Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Washington Monument


Name
Washington Monument

Designer
Brian Young


Manufacturer
Brian Young. Puzzle directly available from him via his website Mr Puzzle Australia priced at A$75.90

Type & Classification
Sequential Discovery.

Dimensions
11.8cm (Height) x 6.7cm (Width) x 6.6cm (Depth).

Materials & Construction
Queensland Silver Ash for the Monument , Australian Jarrah for the base, steel, plastic and paper (for the flags). Overall quality and construction of the puzzle is very good, the base especially is very heavy, solid and sturdy. Tight tolerances abound and all moving parts fit well and nicely together.

IPP
The Washington Monument was Brian's Exchange Puzzle during IPP32 in Washington DC, USA in August 2012. It also won third prize for the themed puzzle award. The puzzle "is a representation of the Washington Monument right down to the lightning rod in the top..."

Overview
The object of the puzzle comprises two main steps, the first which is to disengage the Monument from the base. This first step requires the locking of gravity pins in the puzzle. The second step is to re-engage the Monument back into place by unlocking of the gravity pins . Both steps require the use of "tools" that are found within the puzzle to solve it (trademark of a sequential discovery puzzle). The accompanying instructions state that if the Monument is disengaged from its base by chance without the gravity pins locking, then the solution was not intended and this does not count.

Just my luck! Yes, I manage to get the Monument off the base (by chance) without the gravity pins locked in place. With the Monument out unintended, I was able to take a peek at the insides. This is one of the more unusual sequential discovery puzzles I have come across, in the sense that the internal mechanism is totally unique and unlike anything I have seen before in a puzzle.

For a while I pondered how the internals work, examining the various parts. Slowly I began to form an idea of how the puzzle was meant to be solved. I reassembled the puzzle and tried again, with a different approach. This time around, I got the Monument out of the base the correct way.

But the second step of reassembling the Monument proved to be much harder than the first, just as the instructions had indicated it would be. Here is where the tools provided come in pretty handy but some lateral thinking out of the base (box) is required. Quite a long while of fiddling and eventually everything was back in place.

Difficulty Level
Very difficult. Both disassembly and reassembly pose serious challenges. I took well over one and half hours to solve the puzzle fully and correctly. This puzzle is definitely not for the casual puzzler and even more experienced puzzlers may have some difficulty.

Summary
This puzzle is one of the harder sequential discovery puzzles I have come across. This is not one of those puzzles you can repeatedly solve easily tho', at least not for me. The rather unusual internal mechanism I feel doesn't really facilitate straight forward execution of the solution. But then again, perhaps I am just not doing things as correctly as I should.

Notwithstanding, as far as sequential discovery puzzles go, the Washington Monument distinguishes itself for the unique, intriguing and novel mechanism/trick it employs. Still a must-have for the serious collector.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gold Coast Parking Meter


Name
Gold Coast Parking Meter

Designer
Brian Young

Manufacturer
Brian Young. Puzzle directly available from him via his website Mr Puzzle Australia. Priced at A$85 but it's really only A$84.90 because the puzzle contains a 10 cent coin...but you will have to break the puzzle to get it out.


Type & Classification
Sequential Discovery. Probably the first time this term is used to classify a puzzle. Since then there have been a host of other puzzles bearing this classification including Fuji 1707, Houdini's Torture Cell, A Plugged Well, Danlock, First Box and Lotus.

Dimensions
16.3cm (Height) x 8.1cm (Width) x 4cm (Depth). Quite a large puzzle as far as size is concerned and fits well in the hand.

Materials & Construction
Yellow Leichhardt for the meter body, Mackay Cedar for the stand and acrylic/plastic for the meter readings. Overall quality of construction, fit and finish is very good. The stand is much stronger than it looks and unless you use total brute force, it is unlikely you will break it or anything else.

IPP
The Gold Coast Parking Meter was Brian's Exchange Puzzle during IPP27 at Gold Coast, Australia in 2007. As IPP27 was held at Gold Coast, Australia this was a themed puzzle. According to Brian, "this puzzle is a representation in wood of one of the Duncan parking meters used on the Gold Coast from the 1960's onwards" 

References
http://www.puzzle-place.com/wiki/Gold_Coast_Parking_Meter

Overview
The object here is to get the 10c INTO the parking meter, not OUT! This is a sequential discovery puzzle; meaning that you execute a series of steps in a particular order with the aid of "tools" found within the puzzle in order to solve the puzzle. No external tools are needed (or permitted).

Based on my own count, there are about 5 steps required before the coin drops into the puzzle. Thereafter, another about 4 steps to reinstate the puzzle back to the unsolved, original state.
In the solved state, the coin has dropped
into the  meter and not visible
Unlike the more recent puzzles of this genre, the genius of this one lies in its simplicity of design and execution. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the mechanism/trick to the puzzle and how the "tools" are used.

Difficulty Level
For the novice, this puzzle will prove very challenging but for the more experienced puzzler, it is not overly difficult. I took about 15 minutes or so to solve this one, although I was stuck for a few moments in my progress after step 2.

Summary
While the Gold Coast Parking Meter may be the Godfather and pre-date a number of the "modern" and mechanically more sophisticated sequential discovery puzzles in terms of design and materials used, nonetheless, from a puzzling aspect, it still manages to provide sufficient fun and challenge with a-ha moments. Well worth acquiring if you like this particular genre of puzzles as much as I do.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Rattle

Name
The Rattle.

Designer
Stewart Coffin

Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Website www.cubicdissection.com. 35 copies were made, each priced at US$64, but all have been sold out.

Type & Classification
3D packing puzzle (with a twist)


Dimensions
6.7cm (Length) x 6.7cm (Width) x 3.9cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
The box is made from Canarywood, Marblewood, Quilted Maple, Bamboo and Acrylic. Eight loose pieces of different shapes made of different exotic hard woods; Ipe, Bocote, Ash, Purpleheart, Ebony, Yellowheart, Paduak, Rosewood. Construction fit and finish is excellent. The Rattle is built to very tight tolerances as one will discover once playing starts. 

IPP
Henry Strout's IPP29 (2009) Exchange Puzzle in San Francisco

References
See http://www.puzzle-place.com/wiki/The_Rattle


Sorry, no photo of solved box as the arrangement of the
pieces seen through the acrylic will give away too many clues
Overview
The object is the pack all seven irregular shaped individual pieces into the box through a rectangular slot at the corner of one of the sides...with no protrusions (see photo below). Unlike the more traditional style packing boxes, this one comes with two transparent surfaces (made of clear acrylic) adorning the top and bottom. This gives a very clear view of the (colourful) pieces inside the box. The eighth piece, an L-shaped Yellowheart cannot be removed and remains inside the box.

The 1 x 2 vertical slot for inserting the wooden pieces.
The little round "circle" at the top corner is the Bamboo
reinforcement to strengthen the structure of the box
To solve the Rattle, two major hurdles have to be overcome; firstly, getting the loose pieces into the box taking into account the Yellowheart piece that is trapped inside. Secondly, because the tolerances are so incredibly tight, this severely limits the manoeuvrability of the various pieces inside the box. You may not be able to turn or rotate the pieces easily, especially once the box has been filled with some pieces already. Thus, careful planning on how to insert the pieces in which particular order and deciding the ones that need rotation is crucial.

Difficulty Level
Very challenging and difficult but not frustratingly so. It took me two evenings to figure this one out. One way is to think outside the box...literally...ie play with the pieces outside the box to get a sense of how the pieces may be orientated and arranged (but don't forget to make space for the Yellowheart). This would minimise the headaches of later trying to extract a piece  from the box that was wrongly inserted or rotated, which can be quite arduous given the the tight tolerances of construction.

Summary
Overall, a very nice well made 3D packing puzzle. From a puzzling stand point, a rather unique and different way to pack pieces into the box which adds greatly to the challenge. A lot of aesthetic appeal given the contrastingly colourful hard woods can all be clearly seen through the top and bottom lids. In the solved state, the Rattle displays very well.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Photo Gallery Of Puzzles On Facebook



I have just created a Facebook page which contains various photos of the puzzles reviewed in my blog as well as those yet to be puzzled with and reviewed. Please click on the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/MechanicalPuzzles

I am still adding to the albums, especially the Revomazes which are still wrapped in their boxes.

This Facebook page will be a work in progress as I continue to add photos whenever I acquire new puzzles from time to time.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

1 € Labyrinth Puzzle

Name
1 € Labyrinth Puzzle

Designer
Robrecht Louage.

Manufacturer
Robrecht Louage. Puzzle directly available from him via his email found on IPP32 site. Priced at 20€ but it's really only 19€ because you get 1€ back from the puzzle...if you manage to get it out that is.

Type & Classification
Maze; Route Finding.


Dimensions
18.6cm (Length) x 7cm (Width) x 1.5cm (Thick)

Materials & Construction
Trespa (a very strong and durable composite laminate made of resin reinforced by cellulose fibres generally used for interior table tops), transparent acrylic, steel ball bearing and screws. Like all of Robrecht's previous puzzles, quality, fit and finish here is very good. Looking through the clear acrylic panel, the maze inside appears to be very nicely and finely cut by laser. The choice of materials used is in my opinion very suitable for this type of puzzle; in terms of quality and durability versus affordability.

IPP
The 1€ Labyrinth Puzzle was a competition entry in the IPP32 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in Washington, USA, 9-12 August 2012. Robrecht's 4 Step Visible Lock won the Jury Grand Prize at IPP31 in Berlin the previous year.

Overview
This puzzle came to me courtesy of Robrecht and is his 4th puzzle in my collection. The other three are the 4 Steps Visible Lock, Remove The Yoke and La Cerradura Doble all which I have reviewed previously in this blog.


In some ways similar to the 4 Steps Visible Lock, the object is to extract the 1€ coin from puzzle. To achieve this, you have to move the acrylic panel left and right by navigating a ball bearing through a maze inside. I found the 1€ Labyrinth much harder and trickier to solve. It took me nearly an hour whereas the 4 Steps Visible Lock was solved under fifteen minutes. The added difficulty was the fact that the maze is only partially visible and sometimes you will lose sight of the ball bearing.

Difficulty Level
Challenging and tricky but not unduly difficult. Those who have solved the 4 Steps Visible Lock would probably find it easier as there is a similar step involved.

Summary
Overall, a puzzle that is fun to solve and one which can be solved repeatedly (and quickly) once you know the trick/mechanism involved. For a rather well made puzzle, it is also very reasonable priced and value for money. The puzzle will make a nice addition to any collection. But the 4 Steps Visible Lock still remains my top favourite of the four puzzles mentioned.
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