Friday 11 April 2014

Arrow Blocks

Arrow Blocks

Goh Pit Khiam. Singaporean Goh has designed well over sixty puzzles to-date. For some of Goh's other puzzle designs, click here

Starting Position

Tom Lensch. Currently unavailable.

Type & Classification

This one I think fits into several categories, but Sequential Movement is probably the best description. The Arrow Blocks resembles Bill Cutler's Slide-Blocked Sliding Block Puzzle but has a totally different concept. 

17.7cm (Length) x 14.0cm (Width) x 2.5cm (Height). This is a large puzzle!

Materials & Construction
The frame/box is made of Indian Rosewood, while the blocks are Maple.The arrows atop the blocks are Yellowheart and Brazilian Blackwood. 

Construction, fit and finish is top notch. Built to close tolerances but all the blocks slide smoothly. A really solid and very heavy duty feel puzzle. Another good thing about the construction is that Tom made the frame/box with a removable magnetic lid, so you can reset the puzzle easily (or if you are stuck)

Arrow Blocks was Goh's entry for the IPP32 Puzzle Design Competition held in Washington DC, USA in 2012.

I first saw the Arrow Blocks when I caught up with fellow puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong when she was in Singapore for a conference about a year ago. She was very kind to lend me her copy and even told me to keep it until we next met. 

I fiddled with it a bit but never really got down to playing with it. Life went on and I forgot about the puzzle. Before I knew it, I was packing up the Arrow Blocks to return it to her at IPP33 in Japan four months later.

After IPP33, I contacted Tom Lensch to see if he had any available. Initially he didn't have any but some weeks later he got back to me to say he had a spare copy which did not need to go to someone else...lucky me!

When you first look at the Arrow Blocks, it looks like another sliding block puzzle (albeit a very high-end one). You wonder how difficult can this be, after all its only 6 movable pieces, much less than the classic 15 Sliding Puzzle

For example, when you see a complicated looking burr, it usually is! Not many are intimidatingly looking yet manageable, perhaps for a handful such as the Orsi and HALT.

Well, in this case, the Arrow Blocks would probably qualify as one of the more deceptively simple (and easy) looking puzzles around, yet the level of difficulty is beyond what it appears!

The starting point of the Arrow Blocks is with the black arrow head on the left side with the yellow arrows and the object is to place the block with the yellow arrow head into the box frame to have two arrows,each with the same colour.

Solved Position
Unfortunately the Arrow Blocks is one of those puzzles that if I describe even the broad steps as to what needs to be done, it would give too big a hint/clue away. One thing's for sure, there is a minimum of over 50 moves to get the Arrow Blocks from the start to the solved state. A good bit of work involved. And I must add, some thinking out of the box (no pun intended) is required here!

I had a lot of difficulty with this one and only managed to solve the puzzle halfway...if there is such a thing.

It was a good thing that Tom included the solution write-up/analysis from Goh, which itself requires consumption of a fair amount of brain power to understand. I would not have been able to solve it without the solution. I must admit, my mental model of a sliding block puzzle kept getting in the way!

Difficulty Level
Very difficult! And when we exchanged SMS about his puzzle, Goh said; "it's a bit tough I agree"... "a bit" of an understatement here I think....


A very tough puzzle with a unique and great concept from a prolific designer. And excellent quality from a well-respected craftsman. Definitely a must-have for the serious collector. 

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