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).

When it arrived, it was disassembled and in a small plastic bag. I love Eric's work - looking at the wooden pieces you can see how amazingly precise his cuts are. I initially thought he had just used a router to cut the notches but on closer inspection I suspect he has used a fine saw and chisels - unbelievable! Starting with the perspex pieces it is immediately clear that there can be only one orientation for them and then the first wooden piece has to be inserted. I initially looked at the shapes of the burrs and thought that it would not matter whether we started with a long or short piece (basically they all have the same notch and just vary in stick length). I started with a long piece and it can only go on one way! "Easy", I think to myself, the next piece can go on in 1 of 3 orientations and I try them all before discovering which one allows the entry hole to open up enough for subsequent pieces to be placed. "I'm a genius" I think to myself as the last piece slides on. Then I discover to my chagrin that whilst it goes on, it won't line up with any of the others or the perspex pieces won't align! "Maybe not a genius, but still quite clever", I modify my self-aggrandisement, "I just need to alter this one".

"$%@*&%£$!!!" I have spent 2 weeks intermittently playing with this one and have been completely stumped despite everything I tried. I have revised my self-opinion to: "Not particularly clever! Rather dim, in fact!!!" I had tried everything except rotational moves and discovered today that in certain positions it is possible to spin the pieces around. This was a eureka moment for me and after getting all 4 pieces mounted on the perspex (inserting them in an unexpected order!) I managed to spin all the pieces around and have them in a row - unfortunately not in the correct order! After more effing and blinding (startling my wife), I managed to rearrange them into the correct order and breathed a sigh of relief!

It looks like this:
Having done it, I now couldn't undo it! Maybe "rather dim" is being generous to my intellect! It took me another hour of furiously rotating bits to get it apart! I have created a Burrtools file and if anyone would like a copy then just contact me for it. I decided not to look at the Burrtools file and try for the "correct" solution mentioned by Neil in his review. Whilst trying to do my original solution, I came across an unexpected move which triggered an idea about how the correct (no rotations) solution should be done. It took me about ½ hour and I got it - this is a very neat little puzzle!

If you see one available or if Eric produces some more then I would go for it. It will challenge you (hopefully not as much as it did to me).

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