Sunday 30 December 2018

Interlocking Wonders

Six Face
Still not solved!
There have been a few recent updates from those pesky craftsmen! They try to intercept my finances when I am supposed to be buying Christmas presents for Mrs S! "Luckily" for me, I had saved up and already spent a fortune on Mrs S and then I still had some money left over for some new treasures from the "Published professor of wood", Brian Menold and I missed out on Eric's update due to work - sob! I still had a couple of his packing puzzles from the previous release which I have gotten absolutely nowhere with and so this time I focussed on just the interlocking puzzles that he had produced. At the very top of his New puzzles page, he had the Six face puzzle which was designed by a new designer (and craftsman), Andrew Crowell whom I had admired in this post in October 2017. If Brian says that something is good then I always listen to him as his taste is impeccable.

I chose the version made with East Indian Rosewood, Ebiara (aka Red Zebrawood) and Koa. and it is truly lovely. This puzzle is a Turning interlocking cube without actually being a cube - there are a total of 31 moves to fully dismantle it with a level of which rather underplays the difficulty of the puzzle. Removal of the first piece is not too tough but reveals a very interesting construction and then there are quite a few possible moves which all seem to end in blind alleys. I got stuck for a couple of evenings after just one piece had been removed. To get to the next move requires a really good look at the shape of what you have (you get just enough of a view inside) and then try to plan the next couple of moves. The puzzle has been deliberately made quite tight to prevent unintentional moves and this certainly did make finding the correct moves difficult. Having found a new path, I was very impressed with what it allowed me to do and suddenly another piece came loose - very satisfying! Yet again I got stuck! Quite a few moves are possible and they lead to an "almost there but not quite right" situation. With so much space opened out, I was then able to try something really rather unexpected. At first sight, it didn't help much but with a little thought it is possible to create and move the maze pathways around and an unexpected piece comes out in an unexpected way. The final 2 pieces are large and very intertwined - there are actually 2 ways to dismantle the final construction - one is the intended solution which is very elegant and the other is sneaky requiring very precise movement. Finally, after 3 evenings of work I could take my photo:

I lurve TIC's and this is a VERY good example!
Not only is this beautiful but it is also very very clever! A great puzzle from the best!

Summer - who can resist a puzzle with that name at this dreary time of year?
Summer was irresistible to me! It is designed by one of my very favourite designers (and friends) Klaas Jan Damstra who always produces puzzles with something elegant and interesting to them...they are not always terribly difficult or high level but they are ALWAYS very satisfying to solve. On top of that, the copy I bought was made with an East Indian Rosewood and Acacia frame with Olivewood pieces - it is truly gorgeous and I am a sucker for Olivewood (my Die Doolhof from Johan was made of Olivewood and I frequently play with it and admire the lovely markings). I was won over by Brian's description that it was just a simple frame and 3 simple pieces - some of the very best puzzles ever have been very simple in idea as well as piece number and construction - for example from this year, Chris Lohe's Trenta was amazing as was Osanori Yamamoto's Lucida.

Trenta - an amazing assembly puzzle 
Lucida - equally incredible!
The Summer puzzle is lovely to play with due to the smoothness and warmth of the wood and has a very enjoyable sequence of 14 moves for the extraction of the first piece. If you have the puzzle orientated nicely then it can almost be solved one-handed with some very satisfying clunking noises as the pieces move. It took me an hour to dismantle it and due to the small number of pieces, I decided to scramble them and leave them for a while.

Summer in pieces
This definitely could have been sent out as an assembly puzzle and would have been almost as much of a challenge as the pair above. I am definitely not a puzzler of the calibre of my friend, the late Laurie Brokenshire, who had his wife Ethel dismantle everything first so he always had an assembly challenge but the Summer puzzle would have made a really good challenge like that. Even having disassembled it a couple of hours beforehand, the reassembly took me another good hour! But then, you all know that I am not very bright! Thank you, Brian, for a beautiful set of puzzles and some amazing challenges this year. I look forward to more in 2019.

Talking of 2019 - it is that time of year again! Come back on New Year's Day for my Top 10 puzzles of the year!

Sunday 23 December 2018

Is it a Burr? Is it a Box?

No! It's Super... A Sequential Discovery Puzzle!

Sequential Discovery Burred Box
In mid-November, Juno and Yukari announced the release of the last of 2018's production from their Pluredro store. This was to be a rather special puzzle with a very odd name...the Sequential Discovery Burred Box. It looked just like a large 6 piece burr but was a moderately high price for a simple 6 piece burr. BUT, ⅔ of the batch of 70 sold out within 24 hours and they were all gone within a week! This must be one hell of a special burr! Yes, of course, I bought one! I was eating my lunch when the email came in and I had made the purchase within 10 minutes. I'm a sucker for Burrs, especially ones designed and made by Junichi Yananose.

So what was so special about this 6 piece burr? The clue is in the's also a box. I really don't collect boxes unless there is something special about them (many puzzlers around the world have been receiving their Karakuri Christmas presents this week but not me - I realised that membership of that club might well end up with me divorced and destitute and I have so far resisted all these years). Now if I don't do boxes and it's just a simple (if rather chunky) 6 piece burr then the reason it is special is those wonderful words..."sequential discovery". These puzzles are the rarest of the puzzle classification and, due to the complexity, are often the most expensive. I was helpless to resist.

When it arrived it looked like a pretty straightforward burr - it was really pretty big for a 6 piece burr at 101mm cubed and made of PNG Rosewood, Jarrah and Ironbark (small piece) with small metal parts inside. The colours in the wood need to be seen to be properly appreciated.

I cannot show any of the intermediate steps here without giving far too much away to people who have not yet received or solved their copies but let us just say the burr functions are very strange - no pushing or pulling on any of the sticks does any of the usual things until suddenly a very unusual thing occurs. Immediately the discovery is underway as a tool is available for all to see and some of those metal parts are now on show. There is an obvious place to use that tool but that just puts it out of reach and nothing happens. A quick inversion and the tool drops back into your hand and you need to search for another tool to use alongside the first. Pushing and pulling quickly reveals a potential tool but now what? Think© and you will have a brainwave before trying something intuitively rather wrong. Even though it screams the wrong thing to do, you have no other option and suddenly the tools are returned to you and there appears to be another few places where tools can go.

Yep! You guessed doesn't work! Try looking around a bit more! The next move took me a whole day to work out! I got fixated on the obvious 2 things and could not seem to see the next step even though it was staring right at me! Eventually, my rather dim noggin saw what was required and... it wouldn't work! Was I wrong? No. I was doing it wrong! Look carefully at what you have and you will notice minute differences in size and shape and orientation. Use that and success will be yours.

Aha! I had another rather odd looking tool. This opened another whole realm of possible uses of tools in combination and again I got fixated on the wrong thing. Another day went by before a particular feature of one of the tools hit me between the eyes.

Aha! Again! Now that is a VERY unexpected thing to do and it reveals a rather unusually shaped puzzle piece or two. NOW it was time to do what I had been trying to do all along. After a very satisfying use of 2 tools together I managed to reveal the cavity of the puzzle:

Aha! A cavity!
It's not much of a cavity - at only 39mm long, 13mm wide and 19mm deep. It barely classifies as a box at all. In fact, for me, the cavity is totally incidental. At least this time Juno had not put anything inside which was aimed at winding me up! like he had in previous puzzles here and here. Reassembly is pretty easy but it is nice to work out the most efficient way to put it all back together without having to redo too many steps.

Yep! It's not much of a burr and not much of a box but it's a lovely sequential discovery puzzle. Thanks, Juno and Yukari! I cannot wait for next years designs to come through - actually I am still coveting a couple of the designs from this year which I have not got around to buying yet. Don't tell Mrs S as she won't be happy! Whack! Ouch!

Have a great Christmas all you puzzlers and poor significant others of puzzlers out there! Have a great time...try to relax and not eat and drink more than is good for you. Actually, try to stop before you burst or get admitted to the emergency room - if you are admitted on Xmas day then you may find me looking down on you on your trolley! I have a certain set of skills! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday 16 December 2018

Lee and Derek Quickly Reveal the "Full Sheep"!

Lee Krasnow's Barcode Burr Master Set
I am not sure when I first saw this but it has really taken the puzzle world by storm! Lee Krasnow is an amazing talent who has branched out into 3D printed puzzles which he is currently selling on his Etsy store. Have a browse around - there are quite a lot of fabulous designs which are generally unaffordable to the majority of us when made in wood but in plastic (whilst not as nice) they become accessible to the majority of puzzlers. Most of us, at some point, have drooled over his Barcode burr in wood but very few were made and if they ever come up at auction go for $1000s (Allard wrote about it here).

It would appear that he and the other genius, Derek Bosch, began a collaboration based on Lee's knowledge of the Barcode burr and Derek's incredible knowledge of Burrtools and non-rectilinear grids. Between them, they managed to produce designs for extensions of the original Barcode burr and Lee decided to produce a kit to extend the 3D printed Barcode burr that he had previously released. The whole lot he named the Barcode Burr Master Set which was effectively a kit for the production of 6 puzzles. It's not cheap but you get a LOT for your money. It is beautifully presented with all the pieces bagged in groups, a set of screws and a hex key. There is also a bunch of envelopes containing cards with a certificate of authenticity as well as puzzle summaries and assembly instructions.

The only fully assembled puzzle in the box is the coordicode burr (blue internals) so of course, I started with this one:

Coordicode burr
There are a few pieces that move at first and confusingly they move in pairs (sometimes). Lee described it as:
"like fumbling your way to the bathroom in the dark"
Now that is classy!! But he's not wrong. All sorts of things seem to be happening and it is quite confusing. It was being solved in the evening whilst watching TV with Mrs S and after about an hour she looked at me at just the right (or maybe wrong) time! She immediately burst into gales of laughter just as I removed the first piece of the puzzle. There is an expression that we use in our house usually to describe one of the cats...they look up with an amazed but totally blank look which looks very like a sheep. We call that:

Duh! What happened there?
"The Full Sheep!"
It would appear that just as I removed the first piece of this particular puzzle my jaw dropped and I assumed the full sheep expression! Yet again I show to my beloved that I am not terribly bright! I had absolutely no idea how I had done it and at that point, it was time to go to bed and leave it at that.

The following day I spent over an hour before I was able to return the cube back to it's assembled shape. Wow! That is confusing. I then proceeded to try and repeat it and continue the disassembly. It's actually quite a fun process and eventually I had to concede that it was not that tough. Reassembly from scratch after scrambling the pieces is particularly fun but quite possible once you have understood it.

Coordicode burr pieces
Next up it was time to set up another in the series - I was going to go in ascending order of difficulty and this meant making a copy of the Barcode burr itself. It had been a long time since I had played with my copy bought from "Small explosive Steve".

Small Steve's version of the Barcode burr
The instructions are a little confusing but when combined with a disassembled Coordicode burr, you quickly end up with a nice set of 6 pieces:

The brown coloured piece is number one to help keep track of moves.
Assembling these puzzles from scratch is a MUCH more challenging puzzle than just the disassembly. There is a fair amount of dexterity involved when there are only the first 3 or 4 pieces inserted but it does give a nice chance to understand the base sequences. I really enjoyed the process (even the frustrating dexterity part) and after just an hour or so I had assembled my first N-ary cube:

Very clever!
At least with this one, there was no repeat of the sheep expression! Of course, the next challenge was to take it apart again so that the assembly of the next up in the series can be done. It shouldn't take you long as the level is if you assemble it correctly. Improper assemblies will allow lower move counts.

Next up is the Terncode burr - the Barcode burr is based on a binary sequence and the Terncode is...ternary. Another happy half hour produced a different 6 pieces:

Yes they do look very similar to the others
This version is quite a big step up in the difficulty level. Some of the moves seem to be possible at a very unexpected position which really meant that you couldn't relax into the sequences. I was rather surprised at the difficulty of this and the odd sequences but Lee did confirm that it wasn't just me being the full sheep:
"If you have already mastered the classic Barcode burr puzzle, then your muscle memory might even work to your own disadvantage here..."
I really struggled for a while on this even if it should have been just a simple step up in difficulty. The level for the disassembly is which is a nice number of moves.

Unexpectedly difficult!
So, what to do next? Should I go for the Quadcode burr? Or try the Supercode burr? I initially thought that the ardour and confusion of the Terncode were enough and I should try something new but when it came down to making the pieces, I read the description of the Supercode:
"Moving the exit notches to the inward position on this burr comes at the expense of adding evil twists and turns to the otherwise orderly seeming mazes, and in general, throws all sense of fair play out the window! Say hello to blind alleys with pieces locking up unexpectedly..."
OMG! This made me think again! I knew that Derek was having some serious difficulty with this one (he had received an assembled copy from Lee). At heart, I am a completionist if at all possible and so with Derek's warning ringing in my sheep like ears, I set to making the Quadcode burr. The pieces look much like the previous 2 but have considerably longer maze channels:

Quadcode burr pieces
What have I done?
The Quadcode is actually easier to understand than the Terncode but very arduous in its solution. The level for disassembly is 1233.320.78.25.8 but I have to admit that the number of moves that I made was considerably higher! I'm knackered after just assembling it and now need to take it apart so I can attempt the Supercode.

Easier to understand but a bit of a monster!
This is a fabulous kit! Thank you, Lee, for making it available and Thank you, Derek, for helping extend the scope of the original puzzle. If you have even a vague interest in N-ary puzzles as well as hidden maze type puzzles then this is a great purchase for you. Now hopefully Mrs S will stop laughing at me in the image of a sheep for long enough for me to have a conversation and be able to concentrate on another in the series as well as some other new arrivals.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Ixia Box - The Blind Leading the Stupid!

Ixia Box
At last! This fabulous beast has taken me months and months to solve! I can at least say that I am not alone in being befuddled by it - take note of this little clip from Allard's puzzling times:

The puzzle that I am reviewing today is called the Ixia box (named after the 2 flowers that adorn the top) and I saw it go up for sale on Juno and Yukari's Pluredro site (please note that it is now out of stock) and I duly ignored it because it's a box and I don't collect boxes. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! However, I saw it at the Midlands Puzzle Party in the spring and had a little play myself and did not get very far. What I did realise was that there are bits that come off and can be used as tools later on. In other words, it is partially a sequential discovery puzzle and I definitely DO collect those! Whatismore, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Mr Strijbos and Mr Coolen (the puzzle solving machine) working on it and getting quite excited at times. At the end of the MPP they had solved it and after a brief chat, they had me convinced that it would be a fabulous puzzle for me to own and solve. It duly arrived at the end of April this year and after catching up with one or two other puzzles, I set to.

It is quite lovely being made of Rosewood, Jarrah, Util, Bubinga (sapwood), Ebony and with metal parts inside too. The size is fairly reasonable at 144 x 94 x 84mm. There are obviously a number of parts that will slide and hopefully come off eventually but the shape doesn't give much away. The first thing one notices are the rather striking flowers on top:

Beautifully made flowers
The flowers can wiggle a little but not actually do much. All other items that look like doors or sliders have a teeny bit of play but nothing moves at all. Turning it over and giving it a shake reveals nothing so in desperation I grasp at straws...or flowers and they come off in my hand:

No wonder they would not rotate!
There are pins and magnets and the reason that the flowers don't turn becomes quickly obvious. Not being very good at boxes, I am at a bit of a loss for what to do next. Magnets!!! They must be there for a reason so I hover them over the rest of the box and get a sort of hint that there are other metal things inside but it's not terribly convincing...or terribly useful. Stuck already! Yep! I am stupid when it comes to boxes - Mrs S told me that I had my Plug face on. Attractive aren't I?
It took me another hour maybe to find the next move and suddenly I had a cavity. YES!!! I had solved a box. Or had I?

As cavities go it really doesn't look like much!
Finely cut grooves for a reason
Looking at it, I did realise pretty much straight away that this was only an interim stage and there was quite obviously more to go and presumably the main cavity still to be found. I spent another few hours getting not much further - inside the box there appear to be some CNC cut grooves towards the edges and they are obviously intended for some special use. Needless to say, I was only vaguely able to see these inside the cavity and committed the cardinal sin of cheating! I put my fingers inside and played with the grooves until something happened. Please don't be shocked - I am not a box person, I am not terribly bright and Allard had already done the same thing (go on - go back and read his review). Either way, what I had done did not feel very satisfactory so I put it all back and had a think©. Interestingly, this one time that thinking thing actually worked! I made some lovely discoveries and realised that opening the second door could be very elegant indeed. If you stuck your fingers in and pushed something then STOP THAT! Take them out and play nicely!

...And that's where I got stuck! For days, and weeks and months! Allard's review was published and I still had gotten nowhere! I wasn't handicapped by his so-called friends putting distracting things inside to make noises that were of no use whatsoever. I had a pristine puzzle and could find no way to open the final door to the main cavity. I worked on it off and on with no progress at all. I made some discoveries but could not formulate them into a solution and here we get to the title of the post.

A certain Ed has appeared at a few recent MPPs and has distinguished himself by singlemindedly sitting down and working his way through quite a lot of Karakuri puzzles and a huge number of puzzle boxes. He collects them himself and has developed quite a talent for solving them. This talent even included him solving the Ixia box without too much difficulty. Everyone at the MPP is very impressed by his HUGE........prowess! 

Why? Because he manages to solve a lot of very difficult puzzles despite being completely blind! Obviously, some of his other senses have improved as compensation and I reckon that he can actually smell a solution! I have been chatting to him on Facebook messenger on and off over the last month or so and we seem to share a very warped sense of humour and a love of Juno's toys. We also share the fact that his fiancé is a medic so he understands some of the stresses and maybe sympathizes with my puzzle addiction all the more. Ed gave me a very small clue at the beginning which, with me being very dense, did not help me at all. A few weeks later that was followed up with another, less subtle, clue. Hmmm! Nope!

Still not there so another whack on the head with a big clue just short of telling me the secret got me trying some new things which I was sure that I might have tried before but obviously not properly. Suddenly the cat shot off my lap as I shouted my success and Mrs S glowered at me for being noisy. I suddenly had a solved puzzle and a very big grin on my face:

Absolutely genius puzzle - only took me 8 months and a number of less than subtle clues to solve it!
Thanks so much, Ed! Great to have you as a puzzle friend!

Wow! This was an amazing odyssey. It took me nearly 8 months to complete this puzzle and my only excuse is that I am not very good at boxes, or sequential discovery puzzles, or other puzzles for that matter. But I do enjoy being puzzled and this one was a fabulous challenge. Unfortunately, it is not available any longer but if you get a chance to play with one at a puzzle party or see one up for sale at an auction then go buy it - you won't be disappointed. Juno's latest sequential discovery box/burr went on sale a few weeks ago and sold out completely in just a few days - my review will be coming soon.

It's a burr and a box and a sequential discovery puzzle
The "sequential discovery burred box"

Sunday 2 December 2018

Pelikan Perfection

The current batch of puzzles released by Pelikan
I count myself as very VERY lucky! I am offered the chance by Jakub and Jaroslav of Pelikan Puzzles to buy (Yes, I pay for them!) the releases a week or so before they are released to the general puzzling public so that I can offer any last minute advice and so that I can write something for them (in my positively perfect English) for their website to help you decide what to buy. In the past, the release of the puzzles has been delayed because I have been a bit busy at work and unable to solve the puzzles and review them quickly enough. Luckily this time, Jakub caught me just as I had a week off work (primarily for the yearly maintenance stuff like Doctor, Dentist, Optician) and had some time to work on his wonderful beauties. This time they have released 6 new puzzles with a few in a number of colour variations to choose from (they also have a couple of beautiful copies of Stephan Baumegger's Excaliburr available as well.

So today's blog post is a quick romp through each of them to help you choose.

Tom Pouce

Tom Pouce
This rather simple design by Stéphane Chomine looks like a lovely little block of Purpleheart (in my copy) or Wenge which has been wrapped in a cross (mine is made of Ash). It is quite diminutive at 70 x 70 x 30mm. Initially, only one move seems to be possible and the next move is extremely well camouflaged - it took me another 15 minutes to find the second move. After that, there is a very nice logical sequence to separate the puzzle into 4 beautifully accurately made pieces. It's not hugely tough but is a very nice introduction to interlocking puzzles.

Incredibly accurately cut pieces!
The disassembly is a perfect puzzle for a beginner but an experienced puzzler will enjoy the slightly tougher challenge of reassembling it from scrambled pieces. This happened to me when one of the cats turned over in his sleep and knocked them over - it took me another 20 minutes to reassemble it. A lovely worry bead!


Triad is a clever idea from the very devious mind of Osanori Yamamoto (I now have a huge number of puzzles designed by him). It consists of 3 fairly simple pieces trapped in a cuboidal frame (it measures 60 x 60 x 48mm when assembled). Each of the pieces is a nicely contrasting wood - it is made of an American Walnut frame with Maple, Wenge and Merbau pieces. The interlocked pieces have an L shape appearing at one end and an I shape appearing at the other. With the frame being so open and there being so few pieces, absolutely everything is visible as you move the pieces about. Random moves won’t help you, this needs a plan to disentangle them and take them out.

3 fairly simple pieces - how hard can it be?
For those who like an extra challenge, the reassembly from scratch is definitely possible and a fun challenge. For me, putting it back together was the majority of the fun - make sure you leave it a decent amount of time so that you forget the sequence and it might take you an hour to get it back to the start!

Wing Hanger

Wing Hangar - you will not receive it like this though!
Wing Hangar is a clever idea by Osanori that Jakub and Jaroslav have created in either Purpleheart and Mahogany or Wenge and Mahogany combinations. They measure 72 x 72 x 48mm. There have been a number of designs like this recently and this one is a very nice addition to the family. I first saw a member of this family of puzzles at the Paris IPP when John Rausch was carrying it around with him and challenging anyone who would sit still next to him to assemble the 2 pieces into the cage - I tried it briefly and completely failed - I was determined to get hold of a copy when I could. I was lucky enough to buy a copy of King Box from Tom Lensch earlier this year:

King Box - made by Tom Lensch
My copy from Jakub arrived fully assembled and did not take long to disassemble having played with the others recently. I suggested to Jakub that these should be sent out in pieces with the challenge being to assemble them from scratch. The challenge of working out both orientation and also the nice dance of the pieces is a fun one which all puzzlers would enjoy.

Wing Hangar pieces - this is what you will receive.
The Wing Hangar is a different design to King Box but shares certain features, it is a fun thing for me to assemble both of the puzzles one after the other. You would definitely enjoy this one from Pelikan.

If you are interested here is what King Box looks like when assembled:

King Box finally together - it took me 2 hours!


This startlingly beautiful puzzle is quite small at 50mm along each edge and is available in Purpleheart and Apple or Merbau and Apple. I think it is one of the most gorgeous in the release this time.

It was designed by Klaas Jan Damstra who seems to specialise in producing puzzles with unusual shapes and very elegant solutions. Jakub and Jaroslav have outdone themselves with the construction of this puzzle - it is stunning! This one is the only one that I was not asked for a comment on - Klaas wrote this for them:
Addition is one of a series of designs with a mathematical theme. With three nearly identical pieces in a frame, 13 moves are needed to get the first piece out. As the solution level is 13.2.1 both disassembly and assembly should not be too difficult. Pelikan did a fantastic job on producing this design. Two beautiful versions are available; the first is made of purpleheart and apple tree, the second of merbau and apple tree. I hope you'll find this puzzle fun to play with.
It consists of a beautiful frame filled with what looks like + signs in each face. Opposite pluses are linked together across the centre of the frame. The shapes of the pieces are not quite as one expects and after a couple of moves, you have a pleasant surprise. The solution requires proper visualisation of the pieces and how they interact. Once the shapes are understood, then a very clever elegant wooden disentanglement using linear moves needs to be worked out.

Addition pieces
Having done it the "correct way", you should search for the bonus solution - I have found an elegant rotational solution as well which adds more to the puzzling value. At only €32 this is well worth an "addition" to your collection.


This oddly named puzzle is also designed by Osanori Yamamoto and has been stunningly realised by the guys at Pelikan. Available in 3 different wood combinations (Ovangkol and either Purpleheart, Wenge or Maple), it measures 60mm across each edge. It consists of 4 very similar pieces held in a rather unusually shaped frame. The quality of craftsmanship is so good that at the first viewing of it, I struggled to see where the dividing lines were between the pieces! Starting on the solving process there are quite a lot of different moves possible and finding the next key move proved a huge challenge to me. You cannot see much inside and I spent 2 evenings desperately hunting for this key move. Eventually, I found it and the rest of the disassembly was fun and logical.

YyYy pieces - very confusing if you lose track of orientation
Reassembly from scratch is a huge challenge if, like me, you inadvertently get sidetracked and forget how the pieces were oriented in the puzzle. A great challenge!


Teetotum, designed by the incredibly talented Alfons Eyckmans, is, in my opinion, the most difficult and also the most beautiful from this release by Pelikan. At the time of writing this blog post, the description on the product page is blank as I was not able to write a review as quickly as the others because solving it took me several days - it is a seriously difficult puzzle! This puzzle is made from Pink Oak, Wenge and Padauk and the use of slipfeathers is always going to make me drool. It measures 84mm along each axis.

Alfons' original
I already had a copy of this sitting in my pile next to my armchair in the living room - this had been a nice gift from Alfons himself several months ago and I had failed to solve it and put it down in my "to be worked on" pile. Getting a new copy from Jakub with a deadline to write a review forced me to work on it again.

A mixture of plates and sticks, this puzzle requires 27 moves for the first piece removal and there are plenty of blind ends to get you lost. At several points, the puzzle seems on the verge of releasing a piece but it just won't go. I needed to backtrack many many times with this puzzle. There is only one solution for the puzzle as it is sent out (although it can be reassembled in another 24 ways according to Burrtools which I needed for the reassembly).  I could find no rotational shortcuts for this puzzle at all. This puzzle is not for beginners but is certainly perfect for any burr aficionado or collector. It will look lovely in your collection.

This is a serious puzzle and not really for beginners to burrs - it took me 3 days of play to get it apart and I suspect a good bit of luck played a part. I think it is doable by anyone with some skill at burrs, however.

Teetotum pieces - putting it together will require Burrtools!

The latest batch of puzzles from the New Pelikan Workshop are stunning and will certainly keep you interested and having fun for a while. Only one of them should be rated for experts only (Teetotum) and the rest are very solvable by beginners too. They will all look great in your shelf and are very reasonably priced. Go buy whilst they last!

Sunday 25 November 2018

Packing In Them Puzzles!

Pin Block Case
Just a short post today - I have had a calamity aka explosion with a twisty puzzle and have completely frazzled my nerves trying to reassemble the damn thing whilst a cat keeps jumping on my lap and playing with the pieces! After an hour of working on it, I am almost incoherent with exasperation.

Last year I missed out on the Pin Block Case which Eric had made in rather exotic woods but was very pleased to see that he was bringing it back as an Artisan puzzle and that it would be in stock for a long time now. The new version is made of less precious woods but is far from a mundane puzzle. It is made from Maple and Walnut and has all the hallmarks of Eric's wonderful workmanship. The joints are perfect and all the chamfering makes the box lovely to pick up and hold. I picked this up at the same time as a few other toys and had a little play straight away.

The quality is quickly revealed when you let 2 of the walnut pieces sink into the back of the case and it slowly glides into place as the air is displaced from behind them. There is something really quite magical about that aspect of these puzzles. I showed just that to a couple of orthopaedic colleagues and they really appreciated the precision. The initial exploration quickly reveals that 3 of the 4 identical pinned blocks can easily fit into the case and the 4th usually seems to end up unable to sink in place:

Not quite right!
This puzzle requires a bit of thought - there is no point in trying to pack the pieces inside as one would a conventional packing puzzle. This requires thought and planning. Even though I am not good at the t-word I did not really struggle too much. About 10 minutes was all that I required to produce a rather attractive photo:

Brilliantly clever and perfect for non-puzzlers
Poor David!
I love these packing type puzzles that don't have too many pieces - they are perfect for beginners/non-puzzlers and experts alike. Of course, I took this to work to torture a few people. David, a regular ODP (anaesthetic assistant) of mine, is a regular victim for me and I am starting to worry whether working with me is good for his health. He seems to start to tremble whenever he sees me! I gave him this whilst I was doing a short(ish) case and he took it away for over an hour and failed to solve it despite me taunting him every 15 minutes or so. At the end of the theatre list, I took it away with him muttering to himself and promising never to work with me again. Needless to say, he doesn't get much say in the matter and I tortured him again a week later and after failing that I did it yet again last Friday. This time after telling him not to try the same thing again and again, he suddenly came back to see me with a very smug look on his face. Yep! Perfect for non-puzzlers. A couple of the girls in the operating theatre wanted to play - they all failed over a 20 minute period but seemed to delight in it.

Don't dismiss the Artisan puzzles, they are made just as beautifully as the signature puzzles but just more pedestrian woods. Well worth adding to your collection.

Pack 3
Pack 3 is one that I couldn't resist from Eric's latest update - I am rubbish at packing puzzles but with just 3 pieces even I should be able to manage it! It is a design by Osanori Yamamoto and stunningly beautifully made by Eric in Walnut and Tamerand (I cannot find this wood anywhere in a wood database and suspect it is a typo - it looks like Spalted Maple. The diagonal cut roof piece on the box really adds to the difficulty.  Within a minute or two, I yelped with success and rocked pack thinking that it was far too easy:

Is that good?
I went back to the description and read the description:
"The trivial solution puts the pieces in the box, while the tricky and intended solution is to put the pieces in as an apparent 3x3x2 with no holes showing from the opening.
Ah! The big hole at the top was not allowed then. Try again, and again, and again! Nope! It was not happening. I took it to the MPP and plenty of other people played and struggled and as far as I remember no-one solved it there which made me feel much better. I worked on it on and off for a couple of weeks with ever-increasing frustration. I even remembered that Osanori is a master of puzzles that require rotations and attempted that in my process. Eric has made the tolerances far too perfect and there is no way for a rotation to occur - back to the drawing board!

Finally, after 3 weeks I had my breakthrough. There are quite a few steps to this and the Aha! moment is beautiful. Even doing it a second time for my photograph stumped me for a bit - the design is made to make you think the wrong way. Another stunning design by Yamamoto-san. The solved state is hidden behind the show/hide button.

They are sold out now but if you see one of these come up at an auction then go for it - it's a wonderful puzzle with just the right difficulty level.

I Even Had Time For A Twisty...or Two

Grigorusha Pentagon
All the faces turn 180º
I couldn't resist the Pentagon that I had received as a gift. It has been 3D printed at iMaterialise and is made from sintered nylon. The turning is fairly good for this type of puzzle although if it is not gripped correctly then the corner pieces can pop off. Luckily they are easy to put back. It only takes a few minutes to scramble and looks just as lovely like that:

It cannot be that hard!
The solve process is very straight-forward. There are no algorithms to learn and it just requires a bit of intuitive thought. 1 in 2 solves I seem to have a "parity" where there are 2 pieces that are 180º rotated and in the wrong place. Again, this is a straight-forward fix after just a bit of thought! These are available from Evgeniy's Etsy page if you want one.

Grigorusha Slim Pyraminx
One face turned plus a trivial tip turned
There is even less to this puzzle but it does have a nice challenge to it. I have solved it a few times and have to admit that I cannot quite fathom a foolproof method to the solution. I find that I get to what I think will be the end and there are 2 pieces reversed. This requires a fair bit of fiddling and Bam! it is solved.

Scrambled doesn't look that different to just turned a couple of times.
Don't be fooled! It is still tough.
This coming week, I have my last bit of annual leave for the year and might have to tell Mrs S that I am expecting a few more deliveries - Whack! Ouch! it would appear that she knows! It's coming up to the festive season so I will be needing more toys, won't I?