Tuesday 11 March 2014

From Russia With Love

A couple of readers had emailed me to ask if I could feature interesting puzzles from other genres instead of the usual wooden interlocking ones (which were the content for my last 6 posts). Ok, point noted.....guess there are many puzzlers out there that are not die-hard fans of wooden burrs and the like...

Starting from this post and at frequent intervals, I shall endeavour to do just that. The 3 puzzles featured below came to me courtesy of Russian puzzle designer Vladimir Krasnoukhov whom I had the pleasure of meeting at IPP33 in Japan last year. In fact during the judging process, I was struggling  with his design entry; the Tri-Symmetrics interlocking puzzle and he (sitting next to me and me not knowing him) had kindly showed me the correct moves. Little did I know then that he was in fact the puzzle's designer!

Vladimir, together with his compatriot Irina Novichkova run a puzzle website: http://www.planetagolovolomok.ru/. The site is in Russian but Google Translate will do the job to convert it to reasonably readable English.

Childish Cubes
I am not sure what is the Russian name for this packing puzzle but translated, it does have a rather strange name "Childish Cubes"

This is a traditional 9 piece 3D packing puzzle and the object is the pack all the pieces flush with the box. The 9 pieces comprise 4 different shapes mainly rectangles with 3 congruent pairs. 

The pieces together with the box are made of a variety of different woods which lend some contrasting colours to the puzzle. One of the woods I think is Purple Heart. Overall the puzzle is very well made and pieces are nicely cut. 

The box even has some nice detailing like stepped and bevelled edges at the top. Not a large puzzle by any means measuring just 7.5cm x 6cm x 4cm but large enough to handle comfortably.

Suffice to say, there is nothing "childish" with this puzzle. With its block shapes, it may not look that tough from the outside but this puzzle still packs (no pun intended) quite a punch. Fun to solve but won't frustrate you to wits end.  At 224 Roubles, its a little more than US$6/-, representing excellent value for money (NB: the website version looks different from my own copy).

Black Square
The Black Square (on the website is "Black Square 2") is an acrylic 2D packing puzzle and the object is to fit the black piece from the top right corner into the square frame together with the other 4 yellow pieces. Size is about 12.3cm x 9.3cm.

While only 4 rectangular trapezoid pieces inside the frame and the blank spaces seem to be in abundance, this one proved to be deceptively difficult. 

I struggled with it for a good part of the afternoon but still got nowhere. I emailed fellow puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong (who had solved the Black Square within minutes), for assistance. 

Within a jiffy she replied with a hint (what would we do without smartphones?). With her hint I took a little while more and eventually figured it out. Very difficult! Rated 7/7 by Vladimir.

This last one is a sliding puzzle comprising 8 pieces filling a 11.3cm x 9.3cm tray. 

There are 5 different challenges to this puzzle, each progressing in difficulty.  The easiest is 23 moves to shift the rocket pieces one step right. The hardest (116 moves) is where the rocket ends up on the extreme right side of the tray. In between there are 63, 76 and 107 move challenges. 

Challenge #1: 23 moves to shift the rocket to the right one step

I am lousy with sliding puzzles but got through challenge #1 fairly easily. I stopped here without trying the next step up. Great for sliding puzzle lovers but unfortunately this one doesn't appear to be listed on Vladimir's website.

Well that's all folks for this post....more to come the next time!

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