Wednesday, 16 April 2014

IPP33 Exchange Puzzles

At each and every IPP (International Puzzle Party), one day out of the 3-day event is dedicated to a "puzzle exchange". Here is where the exchange participants get to swap their own (or with permission, someone else's) puzzle design with one another. 

In the early days, some exchange participants purchased "off the shelf" puzzles and used these for exchange, but today, the rules are strict; designs have to be original and not something commercially available in the market prior to the exchange.

Featured below are 3 exchange puzzles that I had the opportunity to acquire during IPP33 in Tokyo, Japan last August.

Peak Performance

This puzzle came from Malaysian puzzle collector Yee-Dian Lee, one of several Asians (outside Japan) and the only Malaysian who attends the annual IPP regularly. Lee also has the honour of being one of a handful of participants who have attended more than 25 IPP events (to-date 27) in the 35 year history of the IPP since its inception in 1978.



A rather unusual but interesting puzzle, the object of Peak Performance is to "walk" the red man from the START position to reach the top; the CEO position. This puzzle is made of acrylic and the plate has multiple holes drilled all over. The red man must have at least one foot in a hole at any one time, while moving towards the goal. Not too difficult and with some trial and error, I got to the top pretty quickly! 

City Block

City Block came from David Litwin. City Block is a collaboration between David and Bram Cohen, the latter who originated the concept behind David's design. For an interesting account of how they created City Block, check out Saul Symonds' interview with the two gents on Saul's blog.



An acrylic packing puzzle using "patterned" acrylic to form building shapes (with windows even), there are two challenges. The first is the "warm up" challenge - use the pieces to form the silhouette of the building skyline that appears at the top of the tray. The main challenge is to fit all the pieces, including the one with its own slot within the tray. 

I didn't attempt the first but went straight to the second harder challenge. Took me a while before I got all 7 pieces into the tray. Challenging but not overly so, compared to some other packing ones which I could never solve without the solution. However, based on what I have read on Allard's and Saul's blogs, I am not exactly sure if my solution is the intended one?

David has his own website selling some of his other puzzle designs.

Eight Squares

When I first played with James Kerley's puzzle here, I thought it was the easiest packing puzzle I have ever come across...place the 12 diamond shaped pieces (kites) into the tray. Did it in under a minute...my fastest ever solve!

Only then I realised that it couldn't have been that easy...and this wasn't the intended solution. In fact it wasn't even a packing puzzle to begin with! But rather the object is to use the 12 kites to form 8 squares (now that's why its called Eight Squares!) outside of the tray. The 12 pieces fit into the tray only for the purpose of storage.


No...this is not the solution...this is how the puzzle is to be stored or transported


I couldn't quite figure what to do with this one until I checked the solution, then I understood. I guess I am really thick here! Eight Squares is a great one not just for puzzlers, but also for mathematicians, geometry enthusiasts or folks who like to play with shapes!





Friday, 11 April 2014

Arrow Blocks

Name
Arrow Blocks

Designer
Goh Pit Khiam. Singaporean Goh has designed well over sixty puzzles to-date. For some of Goh's other puzzle designs, click here


Starting Position

Manufacturer
Tom Lensch. Currently unavailable.

Type & Classification

This one I think fits into several categories, but Sequential Movement is probably the best description. The Arrow Blocks resembles Bill Cutler's Slide-Blocked Sliding Block Puzzle but has a totally different concept. 

Dimensions
17.7cm (Length) x 14.0cm (Width) x 2.5cm (Height). This is a large puzzle!

Materials & Construction
The frame/box is made of Indian Rosewood, while the blocks are Maple.The arrows atop the blocks are Yellowheart and Brazilian Blackwood. 

Construction, fit and finish is top notch. Built to close tolerances but all the blocks slide smoothly. A really solid and very heavy duty feel puzzle. Another good thing about the construction is that Tom made the frame/box with a removable magnetic lid, so you can reset the puzzle easily (or if you are stuck)

IPP
Arrow Blocks was Goh's entry for the IPP32 Puzzle Design Competition held in Washington DC, USA in 2012.

Overview
I first saw the Arrow Blocks when I caught up with fellow puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong when she was in Singapore for a conference about a year ago. She was very kind to lend me her copy and even told me to keep it until we next met. 

I fiddled with it a bit but never really got down to playing with it. Life went on and I forgot about the puzzle. Before I knew it, I was packing up the Arrow Blocks to return it to her at IPP33 in Japan four months later.

After IPP33, I contacted Tom Lensch to see if he had any available. Initially he didn't have any but some weeks later he got back to me to say he had a spare copy which did not need to go to someone else...lucky me!

When you first look at the Arrow Blocks, it looks like another sliding block puzzle (albeit a very high-end one). You wonder how difficult can this be, after all its only 6 movable pieces, much less than the classic 15 Sliding Puzzle

For example, when you see a complicated looking burr, it usually is! Not many are intimidatingly looking yet manageable, perhaps for a handful such as the Orsi and HALT.

Well, in this case, the Arrow Blocks would probably qualify as one of the more deceptively simple (and easy) looking puzzles around, yet the level of difficulty is beyond what it appears!

The starting point of the Arrow Blocks is with the black arrow head on the left side with the yellow arrows and the object is to place the block with the yellow arrow head into the box frame to have two arrows,each with the same colour.


Solved Position
Unfortunately the Arrow Blocks is one of those puzzles that if I describe even the broad steps as to what needs to be done, it would give too big a hint/clue away. One thing's for sure, there is a minimum of over 50 moves to get the Arrow Blocks from the start to the solved state. A good bit of work involved. And I must add, some thinking out of the box (no pun intended) is required here!

I had a lot of difficulty with this one and only managed to solve the puzzle halfway...if there is such a thing.

It was a good thing that Tom included the solution write-up/analysis from Goh, which itself requires consumption of a fair amount of brain power to understand. I would not have been able to solve it without the solution. I must admit, my mental model of a sliding block puzzle kept getting in the way!

Difficulty Level
Very difficult! And when we exchanged SMS about his puzzle, Goh said; "it's a bit tough I agree"... "a bit" of an understatement here I think....

Summary

A very tough puzzle with a unique and great concept from a prolific designer. And excellent quality from a well-respected craftsman. Definitely a must-have for the serious collector. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

ODD Puzzle

Name
ODD Puzzle

Designer
Hirokazu Iwasawa. For more of Iwasawa's designs, click here.



Manufacturer
Torito of Japan. Retailed by Satomi Beattie of CU-Japan who's based in the United Kingdom. 

Type & Classification

3D Packing

Dimensions
8.9cm (Length) x 8.9cm (Width) x 5.0cm (Height). 

Materials & Construction
MDF Board for the box. A light coloured type of wood (looks like rubber wood) for the pieces Construction, fit and finish is overall good. This is the mass market version. There is also a high end version made of exotic hardwoods which was available for a time.

IPP
The ODD Puzzle won the Puzzle Of The Year award at IPP28 held in Prague, Czech Republic in 2008.

Overview
This one has a strange name. It's called the ODD. And it's called that because of the shape of the 3 pieces. They resemble the alphabets O.D.D (look carefully...see it now?).

The object of the ODD is to place all 3 pieces into the box without any of the pieces sticking out. For a 3-piece packing puzzle, one might wonder how difficult this can be, but believe me, it took me a good portion of an evening to figure this one out. The top of the box has a rectangular cut-out to insert the pieces, and this restriction makes the puzzle tough!

Each of the pieces can be inserted into the box, but usually when one is inside, neither of the other two can be inserted, or if both can be inserted, one is usually sticking a bit out. I had an idea what needed to be done and in fact my method was correct. However it was the way of execution that was wrong (in the opposite) that got me stuck for a while, until I tried what I thought was impossible but actually not.

Without giving any clues or spoilers, suffice to say you have to insert the pieces in such a manner that will eventually see all 3 flush inside the box. I might like to add that the ODD has a pretty elegant solution....and no force is required. I have not added a photo of the solved state here as this gives too much of a hint. But if you are struggling with the ODD, feel free to contact me for help.

Difficulty Level
Not your typical packing puzzle. Very challenging and you need to think about the end result of how the 3 pieces will sit correctly in the box and plan your way towards that. But once you solve it, it is easily re-solvable.

Summary

What's neat about the ODD is that physically, it looks deceptively really simple with just 3 pieces and a box... but a real challenge to boot. A really great packing puzzle and well deserving of it's IPP28 award. If you can't afford the high end version (if any is still available), then this one here will do just fine for a nice challenge.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

"it" Interlocking Puzzles

"it" interlocking puzzles? you are probably wondering what sort of puzzles these are. 



 Nope, nothing to do with information technology, computers or software (more on this last one later) but I am referring to the Cockpit and Petit puzzles, both by Japanese designer Osanori Yamamoto. As of to-date, he has 175 designs! Many of which have have become production copies including the following which I own:-


First off, both of these puzzles are smallish in size as compared to the typical cuboid interlocking puzzle. Both are around 5cm cube, with the Cockpit a couple of mm larger all round. Given that the Petit has only 3 pieces and the Cockpit has 4, it is quite possible to make a puzzle in a much smaller package yet remaining comfortable during handling.

Both puzzles came to me from Pelikan. Craftsmanship, fit and finish is excellent. Fellow puzzle blogger Allard Walker had commented in one of his posts that the superb quality to be found from Pelikan these days is comparable with a certain North American puzzle maker (now I wonder who that might be?). Yes, I couldn't agree more! And not to mention at great value for money prices too! 

Cockpit

The Cockpit is made of Jatoba for the frame and Maple for the pieces (2 of which are congruent). It didn't take me long to unlock the 3 intersecting pieces. No particular way of solving for me, just the usual random manipulation at the beginning and thereafter, seeing how the pieces interacted to try to get them apart.  


Putting everything back together was altogether different. I found a solution pretty quickly which got the pieces back to what appeared to be their original positions in the frame. But I knew it wasn't the right solution since it took me quite a number of moves to take them apart initially. I checked the solution with Burr Tools and found that I had used the easiest of 4 possible solutions (just 6 steps) which probably wasn't intended. The more difficult solution takes 20 steps to get that first piece out.


Petit

This one I found less difficult than the Cockpit. The Petit is made from Cherry (frame) and Paduak (pieces). Consisting of just 2 pieces interlocked within the frame, it was a much easier task trying to remember the moves, which were also far fewer than Cockpit. I managed to disengage and later assembled the pieces without the aid of Burr Tools. I would think that for Petit, even with a trial and error approach and persistence may achieve the desired result, but not the Cockpit.


Petit is definitely recommended for less experienced burr puzzlers (myself included) as it gives a good challenge but wouldn't frustrate you. To begin with, just a total of 3 pieces is already much less physically intimidating and this undoubtedly inspires confidence. The Petit is definitely much more manageable with far fewer steps.



Saturday, 29 March 2014

Hoffmann's Barrel & Ball Puzzle

Name
Hoffmann's Barrel & Ball Puzzle

Designer
Unknown. This puzzle appeared in a puzzle book published in 1893 entitled "Puzzles Old And New" by Professor Louis Hoffman.



Manufacturer
Grand Illusions, UK. Available for GBP35/- (approx. US$58) including 20% VAT. Buyers from outside the UK will pay 20% less for the puzzle. Excellent packing for shipment; the puzzle was bubble wrapped in its own box and this box was placed in a larger box filled with foam and externally wrapped with brown wrapping paper (like a wrapped present). One of the best packing I have come across from any online retailer.

Type & Classification
Take apart. 


Barrel & Ball Puzzle Solved!

Dimensions
3.7 cm  (Diameter) x 4.7 cm (Height). 

Materials & Construction
Anodised aluminium for both the barrel and rod and steel for the ball bearing. Excellent quality and very well constructed. Very tiny chip on both sides of the rod. Not sure how this happened. Tho' not that large, the barrel has very thick walls and this adds to the heft and bulletproof-ness of the puzzle. 

Overview
I discovered this puzzle from the occasional email newsletter that Grand Illusions sends to its customers.

The puzzle consists of only a barrel, a ball and a rod. Object is to remove the ball which is inside the barrel. Sounds simple? Except that the ball is actually larger than the opening of the barrel...now how did the ball get inside in the first place? Then there is the rod, which can be inserted into the barrel. 

Could The Barrel & Ball puzzle be the pre-cursor to the "sequential discovery" puzzles of today? Well, the rod is there, there is no need to "discover" it...but obviously the rod must be used for something!

I have learnt during my early puzzling days that no matter how tricky or difficult a puzzle may be, it cannot defy the laws of physics. If something is physically impossible...it usually is! That's why sometimes when I pass a puzzle to friends who come over my place, I get very amused when they try to shake, bang, twist a puzzle until they are red in the face, when its obvious what they are trying to do would simply not work.

I played with the puzzle and examined it for clues. Didn't take me long to figure out how to get the ball out, which was confirmed by the accompanying solution. 

Difficulty Level
Not difficult for experienced puzzlers, but the novice will struggle somewhat, just as a couple of my non-puzzling friends did. It is a tricky puzzle no less. Quite a clever trick too.

Summary
If you like metal puzzles like I do, this is a must buy. Very solid feel and with the blue and green anodising, displays nicely on your shelf

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cast Twist

Name
Cast Twist

Designer
Oskar van Deventer. More than any other puzzle designer, Oskar has designed over 12 Cast series puzzles for Hanayama to-date



Manufacturer
Hanayama. Released in October 2013, the Cast Twist is available from the usual online puzzle retailers. My copy came from Sloyd of Finland. 

What is pleasantly surprising is that Hanayama has improved their packaging contents to include an instruction sheet (which previously did not exist) which explains what to do with the puzzle. In 7 languages including Russian. Thumbs Up!

Type & Classification

Take-part; interlocking

Dimensions
4.0cm round.

Materials & Construction
Made of zinc alloy (I think), the puzzle is made up of two parts, one is covered in shiny chrome, while the other has a brassy finish. Quality of construction, finish and fit is very good. 

Overview
It's named the Cast Twist because to solve it, you literally have to twist the two parts (each resembling a bloated horse-shoe) around each other.



The Twist comes "pre-twisted" together, ie interlocked. The object of course is to separate the two parts. To do this, you slide the protrusion on one of the parts within the grooves which spiral around the other and vice-versa, simultaneously, sort of like meshing the two pieces together. Hard to explain but I think the pictures tell it better.

Upon inspection, their appear to be 3 possible ways to separate the two pieces, but in reality two are dead ends (as I discovered) which leaves only one solution. This one took me about 20 minutes of fiddling to find my way through.

Difficulty Level
Hanayama rates the Twist at 4-stars (out of 6). I am more inclined to give it a 4.5 instead. Fairly challenging. The re-assembly is as hard if not harder than the taking apart. But one of those puzzles that with some persistence you will solve it in the end.

Summary
The instruction sheet claims that the "asymmetrical design will mesmerize you and bewilder your memory"...well the Twist certainly mesmerized me of sorts with its curves, but not sure if I was bewildered tho'. Nonetheless a nice puzzle to add to your Cast collection.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Lock 250 / Schloss 250

Name
Lock 250 / Schloss 250

Designer
Jean-Claude Constantin, one of the most prolific puzzle designers around. Too see his work, click here.



Manufacturer
Jean Claude Constantin. Available from Mr Puzzle of Australia, Sloyd of Finland and PuzzleMaster of Canada. My copy (together with some other puzzles) came from Sloyd, great service and very reasonable shipping rates.

Type & Classification
Puzzle lock. But also a puzzle within the category of "n-ary" puzzles. For more on "n-ary" puzzles, you can read puzzle collector Goetz Schwandtner's article here. For a super humongous lock that requires over 340 million moves, you can read Allard's post about the Generation Lock

Dimensions
9.9cm (Width) x 14.7cm (Height) and 3.2cm (Depth). A relatively large puzzle.

Materials & Construction
Plywood layers laser cut and glued together, with external veneer. Steel screws and sliders. Construction fit and finish is very good overall. However, the sliders don't slide as smoothly as they should when the internal wooden plates have moved into certain positions. Some moves ok, some not. Slight jamming occasionally, but nothing serious.

Overview
Not the usual trick lock in the traditional sense but rather a "n-ary" puzzle shaped like a giant pad-lock.

Object is to open the shackle and to do this, all the 4 sliders must be moved left and right to end up all on the left side. It takes 250 moves to open and hence a further 250 to close. Does take a while to just open the lock. The bottom slider is the main one that facilitates the moving of the other 3 sliders above it.



If you get the moves correct, its more an exercise in repetitive moves which eventually leads to the release of the shackle. But wrong moves can set you back a bit and you have to repeat any number of steps from 2 to 20.

I made some wrong moves and took longer than really necessary to solve this one.

Difficulty Level
Not difficult once you get going and discover the pattern of how the sliders operate, although the repetition may cause some very tired fingers. But the anticipation of solving does build up gradually as you see the topmost slider moving slowly towards the left, which signals the end is (finally) near.

Summary
The Lock 250 is a nice and different take on both the trick/puzzle lock as well as the n-ary puzzle. Great concept except my own copy has been let down a bit by the execution; ie the less than efficient sliding mechanism which make for some rather tiring (and frustrating) puzzling.
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