Monday, 27 October 2014


I had the pleasure of meeting renowned sliding block puzzle designer Serhiy Grabarchuk at IPP34 in London this past August where we exchanged puzzles. This is how I got his Sorter. 

Start Position
This is my second sliding block puzzle from Serhiy. The first was One Fish Another Fish reviewed earlier.

Very nicely constructed of colourful laser cut acrylic, the Sorter is a "sealed" puzzle; meaning the sliding pieces are encased in the tray and you can't remove the pieces....not unless you unscrew the top cover...which is not intended.

Finished Position
The object is this - to move the coloured pieces (which has various shapes cut into them) from their starting positions, to correspond with the cut-outs on the top cover. Only linear moves are allowed, no rotations permitted.

It took me a good several minutes to get the pieces into their intended positions and after the first time, I re-solved it and counted about 38 moves from start to finish. I am not sure if this is the optimal number of moves (probably not), so if anyone who has done it in lesser moves, please feel free to drop me a note.  

Overall a nice sliding block puzzle with an appropriate level of difficulty, just right for an exchange puzzle.

Edit 28 Oct 14: A well-known puzzle collector and sliding block puzzle designer has messaged me to say that the Sorter needs only 22 moves to solve!....well there you go!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Simultaneous Maze

This is another interesting design from William HuCalled the Simultaneous Maze, the object is to extract a maze plate from the box frame, while manipulating the three vertically sliding square pieces.

Made by Eric Fuller from Maple, Jatoba and acrylic, construction fit and finish is excellent and all moving pieces slide smoothly. Aesthetically, it really is a very pleasing looking puzzle with a nice colour combo and contrast. The choice of acrylic for the maze plate is a good one, since I doubt wood would have been able to take the stresses of play over time, given the way the channels in the maze are cut. However, I did detect some flexing even though the plate is 5mm thick. I think a 7-8mm thickness would have been a better choice. Let's put it this can't be too rough with this one.

The puzzle provides a fair amount of challenge and while not unduly difficult in terms of what needs to be done, it is however, rather tricky. I found myself stuck a bit at the early stages until I discovered something which I had overlooked at the beginning. This is one of those puzzles that to move two steps forward, you may need to take one step backwards, in a manner of speaking. Once solved, the resetting is in the reverse, but still, unless you have memorized all the moves, it will still take some effort (and trial and error, which happened to me) to insert the maze plate back into position.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Three-Layer Double Dovetail

The name is quite a mouthful but this doesn't detract from the fact that the TLDD is extremely beautifully made. About the size of a small jewellery/ring box, and looks like one too.

This was Robert Sandfield's IPP34 Exchange Puzzle in London this past August. Designed by Perry McDaniel, the TLDD was crafted by Kathleen Malcolmson from two exotic hardwoods, Honduran Mahogany and Primavera. 

If there are a couple of things that I really like about the TLDD, these are the very precise construction and finishing of the puzzle and the attention to detail. So precisely cut and edges sharp that if you are not careful, you can "pinch" your fingers accidentally during play. I really can't fathom the amount of work Kathleen went into making a hundred or so of these for the Exchange!

Unlike Sandfield's Rebanded Dovetail, the TLDD is more akin to the "impossible object" kind of dovetail puzzle, where you wonder, just by looking at it, if the two halves can be split apart at all.

The goal is not just to separate the two halves, but also to find a cavity within the puzzle which contains a cute little rubber star. From a puzzling perspective, not difficult for those who have experience with "impossible" dovetails, especially with the likes of Wil Strijbos' dovetail collection. But to the uninitiated, this one may take a while to figure out.

A very nicely made Exchange Puzzle, not too difficult, which displays well too!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Join The Club

Join The Club was Scott Elliot's Exchange Puzzle at IPP34 this year. Scott designs and makes his own puzzles using his 3D printer, For more about how he produced The Club and other puzzles, you can read more about it here

The Club is "printed" out of ABS resin and quality and fit is very good and precise. Scott coloured the puzzle black with red trim, something likely possible only with 3D printing, nice! (thanks to George Bell for highlighting this). It's solid, can flex a bit and won't break unless real brute force is used. But there is a bit of a stickiness to the puzzle (probably due to the type of material used) and being a glossy finish, finger prints will start to appear after a while of play. 

Like Scott's IPP33 Exchange Puzzle, the Peppermint, the object is to "weave", if this is the right word to use, the two pieces together to form the shape of the club. Not that simple as I found myself trying all manner of orientations on the two pieces to get them to "intertwine". 

However, IMO,it is still not as difficult as the Peppermint (which I still have not put back together). After several minutes, I found the "trick" and the two pieces slid nicely into place. Pretty elegant and no force whatsoever needed. 

The Club reminds me of a well known Hanayama Cast puzzle designed by a well known European designer which works quite on the same principle. Can you guess which one?

This is the sort of puzzle you can easily pocket around and astound your non-puzzling (or puzzling) friends. Contact Scott via his blog if you wish to purchase one.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Doors & Drawers

I first saw this puzzle on Kevin Sadler's blog. He had bought a copy from Bernhard Schweitzer's table during the IPP34 Puzzle Party in London this August. For some strange reason, I don't recall seeing it at the Puzzle Party...hmm...maybe I was still too jet-lagged from my 13 hour plane ride from Singapore.

Doors & Drawers (D&D) is a design from Mike Toulouzas, who has won several puzzle design awards at IPP31IPP32 and IPP34. The bulk of the workmanship of the puzzle came from Pelikan Workshop (Mike made the cute door knobs) and the puzzle is sold by Bernhard via his PuzzleWood website. I won't go into the details of this 3-party arrangement but you can read it here.

The D&D is a large puzzle and very comfortable in the hands. It resembles a miniature chest and it even comes with four little supporting feet at the bottom to complete the overall look. Quality, fit and construction is top-notch like all Pelikan-made puzzles. A combination of woods are used here...Walnut for the frame, oak for the drawers, katalox for the knobs and Bubinga for the feet.

This is not your typical burr puzzle but probably one can call it a burr puzzle box? And because of this, the D&D is really one of the more fun and interesting puzzles to solve. It not only has 3 "burr" pieces which are interlocked inside the box frame but also 3 other loose pieces (one L-shaped and two rectangular) within. The object of course is to "open" the doors and drawers and remove all 6 pieces.

Solving would require removal of the loose block pieces first, which is not too difficult and thankfully the puzzle is large so that you can quite easily see what goes on inside the box. And then figuring out how to extract the burr pieces, which is much more challenging.

I took a good hour or so to take apart and put everything back together, most time being spent on trying to remove the 3 larger burr pieces locked inside via notches and protrusions which form part of the box frame. But after the first piece is out, the other two are easy. The knobs don't merely add to the aesthetics but also serve as handles for easier pulling and pushing the pieces.

I really like the D&D because it's got other elements of play (the a-ha moments after you remove the loose blocks) apart from the burr solving. And the latter is just right IMHO in terms of difficulty. Not so overly challenging as to frustrate! 

This is my first puzzle from Mike Toulouzas and judging from the D&D, I don't think it would be my last. A great puzzle with an interesting design concept. At 70 euros, its value for money too!

Saturday, 4 October 2014


NumLock was Goh Pit Khiam's entry for the IPP34 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in London this past August. 

This is a "N-ary" puzzle. Don't ask me what it means because I don't really know, but it has something to do with mathematics. For an explanation of N-ary puzzles, you may wish to refer to Dr. Goetz Schwandtner's dedicated N-ary puzzles page on his website. My only other experience with an N-ary puzzle is the Lock 250.

Made by Tom Lensch, the NumLock comprises three woods; Cherry, Canarywood and East Indian Rose Wood. As with all Tom Lensch puzzles, the quality of construction and finish is excellent. All the pieces fit nicely and slide smoothly.

The object is to remove all the pieces from the box frame which consist of 4 sliders interacting with 6 moving blocks (with finger holes).The sliders and blocks all move in linear fashion.

According to Goh, a staggering 143 moves is required to extract the first piece. From my very limited understanding of N-ary puzzles, they usually comprise a repeating sequence of moves to solve, unlike high level burrs with a similar number of moves, so technically speaking, they are somewhat easier (not easy). 

Removable magnetic lid. If only all mechanical puzzles are made like this!

As I was trying to solve the NumLock, I really couldn't figure out the sequence although I did detect some sort of a pattern. Well, repeating sequence or not, I was quite happy when I finally got the first piece out, after a good while of fiddling! Did I take a 143 moves? I don't know....would have lost count along the way anyway. I figured I would not be able to reassemble the pieces so I didn't bother trying. Thankfully Tom had constructed a removable lid on the box for re-setting of the pieces within (so as not to torture the IPP34 participants), so the put-together was easily taken care of.

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