Saturday 29 October 2016

Vivaldi Burr

Of all the IPP36 Exchange Puzzles, the Vivaldi Burr must surely be one of the most unique and unusual looking ones present this year! Very nicely packaged, it even comes with portions of a score which act as cushioning in the box!

Exchanged and designed by Rene Dawir of Luxembourg, the Vivaldi Burr was produced by Marcel Gillen, the latter who is most well known for his chess piece puzzles. 

As you can see from the photos, the puzzle takes, IMHO the shape and form more of a cello (than a violin). It is reminiscent of the Japanese Kumiki puzzles, that are interlocking puzzles which take on a familiar shape eg animal or object.

The Vivaldi Burr is constructed entirely of thick MDF board and the pieces are precision cut using a CNC milling machine. Stripped down, it is essentially a "board burr" type puzzle. Quality, fit and finish is very good and everything is nicely put together and all pieces slide and move relatively smoothly.

The object is the disassemble and re-assemble the burr. Make no mistake here; while it doesn't look anything like a traditional burr and you can see everything you are doing, the Vivaldi Burr is not that easy to take apart, even though it may appear to be so. I don't have the exact solution steps but based on my own rough count, it takes about 9 steps to remove the first piece and approximately a total of 24 steps to dis-assemble the entire puzzle completely +/- a couple of steps. The first two steps are obvious. The steps are sequential and if one is missed, it may mean starting several steps from behind again. Putting it back to together is the exact reverse. It took me a good forty five minutes to take apart the thing apart and re-solve.

Moderately challenging to solve, overall a very nice design and well executed "burr" to collect. And something certainly very different from the usual.

Thursday 20 October 2016

Trois Chocolats

Trois Chocolats is a 2015 dexterity puzzle from Frederic Boucher. In recent years, he has also designed several others including Manholes 55, Pyramida and one of my favourites, Smiley In A Bottle. As of this post, Eric Fuller is also selling one of Frederic's non-dexterity puzzles, a 2D packing puzzle called Artefacts, well-worth taking a look!

 Trois Chocolats consists of a square jar with a screw cover and inside there are 3 cubes, each with a cavity, made from maple, cherry and wenge with a fourth smaller wenge solid block. The jar looks to be something you can commercially buy off the shelf but the cubes are hand-glued and finished, and very nicely done I might add. The jar measures 10cm tall and about 6.5cm wide. 

Looking at the photos I think you can guess what the object of the puzzle is; yes, to get the cubes to stack atop one another and the smaller block to fit inside the wenge cube. The cubes have been constructed in such a way that there is a particular order for stacking them; maple at the bottom and wenge on top with the cherry in between. Any other combination and the stack will have gaps.

When I first looked at the puzzle, I thought it was going to be a really tough challenge given there are 4 pieces. And in the early stages I had some difficulty with all the cubes rolling around inside the jar. But as I puzzled on, turning the jar in all directions, it didn't appear as difficult as I had expected. I slowly got the hang of it. I could get the cherry onto the maple cube and with some persistence, the wenge thereafter. The part that was most difficult was to get the small block into the cavity of the wenge cube. This took me a good twenty minutes to get right and occasionally in between, the other 3 cubes would dislodge and I had to start all over again. 

Trios Chocolats is a rather interesting design from Frederic and as i can testify, not impossible to solve; in fact surprisingly manageable, so long as you keep at it. For those into dexterity or bottle puzzles, here's one worth collecting.  

Monday 17 October 2016

Magiq #8 & Tango 72

For this year's IPP36 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition, I submitted two entries. One was my own design (the subject of this post) while the second was a joint entry with fellow puzzler Primitivo Familiar Ramos, which I shall write about at a later date.

My first entry was called Magiq#8 and the goal (as can be seen from the photos) is to re-arrange the 5 pieces and change the #8 to a #0. Saying "abracadabra" would certainly help! I didn't manage to win any prizes...but hey, its the participation that counts right? 

Although this year's design bears some resemblance to my entry at last year's IPP competition, the "69", the Magiq#8 is totally different in terms of the solve. My design was expertly crafted by Tom Lensch and consists of exotic woods comprising walnut, holly, shedua and yellowheart. Construction, fit and finish is excellent and I particularly liked the perimeter trim added by Tom to the top edge of the box.

Its not as straight forward a packing puzzle as one might expect and there is a trick to it. No spoilers so I shall not say anymore. What's the difficulty level? I can't say as I have not received any feedback so far, although puzzler Marc Pawliger did casually mention to me in the competition room that he found it quite devilish... If anyone is keen to purchase a copy, please contact Tom Lensch via his website to check on availability. 

My Exchange Puzzle is "Tango 72". This year, I designed a sliding block puzzle consisting of 5 pieces, 4 of which are identical. Like most sliding puzzles, the goal is to rearrange the pieces from a starting position to an end position, while only moving the pieces (left, right, up and down) within the tray. 

Here the end result is to form the words IPP36 from a scrambled state. It takes a minimum 72 moves to arrive at the final solution. I tried to make my design accommodate an additional but easier challenge with fewer moves, but somehow didn't quite manage to succeed. Tango 72 is made from 3mm laser cut acrylic and I have a couple of copies left for sale if anyone is interested.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Murbiter's Devilish Burr

The past few days were spent on Rosemary Howbrigg's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle, Murbiter's Devilish Burr designed by Primitivo Familiar Ramos. 

"Murbiter" is the ancient Arabic name of a town in Valencia, Spain called Sagunto, where Primitivo was born. I think this is the second burr Primitivo has named Murbiter; In 2014, Primitivo's own Exchange Puzzle was called the Murbiter's Psuedo Burr, the latter incidentally which was a lot easier to solve.

The design was produced for the Exchange by Brian Young of Mr Australia. The puzzle measures about 8cm x 8cm x 8cm and the pieces are made from Queensland Silver Ash while the burr ends with their rather nice edges are a contrasty reddish brown Western Australian Jarrah. Overall build quality and construction is excellent and all the pieces are snug but move smoothly.

I was stuck like that for some time even with Burr Tools
What is noticeably different about the Murbiter are the burr ends that lend the "I" shape to each piece (and according to James Dalgety, this technically should not qualify the Murbiter as a "burr" in the traditional sense of the word). The ends are not there just to make the puzzle look different but are integral to the design and the way the puzzle interlocks. Without the ends, the Murbiter has only a maximum level 6 solution. And since we are talking about the number of moves, I might as well deal with the puzzling aspect. This is a mid-level 15 solution burr and requires a total of 21 moves to take the thing fully apart. I did manage to take it apart (after quite a lot of time and effort), but putting it back together was really beyond me. It's not only devilish, its hellish! Make no's way harder than it's level 15 solution would suggest.

I must insist that this puzzle is such a dexterous handful it requires more than two hands to solve! Even with the aid of Burr Tools, its difficult! Thank goodness I had my supportive wife to help....she supported and held the first three pieces in place with her hands while I slowly piled on the rest with mine. Brian says that the Murbiter "is a real challenge but not impossible"...which IMHO is somewhat of an understatement! Which is why Brian has also made an interesting video of himself solving the Murbiter unsupported, so go watch it. Don't worry, I doubt it will be a spoiler for anyone, given the way the solving goes.

For interlocking puzzle addicts, this is an interesting looking (and real challenging) one to add to your collection. Available from Mr Puzzle for A$59.09.

Tuesday 4 October 2016


Can two ordinary ordinary zippers that are joined together become a real mechanical puzzle? Well in the genius hands of Hirokazu Iwasawa, they definitely can! And here it is... 

Hirokazu (or Hiro) is very well known for what I call his "offbeat" designs. Yes he does design regular looking and playable puzzles too such the well known Odd Puzzle, Alcyl, Tritalon and the Jam Series but he also has a hidden talent for coming up with unique puzzles that most would not imagine possible; that is using everyday objects like the zippers shown here and choosing non-typical materials such as cloth and fabric. 

Many in the puzzle community will remember his extremely popular Square In The Bag which won the IPP32 Puzzlers' Award and his subsequent CorRECTly In The Bag. Amazing how he is able to think up such unusual and unique puzzle designs that actually work.

Zipper was Hiro's IPP36 exchange puzzle in Tokyo this past August. Made of two zippers joined together, the puzzle provides two challenges. 

1. Completely zip up one of the two colour zippers 
2. Zip up both zippers completely. 

My puzzler friend Khuong An Nguyen has suggested that Hiro may have been inspired by or based his Zipper design on the "Mobius Strip". Click here to find out what this is...a rather interesting read.

The Zipper measures about 29 cm and comes with two seperate zipper pulls. My copy is a green-yellow version though there are other colour combinations for sale. Quality wise the zipper is above average as the two zippers are physically glued together and can come apart if too much force is used or if you try to peel them apart. The zipper itself has already been pre-twisted so it's not just a simple task of finding the opening ends and zipping them up. 

For some strange reason in my search for the solution to the first challenge, I actually discovered and solved the second challenge. Physically as you examine the zippers, it does not look possible to zip both zippers together at the same time but in typical Hiro fashion, the solution is definitely out there and apart from eliciting my amazement, it's actually a pretty elegant solution in the final state. 

From the puzzling perspective, Zipper is not a very difficult puzzle to solve but presents a challenge that requires some thinking and close visual examination. You must not allow yourself to think that it is impossible physically, which was my initial experience with CorRECTly In The Bag.  Mentally reinforce to yourself that it is indeed solvable and there is a way to do it without resorting to force or tearing the zippers apart...You'll be surprised.   

All in, a great (exchange) puzzle that is very far removed from the norm and Zipper can be enjoyed by both seasoned and novice puzzlers alike. In fact non-puzzlers will probably have fun with it too since some thinking out of the box is required as is typical of Hiro's puzzles of this nature. 

Zipper is manufactured by DYLAN-KOBO in Japan. Currently it appears that the Zipper is not listed and available. Best to contact the site owner MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu). MINE ships internationally.