Friday 2 December 2011


I was fortunate to get my hands on the Zauberflote a while back from Eric Fuller/Cubicdissections. It was their last piece available for sale. This little puzzle designed by Gregory Benedetti, is diminutive in size (measuring 55mm x 40mm x 22mm) but don't let its small size fool you! This one is tough! The puzzle consists of two flat panels of acrylic with different shaped cut-outs and  four different size/shaped blocks of Yellowheart wood. Although it does not look like one, the Zauberflote is classified as a burr puzzle. The object is to fit the four wooden blocks from the largest to smallest (left to right) into the cut-outs of the two acrylic panels to form an assembled unit. This requires manipulation and movement of both the Yellowheart blocks and the two acrylic slabs, similar to how one would go about solving a traditional burr.

Quality is very high for this puzzle; both the Yellowheart blocks and acrylic pieces are very precisely cut and fit and finish is excellent. Even though the blocks may be small and even look a bit fragile, there is no fear of breaking them since Yellowheart is a really tough and durable hardwood with a Janka hardness rating even higher than Mahogany and Maple. My only gripe (no fault of Eric's) is that in Singapore where humidity is very high, the Yellowheart blocks tend to expand, making their fit very much tighter than it should be. But an overnight stay in my camera dry-box at a No. 45 setting took care of the problem quite easily.

Prior to attempting the puzzle, I had already read reviews of the Zauberflote by 4 other very experienced puzzlers, Neil, Allard, Kevin and Brian and from what I gathered, I knew I would not have an easy time with this puzzle. There were comments about using BurrTools, rotation of the pieces and more than one way of solving the Zauberflote. But the general consensus was that this little bugger is very challenging. True enough after getting the first 3 blocks into the acrylic slabs, I was stuck with the 4th block...and stuck for a really long time. No amount of sliding or rotating helped.

Generally for most of my puzzles, I would go for the solution (or help) if I find I am getting nowhere after some time, usually not very long...ha ha (PS - there are other equally or more important things in my life apart from puzzling!). But in the case of the Zauberflote, for some reason, I actually stuck with it for quite a number of days. In fact I think it was ego that drove me on - I did not want to admit defeat to such a tiny puzzle. But alas, after almost a week of frustration, I finally threw in the towel. Since the puzzle did not come with a solution, I decided to seek the help of fellow puzzler Kevin Sadler of PuzzleMad.

Kevin was kind enough to email me some clues but also offered to send the solution on a BurrTools PDF should the clues be insufficient. I looked at his clues and realised that I had one crucial one step wrong, hence my inability to assemble the blocks correctly. After I corrected my misstep, I pretty quickly managed to solve the Zauberflote using the rotation method. And after a couple of practice runs, I was able to solve and unsolve the puzzle quite easily.

Tiny and cute though it might be, the Zauberflote packs a real wallop! It is very challenging, compounded by the fact that its small size and small pieces make it even harder and at times quite fiddly to handle. Not really suitable for those with very large hands and fingers. But for the very reasonable price of $20 and given its quality and level of challenge, it is excellent value for money. If you come across one available, don't hesitate to buy it!


  1. There are more important things in your life other than puzzling?! I don't remember what that's like.

  2. Hi Jerry,

    Glad I could help. The clues I sent you should allow you to solve it without rotating any pieces! I have sent you the pdf and burrtools file so you can compare your solution to mine!


  3. Oil, you have gone over to the dark side!! Ha ha

  4. Kevin,

    Thanks. Great, I will try out the burrtools solution.