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.

So I up-ended the container and examined all the pieces and set to it. Just imagine how pleased I was with myself when I had a completed cube in just 5 minutes. I thought to myself, "Self! You aren't just a competent puzzler, you are a positive genius!!!" I put it on the shelf for a day or so and just left it.

I had absolutely no recollection of how I had assembled it - sometimes I have no recollection of what I did 5 minutes ago! So I thought I would have another go a few days later. This time I managed it in about 6 minutes just proving I am the worlds' premier puzzler. After another few attempts each time under 5 minutes I began to suspect there was something not quite right - especially as I was pretty sure that most of my attempts had yielded different solutions. At this point I got out the trusty copy of Burrtools and plugged in the pieces of my puzzle. After hitting the solve button I was astonished to see that there were 79 possible solutions!!! I Googled and found an image of the pieces, only to find that one of the pieces in my copy had broken in half (maybe I should have been suspicious when there were 2 pieces each of just 2 cubelets - but I am not a terribly bright bunny!)

Broken piece
Closer examination revealed a roughened area where the glue should have been, so I scraped it off and glued it back together where it should have been.

This time I tried again and, oh yes, this was MUCH harder. In fact I really struggled! It took me exactly 35 minutes to do it this time which means I am a below average puzzler as I suspected all along. A subsequent time took me 45 minutes (getting worse) and just now I have tried again and after 70 minutes I have given up in disgust and got Burrtools out to help me put it back together. Oh the shame!!!!

If you want a pretty big hint then you can get one here or Contact me and I can send you my Burrtools file.

All puzzlers should probably have one of these - they are really pretty tough. You should also have a Soma cube (I got mine from Creative Crafthouse - in rubber wood) which will provide thousands and thousands of additional puzzles to try. If you have also singularly failed with this one like me then leave a comment below - it might help with my humiliation!!

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