Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Constantin Wire Extravaganza

At the end of July, I wrote a little article highliting the most recent wire disentanglements from Jean Claude Constantin. The ones I focussed on were the easiest 3 from that series. I bought my copies from my the wonderful Puzzle Pusher, Wil Strijbos but some of them should be available from PuzzleMaster soon and I am sure that Hendrik will be getting them in stock too. These puzzles are absolutely amazing and relatively cheap so well worth buying even if they may cost you a bruise or two from the inevitable Whack! Ouch! that you spouses may impart. I know that for a while I was covered in bruises and had a mild concussion when she started to hit me with kitchen implements (blunt ones luckily)!

I started this more difficult batch with the U-Loop because Derek needed a hand - he had dismantled his copy and was struggling to put it back together again. I began it one evening with a cat on my lap and quickly discovered that there was very little movement initially possible in terms of rotations but shortly discovered that with some fancy sideways motions, quite a lot more is possible and at that point I understood Derek's problem... it is quite difficult to keep track of these sorts of movements because the shape is quite complex. I fiddled a bit at suddenly the cat shot of me - I was left holding the coil and the wooden dumbell and the U dropped on his head!

3 very fun pieces
I left it for a while and soothed the rather miffed cat and after a bit tried to put it back together. It had only taken me about 20 minutes to take it apart and I had definitely lost track of what I had done in the process. It was going to be interesting to see why the reassembly was causing so much difficulty. At that point I realised that this was definitely an assembly puzzle! There are lots of things to try and absolutely nothing was working for me. A bit of swearing later and a laser burning stare caused me to subside and put it down for the night. I took it to work the following day and again got nowhere - I started to panic! These puzzles were sent out without solutions and I hope you all are aware that asking Wil for solutions always ends with a "No way" response! I had a horrible feeling that not only was I going to be unable to help Derek but I was also going to end up with another unsolved puzzle in my collection! It took me 3 days to get it and even then I had no idea what I had done. At that point I made sure that my next disassembly was more careful. I finally managed it and at that point put up a video of the solution on my YouTube channel. If you need the solution then watch the video below DON'T watch if you don't like to see solutions on line:

During his attempted solve, Derek found an alternative interesting assembly which he challenged me to get - this requires another very nice little move - if you have this puzzle then try and get it into this position:

Try this!
The next one that I had to try was U-Sockel which Wil had told me was one of his favourites from the set.

Consisting of 2 U's on a stick with a ball at one end and a wide stand on the other, the aim is to remove the U's. The ball will not move and all the action is with the metal. If you have done the Four-U puzzle that I showed off here then you will have a vague idea of one of the moves that are required BUT with a solid stick the movement needs to be very precise. After you have found that first movement one of the U's has been removed from the stick but is still attached to the puzzle. Now you will see why this was one of Wil's favourites - the remainder of the sequence is very clever and for me entirely unexpected. This has a real Aha! moment before you end up with a few pieces:

One of the best of the series
Luckily the reassembly is not too much of a challenge. I would definitely suggest adding this to your collection - it is a lovely fun sequence but not impossibly hard. You could even give it to newbies and have them play (as long as they know not to use force).

After this we move on to some MUCH more difficult puzzles - here they become puzzles for real disentanglement enthusiasts or suckers for punishment! They now involve string as well as U pieces.

OUU Holz
The OUU Holz is one part of a pair of puzzles that Wil is selling in that group. The other one is the OUU Metal which is an alternative configuration of the Two-U which I mentioned here. They both have a very similar topological configuration but have different solutions. I found the Two-U puzzle a tremendous challenge and of course could not resist buying something else that was similar and yet still different. If you want the Two-U then it can be bought from Wil or is available from PuzzleMaster as Zauberseil here - you can have a lot of fun solving it as it arrives (Two-U) and then try to assemble it into the alternative shape of OUU Metal puzzle. Writing this has reminded me that I still need to do that.

The OUU Holz is very constrained in the movements that are possible due to the very short length of string that is provided (this also means that knots are less likely but could get very tight) and the width of the wooden ellipse prevents a lot of movement of one of the U's. I initially started thinking that this wouldn't be terribly tough but Lord! I was very wrong. I was working in the hospital one Saturday and my trainee was determined to do most of the work without my assistance and so I didn't argue with her very hard! I sat down and supervised her from the coffee room whilst playing with this. A number of surgeons came and went and looked at me pityingly whilst I swore about the twisted mind of JCC. I got them playing with the easier ones in the series - they are very easily distracted. The OUU Holz requires a moderately long sequence of moves which are not at all intuitive and after about 2 hours I had the pieces:

As far as I can tell the top chain cannot disassemble further - do let me know if I am wrong
Reassembly proved quite a problem again! I had really tried to ensure that I remembered the sequence and actually thought I did until I failed to put it back together again immediately after disassembly. My colleagues were all extremely amused when I began to swear like a trooper about the "damned stupid puzzle"! My trainee that day worked her little socks off whilst I spent the best part of a whole day putting the damn thing back together! This doesn't look like much of a puzzle but I would say that the OUU Holz and OUU Metal (or Two-U) are a brilliant pair to get and are perfect for any serious wire puzzle enthusiast. At the moment I think the Holz is only available from Wil but hopefully some of the other vendors will start to stock them soon.

The remaining 2 puzzles in the series are fantastic but really ONLY for the most serious disentanglement fiends:

4 et 4 U
These involve U's, very long lengths of string (which almost always means a really complex solution) as well as more complex lengths of wire in interesting shapes. They are definitely not for beginners or the faint of heart. Zauberschlüssel is for sale on PuzzleMaster but seems to have the length of string missing. I have to say that omitting the string will turn the puzzle into something quite simple and certainly accounts for the low difficulty rating that they have given it (level 8-demanding on their 5-10 scale). When the string is added, it would certainly produce a level 10 puzzle. The Zauberschlüssel took me a week to work out - there is quite a lot to it and you don't get disheartened because it is very much a journey with quite a few techniques to discover as you go. The final disassembly is a fabulous Aha! moment. I actually would say that this puzzle (along with the U-loop) is my favourite from the series - it is absolutely tremendous! Lord help you if you forget the sequence that you used. This would really be a very tough puzzle to assemble from scratch with no idea of the process in advance!

The 4 et 4 U is also a rather difficult puzzle but there is less to learn than Zauberschlüssel in the process. It is quite fun however and any serious disentanglement puzzler should buy it.

My absolute favourite
Another fine puzzle
I had hoped to put some more videos up showing the solutions but they are rather difficult to do on camera. If there is enough demand then I will make another attempt.

I hope that you enjoyed the review - do let me know if you think that videos of the solutions might be useful.


  1. Great post Kevin. Your enthusiasm for disengagement puzzles is really quite infectious, but I have to say I wouldn't know where to start, they look incredibly tricky!

    1. Disengagement puzzles? :-D
      You are right - the ones in this post are not really for absolute beginners. The others from the series are more suited to beginners! The more you do the better you get - one day I hope to be good at them.

  2. At RPP a bunch of us were stumped by U-Sockel. We determined that it was impossible! If you start thinking this is one of Wil's joke puzzles, you stop trying hard to get it apart!

    1. Hi George,
      It's definitely solvable - it needs a very nice interesting sequence of moves! Keep trying!

    2. Is the silver button on the ball there for a reason? This seems useless ... but knowing Wil, maybe not.

    3. It's a rivet that was used to fasten the ball to the wooden dowel. Remember these are JCC puzzles, Wil is just a distributor.

  3. These puzzles look awesome! I love it when nothing is hidden, but they are still super difficult for me. Good value for the money! I do not own any of them, yet. I will order from Puzzlemaster, when they become available.

    1. Good luck with them. Do check that the ones that PuzzleMaster get in stock are the same as the ones I have showed. Having the string missing like on Zauberschlüssel would be a real disappointment.



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