Saturday, 29 April 2017

Loopy Box

"Loopy" in the English language means "mad or silly" or "having many loops". In the case of the Loopy Box puzzle, it is hardly the former (given its very difficult challenge quotient) but certainly the latter, as I shall try to describe below.

First off, its credentials; designed by Jean-Claude Constantin (now I haven't played with a JCC design for a long time, the last one in my hands was over 3 years ago; the Lock 250). It is also manufactured by him out of laser cut wood with the sides and bottom glued/screwed together to form a box. This puzzle was also Allard Walker's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle in Canada in 2015. 

The puzzle measures about 11cm x 10.5cm x 7.5cm and is essentially a box with a lid that is "locked" in place by a piece of thick rope (see photo). Quality and construction is very good, typical of the JCC standard. The object is to open the lid and solve a second puzzle inside, a modified Hanayama Cast Claw that has an extra U-shaped piece linking the two claws.

In the last few years Allard Walker has had this habit of making puzzle exchangers work really hard by exchanging not one but two puzzles at the same time (usually one contained inside the other; see Conjuring Conundrum and Baffling Bolted Book). Well, he is a gentleman of means and can afford it... and I for one is certainly not complaining, since I am getting two separate puzzles from him in one exchange! The second challenge after the box is open is to take apart the Cast Devil.

Now back to the puzzle; as one can observe, the only sensible way of opening the lid would be to remove the length of thick rope. But unfortunately this is hardly that simple as I found out. The rope passes through a hole in a vertical slat and holds the lid down. The rope itself is attached in some way to a dial (and what's underneath the numbers and inside can't be seen clearly if at all, I tried shining a torch but it didn't help). It would be obvious that the dial (which can turn in both directions) has something to do with the rope's release.

I spent an estimated three to four days trying to disentangle and release the rope and even read Kevin Sadler's experience with the Loopy Box hoping to find some clues. But Kevin, like all good puzzle bloggers gave little clues on his blog and his photos didn't indicate anything of use either. Nothing worked and after some more trying I gave up and asked Kevin for a clue. He said he was too busy during that time and he also had to find his copy from his collection of several thousand puzzles. Not forgetting, he is a busy doctor and also. has Mrs S (which I had the privilege of meeting at IPP34 in London) to spend time with too!), He did mention that it involved quite a bit of dexterity and that was all I had to go on. I left the Loopy Box alone. Fast forward to the present after several weeks, and I had a go at it again, but still no luck. After trying incessantly, I contacted Allard for help this time. Now why did't I contact Allard in the first place back then??

When I saw the solution from Allard I said to myself - damn!, now why didn't I think of it? The way to remove the rope is pretty clever (I am sure those disentanglement puzzle experts would have quite quickly figured it out) but the physical execution of the correct technique is more than fairly difficult (even when you know exactly what needs to be done). Everything was pretty fiddly and my only criticism is that perhaps the dial and other parts could have been made larger to accommodate bigger fingers! After more than several minutes, I finally freed the rope and opened the lid to face the second puzzle!

Nope - I didn't go on to the modified Cast Devil and decided I will leave it for another day. For all those interested, the Loopy Box is available from Puzzle Master in Canada for CA$52.99 and from Puzzle Shop in Germany for 35 Euros.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cast Puzzle Vortex In A Bottle

Impossible object puzzles never cease to amaze me. They are really in a category of their own and generally, among mechanical puzzles, come far and few in between. Primarily because they are so hard to produce or "put together" into an impossible object. 

I always love it when I am able to get my hands on one. I have several really cool impossible objects in my collection including some "seemingly impossible" ones like the Puzzle Jam and 4 Street Elbows and the more "solvable" types like the Exchange Washington DC, Smiley In A Bottle and Coke Bottle #1.

This one here is the design and handiwork of Hiroaki Namba, who also gave us the Double Cast Puzzle Hook reviewed earlier. This impossible object was Mr Namba's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle in Ottawa, Canada in 2015. 

It consist of an ordinary bottle with a standard Hanayama Cast Vortex inside. I have never played with a Cast Vortex so can't comment on it, but it's rated 5 stars on the difficulty level quotient (meaning it's really very difficult) by Hanayama. And judging by the video solutions posted on YouTube, it looks extremely challenging to take apart just on its own, not to mention extracting it from a bottle.

No doubt of course Mr Namba would have found a way to twist and solve the Vortex into the bottle, and probably doing it in a very elegant way too! Inside the bottle, the Vortex cannot be taken out as it is obstructed by the narrow mouth of the bottle and the only way it seems would be to (partially) disengage the three parts before extraction.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Square & Equilateral Triangle

I have never been a huge fan of shape forming puzzles. But after I played with Emrehan Halici's Four Triangles Five Shapes, and more recently Andrea Rover's Growing Triangle, this sort of puzzles, plus the "form-a-symmetrical shape" ones have gotten more of my attention (and liking). I have also recently designed something along similar lines and hopefully will be able to showcase it at IPP37 this coming August.

Square & Equilateral Triangle (SET) is Halici's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle. There are two goals here; use the five irregular shaped pieces to form a square and the same five pieces to form an equilateral triangle (a triangle with three sides of equal length).

It makes me wonder about the genius of Turkish Halici to be able to come up with a design for two different (and symmetrical) shapes using the same pieces; incredible! Unlike his Four Triangles Five Shapes which I failed dismally, I am proud to say that I managed to solve SET without any help, although it took me a number of short puzzling sessions over several days.

I managed to solve the square within a matter of minutes, but the equilateral triangle took about fifteen times simply eluded me despite my many attempts to try the different combination of putting the five pieces side by side. Finally the A-ha moment arrived one day during a lunch time break.

[Edit 20 April 2017 - Stanislav Knot has come up with an additional 9 different shapes using the 5 pieces. Thanks Stan!]

For folks who are into this sort of puzzles, the SET has just the "right level of difficulty" for an exchange puzzle; one relatively easy goal to get the juices going and a second much tougher challenge. Anyone keen to see the two solutions please PM me here.

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Its been a while since I last played with a Yavuz Demirhan puzzle. The last one was the Quadrant 1 reviewed over a year and a half ago. This time, Yavuz's design is the Ovolo, which was also the Exchange Puzzle of Brian Young at last year's IPP36 in Kyoto, Japan.

This is a rather nice and unusual looking 8 piece interlocking puzzle, consisting of 6 board pieces cut from 10mm acrylic and two other wooden pieces (made fromQueensland Blackbean) each comprising of three sticks glued together - like in the form of the X, Y and Z axes (see photo).  

Dimensionally the size of the assembled puzzle is 7cm x 7cm x 7cm. Construction fit and finish from Brian is as usual, impeccable and the combo of acrylic and wood gives the puzzle a rather interesting and striking appearance.

The object of course is to dis-assemble the puzzle and then -reassemble it. Taking the puzzle apart was not too difficult for me and it took just a bit of experimentation to find out how the pieces moved. I took my time with the Ovolo, wanting to commit the moves to memory so that I could (hopefully) re-assemble the thing without any help later. Took me somewhere around 5-6 moves and I got the first piece out. The rest came apart quite easily thereafter.

As Brian says on his website which retails the Ovolo for A$40/-..."this puzzle is not so difficult to take apart. But mix up the pieces, walk away and forget about them, come back later and you'll find it quite difficult to put back together. There are many false moves and dead ends; 42 false assemblies and just ONE level 5 solution.

Brian is absolutely spot on about the ease of taking the puzzle apart...but unfortunately I didn't even have to "mix up the pieces, walk away and forget about them..."; in fact while I immediately tried to put everything together hoping my memory of the moves was still fresh....I couldn't!  Somehow I got the orientation of the pieces wrong and ended up with the false assemblies. Visually, the clear acrylic was no help either and in fact added to the confusion and difficulty (that's why perhaps acrylic was used).

Finally after several days, I threw in the towel and emailed Brian/Sue for the solution. The assembly process didn't quite seem the exact opposite of the way I had taken apart the pieces...but no complaints...I got the Ovolo back to its original state. Nice attractive looking puzzle with fairly simple looking pieces. Don't let the level solution fool you. Relatively easy to disassemble but putting everything back together can be a real nightmare! 

Friday, 7 April 2017

Pack Your Passport

American Eitan Cher's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle, Pack Your Passport is IMHO one of the nicest looking 2D packing puzzles I have come across, and believe me, I have quite a large number in my collection, and none of them come close!

This is a meticulously crafted puzzle that measures 13cm x 9.5cm x 1.7cm, about the size of a real passport. It consists of a number of layers of acrylic glued together to form a two-page "passport" with the covers held together by rubber bands. The puzzle including the 10 irregular pieces that come with it are precision laser cut and the entire package smacks of high quality. As I understand, Eitan has access to a number of laser cutting machines at his disposal, hence his ability to ensure quality control over the final product.

Not only is the puzzle beautiful to look at and feel, the design concept of the puzzle also deserves commendation. IPP35 was hosted in Canada and IPP36 in Japan. Pack Your Passport was designed by Rex Perez of the Philippines and aligns itself very well thematically. On the first page of the "passport" is the Canadian flag with a cut-out of a maple leaf; detach and flip it over and you see the Japanese flag with a cut-out of the sun. the second layer stores the 10 loose pieces which are neatly stored in their own slots. 

The goals are simple and clear, use all 10 pieces to form the maple leaf of the Canadian flag and the second challenge is to use the same 10 pieces to form the sun of the Japanese flag. Believe me, both challenges are very difficult, since there are 10 pieces involved and in the case of the Japanese flag, there is only one solution. Quite a design feat, I might add.

I struggled with the Canadian flag for a couple of days before I decided I needed help and promptly shot a message to Rex for a clue. Quick was his reply (he too couldn't solve it sometimes!) and he indicated to me where one of the 10 pieces was suppose to fit within the cut-out. With this, I was able to solve the puzzle during the next hour or so. Next I tried the Japanese flag but as of the date of this post, I have still not solve this one. Still waiting for Rex to forward a clue. 

Between the two challenges, the Canadian flag is the easier one, since careful observation will reveal that there are a couple of pieces that can only fit (or not) in certain places within the cut-out and this reduces the level of difficulty somewhat, but perhaps still not enough! 

For packing puzzle lovers that also demand top-notch quality, Pack Your Passport is a must-have. From what I can tell, it is commercially available from

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