Thursday, July 25

Do you need a home for 80,000 puzzles? Try an Italian castle.

Meet the Millers, George and Roxanne, owners of the world’s largest collection of mechanical puzzles: physical objects that a puzzle holds in its hand and manipulates as it searches for a solution. In total, the Miller collection – an accumulation of collections and collections of collections – amounts to more than 80,000 puzzles. It includes approximately five thousand Rubik’s Cubes, including a 2 x 2 x 2 reproduction of Darth Vader’s head. And there are more than 7,000 woodbur puzzles, such as the multifaceted, interlocking creations of Stewart Coffin, a Massachusetts puzzle maker; they evoke a hybrid between a pine cone and a snowflake and are Mr. Miller’s favorite. Ms. Miller is passionate about their 140 brass, bronze and gold puzzle sculptures by Spanish artist Miguel Berrocal; Goliath, a 79-piece male torso, is “a puzzle that all puzzlers crave,” she said.

Until recently, the Miller collection resided at the Puzzle Palace in Boca Raton, Florida, filling their mansion and a museum (a smaller house) next door. Puzzles also occupied the bathrooms. Then last year, on a whim, the Millers bought a 52-room 15th-century castle in Panicale, a village in central Italy. They packed their puzzle collection into five 40-foot shipping containers and, for their transit, booked a cruise from Miami to Rome.

Before sailing in April, the Millers embarked on a two-month voyage — “one last hurray,” Mr. Miller called it — visiting enigmatic friends from coast to coast. Along the way they have accumulated more puzzles. In Garden Grove, California, they loaded a van with 58 boxes from Marti Reis, who donated her collection of popular puns by designer RGee Watkins, such as Diamond Ring, a penny with a metal ring going through the center of the coin. Puzzle maker Lee Krasnow, who has manufacturing plants in Portland, Oregon, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, met the Millers at a puzzle party on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, and hand-delivered his famous Clutch Box . Crafted from exotic hardwoods and precision-crafted metals, it opens with a subtle release mechanism; the goal is simply “the thrill of having it opened,” Ms. Miller said. And then, “if you’re bold,” Krasnow added in an email, the goal is to “completely disassemble it into about 40 individual pieces.”