least one cutout hole exists in the form of a geometric shape. The top panel is disposed atop the bottom panel, so that the bottom surface of the top panel is facing the top surface of the bottom panel, and the top panel is attached to the bottom panel, and the bottom surface of the top panel is removably attached to said top surface of the bottom panel. There is also optionally at least one image disposed on the top surface of the bottom panel, in a location which corresponds substantially to the position of the at least one cutout hole in the top panel, so as to render the image viewable through the cutout hole. The puzzle further comprises at least one puzzle piece, wherein the puzzle piece is shaped sufficiently to be insertable into the at least one cutout hole of the top panel, sufficient to substantially block the ability of a person to view the at least one image when the puzzle piece is in place in the cutout hole.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to one embodiment of the present invention in its as-used form;

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to one embodiment of the present invention, in an open position;

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention, in an open position;

FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to an alternate form of the invention; and

FIG. 5 shows an insert that is useful with the peg puzzle embodied in FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the drawings and initially to FIG. 1 there is shown a perspective view of a peg puzzle 10 according to one embodiment of the present invention in its as-used form. The puzzle comprises a bottom panel 3, which in one preferred form of the invention is a substantially-planar, rectangular sheet material, comprised of, without limitation, materials such as a sheet of wood, plywood, particle board, MASONITE® board, polymeric slabstock such as PVC, polyethylene, polypropylene, etc. Disposed atop the bottom panel 3 is a top panel 5. Top panel 5 in a preferred form of the invention is a substantially-planar, rectangular sheet material, which may be comprised, without limitation, of any material from which the bottom panel 3 may be or is comprised. The top panel 5 is contoured to correspond substantially in shape to the bottom panel, such that when the top panel 5 is placed atop the bottom panel 3, the edges of both panels are in substantial alignment with one another. The top panel 5 preferably includes a plurality of portions which are cut out of the top panel 5, shown as cutout holes 9 in FIG. 2, which cutout holes extend completely through the top panel 5 and may be of any shape desired. The top panel 5 is in one embodiment attached to the bottom panel 3. An attachment means 23 may be used as one optional means for attaching the top panel 5 to the bottom panel 3. Such attachment means 23 may comprise conventional hinges, each commonly attached to the top panel 5 and bottom panel 3. Alternatively, the attachment means 23 may comprise strips of fabric, such as canvas, woven nylon, woven or non-woven polymers, woven natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic fibers, brackets, and functional equivalents thereof, which are attached to the top panel and bottom panel by conventional means, including without limitation adhesives, rivets, thermowelding, screws, crimping, nuts and bolts, pins, clamps, staples, etc. Such attachment means 23 may thus be disposed sufficiently on these panels to enable the top panel 5 to be “turned” from the bottom panel 3, analogous to the way in which the cover of a book is “turned”, in order to open up the puzzle 10 to a position such as that shown in drawings FIGS. 2 and 3 herein. It is preferable to include a locking means 25, the purpose of which is to secure the top panel 5 in a closed position with respect to the bottom panel 3 sufficiently so that the top panel and bottom panel do not open up from one another when the puzzle is being transported, similar in one embodiment to the means by which a child's diary is prevented from being opened by means of a locking clasp on the edge of the diary. The locking means 25 may be any conventional means for maintaining a hingedly or otherwise attached ensemble comprising a top panel and bottom panel within the context of the instant specification, in a closed position. Such locking means 25 may include without limitation: a strip or construct of material selected from those descried as being suitable for the attachment means 23 including those having a snap which are attached to either the top panel 5 or bottom panel 3, which snap engages with a cooperatively-connecting counter portion of a snap disposed on the remaining top or bottom panel. The locking means 25 may include a string, wire, clasp, flexible strip of a metal or metallic alloy that may be attached to any surface on the top or bottom panel portion, which engages or is looped through a clasp-receiver, cleat, anchor, loop, snap or other complementary cooperative provision on any surface of the remaining panel portion, or any functional equivalents thereof. Additionally, a hook and eye type fastener, or hook-and-loop fastener, such as a strip of VELCRO® fastener can be attached to any surface or portion of the bottom panel 3, and be disposed so as to contact a cooperatively connecting portion of VELCRO® fastener disposed on any surface or portion of the top panel 5, or vice versa. Thus, the attachment means 23 and locking means 25 may each independently comprise a VELCRO® fastening pair. The top panel 5 in one preferred embodiment is removably connected to the bottom panel 3 by conventional connecting means known in the art, and in another preferred embodiment is hingedly attached thereto using same.

In this FIG. 1 are also shown a plurality of puzzle pieces 15, each including a handle portion 17 which enables a puzzle piece 15 to be grasped by the person enjoying the puzzle. In the configuration shown, there are a plurality of images 7, disposed in a position above the top surface of the bottom panel 3, but beneath the bottom surface of the top panel 5, which images 7 are positioned to be viewable through one of the cutout holes 9 (FIG. 2), when a puzzle piece 15 which corresponds to the cutout hole 9 is absent from the cutout hole 9. The foregoing features, by virtue of the owner of a puzzle according to the invention being able to put desired images in the puzzle, enable a child to view images which are intimately familiar to them, upon removal of a puzzle piece from the puzzle, including without limitation, a photograph of a relative or friend, including the child's parents and sibling(s), but essentially any desired image. Although the present embodiment is shown with three differently shaped cutout holes, the instant invention contemplates the provision of any practicable number of cutout holes and corresponding puzzle pieces, either of varying shape, or the same or shapes which are similar to one another in the top panel 5.

Also shown in FIG. 1 is an optional protective layer 91, disposed between the bottom panel 3 and the top panel 5 so that it resides over the images. This protective layer 91 is intended to protect the images beneath it from damage, either from being touched by the hands, or food or liquids which may inadvertently be spilled on the puzzle's face. The protective layer 91 may be permanently attached to the lower surface of the top panel 5, such as by an adhesive means. Alternatively, the protective layer may be free-standing and not permanently attached to any portion of the puzzle. The protective layer 91 is preferably comprised of a translucent plastic, such as a sheet of vinyllic polymeric material, including without limitation any acrylic or acrylate polymer(s), polyethylene sheet, polypropylene sheet, polyethylene terephthalate, polycarbonates, and functional equivalents thereof. It is preferred that the protective layer 91, when used, is of sufficient thickness to prevent its being torn or fragmented to yield any piece small enough to be admitted to the mouth of a small child. The planes of the top panel 5 and bottom panel 3 are substantially parallel in FIG. 1.

In FIG. 2 is shown a perspective view of a peg puzzle 10 according to one embodiment of the present invention, in an open position, with the top panel 5 turned away from the bottom panel 3. In this figure are shown the respective positions of the bottom panel 3, optional protective layer 91, images 7, front panel 5, and cutout holes 9. In this open position, it is possible, when the optional protective layer 91 is not present, to remove, change, or add images 7. When a protective layer 91 is present, it may simply be removed to enable access to the images 7 for purposes of positioning or moving the images. The images themselves may be maintained in a stationary position on the top surface of the bottom panel by the clamping force supplied by the top panel 5 when it is held in position as described previously, or by VELCRO® fasteners or other closure means. Alternatively, the top surface of the bottom panel 3 may be treated with an adhesive substance, such as an amorphous polyalphaolefin polymer of the type employed in Post-It® notes of the 3M company of Minnesota, or any other adhesive having an essentially infinite open time. Texturing or providing a layer of fabric (felt, etc.) attached to the top surface of the bottom panel 3 is also functional in this regard. The planes of the top panel 5 and bottom panel 3 are not substantially parallel in FIG. 2.

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention, in an open position. In this figure are shown the respective positions of the bottom panel 3, optional protective layer 91, images 7, front panel 5, and cutout holes 9. In this embodiment, the optional protective layer is affixed to the top panel 5, by conventional means, which may comprise any conventional attachment means as previously described herein, including without limitation adhesives, screws, nails, rivets, or other fasteners. This embodiment allows for the protection of the images 7, and simultaneously enables their being rapidly, easily, and conveniently altered. The optional protective layer 91 is preferably a single, continuous solid sheet which is translucent (although it may comprise pigments) and this is why it is possible in this figure to see the shapes of the cutout holes 91 through the protective layer.

In FIG. 4 is shown a perspective view of a peg puzzle according to an alternate embodiment, which comprises a bottom panel 3 and a top panel 5 disposed above the bottom panel 3. In this embodiment, the two panels are adhered to one another in fixed position which in one embodiment is by permanent adhesive, such as a resin emulsion. The top panel 5 includes a plurality of cutout holes 9 as previous, but this embodiment further comprises at least one slot 11, whose purpose is to enable the user to slide their selected images in and out of the puzzle frame without the need for separating the top panel 5 from the bottom panel 3. Although pictured as having a depth which terminates within the construction, the present invention also includes embodiments in which the slot 11 passes completely through the construction, reminiscent of a tunnel. In one embodiment the slot 11 has a width dimension and height dimension, corresponding in spatially, respectively, to the width of the construct as a whole, and the thickness of the construct, respectively. It is preferred that the height of the slot is only slightly greater than the thickness of images which are inserted therein. The width of the slot may be substantially any width, which permits the finished puzzle to have sufficient structural integrity to withstand typically wear and tear encountered by these types of puzzles during their normal usage. One particularly preferred arrangement that is conducive to carrying this out is set forth in FIG. 5 which shows an insert 12 that is useful with the peg puzzle embodied in FIG. 4. The insert 12 itself comprises a backing layer 33, which is preferably a rigid sheet, which may comprise materials as previously described as being useful for constructing the bottom panel 5 and top panel 3, and further including cardboard. The backing layer 33 may be textured, or may comprise an adhesive with an essentially infinite open time, with the purpose being to maintain the images 7 in a reasonably fixed position. A protective layer 91 is then disposed over the top of the images. This arrangement is conveniently achieved when the images 7 are photographs and the backing layer is cardboard. The images are affixed to the cardboard, and the cardboard/images composite may then be inserted into a sleeve of acrylic polymer, such as the type commonly employed as page protectors in 3-ring binders. Then, this insert 12 may be slid into the slot 11 of the puzzle construction shown in FIG. 4. Thus, the protective layer 91 is generally desirably much thinner than any of the other planar elements of the invention, and the drawings are not shown as being to scale. It should be understood that the backing layer 33 is desirably thick enough to provide rigidity to the insert 12 so that it is not deformed by repeated insertions into the slot 11. Thus, it is preferably at least about 1 millimeter thick at minimum. In an alternate embodiment, the slot 11 is dimensioned sufficiently to receive laminated photographs, the exact dimensions of which slot 11 are readily customizable by one skilled in the art depending upon the dimension of such laminated photographs (or other forms of images) which are desired to be inserted therein.

As mentioned, the cutout holes 9 of the top panel 5 of the present invention exist in the form of a geometric shape. These would include known regular geometric shapes, such as squares, triangles, circles, ovals, trapezoids, triangles, pentagons, hexagons, octagons, etc. In addition, the use of irregular geometric shapes for the contours of the cutout holes 9 are within the scope of the invention, with the main requirement being that each cutout hole 9 has a corresponding puzzle piece 15 which is capable of fitting into it, in a reasonably locking or nested manner, as is commensurate with known peg puzzles.

The top panel 5 is preferably removably attached to the bottom panel 3. This connection may be made, as aforesaid, by means of hinges, strips of fabric, VELCRO® connective means, and adhesives. In some embodiments the connective attachment is permanent, as in the case where a permanently-curing adhesive is employed, such as in the embodiment shown in FIG. 4. Other times, the connective attachment is readily removed, to enable the top panel 5 to be separated from the bottom panel 3. Thus, when the connective means are hinges, the top panel 5 is hingeably attached to the bottom panel 3. All of the methods and hardwares mentioned herein for connecting the top panel 5 with the bottom panel 3 may be collectively referred to as means for securing these elements. Any number of cutout holes between about 1 and about 30 may be present in a puzzle construct according to the invention, for every 900 cm3 of surface area of said top panel 3. A puzzle according to the invention preferably has a length dimension of between about 15 cm and 100 cm and any width dimension in the same range, when rectangular. When non-rectangular, the longest length dimension is preferably about 100 cm; however, the panel portions of present invention may be constructed in any dimensions, or shapes, desired by the user. It is preferred, but not necessary, that the outer contours or perimeter of the top panel 3 coincide substantially with those of the bottom panel 5.

Consideration must be given to the fact that although this invention has been described and disclosed in relation to certain preferred embodiments, obvious equivalent modifications and alterations thereof will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in this art upon reading and understanding this specification and the claims appended hereto. This includes subject matter defined by any combination of any one of the various claims appended hereto with any one or more of the remaining claims, including the incorporation of the features and/or limitations of any dependent claim, singly or in combination with features and/or limitations of any one or more of the other dependent claims, with features and/or limitations of any one or more of the independent claims, with the remaining dependent claims in their original text being read and applied to any independent claims so modified. This also includes combination of the features and/or limitations of one or more of the independent claims with features and/or limitations of another independent claims to arrive at a modified independent claim, with the remaining dependent claims in their original text being read and applied to any independent claim so modified. Accordingly, the presently disclosed invention is intended to cover all such modifications and alterations, and is limited only by the scope of the claims which follow.