Tuesday 1 January 2019

Happy New Year - My Top Puzzles of 2018

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope that it's a great one for you!

In 2018 I seem to have done rather well in my accumulation of toys that Mrs S says have no purpose other than to prevent me from doing something useful! She might be right as they are a major distraction and that was why I got into puzzles in the first place. I will try and take photos to update my "state of the union collection" post soon.

My aim in this post is to highlight the very best puzzles of the year - I only include puzzles that I have actually managed to solve this year in this list - if I receive a puzzle in a previous year and solved it in 2018 then it stands a chance but others that I have bought this year but not solved may appear in next year's list.

I try to make it a top 10 but that is totally impossible and so I cheat by bunching puzzles into groups too. It might not be technically right but it's my blog and I'll do whatever I want as long as Mrs S lets me. Whack! Ouch!

So let's start off with my close 11th puzzles (yes plural!)

Honourable Mention(s)

We had an absolutely amazing year for new and complex twisty puzzles! Some of them had flaws and were difficult to turn or difficult to keep from exploding on you during a solve but we also had some absolutely incredible puzzles for solving! I am not a great twisty puzzler but here were four amazing puzzles which looked absolutely horrendous but I managed to solve them myself without asking for help from the internet. The complexity of these puzzles is fabulous - we live in a great time for twisty puzzles. Every time I am asked for advice from new puzzlers on what to focus on, I always encourage them to look at twisties and spend the time learning the techniques (not algorithms!) and it really pays off - they are impressive to non-puzzlers, actually do look quite lovely in a collection and provide a LOT of puzzling for a small outlay. Here were the best for me this year.

Multicube - a 3x3 inside a master skewb!
Son-mum cube - split centres and 45º turns
Ordinary Unicorn cube
Crazy Unicorn cube
Interestingly the Crazy unicorn and the ordinary version have completely different solve processes making them both essential purchases! I still have a bit of a backlog of other twisties to attempt.

10) Sequential Discovery Puzzles

Rex Rossano Perez' Barasoain puzzle
I have known Rex for many years and seen him develop from a twisty puzzle modding specialist into a very skilled puzzle designer now working in Acrylic. I reviewed a few of his creations recently and the Barasoain was my favourite (reviewed here) - there is much more to it than appears at first sight. This is truly a sequential discovery puzzle as a tool has to be found and used correctly. Absolutely stunning and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

Free Me 6
The Free Me 6 puzzle is another sequential discovery masterpiece from Joe Turner was an entry in the IPP design competition this year and a thoroughly fun puzzle to solve. There are a good few pieces to play with and the ever-present risk of losing a piece or having a ball bearing shoot across the operating theatre into an operation site definitely kept me thinking! I would love to get copies of his previous creations one day. This also needs to be in the top 10 somewhere and there have been so many wonderful toys that I've been forced to put it all the way down at number 10!

9) Interlocking puzzles - a BIG part one

I absolutely adore interlocking puzzles. I especially love the puzzles that are different from standard burrs. If there are rotational moves involved then that is even better. Here are one or two or... of my best acquisitions this year.

Spiral Lock
The Spiral Lock (reviewed here), designed by my good friend Christoph Lohe and made by the incredible craftsmen, Jakub Dvořák and Jaroslav Švejkovský of Pelikan puzzles created a beautiful puzzle in the shape of the lock - it was tremendous fun and the reassembly also a brilliant challenge that is definitely achievable.

Another cube called Ka'apuni (reviewed here) from Brian Menold was received by luck from my friend Jamie. It is one of my favourite types, the Turning Interlocking Cubes and caused significant difficulty for me and one of my colleagues at work! Like all of Brian's puzzles it is beautifully made and a wonderful challenge - one of my favourites of the year.

Interlocking Cube #4
Another very special challenge this year was, unusually for me, a 3D printed plastic puzzle. the Interlocking cube #4 (reviewed here) was an absolute triumph as an assembly puzzle. I would never usually have taken this away in pieces but my friend Shane had taunted me earlier at an MPP that some puzzles were far too easy for me to have as disassembly puzzles and he forced me to assemble them from pieces. This gave me the confidence to take this one from Rich Gain as pictured above and spend quite a few days working to put it together. When I finally managed it the triumphant feeling was simply wonderful!

Finally let us not forget the 2 most amazing simple designs that were sent out as assembly puzzles and which took me months and months and months to solve! These interlocking puzzles were incredible. Trenta designed by Chris Lohe which took me a whole year before I finally solved it in June 2018 and Osanori Yamamoto's Lucida which I obtained in 2017 but did not manage to solve until January 2018. These puzzles were simply amazing!

Trenta - sent out as an assembly. It took a whole year!
Lucida - so simple but such a huge challenge!

8) Wire/Chinese ring puzzles from Aaron

Aaron Wang has been incredibly prolific this year and I have bought pretty much every single puzzle he has produced! The quality is amazing and the complexity and solution process just superb. I have solved a bunch of them but certainly not all - many are so difficult that even Goetz, the master of the N-ary puzzle, has not managed to solve all of them. The ones pictured below have been my favourites from the ones that I have solved - Of course, the wire puzzles that I put in my "top ten" have got to be N-ary!

7) Boxes, boxes - are they really boxes?

Ixia Box
I know, I know! I don't collect boxes! For someone who makes that claim, this number 7 in my list is rather embarrassing! But, in my defence, these all have something extra to the puzzling. Juno has been absolutely amazing this year - his creations have been spectacular and the puzzling has been very clever. One of the first of his boxes that I bought from him was the Ixia box (reviewed here) and this was purely down to the enthusiasm of Messers Strijbos and Coolen at an MPP. It took me the best part of 6 months to solve it and even then it required help from a blind man before I was able to manage it - Thanks, Ed!

I can't really just mention that one because, embarrassingly, I might have a few more that have kept me very entertained for quite some time:

Quartet Box
Heart Case
The Quartet box, whilst being stunning, also did something that I have never seen any other puzzle do before - it had fancy hinges allowing shapeshifting during the solution - incredible! The Heart case is a case and NOT a box but is fairly unique in that Mrs S approved of it! She's a softie really. Whack! Ouch! Maybe not! Both were reviewed here.

Juno even left me something funny inside for me to counter the protection provided by George!
I also cannot leave out a box that involves a mathematical constant. The Pi Box was a stunningly beautiful puzzle from Jesse Born - I thought it might just be the most beautiful puzzle that I had ever seen. I had a few issues due to the incredible heat and humidity we had this year but after fixing the issue, this now forms a centrepiece in my puzzle collection.

It is just BREATHTAKINGLY beautiful!

6) Cubes - oh, so many Cubes
Interlocking puzzles - an even BIGGER part 2

Arne's Cube
Anke's Cube
This is Interlocking puzzles - part 2!
I absolutely adore interlocking puzzles and burrs. When I saw that Alfons Eyckmans had designed a couple of wonderful looking interlocking cubes with a medium difficulty level, I could not resist. They reminded me a lot of the Cutler cube which took me several years to solve and were a hugely fun couple of puzzles to work on - then playing with Burrtools topped off my enjoyment. I reviewed them here and was careful to let it be known that they were not my fault!

Of course, Alfons could not stop there and started to design a bunch more which I just "had" to have in my collection - three are even named after my cats! I have not actually managed to dismantle all of these. At that point, I thought he would stop there but he decided to branch out into the Happiness cubes from the Japanese puzzle designer, Sekog Yukiyasu. I started with "just six" of them!

Houston, I have a problem!
Holy shit! A HUGE problem!
After the last MPP, I really had a problem - the B%$t@&ds dismantled them all and left them in a pile! I still have 5 of them in pieces in a bag at my feet!

Erm! Whilst I'm in the mood for a confession...Bernhard might also have helped me with my cube fetish!

Interlocking #1
Interlocking #2
Juha's 10
Thanks, Bernhard - you are a great friend and enabler!

5) Jigsaws - yes, you read that correctly!

Jigsaw 29
Jigsaw 19
I cannot believe that I have a jigsaw (or even 2) in my top 10 of the year but these puzzles were a huge hit at the IPP in San Diego this year and I had to find out why. After contacting the truly delightful Yuu Asaka and arranging for the purchase of a puzzle (and then another puzzle) I saw just why these were so so good! Jigsaw 29 (reviewed here) and 19 which I also really loved were a truly amazing challenge with quite a few aha! moments and ending with a huge grin after my rather prolonged solve process. Absolutely brilliant - keep an eye out for more from this designer, he is very talented.

4) Locks, Locks, Locks!

This was an amazing year for lock puzzles! I am not particularly good at solving them - the Popplock T10 still sits on the shelf above my desk waiting for me to have a miraculous aha! moment. I still buy them when they become available (especially as my very good friend Shane Hales has become a Master Locksmith and produces the most fabulous puzzle locks and I cannot possibly let him down by failing to solve one of his fantastic creations). There were 3 absolutely standout puzzles this year that I have cheated with and bunched together - they are all fantastic for different reasons.

Rainer Popp's incredible and very large Popplock T11
The T11 (reviewed here) is a tour de force of a puzzle! It took Rainer a very long time to manufacture them and the sheer extent of the puzzling has to be seen to be believed - this is one of the most amazing puzzle locks the world has ever seen. However, I cannot leave this number 4 slot alone with just the T11 because we had 2 other great puzzle locks which were far more accessible to the every day puzzler and also were created from existing real locks.

Hokey Cokey Lock
HalesLock 5
The Hokey Cokey Lock was designed and produced by 2 more very good friends - Ali and Big Steve have collaborated on a new venture making machined metal puzzles of very high quality - the Hokey Cokey lock (reviewed here) was Steve's exchange puzzle and with the fabulous dance that went with it, made it a big hit with the puzzle community and an essential purchase for me. Their puzzles can be found on their Etsy store here and there is even a single Hokey Cokey lock available as I write this. When solving you need to think of the dance and that gives a big clue!! Shane's HalesLock 5 was reviewed here - this also was a modified lock and involved several mechanisms to get to the rather outstanding solution - I have never seen a lock like this and did not understand at all how it worked, thus, it took me rather a long time to solve. Again, a clue to the solution is in the name of the puzzle. Both these are fabulous additions to my collection! Thanks so much, guys!

3) Burrnova 3D - aka Magnetic Madness
Interlocking puzzle - a well deserved part 3

Just a glance and you can see that it is a McFarland puzzle!
In third place is the Burrnova 3D (aka Magnetic Madness) puzzle from Jerry McFarland (reviewed here). This is the third mention of interlocking puzzles in this years top ten and this particular one is incredible. This is the usual McFarland magic of interlocking burr pieces and an even more impressive self-solving section than the previous year. It was made even more challenging by the addition of an extra locking mechanism and then the requirement to disassemble completely to rescue the princess inside - great humour too when discovering that she has been dismembered. Beautifully made with a wonderful sound effect too.

2) Sequential discovery burred box

Just a six-piece burr? Hell no!
Second place has to go to Juno's Sequential Discovery Burred Box (reviewed here). He already has puzzles in my best of year list but this is right up there at the top - hard to separate my top 3. It could be in any of the 3 categories but for me, the use of tools makes it a truly delightful sequential discovery puzzle. It looks like a totally innocuous six-piece burr but once inside the masterful craftsmanship shows through - there are very few craftsmen who can work with wood and metal but Juno makes it look easy. The puzzle is not particularly difficult but there are several wonderful Aha! moments that put this up there with the very best puzzles ever. I loved it!

1) Casino

Finally, my puzzle of the year for 2018 is "just" a simple packing puzzle! Except it is anything but simple - the Casino (reviewed here), designed by Volker Latussek and beautifully made by Pelikan can only be described as a puzzle masterpiece. The premise is just so simple but finding the solution is just such a challenge and requires wonderful thought and planning. This puzzle kept me occupied for a happy hour or so and is still a challenge now - just BRILLIANT. It is perfect for advanced puzzlers and newbies alike - I carried it with me to work for months to show it off and challenge colleagues.

I am so delighted that Jakub and Jaroslav get to be my number one - they work so very hard and almost everything they do is a masterpiece but this one is on a whole new level - I cannot wait to see what they produce for us all next year! Well done guys!

It just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year - I hope that 2019 will be a happy, healthy and certainly very puzzling one for you all. I look forward to either meeting you in person or hearing from you by email or my Contact page.


  1. Thanks Kevin!
    Love your work as always
    Very lucky to have a few of these in my possession !

    Best wishes for 2019


    1. Hi Paul,
      I’m always so pleased to hear that people enjoy what I do! Blogging is a lonely time-consuming thing and it’s so nice to know that people approve. I hope you agree with some of my choices.


  2. Great list! I look forward to seeing what puzzles you this year.

    1. Me too! I have no idea what might come!

  3. Yes, a great list - I'll be searching for the Ka'apani now.

    Question: The Interlocking #1 & #2 you got from Bernhard....who is the designer on those?

    Thanks for all your wonderful blog posts (though my bank balance might not be quite so happy with you) - I very much appreciate the work you put in so diligently.

    And thanks for hooking me up with Jigsaw 29 - that was a wonderful experience

    Happy Puzzling!

    1. I am so glad you appreciate all the hard work that goes into the site! It makes a difference to hear it.
      It was my pleasure to help out getting the Jigsaw.

      I’m not sure but I think it was Juha Levonen who designed those interlocking puzzles:
      Interlocking #1