Sunday 14 March 2021

Celebrating 10 Years Helped By Pelikan Puzzles

The upcoming release from Pelikan
I am going to start today's blog post all sentimental and maudlin. If Allard can do it then certainly I can too - I am MUCH more of a sentimental fool than him. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my very first post on this blog. It was really just an announcement of an intention to write about puzzles and then the following day (14th March 2011) was my very first puzzle related article and I started with something special - the original Revomaze series. It was these gorgeous lumps of heavy metal that got me hooked. I needed to find a way to take my mind off an unexpected near death experience and these were it. Of course, any true bloke who gets interested in a new toy will take to the forums and those bastards lovely ladies and gentlemen got me hooked on more and more puzzles. Within a few months they had forced me into taking the huge leap to my first really "expensive" puzzle (Tom Lensch's version of the Mazeburr). Yes, I was hooked! I wanted to publish at least once a week until I either ran out of puzzles, ran out of steam or Mrs S murdered me and I have actually managed that for 10 whole years (Mrs S really has come close to ending the blog though). Initially I was publishing 2 or even 3 times a week but that gradually settled down to my usual weekly schedule. I had been advised by a blogging guru to set a schedule and stick to it - apparently your readers have certain expectations and you should try not to disappoint them. Indeed on a few occasions if I dared to be late then I would get an email asking if everything was Ok and where was their weekend reading? I settled into a routine and have managed to write something every week apart from on 2 occasions - I think I can be forgiven for missing the day after my mother died and also last year when I was really ill with Covid having caught it at work. 

In this 10 years, bloggers have come and gone but the people/puzzlers behind them all remain - this is just a hobby and people have to live their lives. I am very proud to stand alongside Allard in completing 10 years of entertainment for the community. In that time there have been 619 posts on my main site plus 138 on the associated New additions page (this was the only way Blogger would let me set up a separate page) and my pageviews ramped up quite quickly. As of publication today I have received 1.9 million pageviews and now that so many have occured after my mother died I can now convince myself it wasn't just all her. My most viewed posts are on the Hanayama Cast Quartet at 23,300 views followed by my post about twisty puzzle parity at 22,800 views. 
Puzzlemad main site
Puzzlemad New stuff page
I was achieving 10-15,000 views per month but the last 15 months have seen a sudden increase to 30,000! Unbelievable that so many crazy people out there want to read my drivel! My readership is truly global which boggles my tiny mind. 
What happened at the end of 2019?
It has been the community out there who has kept me going. The trouble with blogging is that it is a huge effort to do this week in and week out and it often feels that you are shouting out into the void. Over the years many of you have contacted me or left comments on my posts as well as been in touch via my personal Facebook page. It is those moments of contact and feedback that make it all worthwhile. I do not try to monetise this hobby - I  gratefully receive a few $CAD each month from PuzzleMaster if you buy from them via a link on my site but that is the only income I get. To be honest, I am not really interested in the idea of earning money from my hobby. I am lucky enough to work in a position where my income is secure and I want this to remain a hobby. I have turned down offers of sponsored posts, advertising and SEO posts. For me, this should be all MY work. Except (and it's a very BIG exception) for the guest posts provided for me by my wonderful friend and foreign correspondent, Mike Desilets. He has come up with the goods for me when I was either too busy or had nothing prepared. I also like to think that he provides a great view of an alternative side to this hobby. He certainly collects, solves and writes about modern puzzles but primarily he has shown off the more vintage side that I have very little knowledge of. I am exceptionally grateful to him for all his efforts on my/our behalf.

The desk is out of control! She says I MUST tidy up!
I hope to continue this wonderful hobby of puzzling and blogging for another 10 years at least as long as you will keep reading and as long as Mrs S will let me. I have a serious space problem - and have rearranged my collection many times and expanded from one small study into another room. When I mention taking over another room, the laser burning stare moves to between my eyes and I can smell/feel burning coming from my forehead. The conversation closes abruptly at that point! 

Now on to today's puzzle reviews. For my tenth anniversary post, I am so pleased to have received early copies of the upcoming releases from Jakub and Jaroslav at Pelikan puzzles. This particular batch is absolutely stunning and has some really special and unusual puzzles in it.

Pepper Castor

Top view
Bottom - the pepper casting view
This beautiful puzzle screamed at me to be tried first. It's a design by Alexander Magyarics, it's beautiful in Zebrano and Padauk and most importantly it's based on a triangular grid. Very few puzzle designs (other than 2D packing puzzles are very made using a triangular grid. I suspect that this is primarily because it is harder to design them with it being very hard to tell during the design process whether there will be unwanted rotational shortcuts. Also there are very few craftsmen willing to put in the time and effort to make the required jigs to these accurately. Here we have the perfect combination of a talented designer who has obviously done his homework and ensured there are no shortcuts as well as some of the best craftsmen in the world!

This puzzle is named after the pepper shaker/castor because of the pattern of holes on one end and it quickly becomes apparent that they are there for a reason. My first reaction during my early moves was that this was seriously fiddly. Then I realised that changing the orientation of the puzzle made certain moves easier to control and then I discovered that after 3 or 4 moves, my ability to backtrack was gone! I was stuck with a piece packing out and unable to visualise the internals to reset it. Oh well! Better carry on then. After about a ½ hour of progressively more anxious swearing, I removed the first piece and then the other two. There was no Aha! Moment as I had no idea how I had achieved it. I took my photo and realised that I had scrambled the pieces! At this point, it became quite apparent that this puzzle is a very special variant on the usual Magyarics theme... he had created a fancy low piece number interlocking packing puzzle. Very similar to many of his others but with the twist of a triangular grid and holes top and bottom.

Incredible pieces!
Repacking was a serious challenge, first reproducing the shape to fill all the gaps in the box and then working out the sequence. Finally actually having the dexterity to do it was a nice added bonus. This is a terrific puzzle as well as a gorgeous one!


Rattlesnake - you can see why
No release from Pelikan these days is complete without another wonderful packing puzzle from Alexander Magyarics. This beauty is stunning with a Wenge box complete with fairly large but quite restricted opening and 3 pieces to be placed inside made from Zebrano. As usual, the question I always ask myself is:

"there are only 3 hard can this be?"

Well, either I am stupid (probable) or this one has a serious challenge to it (quite likely). Several times I tried to get 2 pieces inside the box only to have one rotate inside and then block all other movements. Nearly gave me a heart attack at one point when I couldn't take the pieces out that I had placed in the wrong positions!

Not only is the opening fairly restrictive but the shape of the rattlesnake piece also ensures that the approach to insertion is very limited. In fact, there are only 4 orientations of that piece that will allow it to be inserted. What is more, the medium sized piece only has 7 possible insertion methods. I tried to be fairly methodical and realised quite quickly that I was unable to keep track of the possible combinations. Starting with that large piece, I ended up randomly looking at assemblies that sort of fit the 3x3 cube and discarded the ones that the second piece could not be inserted. This gave me quite a few possible assemblies which I made outside the box and then tried to simulate the disassembly. This took me several hours because I got fixated on one particular orientation of the snake which looked fantastic but would not assemble in place. Time to Think© again! Getting past my fixation proved a real challenge. I found another series of very nice assemblies but could not seem to get them to work until Aha! There was a wonderful moment when I noticed a possible move that is very very well disguised. I had worked it out. Getting the pieces into the box was then a bit of a dexterity puzzle as well. This is wonderful, right up there with the very best of Alexander's designs. It looks so simple but really takes some thought.



Now that is a complex construction!
I'm sure by now you all know that I adore the 3x3 cube based packing puzzles with unusual piece shapes and restricted entry into the container. I have lots of them from Osanori and Alexander and am always in the lookout for new variants. Imagine, if you will, yet another one, beautifully made by the guys at Pelikan but making things much more interesting the box has captive pieces which hook over two of the sides which can slide into any of the three positions on each of them. This means we have a similar type of packing puzzles but where the box can effectively change shape before and during the solution process. It also means that we have seven challenges where the "sliders" have to end up at different positions (the eighth potential configuration has no solutions). This is a puzzler's dream - beauty and multiple puzzles in one. It has been superbly constructed with a gorgeous Pink Oak box, Wenge captive sliding pieces and vibrant Purpleheart pieces.

These seven challenges are definitely not trivial, in fact I've only managed to solve 3 of them so far. I don't think that I have found the "best/longest" solution to them so I will have to keep looking. This one definitely needs to be solved outside first before attempting to fit it inside - but the captive sliding pieces make the thought processes much more difficult. This puzzle is absolutely fabulous and great value for money - go buy it now!

First challenge solved - YAY!


Akku - looks formidable straight away!
Dr Volker Latussek has been providing some fabulous puzzles to Pelikan for a few years now. They are all extremely clever and challenging - some so clever and challenging that they are beyond my abilities (blush, Euklid for Nick remains unsolved). In this release we have Akku (I am not sure why the German word for battery is the name of this puzzle - maybe Dr Latussek will comment below). This consist of a wonderful Acacia box and some very precisely crafted Maple pieces to be packed inside. There are 9 L shaped pieces to be fitted into the interior of the box. The cavity is 4x4x3 units in size and each L is 3x3x1 unit meaning that there will be just 3 holes in the packed puzzle but with such a large awkward shape the assembly will need some rotations to get the pieces into the restricted opening.

This is how it arrived - I cannot put it back this way!
The puzzle is shipped in a special shape that Dr Latussek instructed and I took the pieces out of the box for the photo only to find that I could not get them back into that shape again! This was going to be a foreboding of what was to come. I spent quite a while trying to find how to assemble a 4x4x3 cuboid from these pieces and even this was a struggle. In the end I resorted to Burrtools to try and find the possible arrangements - there are 6 ways to assemble the shape. Time to pick one and get it into the box. Easier said than done! This is a serious puzzling challenge. After 2 evenings of attempts, I finally worked it out - wonderful idea. Think of how best to rotate an L shaped piece and then see what you can do with it. My solved picture is behind a spoiler button - it doesn't give a lot away but there is some info in the picture that might give more of a hint than you want - you have been warned! Don't click the button!

Fake Cube

Fake Cube - this is beautiful and looks impossible
This glorious work of art has been made from Acacia and Padauk. The aim is to assemble the complex pieces into a cube shape which can be stood on its' corner in the stand - these 10 identical and oddly shaped pieces need to assemble into a 6x6x6 cube. Just doing the simple maths tells me that this doesn't add up - each piece is 18 voxels in volume  with 10 of them making 180 voxels in total and the 6x6x6 cube will be 216 voxels - quite a large discrepancy. Hence the name...the Fake cube needs to be assembled so that just the exterior looks like it is complete and hides the holes inside and on the walls adjacent to the case. This reminds me of a stunningly beautiful and much more complex version of the Half-cube puzzles from Vinco. Yet again, I removed all the pieces for my photo and couldn't put them back into the packing position (I love how all of his puzzles have a specific arrangement for transport). I have not had long enough to play with this puzzle - I have managed (by pure luck) to make a shape that will fit into the case but clearly not correct as there are lots of holes visible on all sides:

I'm fairly certain there shouldn't be gaps there
The more that you play with this the more compelling it becomes. Initially it seems to be quite unintuitive and a whole lot of random trial and error but as I played I realised that the way the pieces fit together was extremely constrained and I needed to work with this constraint to create at least 3 complete faces and 8 (out 12) complete edges which would be visible. in the case once complete. Easier said than done! I have not had enough time yet to solve this one but I think with a few more hours of trying I will get there. It is a seriously difficult assembly/packing puzzle but like most of Dr Latussek's creations, it can be solved more with thought than trial and error. For once I am hoping that my thinking© might actually help here.


I have not yet had time to play with this one and will review it properly as soon as I have. When the "TIC master", Andrew Crowell gets together with the master of interesting interlocking shapes, Christoph Lohe then I have to pay attention! These puzzles are very reminiscent of several of the best interlocking puzzles of all time (Lucida and Identical twins by Osanori) but almost certainly are going to be significantly tougher to solve. Chamburr is made from Merbau and Pink Oak and looks fabulous with Pelikan's usual perfect accuracy.


Another that I haven't yet played with. Like Chamburr, it is a collaboration by Andrew Crowell and Christoph Lohe but this time made from Mahogany and Maple. The aim is to separate the pieces from the complex frame and I have no doubt that it will involve some complex rotations in the process.


On loan from Shane
Just a quick (and not terribly happy) sidenote. Not everyone in this community is great - I am incredibly proud to have in my collection the complete set of Hales puzzles and they form a centrepiece in my collection. I am very aware that these are effectively just on loan as the agreement with all of Shane's puzzles is that they should never be sold and should be returned to the creator when no longer required. It would appear that there is one deceptive person who has been skirting the edge of the community for a few years and due to his terrible behaviour has been shunned by pretty much everyone. If you want to learn some new interesting swearwords then ask Eric Fuller about Niko. Niko uses a number of aliases and has duped puzzlers and craftsmen into giving or selling cheap and has even tried to hack Eric's site. He has a blog which is pretty rubbish and uses it to deceive quite a few naïve puzzle creators into giving him copies of their creations which he has then flogged at huge profit. He has now managed to con a holder of Shane's Viper puzzle out of someone when they were at a low point in their life and has put it up for sale at an exorbitant price.

Please do NOT buy this puzzle from him - he is an untrustworthy conman and does not own that puzzle to sell - Shane wants it back. If you are contacted by him then just refuse to continue to speak to him. He has several names that he uses including first names of Niko, Nick or Nicholas and surnames of Azerty, Nicolas or Demarquez. He is not worth your time - all of us puzzle bloggers have ceased contact, he has been banned from all the auction sites and most craftsmen including Eric and Wil Strijbos are refusing to deal with him. This says it all!


  1. AKKU's name comes from 9V shaped pieces.

    If you rotate L shaped pieces you will find they become V shaped. There are 9 V shaped pieces. 9V stands for 9 volts. Hence the name is AKKU.

    1. Ah yes, we also have those batteries but it never occured to me to rotate the pieces into a a V shape. I kept them as an L the whole time. Doh!

  2. Congratulations Kevin!! An EPIC milestone! Thanks for all the puzzles you've shared with us over the years.

    1. Thanks mate! Together we show off some amazing stuff to the world!

  3. Looking forward to your next 10 years of posts and meeting up at the occasional MPP!!!

    1. Thank you, I hope I last another 10 years and Mrs S doesn’t murder me. Certainly cannot wait for a face to face MPP or IPP!

  4. Seems like you were a young man when you started this blog. Wait.....that was a decade ago - you were a young man! Thank you for sharing these posts over so many years for us to enjoy. It is much appreciated. Congratulations young man on a job well done! p.s. I sure hope that you remembered to get Mrs S a nice 10yr commemorative handbag.

    1. Young? Oh that was a LOT longer than 10 years ago! Sigh.
      That explains why she’s been so fed up with me recently...I forgot the handbag! I’m a dead man.

  5. Congrats, Kevin, job well done! Thanks for being an active part of a wonderful community! Looking forward to your next decade. Rob

    1. Thank you so much Rob. It is the community that has kept me at it for so long! Plus the puzzles are fantastic!