Saturday 27 September 2014

Accordion 3.5

This one came from my last batch of puzzles from Eric Fuller. Designed by William Hu, the Accordion 3.5 sports a very nice colour contrast through the use of White Oak and Chakte Viga (hmm...never heard of this exotic wood). 

Built to very tight tolerances with very fine sharp edges, the quality and construction is excellent throughout. Careful handling is needed for this one.

Only 4 irregular shaped pieces, this is a level 9.3 interlocking burr. In terms of difficulty, not difficult, especially if you are familiar with some of William Hu's other puzzles such as the Ring Lock. You will probably figure out quite quickly how and what needs to be done. For the uninitiated, may pose a serious challenge tho'

Thursday 25 September 2014

Caramel Box

Caramel Box is the IPP34 design competition entry from Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu (MINE). It also came in top 10 for most votes garnered for the Puzzlers' Award.

While I am not too familiar with Hashimoto-san, I enjoy MINE's designs and have a couple of his puzzles including the T4-II and T4-III. His packing puzzles usually do not have a lot of pieces (no more than 4), but yet provides a nice (and not overly difficult) challenge that is just right. Caramel Box is one such puzzle, although it did stump me a fair bit longer than the previous two.

There are two challenges here... to get two sets of various irregular shaped pieces flat into the metal box. Usually not a problem since its only a 3x3x2 but in this case the opening of the box has an obstruction in one corner, making the solve more difficult than one might imagine.

Packing the pieces would require you to figure out the shape the pieces must form to fit inside the box...pretty straight forward, although the wrong shape would mean getting stuck along the way. And then figuring out how to insert the pieces into the box...which is not so straight forward. I found the second challenge easier than the first, which is a bit odd since the first is usually the easier of the two.

Quality and build is excellent. The two sets of wood pieces are made from Teak and Poa Rosa respectively and the box is thick walled steel. A really solid mix of metal and wood.

Overall a really nice puzzle of high quality. I believe there are still some copies available for sale. You can purchase the Caramel Box and other puzzles via MINE's website. Yes, he does ship overseas.

Sunday 21 September 2014


This interlocking puzzle is aptly named, and you can see why. Designed by Tamas Vanyo, one of several "new wave" designers that is pushing the boundaries of interlocking puzzle designs with shapes and styles that go beyond the traditional looking burr. I have several of his designs, including the Noncsi, Orsi and Pentomino Maze.

Tamas is very prolific and he designs an average 3-5 puzzles a month, which he shares on Facebook before they are eventually uploaded to

A rookie wood-worker, the Pharmacy was hand-made by him out of Pear and Beech woods. I had seen his design on Facebook and requested a copy. While overall build and quality cannot be compared to the finishing and precision of professional puzzle craftsmen, my copy turned out to be reasonably well made, coming from an amateur. It even has oil coating to preserve the woods, although this is not apparent externally.

What is rather unusual about this design is that there is an internal plate (shaped like a "cross") which "floats" inside the box frame. Both the plate and frame have irregular cut-outs. The plate cannot be removed and extraction/assembly of the pieces require interaction with both the box frame and the plate which slides within. 

On paper, the Pharmacy is a 31-move level 13 puzzle (ie 13 steps to remove the 1st piece), certainly not the most difficult burr around in theory. But the asymmetrical nature of the cut-outs and sliding plate make the puzzle harder than it appears. Unless the burr pieces are in the correct orientation when going back into the frame, there'll be some dead ends. I managed to get the pieces out but got stuck hopeless during the assembly. With the plate "locked" inside the frame, I was also at a loss at how to generate a burr tools file. I consulted designer Goh Pit Khiam who duly obliged with the solution and thereafter got the pieces back where they belong.

The Pharmacy sports a rather unique and different design and shape. It'll be nice if one of the regular puzzle makers can pick up on this one and produce copies for sale. If so, my only recommendation is to have the internal plate fabricated out of acrylic which not only adds to durability and integrity of the plate/frame combo, but also lends a nice contrast to the wood pieces and frame.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Hanayama Cast Galaxy

A puzzle designer's dream....enter a puzzle design competition, win a prize and a major puzzle manufacturer picks up your winning design and mass produces it...leading to fame and fortune! 

In recent years, a number of designers have had their IPP award winning designs produced by Hanayama. They include Vesa Timonen (Cast Loop), Dmitry Pevnitskiy & Kirill Grebnev (Cast Harmony), JinHoo Ahn (Cast G&G) and Kyoo Wong (Cast U&U). But Bram Cohen has had not one but two of his designs turned into commercial puzzles (Cast Rattle, Cast Galaxy)

Released in July this year, the Galaxy is the latest cast puzzle from Hanayama. As of the date of this blog post, the Galaxy is also the best selling cast puzzle domestically in Japan (loads of royalties for Bram, congrats!).

I bought my copy from Torito who had set up shop during IPP34 in London this past August. The Galaxy can also be purchased from PuzzleMaster and Ebay.

The Galaxy is fabricated out of steel (I think). Consisting of 4 interlocking pieces, the object is to separate them. Fit and finishing is overall good and in this instance, I actually like the shiny surface. 

Hanayama has rated it 3 stars for difficulty level, but I think it deserves perhaps a 3.5. Solving requires you to twist and turn the pieces in various directions; for most part you'll hit a dead end and be confused. But get them (just) right in the correct position and they can thereafter be disentangled. Some co-ordinate motion is required. Virtually no chance of accidental solving. 

Both the taking apart and re-assembly is more than fairly challenging. The putting back together is I feel more difficult and you have to make sure you set up the pieces correctly. However, once you get the hang of it, its quite manageable to repeat solve. Overall a nice looking, compact and fun puzzle; one of the best ones so far from Hanayama that I have come across.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Naked Secret Box "RED"

The Naked Secret Box "RED" is Meiko Kimura's IPP34 Exchange Puzzle. Meiko is the owner of Japanese online puzzle retailer Torito.

One look at the puzzle and you can probably guess why its called what it is. There is also a "BLUE" version (somewhat physically similar to the "RED") which was her puzzle design competition entry.

The puzzle was designed by Akio Yamamoto and made entirely out of acrylic. Object is to remove the lid and take apart the box entirely into the 6 pieces. Imagine it a 6 piece board burr interlocked, with very widely spaced apart pieces. Build and construction is excellent and pieces are all precisely laser cut.

Solving is not difficult but there is a sequence of movements to follow. The pieces also must be in the correct orientation for it to fit together properly.

From the practical standpoint, you could put some keepsakes inside. Non-puzzlers would probably take quite some time to get it open without resorting to brute force or breaking the box.

The "BLUE" version is available from Torito for around US$27/-. Not expensive considering the high quality, but unfortunately Torito does not ship internationally any more. Anyone wanting a copy would have to get someone they know in Japan to buy it for them, or perhaps use a commercial drop shipping service.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Heavy Metal From IPP34

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

These two puzzles came from IPP34. The Cast Metal Puzzle (cube) was Markku Vesala's Exchange Puzzle while the Brass Ball was purchased from Dmitry Pevnitskiy during the Puzzle Party.

The Brass Ball is a co-ordinate motion puzzle. Relatively easy to take apart (with some pressing and tugging here and there) but a real bummer to reassemble. 

Somehow every time I think I have all the pieces in position ready to slide back together, something will be stuck, not to mention its really difficult to operate all the 4 pieces at the same time. When Dmitry demonstrated the Brass Ball to me at IPP, he could put it back together in a matter of seconds!

I am still struggling with this one and it remains on my table in 4 separate pieces. If anyone has the solution to this, please help, thanks.

Edit: 7.5 hours later, I played with the Brass Ball again and after a while of fiddling, got it assembled.

The Cast Metal Puzzle #81/125 on the other hand is easier. Comprising 6 pieces of tetraminoes and pentaminoes, the pieces are "interlocked" together by a magnetic ball bearing in the centre. 

Nice concept, very well made and high quality. Being cast iron, its also very heavy in the hand for such a small puzzle measuring only 3cm square.

Wednesday 10 September 2014


RetroFit is one of several puzzles which I acquired recently from Eric Fuller's latest puzzle offering. 

The name given is appropriate for this puzzle; "Retro" - it was designed 4 years ago by Singaporean designer Goh Pit Khiam in 2010 and "Fit" - object is to fit the 5 identical polyominoes (in this case, nonominoes- made up of 9 units), flush into the box frame which is partially covered by a "floating" acrylic sheet.

This version from Eric is made of Rosewood, Ipe, Walnut, Bubinga, Paduak for the pieces and  Maple for the box frame. Construction and finish is excellent as always. An earlier version made of laser cut Walnut exists also for this design, which was Walt Hoppe's IPP31 Exchange Puzzle in Berlin reviewed by Allard in his blog.

This packing puzzle is IMHO just nice; not too many pieces, fun and the right difficulty level; ie enough challenge to hold your continual interest but not overly difficult. However you do need to think a bit outside the box (or frame) to figure this one out and the solution, when you discover it, would surprise you.

Saturday 6 September 2014


The Larva (and Ladybird which featured at IPP34 in London this August) are the latest designs from Belgian designer Robrecht Louage. 

Robrecht is very well known in the puzzling community for his "remove-the-coin" and hidden maze/route finding puzzles. 

Amongst his designs are the La Cerradura Doble, 1 Euro LabyrinthRemove The Yolk and Escape From Alcatraz. Robrecht's most famous design; the 4 Steps Visible Lock was also the winner of the Grand Jury prize at the IPP31 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in Berlin in 2011.

Object is to remove a Euro 50 cent coin through a cut-out in the upper cover. While the previous remove-the-coin puzzles involved a hidden maze, the Larva's consist of navigating two metal sliders through two visible and movable maze plates. The Larva appears to be a new design take.....a "cross" between the La Cerradura Doble and 1 Euro Labyrinth.

The puzzle is made of Trespa and acrylic and is very well made. Everything is precisely machined cut to very tight tolerances and fit and finish is excellent. The Larva name and worm etchings add to the fine detailing.

From a puzzling standpoint, it is not an overly difficult puzzle for more experienced puzzlers, especially those who have played with Robrecht's previous works. But it is no walk in the park either. One of the challenges is to figure out how the two maze plates interact with each other and which direction either is suppose to go in order for the coin to be freed.

Personally I found it a bit more difficult than La Cerradura Doble. However because you can see what you are doing and can chart your progress as you go along, you feel the urge to continue to the end and not put it down; just the sort of puzzle to occupy you for a good half to one hour on a lazy Saturday afternoon, with an end in sight and not too much stress. The Larva is fun and very manageable.

For those of you who may not be aware, the Larva and Ladybird puzzles is a collaboration between Robrecht and puzzle collector Michel van Ipenburg. If anyone is interested in acquiring any one of these puzzles, please PM me via my blog email and I will link you up with the aforementioned gentlemen.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Broken Bricks

Broken Bricks is a nice and fun packing puzzle and this copy also happened to be the last one owned by Russian puzzle designer and maker, Vladimir Krasnoukhov. I bought it from him during the IPP34 Puzzle Party.


Measuring about 7.5cm square and 4.5cm tall, this is surprisingly a seriously heavy puzzle, with a very thick-walled box frame and six pieces made from a combination of Wenge, Bubinga, Paduak and Buche woods. Overall pretty decent construction, fit and finish throughout.

The box has curved edges and and detailing on the sides and the contrasting coloured pieces have diagonal cuts on each of them. 2 solutions exist for this puzzle which is of fairly moderate difficulty. 

For other puzzles from Vladimir, click here.