Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Perplexing Palace Puzzle

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The Perplexing Palace Puzzle ("PPP") was James Dalgety's competition entry for the IPP32 Puzzle Design Competition held during August in Washington, USA this year. Designed by James Dalgety, Martin & Brian Scoefield, it is what I would consider a semi-dexterity puzzle.

Measuring about 17cm x 9.8cm x 0.75cm, the puzzle is made out of acrylic. Construction fit and finish is very good. Physically, the puzzle is a flat tray containing within it 10 acrylic discs; 4 red, 3 purple, 2 black and the last one, which is smaller than the rest, a black disc representing the Queen. Covering the tray is a white cover with holes cut into it, large enough to see the discs inside (and put your finger in) but not enough to allow the discs to be removed or fall out should the puzzle be turned upside down

The object of the puzzle:-
"The Queen, surrounded by her nine attendants, starts in the centre of the palace. Take her out of the palace then return her and her attendants to their starting positions"

The discs inside the tray are packed loosely and you can slide the discs around by shaking the puzzle or you can use your fingers through the holes in the cover. The goal of course is to try to manoeuvre the Queen from her centre hole position to either the top left or bottom right holes where she can then be extracted.

Somewhat like the classic "15" puzzle, one starts by shifting the discs around to make way for the queen. This is exactly how I started but repeatedly, I found myself getting stuck at one side or the other, near the exit holes. Clearly it is not so simple; the coloured discs get in the way of the Queen and she is also hindered by other obstacles. Initially it appears there is there no way to get the Queen out. When you start playing with the PPP, you will know what I mean.

It took me a good part of the evening but eventually I managed to get the Queen to exit from the top left hole. To complete the puzzle, the Queen and her attendants (the rest of the discs) must be returned "to their starting positions". Here I also fumbled a bit before everything was finally back in place. Throughout, a fair amount of dexterity and nimble figures are required. The solution is pretty tricky but quite clever. Here's a tip; play with the PPP under bright white light or during the day if possible....warm or cozy lighting will wreck havoc with the colours of the discs.

Overall, an interesting and challenging puzzle that I think, falls outside the usual genres. True to its name, the PPP is rather "perplexing" indeed, at least for me. Nice and unusual design and worth acquiring. Contact James Dalgety directly via his site if you want to purchase one.


  1. On my copy I have gotten the Queen out either the upper left or lower right holes, which I don't think was intended. Is this possible for your version? The attendant always does the same thing.

    Good tip on the lighting!

  2. After I got my queen out from the top left hole, I didn't really put much effort to try to get it out from the bottom right. My couple of attempts on the bottom right yielded no success. So I can't say for sure.