Monday 26 October 2015

Euro Falle 03

Over the weekend I had read Mike Desilets' guest post about the Euro Falle 02 on Kevin Sadler's puzzle blog and decided that I should bring my copy of the Euro Falle 03 with me for my five-day business trip. I thought I could get in some puzzling during the evenings after work. Of course I also wanted to make sure that I had something that can withstand the rigors of being tightly packed in my luggage without a risk of damage. The Euro Falle 03 was just the right puzzle.

I had obtained my Euro Falle 03 from Allan Stein during the IPP35 Puzzle Exchange in Ottawa, Canada just this past August. Like the Euro Falle 02 and 04, the 03 is the design of Jurgen Rieche and one of the more recent offerings in a range of products coming from Siebenstein-Spiele.

In terms of quality, manufacture and attention to detail, I think Mike has already summed it up pretty well. In fact his review (for a first time blog post) is not only impressive but comprehensive; and I have really nothing more to add. Like the Euro Falle 02, the puzzle consists of layers of laser cut wood stacked together and as Mike has stated, it is very solid and heavy. 

Dimensionally the Euro Falle 03 is just slightly short of 8 cm x 8 cm, about 2.5 cm high and bears a rounded shape with protruding corners. The 03 has 4 wooden layers making it thicker and heftier than the 02. This puzzle can stand a lot of abuse!

What's the solving like? Well I have not played with 02, but based on Mike's description of the 02, it would appear that the 03 probably has a similar mechanism. While it took me around half an hour to figure how to remove the Euro coin, the actual solving itself is pretty fast (once you know how). 

Suffice to say, the Euro Falle 03 is a rather tricky puzzle for the uninitiated and inexperienced. Looking at the way its been designed, one could conceivably spend a considerable amount of time trying to figure things out (and possibly barking up the wrong tree) before the "a-ha" moment finally kicks in. But once you know the solution, re-solving is easy. Damn...I should have brought a couple more puzzles...I have another 3 nights to go!

Puzzle Master retails the Euro Falle 02 (CA$23.99), 03 and 04 (CA$34.99 each), stocks the 03 and 04 (25 Euros each) while Brilliant Puzzles carry only the 02 (US$24.95)

[All photos above of the Euro Falle 03 shot with an iPhone on my hotel room bed]

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The (Very) Affordable Berrocal (Alternative)

Update 24 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at

Can't afford a Berrocal? Read on...this may just be the thing for you!

Last week my son and I played with two very cute, colourful and interesting "put together cum packing" puzzles. These were the "Restoration Puzzle-Human Model" ("Mannequin") and "Cow" from Japanese toy manufacturer Megahouse.

Both puzzles came to me courtesy of YC Lam of Hong Kong who runs his Felix Puzzle site. Although the site is in Chinese, Google translate will help matters and he has a pretty good selection of puzzles from various manufacturers.

As you can tell from the photos, it is pretty obvious what the respective goals of the puzzles are; fix together the limbs, head etc and "pack" all the internal organs into the body. The Mannequin has 36 pieces while the "Berro-cow" has 37. 

Both are entirely made of plastic, but to my surprise, not some cheapo light plastic to be scoffed at. This is really heavy duty stuff which makes the completed figurines very hefty and solid. The pieces don't snap into place as I had expected them to, but rather rely on friction to hold each other together. In the assembled state the puzzles would not come apart unless you bash the puzzle around.

Both are uniquely attractive and make excellent display and conversation pieces. In a bed of wooden burrs, these two would really stand out! To be honest, how many of you puzzlers have seen something like this before? And before I forget to mention....they are really useful for aspiring doctors and vets! I don't know about the Cow, but the Mannequin looks anatomically correct to me!

For the price of HK$130 (slightly less than US$17) each, the quality of manufacture is really very good and I was pretty impressed. If you can't afford a Berrocal, well I guess here's a really inexpensive and viable alternative...which happens also not to need polishing ...move over, Mini David!

From a puzzling perspective, both are not difficult puzzles. The Cow tho' I felt was much more challenging than the Mannequin. The former has a lot more small and similar looking internal organs which had to be inserted into the body forming twin layers; very much like a two layer packing puzzle. Solutions come in the form of a QR code download so help is at hand should you need it. 

Friday 16 October 2015

Yee Dian Lee - Puzzle Books Collector Extraordinaire

Its always nice to get together with fellow puzzlers/collectors and last week while I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for business, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Yee Dian Lee at his home and spending a great evening with him talking about puzzles and admiring his extensive collection.

The puzzle den is actually longer than what the photo shows
Some of you puzzlers would know Yee Dian pretty well, especially those who have attended past IPPs. Yee Dian attended his first IPP at IPP12 in Tokyo in 1992, over twenty three years ago. Since then he has not missed a single IPP to-date! I had met Yee Dian the first time over three years ago at IPP33 in Japan and since then we have regularly kept in touch. it was only now that I paid a visit to his home and see vast puzzle and puzzle books collection.

Yee Dian is an Electrical Engineer by training and graduated from Osaka University, Japan. Professionally he a corporate trainer working mainly with various Malaysian government departments. Apart from mechanical puzzles, Yee Dian is also the Testing Procter for the Malaysian Mensa as well as Secretary of the Malaysian Sudoku Society. 

I was hosted to a sumptious dinner by Yee Dian and his lovely wife, the meal home-cooked by Yee Dian's mother-in-law. Thereafter I spent the rest of the evening in his puzzle room. As I ascended halfway to his puzzle room, Yee Dian's puzzle vessel collection greeted me. It occupies an entire wall and the cabinet houses several puzzle vessels/pots from all over the world. What a sight to behold!

Puzzle vessels galore!
Yee Dian's puzzle den occupies the better portion of the third floor of his three storey house with both sides lined with shelves from floor to ceiling. The right shelves comprise mainly of puzzles and some books while the left are almost all puzzle books. I have never seen so many puzzle books in my life!

His IPP Exchange Puzzles, which number over 2,000 are not in the same puzzle den; there is just not enough space for them. Instead they are kept in boxes (all marked and numbered by year/country) which line one side of the corridor leading to his daughter's bedroom. 

Yee Dian does not just collect mechanical puzzles (his main interests being puzzle vessels and interlocking) but also focuses on puzzle books. While his mechanical puzzle collection numbers several thousand (he says he has lost count), his puzzle book collection is well over 5,000 titles! They are in several languages including English, Japanese and Chinese. 

Outside of Japan, Yee Dian has the largest private collection of puzzle books in South East Asia. A real treasure trove of puzzle literature acquired over many years with each and every title/details recorded meticulously. His passion is hunting for rare puzzle books both on the internet and when he travels abroad.

All puzzle books here
To go through just his mechanical puzzles alone, it would probably take a whole week. Yee Dian recounted to me that there was once a European collector (a pretty well know name in the puzzle community whom I shall keep anonymous) who visited some years back; he had spent three days in the puzzle den only coming out for meals and toilet breaks. Yee Dian welcomes any puzzler visiting Malaysia to drop by his home for a visit. Nowadays I go to Malaysia for business quite regularly. I am already looking forward to my next trip!

Well, enough said, I will let the photos do the rest of the talking....

Ultra rare puzzle books on this shelf

Notice some of the wooden puzzle boxes at the lower right?
These were from Akio Kamei before he became famous

Yee Dian and I exchanging gifts. 
I received a very nice puzzle vessel (a wine pot) 
which will be the subject of a future blog post

Sunday 11 October 2015

2 x 2 Burr

The 2x2 Burr is the design creation of Osanori Yamamoto and the puzzle was also Rosemary Howbrigg's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

The 2x2 was produced for Rosemary by Mr Puzzle and its a 4-piece puzzle made of Western Australian Jarrah for the wooden pieces and 10mm thick acrylic for the remaining two. The 2 wooden pieces are identical while the acrylic slabs have different shaped cut-outs for each. Construction fit and finish is very good and the wooden pieces are strengthened at the joints with bamboo dowels even. Very nice touch.

The puzzle came un-assembled and the object is to fit the pieces together to form the symmetrical shape as shown in the photo. I didn't think it would be that difficult looking at the cut of the pieces, after all, Rosemary's Exchange Puzzle to me at last year's IPP34 the 4-piece "Black Hole Burr" only took me less than half hour to solve. But I was dead wrong. This one is a lot harder!

Firstly the assembly of the pieces cannot be achieved in orthogonal fashion; meaning moving the pieces left right up and down against each other. Instead, putting the puzzle together requires multiple rotational movements. And this is something that Burr Tools won't be of help. 

I tried all the usual stuff but the 2x2 took me on and off trying for a good several days before the a-ha moment came. It appeared that I didn't expand my thinking a bit further! Some careful analysis right at the beginning of how the wooden pieces can be possibly inserted into 2 flat layers of acrylic and how the puzzle will end up in the final state would yield dividends as you play along. And NO force at all is necessary!

Not an easy puzzle at all by any means and Mr Puzzle has rated the 2x2 at a difficulty level 9/10; ie very difficult, and I concur. At the time of this writing, the 2x2 is available from Mr Puzzle for A$38.50. 

Monday 5 October 2015


I don't know about the rest of you puzzlers out there but I think Artefacts is one of nicest and most unusual looking packing puzzles around.

Artefacts made its debut at the IPP35 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition just this August in Ottawa, Canada. Its the design of Japan based French Canadian Frederic Boucher, who previously came up with the Marble Cake which was quite a hit with the puzzle community. 

Challenge #2 - Pack the 5 pieces flat around the brass rod. Notice the half-units!
Artefacts is made of 4 contrasting coloured exotic hardwoods; Paduak, Maple and Cherry for the tray and Ebony for the 5 wooden pieces. All the 5 pieces are irregular shaped and consists of glued blocks with both whole and half-units, something that Frederic is pretty fond of incorporating into his designs. What's unusual is also that the puzzle contains a 6th piece which is a solid brass rod. The combination of dark Ebony pieces contrasting with shiny brass makes Artefacts stand out amongst other wooden and acrylic 2D packing puzzles. Construction fit and finish is excellent and the puzzle has a very high quality feel. What I understand from Frederic is that he has the pieces and blocks of the puzzle cut by someone else but he hand-glues the tray and pieces and does the finishing himself.

Dimensional-wise it measures about 9.5cm x 9.5cm.

Visual appearance aside, Artefacts also scores well from the puzzling perspective. It has two challenges.The first is to place all 6 pieces (including the brass rod) flat into the tray. The second challenge involves planting the brass rod vertically into a hole at the centre of the tray and then to fit the remaining 5 wooden pieces flat in.

One would have thought that packing 6 pieces into a tray would be more difficult than 5 but in fact for Artefacts, the opposite seems to apply. I managed to pack the 6 pieces flat into the tray pretty quickly (there are 3 possible solutions; maybe that's why its easier). But I struggled nearly a week with the second challenge; packing the 5 wooden pieces around the brass rod, before I gave up and looked at the solution. The second challenge has only one solution! Burr Tools will not help here.

While its a pity it didn't manage to win any awards at IPP35, overall its a great puzzle no less (and a winner in my books). Packing puzzle enthusiasts would definitely love this one! If you would like an Artefacts, please PM me for Frederic's contact. He makes limited quantities of his designs from time to time.