Sunday 18 December 2011

One In A Trillion

This tray packing puzzle, designed by Joseph Becker came from Steve Strickland's puzzle shop and is limited to 30 copies. Measuring 130mm square and about 18mm thick (including the blocks), it is made from 8 different woods including Walnut, Rosewood, Granadillo, Bocote, Canarywood, Purpleheart, Cherry and Teak. I am not that huge a fan of wooden puzzles and one look at the puzzle and I knew it was not going to be easy. But the combination of 8 exotic woods of different colour tones was just too hard to resist. Another plus was the very reasonable price.

The tray contains 9 separate pieces, each of which is made of individual cube blocks glued together to form irregular shaped units. Several blocks come permanently affixed to the tray. Quality of the puzzle is reasonably good; with each of the cube block edges even bevelled. The only minus here is that the bottom of the tray feels like it has not been sanded smooth sufficiently or at all.

The puzzle is called One-In-A-Trillion I think, for very good reason! It really is very difficult, at least for moi! There are two objectives to this puzzle. One, which is the easier (not easy) of the two is to fit all the 9 pieces back into the tray, and here there are two ways of doing it, according to Steve. I was "fortunate" to receive the puzzled sealed in plastic in the solved state...this gave me a chance to have a really good look at the puzzle pieces. Two caught my attention; one was the Purpleheart (so purple you just can't miss it!) and the other was a very light coloured wood. Luckily I was able to roughly recall where their positions were in the tray. Hence, it was now a lot easier as I had only 6 pieces left to deal with, since one of the pieces, a straight 4-block unit already has a pre-determined slot in the tray.

Through trial and error, I managed to put the rest of the pieces into position, but then, it still took me a very long while to complete. Let's face it, if all the pieces had been made of the same coloured wood, I seriously doubt I could have solved it. Perhaps that was why the puzzle has been made the way it is...otherwise it would have been too difficult??

The second objective is to use the 9 pieces to form a 4x4x4 cube. This one really got me super-stumped! I spent several days trying all sorts of configurations but got no where. Not wanting to frustrate myself any further, I checked out the solution. Even this was no walk in the park and I knew I would never have been able to solve it without the solution. I also found out that only 8 pieces out of the 9 were required! I think BurrTools might probably do the trick here, but I haven't learnt how to use the software yet!

For those that enjoy packing or 3D assembly puzzles with loads of challenge, I think the One-In-A-Trillion is really excellent for being able to combine two puzzles in one, not to mention that it is very good value for money too, effectively two for the price of one! An added bonus is the different exotic woods used which makes the puzzle aesthetically pleasing and exude quality, especially with the 4x4x4 cube. Definitely worth acquiring.


  1. Hmm ... looks like the short straight piece is supposed to be glued into the tray (comparing with the pieces on Steve's Puzzle Site).

  2. The cube puzzle benefits from some simple counting arguments. For example, I can conclude that the light-colored piece must go in one of the middle cube slices. I think this type of analysis could make solving the puzzle by hand reasonable.

  3. That looks really nice! I will have to visit Steve's shop for a few items soon. Unfortunately, I have spent quite a lot already on puzzles recently and really need to cut back a bit.

    If I don't someone not too far away will remove parts of my anatomy and feed them to the cats!!! Even the purchase of a handbag would not prevent this fate! Plus if I bought the handbag, I would have no money left for puzzles (she has rather expensive tastes!)


  4. Kevin,

    Haha, but don't wait too long. Some of Steve's puzzles have limited quantities!

  5. George,

    The straight piece is not meant to be glued. It is to be placed in a different position in the tray for a bonus objective.

    Thanks for the tip. I guess I haven't played enough with 3D assembly puzzles to be able to analyse or make an educated guess where the position of a particular piece should or should not be.

  6. BurrTools says the tray puzzle has exactly 7 solutions with the floating piece.

    Here is a document by Rick Eason analyzing a different cube puzzle, but I applied the same sort of logic to "One in a Trillion".

  7. Hi George, thanks. Let me get I right to say that if the floating piece is placed in other positions in the tray besides what was intended by the designer/maker, there are 7 possible solutions to fit all the pieces in the tray? or did you mean the forming of the 4x4x4 cube?

  8. The cube has only one solution. You are correct, I was referring to the tray puzzle with the floating piece.