Wednesday 28 September 2016

CheckerBored 3

CheckerBored 3 is anything but boring! 

I had thought that with the fair amount of practice I have had with packing puzzles designed by Goh Pit Khiam such as Dancing ShoesAlmost ThereFusion etc and Stewart Coffin's CCC-1Cruiser and Five-FIt, I would have been able to solve William Waite's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle the CheckerBored 3. But this was not to be the case, sadly. 

Waite runs a website called Puzzlemist selling some very beautiful (and very difficult looking) 2D packing puzzles based on various themes, all which have been designed and produced him. 

Waite's CheckerBored 3 consists of a regular square tray(10cm x 10cm) and six 6 other pieces. The pieces look as if they have been dissected from a regular 8x8 checker board into different shapes and 5 of the pieces consists of diagonal half squares as well. 

The entire puzzle has been precision laser cut with the darker squares laser etched in a grid pattern. Quality fit and finish is very good and each puzzle comes in a sponge lined box for protection. 

The object is to place all the 6 pieces into the tray to make a checker board pattern and with
half squares permitted. 

The typical starting point would be to try placing all 6 pieces inside the tray and adjusting the pieces randomly to find a fit. But of course this would have been too easy and yielded no success. Somehow one piece just "didn't gel in with the others". I think I must have spent several hours over the course of a few days of puzzling but got no where; to the point I actually wondered if I had been given a wrong piece(s). Finally I threw in the towel and shot Waite an email asking for the solution. Waite replied to say he was traveling and had no access to the solution until the following week. But he did give me a couple of hints.

Using his hints....yes, it is possible to lay out the 6 given pieces in the tray in a checker board pattern as intended and it looks why didn't I try that??

Nothing more needs to be said. A very challenging puzzle IMHO and die hard packing fans (Dave Holt, if you are reading this) won't be disappointed. You won't find CheckerBored 3 on his site but you can try contacting Waite directly (via his site contact) for availability.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Cast Lock

The Cast Lock is one of Hanayama's recent offerings and based on the 2014 IPP34 award winning competition entry design "Cassette" of Jin-Hoo Ann from Korea. 

Shaped like a small padlock, the puzzle measures about 4.3cm x 3.1cm x 2.1cm. It consists of 4 aluminium pieces of which two "elongated" rings with notches form the shackle while the other two form the body of the lock. The objective here is to dismantle the lock into four pieces and put it back together again. Quality of construction, fit and finish is very good and there is certain "looseness" of the puzzle which I believe is intended for easy movement of the pieces. While the rings can swivel around the body of the lock pretty easily, the disassembly is anything but that.

I don't have many Hanayama cast puzzles in my collection and for those that I own, I have managed to solve most of them without any help (well, I don't have many of the really difficult ones anyway!). But sadly, this lock eluded me despite several days of on-off playing. I managed to get past what I would consider the second stage and thereafter remained stuck. And stuck for a long time. Finally I threw in the towel and checked out the video solution which some kind soul had placed on YouTube. Looking at the movements which are serial and sequential in nature, I would not have been able to solve the Cast Lock on my own. The number of twist and turns and precise moves required to un-shackle the lock is pretty confusing and mind-boggling to say the least.

This is a very difficult puzzle to take apart and Hanayama rates it 5 out of 6 stars (I think it should be a 6 out of 6). It has stumped quite a number of puzzlers since it came to the market but I know of one puzzler, blogger Kevin Sadler who has managed to solve it. Check out his review here

Jin-Hoo Ahn has really designed a gem. As I looked the individual pieces, they don't look that complicated but yet the sum of the four parts result in a very challenging puzzle requiring a lot of effort to solve. This is one of those prime examples of "less is more"? If you want a really difficult take-apart puzzle, the Cast Lock is one that will provide a lot of value for money. Outside of Japan, its presently available from PuzzleMaster of Canada.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Hexator & Kissel

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

Over the weekend, I played with two IPP36 Exchange Puzzles designed and manufactured by Vaclav Obsivac from the Czech Republic, more popularly known to the puzzle community as Vinco. I have a number of Vinco's puzzles in my collection including the Cross Box, Murbiter's Pseudo-Burr and the very large sized 18 Dutch Mills

Vinco's online puzzle site has an incredible and very extensive range of interlocking and co-ordinate motion puzzles, made of different woods, a large selection of them using exotic woods and all at very reasonable prices. 

Both my exchange copies came assembled. Both are well made with good fit and finish using Cherry wood and will display rather nicely.

The first is the Hexator, a burr-shaped interlocking solid with 6 irregular pieces each made of different rectangular blocks glued together. Measuring about 5.5cm all round, this was Abel Garcia's exchange puzzle. Taking apart the Hexator was not to difficult once you find where the pieces connect and slide them apart. But the challenge came during the re-assembly. I didn't think it was going to be that difficult but the moment I scrambled the pieces, I wished I hadn't done so. While its only 6 pieces, the pieces are (almost) identical to each other but not so. They just look confusingly similar.

There is only one solution and if you can't find the right pieces to mesh together correctly and in the correct sequence, you'll be going around in circles like I did. To borrow the phrase from one puzzler, the Hexator is confusingly disorientating. While Vinco had deliberately constructed the puzzle to have a symmetrical external pattern of colours on all 6 sides by using darker and lighter woods, I found that this didn't help me much. Thankfully he added the printed solution to the packaging. 

The next is Patrick Major's exchange puzzle, the Kissel, a puzzle comprising 4 identical pieces, each consisting of 3 balls joined together in an L-shape. In the solved state, the puzzle forms a symmetrical bunching of 12 balls. The overall size of the bunch is approximately 7cm all round with each ball about 2.7cm in diameter. 

The Kissel took me even longer than the Hexator to take apart. I had thought that this was possibly co-ordinate motion puzzle and tried to remove the pieces as such. However it was not the case. As I was pulling and pushing (the usual way I disentangle such puzzles) trying to find the one piece that can move, suddenly a piece came off and everything came tumbling down. Again, I had little luck with the dis-assembly and had to resort to the solution. In a way the Kissel sort of resembled a co-ordinate motion puzzle but not quite, since I more or less had to "snap" the last piece into place to lock down the rest, even though a slight amount of force (not excessive) was needed.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Bolt & Golden Rhombic Icosahedron

Here are two IPP36 Exchange Puzzles I played with over the weekend.

The first is Bolt, designed by Atsushi Katagiri and made by Hideto Sato. Bolt is a relatively large puzzle measuring a good 12cm x 9cm x 7cm. Very well made and high quality, its a trick opening puzzle box made of some exotic Japanese wood (I am not sure what it is tho'). Even the turquoise cardboard box which it comes in looks and feels expensive, similar to those carrying Karakuri puzzles.

The Bolt is not a difficult puzzle and requires just four moves to remove the lid.  Not too hard to discover. Inside there is a cavernous amount of free space to put in personal items. A lot of puzzle boxes have tiny spaces to keep tiny momentoes but not the Bolt; it can probably take a couple of men's watches, rings and necklaces as well. A highly functional puzzle box for sure.

The second puzzle is Stephen Chin's Golden Rhombic Icosahedron...quite a mouthful for the name! Stephen Chin is very well known in the puzzle community for his polyhedron puzzles.

An icosahedron is a polyhedron with 20 faces! I am pretty sure few of you puzzlers know right off the bat what "icosahedron" or "polyhedron" means, so click the link here to find out more.

What is unique about this particular icosahedron is that its (perfectly) symmetrical, as far as I can tell. Also called a Platonic icosahedron, it looks familiarly like a super large "diamond" made of wood. This one measure about 8cm in diameter and 6cm thick. The object of Stephan's puzzle is to find the three ways to "open" up the icosahedron, which has been dissected into three interconnecting pieces. 

The puzzle is very well constructed, so well in fact that all the edges of the puzzle line up and join perfectly with each other. It took me a good several minutes of pressing and tugging before I found a slight movement of one of the edges. A bit more pulling and soon I extracted one of the three pieces. The puzzle is not serially interlocked, so removing a different piece can similarly open up the puzzle. I was able to open up the icosahedron with the removal of 2 of the 3 pieces but the third I found a bit too tight to disassemble and didn't bother going further. If you take apart the three pieces and scramble them up a bit, it takes a while to get the orientation right and re-assemble. 

Oh I forgot to mention Stephan says there's also a fourth way to open the puzzle....drop it!

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Double Cast Puzzle Hook

This is one Hanayama Cast Puzzle which you will not find commercially available for sale anywhere in the world, online or in a shop...unless you have participated in the IPP36 Puzzle Exchange.

The Double Hook was Hiroaki Namba's creation (apart from being his exchange puzzle). Its a combination of two Cast Hook puzzles linked together as shown in the photo. Mr Namba first saw a "Triple Cast ABC" made by Yoshiaki Hirano ten years ago and was very impressed...and inspired!

I first saw these marvelous "impossible" cast puzzle creations at IPP33 in Tokyp in 2013. Absolutely amazing is what I can say...but more about those later. 

The standard Cast Hook that you can buy from puzzle retailers was designed by Vesa Timonen, who also designed a number of other cast puzzles such as the ever popular (and wearable) Cast Loop and Cast Cylinder for Hanayama. It comprises two interlocking identical hooks that have been twisted at different angles and the goal is to take them apart. Its essentially a disentanglement wire style puzzle on steroids. Hanayama rates it at one star difficulty, meaning its the easiest level out of six stars and indeed it is not too difficult.

What remains is the standard Cast Hook is on the left
I didn't find taking the Double Hook apart that difficult; now that is not to say that its easy. No its not, but my persistence paid off and after playing with a good fifteen minutes or so, the first hook came off and then the second. Like a lower level burr, the moment the first piece comes off, the rest can be quite easily figured out.

The real challenge came when I tried to assemble the Double Hook back to its original state. Despite going at it on and off over different periods for well over two days, I still cannot link all the four hooks the way it came originally. Getting three together is a cinch, what with after so much trying and practice, but the fourth hook has eluded me thus far. I cannot for the life of me remember the reverse of what I did to disassemble. From a one star difficulty quotient, I think the Double Hook has shot up to least five stars?

It makes the Cast Cake (which is an extremely challenging puzzle by all accounts) now seem rather easy by comparison. Looks like I have to contact Mr Namba for some assistance. 

[Edit 7 Sept 2016: I received an email from Mr Namba with nine photos of the steps to connect everything back together. As you might imagine, even with photos, puzzles of this nature is still not easy but I managed after quite of bit of trying (with coloured tape etc) to get the Double Hook back to its original state] 

If you already have a Cast Hook, buy another copy and try the assembly shown. If you don't, buy two copies and give it a go, Hanayama cast puzzles are inexpensive anyway.

  To see some amazing examples of "impossible objects" using different cast puzzles, click here and scroll all the way to the bottom. 

Friday 2 September 2016

Dwarf Planet D

I am not terribly good at solving interlocking or burr puzzles, unless they are relatively low level. But now and again, I do come across one that I manage to dis-assemble AND re-assemble without any help (eg Burr Tools, photos etc).

The Dwarf Planet D is one such puzzle. In the past I would just have casually termed the Dwarf Planet D an interlocking "burr" but having corresponded with James Dalgety on the use of the right terminology, I shall refer to the Dwarf Planet D as an interlocking puzzle. For those who are interested, James said that...."originally back in the 1960s and 1970s the word "burr" was used to refer to interlocking puzzles made from straight rods with grooves cut out of them.  Like the standard 6-piece burr and Coffin's "Hexsticks"...

Terminology aside, the Dwarf Planet D was Jerry Slocum's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle. Designed by Australian William Hu, the Dwarf Planet D was produced by Brian Young of Mr Puzzle, Australia. 

The puzzle measures 7cm x 7cm x 7cm and comprises 6 "board" pieces each 10mm thick. Three of the large pieces are made from clear acrylic while the smaller ones are sandblasted (looks frosted) to give the puzzle more contrast. A nice touch here! Construction and finish is first rate and all the pieces are precision laser cut to allow for a good fit and sliding of the pieces. Nice details include the fine laser etching of the designer's and exchanger's names etc.

According to Brian, this is a level puzzle. When I played with it, I estimated it to be around 28-30 moves! But who's counting? so long as I manage to take thing apart. The first piece is not that difficult to remove but its the second that got me stumped a bit. I practiced the various steps quite a few times before finally taking the puzzle fully apart, so as to remember the reverse for re-assembly. Thankfully the number of moves are not that high and I actually managed to get everything back together on my own. To be honest, if the puzzle had come un-assembled, I wouldn't have even known where to begin...let alone solve it.

A great interlocking puzzle that is well made and good looking; challenging but not frustratingly so, the latter which is important for me:-). I think most puzzlers (novice or experienced) would enjoy this puzzle, as there are only 6 pieces of which 3 are rather simple looking. Moreover you can see whatever you are doing (nothing hidden) and chart your progress as you go along. I certainly enjoyed playing with the Dwarf Planet D. Available from Mr Puzzle for US$22.62/-