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!

It consists of three different pieces, each has a "body" with a tight spiral centre and a tail which is an extension of the body. They are subtly different from each other when you look at their notches and protuberances. When you first pick it up there seems to be absolutely no movement at all in the pieces and you cannot actually tell how many there are. Things sort of rattle but that is all. After about 10 minutes of pushing and pulling there was a clank and all three pieces moved at the same time and became very loose. I panicked and thought that was it solved and I had no real idea what I had done, so I quickly reset it and worked out what move was required to get it started. After this I could investigate further and it became clear very quickly that this was going to be really really tough. All 3 of the tails were engaged with one of the heads!

Like Brian, I realised that you cannot be methodical - you just have to jingle a lot (thank goodness the present Mrs S wasn't anywhere nearby - you know how she hates it when I jingle)! Over about 45 minutes I sequentially managed to release each tail from the head and then was left with all three tails intertwined. Here I got stuck! Nothing I could do would release them from each other. It took me another hour at least to find the next move - I am amazed that Brian managed it in about an hour (he must be some kind of savant/genius). Finally, when I thought I had run out of ideas, I tried one other rather improbable move and all of a sudden I had them all linked in a linear chain. From here it is a snip to unlink them:

3 similar pieces
Like everyone else, I realised that I had absolutely no idea how to get them back to the beginning. I had not been systematic, only jingly! I was able to get the three tails back together but could not re-link any more than 2 of the tails through the heads - I didn't know which ones linked with which! After a total of about 12 hours, I downloaded the instructions and whilst they would be great for dismantling the puzzle they were absolutely useless for the reverse process. After another couple of hours, I had to admit that I am an abject failure and am probably not worthy of writing a puzzle blog - I went to YouTube. Oh the horror!!! There is a really good video showing both disassembly and reassembly here. I hope you can all forgive me for committing such a terrible sin?

I have given this to another puzzle friend to play with and he has managed only the first move so far despite about an hour of play. I will keep torturing him for a while - I fully expect he will take it apart but I will be staggered if he reassembles it.

Overall this is a tremendously difficult cast puzzle - it is very rewarding to play with once you have memorised the technique. It is NOT for newbies or the faint-hearted - even experienced puzzlers will really struggle. I would like to meet Mr Yamamoto, either to shake his hand or wring his neck, I am not sure which!!! Definitely a good one for the serious puzzler's collection. Buy it! You know you want to.


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  2. Hi from UK. I got given the cast vortex on xmas day and managed to disassemble it in just over 60 minutes (partly by luck, but in part by thought process). putting it back together however, is proving quite frustrating :D

    1. Well done on such a quick disassembly! If you didn't pay attention to what you did then it is a tremendously tough one to put back together. Good luck!

      If you need it then the solution is available here.


    2. finally finished after about 9 hours (spread over 5 days) ... this is an amazingly insane, frustrating and infuriating puzzles. makes the bedlam cube look like a walk in the park.

      Greg (UK)

    3. Well done! An awesome puzzle and great effort by you! I'm impressed!
      Try the cast quartet next!

  3. I am afraid to try this one. It sits there, unwrapped, taunting me. I just hope that a guest doesn't fiddle with it and change it from it's boxed (finished) position. (Tim)

    1. You really should play with it Tim! Puzzles are there to be solved not to be displayed! Especially the mass produced ones. If you get stuck then the solution is always available to help you reset it!. Go on! Go for it!

  4. Well, i got this puzzle some 4 years ago, and it was my 2nd Hanayama puzzle, if I remember correctly. I only solved it 2 weeks ago, though! First, I wasn't able to put it apart for a while, but then I managed, and without thinking about the moves I put it apart completely. Then I spent a long time playing with it but with no luck. After couple months, dust started to settle down on the three separate six-shaped pieces. After more than a year, I tried again: This time I managed to put the three pieces together, creating something that looked like a creature from some sci-fi series, but not like the puzzle. I gave up again. After two years I took it with me into the tub since I wanted to take a long bath and this was the only thing I could do there (since the puzzle is waterproof). I managed to disassemble it. Then I saw this blog post, and the small hint you give (and you maybe do not realize at all that you give a hint) clicked with me and I had the solution in couple hours. I've got some more Hanayama puzzles, but this one is certainly one of my favourite ones.

    1. 4 years of puzzling from one $13 puzzle? That's good value for money! Well done for persevering for so long - I doubt that I could have gone that long without going for the solution!

      Do let me know where my clue is - I can't see it!

  5. Hi Kevin, I've had this puzzle for a few years (sitting in a box for the most part but out occasionally) and have it to the point where the 3 tails are intertwined, everything else is "free". Really stuck there for the last few days. Not asking for a solution but have a weird request. Looking for reassurance I guess:
    I had promised myself that I would do something specific for myself (that has been pending) once I am able to solve this puzzle. Do you think a completely inexperienced puzzler will be able to get the tails apart? Is there hope (without looking up the solution to the last step)? How can I improve my skills on this?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Agam,
      It really is a tough puzzle for a beginner! It should be possible - it depends what position you have got it to. How about sending me a photo? Contact me using my contact page and I'll try and help.



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