Saturday 10 January 2015

Slide Blocked Sliding Block

The Slide Blocked Sliding Block puzzle ("SBSB") was designed by Bill Cutler in 1986 and won the Grand Prize at the 1988 Hikimi Wooden Puzzle Competition. 

Start Position

The original design is not the "two arrows" layout you see in these photos although the solving principle is the same.

The "two arrows" version here is from Tom Lensch. The puzzle is made of Walnut for the frame while the pieces are Maple, Bubinga, Indian Rosewood and Yellowheart. Very well constructed with a nice fit and finish. The SBSB is also not to be confused with Goh Pit Khiam's Arrow Blocks puzzle which tho' the latter has a similar external appearance to the SBSB, the solution and method of solving is totally different (and a lot more difficult). 

The SBSB is a sliding block puzzle. Object is to slide the 5 pieces around to form a "complete arrow" on the left side, after removal of the Yellowheart start piece (which happens to be the only piece that can be removed from the frame). 

But the SBSB has a "trick" to it....the pieces have been constructed in such a way that certain movements are restricted (hence "slide blocked"); making it much harder than it looks. A normal 5 piece sliding block puzzle would have been a pretty easy solve. But here, the SBSB requires a minimum of 41 moves to complete.

Solved Position
Notwithstanding the restriction of movements of the pieces, the SBSB, while challenging is still quite manageable as it consists of only 5 pieces moving in rectilinear fashion. But I did find myself hitting some dead ends here and there along the way and backtracking before getting the arrows to their correct positions. With some persistence, one can eventually get to the end point, but probably taking more than 41 moves. To complete the solution, the goal is to get back to the original start position. Unless your memory is superb, you'll probably have to go through some trial and error to get it solved.

The SBSB is a different take on the traditional sliding block puzzle. And with the arrows design, it also displays very well. Available from Tom Lensch for US$125. [Edit 12 Jan 2015 - Someone has written to me to say that Tom does not have any more available]


  1. Thanks Jerry awesome review as always.... Need to get this....

  2. Tom Lensch does not seem to have any to sell currently...