Sunday 21 April 2019

Assembly of Puzzles - a Toughie but a Goodie

Puzzle Splines
It's a bank holiday weekend here and I am really not up to much! Sniffle! Cough! Splutter! Groan! Yes! I have Man-bonic plague! Today's blog post nearly didn't happen. Not because I have been feeling like death for over a week now (I did manage to go to work and infect a large proportion of the operating theatre staff) but because I managed to infect Mrs S too and it mutated into something much worse...She-bola! As a result of this plague in the Sadler household death nearly did visit me in the form of a vengeance-seeking woman! Luckily I am just fit enough to evade her grasp/knives/lasers!

Today, I am focussing on some assembly puzzles that have finally fallen to my feeble skills recently.

The puzzle above is the latest offering from Michail Toulouzas - offered by my friend Bernhard Schweitzer. It is the Puzzle Splines which is a relatively new idea from Michail. It was offered either in Sugar Maple with Pink Ivory splines or, as in my copy, there were a few made from Wenge with the Sugar Maple splines. I cannot resist contrasting woods and chose this. It is pretty big at 11cm across and forms effectively a cube with triangular outcroppings from it. It certainly is stunning and quite heavy.

I initially thought that it would be a kind of disassembly puzzle and one at a time pushed at the vertices and saw that they could be slid off the cube:

A couple removed
6 different splined corners
So far this has not been too puzzling - the remaining cube is rather rattly and I realised that this could also be separated into pieces - not easily, however - there seemed to be a little coordinate motion and twisting required. Should I take some notes? Draw some diagrams? Nah! I'm far too sick to go hunting for a pencil! I wanted to stay sitting down and keep going. I soon had 3 more pieces:

Yay! An assembly challenge!
Even in my totally befuddled, drugged to the eyeballs state, I was able to see a few of the possible assembly patterns of the basic frames and managed quite quickly to assemble something that had an interesting position of the splines that even I could tell was impossible to assemble the remaining corners on. Back to square one. Luckily there are only so many ways to assemble the frame and on my second attempt, I found an assembly that worked. I had solved a puzzle under the influence of a very strong cold remedy...maybe I should solve all my puzzles that way?

Flushed with success at assembly, I threw caution to the wind and climbed the arduous mountain of (13) stairs in my house to the upstairs puzzle room and retrieved the Kubikub 2 puzzle that I had bought a few months ago from My lovely Turkish friend, Yavuz Demirhan. He sells his puzzles through his Etsy store which is well worth keeping an eye on for future updates.

Kubikub 2
This is a pretty simple design consisting of a gorgeous Wenge frame and 3 sets of double conjoined cubes made from Padauk intertwined inside and flush with the surface of the frame. The puzzle is not as simple as it would initially appear as it requires 13 moves to remove all 3 pieces from the frame. When I first received the beautiful puzzle, I fiddled a bit and realised that the disassembly was not going to be the challenge - I could remove the pieces pretty easily and then having learned the moves and preserved the orientation of the pieces and frame, I knew that reassembly at that point would not be terribly tough. So it went back on display until I was ready for a proper assembly challenge:

How hard can it be?
I scrambled the pieces for the photo and left them a few hours whilst I lay down to feel sorry for myself. An hour later, feeling not in the least bit refreshed having drowned in mucus, I set to work on the reassembly challenge. I realised at this point that the frame is not symmetrical which makes this a considerably tougher challenge. Idle random moves hardly ever solve a puzzle in my experience and they certainly didn't do it this time. What they did do is show me that there were only a few positions of the frame where both ends of the double cubes could be flush with the surface of the frame. Then it was a matter of working out where it would be possible to arrange all three of them so that they could be flush. I was on my way - actually being logical! Not at all like me...these are damned good drugs!

It took me another hour to find a very fun little sequence where the first 2 of them would fit in place and then how to move them in such a way as to accept a third. Yet another assembly puzzle solved despite my feverish brain. I should get sick more often - what am I saying? Ignore that!

Finally - I went back to a puzzle that has kept me busy for nearly 3 months - Goodie! Yes, it really is a goodie!

Goodie from Stephan Baumegger
Goodie was an unexpected gift in the package from Stephan when I purchased the incredible Hydrant puzzle (reviewed here). It had been Stephan's exchange puzzle at the 38th International Puzzle Party last year in San Diego. He had designed and made this one from Zebrano and was rather pleased with it.

I, of course, was also delighted! I had an extra unexpected puzzle! It was gorgeous, made from beautiful wood and looked like a nice but not too tough challenge:

7 pieces to make a 5x5x5 cube
How hard can it be?
This is a dissection of a 5x5x5 cube with only orthogonal cuts and I was sure that it would not be terribly hard. Lord help me! How wrong I was! I sort of got a hint that it might be quite tough when, having taken my photos of the pieces, I tried to put them back into the box for transport to and from work with me...I couldn't get the bloody things back into the box and close the lid! Am I really that rubbish? Erm...yes! Sob! I took it to work a few times in a bag because, to my eternal shame, it took me a month before I was able to pack the box properly!

There are some rather interesting pieces which scream that they should go together - and I dutifully fell into Stephan's trap:

2 mirror image pieces
They slot together like this
Having got myself fixated on this I worked on this puzzle many evenings for 2 months. I did try a few other ideas but I was getting nowhere and was starting to suspect that Stephan was laughing at me. I must have spent many many hours on this getting nowhere but always going back to those two pieces that fit together so well. In the flush of my success from the other 2 puzzles above, I decided it was finally time to solve this bloody Goodie/Baddie! Another hour went by and another and I began to tear out the last few strands of my remaining hair when suddenly I had an epiphany! OMG! Aha!

You sneaky b.......! How could I have been so stupid? Scrap that! I know I am stupid but how can I have been so stupid for quite so long? Aaargh! Only the drugs helped me solve it - I need more!

It's a Toughie but a real Goodie
If you get a chance to try this puzzle then jump at the chance!

Have I finally cracked my inability to solve assembly puzzles? No, I don't think so. My brain has been altered by a befuddling virus/plague and then further addled by some very strong medication - I seriously do not recommend puzzling on drugs!

Now, what shall I work on next? I am far too sick to go outside and partake of the peculiar British habit of gardening on a bank holiday weekend! I need to stay indoors and exercise by lifting small cubelike structures.

I should also sit down with Burrtools to put this thing back together - it has been sitting in pieces on my desk for 10 days!

Terrax has lots and lots of pieces!


  1. great reviews as always.From my side thank you!

    1. My pleasure Mike! I still need one or two more from you - one day!