Wednesday 28 December 2011

Mirror Image

Puzzle Master's Mirror Image
I blush to admit that I have even more puzzles to review from Puzzle Master. When I placed my last order, I must have had a rush of blood to the head - because this series of reviews seems rather prolonged!!! But, you all know by now that I cannot resist a new puzzle! The next one on my list is the Mirror Image wire puzzle. Oh god! Not another wire puzzle, I can hear you shout. It is you shouting isn't it? Not the voices again, I hope! Actually it could be Mrs S - she hates puzzles that jingle and has taken to shouting at me if I "do it in public" or within earshot! It's not fair really, I don't complain about the noise her shoe and handbag collection makes (and it really is a large collection) and I certainly don't complain about the space they take!!

This puzzle is one of Puzzle Master's own brand and comes in their standard clamshell package with the insert explaining that the aim is to remove the shuttle (they call it the handle). When solved, the string remains wound onto the large interconnecting ring. It consists of 2 "mirror images" with a string attached and the shuttle entwined through a ring and around the string. The shuttle cannot just slide off due to the presence of a ball which will not pass through. It has been rated as a level 9 (Gruelling) out of 10 - I don't actually think it is quite that tough, more of an 8. When unfolded, it is 15.2 x 7.5cm and yes, it jingles!!!

No solution is provided (and the more experienced of you shouldn't need one) but if you find that it is required (hopefully only after several hours of trying!) then you can download one from here.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Back where I began! After 100 posts!

Gold and Orange Revomazes
It all began with revomazes and now we have two more!!!

This is my hundredth post!! That is a hell of a milestone to have reached in such a short time! I began this blog to describe my journey through the puzzling world of mechanical puzzles and within a year I have had 100 posts and more than 27,000 page hits! I never expected anyone really to read it - well maybe a few of the crazy people out there (you know who you are!) but from the comments I have received to various posts and via my contact form, quite a lot of you are, well, NORMAL!!!

I have really enjoyed myself and have been in contact with many very interesting people. The puzzlers themselves are great and always willing to provide suggestions to help solve something or to point me towards something else I might like to torture myself with. I have been in touch with many fine craftsmen too - all are uniformly proud of their work and the apparent joy we take in solving their contraptions. Most are more interested in the craftsmanship and joy than the actual financial gains that can be made. Some have even sent me puzzles to play with and told me I could pay at a later date when my finances allowed. You wouldn't find such trust amongst very many other groups of people - puzzle people are pretty unique.

This whole thing started when a very stressful event at work (life and death - more death really!) caused me to need a diversion. I found that every time I stopped working and sat quietly, I began to have some very disturbing flashbacks and struggled to relax or even sleep. Believe me when I say that this was very new to me - in my particular sub-specialty I am very used to dealing with the critically ill and dying. But this really caught me by surprise. So I began my puzzling journey...

It all started out with the blue Revomaze - I had seen this (and met Chris Pitt, the designer and MD) at the Gadget Show Live in April 2010 but did not buy at the time because of the cost and the dirty looks from Mrs S. But, when I really needed something to take my mind away from everything this rather beautiful and very well made puzzle was just what I needed. From here on, I was completely hooked and have worked my way through all 4 of the metal Revomazes that were routinely available. I completed the silver at the end of last year and Mrs S had ordered the Gold as last year's Christmas present. Unfortunately due to manufacturing problems there were some rather prolonged delays - I am really pleased to say that it has finally arrived and I am about to start all over again! Next to the gold is the orange, a special limited edition puzzle designed by Mark, one of the amazing group of Revo puzzlers on their forums. Now I really don't know what to do first!!!

So, I would like to say to you all, dear readers:

Have a very Merry Christmas and a
truly puzzling New year.
Good health to you all!

I would like to thank all the wonderful people who have helped me on my journey:
(I apologise if I have missed anyone!)

Puzzle makers and designers: Fellow puzzle bloggers: MPP people:
Wil Strijbos Neil Hutchison Allard & Jill
Chris Pitt (Revomaze) Brian Pletcher Chris & Helen
Václav Obšivač (Vinco) Gabriel Fernandes Oli
Jerry McFarland Jeff Chiou Ali
Eric Fuller (Cubic dissection) Jerry Loo Nigel
Bill Cutler Mike Vodovoz Karl
John Devost Rob Stegmann Louis
Tom Lensch Roxanne Wong Graham
Leon Stein (Puzzlemaster)
Brian Menold (Wood wonders)

Bernhard Schweitzer

Richard Gain (Microcubology)

Brian and Sue Young (Mr Puzzle)

George Bell

Richard Whiting

Guillaume Largounez

Maurice Vigouroux

John Rausch

Gregory Benedetti

Dave Janelle (Creative Crafthouse)

Ben Meldrum (Puzzleguru)

Frank Gregory (Livewire puzzles)

Stephen Chin

Dan Feldman

Oskar van Deventer

Andreas Röver

Saturday 24 December 2011

Time to rename Wil Strijbos - "The Puzzle Pusher"

More goodies from Wil
Yep! Wil is officially my puzzle pusher!

Recently he sent out a series of emails detailing some more goodies that he had in stock for purchase and of course I couldn't resist ordering a few more things that are shiny. At the same time as ordering from him I suggested that he would be the death of me - my wife is probably going to murder me in my sleep for all the clinking noises I make playing with his puzzles and the swearing under my breath!

In the same email I asked him about the future production of other puzzles. During a little to and fro of emails he copied in the whole group of puzzlers!! His own response was to berate me for asking for more puzzles when they would be the cause of my demise! He also expressed the sincere hope that Mrs S wouldn't murder him as the mere "inventor, maker and seller" of these puzzles. Laurie replied to all of us that he is actually the:
"PUSHER" of the puzzle-drug! (REAL ecstasy!)
Hence I am officially renaming him!!!

They arrived on Thursday and are as lovely as expected. This time I got the Concave Aluminium Dovetail, the Strijbos Bolt #3, Aluminium Washer Cylinder and the Bird in Cage. Puzzling heaven (or hell?)

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Sheffield Steel 6BB

Sheffield Steel 6BB
By now, you all know how much I love wooden puzzles (actually all puzzles) and I have a particular penchant for wooden burr type puzzles. So when I put in my last order at Puzzle Master, I just couldn't resist this one - particularly because I live in Sheffield (the home of the UK steel industry). This is called Sheffield Steel 6BB presumably because the pieces, in cross section, look rather like steel girders. I assume that the 6 denotes the number of pieces in the burr but I have to say that I have no idea where the BB comes from.

It was originally designed by Ronald Kint-Bruynseels, a rather prolific puzzle designer who seems to have specialised in burr type puzzles. The original version and the one reviewed here is manufactured by the German puzzle/toy company, Philos. In 2006 one of my favourite puzzle craftsmen, Eric Fuller, produced a limited edition run of this puzzle in a variety of different woods (I cannot tell what wood the Philos version is made from). His versions look absolutely stunning. I would love to obtain a copy of Eric's - if anyone has one for sale then please contact me.

Eric described this puzzle as follows:
"The beauty of his designs is that he achieves incredibly high level puzzles with relatively simple shapes. While simple, the high precision necessary due to the extreme degree of interlock makes producing his puzzles a challenge. Sheffield Steel 6BB is no exception. This beautiful and unconventional puzzle has a unique level 17.14 solution. An incredibly difficult puzzle that can easily be displayed as a work of art once solved."
I could not describe it more eloquently than this - It is a lovely shape and truly difficult to solve. It is 10 x 10 x 10cm in size and, at least in my version, is pretty loosely held together which gives the false impression that it should come apart very easily. It arrives in a very nice Philos box with the puzzle on display - this would definitely make a good present for the puzzler in your life. It does come with a solution in the box but if you lost it and want to download a new copy then you can get it from here. I have created a Burrtools file for it to confirm that there is only one possible assembly - if you would like a copy then just contact me and I can email you a copy.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Poplock T6

Poplock T6
Rainer Popp is a master puzzle maker who specialises in the production of puzzle locks. So far he has made 6 different locks over the years and all have received rave reviews. Unfortunately they are mostly unobtainable now and when one does come up for sale they are hugely expensive (Puzzle Master still have the T5 version for sale at the princely sum of $350!!)

Apparently Rainer has had many many requests for a less "limited" edition at a more reasonable price (obviously, still with his customary difficulty and attention to detail) so he decided this year to make the T6. This one is smaller than his previous ones and is available in two finishes - I chose the stainless steel with copper rivets, but it is also available in steel with aluminium rivets. Interestingly the 2 versions are made as mirror images of each other. This came to me courtesy of Wil Strijbos (he is costing me a fortune) for the very reasonable price of €85.

Being made of steel it has a very decent weight to it and is quite small, measuring 5 x 3.8 x 1.5cm. The key is shiny and the lock is matt steel with very attractive brass rivets. It has already been reviewed by my fellow puzzle bloggers, Allard, Neil and Oli, all of whom gave it a very hearty thumbs up.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Hanayama Cast Baroq

Cast Baroq
I have been looking over my posts recently and realised that I forgot to write about this puzzle. I completed it a good few weeks ago and absolutely love it. It is the Cast baroq by Hanayama. I received this in my recent rather "large" batch from Puzzle Master. I chose this one as an intermediate difficulty puzzle which, hopefully, would provide me with a reasonable challenge but not have me hurling it at the wall! Hanayama class it as difficulty level 4 out of 6 and Puzzle Master make it a 8 (Demanding) out of 10. I think this rating is about right. Most people will solve it in a reasonable amount of time. Brian has reviewed it on his blog here.

It is supplied in the usual Hanayama black box with the 2 pieces of the puzzle tied to a piece of card. The box just gives instructions to separate the pieces and put them back together again, no other information is provided and no solution is given. If you want one (and I don't think you will need it) you can download it from Puzzle Master here. Designed (again) by Akio Yamamoto, it consists of 2 odd shaped pieces (named after "the image of intertwining Bach melodies") of brassy metal which are linked at one end. It is 10.1 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm in size and is reasonably substantial in your hands. I had high hopes that I could do this one in the living room but once again, I got told off for jingling!

Saturday 10 December 2011

More Vinco's! and I'm in trouble again!!

Latest batch of Vinco puzzles
At this moment in time I have a blackened area right between my eyes!!! No it's not dirt! During the week I received another parcel from Vaclav Obsivac (aka Vinco) - this parcel was not expected by the present Mrs S and I became victim of the laser stare!! I swear she has had the power increased! It's true, I probably deserved it - I hadn't actually told her they were coming and my study is now getting out of control! There are puzzles everywhere!

My Precioussssss!
My big problem is she won't let me keep them anywhere else in the house, despite them being beautiful. Every time I place some of my lovelies (preciousssssss!!!) on the coffee table in the living room they miraculously reappear in my study again within a few hours. For this reason I have also bought a Kindle - if I can get rid of my fiction/paperbacks then I will have more space for puzzles!!

So a week ago Vaclav opened his new website and let everyone know that he had more puzzles to post. I received the email at about 11pm and immediately disappeared from the living room to have a look (she wasn't suspicious at that time). The new website is really nice - definitely an improvement and he has really been hard at work designing and building more goodies. In fact there must have been a mad scramble initially because thing were disappearing even as I surfed and something went just as I tried to add it to my cart! I still managed to get some nice stuff - his prices are very reasonable. I do feel slightly guilty as I haven't actually managed to finish all the last batch yet! From the back left: Two U's, Prism halfcubes, Double pyramid, Kiss, Coming of age, Vinco Octahedron. I blame the voices!!!!

Saturday 3 December 2011

Drunken Dancing Fraulein

Drunken Dancing Fraulein
Last week I posted a review of Brian Young's Gold coast parking meter. I bought it from an anonymous seller via Allard and was very restrained!! There was a huge list of positively droolworthy puzzles and I only ordered the two! I suspect it was thoughts of the giant credit card bills I had been having from the purchase of a new kitchen.

This one was designed and made by Stephen Chin and presented at the Berlin IPP (#31) this year. It has already been reviewed by Brian and Jeff on their respective sites. Both bloggers really liked the rather unique mechanism. After reading their reviews, I knew I had to have one when the opportunity arose. They were made from a variety of different woods and I liked the look of this light coloured one. It has obviously been turned from a solid block and looks like it should be quite heavy, however, when you pick it up it is very light and is obviously hollow. There are 3 rings around it and a stand too, all in the same lovely wood and very beautifully made.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Hanayama Cast Vortex

Cast Vortex
Continuing my Hanayama cast puzzle torture experience from Puzzle Master, I decided next to try a more difficult one - this is the Cast Vortex. I chose it because it is truly shiny shiny (!) and I love all things shiny! This has been rated by Hanayama as a level 5 (out of 6) and by Puzzle Master as a level 9 (Gruelling) out of 10 and I absolutely agree with the "gruelling" description. It is a truly difficult puzzle and not for the faint-hearted. In fact after the last few relatively easy ones, this gave me a bit of a shock!!! I would actually rate it as a 6 (or 10).

It comes in the usual immaculate Hanayama black box and is well secured to the card within. It is made of a lovely chromed metal and is 5.3cm across and 2cm deep. Looking at it from the front, you cannot tell how many pieces there are. The instructions on the box are to take it apart and reassemble it - easy-peezy(!) The solution is not provided as with all the Hanayama cast puzzles and I suspect you may well need it for this one - if you do, then download it from here.

Brian has reviewed it on his blog here and Gabriel has done the same here. Both found it very tough indeed.

The design is by Akio Yamamoto who is responsible for quite a lot of the non-maze cast puzzles - it was his entry into the 2008 IPP design competition. This explains the AY engraved on one of the pieces. I must say that this man must have a seriously twisted brain to come up with these designs - I wouldn't even know where to start designing one of these monstrosities!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Gold Coast Parking Meter

Cold Coast Parking Meter
I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to getting around to reviewing this one - I bought it in early September when Allard set up a little deal with an anonymous seller in the USA. This was one of three that I bought that time and I solved it pretty much as soon as I got it. I wanted to buy more but decided that the present Mrs S would murder me in my sleep if too much stuff turned up in one go! (She's like that, you know).

It has been reviewed by Allard, Brian and Jeff on their respective blogs.

Thursday 24 November 2011

XS Headstress Spheroid

Next in my consignment from Puzzle Master is the XS Headstress Spheroid puzzle. I have said many times that I love wooden puzzles and have tried to get a few more that don't break the bank. This one is very reasonable at $25. I chose this because it was different from the usual cubes and other cartesian shapes. It is made by Family games as part of a series.

It arrives in a really beautiful bit of packaging - a big box with a plastic insert holding it all in place - very inviting! The puzzle is a 13cm diameter sphere made from 6 wooden pieces which are somehow interlocked. I don't know what wood it is made from but it is looks great - unfortunately it is not as superbly made as others in my collection but it is mass manufactured and fairly inexpensive. It is all pretty sturdy with no play in the pieces whatsoever. The instructions are simply to take it apart and put it back together again. It has been rated as 8 (Demanding) in the 5 to 10 scale by Puzzle Master. I think it is probably a bit easier than this - maybe a 6 or 7. No solution is supplied and if you want one then download it from here.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Houdini's Torture Cell

Today I am going to review one of my favourite puzzles so far and I will start by saying that it is EASY!
"What!" I can hear you shout. "If it's easy then surely you won't like it much!"
Well that is where you would be wrong!
(It is odd that I hear voices, I know, but I'm used to it!)
Let me tell you all about it...

Houdini's Torture Cell
At the beginning of October, freshly back from his recent trip to the Berlin International Puzzle Party, Wil Strijbos sent out an email saying he had a few toys to sell. After the usual amount of salivating over more stuff that I can't really afford (if you look back over this blog - you will see that I have spent some serious cash this year!!!) I decided to add the Houdini's Torture Cell to the my existing order. This is made by Brian Young (aka Mr Puzzle) in Australia and is also available from his site. This is apparently one small part inside the utterly amazing and drool-worthy Opening Bat puzzle which I am thinking about (I am even considering starving for a month so I can pay for it!)

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Hanayama Cast Shark

Cast Shark
I have previously reviewed the Cast Starfish from Hanayama and really liked it's look and progressive solution - it is a nice puzzle and not too difficult. So when it came to put in another Puzzle Master order, I had to include another one from the Marine series - this time I decided on one of the easiest ones - the Cast Shark. It has also been reviewed by Brian on his blog where he says it is one of his favourites - one reason I chose it.

It fulfils all the standard Sadler requirements of being a puzzle and being shiny - in fact, this one, like the others in the marine series is exceptionally shiny - it is truly gorgeous (until you actually look at the subject matter!) Like all the rest it was designed by Akio Yamamoto, who has been phenomenally prolific with Hanayama. It comes packaged in the usual Hanayama box and is well secured. There is a large blurb on the box about shoals of fish and self discovery - this is all rubbish - the important bit is that you have to release the golden mackerel from the silver sharks jaws and of course, put it back. If you look closely at it then the detail in the "sculpture"is wonderful - it is truly grim in its' realism. Dimensions are 6 x 3.9 x 3.3 cm, a perfect shape for sitting and fiddling with to annoy the present wife! Hanayama rate it as a level 1 and Puzzle Master as a level 5 making it one of the easiest in the collection. No solution is provided but if you really need it (you don't!!!) it can be downloaded from here.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Vinco UFO

Amongst my last, rather large batch of puzzles from Václav Obšivač aka Vinco (note he has a brand new site) was the UFO. This is a rather lovely shape in Walnut and Maple made from 6 pieces which (for once) is not a coordinate motion puzzle. It is a really good size, being 11.5cm in diameter and is waxed but not highly polished like some of his other puzzles.

This came apart very easily into its 6 pieces. Interestingly it can only come apart initially into 2 triplets which will then separate into their components. I laid them all out and left it for half an hour to ensure that I couldn't remember what I had done. Here is what the pieces look like:

6 identical pieces (3 with inverted colours)
When I came back, I knew that it needed to be done in triplets but struggled to get them correctly aligned - in fact I couldn't remember whether I needed to combine like or inverted colours! I think it took me about 10 minutes before I was able to work it out and from there managed to slide it all together. I ended up piecing it together piece by piece until the final piece remained and then pulling it apart to put this final piece into a triplet.

This is not a particularly difficult puzzle but is very satisfying in both size and finish. It looks absolutely beautiful on the shelf. Václav still has one or two of these for sale at very reasonable prices - go for it, you won't be disappointed. Have a good surf around his site - there is always something to tempt you.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Trick Lock 4

Trick Lock 4
Amongst my recent rather large shipment from Puzzle Master a few weeks back was this puzzle lock - called simply "Trick Lock 4" (being one of 5 in a series). I now have 5 locks in my collection (2 reviewed so far) and this one will have to be something really special to beat the Danlock or the Poplock T5. This series has had mixed reviews on the internet. Brian reviewed this one on his blog here, Neil here, and Jeff here. I chose this one because it seemed to be the internets' favourite and was a bit tougher than the others in the series.

It is made for Puzzle Master and comes in their own clamshell packaging looking quite neat. It comes with 2 keys which are held on to the shackle with a piece of twine (only one key is needed for the solution and I guess the other must be a spare in case one snaps). It consists of a very heavy padlock weighing in at 390g (13¾oz) - for heavens' sake don't drop this on anything as it will do considerable damage to foot or tiles!! Dimensions are 5.9 x 9.6 x 2.9 cm making this one of the larger metal puzzles in my collection. At first glance it fulfils the Sadler requirement of being shiny!! But on closer look it is quite obviously very roughly made - inner surfaces are scratched or covered in a peeling paint and some of the stamped words are incomplete. None of this detracts much from the puzzle but for $30 I would have hoped for more. Puzzle Master rate it as a level 5 puzzle (but their system starts at 5 so pretty easy). No solution is supplied but if required one is available from here. I doubt that any seasoned puzzler will need it.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Hanayama Cast Donuts

Cast Donuts
This lovely little puzzle came to me courtesy of Wil Strijbos. Whilst on his travels after the Berlin IPP, he had managed to obtain a supply of the latest Hanayama cast puzzle. This one is only available in Japan at the moment and if you want one ahead of the international launch then you will need to contact Wil (email me for his details). It has already been beautifully reviewed by Oli on his blog here.

Like my last Hanayama review (the Cast Loop) it was designed by Vesa Timonen, a hugely talented designer who has turned his hand to many other types of puzzle including Lox in Box and quite a few burr puzzles. It arrives in the standard, top quality Hanayama packaging, although being entirely in Japanese I cannot tell you what the instructions are! I have to assume that the aim is to disassemble and then reassemble it! It consists of 2 donuts (surprise!!!) of shiny chromed metal which are interlocked through their central holes. One is a standard chrome and the other is a blackened chrome (similar to the Cast Quartet). Like most of this type of Hanayama puzzle it is extremely attractive and very tactile. Hanayama has graded it a 4 out of 6.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Hanayama Cast L'Oeuf

Cast L'Oeuf
Another one of my recent batch of Hanayama cast puzzles from Puzzle Master included the Cast L'Oeuf. I chose this one because I don't feel particularly confident with maze puzzles (despite solving all 4 of the Revomaze extremes!!) and felt I could do with something to practice my path finding.
I have solved the Metal medallion (review coming) which is a similar product bought from my great puzzle friend (and pusher!) Wil Strijbos which is similar and also made by the Hanayama company. If you live in the US then it is also available from Puzzle Master as the Medallion. Both of these puzzles were designed by the very talented Oskar Van Deventer, it is a double maze made in the shape of an egg. It apparently gained prize-winning honours at the 2nd Annual Puzzle Design Competition in Antwerp. It has been reviewed by Gabriel here and by Brian here.

It arrived in the standard beautiful Hanayama packaging and tied onto a board. With only the instructions to take it apart and put it back together again. There is no solution provided but one can be downloaded from here. It is rated as 4 out of 6 by Hanayama and 8 out of 10 by Puzzle Master (whose scale starts at 5!!). I think that the rating is probably about right. It consists of 2 egg shaped plates of metal (one gold and one silver, with a roughened surface. Each has a different pathway cut into it with disks cut out at the end of each pathway for the stud to come out and allow separation. The stud from one disk pierces the pathway of the other one. Size is 8.6 cm x 7 cm x 1.9 cm - a pretty decent size in your hands so not too fiddly.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Vinco Tetrahedron

Vinco Tetrahedron
A few weeks ago I ordered a whole bunch of new puzzles from Vaclac Obsivac (Vinco). They arrived quite quickly and after admiring them for a while, I put them on the shelf for future puzzling (I try to keep a few aside for emergency use)! As mentioned before, I had to do the Sixi cube first because it arrived in pieces and every time I saw it like that it offended me!

The next one for me to have a go at was the Vinco tetrahedron - it is a really lovely 3 sided pyramid (obviously!) made from varicoloured Walnut. I really have a weakness for this wood so this was my personal preference but it was available in many other woods and a few are still available now. It is 64mm from apex to base and absolutely flawlessly made - you can barely see any joints at all. I did feel that I have enough coordinate motion puzzles and am pleased that this is just an assembly puzzle.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Pendulum Wire Puzzle

The Pendulum puzzle
By now you have realised that I am addicted to wire disentanglement puzzles (actually, I'm not that choosy - I'm addicted to ALL puzzles!) so when I made up a little list of toys to order from Puzzle Master, I couldn't resist adding in one or two of their harder wire puzzles. They all seem to be nicely made and pretty tough to solve.

The pendulum is graded as a level 9 out of 10 (gruelling) so I knew I had to have one! I actually think that it is ever so slightly easier than that but not by much. It arrived in a clamshell package with instructions on the card telling me to remove the golden diamond from the puzzle. The dimensions are 12.4 cm x 15.8 cm and has 2 golden diamond shapes on it - only one of which obviously comes off. There is no solution included but if you need one (I don't think you will!) then it can be downloaded from here.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Livewire Puzzles part 8

Can there be any more puzzles from Livewire? I hear you ask! (Actually I don't hear voices that often - only my wife muttering about yet another bloody puzzle arriving when I get home from work). However, there are still a few more disentanglement puzzles from Livewire still to review. This group of four starts with the Centipede puzzle. It is part of the "ladder ring" group of puzzles and according to the puzzle description the Centipede is the MOST difficult of this type that they have ever offered. They state:
"We expect only the most determined puzzlers to solve this one. Although extremely complicated, solving Centipede is a matter of logic, making understanding more important than memorizing all the steps.
To give you an idea of how complex this puzzle is, we should note that the challenge now faced by the Livewire Puzzles team is to produce a solution that our "less successful" customers are able to follow."

Wednesday 19 October 2011

XS Headstress Powder Keg

Powder Keg
I absolutely love wooden puzzles! I suspect that you have realised that after reading this blog for a while. Most of my puzzles seem to be pretty expensive and I am always on the lookout for new ones and would love it if they didn't require me to sell an arm, leg or even a kidney (I am running out of kidneys now and may have to sell someone elses' - volunteers anyone?) I had been perusing the Puzzle Master site when I found a group of wooden puzzles from Family games under the group heading XS headstress. They seem to be chunky wooden puzzles of varying difficulty levels and are a very reasonable price (this one is $17.99). I ordered the Powder Keg and was delighted to receive it a few weeks ago.

It arrives well packaged in an attractive cardboard and plastic box. My version is nicer to look at than the one on the website - rather than being made of 1 type of wood, there are 3 different colours in an attractive pattern. When I said it was chunky, this is an understatement! This is a pretty big puzzle. It is a keg shaped structure (hence the name!!!) and is 9.8cm high and cylindrical with a 10cm diameter. Don't drop it on your foot as it is pretty substantial and will hurt! It doesn't state what woods are used, but then the cheaper puzzles rarely do. The manufacturing quality is reasonable for the price - there are gaps between pieces and not everything fits perfectly flush along the edges, but it is not bad overall. The aim is to dismantle it and then put it back together. Puzzle Master has rated it as 8 out of 10 - demanding. I think that this is a little generous and believe it to be closer to a 7. No solution is provided but if you need it (unlikely) then you can download it from here.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Superstrings from Microcubology

At the recent International Puzzle Party in Berlin Richard Gain won a joint first prize from the Jury for his Superstrings 3D printed puzzle. I had a chance to preview it at the 3rd Midlands puzzle party a few months ago and was thoroughly enthralled. Richard said that he would be making more after the IPP and putting them up for sale. I did express an interest and he knows full well that I cannot resist his puzzles. I have just about everything he has produced so far! Shortly after he won, I received an email saying that 2 more of his productions (including this one) was going up for auction on the Puzzle Paradise auction site. Unfortunately I was unable to get it straight away and it got sold almost immediately!

I was sure that he would produce more (they are available direct from his Microcubology Shapeways store - but only in un-dyed form and I prefer the coloured versions). On the store he says:
"Two open-ended Superstrings with the correct spin can be merged into a super-symmetrical cube.
The idea for this puzzle emerged when I was designing shapes based on two interlocked tetrahedra.  Inspired by ideas from 'string theory' and 'super-symmetry', I began to search for shapes that were both symmetrical and as similar as possible.
Taking the two pieces apart is not too difficult; reassembling them back into a cube can be more challenging."

Last week he emailed me to say that he had produced a couple more and did I want one? I responded within a few nanoseconds that I would love one (unfortunately, for financial reasons, I had to pass on the switch cube he had also made).
A few days later it arrived and to my surprise was in a nice perfectly fitting clear perspex box which holds it in the cube shape).

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Lunatic Lock

Lunatic Lock
So far my puzzle collection includes 2 puzzle locks. I have the Danlock which is my favourite and the Poplock T5 which took me a whole afternoon to solve and is also quite spectacular (review coming when I get a chance). I decided to increase my collection of this genre and seeing as I cannot afford any of the bigger Poplocks, I ordered some of the cheaper ones from Puzzlemaster - the first one I tried is the Lunatic Lock which is pretty cheap at $16 Canadian.

This one has been reviewed by Jeff on his blog, by Oli here and by Brian here. Brian and Oli managed it in about 15-20 minutes each - much faster than me!! It is made for Puzzle Master and comes well packaged in a blue box with the instructions to "remove the post and open the lock". No solution is included but one can be downloaded from here and you might well need it! The difficulty is rated as 8 out of 10 (Demanding) by Puzzle Master which I think is probably about right.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Coffin's Half Hour Puzzle Done in 5 Minutes! Or Was It?

Coffin's Half Hour Puzzle
One of the puzzles I picked up when I visited Village Games in Camden Lock was a wooden version of Coffin's Half Hour Puzzle. This one has their own logo on the packet and may have been made especially for them. It does not say what type of wood but it looks very similar to that of the Lox in Box II puzzle reviewed here so I suspect it is Birch. It arrived in a thin plastic box with little information. Fancier ones are available (see here for one from Brian at Wood Wonders or here for another from Creative Crafthouse).

I know from previous reading that this is a similar puzzle to the Soma cube in that a number of pieces are to be assembled into a cube. Whilst the Soma cube has 240 possible assemblies (not counting symmetries), the Half Hour Puzzle only has one possible assembly. This is quite a feat when you consider the simplicity of the pieces in the puzzle (in fact they don't appear that much different to that found in the Soma). Coffin stated that this one should be do-able by any competent puzzler in about half an hour - hence the name!!! Apparently in the 1980s there were many other assembly problems devised for it but I have not been able to find any online - if you have any then please contact me.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Hanayama Cast Loop

Cast Loop
I have recently receive a whole batch of new puzzles from Puzzle Master - the first of these for me to review is the Cast Loop from Hanayama. I decided this time to try 1 or 2 of the much easier ones to see just how easy they get and also because I can't resist the shiny shiny metal!

As usual, it comes in immaculate Hanayama packaging with the unsolved puzzle tied to a board and a leather thong (No you idiot! Not the underwear!!!) attached to it. I presume that you are intended to wear it as a pendant on the thong once you have solved it - I think I will pass on that - they are attractive things but not that attractive! It is rated as 1 (out of 6) by Hanayama and 5 out of 10 by Puzzle Master. Believe me, you will not need a solution file but if you want one for your collection then you can get it here.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Knobby Burr From Wood Wonders

I bought 4 puzzles from Brian Menold at Wood Wonders. I was absolutely delighted by his version of Stewart Coffin's Involute puzzle in Tiger wood. Now I am going to concentrate on a less well known one. First up is the Knobby burr.

Knobby Burr
This was designed by Dic Sonneveld. Brian's description is as follows:
"This not only requires the brain power to reassemble it, but also a good deal of manual dexterity. Large hands help too!"

He is not kidding about the large hands. It is a really big puzzle at 4" cubed. It was available in a number of different woods and I chose one in Walnut, Padauk and Cherry. In this combination it is very striking (if not beautiful!) It doesn't really need a lot of brain power to disassemble as there are actually a very limited number of possible moves. My version is very tight which did make it quite hard to find the second move.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Oh woe is me or... I think I broke my Vinco!

Whilst on my recent mini-break, I was cheeky and brought along a few puzzles to do whilst "relaxing" - this also slightly pissed off the wife. One of the puzzles I brought was the Ballerina by Vinco.

This was one of my recent batch from Vacláv Obsivac, one of the best artisan puzzle makers around. It is a 6 piece coordinate motion puzzle made from Walnut and Maple. I know I wasn't planning on buying any more coordinate motion puzzles but I couldn't resist it - after all, it is made of wood and you know how addicted I am to wooden puzzles (and metal ones... and plastic ones)!!!

Saturday 24 September 2011


Zauberflote Pieces
Recently I (and many others) received an email from Eric Fuller informing us of yet more shiny new toys available from Cubic dissection. Having bought quite a lot fairly recently and been told off by the present Mrs S for spending her shoe and handbag money, I was a little hesitant to spend any more! She packs a pretty mean whiplash tongue, you know!!!

I know from previous experience that Eric's work is beautifully made and sells very fast, so I had to get something - even if it was only a little something! I can't resist something made of wood (or metal, or plastic) so I chose a couple of items. They cleared customs pretty quickly and I have been fiddling with the first one for a while now.

This one is called Zauberflote (Magic flute) and was designed by Gregory Benedetti as one of a series of puzzles in the shape of Pan pipes (from 2 to 7 pipes) - they can be seen in all their glory at the Puzzle will be played site. This version has 4 "pipes" and the full name should be "Zauberflöte - Königin der nacht" it is made of Yellowheart (a wood I have never heard of) and acrylic. When assembled it is a diminutive 5.5cm long and 4cm high. It has been reviewed so far by Brian (who is a puzzle solving machine and managed to solve it on day 2 of play!!!) and by Neil (who managed it initially in a similar way to me albeit very much faster than I did).

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Papillon 15

Papillon 15
Whilst the 4th Midlands Puzzle Party was being held again at Allard's house, I was taking a well earned break with the present Mrs S at Rudding Park hotel. I didn't want to miss out on the fun so I snuck a few puzzles into my luggage to do whilst relaxing during the pouring rain that was predicted whilst I was on holiday.

After a particularly caffeine and scone fuelled afternoon tea, I embarked on the Papillon 15 puzzle from Puzzle Master. Whilst I really like the metal puzzles (wire and cast), I am particularly fond of wooden puzzles - for their beauty and the craftsmanship that goes into them. I really do want to have a try at making them myself but firstly I would need to clear all the crap out of my garage to built a workspace, then I would need to PVA the concrete floor to get rid of all the dust and then I would need to find some skills! None of this is likely to happen soon - also Mrs S might divorce me and I really couldn't afford that!!!! I am in awe at Neil's newly found skills. Until then I will be forced to buy as many as I can afford!

The Papillon 15 looked interesting and is pretty cheap, it was one of 5 that I took with me on my mini break (sad I know, but that's me!) This wooden puzzle was designed by the famous Jean Claude Constantin and is probably one of his simpler puzzles. It is rated 8 out of 10 (Demanding) by Puzzle Master, a rating that I think is about right. This puzzle arrives in a simple plastic shrink-wrap with no information at all, just a label stuck on it identifying it as the Papillon 15 - this certainly saves on packaging costs! It is made from 2 contrasting colours of wood and is quite attractive. It is not supplied with a solution and one is NOT available from the Puzzle Master website - this means you have to solve it to put it back on display!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Livewire puzzles part 7

Yes yet another disentanglement puzzle review! Livewire have a massive selection and I have the lot so there will be a lot of reviews and so far only one has disappointed me (see my previous group of reviews). Continuing with my remaining level 10 puzzles I decided to brave another string puzzle, the Slingshot - named for it's similarity to a catapult. I chose this one next mainly because the description said:
"The beauty of Slingshot is that, unlike most string puzzles, it does not tend to tie up in knots. This is a real bonus, especially when more than one person is working on it at one time.
Having spent quite some time in knots with the last ones and even having to actually dismantle them I welcomed a chance to puzzle without fear!!!

The aim here is to remove the large metal ring and after a short while of fiddling about I had worked out where the exit point had to be (there can only be 2!) but each time I tried it the ring came close but got a single loop of string around it preventing release. I put it down for a few minutes to think when I had a brainwave (not bad for a bear of little brain!) and within another minute the ring was in my hand and my friend who was watching me dropped his jaw!!! Unlike other puzzles from Livewire I actually remembered what I had done and apart a momentary confusion even managed to reassemble it in a short time too. The whole thing took me about 20 minutes. I have been contacted by the original designer of this puzzle (Ton Delsing). He designed this in 1982 and on his site he claims it is "easy" - apparently he has designed some variants which are much harder; I may just have to get hold of these to pit my meagre skills against.

This puzzle relies on a rather clever little idea rather than a massively complex set of moves and thus, I found it more enjoyable than the last few I tried. I am not sure it should be level 10 (probably a level 9). The aha moment was much more evident requiring a flash of inspiration rather than a brute force approach of trying lots of different possible movements.

I have given this to a few friends (none of whom have come close to solving it) and the newbie got absolutely nowhere whilst the more practiced ones got close but so far have failed to make the sudden jump of discovery for the final step. Update since my initial write-up - 1 friend whom I have been torturing for months has managed to do this with only a very tiny nudge in the right direction - I was very impressed!
My advice? If you want just one level 10 to try and also to hand around to friends then this is a really good one.

This puzzle continues my level 10 expedition and I chose it because I needed a rest from the very grueling string puzzles. This one is a very simple construction of 4 sides and a ring which needs to be removed. I was very slightly disappointed to see that the plating of the metal was not quite as well done as the rest of the puzzles I have received - I hope that mine was just a one-off. The puzzle quite similar to the Pentangle puzzle which I absolutely loved. Because of the simpler construction I would have thought it would be easier to solve but the website and my subsequent experience revealed that it is quite alot tougher.

Everyone I have given this to has failed to solve this - including someone who seen the Pentangle solution! They all quickly realised that the ring could only come from one of two possible places but no-one was able to set it up to get the ring to the correct place. Everyone ends up going round and round the contraption without any sense of progress. Despite having solved Pentangle fairly recently and thus being fairly certain of the general approach, I struggled to find the exact set of moves required. It appears that the moves required need to be very precise to fit and if not exactly lined up it will not work. I did eventually get it done after about 30-45 minutes. This is a very good puzzle and well worth purchasing - I think Pentangle is more fun and the solution more unexpected.

Chinese Rings
The Chinese Ring Puzzle is next - this is a classic puzzle going back many years, in fact it is believed to be one of the oldest puzzles known, dating back to China over 2000 years ago. The website states that:
"We believe that what makes it so popular is that it cleverly combines both logic and creative thinking. Solving this puzzle is not a simple matter. Many of our customers have reported that after many weeks of working on the puzzle, they felt no closer to the solution than when they started."

This is certainly a very complicated construction with multiple pieces intertwined. It looks initially as if it won't be too bad when the first two bits just fall off. Unfortunately it rapidly gets very difficult. I had seen something like this before somewhere so was aware of the binary maths phenomenon that is required to solve this. It is a real nightmare of moves - it must be about 70 moves to complete this and I found that I kept getting lost and winding back toward the beginning before realising and starting all over again! Overall it tool me about 45 minutes to take it apart and (oddly, seeing as it is the exact reverse) only 5 minutes to return it to one piece. I have let a couple o others loose on it - the newbie got all excited as the first rings fell off and then hot hopelessly stuck. The other more experienced person did work out the approach but after about 45 minutes were only about half way through!

This puzzle is a classic so should be in everyone's collection but I feel is less fun than the others it is just plain gruelling!

Squaring Off
Finally for this set of four is the Squaring Off puzzle. This is a classic which was originally published in "Creative Puzzles of The World" by Peter van Delft and Jack Botermans. If you live in the UK and want a copy of this tough puzzle then a version can be bought from Puzzleguru in the Professor Puzzle boxed wire series - they call it the Gridlock. Their version is also very well made.

Squaring Off looks like a fairly simple construction compared to a lot of the other level 10 puzzles. It is a spiral with only 4 blocking rings on it. It initially gives the impression that it should be solved in a simlar logical progression, rather like the Chinese Rings and having only four rings, one would expect this to be less laborious than the others. Unfortunately this one works in a completely different manner. It is NOT a logical ladder type solution. It requires only four steps but apart from the first and last ones this is really not obvious what to do. The central steps have numerous options and it will take you some time to work out which ones are the correct ones.

The Livewire site states:
"Based on feedback we've received over the last decade and a half, no particular type of person does better at it than any other. If it is any indication, it ranks #2 in the "request for solution" department (after Pentangle)."
I had received a version from Puzzleguru a few months before and so had already spent some time on this one - although this one was a freebie which had 1 less ring (their usual one is identical). This was quite early on in my puzzling journey and so it did take me some time (about a week if I remember correctly!! Blush!!)

I personally feel this is a level 9 puzzle - it should only be really tough if you have not done any of the others in the series first. Customer testimonials on the Livewire site seem to make out that it has taken 100s of hours to solve. Having given it to friends, they have all failed but not really had the opportunity to play for any real time.
It is a classic so should be in your collection.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Hanayama Cast Quartet

Cast Quartet
The Hanayama Cast Quartet came from Puzzle Master. I had been putting off attempting this one because of a number of blog posts stating how very difficult it was - Gabriel failed to open it despite his enormous puzzling experience! Brian, with his almost superhuman puzzling skills managed to open his but even he had to give up and get the solution to reassemble it! So with these ominous words ringing in my ears I decided I should have a go too. Not, I tell you, to compare myself to these seasoned puzzlers (I am still very much an amateur!) but more because I had really enjoyed my other high level Hanayama's and also because I am an eternal magpie and am terribly attracted to shiny things!

This one came in the usual immaculate Hanayama packaging and was assembled into the initial state (this puzzle can be disassembled into 4 individual pieces and an alternative assembly is also possible to try!) The difficulty level is 6 out of 6 on the Hanayama scale and 10 out of 10 on the Puzzle Master scale - this means it is about as difficult as it gets - Gulp!!! The puzzle is manufactured from the same black chromed metal as the Cast Equa I reviewed earlier and it looks absolutely lovely. My long suffering wife says that whilst it looks lovely, the sound of it has driven her to distraction (she absolutely hates me jingling constantly!) Dimensions are 5cm long and 3.2cm wide and deep, it is also a good weight in your hands. There is no solution provided with the puzzle but if you wish (YES you will need it!!!) then download it from here.

Saturday 10 September 2011

My final two puzzles from Microcubology

Elevator Pieces
These last 2 puzzles from Richard gain's Microcubology store were actually bought pre-dyed direct from the Etsy store. They are not in stock at present but if you contact Richard direct then he can make them freshly for you (Just contact me for his email address). I requested that this group be supplied in pieces for a little "extra" challenge and it certainly made them considerably harder to solve!

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Chain Gang

Chain Gang
The Chain Gang puzzle is a puzzle made by/for Puzzle Master. It is another of their disentanglement puzzles and also on the tougher side being rated as 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) in difficulty.

It is shipped in a plastic clamshell pack with the simple instructions - to remove the brass oval from the interlocked wires and loops. The puzzle is 12.6x8.8x4cm in size and is surprisingly weighty. It is very well made and my only criticism is that the 2 brass rings don't seem to be as well finished as the silver ones. No solution is provided with it but if you need one (and you might well need it) it can be downloaded from here.

This is a really tough puzzle - if it was a string puzzle then it might have reached a 10 in difficulty! Gabriel has reviewed it here and he failed to solve it! The internationally famous puzzle-solving machine, Brian Pletcher reviewed it on his blog and really struggled. If he had trouble then I am seriously afraid! In the comments at the end of his post the almost equally famous George Bell stated that he had owned the Hess original for some time and not succeeded and in a comment on Gabriel's review said that it has been 2 years! All I can say is "Gggggulp!"

Sunday 4 September 2011

MORE toys!!!!

More, More, MORE ....
I really have a serious problem!! My name is Kevin and I am a puzzleholic....

Saturday 3 September 2011

Melting Block

Melting Block
I saw the Melting block puzzle in someone's stash at the 4th Midlands Puzzle Party and didn't get to have a try at it - there was so much there to see and play with that I did not dare spend too much time on a packing puzzle when I am frankly rubbish at them. It is a particularly attractive wooden puzzle and I love stuff made out of wood (and aluminium and brass and steel and...) I did ask where it had been bought and a few days later I emailed Wil Strijbos to see whether he had any more available. Within minutes he emailed back to say he could add one to my previous order and it was a pretty reasonable €25! I am really quite determined to improve my skills at packing puzzles!

It has been reviewed by Allard here - I am sure that the version I saw at the puzzle party was not this one.

Wednesday 31 August 2011


The Annihilator Puzzle
The Annihilator puzzle is the first disentanglement puzzle I have tried from Puzzle Master. It is pretty cheap at $9.95 (Canadian) and I thought I would start towards the difficult end of their collection. This one is rated 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) - remember their scale starts at 5! I agree with this rating - I am now pretty good at this sort of puzzle, having completed all the LiveWire puzzles apart from 1 and these do get unbelievably difficult.

The Annihilator is manufactured for/by Puzzle Master and is branded by them. It arrived in a plastic clamshell pack with an information card and instructions to remove the handle. Size is 14.5 x 9.0cm. It consists of a frame of anodised wire and a string completing the circle. This string is fed through multiple wire rings in what looks like an impossibly complex tangle - when you shake it out and let it dangle freely then it looks a little less horrific. The handle is initially looped over the wire frame and at first it looks an impossible task to disentangle it from all that string. No solution is supplied but one can be downloaded from here.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Sixi Cube from Vinco

Sixi Cube Supplied In Pieces!!!
Vaclav Obsivac aka Vinco recently added a whole lot of new puzzles to his site. I have mentioned before how good his craftsmanship is so whenever something new comes up, I just cannot resist it. Recently he seems to have specialised in producing coordinate motion puzzles (both 4 and 6 pieces) and I have reviewed a few of these already. Whilst they are all very attractive and beautifully made, the mechanisms are all fairly similar and vary mainly in where the joins are and this alters the ease with which the pieces can be orientated for reassembly. Having a few of this type already, I did not feel any huge urge to increase my collection of this particular type of puzzle. This time the recent batch included a number of assembly and disassembly puzzles so I jumped at the chance to get something new and beautiful - in fact I got a bit carried away and spent an absolute fortune (whilst individual pieces are cheap - they add up when you buy 8 at once!!!)

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Bolted Closed

Bolted closed
The Bolted closed puzzle came from Puzzle Master. It is manufactured by Bits and Pieces and is pretty cheap; it certainly looks quite intriguing. It has been reviewed before by Neil on his blog. Unlike his copy mine had not solved itself before I received it! It is quite stunning on the shelf - visitors will definitely take it down for a try!

It consists of a wooden base with two wooden uprights attached to it through which a bolt is loosely fed (it is not threaded through the uprights and can slide left and right freely). A nut is threaded roughly centrally on the bolt and is glued or welded into place (it cannot be moved at all). Half way between the uprights are two copper or dowels and lying freely within this contraption is a very large steel ball bearing. No matter how you place the ball and the bolt the ball is firmly trapped. The aim, obviously, is to release the ball.

This is rated as an 8 out of 10 by Puzzle Master (Demanding) which I completely disagree with - I think it is more of a 6 for experienced puzzlers (bearing in mind that their scores begin at 5) and a 7 at a push for novices. A video review of this on YouTube had a kid stating that this was a difficult puzzle but I suspect he was only 10 or 12 years old! If a solution is included I threw it out with the box and doubt you will need it.