Sunday, 28 August 2016

Phive Pack

My puzzle this weekend was the "Phive Pack", a play on words, which (I think) means "five" piece packing puzzle, fellow puzzle blogger Allard Walker's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle. 

A somewhat different style of packing puzzle from the norm, this 3D packer does have five pieces; consisting of four odd-shaped ones which form a polyhedron and the fifth being a marble. The object is to place the four pieces and a rather good looking pearl-like marble into the accompanying plastic tube so that the latter is completely hidden within.

Designed by Jane Kostick of KO Sticks, the artisan folks who create incredible looking geometric sculptures and puzzles in wood, the puzzle was 3D printed by Shapeways. It was available in a variety of colours during the Exchange but I chose a bright magenta, the copy you see here. 

The Phive Pack came un-assembled. At first glance, I didn't think the puzzle was that difficult, after all it's only four pieces, and all I needed to do was to pack the four into the plastic tube, but how wrong I was. Of the four pieces, two are identical, while the remaining two look very much alike but have slightly different angled surfaces.    

It took me a good half an hour or more of trying before I found the right orientation of the pieces relative to each other. The angle and facets of the pieces really confuse but once put together correctly, the final shape is a nice symmetrical polyhedron and fits just nicely inside the stubby plastic tube. I wonder if Allard/Jane had designed the puzzle just the right size (about 4cm all round) to fit the tube or the other way round. Any other way would result in some portion of the marble being exposed and the puzzle sticking out, preventing one of the two plastic caps from covering the tube properly. 

Depending on who's playing with it, some may find it really hard, some not. In the words of puzzler Eitan Cher, it's a very "disorientating" puzzle to solve. Agreed! IMHO, its not an overly difficult puzzle but not an easy one either...just somewhere in between with the right amount of challenge for an exchange puzzle. Contact Allard via his blog site if you are keen to get one. 


  1. Thanks for the nice review. Funny, I hadn't thought about there being five parts if you include the marble. Five is the number of beams in a 5-axis star that John made many years ago, which is where this puzzle design derives from. Although the puzzle pieces are composed of triangular prisms, once assembled they can be seen as 5 intersecting square prisms. Phive is a play on the words five and phi (Φ), two numbers that come up repeatedly in this shape, whose faces are squares and 1-sqrtΦ-Φ right triangles. To answer your question about which came first, the puzzle or the tube, the tube was something we already had (for packaging bronze stars). The scale of the puzzle pieces was determined based on the inside diameter of the tube, which I then cut to length after calculating the height of the puzzle. By the way, of the four pieces, none are identical but two are mirror images of the other two. I'm so glad to know you enjoyed this puzzle. A few copies are available for sale on our website.

  2. By the way, by Googlng the angle in the triangle I recently discovered that it has a name, called a Kepler triangle. I also read that it's the angle in the pyramid of Giza!