Sunday 30 August 2015

4M Puzzle

This 4M puzzle came to me courtesy of its designer Hirokasu Iwasawa at IPP35 in Canada early this month.

You can see from the photo why its called the 4M puzzle (or MMMM Puzzle). The object is to pack the 4Ms into the box and cover the opening completely flat with the lid.

My copy is made of MDF (medium density fibre) board, very hard, like wood but at a fraction of the cost, to keep the cost of the puzzle affordable. Although it may not crafted from exotic hardwoods, nonetheless construction, fit and finish is very good. For a puzzle like the 4M, the material chosen works well and the puzzle functions as intended.

If you have played with any of Hiro's puzzles which include the award winning "Odd Puzzle" and the "Jam" series of puzzles, you will know there is always a neat trick involved and its not that simple as it appears.

Dimension-wise, you will discover that trying to put the pieces straight in wouldn't work and slanting all the pieces in randomly won't either. As mentioned, there is a technique of packing the pieces and the solution is what puzzlers would term "elegant". Once all the pieces go in as intended, the lid closes nicely.

A great design from Hiro and from the puzzling perspective, provides a very nice but not too difficult challenge. Definitely worth acquiring. If available in exotic woods, better still.

Saul Symonds has done an interview with Hiro on how the latter created the 4M Puzzle which makes for interesting reading.

The 4M is available from Puzzlemaster.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Flower String Puzzle

I got this puzzle from Henry Strout at IPP35 in Canada early this month. Not sure what is the name and should have asked but I didn't. I am terrible at string/wire puzzles and I am not sure why I even bought this but I guess the magenta flower-shaped piece attracted me. Its really thick, hefty and solid plastic (ABS resin?). If I couldn't solve it, I can always cut away the string and use the flower for something else right?

The goal of this flower string puzzle is to remove the wooden stick from the flower. Anyway it didn't look that complicated and it was very inexpensively priced so I picked up what appeared to be the last one on Henry's table. he had a few others but they looked much tougher, so I left them alone.

Last evening, I gave it a go while watching TV. I fumbled with this puzzle for a while trying to understand where the loops went. Even tho' at first glance, it looked impossible (like most string/wire puzzles), I knew there was a trick to it. I thought about it in a logical fashion and determined there was really only one way to untangle the lot...and it worked. Got it apart and even managed to get it back to together pretty fast. Finished my TV show and went to bed feeling satisfied.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Slida Classic

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

I never knew the Slida existed until I chanced upon it on Goetz Schwandtner's site. Goetz is a dedicated collector and from time to time I would visit his site to see what are his latest acquisitions. Every month shows up something new!

The Slida hails from Australia and was designed by Gianni Lavermicocca, a Sydney businessman and entrepreneur. He has a website selling the different coloured versions of the Slida and all the ones on sale (including my copy) is from the Classic range. The Slida also won the Gold Medal at the International Exhibition Of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland. According to an article in one publication, the Slida is the "next Rubik's Cube". Hmm...a pretty bold claim there! It looks like a twisty, but its not.

Just what is the Slida? Well, to put it simply, its an interlocking puzzle shaped in a ball. A very nice multi-coloured one I might add. When I first started playing with it, the Slida reminded me very much of the Convolution Ball by Stewart Coffin. While the wooden Convolution Ball has seven pieces which all interlock together, the Slida has ten. From a construction standpoint, its very well made with tight tolerances. The fit amongst the pieces is very good with no unsightly gaps. It uses high quality plastic, pretty hefty and feels solid. 

My only wish is that the corners of some of the pieces weren't so sharp; not that they would cause bleeding or anything like that, but if you are not careful while playing, they may cause scratches to your palms and fingers, because the fit of the pieces are pretty snug and you have to use some measure of force to push and tug the pieces. If the corners were a bit more rounded, that would have been great.

Like playing with a burr, you need to find the first moving piece to get things started. After a bit of prodding here and there, I slid the first panel out. Unlike most burrs, it takes only one move. Once the first panel is out, the task is to locate the rest of the panels and soon I had four sides off. You slowly peel off the layers, so to speak. What remains can be further divided into three large pieces and each of the three can be detached into two...a total of ten parts. There are seven sliding moves and three non-sliding ones. It would have been even better if ALL the pieces were joined together via sliding. I am sure the designer must have thought of this but probably constrained by manufacturing restrictions. 

Re-assembly is the reverse. Once you have studied the nature of the pieces, you would find that certain pieces can only fit together in a particular way and these same pieces cannot fit with any others. If it doesn't dovetail nicely, slides to a stop mid-way or you need to use excessive force, you are probably trying to put the wrong pieces together. Because of this, the chances of hitting a blind end is virtually eliminated in the Slida and the solving becomes much easier (not easy). Everything has to follow a sequence. A nice touch is that the final piece slides in with a click, thus locking the whole assembly.

For an experienced puzzler, the Slida provides a moderate challenge; it is not difficult to disassemble and re-assemble (the latter which is usually the more troublesome) and quite easily re-solvable once you get the hang of it. I got the multi-coloured version, which I suspect may have made things less difficult; I think the single coloured (cheaper) version may prove to be tougher without the various colours as reference points. For the novice, it could be quite daunting as shown on the site's Youtube video. 

Worth getting? Yep! its a nice looking puzzle to add to your collection and something not too difficult which you can pass to your non-puzzling friends and kids to play with without worrying they will break anything. And you can solve it for them should they get stuck; not something that can be done easily for those far more difficult puzzles, like mid to high level burrs. And for the promotional price of A$15.41 for a single multi-coloured ball and A$18.14 for a twin pack of two, it represents excellent value for money too.

Thursday 20 August 2015

L-I-vator Cube

The L-I-vator Cube was Laszlo Molnar's entry for this year's IPP35 Puzzle Design Competition. How did I obtain my copy? Well in October last year, Laszlo (who's from Hungary) and living in the UK contacted me and asked if he could make a handful of my Crossroads puzzle for a fundraising project he was involved in. I didn't know Laszlo then, but found out he was an amateur woodwork hobbyist, and later on, that he also knew Laurie Brokenshire pretty well.

Over several emails, I took the opportunity to ask him if he was keen to make several copies of my own entry ("69" puzzle) for the Puzzle Design Competition and to my delight, he was happy to do so. To cut a long story short, while he was building my prototype and the final versions of my 69 puzzle, he also made a prototype of the L-I-vator cube and asked me to test it out to assess the design and level of difficulty. I said sure, why not, and on that note, a couple of weeks later, I received his first prototype of the L-I-vator, the one shown in photo here.

My copy of the L-I-vator Cube has a plywood box and the pieces are made of a combination of hardwoods including cherry, wenge and purpleheart. For a hobbyist woodworker, he has done a pretty decent job of building the puzzle. The pieces are all nicely cut and glued together and fit well into the box with just the right amount of tolerance.

The L-I-vator cube is an interlocking cum packing puzzle and the uniqueness and theme of Laszlo's design is that there are six dissimilar pieces, from the smallest which goes from two units to the highest, seven units (hence the name "L-I-vator"). Object is to unpack and re-pack all six pieces into box. It would have been pretty easy if it was just a simple box. But as you can see, there are two obstructions at opposite corners of the opening and these restrict the movements of the pieces which will require the solver to navigate through.

My puzzle was shipped in the solved state, so I was lucky! I was very careful to slowly unpack the pieces (at the same time trying to memorize the sequence) so that I won't have too much difficulty repacking later. The initial several moves are pretty obvious but it gets tricky as you move along. However, its not so difficult to the extent that you can't figure out how to extract the final pieces. Putting everything back in order is just the reverse process. If you do forget the moves, yes you may have a challenge there and you will need to build the pieces into a cube first outside the box and then slowly figure out how to load them back in; which is something required anyway if the puzzle happens to come un-assembled.

A really nice packing puzzle with some tricks thrown in. Provides a good challenge with moderate difficulty. How to get one? Well, Brian Menold will be offering the L-I-vator Cube in two versions on his site using different combination of woods. From what I understand, this will be sometime end August. This is a very neat 3D packing design and given Brian's superb craftsmanship, it is definitely worth purchasing a copy. 

Sunday 16 August 2015

IPP35 Puzzle Party

Unlike the Puzzle Exchange which is  limited to the Exchange participants and their assistants, the Puzzle Party, which takes place the day after is open too all IPP invitees, their spouses, partners and guests etc. 

Again, for a run-down of what the Puzzle Party is like, what happens and the sort of puzzles that go on sale, check out my post on last year's (IPP34) event. Here's an excerpt from the said post:-

...Puzzles for sale typically fall into the following categories:-

1. Leftover (or extra) exchange puzzles - great for exchange assistants who were "so close yet so far" from the exchanged ones.

2. Leftover exchange puzzles from previous IPPs, some going back several or more years....

3. Collectors' pre-loved or unwanted puzzles.

4. Puzzles from commercial puzzle retailers. Great bargains here sometimes as they are usually a bit cheaper during IPP and you don't have to pay shipping.

5. Old, current and new puzzles from puzzle designers and craftsmen

6. Copies of the design competition puzzles

...The Party is like a high end flea market with puzzles strewn all over the tables. Sellers are making their sales pitches and buyers are touching and feeling everything in sight and asking lots of questions. There is polite and gentle shoving and pushing here and there as everyone jostles within the narrow aisles. Everybody is eager to cover as much ground as possible within the first half hour, which is the most crucial to securing a desired or prized puzzle...

Here are the photos I took during the Party. As usual, there was a huge and wonderful array of puzzles for sale.

Even before the doors opened at 9am, the crowds were already in eager anticipation for the Party to start

Zandraa Tumen-Ulzil & family. Look at those chess sets!!

David & Nicole Pitcher

Robert Sandfield

Bernhard Schweitzer (Puzzlewood)

Perry & Chance McDaniel. The three trays on the left are real candy/chocolates while the rest are puzzle boxes

Yvon Pelleteir. No, he wasn't selling any puzzles, just showcasing some of his gorgeous work

Yvon Pelletier & Jerry MacFarland

Tim & Simon Bexfield

Gred Benedetti & Raymond Stanton

Paulette Bobroff. What is that huge round thing???

Eitan Cher

From Left - Stephen Chin, David Pullen, Alison Bell & George Bell

Pavel Curtis (Pavel's Puzzles)

Tom van der Zanden

Brad & Scott Elliot

Puzzles from Henry Strout

Allen Stein (PuzzleMaster)

William Waite (Puzzlemist)

Kelly Snache (Soul Tree Creations)

Joop van der Vaart

Larry Siedman

From Left - Susumu Kimura, Naoaki Takashima, Lixy Yamada & Meiko Kimura (Torito)

Kate Jones (Gamepuzzles)

Olga Krasnoukhova

Emrihan Halici

Brian Young (Mr Puzzle) & Simon Nightingale

Steve Nicholls (Threedy)

George Miller, Bob Hearn with Oskar van Deventer (on the laptop screen) 

Wil Strijbos

Eric Fuller ( & Silvery Draco

Iwahiro Iwasawa

David Litwin & Rob Stegman

John Rausch

Naoaki Takashima & Lixy Yamada

Thursday 13 August 2015

IPP35 - Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange

The 2015 International Puzzle Party was held in Ottawa in the state of Ontario, Canada from 6th to 9th August. Unlike the two previous editions of the IPP where the venue was at an airport hotel, this year's IPP was held downtown at the Ottawa Marriot, which made it very convenient for the IPP participants and their families to visit the sights of this beautiful city and to enjoy the nightlife, food and drink.  

Like all earlier IPPs, the two key events of the Party were the Puzzle Exchange and the Puzzle Party (the latter for my next blog post). For the guidelines/rules and on what typically happens during a puzzle exchange, you may wish to check out my post on last year's Exchange; click here. Here's an except from the said post:-

1. An exchanger must typically produce a minimum of around a 100 puzzles; 99 for the exchange and one for public display during IPP which is then donated to the Slocum Puzzle Collection at the University of Indiana Lilly Library. Many exchange participants tend to produce more than the 100 for post-exchange sale at the Puzzle Party or gifting. Not an inexpensive affair in terms of cost of production, shipping etc.

2. The participant's exchange puzzle must be an original design. However it need not be the exchanger's own design. He/she can commission or use someone else's design (with permission of course). 

3. The exchanged puzzle must not have been previously in someone's collection nor commercially available prior to the exchange.

This year's exchange saw a total of 88 participants. Simon Nightingale, who won the Jury Honourable Mention Award for his "Oh Ding" puzzle, nearly missed the Exchange as his two pieces of luggage containing all of his exchange puzzles, went suitcase ended up in Toronto while the other, Montreal. Fortunately the airline got his suitcases to him in time for the Puzzle Party the next day, and it was there where he not only sold puzzles, but also managed to exchange puzzles with the rest of the participants.

My Exchange Puzzle this year was one of my own designs; called "CamelPak", the exchange version a slight re-design from the version on PWBP. Made of laser cut acrylic, its a packing puzzle with two challenges. 1st challenge: Pack all the 5 camels into the tray. 2nd challenge: Pack 4 camels, the dog and snake into the tray. 

Here are the rest of the photos I managed to take during the Exchange.

90 copies all laid out and ready to go....
Everyone donates one copy of their puzzle to the Puzzle Exchange Table

Frans de Vreugd

Jerry Slocum

Diniar Namdarian

Eric Fuller
Allard Walker

Brian Young

Iwahiro Iwasawa

Scott Elliot

Laurie Brokenshire

Marcel Gillen

Frederic Boucher

My haul 5 hours later....

My sleeping partners during IPP35
Coming up in the next post...the IPP35 Puzzle Party.....