Thursday, 4 February 2016

Antislide Tetramino

Name
Antislide Tetramino


Designer
Vladimir Krasnoukhov, Russia. The AT-Puzzle was also Vladimir's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. For some of his other very nice puzzle designs, click here and here.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured and sold by Vladimir himself. He may still have some copies available. 

Type & Classification
2D Packing

Dimensions
13.5cm x 7.5cm x 0.6cm

Materials & Construction
Laser cut acrylic used throughout. 3mm thickness for the pieces and the tray. Excellent quality and Vladimir went one step further by providing a red piece-holder so that all the pieces are are nicely held together when not in play.



Overview
This is not just your usual packing puzzle, but one with an added task; to pack all the 5 tetramino (each piece is 4 units) pieces into the tray in such a fashion that none of the pieces can slide (or move) in any direction. As a pure packing puzzle, this would have been a no-brainer, but with the anti-slide requirement, the AT-Puzzle becomes a very difficult puzzle indeed!

I took the better part of a day and still couldn't figure out the solution and decided to email fellow puzzle collector George Bell (who had solved it a while back) for a clue. But before he replied, something clicked in my brain and I tried arranging the pieces in a new way...and there, within seconds...I had solved it! I usually don't spend so much time on any one puzzle, but this one just drew me in and I went on and on playing with it, refusing to give up. I wish I could do the same for burrs.

Difficulty Level
Very difficult! thinking outside the norm is required no less. If you wish to see the solution, please click here - Password - antislide.

Summary
The AT-Puzzle is absolutely fantastic. It is also George Bell's favourite. So innocuously simple looking yet extremely challenging for a 5-piece puzzle. One of those puzzles that once you pick it up and know what you have to do, you simply can't put it down.




Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Vauban H5

Name
Vauban H5


Designer
Stephane Chomine. As of this post, he has a staggering 497 published designs on PWBP. Stephane stopped posting since mid 2014 but he continues to come up with new designs that are now and again picked up by various puzzle craftsmen.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured and sold by Pelikan Puzzles of the Czech Republic. From what I can see from their website, its currently unavailable. Your best bet is to drop them an email to see if they have any spares or will be producing some more in the future.

Type & Classification
Interlocking solid

Dimensions
7.2cm x 7.2cm x 6cm

Materials & Construction
My copy is the Red version. Made from Bubinga with Maple, the Vauban H5 is excellently constructed. All the 4 pieces are cut accurately and precisely with tight tolerances and with edges slightly beveled. But despite this and all the pieces pretty snug against each other, everything slides very smoothly and I experienced no jamming whatsoever. A very high quality piece of work.

This is the stage I usually reach before getting stuck

Overview
As usual, this level of burr is beyond me. And despite me spending a relatively long time with this one, I could not get the first piece out. After like 10 to 15 moves, I would eventually end up stuck at some dead end. And from what I can tell, there are quite a number. Each of the pieces seem to be moving around another in all directions. Beyond a certain point, I was lost in confusion and at times even had trouble getting back to the original position.

The design is also such that you can't really see what goes on inside the spaces and this makes it a lot more difficult.

Difficulty Level
Very difficult! Although only 4 pieces, this is a mid-to-high level burr with a level 31.10.7 solution (meaning it takes 31 moves to remove the first piece). A total of 48 moves to completely disassemble the puzzle. I had to use burr tools both for the dis-assembly and re-assembly. Looking at the solution, my first moves were quite wrong to begin with.


Summary
For puzzlers who enjoy this kind of challenging burrs with the time and patience to match, the Vauban H5 is a must-have. Not only great looking (just look at the diagonal Maple trim along the sides) and extremely well built, but value for money too. However, if you are like me, lousy with burrs but just can't resist the beauty and craftsmanship, then go for such puzzles anyway. Even if you can't solve them, they will look great in your puzzle cabinet.

Monday, 25 January 2016

8 Stars Labyrinth

Name
8 Stars Labyrinth


Designer
Robrecht Louage. The 8SL was also Robrecht's entry to the IPP35 Puzzle Design Competition.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured and sold by Robrecht himself. He may still have some copies available. 

Type & Classification
Route finding/Maze

Dimensions
12cm x 8cm x 2.5cm

Materials & Construction
The puzzle is made of Trespa (a very strong and durable composite laminate made of resin reinforced by cellulose fibres generally used for interior table tops) with a translucent covering made of frosted acrylic. Construction, fit and finish is superb with very tight tolerances and everything accurately cut (especially the maze channels). A very high quality and solid puzzle.




Overview
Robrecht Louage is very well known for his "remove the coin" puzzles such as his € Labyrinth and Remove The Yolk. And of course who can forget his IPP31 award winning 4 Steps Visible Lock. Then he has designed several of the more typical maze style puzzles like the Larva and La Cerradura Doble

The 8SL seems to be a bit of a departure from both of these styles. Instead what we have here is a puzzle which requires you to navigate a little ball bearing (7.5mm diameter) through a series of channels fraught with a number of traps and obstacles along the way. 

Object is to put the ball bearing in the hole "IN" and get the ball through the maze and its obstacles and then exit the hole marked "OUT". Take a look at the photo and you will know what I mean.


Difficulty Level
The 8SL is a bit beyond moderate difficulty. Quite a number of traps along the way. While some of the obstacles are visible through the translucent cover and its obvious what needs to be done, some are not and requires a bit of trial and error. And in some cases, dexterity is required. There are also four traps that are hidden from view (the blacked out areas on the cover) and these require some thinking as to how to pass the ball through them. 


I had previously designed a couple of puzzles involving moving ball bearings (see my BIC#1 and BIC#2) and so had some inkling of how the traps might work. But despite this, I still took nearly 45 minutes to solve the puzzle. Gabriel Fernandez took just 10 minutes! I guess I spent the most time on the bottom hidden maze. Its almost right next to the finish point but because its hidden and the ball is only visible through some of the holes at the bottom plate, I made a number of unsuccessful attempts before getting the ball back out to the top channel.

Summary
Overall a nice, fun and more than sufficiently challenging puzzle; not the most difficult by any means of course. And at times, you have to navigate blind. But a great concept in puzzle design, no less. What I like about the 8SL is that you get the "a-ha" moments as you successfully tackle each trap/obstacle. You can feel your progress and can take your time to finish the solve in stages.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Fusion

Name
Fusion



Designer
Goh Pit Khiam. 

Manufacturer & Availability
My copy was made by Eric Fuller. A total of 39 copies were made and sold for $57 each. Currently none available.

Type & Classification
2D packing 

Dimensions
3.8in x 3.8in x 0.8in

Materials & Construction
The tray is made of Maple while the pieces are Yellowheart, Bubinga, Paduak and Walnut. The tray has a top and bottom transparent acrylic cover. Construction and quality as usual is first rate with everything precisely and accurately cut.


No spoiler here showing the solved state, since the
challenge is to pack the pieces into the tray
Overview
This is another Goh Pit Khiam classic, following the likes of Retrofit and the IPP33 award winning Dancing Shoes. Puzzlers who have played with Goh's packing puzzles know that they are always in for a surprise since Goh's packing puzzles are anything but the typical.

The object is to pack the 5 pieces (4 which are identical) into the tray. The tray has a clear cover with a square hole the size which is just enough for each of the pieces to go through.

Difficulty Level
IMHO, more than moderately difficult but very tricky. Fusion is by far the most challenging of the three, as compared to Retrofit and Dancing Shoes. It took me a while to figure this one out. For anyone who has not experienced a Goh packing puzzle, he/she may take a really long time to solve Fusion, or not even at all. Again, some thinking outside the box (tray) is necessary here but ultimately, what needs to be done is inside the tray that matters.

Summary
Some folks are good at designing high level burrs while others are good at designing packing puzzles. Fusion is another great design from someone who manages to do both well. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Pity The Poor Kids Who Couldn't Get Their Candy

Name
Mint Man


Start Position

Designer
Unknown. 

Manufacturer & Availability
The Mint Man you see here was produced and sold by The Kelrack Ltd of Middlesex, England. A check revealed that Kelrack Ltd was a manufacturer of plastic products and incorporated in 1973. It has since been dissolved. 

As far as I can tell, this version is not available anymore. But other similar versions are available commercially (see below). I was very lucky to obtain one online for $5/- from a used toy seller (who probably didn't know much about puzzles).

Type & Classification
Sliding Block puzzle. For information generally on sliding block puzzles, click here and here. To see the vast variety of sliding block puzzles out there and their designers, click here.

Dimensions
9cm (H) x 7.5cm (W) x 2cm (D)


20 Moves

40 Moves

60 Moves


Materials & Construction
Plastic. Pretty decent quality but not heavy duty.

Overview
The Mint Man produced by Kelrack is one of many variations of the same puzzle that goes by a number of different names; a Chinese "army" version called Huarong Pass, a number of wooden commercial versions with names such as Setting Sun, Soccer Game etc adopting a variety of themes but the puzzle itself is essentially the same. Some years ago, there was even a Microsoft 3.1 Entertainment Pack digital version called Forget Me Not.

However, what's different here is that Kelrack produced the Mint Man to hold a piece of candy and the reward, apart from solving the puzzle, is to get the candy out of the largest piece. Within the plastic version, the Mint Man also came with a black tray and slightly different coloured pieces as well as other themes.


81 Moves. Mint Man with Gummy

Difficulty Level
Very difficult! The minimum number of moves required to solved the Mint Man is a whopping 81! I never managed to solve this one. I really pity those poor kids and their parents who tore their hair out trying to figure this one out to get the candy. Well, fortunately, the box tray can be split apart to remove the pieces if all else fails. While 81 is a lot of moves, there are designers like Minoru Abe that have come up with over 200 moves using very whimsical and cute themes. One of my personal favourite designers.

There are also a number of videos on the internet which shows the step by step solve, so help is at hand should you decide to purchase a copy.

Summary
Nice collectible! A more solid and heavy 3D printed version would be nice.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Puzzle Wine Pot

Name
Celadon Wine Pot

Designer
Unknown




Manufacturer & Availability
Replicas are available from China and there is even one appearing on Etsy.

Type & Classification
Puzzle Vessel

Dimensions
19 cm (H) x 15 cm (diameter)


Materials & Construction
Porcelain.


Overview
Here's a puzzle that is totally different...

This was a gift to me from fellow puzzle collector Yee Dian Lee, whom I featured a while back. Lee wrote to me to give me more information about this wine pot:

"....the puzzle winepot (倒流壶 Daoliuhu) which you brought back, it is a replica of a Tang Dynasty celadon piece that was unearthed in 1968 in Shaanxi Province, China. That piece is now kept at the Shaanxi History Museum (陕西历史博物馆) in Xian, Shaanxi. 

A giant replica of this now sits in front of another museum in Yaozhou district near Xian (see the bottom of the page here - http://blog.sina.com.cn/guwan2005 )


More details here in Chinese (which can be Google translated) -



The Lilly Library also holds a similar replica (Lion Wine Pot) with some info in its puzzle vessels collection.



Difficulty Level
You fill the vessel from a bottom filling hole...and pour out the wine/liquid from the Lion's spout like an ordinary tea pot. There are a number of illustrations on the internet showing the internal mechanics of the pot and how the vessel is filled and used. I will leave readers to discover these for themselves.

Summary
This the first and so far my only puzzle vessel in my collection. A big thank you to Yee Dian Lee for his generosity.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

4 Ducks & A Duckling

Name
4 Ducks & A Duckling

Designer
Jerry Loo



Manufacturer & Availability
My prototype and competition copies were 3D printed by Steve Nicholls. John Hache licensed my design for his IPP35 Exchange Puzzle and his version is laser cut 0.5in thick acrylic. You may wish to contact either Steve or John for availability.

Type & Classification
2D Packing

Dimensions
12.5 cm x 12.5 cm x 2cm (John's version is 10cm x 10cm x 1.25cm)


John Hache's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle (made from laser cut acrylic)

Materials & Construction
3D printed using ABS resin

Overview
4 Ducks was the second of my two entries for the IPP35 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition at Ottawa, Canada last August. There are 3 challenges for this puzzle:
  • Fit all 4 ducks into the pond (tray)
  • Fit all 4 ducks and the duckling into the pond
  • Fit all 4 ducks into the pond to form a symmetrical shape
Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solutions. Password - duckling
DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it. 

Difficulty Level
The first challenge is very easy, while the second is moderate. The last is pretty hard; there are 144 ways to fit the 4 ducks into the tray but only ONE will form a symmetrical pattern. Based on feedback, most puzzlers can solve the first two challenges quite quickly but take a while to figure out the third.

Summary
Prior to designing 4 ducks, I have been toying around with designing puzzles using the triangular format. While there are some instances where the format is suitable for 3D interlocking burr style puzzles, but for 2D packing puzzles, the format enables more thematic shapes and design options (like the 4 ducks here). I think it also generally makes a puzzle using triangular lines somewhat harder, since most of us are used to and always seeing and playing with vertical/horizontal format puzzle designs.

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