Sunday 14 June 2015

Funzzle Puzzles - Beta followed by some PAIN!

Funnzle puzzle - Beta
This is the last of my Puzzle Master hoard! Sob! I really must get back to them and place another order soon but I seem to have been pretty busy recently. In fact I have been so busy that I have had a huge number of deliveries over the last few weeks (see here and here for a shameful list) and actually not had time to do any more than unpack them and take photos! I haven't solved any of them yet at all!!!

Permission was given for this!
They have recently stocked a new range of Bamboo puzzles all named for greek letters by a new company Funzzle. They were designed by someone I had not heard of until that time,Y Gong Yong Ming from China and he does not put his designs on Ishino's site. After my initial review (positive) of the Epsilon puzzle, I was contacted by more than one person who was rather indignant of the ethics of this designer and his company - I was informed by my correspondents and also by Gabriel who reviewed another one that these are a case of apparent plagiarism. It would appear that Mr Ming has taken the designs of other designers and just made a minor change or two and then produced it as his own design without any permission or even acknowledgement of the original designer. This is very much frowned upon by the puzzle world and leaves me with mixed feelings about these puzzles. It would appear that Puzzle Master now has the original designers acknowledged but I do not know whether permission was granted. It is expected that before a craftsman produces someone's work for profit (even if it is freely visible on Ishino's site that the original designer give permission and receive either payment or a copy. I know that Eric Fuller always does this, as does Brian Menold. In fact my recently acquired copy of the Really Bent Board Burr from Johan was only with the blessing of my mate Derek Bosch.

The Beta is rated by Puzzle Master as the highest difficulty level 10 (Mind Boggling) and the So with trepidation I took this one out of the packaging (which is beautifully done) and took my initial photos. It is a nice size 8 x 8 x 4 cm and feels nice to touch. The puzzle is made from Bamboo and has nice shading of the wood. The start position is laser etched onto the wood and the stated aim is to remove the pieces and then put them back together again i.e. it is a boxed burr puzzle. No solution is provided and unusually it cannot be downloaded from their solution page - if you are not an experienced burr solver then you might actually need the solution and I think that for reassembly you almost certainly will unless you are a Burr genius.

The Puzzle Master page attributes the initial idea to Stéphan Chomine as based upon his Flat Quadrix but it could easily be closer to the Quadripole puzzle. To be honest these didn't look too difficult and so I was wondering why this had received such a high difficulty rating. There is a hole in the bottom of the cage to allow you to see the shape of the pieces inside but the main reason is to allow you to push the pieces upwards from beneath so they can be moved around.

A hole for fingers
Demirrhan perfection
My initial exploration showed that the hole underneath could do with being a bit bigger - the pieces are quite small and fiddly and controlling their movements is difficult through such a small hole. I also discovered that all but one of the pieces can rotate freely several times during the solution. It doesn't say anywhere whether rotations are required and in most of these puzzles not only is it not required but it is considered a flaw by most designers unless it is critical to the solution. My recent very similar purchases from the amazing Turkish designer and Craftsman Yavuz Demirrhan have been very carefully made so that rotations are absolutely not possible. Yavuz would not release a puzzle with such a flaw. The ability of the pieces of the Beta puzzle to rotate makes it even more fiddly as they need to be controlled during the exploration/solution. Very early on during the process it becomes apparent that Mr Ming has made some considerable changes to the designs and one of these changes is quite significant - he has included half voxel cutouts of various parts which interlock and these REALLY make a difference because one of them makes a piece too wide for others to slide past and it also blocks it moving in and out of the box.

Half voxels on the top
Half voxels interlocked
It would also appear that there is a half voxel cutout of one of the stalks of a piece inside and also of a layer of the box. I couldn't see this and had to deduce that it was present during my exploration and this is another very clever aspect to this puzzle that I had not appreciated until later.

My initial exploration and solution probably took me about 45 minutes! The pieces move in a very complex dance around and about & over and under each other. It was with some relief that I managed to get the first piece out - I actually had thought I was lost and couldn't backtrack! Removing the remaining 3 is quite easy but not trivial after that. Only at that point did I realise the cleverness of the design and also realised that there was no way I was going to reassemble it myself! That was the real moment when I saw the half voxel pieces and saw that making a Burrtools solution was going to be more of a challenge than usual. It required a 16 x 16 x 8 grid for the main puzzle and the calculated solution was a level - I was actually staggered at that level that I actually managed to solve such a high level in such a short time! There are definitely a good few false pathways during the solve too making it even tougher.

4 pieces and the box
So how do I rate this puzzle? That is actually quite difficult for me! The ethics of the company/designer have ruined things for me quite a bit. The fiddliness of the pieces and the unwanted rotations definitely diminish the enjoyment too. Bamboo is not a preferred wood for me but I guess it does keep the cost down. It is quite nicely made, well presented and in terms of puzzling alone, it is a very good puzzle. I will be repeating the solve several more times to ensure that the first time was not a fluke. So if I've not put you off then buy it here.

Mr Strijbos causes pleasure and pain

Butterfly Lock Box - the same serial number as my angel box
The long awaited new puzzle from Mr Wil Strijbos has recently begun to make it's way around the world. It has two names - the first is the "Butterfly Lock Box" but the proper name which is the original from Wil is the "Pleasure and Pain puzzle". Why the latter name?
  • Pleasure that a new Strijbos masterpiece is released
  • Pain that it is a considerable sum of cash - It is NOT expensive, it just costs a lot!
  • Pleasure in the early exploration
  • Pain, pain, pain after your early findings. Oh Lord, the pain!!!! That's as far as I got so far!
Thanks Wil - as a married man, I am very familiar with pain! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! See I'm definitely not very bright!


  1. About Mr Gong Yong Ming, we have several rumors about him with the same situation. Made some minor changes from other puzzles and then claim that it is his new design. Well I'm not good at burr, you know that. So I can't define whether he is doing this or not. But when rumors become more & more, I think they came with a reason.

    1. Yes! "There is no smoke without fire" they say. BUT he made quite a lot of alterations to the design of this particular puzzle and it is actually pretty good (with some flaws).
      I don't think I will buy any more from this series though.

  2. Are rotations needed for the solve?