|Jonathan Berindei’s Tetris Octogram. Euro in the background for scale. Looks small doesn’t it?|
When you hear that greeting, you can always expect more puzzle talk from the islands. I’ve been in a writing mood lately and I find that its best to indulge the urge before it passes. It’s impossibly hard to write when you are uninspired. Thankfully, I have been greatly inspired by a few new puzzles recently, one of which I’ll cover today. This post was also stimulated by a comment on my last post from Steve (aka Boxes and Booze), which reminded me that my esteemed editor and publisher Kevin (aka The Mad Puzzler (Ed - I'm Puzzlemad not a mad puzzler! or am I?)) does not generally collect certain puzzle types—boxes for example (Ed - just trying to save myself from complete financial ruin). I was happy to realize that my post filled a gap in the blog. Thinking about it a little more, I recalled that packing puzzles also constitute a distinct minority at Puzzlemad (Ed - I just can't seem to do them). There are packers on this blog, just not very many relative to the abundance that exist. Happily for the blog, I very recently played with a great 2D packing puzzle that I think is Puzzlemad material.
I give you—the “Tetris Octogram”—designed, made, and sold by Jonathan B from his workshop in northern California. This very attractive version of the classic octogram is an original design. I know this because Jonathan told me so, and also because I searched high and low for similar designs and found almost nothing. The Tetris Octogram is, of course, a polyomino packing puzzle, a class which has deep historical roots. Octograms are so named for the fact that the packing space measures 8 units on a side. Other than that, there don’t seem to be any strict rules. From a design standpoint, one simply selects a set of polyominos that are challenging to pack and aesthetically pleasing. Jonathan has selected a diverse set of 13 polyominos for his puzzle consisting of 1 heptomino, 1 hexomino, 7 pentominos, and 4 tetrominos.
Pentominos are traditionally the most popular pieces for this type of puzzle (and arguably the most popular of polyominos period), but I think adding the larger hepto and hexo pieces, as well as the unassuming tetros, was a good choice. I would go so far as to claim that this is a completely unique arrangement. Of course, with all the possible combinations of polyominos available there are surely many hundreds of unique sets to choose from. All I can say is that this particular set works, both aesthetically and from a puzzling perspective. Jonathan’s original inspiration was a children’s polyomino puzzle, from which he drew some of the pieces. He then selected the rest to complement these such that the final design was “equal and proportional”. Another influence was Tetris, hence the name of the puzzle. There are four tetris-derived pieces in the puzzle, also known as tetriminos to us GenXers (Ed - that would seem to include me).
|Polyomino breakdown for the Tetris Octogram.|
My admittedly limited research produced only one other Octogram design available on the market. This is an all-wood Octogram of quite different design (meaning different choice of polyominos) made by the Kiwis at Puzzlingworld. Their version is composed almost exclusively of pentominos and one lonely tetromino. At least two separate programmers have analyzed the Puzzlingworld Octogram, coming up with 16,146 unique solutions (excluding equivalent orientations). This gives you some idea of the order of magnitude of the solving possibilities for the Tetris Octogram.
The Tetris Octogram has its roots in the octograms of the late nineteenth century, particularly the checkerboard puzzles. The objective there was to fit a set of polyominos into an 8 x 8 unit square such that a regular checkerboard was created. The component squares of the polyominos alternate red and white. The earliest of these, dating to the 1880s, was the Sectional Checkerboard which included 15 polys: 9 pento (2 of which are duplicated), 2 tetro (both same), 3 trio (all same), and 1 domino. This was apparently a VERY popular and long-lived parlour (Ed - corrected to the correct spelling with a U in it!!) puzzle, spawning well over 300 designs (see Slocum and Haubrich’s Compendium of Checkerboard Puzzles, or better yet, just go here).
|3/16th inch iron goodness.|
Laser cutters are fine, but I want a plasma cutter!
You can find the Tetris Octogram at Jonathan’s Etsy store (unfortunately Jonathan has stopped producing puzzles. Price is $88 US (Ed - he doesn't seem to ship to the UK unfortunately) and he makes them to order (pretty quickly in fact). This is not cheap, but you are getting a very high quality item of unique design. It is most definitely good value in my book. Jonathan spends upwards of three to four hours making each puzzle, plus material costs. Do the math. It’s a good deal.
Ed - Wow!!! That looks absolutely stunning - whilst I am not a huge fan of packing puzzles because I struggle to do them and because there is just too much trial and error involved, this looks perfect. Hopefully someone will convince Jonathan to ship outside of the US so others can enjoy this great looking puzzle. I really will be interested to see what else he comes up with.
Thanks to Mike for letting me off the hook and for producing yet another stunning review - if you think you can also produce something equally informative then contact me on my Contact page.