Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Tetradyma

Name
Tetradyma

Designer
Yavuz Demirhan. For more information on his other puzzle designs, click here.


Manufacturer
Pelikan from the Czech Republic

Type & Classification
Interlocking burr

Dimensions
6.4 cm (Height) x 6.4 cm (Width) x 6.4 cm (Depth).

Materials & Construction
The entire puzzle is made of Wenge wood, giving it a very dark appearance. Construction is very good with light bevelling of the edges for a nicer feel. Fit was a bit on the tight side perhaps due to the humidity, remaining even so after several days in a camera dry box . But things loosened up considerably after some playing and now the pieces slide smoothly but snugly. It's sturdy and would not come apart on its own.


Overview
This a one of a great number of puzzles from super-prolific Turkish designer, Yavuz Demirhan who I understand has done over 150 puzzle designs! I have bought a host of his other puzzles and will get round to them in due course.

The Tetradyma came to me assembled . Comprising of four identical pieces that interlock to form a cube, the object is to firstly figure out how to disassemble the pieces and thereafter put everything back together.  At first, I was wondering if my puzzle was jammed; because no matter how much I pressed and pushed the sides and edges of the puzzle, nothing seemed to budge.

I actually resorted to knocking the puzzle on a piece of rug on the floor to try to loosen things. After a couple of hard knocks, one of the edges began to move ever so slightly and I was well on my way. It didn't take me too long to disassemble the puzzle but assembly was more tricky. Although only four pieces, the pieces are shaped irregularly and being all of the same colour, trying to fit them back together proved to be far more challenging than taking apart. After a while of fiddling, I managed to manoeuvre (if this is the right term to use) the last piece back into its place before sliding the puzzle back into its solved cube state.

Difficulty Level
Easy-ish to moderate difficulty; but that's because it came assembled. I would imagine it to be far more challenging if it came disassembled and you have to first figure out the solved shape. In this instance, I didn't have to resort to Burr Tools :-)

Summary
This in my view is a great puzzle for puzzlers who (like moi) cannot handle those "twenty-something-moves-to-remove-the-first-piece" type interlocking burrs. Relatively easy to take apart  but with a bit more effort required to put together. Nice!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Hedgehog In The Cage

Name
Hedgehog In The Cage - GEN
Hedgehog In The Cage - BEARING

Designer
The inventor of this puzzle is Clarence A. Worrall and dates back to 1896. Subsequent to him, a number of variations of this puzzle have come about including a cast version from Hanayama called the Cast Cage. Eureka came out with its own version called "Man The Torpedo"  while I also acquired one from Wil Strijbos called "Aluminium Hedgehog In Cage" which I am not sure where he sourced from.

Various materials are used in the making of these puzzles apart from aluminium and these include wood and plastic. All versions are based on the same principle; solving the puzzle requires the removal of a trapped object ie "hedghog" through the gaps/holes of its "cage". The two newest versions reviewed here are from Radek Micopulos.

Hedgehog GEN on the left and BEARING on the right

Manufacturer
Radek Micopulos. From his online store. The GEN cost 549 Czech Crowns (US$28) while the BEARING is 599 (US$30.50). The web store is in Czech language but Google Translate should do the job.

Reasonably priced puzzles but the only let down is that you cannot use PayPal to pay! I had to resort to doing a telegraphic bank transfer of funds to Radek to purchase the puzzles and this added about an extra US$30 to the total cost.

For more information and the history of the hedgehog, prototypes and other examples, check out the following:-
http://www.rademic.cz/
http://www.jezcivkleci.cz/

Type & Classification
Take-Apart/Disentanglement

Dimensions
GEN - 7.4cm (H) x 4.8cm (Diameter)
BEARING - 7.5cm x 4.8cm (Diameter)

Materials & Construction
Both puzzles are made from aluminium throughout; the cage and hedgehog. Machine cut (most likely computerised CNC) with both polished and matt surfaces, the quality, fit and finish is excellent. Very well made with a really solid heavy feeling in the hand, particulary the BEARING.


Overview
The GEN and BEARING attracted my attention for two reasons. Firstly as mentioned, they are very high quality metal puzzles (yes, I am a sucker for metal puzzles). Secondly, both are unusual variations of the "standard" design. The GEN has diagonal gaps/slots instead of the usual vertical slots which gives it a rather different and (I think more interesting) look.

Also what is interesting about the GEN is that the method of solving is totally different from the normal hedgehogs. While not difficult to solve (I managed it in under two minutes), it does provide a different twist to the puzzle

The BEARING is solved in the traditional way (more challenging than the GEN) but what makes it stand out from the rest is the affixing of ball bearings (hence the name BEARING) to the top and bottom of the puzzle. Functionally the ball bearings serve no purpose (Clue: has nothing to do with the solution) but their addition lends the puzzle a very cool industrial and machine-like appearance.

Difficult Level
GEN is relatively easy while BEARING is more challenging (especially if you have never solved a hedgehog before)

From Left- Aluminium Hedgehog In Cage, Hedgehog BEARING,
Hedgehog GEN, Man The Torpedo & the super-sized XL Hedgehog In Cage

Summary
If you like metal puzzles like me, especially high quality and well-made ones, then both the GEN and BEARING are must-buys for collectors. For the casual puzzler, it is not overly challenging to put people off. For the prices I paid, it also represents excellent value for money; as the quality is far beyond some of the other typical cheaper-feel mass produced metal puzzles.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

2-In-1 (2013 Edition)

Name
2-In-1

Designer
Oskar Van Deventer. Check out Oskar's puzzle wiki; quite amazing the number of puzzles he has designed including eleven commercially available Hanayama Cast puzzles.


Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. From www.cubicdissection.com for US$75. Currently sold out.

Type & Classification
Interlock burr

Dimensions
8.6 cm (Height) x 8.6 cm (Width) x 8.6 cm (Depth).

Materials & Construction
A stunning twelve different exotic hardwoods; Purpleheart, Yellowheart, Ash, Grandillo, Chakte Cok (I am not sure if this is the correct spelling?), Canarywood, Paduak, Wenge, Maple, Mahogany, Sapele, Bubinga. One of the most colourful wooden puzzles I have come across. Construction, fit and finish is excellent.

As they say the devil is in the details and each of the twelve pieces all have slightly bevelled edges on their external facings to up the quality quotient as well as making them smooth to touch. Which was a good thing also because in the course of trying to solve the puzzle, I dropped a piece here and there on my work desk occasionally and if it had been a sharp edge or corner, the piece would have been dented or dinged.


Overview
According to Eric, the first 2-In-1s were made some 7 years ago and this is part of a new batch made this year. Comprising of 12 pieces (of which some are identical), the object of course is to fit all the pieces together to form the result shown in the photo above. I had a look at the first version but that one doesn't seem as good looking as the current one. And this later version is also less expensive!

The puzzle came unassembled, so you can imagine how difficult this was going to be. I thought I could get started by matching the colours of the pieces to those in the photo on Eric's website or in any case at least get the general orientation of the pieces right. Alas, it was not to be so easy. While some of the pieces like the maple, purpleheart and yellowheart were pretty obvious to match, the rest was not so easy. It also occurred to me that Eric may have have cut identical pieces using different hardwoods so that no two puzzles were alike.

Added to the challenge was the fact that I had to grapple with 12 loose pieces and it got really difficult trying to trial and error fit more than 5 or 6 pieces at a time. Each time I thought I made some progress, I got stuck and had to take apart everything again. As mentioned in the puzzle's description, the way the pieces are cut leave open spaces concealed within the puzzle that can result in many false solutions. Well, how many false solutions to me was quite academic since after a good nearly a full day of trying, I decided to throw in the towel and resort to my favourite puzzle friend...yep...Burr Tools. But using the software is no walk in the park either for this 2-In-1 as other puzzlers may wish to testify. (Eric, can you please photograph your puzzles from different angles, thanks!).

Difficulty Level
Extremely difficult! Made more so by the fact that the 2-In-1 is shipped unassembled.

Summary
A real bitch to solve (well I wouldn't really know since I did it with the help of a computer programme). But once done, a beautiful puzzle to look at with the myriad of contrasting colours. Large enough to display really well, this one!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Vectes / Ghidorah

Name
Vectes / Ghidorah

Designer
Ghidorah - Yavuz Demirhan
Vectes - Alfons Eyckmans

Ghidorah
Vectes

Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Puzzle(s) were from www.cubicdissection.com for US$89. Currently sold out.

Type & Classification
Both are interlocking burrs

Dimensions
Vectes - 8.8 cm (Height) x 8.8 cm (Width) x 8.8 cm (Depth).
Ghidorah - 6.6 cm (Height) x 6.6 cm (Width) x 6.6 cm (Depth).

Materials & Construction
Walnut, Canarywood and Yellowheart. Quality of construction, fit and finish is of the usual Eric Fuller excellent standards. Very tight tolerances and pieces moved smoothly, but when left out in the open, was not really affected by the humidity and this is due to Eric making them a "looser fit" to begin with.

Overview
This puzzle is rather unusual because its really "two" puzzles combined into one. Both the designers of the Vectes and Ghidorah puzzles had co-incidentally designed a "cage" which was identical for their pieces to fit into. So I suppose you can say I got two puzzles for the price of one; well... more like one and a half puzzles since there was only one cage supplied.

Eric says the Ghidorah is the "warm up" puzzle, meaning its suppose to be easier and the one you should begin with of the two. The Ghidorah has a "simpler" 22.3.4 solution, in that it requires (only) 22 moves to remove the first piece, while the more difficult Vectes has a 37.2.3 solution; 37 moves for the first piece to be extracted from the cage. I am not sure how even the Ghidorah can be considered easier (not easy), not for me at least.

Vectes / Ghidorah with a common cage

The puzzle came disassembled and so it was not a matter of getting the first piece out but rather figuring how to insert the pieces into the cage correctly and solve the puzzle. Using the photo on Eric's website, I tried to see what I could do. But as in interlocking puzzles of this nature, they are usually way beyond me almost always all the time. Without any luck on Ghidorah after quite a while, I didn't even try to attempt the harder Vectes.

But luckily I have learnt to use Burrtools and this as usual came in very handy indeed. However, because the puzzle came unsolved, I had some initial difficulty trying to get the drawings rendered right with the programme. I could only rely on photos of the puzzles in their solved state, not the actual puzzles themselves. So even using the software here was a bit of a challenge.

Difficulty Level
Just two words - Extremely difficult! Made more so by the fact that they are shipped unassembled.

Summary
For me, they are more a collector's puzzles than something that I will play. As one well known puzzle designer has commented, there are puzzle collectors and there are puzzlers solvers, and the two are sometimes mutually exclusive. I definitely fall into the former category.

If anyone wants the Burrtools files for these two puzzles, please feel free to PM me via my profile email.
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