Sunday 25 March 2012

Hanayama Cast Star

Cast Star
The Cast star from Hanayama came from Puzzle Master as part of my last large consignment of metal puzzles. I chose this one because it was a fairly simple one and should have provided some light relief to my rather overloaded brain (curtesy of the ever more complex twisty puzzles I am also working through).

It comes in the usual immaculate Hanayama black packaging with only the instructions to separate the two pieces. This particular design dates back to the 19th century and has been updated by the great Japanese puzzle designer, Akio Kamei, for today's puzzlers. It is nicely made and is 4.6 x 7.8 x 3.9 cm in size. Difficulty is rated as 3 out of the Hanayama 6 point scale or 7 (Challenging) on the Puzzle Master 5-10 point scale - I think that this is about right.

Brian has reviewed it on his blog here. He took about 15-20 minutes to solve it and was slightly disappointed when he did not get that Aha! moment we are all after. Having said that - it must be moderately tough for Brian to take that long at anything - I have said before that he is a puzzle solving machine!! However, the reviews on the Puzzle Master product page were, by and large, pretty positive. I thought I should give it a try.

As usual with these puzzles there is no solution provided but it can be downloaded from here if you feel you need it. Judging from my experience handing it to novice puzzlers, it is unlikely you will need it.

The puzzle is a two piece puzzle, consisting of a snake curled around and eating its tail. Within the oval formed by its body it has captured a 6 pointed star. the aim is to release the star. It is made from a rather attractive distressed copper metal and has a fairly nice feel to it.

My initial thought was that this would solve rather like the Hedgehog in a cage type puzzles, where you need to move the central piece back and forth, rotating as you go until the captive is released. So, in this vein, I rotated around and around and around trying not to piss off Mrs S with my jingling (she was in a bit of a mood with me!!) and just as it did for Brian, nothing happened! In fact after about 15 minutes, I put it down in disgust to try a new twisty puzzle, muttering to myself that it can't possibly be level 3/6!!

Having solved my twisty, and being unable to move due to a cat sleeping on me, I had no choice other than to pick it up again. Rather than randomly rotate it, I decided to spend some time actually looking at its features to see if they provided any clues and yes, there are a couple of things to notice - one is obvious and the other quite subtle. Having seen these features, I got it apart a few seconds later and now I think that the difficulty rating is justified.

 Cast Star released from captivity
It has been quite interesting to hand this to friends and colleagues. My more experienced puzzle friends solved it very quickly (even if they initially didn't know how) and the novices struggled for quite some time. However as soon as I said that they need to look for certain features then most managed it quite quickly after that. Although, there is one particular orthopaedic surgeon who, having decided that she is expert at puzzles now, has failed singularly after a very long time!! I plan to taunt her as much as possible!!!

Should you buy one? If you are a very experienced puzzler then it may be too easy for you (but then you will buy it anyway for the collection). If you are a novice then, judging from my friends' reactions then you will actually enjoy it a lot. I have no regrets and still enjoy solving it. I will carry it around for a while to torture a few more people before I put it on the shelf. Good value for $12!

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