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."

I have to say that I absolutely loved this one. It is a similar process to the Chinese Rings puzzle but with more space and better ability to see what is required. The process is a real logical process, effectively a binary maths procedure. Again, the initial moves are pretty easy but then it is very easy to get either stuck or lost. My initial attempts ended up with difficulties because I chose to use the wrong sides of the puzzle as exit/entry points. If you choose to go the wrong direction the puzzle rapidly gets to the point where you cannot move the handle at all. Once you have fathomed the cause of this problem you can then proceed further but at this point if you are not keeping real track of your route then you can easily end up back-tracking and end up at the start point without realising where you made the wrong move. After 3 or 4 attempts when this happened, I decided to write down an outline of my intended approach and then I managed to solve it. They are absolutely correct - this is a mammoth feat - it must take 70+ moves to remove the handle and again to reattach it. You cannot memorise the procedure, you MUST understand what you are trying to do. My only criticism of the puzzle (very minor) is that for some of the more convoluted moves there is a small amount of force required to slightly distort the handle - I don't think it detracts from it but possibly they should let you know.

The Wedge Puzzle
I next tried the Wedge puzzle - another level 10. The object it to remove the free ring from the puzzle. Being a string based puzzle it there are a huge number of potential movements possible and it is quite easy to end up with a fairly tangled structure. Luckily it is not too difficult to unwind.

Smuggler's Revenge
After trying a few things I moved the wound strings onto the main shaft of the puzzle and realised that it bore a remarkable similarity to one of the tavern puzzles I had bought from House of Marbles, the Smuggler's revenge. The Wedge puzzle has an extra loop in it which increases the complexity hugely, but it is basically the same technique. Once I had realised this then it actually only took me a further 3 or 4 minutes to solve. I think that had I not had the smuggler's revenge first then I would have found this one really very difficult indeed.

It is a very simple construction and still pretty tough to solve, I have given this to a couple of novice puzzlers and both of them completely failed to do it after half an hour of trying. Well worth the money - it requires less shear dogged determination than some of the other level 10s.

Ball and Ring
Next up for review is the Ball & Ring puzzle. Like the last one this is a very simple construction which belies it's difficulty level. It had been discontinued but was so popular they brought it back. The original description was from Creative Puzzles of the World by Pieter van Delft & Jack Botermans published in 1978. As a classic, it is well worth having.

All cuffed up
I am always very wary of puzzles involving string because of the tendency to end up with a massive knot which you cannot undo easily. This one does get knotted fairly easily but somehow doesn't seem to hard to undo each time. When I first picked it up I thought it would be easy because it bore a remarkable similarity to another of the House of Marbles Tavern puzzles - the All cuffed up. I had managed to solve this one in just 2 or 3 minutes after buying it so thought to myself it would only take a couple of minutes. I couldn't quite recall the techniques I had used for the cuffed up puzzle but everything I tried failed. In disgust I went back to the other and immediately realised that there was a fundamental difference - with the tavern puzzle you can feed the triangle through the closed loop to help you get it apart. On going back to the Ball & Ring I saw that the ball prevented this. The exit point as to be the same but the method of reaching it was much more complex.

Overall this on took me about an hour to solve. The repeatability is good because if you don't get it perfectly orientated then you end up tangled. Another excellent difficult puzzle for your collection.

Finally for this little group I tried the Open and Shut Case. Yes, you are absolutely right, this is not a wire puzzle! It is a perfect looking miniature briefcase complete with latches! The aim is to open it and then lock it shut again (obviously!!!)

Open & Shut Case

When you move it you can hear something rattling around inside - intriguing! The first thing you do is undo the latches and try to pull it open - no go. At this point you try shaking it, spinning it, rattling it and after each movement you try to open the damn thing - no go! There is no feedback from the puzzle - you cannot tell whether you are close or completely wrong. Ultimately, I decided to be systematic about it and tried a number of different moves in a number of different sequences. After about 15 minutes I thought I had run out of ideas but then a little lightbulb went on above my head (a very low powered one!) and I tried it all over again but this time "with a little twist" (No clues!!!) and then it popped open.

Mechanism revealed - not helpful at all!

The inside is only slightly illuminating - you can confirm what is going on but cannot tell how it is working. It would have been nice to actually be able to see the mechanism. This is quite a clever puzzle, certainly very cute but, I think, not in the same league as the other level 10 puzzles they sell. I would put it at an 8 or 9.


  1. There's a disentanglement called "Ferris Wheel" which is sold by Like Chinese Rings and Centipede, its possible to produce larger and larger versions of this puzzle as well. I have tried to figure out how to solve the general version of Ferris Wheel, but all I succeeded in doing was tying my brain in knots!

  2. Hi Kevin. Where can I buy this hard to find Centipede puzzle? _Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Unfortunately Livewire puzzles has closed down and the Centipede is no longer available. I’ve not found one anywhere including eBay. PuzzleMaster have a couple of similar puzzles. Arrow Dynamics has a similar idea but less extensive and a little twist because the length of the shuttle is limited:
      Arrow Dynamics

      Aaron produced a similar idea puzzle (Chinese Lanterns) but a slight alteration makes it much MUCH tougher. It is also available through PuzzleMaster:
      Chinese Lanterns

      I hope that this helps.

    2. Which is more challenging--Chinese nine rings or the Centipede? My homemade Centipede is giving me a headache because I don't know what I'm trying to do. It's a trial and error for now.

    3. Centipede I think is more confusing because it is less linear