Monday 26 August 2013



Scott Elliot. Scott also runs his own 3D printing/puzzle blog.

Scott Elliot. PM Scott via his blog for availability of the Peppermint. He may still have copies left over from IPP33.

Type & Classification
Take apart; disentanglement

6cm (Diameter) x 4.5cm (Thickness). Nice good size for the hands.

Materials & Construction
ABS resin. Construction, fit and finish is very good and all the parts are manufactured to pretty tight tolerances. The surface of the puzzle does have some texture and this aids in the gripping. Although plastic looking, the pieces are surprisingly solid and can take abuse.

The Peppermint was Scott's exhange puzzle at IPP33 held in Tokyo, Japan at the beginning of this August.


Scott had blogged about the preparation of his Peppermint as an IPP33 exchange puzzle at the beginning of this year. It looked rather interesting and when IPP33 came around, I emailed Scott to say I wanted a copy of both his Peppermint as well as his Moire Maze puzzle. He kindly reserved one of each during the Puzzle Party for me before they were all sold out. He also had one or two other puzzles on sale and I bought his Puckup puzzle as well. (see below).

The Peppermint has two tone colours of red and white and at first glance, it appears to be like a white ball surrounded by a thick red ring. The puzzle consist of four "interlocked" (or rather intertwined) pieces and the object is to separate them (without the need for any force). I have been told that the Peppermint bears some similarity to Hanayama's Cast Marble but as I have never played with the latter, I can't really compare the Peppermint against the Cast Marble.

Although it consist of only four pieces, the Peppermint is no walk in the park. It took me a good half hour of fiddling and twisting before I managed to separate the pieces. Re-assembly is a whole different ball game! As of this blog post, I have still not succeeded in getting the pieces back together. I have emailed Scott for some help and waiting to hear from him.

Difficulty Level
Fairly challenging to take apart (without the right technique, which I am sure there is one) but much much more difficult  it seems to put back together; again there must be some technique to be applied. His Puckup puzzle (below) is a simpler 2-piece put-together puzzle that is also dimensionally smaller (4.0cm in diameter). This one is made of nylon and came separated. The object is to join the two pieces. May be quite tricky for the inexperienced puzzler but I got the pieces to form a disc in a jiffy.

I felt the Peppermint's a bit different from the usual genre of mechanical puzzles. Tough and (almost) unbreakable; worth acquiring in my opinion. Throw in the Puckup while you are at it as well.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Chinese Cricket Box

Chinese Cricket Box

Solved state deliberately not shown in photos here
Type & Classification
Puzzle Box; Trick Opening

8.9cm (Length) x 5.8cm (Width) x 1.8cm (Thick).

Materials & Construction
Wood, glass and plastic. The box is made of a type o exotic hardwood and overall, the box is very well made and feels sturdy and solid.

As the name implies, a cricket box is a box for keeping crickets. In ancient China, there was a tradition of keeping crickets as pets. This in turn spawned (no pun intended) a whole industry of making cricket boxes, containers and homes for cricket lovers. However not all cricket boxes (or cages) were puzzle boxes with trick openings. For more information on cricket keeping during early Chinese history, click here.

I obtained this nice little black cricket puzzle box from Wil Strijbos during the IPP33 Puzzle Party in early August this year. Wil had brought with him a whole shoe box size of cricket boxes which he had sourced from China, of varying shapes, colours and designs.

The box I have is essentially a wooden box with rounded and patterned edges. The top cover is made of glass and the bottom has a number of Chinese characters. There is also a rectangular air hole on one of the ends of the box. The object of the box is to figure out how to "open" the box. It took me a couple of minutes of fiddling before I got the box opened.

Difficulty Level
It is certainly not difficult by any means but because the box is well constructed with tight tolerances, it can make it a bit tricky to solve. Different boxes also have varying opening mechanisms. Frans de Vreugd has written an entire book on Chinese cricket boxes. I flipped through a sample copy at IPP33; very nice with loads of detailed photographs (please PM me via my Profile Email should you wish to contact Frans to purchase a copy). There is also a video on YouTube which shows the opening of a couple of cricket boxes but this video is a spoiler, so be warned.

If you like trick boxes, well this is something certainly to consider, given that the box is associated with an interesting history.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Locked Drawer

Sandfield's Locked Drawer Puzzle.

Robert E Sandfield and Kathleen Malcolmson.

This is the unsolved state!

Kathleen Malcolmson

Type & Classification
Puzzle Box; Sequential Discovery

7.8cm (Length) x 6.5cm (Width) x 3.8cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
Walnut, Prima Vera and White Oak. Construction, fit and finish is excellent with slight bevelling on the exterior box to minimise sharp edges. Nice size with an attractive colour contrast between the handle, drawer and outer box. Overall, aesthetically very pleasing. It comes with its own drawstring pouch which is a nice touch.

The Locked Drawer was Robert Sandfield's Exchange Puzzle during IPP30 held at Hakone, Japan. in July 2010.


I had read Allard's review of this puzzle late last year and wanted one. The opportunity came along when I found Robert Sandfield selling several of these Locked Drawers during this year's IPP33 Puzzle Party. Although relatively expensive, I picked up one with little hesitation. This was also the first puzzle I bought during the Puzzle Party.

The Locked Draw is somewhat different from the Japanese style boxes with multiple sliding panels or other trick opening ones because it incorporates a sequential discovery aspect as well. Meaning that the puzzle has to be solved in a particular order of steps and using the tools that come together with the puzzle. No other external implements or tools are necessary.

The object of the Locked Drawer is NOT to open the drawer (as most people would assume looking at the box) but rather to figure out how to close the drawer once its been opened. To open is simple, nothing puzzling about it; just pull the drawer open normally and it will reveal a circular cavity that contains a US$0.25 coin. Pull the puzzle fully out and the drawer click locks. Here is where the puzzling begins; ie pushing the drawer back in again.

I took about six steps to get the drawer "unlocked" and then back into the closed position, which is the reset/ unsolved stage. There is no force whatsoever required to solve the Locked Drawer. A very clever and rather interesting trick to the whole mechanism.

Difficulty Level
For the total novice, he/she is likely to be stuck for quite a long time. But for the experienced puzzler, not overly difficult with enough challenge to make the puzzle fun and entertaining. This is the sort of puzzle that gives you mini "a-ha" moments to let you know you are on the right track until the final step when you know you have reached the goal. Easily solvable repeatedly once you know the solution. Nothing finicky about the Locked Drawer; everything works as intended.

For lovers of Sequential Discovery puzzles and/or puzzle boxes generally, a definite must-have for the collection.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

IPP33 - Day 2 - Sunday 4 August (Puzzle Party & Awards Dinner)

What: IPP33 (International Puzzle Party 2013)

Where: Tokyo, Japan. Held at the Hilton Narita, Tokyo

Day 2 - Sunday 4 August 2013 - Puzzle Party

The Puzzle Party is the one item on the agenda that every IPP participant looks forward to (maybe even more than the Puzzle Exchange). Today is the day where participants "set up shop" and sell their puzzles for other participants to buy, be it brand new ones, pre-loved ones or leftover puzzles from the previous day's Exchange.

Not all IPP participants have puzzles to sell. Me for instance; I had wanted to bring several copies of my Ball In Cylinder No 1s to the IPP but my fabricator could not finish making them in time for this trip. So like many other participants, I was quite happy to see what I could pick up at the party. The sale started at 9am sharp but by 8:45am, there were already quite a number of folks milling around the entrance, all eager to spend their cash.

Like the Puzzle Exchange, rows of tables were reserved for the puzzle sellers who laid out all their wares. When the doors opened at 9am, I sauntered in with the rest and scanned the entire room looking to see if there are any rare puzzles not available on the market. As this was my first IPP, perhaps I didn't have enough experience. I should have strategized my approach a bit more to make sure I covered all the necessary ground so that I didn't miss out on something that I really wanted. Yes, the veteran IPP members somehow knew which tables to head for and where the gems were to be found.

Over the course of the next four hours or so, I visited row after row of puzzles on display, bought puzzles that I fancied and chatted with different puzzle sellers and designers along the way. The Puzzle Party is like a upscale flea market. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning and money!

One very valuable lesson I learnt from this IPP is to bring enough cash to pay for the puzzles, particularly the local currency, in this case, Japanese Yen. By enough cash I mean bring lots of it! Halfway through, I had run out of Yen but thankfully Roxanne Wong was kind enough to loan me some (from her huge stash) to continue my shopping spree (thanks Rox!)

Tom van der Zanden

Vinco Obsivac of Vin & Co Puzzles

The folks from Torito

Jerry Slocum talking to a puzzler seller.
The lady seated on the left in red is Roxanne Wong

Oskar van Deventer & JinHoo Ahn (winner of the IPP32 Grand Jury Prize for the
Double G, now the Hanayama Cast G&G)

Robert Sandfield (in the foreground are money puzzles)

Koshi & Yuko Arai (Koshi was the winner of the IPP32
Jury Honorable Mention for his Heptagon 48)

Hendrik Haak

Gennady Yarkovoy

Me and Marcel Gillen 

Left: Timo Jokitalo; Right: Vesa Timonen & Jo Traynor

Left: Rene Dawir; Right: Carlo Gitt

Naoki Shibuya

By about 1:30pm in the afternoon, the Puzzle Party was almost over and most sellers had packed up their leftover puzzles and were leaving. Here's my haul from the Puzzle Party with several from the previous day's Exchange.

Judging the Design Entries

For me it was off to the adjacent room to continue with the judging of the puzzle design competition entries which had started on Friday evening. All the entry puzzle designs are laid out on tables with instruction and solution sheets. IPP33 participants get to play/puzzle with them and vote for their favourite designs. Below are some of the pictures of the judging (and puzzling) in progress over the course of the three days.

Mark Pawliger trying to figure out my Ball In Cylinder No1

From Left: Roxanne Wong, Allard Walker & Steven Chin

Judging ended at 3pm on Sunday 4 August and votes were cast and collated. Next, to pass the time until the Awards Dinner, I headed to the side of the hall where there was an exhibition of puzzles from Hanayama. These were not your usual off-the-shelf Hanayama puzzles but the displays included prototypes, early models, gold puzzles, impossible objects made from Hanayama puzzles etc, the majority of which most puzzlers have never seen before.

Impossible Object; 7 Cast Loops in a bottle

My favourite; 4 Cast Boxes linked together

The Lectures

Sunday afternoon also saw several lectures on Hanayama Cast Puzzles including one by Oskar van Deventer on how the Cooksey Maze inspired his many future puzzle designs for which he is famous for today.

The lectures ended around 5:45pm and I took an hour's nap before washing up and heading for the Awards Dinner. A Powerpoint show was set up in the dining hall to display all the various puzzle design competition entries. There were a total of 60 designs entered for IPP33 this year. Here are the list of entries and award winners. The Puzzler's Award went to fellow Singaporean Goh Pit Khiam for his Dancing Shoes puzzle.

My 15 seconds of fame during the Awards Dinner

Future IPP participant on the lower right!

Me with George Bell, Brian Pletcher, Allard Walker & Stephen Chin
The Renegades Forum members
Back Row From Left: Stephen Chin, Oskar van Deventer
Scott Elliot, George Bell, Brian Pletcher, Nick Baxter
Front Row From Left: Brian Young, Roxanne Wong, Allard Walker
Iwahiro Iwasawa, Chairman of the IPP33 Organising Committee with
his Appreciation Puzzle by Wayne Daniels