Thursday 28 April 2011

Livewire puzzles part 1

This will be the first of quite a few reviews of wire disentanglement puzzles from Livewire puzzles in Canada. I bought the whole set of 37 from them and am going to work my way through them if I can! I will start with the easy ones and gradually get to the more difficult.

Starting off with a childhood classic - the handcuffs puzzle which requires removal of the ring from the handcuffs. It is rated easy on their website (labeled 6/10 on the packet). I had a very small version of this as a child and sort of remembered the approach but having not seen one for over 30 years thought I should start again with it. The version from Livewire is much bigger and the ring to be removed is a hefty weight - this extra size makes the puzzle quite a bit trickier than I remember. It is certainly more satisfying for adult sized hands. It turns out that I sort of did remember the solution and had it solved it just a minute! Unfortunately, like many puzzles, I didn't really pay attention to how I had done it and struggled to put it back together - it actually took me a further 5 minutes to achieve this much to my great shame! Blush!! Most people who have had a go at this with me have recognised it from their childhood or a Christmas cracker, whilst everyone has solved it they have all commented that this version is harder than they remember. I suspect it is due to the larger 'cuff' and having only a single linking ring too makes the required manoeuvre slightly more awkward. Overall I think this is a nice implementation of the classic - if you don't have one in your collection then you should get one and this is a worthwhile version. Apparently there is also a nice version from Hanayama which you also could consider.
Hat Trick
The next one I tried was the Hat Trick. The aim is to remove the "hockey stick" from the 2 piece hat shaped main body. I had previously done something very similar in the form of the Deadlock Tavern puzzle bought from House of Marbles. Whilst it was not identical, the format was so similar that I managed it in under a minute and put it back together in much the same sort of time (in fact Deadlock is considerably harder because movement is much more constrained by the thicker metal).

When I gave this to a friend they took quite a bit longer to solve it - due mostly to the little trick required half way through the solution. Putting it back took a whole lot longer! I do like this one to give to others - it is a bit tough but still doable with some thought. A lot of the pleasure of puzzles for me is the watching other people go through the solving process (with or without clues from me).

Double Vision
Next in this first review we have the Double Vision puzzle. This is another one where you have to remove the ring from the main contraption which looks like a pair of pince-nez on stalks. It is pretty obvious where the exit point must be (even one of my orthopaedic surgical colleagues saw that very quickly!) but getting the ring to reach that point requires a bit of thought! It took me just 2 or 3 minutes to solve and relock this one and it does require a very nice little set of movements - this is my favourite of the 3 so far and is definitely a good one for handing about to others. Most people will solve it but it will take them a good few minutes to do it. Well worth a purchase if you are after a puzzle at the easier end of the spectrum.


Finally in this review I tried the Sputnik. This is a variation on the old bent nails puzzle with the aim being to separate the 2 coils. It looks pretty simple until you realise that the diameter of the coils is just too small to allow the ends through. The beaded rings are more for decoration than anything else - they make the puzzle slightly more awkward but don't really add much more. This is a level 6 puzzle and I almost think it should be level 7 - I managed to extricate the coils from one another in a couple of minutes, but putting the damn thing back together again took me a further 10 to 15 minutes! There are a number of different ways you can start intertwining the coils and only the correct one gets you to the end. I ended up systematically trying each one and lo and behold it was the last one I tried!! The very last extrication movement is a bit tricky and I ended up backtracking several times before I fathomed it out! Oddly I actually found this puzzle to be very difficult to repeat - it has taken multiple solves before I can do it fluidly. All in all, a good puzzle - especially for the repeatability. I have given this to quite a few people now and most seem to struggle to open it but do manage it after 10 or 15 minutes. So far absolutely no-one has managed to put it back together! Despite warning them to keep a proper track of exit position none have really watched closely enough and then got stuck during re-assembly- it is easy to get a single piece intertwined but getting both pieces double intertwined has proved to be a barrier to everyone. This does make me feel a bit better about how long it took me!

Of these 4 I like the fourth one the best and would suggest that a version of the classic Handcuffs should be in every collector's possession.


  1. Concerning the handcuffs puzzle, I would strongly recommend my video uploaded to YouTube.
    I made a very thorough review of this handcuffs puzzle, in which you will meet the ones with 5mm stainless steel wire but totally handmade bye.
    Title: Handcuff puzzles and the standard procedures of solving process
    Duration: 7min32sec
    Mechanical puzzle addict

  2. Hello, I wonder if you could solve the Sputnik puzzle? I have one and i can't put it back!

    1. Hi Sergio,

      Yes I can solve it (or at least I was able to do so 18 months ago!)
      If you are really struggling then please use my Contact page to get in touch and I will send you the solution.