Tuesday, 19 July 2016


Now here's an interesting type of puzzle I got to play with for the first time. This one is called Twins (although there are 3 pieces but there's a reason) and this was Gary Foshee's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

Many puzzlers may already know Gary as the designer of the famous Lunatic Lock as well as the highly sought after and very rare Open/Transparent Lock.

Twins comprise three odd shaped pieces of light and dark coloured cubes glued together. The object of the puzzle is to "put all three pieces together so that the following conditions are met:-

1. Each light cube is connected to another light cube by a cube face
2. Each dark cube is connected to another dark cube by a cube face
3. The shapes formed by the light and dark cubes are identical. Mirror images are allowed.

(NB- the solution (at least the one I have) results in two pairs of identical light and dark shaped pieces; now you see why they are called Twins?)

Usually I am not too keen on such puzzles because I have to consider the various parameters (and many puzzles of this sort tend to have quite long winded and complex conditions to adhere to) during the solve. But in this case, the conditions were relatively few and simple to understand.

The three pieces look rather innocuous and the goal didn't appear to be that difficult, but I found it surprising challenging and it took me quite a while of fiddling before I finally came to what I think is the solution. I have been told before by another seasoned puzzler that the best puzzles are those that are simple looking with just a few pieces, but yet very challenging. The Twins is one of those puzzles.  

Unfortunately I am not 100% sure if my result is the correct one. I have emailed Gary but have yet to receive a reply. So if anyone else has solved it correctly, please drop me a note so that I can check my solution against yours.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Square Dissection

I don't normally spend too much time on a single puzzle, because I have many puzzles in my collection (a lot of them Exchange Puzzles) that I have yet to go through. From my last count from two exchanges, I have still over 140 more which are untouched. I know there are those who persist with a single puzzle for weeks at an end, eg Kevin Sadler and I truly respect their efforts! But I am not one of them. 

But Square Dissection got more than my usual fair share of attention because firstly I quite like packing puzzles and secondly, I also enjoy designing them and producing working copies in plexiglass for myself or for sale. So when I selected Nick Baxter's Square Dissection from my stash, which was his IPP34 Exchange Puzzle, and thinking to myself that its JUST 9 ordinary rectangles into a tray, I decided to test my solving powers on his design....and failed quite miserably!

First the specs...the tray measures 9.5cm x 9.5cm x 0.6cm. The pieces are all rectangles with differing measurements for each like 18x20, 24x25 etc. These are not actual measurements but unit values of the length x width of the pieces. Both tray and pieces are made of translucent red and green acrylic/plexiglass. Everything is laser cut to perfection...and tight tolerances are indeed needed for this puzzle! 

The goal is to place all the 9 green rectangles into the tray with none of the pieces sticking out. Your regular 2D tray packing puzzle right? Yes, but nothing regular about it. In fact after trying for several days on and off and not getting anywhere (there is always just one last piece that refuses to go in), I did what I usually advocate; that is to ask the designer for help. Nick came back with a series of questions which were actually hints on the solve. Needless to say, these hints were lost on me and another round of email exchanges resulted in yet more hints. Still no luck and a couple of weeks later, I threw in the towel and asked for the solution. Damn...everything fits so easily and nicely into the tray! Actually there is a bit more to this puzzle that meets the eye but I shan't mention anything more here as I don't want to have any spoilers for those who may still be tearing their hair out over the Square Dissection.

This puzzle may look innocuously ordinary, but there is a lot of "mathematics" behind the design and IMHO, very difficult and challenging. According to Nick, there are 23,224,320 ways to lay the pieces in a 3x3 format but only one will enable the correct fit inside the tray. And before I forget, don't waste your time with Burr Tools, it won't work.

For hardcore packing fans, this is a must have! Dave Holt, hope you are reading this. Go for one!

Sunday, 3 July 2016


DP3 stands for Daisy Petal Puzzle Pin. It not only resembles a Daisy flower (an "Ox-Eye" daisy) it's also a wearable pin! Now how cool is that?

DP3 was Mike Snyder's IPP25 exchange puzzle and the materials used are White Ash for the petals, Red Oak for the back with pin attached and front center button is an unidentified Yellow Wood. The DP3 measures approximately 7.8cm in diameter.

The puzzle comes assembled and the goal is the remove the magnetic back, scramble the petals and rearrange the 17 petals back around the circular back and pin it onto your clothes. But the moment you remove the magnet back, all the petals will fall out. However, in order to assist with the re-packing, Mike has also provided a jig to hole the magnetic back while you try to re-arrange the petals.

The DP3 indeed looks like a wooden version of the real flower with great detailing, especially the petals. No wonder the fabrication of the puzzle required over 800 man hours and took 6 people to do it. The petals are laser cut and engraved with their identification numerals. Very well made and although the petals may look fragile at first sight, they are actually pretty thick and sturdy. Going by the numbers, here are the stats:-

1. 137 Puzzles made (so I believe Mike may still have some copies left if anyone is interested)
2. 6,302 pieces in total
3. 3,425 glue joints
4.2,466 carved pieces

To pack the 17 petals back into their original state is needless to say very difficult. There appears to be only one way to put back the petals in their original position but the petals can still be packed together in alternate ways although the fit and edge-to-edge line-up of the petals would not be perfect. Not to worry, all the necessary instructions and solution number pattern come with the puzzle.

Beautiful and nature inspired. The DP3 is definitely one of the nicest and more unusual exchange puzzles around for IPP35...and something you can wear too! If anyone is keen, please PM me for Mike's contact.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Maker Faire 2016

Last Sunday I spent a nice afternoon at Maker Faire 2016 which was held on the grounds of the Singapore University Of Technology & Design. I was invited by David Ang of Cubewerkz to share his table to showcase some of my own puzzle designs. In preparation for this event, I had produced a number of copies each of five of my 2D packing puzzle designs plus one from Rex Rossano Perez. I also added two other designs I had produced from last year; Goh Pit Khiam's Triple Play (my exchange puzzle for IPP34) as well as my SG50 puzzle.

Clockwise from top right corner - Turtles, 4 Ducks & A Duckling (my IPP35 Exchange Puzzle), Digi-Hex, Jurassic Pack, No Pushing (by Rex Rossano Perez) and Double Happiness

From Left - Goh Pit Khiam's Triple Play and SG50

The table David had was rather small and he had piles of twisties for sale, including a number of scientific and educational toys as well. But I was extremely fortunate that the table next to ours was vacant; the vendor/maker who rented it had decided not to show up, so I gamely shifted my puzzles over and created more breathing space for both David and myself. 

The fair started at 10am in the morning and ended at 6pm in the evening. However, I had sold out all of my puzzles by around 4:30pm in the afternoon and had to "close shop" for the day. It was a very interesting day as I interacted with the folks who visited my table and tried their hand at puzzling. For many it was the first time they had come across mechanical puzzles, let alone 2D packing puzzles. 

Surprising (or perhaps not so surprisingly, the majority of people that visited my table and played with the puzzles were kids and youths, some as young as 4 years old. Many of the children were probably fascinated with the colourful pieces I had purposely created along the animals theme. Without doubt my Jurassic Pack was one of the most popular, a 4 piece packing puzzle with a dinosaur theme. Some kids stood in front of my table for over an hour tirelessly trying to figure out the solutions. In terms of adult puzzlers, there were very few, less than ten or so who showed any keen interest, including a 67 year old grandma who was rather intrigued by my 4 Ducks & A Duckling. Most of the adults who were there were there just to pay for my puzzles for their kids! Now I am now wondering if there is a kid's market out there for puzzles in Singapore? Something I will definitely look into.

I am currently producing more copies of the above puzzles to fulfill some back-orders I received at the fair. If anyone is interested to buy any of the above, please PM me. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Restricted Area

This "crooked" shaped box puzzle is Saul Bobroff's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. For those serious puzzlers, you may know Saul as the guy behind the very unusual and unique impossible object; 4 Street Elbows, which I never quite figured out how to take apart although I have heard stories of puzzlers who have.

When I first un-packaged this puzzle and saw the blue box, I thought it was made by Brian Young, who had produced something physically similar (but straight at right angles) called the Restricted Soma. But its actually manufactured by "Here To There", which I believe its Saul's own puzzle company. 

Now back to Restricted Area - it's a Stewart Coffin design, #270-A and the goal is to pack eight pieces into the box which has a restricted opening, reminiscent of Lacika Kmolnar's L-I-Vator Cube. What is unusual about this puzzle is that the box is slanted at an angle from all sides (not obvious from the photo). Whichever side you look at, you will see a "pararellogram" shape on each face of the box. Consequently the pieces inside; each piece comprising of two glued-together "slanted" squares are also at an angle. Quality is good with all the pieces cut and fitting nicely. Dimensions wise, the box is 6.5cm x 6.5cm x 7cm.

If this was a "normal" packing puzzle with straight edges, I don't think it would have been that difficult; but because of the angle that the pieces have to go into the box and with the different shapes, the packing becomes consequently much harder. 

I fiddled with the pieces, taking each one out very slowly with several involving 2-step orthogonal movements because of the restricted opening. Took a bit of time and practice but after a while I memorized where each piece was suppose to go. I can say its not easy. I didn't want to scramble the lot because knowing my lack of packing skills, I probably won't be able to get them all back in later. I suspect Burr Tools could help here (configuring the pieces in the normal way) but I didn't bother to try. I am also not sure but there could be more than one way to solve this puzzle.

Not an easy packing puzzle by any means and certainly different from your normal box packing puzzles with the angles and all. Hardcore packing fans would most certainly love this one.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Push Box - Two

This weekend's puzzle play was "Push Box-Two" designed and made by IPP34 award winning neurologist Dr. Simon Nightingale from the UK.

Push Box-Two is made entirely from Corian again and I really like the choice of material because it gives the puzzle the smooth cool feeling of stone/concrete; and weighty too. Only drawback is that it might crack and break if dropped from too high up. Push Box-Two is physically similar to Simon's IPP34 exchange puzzle, the "Push Box"

But it is of a different colour this time, a sort of a light beige. And of course the mechanism is different from its predecessor. It measures the same 6.3cm all round and the object is to open the spring loaded drawer. Very well made and high quality.

Again I have to admit that I managed to open the box without really fully understanding how the mechanism works although I know there are bits of moving parts (ie sounds like ball bearings) inside causing a rattling noise which keeps the "drawer" locked in place. 

Simon had previously sent me the solution to his earlier Push Box so I had a slight inkling as to the method of solve for Push Box-Two. But this didn't help much and I spent a bit of time turning and tilting the box and pushing here and there, a lot at random, before the box suddenly popped open. The drawer doesn't come out all the way (unfortunately) so there is no way I can inspect the internals of the puzzle. Unless of course I crack open the puzzle which would be a silly thing to do of course. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Heat Wave

As I was trawling through my box of IPP35 Exchange Puzzles (hoping to find something interesting and not too difficult to play with), I came across Yee Dian Lee's puzzle called Heat Wave. 

My prototype on the left and Yee Dian Lee's Exchange Puzzle on the right

Heat Wave is one of many 2D packing puzzle designs from Goh Pit Khiam. Goh has designed a number of 2D and 3D packing puzzles including some award winning ones such as the IPP33 Puzzlers' Award Dancing Shoes as well as two Honourable Jury Mentions during IPP35 for his Road Blocks and Number Blocks. Very prolific indeed!

Prior to receiving Yee Dian Lee's puzzle, I had already obtained Goh's Heat Wave design a couple of years earlier and with his permission had laser cut a prototype copy for myself based on an even earlier prototype wooden laser cut copy made by Walter Hoppe for Goh. In keeping with the name of the puzzle, I chose bright yellow and red acrylic for my copy!

Goh's original version has 5 pieces which has to be fitted into the tray that has a covering on the top with a square hole that the pieces have to go through. Lee's exchange version is the same design, except that his has an additional small square 6th piece and Lee's top covering has dimensionally smaller square hole than the original design. Lee's version also has a transparent cover to better let you see how the pieces form up inside the tray.

Beautifully laser cut and great attention to detail
with the pieces each having their own slots at the back

Heat wave is not an easy puzzle at all and I needed Goh's help to solve his version back then. Hmm...maybe things may have been less frustrating if I had used a clear cover instead. Lets just say its not your typical packing puzzle (those who have played with Goh's puzzles would know what I mean) and a number of "unusual" moves are required to fit all 5 pieces into the tray underneath the cover. Can't say more without any spoilers.

With a transparent cover, I feel Lee's version is a tad easier since you can see your progress or mistakes as you move along. Although it's actually meant to be harder than the original. But to be fair, I had played with the prototype previously. A newcomer may find it very challenging indeed. And as Heat Wave was one of my earlier packing puzzles from Goh, it did give me the experience necessary to later solve his other packing puzzles such as Retrofit and Fusion.

A great (and difficult) packing puzzle, unfortunately none commercially available except Lee may have some spare copies left over from his Exchange.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...