Sunday 27 September 2015

Cast Keyhole and Keeping my Mind Busy

Hanayama Cast Keyhole
Recently things up here have gotten very fraught for me - my Mum who you all know has been ill, had a crisis and went from ill to near terminal and I had to make a lot of calls and rush down to London. Luckily she is now being well cared for and seems comfortable. I thought for a while that she wouldn't last long but she's a tough old boot and is hanging in there just now. I've been a doctor for many years (25) and am surprised at my own response to it.

You would have thought that with all that going on, I wouldn't be writing a blog post or even playing with a puzzle at all but I certainly have found that in times like these I need something to occupy my mind to stop me dwelling on the terrible occurrences of last week (even medical professionals feel the stress when it is one of their own) - solving something fun and writing a blog post is a bit cathartic for me and very therapeutic. I definitely would not be up to doing a Revomaze but I find that a simple little puzzling diversion is just the ticket. I rummaged in my "to be solved" stash from Tomas at Sloyd and found the Hanayama Cast Keyhole. This puzzle is a beautiful little thing designed by the Finnish Vesa Timonen and is available at the bargain price of €14.95 from Sloyd. I guess that if you live in North America it might be cheaper to get it from Puzzle Master here for $12.95.

It arrived in the usual Hanayama immaculate black packaging and the instructions on the box say simply to take it apart and then put it back together again. The puzzle is 6.9 x 2.6 x 4.5 cm and made from lovely shiny gold and chrome metal. I took the photo before I had even played with it at all because these puzzles do get marked by fingerprints immediately and they do get scratched during play - the gold one in particular will look very scratched fairly quickly.

It is obviously a simple maze puzzle. Actually it is NOT that simple! Hanayama have rated it a level 4 on their scale of 1-6 and Puzzle Master have rated it as an 8 (Demanding) on their quirky scale of 5-10. I think that rating is about right. No solution is provided and I doubt anyone will need it but if you collect them or do need it then download it from here.

Tomas wrote this about it:
"At first glance, the two pieces have simple concave and convex angles on their flat surfaces. However, when the two pieces intertwine, they take the shape of a 3D maze. You must twist and turn them around. If you rush without thinking, you will come to a dead end. Be careful as you may end up going around in circles"
I did not expect too much of a challenge from it and thought it would be a perfect diversion for my disturbed mind. However, I definitely was not expecting to get stuck within a couple of moves and to go round and round in circles for about 20 minutes! I found a couple of possible starts but neither of them would go any further. I blame my poor fevered brain because I eventually did find the next move and can not explain what was so difficult about it. After that point, it is a very nice little wander through the maze with very few side roads. The solution is almost soothing and it is surprisingly long! The path goes back and forth through the maze quite a few times with pieces held in different orientations and levels before sliding apart through the very obvious exit point.

2 Keyhole pieces - The gold is upside down but I'm too lazy to get the light tent out again!
Putting it back together is very simple and it can be done with the pieces in slightly different orientations but not changing the sequence. After reassembly, I put it down and left it a day. I am a little ashamed to say that the second (ahem... and the third) time I tried to solve it, I got stuck on exactly the same part as I did the first time! I'm not terribly bright AND I'm distracted!

The Cast Keyhole is a lovely little challenge which is not too difficult and definitely a nice diversion for the troubled soul. I can heartily recommend it for anyone's collection.

50 Cent Labyrinth
Waiting for me when I got back from London was a nice little package from David Pullen. He is an attendee at the IPP and in Canada this year he participated in the exchange with a Canada inspired creation designed and manufactured by the amazing Robrecht Louage whom I have blogged about before.  This was another maze type puzzle that would also provide me with a lovely little diversion during my stress.

Back of the puzzle
This is a classic from Robrecht made from Trespa and acrylic with a steel ball bearing inside. The Canada theme is completed by the maple leaf and the 50c piece locked inside. Like several of Robrecht's puzzles the aim is to free the coin from the slider by navigating an internal maze which can only partially be seen through the hole in the front. Initially when I played absolutely nothing would move and I spent a mad 3 or 4 minutes shaking it about and turning it over and over before I suddenly got the slider to move and a ball bearing came into view. Aha! The ball would have to negotiate the partially visible maze. No problem! I have done Revomazes so I am sure I can manage this! Now the exchange puzzles are not really expected to be a terrifically hard challenge - they are supposed to be fun for everyone, so I was rather surprised when my initial movement revealed the bearing and it wouldn't go any further! All I could do was wander back and forth between the start and this point. I seemed to be missing something out of sight. Eventually (possibly after doing a headstand) I managed to get moving a bit further and am still not entirely sure what I did!

After that I managed to work my way through the maze and at times got stuck for no good reason. After about an hour I managed to solve it:

Tricky little bugger - I still don't understand it!
One thing I do now know is that one of the reasons that I struggled so much was this:

Sneaky bastard! 2 Ball bearings!
Yes! That is very sneaky! There are 2 ball bearings and the second one only becomes apparent about ½ way through the solve. I suspect that I have manipulated it several times without realising it and of course have no idea what I did. I have been trying to put the damn thing back to the start position for a couple of hours now and completely failed! This is a GREAT challenge! Unlike a revomaze where you can make a map and deduce where gaps might be, this one really resists that kind of solving process. I will keep trying and will get there eventually and after that will have to unscrew the hex screws to look at the maze in all its glory!

Thanks David, that has really helped me take my mind of things. A perfect gift and a perfect exchange puzzle!

One of my cats absolutely adored the packaging too! He cannot resist sinking his teeth into polythene bags and the stiffer ones that often contain puzzles are just the best! He did this in just 2 minutes whilst I was trying to find the first move into the maze:

Nom Nom Nom! Anything else to chew?


  1. Glad you are getting some much needed distractions. These look like a lot of fun. I have the 50c labyrinth but Robrecht ran out of coins - so its rather easy right now! I havent really tried it yet until I get a coin for it. Do you know if it is similar to the 1 Euro labyrinth? I finally managed to solve that one.

    1. Yes I have the €1 puzzle too and that has a totally different mechanism. Not hard but interesting!


  2. Cast Keyhole looks simple but a bit tricky I found.

  3. I wonder why Robert didn't put a $1 Canadian coin in there? Then he could have named it the "Loonie Labyrinth"!!

    There are several places in the maze which are hard to navigate, even when you know the maze. The problem is that in these spots you only want one ball bearing to move, but the other one also moves and this does a different (bad) move.

    1. I had finally realised that there were some difficult moves coordinating the bearings and I am struggling to get it back to the beginning!

  4. Our cats also chew on packaging. They prefer scraps of paper, which they eat and regurgitate later. :-(

    1. At least we haven't had any regurgitation episodes yet!