Tuesday 31 May 2016

Star Beams

This cute and colourful puzzle came courtesy of Dutchman Oskar van Deventer during the IPP34 Puzzle Exchange in London in 2014. But its an old design which dates back to 1989.

Oskar is one of the rarer prolific designers who is comfortable with both puzzle genres; the twisties and non-twisties and amongst the non-twisties, he has designed over a dozen of the Hanayama Cast puzzles to-date including the Cast Twist and Cast Nutcase. He has also designed some unusual ones that include his Boston Subway and Snakes In A Plane.

Star Beams is an interlocking puzzle consisting of six "beams" produced by 3D printing. Overall quality is good. As described on Oskar's Shapeway shop:-

"The puzzle has six pentagram-shaped beams that are woven through each other. It was in 1989 that Oskar discovered this geometry. It is based on the geometry of a regular dodecahedron (with twelve pentagonal faces). When each of the six axes is offset a bit, this nice tetrahedral geometry results" 

The entire assembly is held together by one beam that cuts through four others.

The object of course is to take it apart and put it back together. Don't let the cute and colourful form factor fool you. While its not difficult to figure out how to take it apart and I got this done rather quickly, the putting together proved impossible for me. Even with the aid of photographs taken along the way, I had a lot of difficulty trying to assemble the lot. The notches and grooves are precisely cut and if you mesh the beams together the wrong way, you have to re-start. Of course given that the puzzle is rather small (each beam is 5cm) made it very fiddly and difficult to handle as well.

Check out Oskar's youtube video of the Star Beams (too bad it doesn't show the solve). Its available from Shapeways for US$38.43 as well as Puzzlemaster, the latter much cheaper at CA$29.99. 

Thursday 26 May 2016


Here's a second puzzle I played with designed by Bill Sheckels and exchanged by Norton Starr (what a cool name! And nice guy too!) at IPP34 in London two years ago. The earlier one was the Packed Pyramid, this one's called Octassembly.

This puzzle comprises 6 odd shaped pieces made from Zebrawood with a very nice stripey surface. There are three different shapes and each has one identical pair. All nicely cut! The object here is to form an Octahedron. Now if you don't know what an octahedron is, like I didn't at the beginning, you probably won't know even where to start nor what to do. I know its got something to do with eight tho'. Thanks to the internet....this is an octahedron. Basically two 4-sided pyramids joined together at the bottom.

From the puzzling point of view, its not too difficult...once you know what shape you need to form. But the way the pieces have been cut (and I am sure there is some mathematical aspect to this...don't ask me what it is) make it a tad tricky. Quite amazing how the odd looking pieces can form a symmetrical 3D object.

Overall a really nice good quality shape-forming puzzle that is just the right level of difficulty for an Exchange Puzzle, something you can solve in minutes rather than hours. PM me if anyone wants to see the photo solution

For anyone interested, the Octassembly, is available from Bill via his Etsy puzzle shop mentioned above. And it cost US$21/-

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Multi-Grain 275-AS

Multi-Grain 275-AS.

Stewart Coffin was the designer of the original Multi-Grain 275-A. This version, the 275-AS with a modified grain pattern was by Jerry Slocum.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle Australia. Available for AU$66/-.

Type & Classification
Interlocking solid

7cm x 7cm x 7cm.

Materials & Construction
Papua New Guinea Rosewood. Overall very good quality and finish with a nice snug fit.

This dissection puzzle was Jerry Slocum's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

The object is to take it apart and then re-assemble it. Even though its only 4 pieces, the taking apart was pretty tricky, given its symmetrical assembly. The pieces all fit very snugly and I had to pull and push a bit, here and there everywhere before something finally moved. It took me a bit of time to release the first piece.

Like all burr puzzles, I try to take apart the rest of the pieces slowly and memorizing the moves, and placing them in a systematic manner on the table, so that assembly wouldn't be such a pain later. Brian encourages puzzles who want a real challenge to scramble the pieces and "...go for a walk round the block or something..." and then try to fit the pieces back to its symmetrical pyramidal shape, the latter which of course I didn't.

Thankfully I managed to put the 4 pieces back together, and this is after some trial and error which got me a bit worried in the beginning. But I would imagine that if I had followed Brian's advice, the pieces would have looked so confusing later that I would not have been able to put it together correctly.

If it had come un-assembled, it would certainly have been very difficult indeed. Again quoting Brian from his site:

"Even though it’s a symmetrical shape when it's done; visualising that shape while you're assembling the puzzle is extremely difficult even with the supplied photo of the finished puzzle.
An extension of the famous 'Three Piece Block' puzzle that Stewart is famous for; this one is just as hard if not harder than the original"

It is rated as 7/10 by Mr Puzzle but comes assembled so the difficulty quotient is lower.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Restricted Soma

Restricted Soma

Martin Watson. This is the guy who designed the famous Digigrams puzzle.

Manufacturer & Availability
Manufactured by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle Australia. Available for AU$45/-

Type & Classification
3D Packing/Interlocking solid

Pretty heavy puzzle measuring about 7cm x 7cm x 7cm.

Materials & Construction
Looks to be Queensland Silver Ash for the pieces. The box is lacquered black. Construction fit and finish is very good.

This puzzle was Brian Young's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.

To know what's a Restricted Soma, you need to know first what is a Soma. This Soma is "restricted" because the goal is remove the pieces and to pack them back into the box through a T-shaped opening....which of course makes it harder than the traditional Soma.

The puzzle came packed so the first task on hand was to remove the pieces. Not difficult and soon I had all out. With 7 pieces comprising of "simple shapes", it was not too difficult to remember where each piece went and I actually managed to get all the pieces back to their original positions inside. To aid in the solve, the box has round holes on all sides and the bottom, so fingers can go in to move the pieces about. But (unfortunately) the pieces cannot enter or exit from these holes!

The writing on one of the pieces states that there is more than one solution with rotational moves but only one solution that does not require rotations. I tried searching for this solution for a good part of the evening but not surprisingly, with no success. 

According to Brian on his site-

To find the unique solution without rotational moves is very difficult.  In a recent email even the designer admitted to having some difficulties although to be fair Martin did design it some time back so maybe it’s been a while since he tried to solve.

I don't feel so bad now. Burr Tools showed 3 possible solutions, but with one of the pieces doubling as a cover for the box, there is thus only one solution. And this solution involves some rather unusual moves. A total of 21 moves is required, with the 4th piece alone needing 8. A lot of fingering through the holes!

Not too difficult just to unpack and re-pack, unless you forget where the pieces are supposed to go. But as mentioned, very difficult to find the unique solution without rotation. It is rated as 7/10 by Mr Puzzle.

A must have for packing puzzle lovers. 

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Almost There....Balancing The Egg!

Played with two puzzles this evening. Had success with one but not the other.

The first puzzle (which I managed to solve without help) was Larry Siedman's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle called "Almost There", designed by Goh Pit Khiam. 

This is a 2D packing puzzle entirely made from laser cut wood with 5 pieces consisting of 2 different identical shapes. Good quality manufacture here. Object is to fit all 5 pieces flush inside the tray.

Having played with several of Goh's packing puzzles and knowing his "signature style" of design, it didn't take me too long to solve. Please PM me if you want to the solution. The less initiated will find it pretty difficulty I guess. Challenging and tricky but not as hard as for example Fusion.

The second puzzle which I failed miserably at and no clue at all how to solve is Stephen Chin's "Ze Balancing Egg", his IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. Crafted out of what appears to be Mahogany, this is a beautifully made wooden turned egg, the size of a typical real egg. It even comes with it own decorative stand. Goal here is to balance the egg upright on its own (not on the stand).

I can hear a weight (possibly a ball bearing or similar) rolling around within the internal confines of the egg and I know the weight needs to be right at the bottom of the egg to get it standing upright...It's a dexterity puzzle of some sort probably but I just have no idea how to execute the necessary moves. A couple of times I thought I got it...but no! I am writing to Stephen for a clue, but he takes a while to reply. So if any of my readers can help me, please feel free to drop me a note. Any assistance will be much appreciated.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Turn The Plug

Turn The Plug

Shane Hales

Manufacturer & Availability
Hand-crafted by Shane Hales.

Type & Classification
Trick/Puzzle Lock

This a large and heavy puzzle measuring 14.5cm x 5.8cm x 10.2cm (inclusive of the base).

Materials & Construction
The block where the door lock is attached to is made from both Oak and Walnut. The lock itself looks to be the type of lock you will typically find on an office door. Affixed to the side is an ordinary looking key. Both lock and key comes from ERA, a manufacturer of door locks and components. Overall construction fit and finish is very good.

This is an "Interval Puzzle" from Shane. On Shane's puzzle site this is what he says:

"Smaller simpler puzzle designs.
I have decided to create some simpler puzzle designs while i'm working on my next project. Something easier for me to make, and also keeping everybody else's excitement alive!  Anyone that knows me knows i love locks! 
So i have created my Interval puzzles"

Turn The Plug is also my second puzzle from Shane, the first being The Circle, a great puzzle I reviewed just over two years ago on this blog.  

Shane does not sell these Interval Puzzles nor any of his "main" project puzzles, the latter which he makes just four copies at time; preferring to gift them to other close puzzler friends. The only exception was his very popular Hales Lock #1 which sold out within days of launch. 

The object of Turn The Plug is to "move the black dot on the back from "locked to "Open". Nope, you can't try to turn the knob with the black dot with you fingers, it won't work. The puzzle comes with a key that is attached to the side of the wooden block. So as not to create any spoilers here, nothing more about this key shall be mentioned. Also, no force or banging whatsoever is needed

It is obvious the lock has a part to play in the solving. This is one of those puzzles you can't say too little nor too much without giving anything away. Suffice to say, the solution has a few tricks up its sleeve and I got no where for a while, before discovering how to move the black dot to "Open"

For an experienced puzzler, I won't say its very difficult, but as mentioned, certainly a tad tricky and like all puzzles of this nature, some experimentation here and there is required before one gets the A-ha moment. For novices, well, that's another story.

An very nice design concept; with Shane using commercially available products and parts to fabricate into a great working puzzle.