"This is without a doubt among the most difficult of all puzzles."
I have to say that this is absolutely one of my favourite cast puzzles - it is great to hold and shaped in such a way that you can see and plan each move. On top of this you can actually hold it in such a way that you remember what you have done if you need to back-track. Unlike the Cast Vortex, you don't solve it with no real idea of how it works. Every single review on its Puzzle Master page has given it a 5 star rating! Brian reviewed it here.
It is packaged nicely in the usual Hanayama black box and the pieces are made of a lovely antique bronzed metal. Dimensions are 13.9 x 5 x 3.7 cm when unsolved (but the individual pieces are quite flat). Being metal and a decent size it has a good weight and feels great in the hands. It was designed in the early 1970s by Eldon Vaughn and slightly modified for the Hanayama version to improve the solvability. The aim, obviously, is to take it apart and then reassemble it. The solution is, as usual, not supplied with the puzzle but if you need it (you might!!!) it can be downloaded from Puzzle Master at here.
On picking this up, initially it is not clear how to go about taking it apart. I started to try and solve it like a wire disentanglement puzzle - trying to interleave the long ends of the 2 clef-like pieces. Needless to say this will get you (and me!) nowhere. On looking closer you suddenly realise why there are 3 very narrow slots within 2 of the pieces - these are the exact correct size to straddle the flattened area on the other piece. This is your first Aha moment (I tell it here because it is not much of a spoiler - if you don't realise this pretty much straight away then you shouldn't be trying a puzzle of this difficulty!) Unfortunately, this first Aha! is not the only or even the best one. There are a series of little (or even quite big) discoveries to be made.
Having made this first discovery I quickly tried to implement it only to find that I was blocked, I could engage the slot on the flattened area but could not slide through - a blind end!!! Now you search for other ways to take this first step and it is not easy or at all intuitive to find it. Many of my friends and colleagues who I have handed it to have completely failed to find even this first move. All the orthopaedic surgeons gave up very quickly and asked for a hammer or power-saw. I took it back very quickly!!
Once this first move has been found the next couple follow pretty soon and then you REALLY get stuck. There is a combined move required which manipulates all three pieces at once and this is very very tough indeed. Only one of my local group of friends has got past this stage. I don't include all you puzzle nuts out there reading this blog in this statement - I would EXPECT you to get this with minimal hesitation! After this, it is nice and easy to get the first piece off. Separating the final 2 pieces can be done in 2 ways. The initial way that I managed it required a very small amount of "flexing" of the tails. I was sure this could not have been the correct way and after a little further experimentation found a rather beautiful alternative which required no force.
Remember cardinal law number 4b of puzzle solving - "Thou shalt remember how thou achieved it"? This really applies to this puzzle. The puzzle friend of mine who did manage the disassembly (using his own copy of the puzzle) has been unable to put it back together again - it has laid in pieces for the best part of 3 weeks!!! Silly boy. I blame myself really! I infected him with the puzzle habit and he is driving his family nuts and spending more money than he should on puzzles. Obviously I am no Yoda - I failed to teach him Cardinal law 4b!!!!
The pieces look like this:
|Cast Enigma pieces|
I say again - This is my favourite of the difficult Hanayamas. Very tough yet satisfying to solve, not as attractive as some but really great. Buy it, you won't regret it!