Sunday 13 November 2016

Ellishly Difficult but Ellishly Clever

4 L Puzzle
I seem to have fallen behind in my puzzle buying, solving and general fiddling - I just don't seem to have had much time and have been too tired in the evenings, plus it was compounded by the fact that the Bagua cube took me nearly 6 weeks to get the hang of and the process nearly finished off all my puzzling mojo. It got to halfway through the week and I had a little panic - I wasn't going to have anything to write about this weekend! I couldn't let that happen! I know that you are depending on me for your weekend fix. This spurred me one evening to go back to a puzzle that had stumped me for ages. I bought the 4L cube from Mineyuki Uyematsu at the same time as acquiring 2 of the winners of the IPP Design competition awards. I wrote about the Slide Packing and the Penta in a box here. The 4 L puzzle had not been entered in the competition but I couldn't buy and ship just 2 puzzles all the way from japan could I? I had to order a third puzzle to make it all worthwhile.

The 4L puzzle was designed by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and produced by Mineyuki Uyematsu. It consists of 4 L shapes (as 2 slightly different pairs) which need to form a brick inside a box with an L shaped hole in the top (made out of plexiglass/perspex). When I wrote about them in mid September I had singularly failed to solve it. The other 2 had taken me anything from a few hours to a few days but after 2 weeks of struggling I had to put it down and try something different to save my sanity. The 4 wooden L shapes fit together very nicely to make a slab which theoretically just needs to be formed in the box:

2 slabs - if they go in and can stack then solved!
The L shaped slot in the top of the box is sized in such a way that the width of the pieces can only go in one side and only the very slim section of 2 of the L's can pass through the narrow part of the slot.  I'm sure that most of you realised within just a few seconds that solving it from the 2 slabs above puts some very extreme restrictions on how it could possibly be done. I, on the other hand got it into my head that this had to be the orientation and tried for ages before hitting the gin and having another little think©. Whilst my friend Steve would definitely approve of the use of booze to help solve puzzles, I suspect that it only works on boxes and not packing puzzles. It was obvious very early on that the bigger of the L's had to be rotated after being placed vertically in the box and this rotation element makes the puzzle MUCH more difficult than many simple packing puzzles. My gin-addled brain had noticed that I could make the little L's into bigger ones which could also form the correct shape but it took a while before I decided to try that route:

Wide L's - is this the approach?
This certainly allowed me quite a few more options but as before the box got very crowded and the required rotations were all blocked. I tried gin, I tried a very nice Honey Jack and around the time of my birthday I had even tried the most fantastic Bloody Mary (which was improved by a nice whack of Wasabi - you should try it sometime!) All this booze made my failure to solve the damn puzzle slightly more acceptable but did not help me with my problem of nothing to write about this weekend.

A few days ago another friend Carl Hoff (who is best known for designing amazingly complex twisty puzzles and is responsible for the brilliant Bubbloids) had contacted me to say that he had taken my advice and bought several of the Japanese packing puzzles including the 4 L puzzle and had enjoyed the most wonderful Aha! moment after a couple of hours with it! I was horrified that I must have spent 10-12 hours on it with no result and was forced to go back to it with renewed vigour. I must have repeated the same things again and again and again and unsurprisingly those things never started working for me. I was about to put it away again in despair when something happened as I picked it up and I noticed something that I hadn't tried before. I'm a dope! Suddenly Carl's Aha! moment whacked me on the forehead rather like Mrs S does and I realised that this is actually more than a packing puzzle.... it is a sliding piece puzzle too! About 10 minutes later I had this:

Aha! The picture is taken and edited to avoid giving any clues!
The 4 L puzzle is absolutely wonderful and definitely my favourite of the 3 that I bought from Japan. Whilst the other 2 are clever, they are not terribly difficult. This one is much more challenging and the quality of the Aha! is much greater for it. It's not quite as beautifully made as the others but is still a great puzzle. I have now spent a couple of operating lists torturing my poor assistant David with it! He's been working with me for many years now and I would hope he had improved a bit by now but seeing as this took me 2 months I can forgive him not doing it in a couple of hours!

Poor poor David!!!

So what is next for your Puzzle mad correspondent? After my recent struggles I have decided to try something a bit easier.....

The Clover Cube from Very Puzzle
The Clover Cube reminded me of one of my all time favourite twisty puzzles, the Curvy Copter which can pretty much be solved by intuition alone or with a very simple algorithm and its BIG brother, the Master Curvy Copter which certainly cannot be solved that easily! I bought my copy from my friend Martin who has the UK based Puzzlestore. The clover cube is still an edge turning cube but has 2 sections per edge which can be rotated and it jumbles with every move:

Edge turned
Just 3 edges turned
I have shied away from it until now but after struggling with and then taking the pictures of the 4L puzzle I am hoping that a nice easy twisty puzzle will ease my pain. I scrambled it this afternoon and have sort of realised that maybe it might take me a while:

It seems to get quite obstructed quite quickly!
Lord help me!!!
Have a good puzzling week everyone! I am running out of puzzles to play with so may need to have a little splurge soon.


  1. Congratulations on solving 4L. I knew you'd get there. Just one correction... 4L *WAS* entered in the design competition. It too is also a winner just as Slide Packing and Penta in a Box were winners. The only difference is that 4L was entered in 2015, not 2016. You can see it here:

    Also thanks for the kind words,

    1. I stand properly corrected! I should have checked further back in the puzzle listings.

      You pushed me to work harder and solve it.

  2. Kevin, I might point out that one of the 4 "L"s actually stands for "liquor". I'm pretty sure. But I agree with you - no good for packing puzzles. My "Pack-Man" and Arteludes, among others, currently remain woefully unsolved.

    1. Still unsolved? You need to get to it man!!! After all there is nothing more important for you to do is there?

      At least I do manage to solve most of my puzzles eventually! Even if it does take a few months!

  3. Definitely one of my favourites from Mine's latest production - it's easy to convince yourself this one's impossible!

    1. It was only when Carl told me of his aha! moment that I believed it possible.