Monday, 27 June 2011

The Perplexing Puzzle

While my own Perplexity Puzzle is pretty worn looking, it happens to be one of my favourite puzzles (apart from the YOTs). I was lucky enough to find one of these pretty rare puzzles on Ebay. It was only when I received the puzzle from the seller did I realise just how tiny (and cute) the puzzle is. The Perplexity Puzzle was designed by a Richard M. Shaffer who patented the design in 1900. I have to credit this information on the Perplexity Puzzle to Jim A. Storer who runs his own site showcasing his huge personal collection of puzzles. On Jim's site, if you are interested, you would also be able to see his comments and the patent on the design that was filed by Richard M. Shaffer.

The puzzle measures about 3 7/16 inches by 1 9/16 inches. It is made of what I think is stainless steel. On the puzzle plate, there are the words "The Perplexing Puzzle" followed by the word "spells P-E-R-P-L-E-X-I-T-Y". As you can guess, the object of the puzzle is to slide and re-arrange the button with letters running along the cut-out slits to form the word "PERPLEXITY". My own puzzle is stamped "International Series-Made In England". I would assume therefore there is an American series for the American market.

My puzzle arrived in a rusted condition (something my Ebay seller had warned beforehand). I "cleaned" it to its present condition by soaking the puzzle in a small tray of white cooking vinegar leaving it to soak overnight. And presto, the next morning, most of the rust stains had come off. Obviously this is a very old copy and I was unable to do anything about some areas where it was pitted beyond help.

The puzzle itself is not at all difficult to solve (especially if you read Jim's comments or look at the patent design drawings beforehand). It took me around 10 minutes to re-arrange the letters to where they are supposed to be. However for anyone who is trying the puzzle without the benefit of Jim's information, it may take a little longer. The designer had cleverly designed one of the buttons to actually help make it easier to solve the puzzle.

Updated 10th September 2011
I acquired the AUTOMOBILE version of the Perplexity puzzle recently from Ebay. The object is to spell out the letters "Automobile". The construction of this version appears to be different from the original perplexity puzzle (see earlier post below) given the puzzle base plate here is made of a thinner metal. The letters tho engraved on the black buttons appear to be slightly larger hence making it easier on the eyes :-)

Sunday, 26 June 2011


At first sight, Jailbreak looks like a precision component part of some complicated industrial machinery. Although measuring slightly less than 2 3/4 inches in height and 1 1/8 inch across, the puzzle is pretty heavy and has a hefty feel to it. I have wanted one of these and managed to acquire one from Sloyd as they appear to be the only online retailer that had a few units available.

Two circular brass blocks are connected by 5 steel solid tubes (looking like a cage) and within the cage sits a brass ball bearing on a support attached to the lower block.

As the name implies, the object of the puzzle is to get the brass ball bearing inside the "jail" out. The puzzle itself comes with instructions on how to do this. But even without them, it would not take very long to figure out the mechanics of the construction (and mechanism) to figure a way out for the brass ball bearing.

This is not a very difficult puzzle but would still pose a bit of a challenge in the beginning. Jailbreak is pretty solidly constructed and the quality and finish is good. Overall, a nice item to collect.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Ball Puzzle By Charles O. Perry

The Ball Puzzle was designed by the late Charles O. Perry. I bought this puzzle a while back from Ebay. It was a used item which accounts for the less than brassy shinny surface. My Ball Puzzle is pretty well patina-ed in fact, giving it a real vintage sort of look which I like. A new one would of course be all shinny and bright when you first buy it but over time, depending on the climate you live in, would eventually tarnish. A little polish with Brasso would be all you need to get it back to its shining state. The puzzle is available at Puzzlemaster and there is also a larger plexi glass version available at a slightly lower price.

The puzzle is not large, measuring just about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. For its smallish size, is is heavy and feels hefty in the palm, due to its all brass construction. Six interlocking pieces make up the puzzle when solved. 

The puzzle is not really difficult to solve once you start prodding around to see how to take it apart. So as not to give the solution away, let's just say that once the first correct move has been made, the rest of the pieces unlock pretty easily. I would say that it is rather the assembly of the puzzle that is much harder (at least in my opinion). Even after having solved the puzzle no less  than 7 or 8 times, I still find it pretty fiddly (particularly if you have large fingers) to get the individual pieces in place and lock the puzzle together to the solved state. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011


For those who have not heard of or seen the YOTs, I think they are the only puzzles in the world which come with real money for you to keep. Both puzzles each contain one US silver dollar within.

Physically The YOT and YOT II look almost identical. Both are round shaped "discs", made of aircraft grade aluminium. Construction and finish of the puzzle are excellent and there is no doubt this is a high quality puzzle with good looks to match. Each have at the top a little roundish "knob". They both share the same diameter of 70mm (2 3/4 inches). The only difference between the two puzzles is that the YOT II is slightly "thicker" than the original YOT around the body of the puzzle, the former 16mm while the latter is 13mm. Overall height (including the knob) for the YOT is 25mm while the YOT II is 28mm.

The puzzle fills the palm and is pretty hefty in weight giving an overall good feel. The object of both puzzles of course is to get the silver dollar out without resorting to any tools, power or otherwise. The solution to both puzzles are similar yet different, in the sense that if you can solve the YOT, it would not be too much of a challenge to solve the YOT II. But solving the YOT does require some lateral thinking, particularly for those of us not too familiar with the laws of physics. The way to extract the silver dollar out of the YOT/YOT II is in my opnion pretty clever (at least to an amateur puzzler like me). However, once you figure it out the solution the first time, the next time it is very easy to solve the puzzle. Removing the silver dollar requires only very minimal moves.
The YOT and its thicker counsin YOT II 
For such a well constructed puzzle, it is a pity both YOTs do not give the same "replay" value, unlike say a wooden burr that requires multiple moves to dis-assemble and assemble. However, the YOTs do have an aesthetically sculptural quality about them. They are certainly great conversation starters and display very well on any coffee table or desk in the office. If nothing else, they also serve as excellent designer looking paperweights.

This is the beginning....

I am relatively new to puzzles and totally new to blogging.

I acquired my first mechanical puzzle well over 15 years ago. This was the YOT. I was not so much as interested in puzzling; rather I was more fascinated by the shape and aesthetics of the YOT, not to mention the solid construction and engineering behind the puzzle. Not long after that, I bought the YOT II. Both these items became coffee table conversation pieces for a while before I packed them away when I shifted homes.

In the last 16 years or so, I have only taken a look at the YOTs perhaps only 2-3 times, each time, playing with them for a while before returning them to their black sponged lined boxes. Both puzzles and their black boxes still look spanking new.

My interest for puzzles resurrected earlier this year when I chanced upon the Revomaze featured on the ThinkGeek website. I thought they looked pretty cool and given the numerous comments and reviews posted online, there was little doubt as to their quality and construction. They are also extremely difficult puzzles to solve (hence the name Revomaze Extreme Series). I have since ordered the entire series from Blue to Gold as well as the limited edition Orange. The Blue arrived two weeks ago. I fiddled with it for a while, managed to extract part of the shaft out to see the item's serial no and have since registered it with Revomaze UK for the Blue's "opening clues".

My own personal preference is for those solid heavy well-engineered metal type puzzles in aluminium, steel or brass. However, the many that I have come across on the internet and puzzle blog sites that are unique and appealing to me are unfortunately no longer in production or commercially available. Several of the puzzles in the Hanayama range look pretty interesting to me and I will be checking those out in the weeks to come. In my search, I did come across a number of other non-metal but interesting and unique puzzles, which include wooden and plastic and vintage ones.

I have acquired a number of puzzles, around 21 to-date and I have not got around to playing with all just yet. I have solved several of the puzzles and these will be the focus of my initial posts. As I get around to figuring out the rest, I will post on this blog my thoughts of each, one at a time.

For starters, I will go back to the puzzles I first acquired over 15 years ago....the YOT and YOT II.
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