Monday, 27 June 2011

The Perplexing Puzzle

Update 23 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at

While my own Perplexity Puzzle is pretty worn looking, it happens to be one of my favourite puzzles (apart from the YOTs). I was lucky enough to find one of these pretty rare puzzles on Ebay. It was only when I received the puzzle from the seller did I realise just how tiny (and cute) the puzzle is. The Perplexity Puzzle was designed by a Richard M. Shaffer who patented the design in 1900. I have to credit this information on the Perplexity Puzzle to Jim A. Storer who runs his own site showcasing his huge personal collection of puzzles. On Jim's site, if you are interested, you would also be able to see his comments and the patent on the design that was filed by Richard M. Shaffer.

The puzzle measures about 3 7/16 inches by 1 9/16 inches. It is made of what I think is stainless steel. On the puzzle plate, there are the words "The Perplexing Puzzle" followed by the word "spells P-E-R-P-L-E-X-I-T-Y". As you can guess, the object of the puzzle is to slide and re-arrange the button with letters running along the cut-out slits to form the word "PERPLEXITY". My own puzzle is stamped "International Series-Made In England". I would assume therefore there is an American series for the American market.

My puzzle arrived in a rusted condition (something my Ebay seller had warned beforehand). I "cleaned" it to its present condition by soaking the puzzle in a small tray of white cooking vinegar leaving it to soak overnight. And presto, the next morning, most of the rust stains had come off. Obviously this is a very old copy and I was unable to do anything about some areas where it was pitted beyond help.

The puzzle itself is not at all difficult to solve (especially if you read Jim's comments or look at the patent design drawings beforehand). It took me around 10 minutes to re-arrange the letters to where they are supposed to be. However for anyone who is trying the puzzle without the benefit of Jim's information, it may take a little longer. The designer had cleverly designed one of the buttons to actually help make it easier to solve the puzzle.

Updated 10th September 2011
I acquired the AUTOMOBILE version of the Perplexity puzzle recently from Ebay. The object is to spell out the letters "Automobile". The construction of this version appears to be different from the original perplexity puzzle (see earlier post below) given the puzzle base plate here is made of a thinner metal. The letters tho engraved on the black buttons appear to be slightly larger hence making it easier on the eyes :-)

1 comment:

  1. I have a perplexity puzzle from the 1904 world fair...Louisiana Exposition which spells EXPOSITION. How can I find out its value?