Tuesday 28 June 2016

Maker Faire 2016

Last Sunday I spent a nice afternoon at Maker Faire 2016 which was held on the grounds of the Singapore University Of Technology & Design. I was invited by David Ang of Cubewerkz to share his table to showcase some of my own puzzle designs. In preparation for this event, I had produced a number of copies each of five of my 2D packing puzzle designs plus one from Rex Rossano Perez. I also added two other designs I had produced from last year; Goh Pit Khiam's Triple Play (my exchange puzzle for IPP34) as well as my SG50 puzzle.

Clockwise from top right corner - Turtles, 4 Ducks & A Duckling (my IPP35 Exchange Puzzle), Digi-Hex, Jurassic Pack, No Pushing (by Rex Rossano Perez) and Double Happiness

From Left - Goh Pit Khiam's Triple Play and SG50

The table David had was rather small and he had piles of twisties for sale, including a number of scientific and educational toys as well. But I was extremely fortunate that the table next to ours was vacant; the vendor/maker who rented it had decided not to show up, so I gamely shifted my puzzles over and created more breathing space for both David and myself. 

The fair started at 10am in the morning and ended at 6pm in the evening. However, I had sold out all of my puzzles by around 4:30pm in the afternoon and had to "close shop" for the day. It was a very interesting day as I interacted with the folks who visited my table and tried their hand at puzzling. For many it was the first time they had come across mechanical puzzles, let alone 2D packing puzzles. 

Surprising (or perhaps not so surprisingly, the majority of people that visited my table and played with the puzzles were kids and youths, some as young as 4 years old. Many of the children were probably fascinated with the colourful pieces I had purposely created along the animals theme. Without doubt my Jurassic Pack was one of the most popular, a 4 piece packing puzzle with a dinosaur theme. Some kids stood in front of my table for over an hour tirelessly trying to figure out the solutions. In terms of adult puzzlers, there were very few, less than ten or so who showed any keen interest, including a 67 year old grandma who was rather intrigued by my 4 Ducks & A Duckling. Most of the adults who were there were there just to pay for my puzzles for their kids! Now I am now wondering if there is a kid's market out there for puzzles in Singapore? Something I will definitely look into.

I am currently producing more copies of the above puzzles to fulfill some back-orders I received at the fair. If anyone is interested to buy any of the above, please PM me. 

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Restricted Area

This "crooked" shaped box puzzle is Saul Bobroff's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. For those serious puzzlers, you may know Saul as the guy behind the very unusual and unique impossible object; 4 Street Elbows, which I never quite figured out how to take apart although I have heard stories of puzzlers who have.

When I first un-packaged this puzzle and saw the blue box, I thought it was made by Brian Young, who had produced something physically similar (but straight at right angles) called the Restricted Soma. But its actually manufactured by "Here To There", which I believe its Saul's own puzzle company. 

Now back to Restricted Area - it's a Stewart Coffin design, #270-A and the goal is to pack eight pieces into the box which has a restricted opening, reminiscent of Lacika Kmolnar's L-I-Vator Cube. What is unusual about this puzzle is that the box is slanted at an angle from all sides (not obvious from the photo). Whichever side you look at, you will see a "pararellogram" shape on each face of the box. Consequently the pieces inside; each piece comprising of two glued-together "slanted" squares are also at an angle. Quality is good with all the pieces cut and fitting nicely. Dimensions wise, the box is 6.5cm x 6.5cm x 7cm.

If this was a "normal" packing puzzle with straight edges, I don't think it would have been that difficult; but because of the angle that the pieces have to go into the box and with the different shapes, the packing becomes consequently much harder. 

I fiddled with the pieces, taking each one out very slowly with several involving 2-step orthogonal movements because of the restricted opening. Took a bit of time and practice but after a while I memorized where each piece was suppose to go. I can say its not easy. I didn't want to scramble the lot because knowing my lack of packing skills, I probably won't be able to get them all back in later. I suspect Burr Tools could help here (configuring the pieces in the normal way) but I didn't bother to try. I am also not sure but there could be more than one way to solve this puzzle.

Not an easy packing puzzle by any means and certainly different from your normal box packing puzzles with the angles and all. Hardcore packing fans would most certainly love this one.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Push Box - Two

This weekend's puzzle play was "Push Box-Two" designed and made by IPP34 award winning neurologist Dr. Simon Nightingale from the UK.

Push Box-Two is made entirely from Corian again and I really like the choice of material because it gives the puzzle the smooth cool feeling of stone/concrete; and weighty too. Only drawback is that it might crack and break if dropped from too high up. Push Box-Two is physically similar to Simon's IPP34 exchange puzzle, the "Push Box"

But it is of a different colour this time, a sort of a light beige. And of course the mechanism is different from its predecessor. It measures the same 6.3cm all round and the object is to open the spring loaded drawer. Very well made and high quality.

Again I have to admit that I managed to open the box without really fully understanding how the mechanism works although I know there are bits of moving parts (ie sounds like ball bearings) inside causing a rattling noise which keeps the "drawer" locked in place. 

Simon had previously sent me the solution to his earlier Push Box so I had a slight inkling as to the method of solve for Push Box-Two. But this didn't help much and I spent a bit of time turning and tilting the box and pushing here and there, a lot at random, before the box suddenly popped open. The drawer doesn't come out all the way (unfortunately) so there is no way I can inspect the internals of the puzzle. Unless of course I crack open the puzzle which would be a silly thing to do of course. 

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Heat Wave

As I was trawling through my box of IPP35 Exchange Puzzles (hoping to find something interesting and not too difficult to play with), I came across Yee Dian Lee's puzzle called Heat Wave. 

My prototype on the left and Yee Dian Lee's Exchange Puzzle on the right

Heat Wave is one of many 2D packing puzzle designs from Goh Pit Khiam. Goh has designed a number of 2D and 3D packing puzzles including some award winning ones such as the IPP33 Puzzlers' Award Dancing Shoes as well as two Honourable Jury Mentions during IPP35 for his Road Blocks and Number Blocks. Very prolific indeed!

Prior to receiving Yee Dian Lee's puzzle, I had already obtained Goh's Heat Wave design a couple of years earlier and with his permission had laser cut a prototype copy for myself based on an even earlier prototype wooden laser cut copy made by Walter Hoppe for Goh. In keeping with the name of the puzzle, I chose bright yellow and red acrylic for my copy!

Goh's original version has 5 pieces which has to be fitted into the tray that has a covering on the top with a square hole that the pieces have to go through. Lee's exchange version is the same design, except that his has an additional small square 6th piece and Lee's top covering has dimensionally smaller square hole than the original design. Lee's version also has a transparent cover to better let you see how the pieces form up inside the tray.

Beautifully laser cut and great attention to detail
with the pieces each having their own slots at the back

Heat wave is not an easy puzzle at all and I needed Goh's help to solve his version back then. Hmm...maybe things may have been less frustrating if I had used a clear cover instead. Lets just say its not your typical packing puzzle (those who have played with Goh's puzzles would know what I mean) and a number of "unusual" moves are required to fit all 5 pieces into the tray underneath the cover. Can't say more without any spoilers.

With a transparent cover, I feel Lee's version is a tad easier since you can see your progress or mistakes as you move along. Although it's actually meant to be harder than the original. But to be fair, I had played with the prototype previously. A newcomer may find it very challenging indeed. And as Heat Wave was one of my earlier packing puzzles from Goh, it did give me the experience necessary to later solve his other packing puzzles such as Retrofit and Fusion.

A great (and difficult) packing puzzle, unfortunately none commercially available except Lee may have some spare copies left over from his Exchange.

Friday 10 June 2016

Treasure Chest

This trick opening puzzle box is called Treasure Chest. And indeed there is stuff to be found and solved inside apart from opening the chest.

Treasure Chest is the exchange puzzle of Elaine Summerday at IPP35 last year. Its a relatively large puzzle measuring 20cm x 12cm  x 6.5cm. The top of the box has a plastic covered hole with a sticker atop. While this hole has nothing to do with the solving process, I am informed that perhaps the hole is there because the wood used may have been recycled from something else. Going green- good!

There are a two main goals for Treasure Chest; one of course is to open the box and the second is to solve a couple of other challenges found inside the box.

Actually the opening is rather tricky and the solution eluded me for a while as I examined every nook and cranny to find a way to move a panel or something. Eventually I did find it and I must say it is pretty well disguised. Hence there is no picture here of the opened box as it would most certainly contain a spoiler.

Once the box has been opened, there you will find a second puzzle and this one is in the form of a Raketti clone. A rather interesting version; using something resembling the cross-section of a tree trunk to form a ring with a wooden ball inside.

The rest of the tasks all relate to solving this puzzle, namely, to remove the ball out of the ring without touching the ball nor the ring. Those who know how to solve the Raketti would have no problem with this. Those who don't will find this step difficult or even impossible!

Elaine also included two pamphlets inside the box which mainly deal with geocaching activities, again nothing to do with the puzzle at hand but extra information and activities for any puzzler who may be interested in geocaching.

Monday 6 June 2016

Sandfield's Secret Folding Hankie

This "puzzle" is one of the more unusual and unique (as well as pretty) Exchange Puzzles from my haul during IPP35 last year in Ottawa, Canada. The other which I thought also deserving of mention being Straight Up, reviewed a while back. 

Robert Sandfield's Secret Folding Hankie is parked under Slocum Classification 9; a "folding puzzle", and aptly so. The goal is to fold the handkerchief to reveal a secret image and a hidden message. The design of the Hankie is a joint effort by Robert, Perry McDaniel and Cindy Liang.

The handkerchief itself is printed on a square cloth of approximately 41cm x 41cm and the pattern includes the Canadian Maple leaf and squiggly scrawly lines along the edges, with swaths of red filling up the spaces in between.

As I played with the hankie, I was reminded of Mad Magazine's Fold-In on the inside back cover of each issue featuring those quirky, satirical and often humorous illustrations which dealt with current hot topics of the day. And this is exactly what I tried to do with Sandfield's Hankie...but of course to no avail. I tried various other ways of folding the Hankie in all directions including diagonally but somehow could not come up with the hidden message. 

Thankfully Robert included the solution instructions and I finally saw the words and images I needed to see. For the folded hankie solution click here - password - hankie.

A great and interesting puzzle concept and I hope there would be more of these in the future. For more information on secret folding handkerchiefs, Robert has also kindly provided the link to a reference site http://handkerchiefheroes.com/secret-love/. Another link which discusses vintage valentine puzzle handkerchiefs is here.