Friday 11 November 2011

Aluminium Hedgehog In Cage

The Aluminium Hedgehog puzzle is in the same genre of puzzles including the Hanayama Cast Cage and Man The Torpedo. All three puzzles are similar in that they require you to remove an object from the puzzle "cage". In the case of the Hedgehog, the object to be removed from its cage is a hedgehog represented by a sphere with 10 rods of varying lengths inserted into it.

My copy of the puzzle came from William Strijbos and is entirely made of polished aluminium, both the cage as well as the hedgehog. Quality is very good and even the insides of the cage is pretty well finished with virtually no rough edges. The puzzle measures about 70mm tall with a diameter of 50mm. The cage is made from five openings cut into an aluminium cylinder covered at the top and bottom. The size of this puzzle is really nice since it is large enough for the hands to hold it comfortably and I had little problems gripping the hedgehog.

I did not find the puzzle difficult after my previous experience with the Cast Cage and I removed the hedgehog within a couple of minutes. This is not to say that the puzzle is easy; by no means is it so and for the uninitiated handling a puzzle like that for the first time, it may take quite a while to solve it, as was proven by a non-puzzling relative of mine who dropped by for a visit. He was fiddling with it the whole evening and still couldn't solve it by the time he left. (PS-If you need a clue on how to go about getting the hedgehog out, please see my review of the Cast Cage).

Overall this is a fun puzzle which can be solved very quickly and repeatedly once you figure out the initial solution. With its nice shiny polished exterior and relatively large dimensions, it also makes an interesting conversation piece.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

La Cerradura Doble

This puzzle, which was an entry for IPP28 in 2008, was acquired from Robrecht Louage, who was this year's IPP 31 Grand Jury Prize winner for his 4 Steps Visible Lock reviewed some time back in this blog. Cerradura in Spanish means "lock" and one look at the puzzle and you probably can tell why.

The Cerradura measures 160mm(L) x 95mm(W) x 16mm(H). Made of Corian (the type of material found in kitchen counter tops), steel and acrylic, the puzzle is not only hefty but also very well constructed and finished to tight tolerances. All moving parts slide and move as they should. The overall combination of the three different materials and contrasting colour tones gives the puzzle a very solid and industrial kind of look.

The puzzle consist of two flat steel plates or "keys" that are "locked" in place by 5 movable sliders with grooves or "teeth", each of which can be pushed either up or down within a narrow range of movement. Covering this assembly is a acrylic top plate screwed into position at the corners.

The object of the puzzle is to remove both steel keys from the puzzle. To do this, you have to navigate each of the steel keys out of the puzzle by moving the sliders individually to free the steel keys in order for them to pass through. This puzzle has been designed in such a way that you cannot remove one key entirely and then followed by the other. Both keys need to be worked on and moved in tandem. Occasionally you will also need to move one key backwards in order for a slider to disengage the other key for the latter to move.

This is not a very difficult puzzle and I was able to remove both keys after about 40 minutes of pushing, pulling and sliding. As usual I applied my trial and error method which did the trick quite well here for this particular puzzle. The Cerradura is one of those puzzles that not only can you see exactly what you are doing and what you need to do next, but you also remain constantly aware of the progress you are making as you slowly manipulate the two keys out to reach your goal.

Returning the puzzle back to the original state required almost the same effort as removing the keys but somehow I felt the reverse was slightly easier to carry out. Overall, a nice puzzle that is sufficiently challenging not just for the enthusiast; but with everything in full view (without hidden magnets, pins, mazes etc), can quite easily accommodate non-puzzlers as well.

For another take on the La Cerradura Doble, check out Allard's review on his puzzle blog.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Cat & Dog Sliding Puzzle

This sliding puzzle comes from Dutch collector and puzzle designer Ton Delsing. Ton's area of interest in particular are sliding puzzles and he also designs his own sliding puzzles for sale and exchange. Ton's Horrible Hexagon was one of the design entries of IPP 31 in Berlin this year. I had first come upon the Cat & Dog featured in Geduldspiele's website where it was described as "one of Delsing's best puzzles...". My only previous encounter with sliding puzzles was some years ago with the 15 puzzle and more recently, making my own Lego version posted earlier in this blog. With my limited experience, I decided to have a go at the Cat & Dog. I happened to have a puzzle that Ton wanted and eventually exchanged mine with one of his.

The Cat & Dog measures 116mm x 92mm x 18mm and is formed by a number of wood layers glued together. The frame and sliding tiles are cut by LaserExact!. Overall construction, fit and finish is very good. The object of the puzzle is to rearrange the tiles in the unsolved state (as in the photo above) to one of two finishes printed on the back of the puzzle (as in the photo below).

Unlike the traditional 15 type sliding puzzle where all the pieces can slide in various directions, the difficulty level of the Cat & Dog is significantly increased by the restricted movement of the upper middle blank tile in the centre; which can only move either up or down one position. This severely curtails the movement of all the other tiles, especially since horizontal movement along the centre is no longer possible. If both the upper and lower blank tiles are not moved, the rest of the tiles can only move within the frame in a circular fashion and there would be no way to rearrange the order or position of the lettered tiles. Thankfully, the lower blank tile is movable along with the rest of the lettered tiles and this frees up "more space" for repositioning of the lettered tiles.

I started off with much gusto! But after nearly half a day of continuous trying, I still ended up with at least two tiles in the wrong position. This puzzle can literally make you go round in circles! I emailed Ton for some assistance but unfortunately even with his hints, I could not achieve Finish No.1. I spent another day or so sliding but still got nowhere.  A second email from me saw Ton send me a detailed solution. The solution looks rather complicated and would require I think, some time for me to properly digest. My only consolation is that Ton did say the solutions to his sliding designs are not easy...yes, I fully agree! I have decided to put away the Cat & Dog for the moment and come back to it another day. Probably its my lack of experience, but this is one heck of a tough cookie!