Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Multi-Grain 275-AS

Name
Multi-Grain 275-AS.

Designer
Stewart Coffin was the designer of the original Multi-Grain 275-A. This version, the 275-AS with a modified grain pattern was by Jerry Slocum.




Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle Australia. Available for AU$66/-.

Type & Classification
Interlocking solid

Dimensions
7cm x 7cm x 7cm.

Materials & Construction
Papua New Guinea Rosewood. Overall very good quality and finish with a nice snug fit.

Overview
This dissection puzzle was Jerry Slocum's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

The object is to take it apart and then re-assemble it. Even though its only 4 pieces, the taking apart was pretty tricky, given its symmetrical assembly. The pieces all fit very snugly and I had to pull and push a bit, here and there everywhere before something finally moved. It took me a bit of time to release the first piece.

Like all burr puzzles, I try to take apart the rest of the pieces slowly and memorizing the moves, and placing them in a systematic manner on the table, so that assembly wouldn't be such a pain later. Brian encourages puzzles who want a real challenge to scramble the pieces and "...go for a walk round the block or something..." and then try to fit the pieces back to its symmetrical pyramidal shape, the latter which of course I didn't.



Thankfully I managed to put the 4 pieces back together, and this is after some trial and error which got me a bit worried in the beginning. But I would imagine that if I had followed Brian's advice, the pieces would have looked so confusing later that I would not have been able to put it together correctly.

If it had come un-assembled, it would certainly have been very difficult indeed. Again quoting Brian from his site:


"Even though it’s a symmetrical shape when it's done; visualising that shape while you're assembling the puzzle is extremely difficult even with the supplied photo of the finished puzzle.
An extension of the famous 'Three Piece Block' puzzle that Stewart is famous for; this one is just as hard if not harder than the original"


Difficulty
It is rated as 7/10 by Mr Puzzle but comes assembled so the difficulty quotient is lower.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Restricted Soma

Name
Restricted Soma

Designer
Martin Watson. This is the guy who designed the famous Digigrams puzzle.





Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle Australia. Available for AU$45/-

Type & Classification
3D Packing/Interlocking solid

Dimensions
Pretty heavy puzzle measuring about 7cm x 7cm x 7cm.

Materials & Construction
Looks to be Queensland Silver Ash for the pieces. The box is lacquered black. Construction fit and finish is very good.

Overview
This puzzle was Brian Young's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

To know what's a Restricted Soma, you need to know first what is a Soma. This Soma is "restricted" because the goal is remove the pieces and to pack them back into the box through a T-shaped opening....which of course makes it harder than the traditional Soma.



The puzzle came packed so the first task on hand was to remove the pieces. Not difficult and soon I had all out. With 7 pieces comprising of "simple shapes", it was not too difficult to remember where each piece went and I actually managed to get all the pieces back to their original positions inside. To aid in the solve, the box has round holes on all sides and the bottom, so fingers can go in to move the pieces about. But (unfortunately) the pieces cannot enter or exit from these holes!

The writing on one of the pieces states that there is more than one solution with rotational moves but only one solution that does not require rotations. I tried searching for this solution for a good part of the evening but not surprisingly, with no success. 

According to Brian on his site-

To find the unique solution without rotational moves is very difficult.  In a recent email even the designer admitted to having some difficulties although to be fair Martin did design it some time back so maybe it’s been a while since he tried to solve.



I don't feel so bad now. Burr Tools showed 3 possible solutions, but with one of the pieces doubling as a cover for the box, there is thus only one solution. And this solution involves some rather unusual moves. A total of 21 moves is required, with the 4th piece alone needing 8. A lot of fingering through the holes!

Difficulty
Not too difficult just to unpack and re-pack, unless you forget where the pieces are supposed to go. But as mentioned, very difficult to find the unique solution without rotation. It is rated as 7/10 by Mr Puzzle.

Summary
A must have for packing puzzle lovers. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Almost There....Balancing The Egg!

Played with two puzzles this evening. Had success with one but not the other.

The first puzzle (which I managed to solve without help) was Larry Siedman's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle called "Almost There", designed by Goh Pit Khiam. 


This is a 2D packing puzzle entirely made from laser cut wood with 5 pieces consisting of 2 different identical shapes. Good quality manufacture here. Object is to fit all 5 pieces flush inside the tray.

Having played with several of Goh's packing puzzles and knowing his "signature style" of design, it didn't take me too long to solve. Please PM me if you want to the solution. The less initiated will find it pretty difficulty I guess. Challenging and tricky but not as hard as for example Fusion.

The second puzzle which I failed miserably at and no clue at all how to solve is Stephen Chin's "Ze Balancing Egg", his IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. Crafted out of what appears to be Mahogany, this is a beautifully made wooden turned egg, the size of a typical real egg. It even comes with it own decorative stand. Goal here is to balance the egg upright on its own (not on the stand).




I can hear a weight (possibly a ball bearing or similar) rolling around within the internal confines of the egg and I know the weight needs to be right at the bottom of the egg to get it standing upright...It's a dexterity puzzle of some sort probably but I just have no idea how to execute the necessary moves. A couple of times I thought I got it...but no! I am writing to Stephen for a clue, but he takes a while to reply. So if any of my readers can help me, please feel free to drop me a note. Any assistance will be much appreciated.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Turn The Plug

Name
Turn The Plug

Designer
Shane Hales



Manufacturer & Availability
Hand-crafted by Shane Hales.

Type & Classification
Trick/Puzzle Lock

Dimensions
This a large and heavy puzzle measuring 14.5cm x 5.8cm x 10.2cm (inclusive of the base).

Materials & Construction
The block where the door lock is attached to is made from both Oak and Walnut. The lock itself looks to be the type of lock you will typically find on an office door. Affixed to the side is an ordinary looking key. Both lock and key comes from ERA, a manufacturer of door locks and components. Overall construction fit and finish is very good.

Overview
This is an "Interval Puzzle" from Shane. On Shane's puzzle site this is what he says:


"Smaller simpler puzzle designs.
I have decided to create some simpler puzzle designs while i'm working on my next project. Something easier for me to make, and also keeping everybody else's excitement alive!  Anyone that knows me knows i love locks! 
So i have created my Interval puzzles"


Turn The Plug is also my second puzzle from Shane, the first being The Circle, a great puzzle I reviewed just over two years ago on this blog.  




Shane does not sell these Interval Puzzles nor any of his "main" project puzzles, the latter which he makes just four copies at time; preferring to gift them to other close puzzler friends. The only exception was his very popular Hales Lock #1 which sold out within days of launch. 

The object of Turn The Plug is to "move the black dot on the back from "locked to "Open". Nope, you can't try to turn the knob with the black dot with you fingers, it won't work. The puzzle comes with a key that is attached to the side of the wooden block. So as not to create any spoilers here, nothing more about this key shall be mentioned. Also, no force or banging whatsoever is needed

It is obvious the lock has a part to play in the solving. This is one of those puzzles you can't say too little nor too much without giving anything away. Suffice to say, the solution has a few tricks up its sleeve and I got no where for a while, before discovering how to move the black dot to "Open"




Difficulty
For an experienced puzzler, I won't say its very difficult, but as mentioned, certainly a tad tricky and like all puzzles of this nature, some experimentation here and there is required before one gets the A-ha moment. For novices, well, that's another story.

Summary
An very nice design concept; with Shane using commercially available products and parts to fabricate into a great working puzzle. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Checkbox

Name
Checkbox

Designer
Designed in 2011 by Goh Pit Khiam




Manufacturer & Availability
Crafted by Brian Menold of Woodwonders. Sold for US$47 each but currently unavailable.

Type & Classification
2D Packing / Interlocking solid

Dimensions
7cm x 7cm x 2.2cm

Materials & Construction
The box is Granadillo while the pieces are East Indian Rosewood and Ash. Beautifully made (although the top surface of my box had a slight blemish, probably just my copy) and the pieces fit very nicely without being too snug.  

Overview
Here is another packing puzzle from prolific designer Goh Pit Khiam. Like most 2D packing puzzles, this one came un-assembled. However unlike a traditional packing puzzle, the pieces of the Checkbox have various protrusions which mesh with each other and the box (which has got a channel running along the insides). Thus, Checkbox is also an interlocking puzzle as well. Goh had mentioned to me that he had originally designed a 9 piece version with numbers 1 to 9, but felt it was too difficult to solve.

The goal is to insert the pieces into the box AND form a checked pattern as shown in the photo. Right from the start, you can tell that orthogonal sliding of the pieces is required and no rotations are allowed. In fact no rotations are physically possible anyway.



Goh is famous for this sort of "look-simple-but-is-not" puzzles. It has just 4 pieces but I can assure you that it is very tricky to get the pieces into the box correctly to produce the final result. Some thinking is required to determine how the pieces interact with each other and vis-a-vis the box. A couple of times, I thought I had nailed it but the final piece going in either didn't form a checked pattern or couldn't fit.

Difficulty
I would rate it as moderately difficult but rather tricky to assemble. It takes approximately 11 moves to get all the pieces in and there is a sequence to that. But once you get it right, a nice a-ha feeling! Taking the pieces out is much easier, hence the puzzle is shipped un-assembled.  

Summary
A very nice (and cute) well made little puzzle with a similar theme to Bill Cutler's Slide Block Sliding Block puzzle. If you like packing puzzles with an added twist, this is a must-have. Great fun and you won't tear your hair out trying to solve it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Chain Store

Name
Chain Store

Designer
Goh Pit Khiam



Manufacturer & Availability
Crafted by Tom Lensch. Limited copies may be available but I can't be sure. PM me if interested.

Type & Classification
3D Packing

Dimensions
Box is 5cm x 5.7cm x 6cm. Each of the links in the chain is 4.7cm x 3.1cm x 0.8cm.

Materials & Construction
Box is yellowheart while the chain links are cherry. Excellent construction, fit and finish. Tolerances are just right and everything fits nicely.  

Overview
Chain Store is an old design from Goh Pit Khiam and it wasn't until recently that working copies of the puzzle were produced. The goal is simple; to fit the chain links (which are all interconnected and you can't separate them) into the box flush with the top. Hence the very appropriate name "Chain" - "store". It's been described by John Rausch as a "one piece packing puzzle"...well, quite literally true isn't it?

The links when stretched out look rather long and it is obvious that you can't just stuff them into the box. Because of the tight tolerances, any attempt to force in the links would most certainly result in jamming (and probably damage as well). According to Goh, there is only one solution to pack the links in. Sorry but Burr Tools doesn't work here (even with the "grouping" function).

It is clear that the links must somehow be grouped together in a certain way to take up the smallest and correct size footprint in order to fit into the box just nicely. The links can be rotated in different ways and this is a necessary part of the solving process. But this arranging and grouping of the links is no walk in the park, despite only 5 pieces. In fact it is darn right difficult and I found myself trying a great number of combinations to no avail. Always, one link would be protruding a bit and refuse to go in the box. This puzzle requires you to solve the links outside the box before insertion.

Difficulty
Very challenging puzzle. I don't know whether it was just my lucky day or not, but I managed to solve it in about 40 minutes. Got the 5 links all in their correct positions and popped it into the box. Still, I can imagine some puzzlers would take much longer than that. At the request of Goh, I have not placed a link here to the photo solution. 

Summary
Goh has designed a number of challenging and interesting packing puzzles, including IPP award winning ones such as Dancing Shoes and Road Blocks. But Chain Store is perhaps the most unusual and unique amongst them. A fabulous puzzle with a great design concept.  A must-have in any collection.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Slide X

Name
Slide X

Designer
Yasuhiro Hashimoto



Manufacturer & Availability
Produced by DYLAN-Kobo (PUZZLE of MINE). Copies may still be available.

Type & Classification
Sliding Block Puzzle

Dimensions
7.6cm x 9.8cm x 0.4cm



Materials & Construction
Laser cut acrylic. Very precisely cut with sharp edges, resulting in an excellent quality puzzle.  Tolerances are just nice and the combo colours of red, white, blue and black make the puzzle stand out.

Overview
Slide X was Iwahiro's (Hirokazu Iwasawa) IPP35 Exchange Puzzle in Ottawa, Canada last year. 

There are a total of 8 pieces; 4 white rectangles and 4 black "L" pieces. Together they cover a substantial part of the red tray.

This is a sliding block puzzle with a bit of difference. Instead of moving the pieces from a start position to an end position as what most puzzlers are used to, the challenge is to form various silhouette shapes. A great and unusal design concept nonetheless!



The main challenge consist of a warm-up "practice run" (see photo) to change the silhouette of a "red cross" to a "U". This one takes 14 moves. Not a lot of moves but because now you are focusing on the "U" shape, the puzzle is harder than the 14 moves would suggest (at least for me). So what I did was to focus my attention on where the pieces should end up and tried to ignore the "U". 

Now for the main problem which requires a minimum of 48 moves, the instructions do not come showing the end position of the individual pieces. So the starting point is probably to pack the pieces into the tray to see how the "T" is formed. And then figure it out from there. A photo would certainly help! In any event, it was too difficult for me and I gave up after a number of tries. 8 pieces to slide is really no joke. But I did succeed in one of the other easier challenges on the separate problem sheet.



Difficulty
There are a total of 14 challenges in all with increasing levels of difficulty, ranging from 14 to 114 moves! I am not good at sliding puzzles. Notwithstanding, I think this one is really difficult especially for the higher level challenges. Definitely a sliding puzzle not to be missed by die-hard sliding puzzle enthusiasts.

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