This sliding puzzle comes from Dutch collector and puzzle designer Ton Delsing. Ton's area of interest in particular are sliding puzzles and he also designs his own sliding puzzles for sale and exchange. Ton's Horrible Hexagon was one of the design entries of IPP 31 in Berlin this year. I had first come upon the Cat & Dog featured in Geduldspiele's website where it was described as "one of Delsing's best puzzles...". My only previous encounter with sliding puzzles was some years ago with the 15 puzzle and more recently, making my own Lego version posted earlier in this blog. With my limited experience, I decided to have a go at the Cat & Dog. I happened to have a puzzle that Ton wanted and eventually exchanged mine with one of his.
The Cat & Dog measures 116mm x 92mm x 18mm and is formed by a number of wood layers glued together. The frame and sliding tiles are cut by LaserExact!. Overall construction, fit and finish is very good. The object of the puzzle is to rearrange the tiles in the unsolved state (as in the photo above) to one of two finishes printed on the back of the puzzle (as in the photo below).
Unlike the traditional 15 type sliding puzzle where all the pieces can slide in various directions, the difficulty level of the Cat & Dog is significantly increased by the restricted movement of the upper middle blank tile in the centre; which can only move either up or down one position. This severely curtails the movement of all the other tiles, especially since horizontal movement along the centre is no longer possible. If both the upper and lower blank tiles are not moved, the rest of the tiles can only move within the frame in a circular fashion and there would be no way to rearrange the order or position of the lettered tiles. Thankfully, the lower blank tile is movable along with the rest of the lettered tiles and this frees up "more space" for repositioning of the lettered tiles.
I started off with much gusto! But after nearly half a day of continuous trying, I still ended up with at least two tiles in the wrong position. This puzzle can literally make you go round in circles! I emailed Ton for some assistance but unfortunately even with his hints, I could not achieve Finish No.1. I spent another day or so sliding but still got nowhere. A second email from me saw Ton send me a detailed solution. The solution looks rather complicated and would require I think, some time for me to properly digest. My only consolation is that Ton did say the solutions to his sliding designs are not easy...yes, I fully agree! I have decided to put away the Cat & Dog for the moment and come back to it another day. Probably its my lack of experience, but this is one heck of a tough cookie!