Saturday, 28 January 2012

Man The Torpedo

Man The Torpedo is very similar to the Cast Cage and Aluminium Hedgehog In Cage puzzles, both of which have been reviewed earlier in this blog. The goal is to remove an object from within an enclosure or cage.
In this instance, the object is the "torpedo" a stubby solid aluminium cylinder with 8 brass rods/spikes of varying lengths sticking out.The enclosure or cage consist of two solid aluminium rings connected in-between by 6 brass rods. The Torpedo puzzle is 7.8cm tall and 5cm across in diameter. It is just the right size, not too large or small for average size hands and comfortable to hold. The spacing between the brass rods is also wide enough so that you can comfortably handle and manipulate the torpedo with your figures. Even larger fingers should have no problem, since you can grip the spikes quite easily.

My copy of the puzzle came from PuzzleMaster of Canada and its overall quality, fit and finish here is good. Unlike similar plastic ones, this metal version has a good weight to it and feels sturdy and solid.

From a puzzling aspect, it is not a difficult puzzle. A fair bit of patience, dexterity and finger work is required to manoeuvre the torpedo out of the cage. While externally it may look rather simple considering the cage bars seem to be widely spaced apart, it is actually quite tricky to get the torpedo through them. The obstacle being the different length spikes that are protruding from the torpedo, which tends to get the torpedo stuck in all sorts of positions inside the cage preventing any exit.

I spent a good half an hour or so before finally managing to release the torpedo out. There was a lot of turning, pulling and twisting and at one point, I must have applied a little too much force and even caused the torpedo to get temporarily jammed between the bars. Putting the torpedo back inside was easier and I managed this within several minutes. However, taking it out again required more time, but it didn't take me as long as the first time.

PuzzleMaster rates it at 8/10 for difficulty but I would put it at 6.5/ is fairly challenging but not unduly difficult. Personally I also think the Torpedo puzzle is quite unusual looking and does look pretty good sitting atop my desk.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Brass Treasure Chest

The Brass Treasure Chest is a cute little puzzle which I obtained from PuzzleMaster of Canada. Designed by Rocky Chiaro and made entirely of brass, the chest measures 5.4cm long, 2.6cm wide and 3.3cm tall. It is a little box which sits on four short legs and has a diagonal criss-cross pattern on the top of the 6mm lid. While the fit and finish is not perfect, the overall quality and construction of my copy is generally good (and taking into account the puzzle aspect) I would consider it value for money. Despite its smallish size, the chest feels heavy and solid in the hand.

The swirly mark on the front side of the chest  bears Rocky Chiaro's signature
The object of the puzzle is to open the Treasure Chest (ie the lid). Upon unwrapping the chest, I can hear within the chest "parts" that appear to be loose and moving about inside. I cannot be sure if they are ball bearings or not but definitely there appears to be at least two moving pieces. Initially I tried the few ways that I am aware of to try to open the chest, such as those employed in the Aluminium Dovetail, Moscow, Cast News and Fire Plug puzzles, all reviewed earlier in this blog.

Those who have solved any of these puzzles would know what I am talking about. I banged, tapped, spun and turned the puzzle in all manner of directions but to no avail. At one point I did manage to swing the lid open several millimetres in either direction but it remained firmly "locked" in place and would not budge beyond that.

Something interesting awaits those who succeed in opening the Treasure Chest

I puzzled over the chest for several days and just as I was about to give up on what I was doing, suddenly the lid swung open to reveal a empty cavity. While I did have an "A-ha" moment, this was temporary because when I looked at how the lid was locked in place, I knew I had got it opened purely by chance. I didn't really know what I had done correctly up to this point. Closing the lid was even much harder, the lid simply refused to close. Somewhere deep inside the chest and hidden from view, Rocky had designed a mechanism which requires one to solve the puzzle through a pre-determined sequence of steps with dexterity, very similar to the Centrale and Remove The Yoke puzzles.

This is very difficult as one cannot see whatever is going on with the mechanism inside the chest. This was confirmed when I downloaded the solution from PuzzleMaster. I counted a sequence of 10 steps to open the lid and 8 steps to close it....something which would have been impossible for me to carry out without the solution. PuzzleMaster rates the Treasure Chest 10/10 on the scale of difficulty. I fully agree. If the scale was 15, I would say the puzzle is around 13/15.

Once you have seen the solution and memorised the steps, repeated solving becomes very easy. If you like a real challenge that you cannot see, well here's the puzzle for you! The chest is also very sturdy and strong and there is enough space inside to put something small, like a 1-carat diamond ring. Well, if you have nothing to place inside, the chest performs quite well as a shiny paperweight.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Houdini's Torture Cell

Houdini's Torture Cell ranks as one of the top puzzles amongst the mechanical-puzzle blogging group (see Oli's, Allard's, Kevin's and Neil's reviews where all have given the thumbs up!). My guess is that it is also probably the favourite of many puzzlers out there. Designed and made by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle Australia, the Houdini was Brian's exchange puzzle at IPP31 in Berlin last year. It is currently available from Mr Puzzle Australia (and I think William Strijbos has a few left as well).

The Houdini measures 10cm x 4.8cm x 4.8cm and is made of a combination of wood (not sure what type tho'), acrylic and metal. The Houdini consists of a vertical acrylic square hollow tube placed on a wooden pedestal. Inside the acrylic tube is a small ball bearing that rolls around. On the top is a round wooden peg inverted into the acrylic tube. This peg represents Houdini (who himself was actually tied and suspended upside down during his first public performance in the Torture Cell at the Circus Busch in Berlin in 1912). Quality, construction, fit and finish of my copy is overall very good (although there was a little roughness on the edges of the top and bottom wood blocks inside the acrylic tube).

The object of the puzzle is to free Houdini from his upside down position (ie to get the peg to become right side up). Everything that is needed to get the wooden peg (Houdini) right side on top of the tube is found within the puzzle itself. Within the puzzle are also a number of magnets as one would gradually discover. There is no need for external tools and certainly no force whatsoever in the form of banging, tapping, shaking the puzzle etc is necessary (and Brian states this in the accompanying puzzle leaflet). For this puzzle, you can see everything you are doing... just the kind of puzzle I like very much! From my own experience here, there are 7 steps needed to free Houdini and make the peg upright. The Houdini is a sequential puzzle in that you must go through all the necessary steps one at a time (and in the correct sequence) to finally solve the puzzle.

For me, the Houdini is a relatively easy puzzle and I was able to solve it in under 10 minutes (TIP - nothing is hidden from view.... if you examine the puzzle carefully and spend some time thinking first, you will probably be able to figure out how the puzzle is solved). Notwithstanding, I enjoyed this puzzle very much because I can see and am aware of the progress (or regress) of each step that is needed to take me to the final solution; that is getting the inverted peg from inside the acrylic tube to the top in the upright position. I got more and more excited as I got closer to the end. As a puzzle, the Houdini is rather elegant in its simplicity...yet the design approach and solution are both very unique. All that makes for a very unusual and interesting yet sufficiently challenging puzzle for most people. The Houdini in my opinion is really a breath of fresh air and differentiates itself from the normal and traditional genres of puzzles we are generally accustomed to.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Popplock T5

After solving the T3 recently, I decided to try my hand on my next puzzle lock, the humongous T5. Although the T5 is the fifth lock in the Popplock series, from what I gather, its the second easiest to solve after the T3.

The T5 is a monster! Measuring a massive 10cm tall, 7cm wide and 4.4 cm thick, it weighs a whopping 900g.  That's about a third more than a Revomaze Extreme, which is considered already very heavy for a puzzle. Your hands get tired quickly while playing with this puzzle lock. The T5 is reminiscent of the old style "bullring" locks. The T5 body is milled out of a solid block of brass while the shackle is made of stainless steel. Quality of the T5 is first class with excellent precision, fit and finish. This puzzle feels super solid and probably can withstand anything short of a nuclear explosion. But such quality comes at a price and the T5 like all the other Popplocks, is very expensive. Notwithstanding, this solid T5 will outlast me and be puzzled over by my descendants from the next couple of generations. About 100 of these locks were produced in 2010 but currently none are commercially available except perhaps through private sales.

There are 4 steps to unlocking the T5 and I easily discovered the first 3. However the last step eluded me for quite a few days. Each time I would get stuck after step No3 and spend a long while pushing, twisting and pulling at the various parts of the T5 in my vain attempts to free the shackle...but with no success. Both Oli and Brian had commented in their blogs that the final step is the most challenging and the key (no pun intended) to unlocking the T5. After being stuck for some time, I suddenly realised that the last step was actually right before my was my own perception of how a lock should be opened that had prevented me from solving the T5 much quicker! Indeed the final step is very clever and for me, totally unexpected. Looking back now with hindsight, the T5 is actually a rather fairly simple puzzle lock to solve.

Overall, the T5 is well conceived and an excellent puzzle in all respects (other than the price). As far as I can tell, it is not commercially available from any of the usual online puzzle retailers. So if one does surface from a private sale, just spend the money and don't miss the chance to acquire one!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Great Collision

The Great Collision was designed by Doug Engel, who runs his own website selling a wide variety of interesting  puzzles. My copy came from PuzzleMaster of Canada. I can only guess why the puzzle is called the Great Collision; because atoms collide in nature and it resembles an atomic nucleus.

This puzzle comprises of 3 curve-shaped pieces all made of aluminium, of which two are identical. Together they interlock to form a "space" which traps a red plastic ball. The overall dimensions of the puzzle are 10cm x 11cm x 7.5cm and the red ball is about 2.5cm in diameter. Overall the quality and finish of the puzzle is pretty decent. It would have received a better rating had the aluminium pieces been anodised instead of merely powder coated black to make it more durable. As the pieces rub against each other in the course of puzzling, bits of black paint start to come off leaving tiny scuff marks on the surfaces.

The object is pretty remove the red ball from the centre. The two identical pieces are interlocked together horizontally, like jigsaw pieces, while the third piece holds the two identical ones in place through the vertical axis. This third piece can "rotate" along the plane of the other two interlocked pieces. To solve, one would have to manipulate this third piece as well as disengage the two interlocked pieces, all at the same time to free the red ball. Everything that needs to be done is visible and I found it pretty easy to take-apart the puzzle.

Re-assembling everything into a whole again was much harder. Here, much more dexterity is also required, especially so when trying to fit the red ball back in place. PuzzleMaster rates it as a 7 in the level of difficulty. I don't really think so...I would rate it somewhere between 5 and 6, with the added fact that it is more difficult to put the puzzle back together. Generally a suitable puzzle for those new to puzzling.

Something interesting to note....on the outside of the plastic packaging, there is also the printed phrase which states..."The More You Play, The Smarter You Get"...Hmm..I am not sure how I can get smarter with repeated playing of this puzzle though!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Cube In Cube / Sputnik

The Cube-In-Cube (aka Sputnik) was designed by Marcel Gillen, best known for his Chess Piece puzzles, some which have been reviewed in earlier postings. My copy of the Cube puzzle came from Finnish online retailer Oy Sloyd Ab. Produced by Bits & Pieces, the larger hollowed-out outer cube is made of aluminium and measures about 5 cm all round. The inner cube is solid brass and about 3 cm. Quality of the puzzle is above average and the overall finishing could have been better. Nonetheless, the combination of the two makes the puzzle very heavy in the palm.

This is a take-apart type puzzle similar to the Cast Cage and Aluminium Hedgehog, where the object is to remove the centre piece, in this case the inner brass cube. There is only one solution to the puzzle; the brass cube can only be extracted from one of the 6 open circular holes on one of the sides of the outer cube. Each of the circular holes have 4 tiny v-grooves cut into the sides. In order for the brass cube to be freed, the corners of the brass cube must fit nicely into the v-grooves for a smooth exit out of the hole. The difficulty is enhanced by the fact that the brass cube itself is not a perfect cube with equal dimensions (although this is not obvious), as the differences in lengths of the edges are approximately -/+ 0.5mm. Similarly the v-grooves for each of the 6 holes are also not all identical in their respective positions. As a result, there is only one correct side of the brass cube where all 4 corners will be able to pass through the v-grooves of the correct hole. 

Notice the 4 v-grooves cut into each side of the 6 circular holes
The solution is purely trial and error here and a good memory certainly helps when you try the various combinations and not repeat the ones that don't work. It is not a difficult puzzle; just that it requires a bit of patience (and dexterity) to try to match the correct side of the brass cube with the correct hole of the outer cube. Puzzlers with big fingers may also find it a bit cumbersome to try to manipulate the brass cube within the confines of the outer cube. Notwithstanding, there is some replay value here.....unless you have marked the puzzle to remember which side of the brass cube can be removed from which hole, you will invariably find yourself doing the trial and error thing in order to repeat solving the puzzle.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Remove The Yolk

I received this puzzle with the kind courtesy of Robrecht Louage. Robrecht, as you may remember was the winner of last year's IPP31's Puzzle Design Competition Jury Grand Prize for his 4-Steps Visible Lock; and also the designer and maker of the La Cerradura Doble, both of which have been reviewed earlier in this blog.

The Remove The Yolk was also an entrant 2 years ago for the IPP30 in Osaka, Japan. Unfortunately, being very limited in numbers, it is not commercially available from any puzzle retailer, as far as I am aware.

The Yolk is a relatively large puzzle measuring 12cm x 8cm x 1.5cm. Made of Corian (the material used in domestic kitchen counter tops) and metal (ie; internal ball bearings you can hear rolling about), the Yolk is very well constructed and exudes quality. The only visible moving part of the puzzle, the "sliding key" slides smoothly and nothing gets stuck during play. Corian is not light so the puzzle feels weighty in the palm.

The object of the puzzle is to remove a 1 Euro coin which is lodged inside the sliding key. The key is locked in the body of the puzzle. The key can slide left and right and protrude from both ends of the puzzle but within certain limits. While I had no sight of the internals of the Yolk, I can only assume that the locking mechanism is similar to that of the 4-Steps visible lock, employing the use of a maze and ball bearings. Hence the Yolk requires a certain dexterity to solve.

There are two holes on the top of the puzzle, a small one where you can see part of the Euro coin and a larger one for the coin to come out once the key is unlocked and the puzzle is solved. If you have ever puzzled over Jean Claude Constantine's Centrale puzzle, you will find the Yolk very similar to the Centrale.

However, that being said, while the locking mechanisms of both puzzles adopt the same principle in the way they work, they are well likely to be entirely different in design and construction. I guess unless both puzzles are cracked open (ie rendering them damaged and useless forever), we will never know for sure.

Like the Centrale, I spent a substantial amount of time on-off puzzling over the Yolk but could not solve it. I even placed the 4-Steps and Yolk side by side and tried to trace the movements of the 4-Steps to the Yolk, hoping that since they were both from the same designer, similar in dimensions and consist of sliding keys with ball bearings etc, there was a slim off-chance that the Yolk might have a similar mechanism to the 4-Steps, as the Yolk came out a year earlier before the 4-Steps...wishful thinking!!

Nothing worked and in the end I gave in and referred to the IPP30 online solution for the Yolk. I followed the movements from a series of photos but still the key refused to budge and the coin remained trapped. Finally I emailed Robrecht for help and he directed me to a YouTube video where (Robrecht's son) shows the way to remove the coin. Following the steps, I eventually managed to solve the Yolk. There are a total of 6 steps required to remove the coin.

Once you remember the steps, solving becomes easy and repeatable (which is always the case isn't it?... with the benefit of hindsight). Compare this to the 4-Steps Visible Lock + NOTHING VISIBLE....well you can guess how difficult it is! This is one of those puzzles which I would never have been able to solve without the full solution; even clues would not have helped, since you can't see what you are doing and you can't feel your way around either (unlike a Revomaze).

In conclusion, I wish to thank Robrecht for the Yolk and I am very happy to have one in my collection.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Popplock T3

Happy New Year everyone! My first post for the new year will feature the Popplock T3 which actually has been around for some time already, since 2009. I obtained the T3 from lock collector Peter Friedhelm von Knorre. The T3 is part of a series of six puzzle locks (T1 to T6) designed and manufactured by Rainer Popp of Germany. Having so far acquired the entire series from T2 to T6 (except the ultra/super rare T1, of which I am informed by Rainer that there are only 30 in existence), I was wondering which lock would be best to start my Popplock adventure with. Prudence and good sense suggested that I should start with the easiest and work my way towards the hardest. Having read the reviews of Allard, Oli, Brian, Jeff and Jonas and after checking with Oli, it seemed that the T3 was the easiest of the lot that I should begin with.

While not physically the largest lock in the series, The T3 is in fact the second smallest after the T6. Construction, fit and finish of the T3 is really excellent. Dimensionally the T3 is 10.3cm tall, 5.4cm wide and about 2.2cm thick and it is really hefty in the hand. A real quality product, which accounts for the rather high cost. The lock body is milled from a solid block of brass and the shackle is steel. In the middle of the T3 is a circular disc which is actually a knurled dial (not shown in the photo, but visible from the other side of the body) that runs through the centre of the lock. The face of the dial is engraved with the Popplock logo. This dial can turn both clockwise and anti-clockwise as well as be depressed into the brass body. The shackle runs through the body and protrudes out the bottom end by over 2cm. Unlike the other Popplocks, the T3 does not come with a key and there is also no key hole.

The objective of the T3 is of course to unlock the shackle. There are 4 steps to opening and unlocking the T3; well...depending on how you choose to count each step. These consist of, amongst other things, manipulating and twisting the dial. I took about 2.5 hours of on-off puzzling to solve the T3. Once you discover the solution, it is really simple to repeat solving the T3. You can literally do it in under 10 seconds! The mechanism involved appears to be deceptively simple, but because the lock is so well crafted, the final key (no pun intended) to solving the T3 is really very tricky and clever and unexpected. This step is certainly not easily discoverable, to say the least. I was really quite surprised at the way the T3 is solved.

Overall, I felt quite satisfied that I had solved this puzzle with minimal frustration and without resorting to the accompanied solution....a nice way to start off the puzzling year! And now, for the next lock up the difficulty scale.... the T5!
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