Wednesday, 25 February 2015


Until I got my hands on the Garmbaad, I have never played with a Jos Bergmans designed puzzle. I saw it on Brian Menold's site WoodWonders and immediately liked the shape of it (was never too fond of cubes).

You could probably call Jos Bergmans the "King Of Rotations". Of his 58 puzzle designs uploaded to PuzzleWillBePlayed, 33 of them require rotations to solve! Now its one thing to design a high level interlocking burr or puzzle with an astronomical number of moves but I think its just as great a feat or more to design one which requires rotation of pieces. Especially one with multiple rotations needed!

The Garmbaad is a very well made puzzle comprising a good choice of exotic woods, namely, Purpleheart, Redheart, Yellowheart, Paduak and Maple. Great colour contrast here. Fit and finish is very good with all the pieces sliding smoothly. In fact, since Brian has gone into full time puzzle making and other related stuff, he has been churning out superb quality puzzles from time to time and we are likely to see some new offerings on his site end of February (which is tomorrow!).

I am not sure what "Garmbaad" means and a Google search didn't turn up anything either. If anyone knows, please drop me a note. From a puzzling perspective, the Garmbaad is not too difficult with a level solution. The first several moves are not hard to find, but the rotations involving the last two pieces are very tricky indeed. There are multiple rotations involved here not just on one but all three axes. Done correctly and you will be able to slide the two remaining pieces apart nicely. Very unusual moves!

Putting the pieces back to the solved state requires everything to be done in reverse. Again the rotations to get the two relevant pieces back into their correct positions may prove to be of some challenge. I got the orientation of the pieces wrong and had to re-try a couple of times.    

Overall a great puzzle, not only in terms of quality and build, but the puzzling is also fun. Its quite amazing the design, as you watch the pieces slide this way and that into each other and lock into place. And certainly not a puzzle that would overly frustrate..

Monday, 23 February 2015

Cast Square

The start of the week is usually not a good time for puzzling, when the grind of the work week gets underway. Thus I would normally try to find a not too difficult puzzle to play with, so that my chances of solving it within the same evening are very much higher, and I would not feel like crap going into Tuesday. After looking around a bit, I settled on the Hanayama Cast Square which is rated 4 out of 6 stars for difficulty. I couldn't find a Hanayama less than 4 stars.

The Cast Square is the creation of Vesa Timonen, who has designed many of the Cast puzzles available on the market today including the Cast Loop, Cast Cylinder and Cast Donuts. This puzzle came to the market in 2010. It comes in a shiny brass and chrome finish; I would have personally preferred a matt finishing instead.

The object is to separate the 4 odd-shaped curved pieces, all which look rather identical. The 4 pieces can be expanded and pulled apart but up to a point and thereafter, all further movement is restricted. The 4 pieces can be "easily" taken apart but there is a trick to it. You need to spread the pieces apart to a certain point where you can then "release" the square into two halves, absolutely no force needed. I discovered the solution more by accident than anything else; well at least I got it solved! 

The solution is actually very elegant as I later discovered and rather easily repeatable. But there is a particular sequence of moves and a technique to it as well. If you look at the pieces carefully (after you have gotten it apart), you will understand why. Putting the Square back together required some fiddling but also quite manageable. 

A nice pocket-able puzzle which you can pull out to show friends, and amaze them how quickly you can take it apart when they get stuck.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


Its been a while since I last played with a Yavuz Demirhan design. So Autobahnkreuz was the puzzle of the day. Yavuz, as most puzzlers would know, hails from Turkey and currently has one of the most number of designs (409 as of this post) uploaded to PuzzleWillBePlayed. To say he is a very prolific designer would really be an understatement!

I got the Autobahnkreuz (which by the way in German means "motorway interchange") from the Pelikan Workshop, the guys from the Czech Republic who have been regularly bringing to the market wooden puzzles of outstanding quality. And did I mention that they are also value for money too?

The Autobahnkruez is no exception and my copy is excellently made with nice tolerances. Snug enough for the pieces to hold them themselves together but smooth enough to slide. This is one puzzle you don't want to be too "loose fit".

The puzzle is what is known as a board burr, meaning all the pieces are flat 2D. There are 8 board pieces in total, all of which are congruent, ie all the same shape. I was inspired by Yavuz's design here, which led to my (very) amateur design efforts resulting in the CrossRoads, a smaller 8 piece board burr design. Without Yavuz's design prowess, I only managed to get an interlocking design (level 12) by using all different shaped pieces. None of the elegance of Yavuz's 8 congruent shapes.

Autobahnkreuz is a rather difficult puzzle, not just in terms of the dismantling; which I managed to do so after a fair bit of trial and error. But the re-assembly is tough, unless you have a solid memory and remember all the steps in reverse. 

You will notice that the 8 pieces comprise of 4 pairs of 4 different woods (arcasia, maple, wenge and paduak). Firstly to put together the pieces to the solved shape is difficult enough (level But you also need to get all the pieces to form a symmetrical colour pattern. Not to mention you have to grapple with up to 8 pieces at the same time. Thankfully Burr Tools was on hand. Instead of configuring BT for 8 congruent pieces (resulting in one unique solution with one single colour puzzle), I specified BT to have 4 different pairs with 4 different colours. Hence, you will end up with 648 assemblies of which one solution will give you the right colour co-ordination. On my BT file, its solution #76.

Burr lovers will like this one. Very challenging! Well made, nice big and heavy with a great colour scheme!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Hexangular Jam

This Valentine's Day weekend I was playing with another of Hirokazu Iwasawa's (Iwahiro) Jam puzzles. This time the Hexangular Jam. A gift from a puzzling friend who lives in Japan. I really like this Jam puzzle series; they look so deceptively simple with pieces cut into simple shapes, yet its anything but simple. However, its not so frustratingly difficult either. Even if you are new to Jam puzzles, with a bit of persistence, you will eventually be able to solve them.

Start Position

My copy is the original MDF version (a number of later copies are made of acrylic or plastic and some of the versions make use of CD cases). Although made of MDF, the construction fit and finish is very good with Iwahiro's signature burnt into the wood.

Like the previous two Jam puzzles reviewed earlier, the Rightangular Jam and Rectangular Jam, the Hexangular Jam involves getting the yellow hex shaped piece out through the slit at the front side of the tray. However, blocking its exit are three other similar hex shaped pieces.

Puzzlers familiar with the Jam puzzle series would know that there is a "trick" to all the Jam puzzles which provides a very elegant solution. No different here. Don't know the trick and you can end up taking an hour (or more) instead of a few minutes.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Pink Ivory Ring

This beautiful puzzle was designed by Ken Irvine and made by Tom Lensch. It's called the Pink Ivory Ring; because one of the three woods used is Pink Ivory, for the square ring. The other two are Aspen and Cocobolo. 

Construction fit and finish is top notch and the Pink Ivory Ring feels very big and weighty in the hands. The photos don't do justice to the puzzle; on my copy, the Pink Ivory really makes the ring look pretty in pink.

This is a seven piece interlocking puzzle with the ring as the center piece restraining two congruent sets of pieces; the two aspen (white) and four Cocobolo. Object is to dissemble the puzzle.

It is not very difficult by any means but it could be tricky for some. Burr Tools won't help you here so you can probably guess what sort of moves this puzzle requires. It has a level 7 solution (ie 7 moves to remove the first piece) and a total of 23 moves to completely take apart the puzzle. Once the first two pieces are out, that's where the puzzle gets a bit tricky. The four pieces don't just come out like the first two did. They only come out after some rather nifty maneuvering within the ring itself. 

Because there are only six pieces and the four dark pieces are the same shape, it is not too difficult to remember the sequence of moves to reassemble the puzzle. Re-solvable without too much trouble, once you have figured out the solution of course.

Overall a fun puzzle with not only an elegant appearance but also an elegant solution. Together with great craftsmanship, definitely a must have for collectors. (May still be) available from Tom Lensch.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Dot Box

This strange and baffling puzzle came to me courtesy of James Dalgety during the IPP34 Puzzle Exchange in London last year. James owns the largest known collection of puzzles in the world!

I had played with the Dot Box on and off for several weeks now and was only just able to solve it this evening. That being said, it was solved more through trial and error with hints from James' webpage dedicated to the Dot Box (Warning; spoilers therein)

The Dot Box consists of a pentagonal box which sits into a base (called a plinth). The puzzle is 3D printed in ABS resin by Simon Bexfield and Steve Nicolls, the duo from Threedy 3D Printers. Quality is very good for a 3D creation and everything fits well together. 

There are four challenges indicated on the puzzle:-

1. Open the box
2. Close the box
3. Understand it
4. Explain it.

My early attempts without resorting to the hints was to try to decipher the rattling noises inside the box. Couldn't really tell what was going on inside but the plinth and box were attracted to each other so I knew that there had to be some magnet(s) inside. 

For the weeks that followed, I tried various means of opening but nothing work. All along I thought the magnets had something to do with the solve and tried to interact the plinth and the box but this was not to be the case. Eventually I went to the website for clues.

I somehow finally managed to solve challenge #1 (through my own unorthodox method), #2 and #3 (after looking at the hints and after the puzzle was opened). And well, sort of #4, although I still can't quite figure out the scientific basis of the solution. The "trick" used in the Dot Box is the first time I have come across. And I can't really explain it or understand fully how it works. 

James mentions on his site that the full solution (and explanation) will only appear when the IPP34 booklet is out, which is probably the end of this year or early next year, so I guess I will have to wait until then. 

For those that have solved or not solved the Dot Box, please feel free to leave your comments!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

6 Ticks

6 Ticks is probably one of the nicest looking acrylic tray packing puzzles around.

Unsolved position
This was Andreas Rover's IPP34 Exchange Puzzle in London last year. In case you don't know who Andreas Rover is, well, he's the guy who created and gave us that wonderful savior called Burr Tools, without which, burr puzzles would have, in many cases, been a nightmare and cause endless misery and frustration.

Now back to 6 Ticks. The tray comprises of three layers of acrylic and one of them is a very nice frosted light turquoise colour. The six pieces are black double layered to distinguish one side from the other. Very well made!

The object of this packing puzzle is to get the six ticks to cover and line the entire inner edge of the tray, leaving no gaps that can be seen. The rule is that all the pieces must be of the same side up (one of the sides have small triangles cut into them). There are two solutions to this puzzle. 

For an exchange puzzle, the level of difficulty is just right. Not hard, but not a walk in the park either. Burr Tools (I think) may be used to help solve this puzzle. However the requirement that each solution requires all pieces to face up the same way is likely to pose a challenge within Burr Tools, although it would seem that specifying the surfaces with two different colors may help. I am not sure about this. If any reader can offer any insight into this, please feel free to comment.
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