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.