Wednesday 15 July 2015

The Cut (Just Fit)

Almost all puzzlers in the community would generally associate Wil Strijbos with high quality and (usually very difficult) metal puzzles.

But surprise surprise, quite a number of years back, over twenty five years to be exact, Wil designed a wooden puzzle called Just Fit. Not only that, Wil's Just Fit also won the 1990 Hikimi Puzzle Competition for wooden puzzle designs.

Over the years, various puzzle craftsmen and manufacturers have produced "Just Fit" under different guises and names. The version I have is known as the "The Cut" and is also my first puzzle acquired from Thai online retailer Siam Mandalay

Siam Mandalay makes and sells more than just puzzles. Aside from a pretty extensive selection of over one hundred and forty wooden puzzles/brain teasers on offer at any one point in time, their website also retails traditional board games, novelties and furniture. I would consider them an online lifestyle retail store but with a strong focus on puzzles as well.

My copy of The Cut measures about 13cm square and 3.7cm high; a good size for the play as the pieces can be comfortably handled without being overly bulky or too small. The wood used is I am told, Monkey Pod wood and Tamarind. Construction, fit and finish is overall pretty decent. For about US$26, I wasn't expecting the level of craftsmanship from the Fullers, Menolds or Pelikans of this world but here the quality is good enough. The puzzle has a handmade sort of feel, which in fact it is, using sustainable materials. While it lacks the premium look and appeal of exotic woods serious collectors are accustomed to, I would say it is built pretty tough and can stand a fair amount of abuse; which is not something that the more pricey wooden puzzles can boast of. This is the sort of puzzle that you would have no hesitation whatsoever passing to your non-puzzling (or clumsy) friends to have a bash at. And for the amount of wood and work going into the construction, real value for money!

The Cut is a packing puzzle with sixteen pieces, object is to form a 4 x 4 checker-board pattern. Here my only wish was that there was a bit more contrast of colours in the woods to make the squares more distinct. The Cut is not an easy puzzle. No, not at all (trust Wil to come up with something so devious, even twenty five years ago!). Firstly as you can see from the photo, each of the sixteen pieces comprise of two blocks of different woods cut at different angles and glued together. To pack the pieces correctly, the sixteen pieces must mesh nicely forming two layers within the tray. 

I scrambled all the pieces out and for the next several hours attempted different combinations to layer the pieces, random and otherwise, trying this and that but without much success. I must have done it over a dozen times but each occasion, I came up short of just one piece, which couldn't fit. So close yet so far. In the end I threw in the towel and checked out the step-by-step solution offered on the Siam Mandalay site. The Cut is too tough for me! 

Those who like packing puzzles would love this one. Not your typical style packing puzzle in terms of design. Inexpensive and given the level of difficulty, definitely would get you your money's worth. 



  1. Sean got to you too? Certainly a nice selection to choose from!

    I have more or less given up on packing puzzles - I only attempt tray puzzles now as the 3D ones are totally beyond me!


    1. Don't give up on packing puzzles Kevin...I haven't given up on burrs despite being so lousy at them.

    2. I keep doing the tray puzzles but not the multilayer ones - too much trial and error involved!

  2. I like the packing puzzles - at least you can see everything you have to work with. In my line of work you have to make sure everything fits back together nicely at the end of the procedure after all.

    1. Yes agreed. But believe it or not, some packing puzzles are so much more difficult than burrs that you cannot see the inside

    2. Ah! But Steve, Sometimes you don't put everything back the way you found it! I've worked with lots of surgeons who have bits of varying sizes left over at the end of an op!