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.

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