Saturday, 31 May 2014

5 Minute Puzzle That May Take Longer

Name
5 Minute Puzzle That May Take Longer

Designer
Andy Turner



Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Website www.cubicdissection.com. 36 copies were made in 2010, each priced at US$49, currently sold out.


Type & Classification
Interlocking; 3D Packing.


Dimensions
7cm (Length) x 7cm (Width) x 6.5cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
The box is made from Oak and the pieces are made from Bubinga or Paduak. Mine came with Paduak. Construction, fit and finish is excellent. All the pieces with their pegs fit snugly but smoothly into each other and the box. Nice contrast of colours between the woods.


Overview
This puzzle which has a somewhat long and unusual name (what a mouthful) came to me courtesy of Goh Pit KhiamThe puzzle consists of 6 pieces; 4 of which are cube blocks and the remaining 2 are double cubes glued together. 

From the exterior it looks like any other ordinary 3D packing puzzle. Once you start removing the pieces, you will discover that its anything but that. Each of the 6 pieces have holes drilled into the sides with a peg sticking out from one of the holes.



Apart from figuring out how to slot the cube blocks back into the box (which is actually pretty easy if its just on their own), the challenge is also getting the pegs to fit into the correct holes of the other blocks, so that all the blocks will come together and fall nicely into the box. Something that probably takes more than 5 minutes and it certainly took me way much longer than that. In fact once you scramble all the pieces, it can become very confusing. 

Thank goodness the holes are only on 2 sides of each cube while the double cubes have pegs and holes on just one surface. But even then I still had a fair bit of trouble packing everything back; one or two blocks just won't fit (damn pegs!). Good thing I always photo-document each step so I can refer back if necessary.

Difficulty Level
For me it was very challenging. The puzzle came to me solved, so I had some advantage but even then...? Knowing that the solved state has no holes visible on the outside of the blocks does narrow the possibilities and provides some guidance but it is still not easy. 

Summary
A departure from the usual 3D "pack-the blocks-in-the-box" type puzzle. Would appeal to expert puzzlers. First of its kind for me and I was very lucky to get my copy from Goh who was willing to part with it.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

More Wire Puzzles!!

After I had solved the Panic Attack loaned to me by puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam, he passed me a another two more to try! I had decent success with the Panic Attack, so I decided to try my hand with these two new ones while I was on a roll.

I couldn't believe it when he handed me the C&U and Twin Tangle puzzles. To call them wire puzzles are a bit of an understatement...these two are humongous puzzles...real solid stuff fashioned out of thick steel rods! Solid and indestructible! They are probably the largest and heaviest wire puzzles I have come across so far; well, not that I have come across that many....



The C&U was designed by Jean-Claude Constantin. When stretched, it measures a whopping 17cm from top to bottom...huge!



The C&U looks impossible to separate, short of sawing the rods apart. But again, all illusory. It is not a difficult but rather tricky puzzle. There is a technique to it and once you figure it out, repeated solving becomes a cinch. Took me a several minutes to disentangle but a little longer to reconnect the two parts. No force whatsoever necessary 



The Twin Tangle (invented as early as the 1900s and had the name "Devil's Claw") on the other hand is one tough cookie. Like the C&U, this one is also very hefty and big around 7.0cm square per M.  It is much thicker and bigger than the version by Hanayama, the Cast Devil

Consisting of two parts bent into the shape of an M (or W if you like), the difficulty quotient for this one far exceeds the C&U. Instead of minutes, the Twin Tangle took me several hours over a few sessions to get it untangled. And even then, I solved it purely by chance, pulling, twisting and tugging, through trial and error rather than any systematic approach. But I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to assemble the two "M"s to the original state and eventually resorted to the solution. 



Both the C&U and Twin Tangle are great wire puzzles; the latter being a very much harder solve but featuring a rather elegant solution. The C&U and Cast Devil are available from PuzzleMaster. The bigger Twin Tangle is available from Mr Puzzle retailed under the name MM Wire Puzzle. And not forgetting to mention, the prices for these puzzles are also inexpensive, really great value for money!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Seven & A Panic Attack

The last couple of evenings I had the opportunity to play with two very different puzzles. Both while challenging, were not unduly difficult. Fun (not frustration) was the order of the day.

Seven

The last time I came across something entitled "Seven" was the thriller movie with Morgan Freeman and Brat Pitt. If you have not watched it, do so...you won't regret it.



Seven (the puzzle) is no less thrilling. It is a 2D packing puzzle by Minoru Abe, who is very well known for his cute and whimsical, colourful and some extremely difficult sliding block puzzlesMinoru Abe puzzles are retailed by Torito in Japan. Unfortunately they do not ship internationally. Your best bet is to buy from CU-Japan unless you happen to have a friend who lives in Japan who can get it for you. My copy came to me courtesy of puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong, who got me a copy while in Tokyo last year during IPP33

As far as I know, Minoru Abe designed only two packing puzzles, the "Seven" and the "9 Puzzle" (the latter which I will review another day). If anyone is aware to the contrary, please drop me a note, thanks.

The Seven consists of 7 pieces (all Hexominos; ie 2D or 3D shapes made from 6 square units) and the accompanying tray. Object is to fit the red piece outside of the tray into the tray with the rest. None of the pieces are identical. The pieces and tray appear to be made of pine with the pieces painted over to give them that colourful look. Very well made with both the tray and pieces really thick and chunky and nicely packaged in a blue cardboard box. One corner of the tray has been deliberately cut away to leave space in the packaging for the red piece that needs to go in.

It took me about 5 to 10 minutes of fiddling with the pieces to solve. Only one solution I think. A rather pretty and fun packing puzzle that is not too difficult.

Panic Attack
I am not a fan of wire or string type puzzles. In fact I have only a few in my collection, one of which, the "Tricky Dick" which I had blogged about quite while back and the others are several handmade jungle puzzles.



Panic Attack was loaned to me by puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam. I had mentioned to Goh that I found wire puzzles too difficult and frustrating and he told me to give Panic Attack a shot. And I am very glad I did. And I also did not for a moment panic while playing with it.

Panic Attack (as marketed by PuzzleMaster) was designed by Kirill Grebnev and was entered for the IPP26 Puzzle Design Competition under the name of "Love Secret", which subsequently was changed to "Clear Heart". Check out the interesting reasons for the change on Kirill's site.

The object is to get the yellow loop completely off the wire heart. At first glance Panic Attack seems like its impossible to solve; no way out for the loop. But this "impossibility" is more illusory than anything else! I am not sure if readers here would agree with me, but wire and string puzzles are probably the biggest group of puzzles which resemble "impossible objects" (things that appear to defy physical laws)....at first sight.

The first evening playing with Panic Attack, I couldn't figure it out and left it. However the next night, out of nowhere I extracted the loop within minutes of trying! With a bit of practice I even managed to repeat solving it in seconds!



It is not too difficult as a puzzle, but pretty tricky. A nice a-ha moment when you solve it. What I like about it is that the design is relatively simple looking. You know its probably hard, but It doesn't intimidate and put you off....unlike the wood and rope puzzles where the rope is so long, it entangles even before you start to seriously work on the solve. And certainly Panic Attack is also nowhere near the difficulty of a puzzle like Tricky Dick.. I am now even seriously considering other similar type wire puzzles to buy!

Both Kevin Sadler and Gabriel Fernandes have reviewed the Panic Attack on their blogs so you may wish to check out their comments.





Tuesday, 20 May 2014

More Metal From Wil Strijbos

The last time I received new puzzles (Nipple Bolt and Low Number Bolt) from Wil Strijbos was in January this year. Since then Wil has been rather quiet and most of us Wil fans were wondering what new toys (of his own design) he would be coming up with next. 

He was supposed to turn out an egg-shaped puzzle in time for Easter but that didn't materialise. What's on the cards in the months to come is this egg puzzle and a trick padlock of some sort.

Well, last week a package arrived containing the "4 Piece Metal Puzzle" and the "Heart In Heart". 


4 Piece Metal Puzzle
This one looks just like a jigsaw puzzle, connected together like a jigsaw puzzle but unfortunately, cannot be simply separated like a jigsaw puzzle.



It is really very well made, with a nice matt finish although I would have preferred something like a bright red over the sombre dark green. Made of aluminium, its fairly large at 7.6cm square with a thickness of 1.5cm. Tolerances are very good. Solid and heavy!

The object of course is to split the 4 pieces. Intuitively you will just want to push the pieces out like a jigsaw puzzle, but wait....it gets stuck against each other such that none of the 4 pieces can dislodge from the others.



This puzzle is the 4 piece version of a Hanayama cast puzzle that came out a while back. Go to the Hanayama website and take a look and see if you can figure out which one I am talking about.

Because I had solved the Hanayama version (which is in the more difficult range), I knew how to go about this one and very quickly got the 4 pieces apart. For the novice or beginner, the 4 Piece may pose a fair challenge (just like how it was for me the first time solving the Hanayama puzzle). A fine touch is needed to solve this one.

Heart In Heart
This is a very tiny puzzle at just 3.4cm square and 1.2cm thick. When I opened the (relatively) large box it came in together with the 4 Piece Metal Puzzle, It was so small and flat that initially I couldn't find it amongst the bubble wrap and sponge bits and thought Wil had forgotten to ship it.



The Heart puzzle is brass and aluminium and overall construction, fit and finish is very good, although still a tad below the 4 Piece Metal Puzzle.

The silver heart is recessed into the square brass piece. Object is to remove the heart and split it further apart. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun. Suffice to say, the heart is dainty and so you need to be gentle with your hands (and without force whatsoever) separate the pieces slowly.



But as you fiddle with this one, you will probably quite quickly figure out what needs to be done, so its not too difficult. Putting it back together is also not as taxing as some other similar puzzles of this genre.

Both are high quality nice puzzles, not too difficult nor overly expensive (together they costs Euros 60). And if you are a sucker for metal ones like me, definitely a must-have!


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Pent-cil Box

Name
Pent-cil Box

Designer
Jerry Loo. For my other puzzle designs, click here and here.



Manufacturer
Pelikan. They can be contacted at http://www.drevenehlavolamy.cz/

Type & Classification
3D Packing.

Dimensions
17cm (Length) x 5cm (Width) x 4cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
A combination of 2 hardwoods; Wenge for the box and Cherry for the pieces. Construction is excellent with great attention to detail. The pieces have bevelling to all their edges and their fit inside the box is just nice, although I would suspect that high humidity environments may cause the puzzle to tighten up.

Overview
After my Ball In Cylinder #1 and #2, I decided to try my hand at designing a puzzle to be made in wood. I couldn't really think of any more tricks using a cylinder shape design. Moreover, fabricating a puzzle in metal is also a far more difficult, tedious and expensive process.

All of my wood puzzle designs so far have been packing puzzles, done "by hand", since I do not have the skills nor knowledge of specialised computer software to create high level (or for that matter low level) burrs or interlocking puzzles. My only technical resource is Burr Tools which not only aids but also validates my designs. And not to mention the thrill of watching a puzzle design that works coming to life! For most part, I use an Excel spread sheet (amongst other things, for determining square units and shapes etc) and centimetre cubes to build and test working models.   


Most folks that see this think they belong to my 4 year old son
....they're actually for me to play with!
My first attempt was a rectangular box packing puzzle with a series of irregular odd shapes to fill it. It was fine as an ordinary packing puzzle but a bit "crude" from a design standpoint and totally lacking any finesse. Fellow Singaporean and puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam gave me some useful tips on puzzle designing; like having a theme (eg using Pentominoes) or ensuring symmetry in the design etc. With his help, I learnt new things along the way and improved. And eventually came up with my first wood puzzle design, the Pento Pack Rectangular. I have designed several other variations thereafter using the same "Pento" theme.

And then there is Ishino-san with his puzzlewillbeplayed site. Very inspiring! Even though my simple designs are terribly amateurish compared to those from the regular big name designers that pop up every week, it does feel nice to see one's design "published" on the site. Not only that but also for the very practical reason to stake copyright ownership.

This particular puzzle is called the "Pent-cil Box"; for several reasons:-

1. Its been designed to look like a traditional wooden pencil box.
2. The pieces comprise the full set of 12 flat Pent-ominoes; each piece being made up of 5 square units.
3. There is only one solution, requiring the packing of all 12 pieces PLUS a real (albeit short) pencil, flush into the box. 



Difficulty Level
Honestly I can't gauge its difficulty! I have not had the opportunity to test this puzzle on anyone else, other than myself and sometimes I forget the sequence too. But given it has 13 pieces (including the pencil), I don't think its a walk in the park and some puzzlers will likely have to resort to the solution (or Burr Tools). 

Hmm...now how does one specify a pencil in Burr Tools? Ha Ha :-)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

2 Burrs In A Corner

Name
2 Burrs In A Corner

Designer
Logan Kleinwaks. For Logan's other designs, click here. You will notice he has some of the more unusual and interesting names for his puzzles such as "A Difficult Birth In Africa" and "No Electricity Means No Power". Now, how's that for uniqueness and originality?



Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Website www.cubicdissection.com. 41 copies were made, each priced at US$77, currently sold out.


Type & Classification
Interlocking; 3D Packing.


Dimensions
6.6cm cube. Hefty!

Materials & Construction
The box is made from Jatoba or Walnut while the pieces are made from 12 different hardwords, some really exotic unpronounceable ones ; Goncalo Alves, Bubinga, Cherry, Zebrawood, Mansonia, Mahogany, Granadillo, Leopardwood, Canarywood, Sucapira, Paduak and Purpleheart. Construction and finish is as per usual, excellent.



Overview

Very beautiful wood colours adorn this puzzle; that was my first impression when I opened the wrapping. A packing puzzle, already in the solved state...doesn't look that tough...no need for rotations, so Burr Tools can help should I stumble along the way. So far so good. I practice a bit here and there and manage not to lose my way disassembling and assembling. Photo documentation a must for added insurance. I break loose all the pieces..and all hell breaks loose!

Main Goal: Create 2 separate burrs out of the 12 pieces....Arghhh! . 

Eric Fuller states on his website that there are 28,540 ways to construct a single burr...I am not sure how he arrived at this number but its a LOT. However, only ONE way (single solution) to build the two burrs. In other words you need to find the correct combination of 6 pieces (2 sets) to make the two burrs! My senses kick in and I realise that...oops...Burr Tools can't help since I cannot determine which 6 pieces go for which burr. [Edit - Burr Tools in fact can do the job here to find the unique solution to both burrs....thanks to Goh Pit Khiam for this info]

This is one of those puzzles where trial and error ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT work!

The pieces don't look that intimidating actually...each one only 6 units long, with the usual cuts. Don't believe me? Check out www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com and you will find some puzzles with humongous burr pieces, with so many grooves and notches it giddies the mind. But here is where the genius of Logan Kleinwaks shows...simple looking pieces to create two normal looking burrs...but supremely difficult!

Needless to say, I needed the solution, which Eric promptly emailed me. That's how you are now able to see the photograph above with the two solved burrs!



Difficulty Level
Insanely improbable (Eric's words). Can I also add "Impossible"? ie without the solution or Burr Tools....

Summary
What else can I say? Difficulty level aside...well...for US$77, you get value-for-money 3-puzzles-in-1 made from colourful woods....that's if you can figure out the latter two.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Force Was Not With Me

After reading puzzle blogger Kevin's Sadler's latest post on twisty puzzles, I was encouraged to try my hand at one. I have only several twisties in my collection, of which one is the ubiquitous Rubik's Cube and the rest of my minuscule collection have been mentioned in one of my blog post quite a while back. I have not ventured to the 'dark side"!



I headed for my puzzle cabinet and took out my (very) menacing looking Darth Maul. This puzzle came to me courtesy of puzzle blogger Roxanne Wong when I met her at IPP33 Puzzle Party last year in Japan. (Oops! sorry Rox, I just remembered that I still owe you money for some puzzles).

Darth Maul is produced and sold by Hasbro, under licence from Rubik. The puzzle is about 10cm tall and 7 cm wide; feels pretty large in the hands. It is very well made and high quality. Although plastic, it feels solid and sturdy. The twisting is snug but smooth and there is no "play" during rotation.



I am not a big fan of Twisties. But I do enjoy Star Wars movies. So I duly picked this one off Roxanne. I was hoping to get the rest of the characters of the cast, but to my surprise, Darth Maul is the only Star Wars character that is a Rubik's cube style puzzle of its kind in this sort of packaging today. Around 2002, there was also a range of similar Star Wars figures produced as promotional premiums for Kelloggs (Thanks to Rob Stegman for this info). For anyone interested, this Darth Maul can be bought off Ebay at very reasonable prices.

Darth Maul comes in a nice packaging with a Solution Hints booklet. Given that this is a high level twisty (for me, I think anything more than 1x1x2 is high), I was sure I would need the booklet. New words like "Diagonal Swapping" "Shunter" and "Shifter" entered my puzzle vocabulary...how come there is no "Parity"...whatever it means?



I wrongly assumed that a 2x2x2 couldn't be that difficult. I casually scrambled Darth Maul for a minute or so to make sure it was all properly mixed up...and promptly regretted it! I started to have problems right from the start - Darth Maul's two eyes couldn't come together and his jaw was at the back of his head. Suddenly a level 17.5.2 burr didn't seem so difficult after all.

After quite a bit of struggling, I finally got Darth Maul's face to what it is suppose to be, but the back of his head was still looking funny. Not properly solved yet! 

This twisty is much harder than your standard 2x2x2 because each of the "blocks" of Darth Maul's head is an odd shape, not a normal cube. So if the orientation is wrong, it is very obvious, eg part of the back of his head sticking out sideways. Whereas in a standard 2x2x2 you can have the orientation wrong for one or more of the cubes, but still get the same colour.

Hardcore twisty puzzlers would probably not find this challenging but for casual, novice or non-twisty folks like me, this one can be real handful. As the packaging states, Darth Maul is truly a galactic challenge.

Happy Puzzling and May The Force Be With You!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Lunatic Revealed Pocket Edition

Name
The Lunatic Revealed Pocket Edition

Designer
Marcus Allred, Arizona, USA

Manufacturer
Marcus Allred. To get one of these or other mazes in different shapes, sizes and choice of woods, check out Marcus' project site (currently his 6th project) on www.kickstarter.com and FaceBook page for more details and photos. 

Type & Classification
Dexterity. Sequential movement. Internal maze for the hidden version




Dimensions
8.2cm square x 3.3cm (Thick). 

Materials & Construction
My version is the Black Ash Burl. External casing is acrylic. The maze block has a beautiful natural yellow pattern. Construction, fit and finish is excellent. The acrylic casing is made up of two snug fitting sliding halves and can be taken apart, although this is really unnecessary for normal play. I like the way the pieces of acrylic have been joined...there are no glue stains visible between the pieces, it's clear through.

Overview
I found out about this puzzle from my friend and fellow puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler quite a while back, who had a lot of positive things to say about the Lunatic Maze. 

I am not really a die-hard fan of hidden mazes of this nature (although ironically I have designed two puzzles, the Ball In Cylinder #1 and Ball In Cylinder #2 which some have considered "hidden" maze puzzles; however I would submit that this is not entirely accurate, at least not for the BIC#2). Hence I did not purchase any Lunatic puzzle when they first appeared on the market in 2012.

I saw the work that Marcus did with his puzzles and admired them from a distance, particularly the exotic woods he used, especially burls which are rarely (and hardly) used by most puzzle craftsmen.

It was only until recently in March this year when Marcus showcased a new variant from his 3rd Kickstarter project; The Lunatic Revealed Pocket Edition that I decided to order one. Not only was it in the shape I like, I can also see the ball bearings at last! 

My Lunatic Revealed arrived just early this week. Unlike other Kickstarter Projects (which I have participated) where there is usually a long wait for delivery or delays, my puzzle came on time!

The Lunatic Revealed Pocket is a miniature (new) version of the standard size 3" x 3" x 3" cube. It consists of two ball bearings running on the channels of the maze block.  For the hidden versions, you have to navigate a ball bearing (which you cannot see) out an exit hole. Obviously the puzzling is different for the Revealed edition. Here Marcus has devised several challenges as stated on his site:-


1. Traditional - Both bearings needing to make it from one end to the next.
2. Each ball must make it to opposite ends to completed the game.
3.Each ball must make it to opposite ends to complete the game and without either ball touching while en route.
4. Each ball must make it to opposite ends without returning to the point of origin, or in other words each ball can not reach the others destination.
And any other way that your creative mind can conjure!
There is also a YouTube video if you wish to see how the Lunatic Revealed works. I tried out a couple of the challenges...and believe me, even though you can exactly see the ball bearings and what's going on, it is still not easy. The puzzling requires a combination of both dexterity and planning since it involves navigating not one but two ball bearings to their respective destinations (one ball would be too simple). The balls move along the channels really fast so a gentle touch is also required. 


Difficulty Level
Varying difficulty, depending on the challenge. The nice thing about the Lunatic Revealed is that apart from the suggested challenges, you can just move the balls about within the maze anyway you like, while orientating the puzzle at all angles. 

Summary
I like the size of this one; you can bring it about anywhere easily. And the solving doesn't take you ages or frustrate. Great for casual puzzling or passing the time. Go for the Hidden version if you really want a tough challenge.

But one thing's for sure, the puzzles display beautifully. I think the Revealed Edition more so, because you get to see the maze design on beautiful exotic wood.
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