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.