Sunday 3 April 2022

Pelikan's Best Release Ever!

Not my photo - this was done for Jakub by Ivan Danik
I unpacked them in a hurry after work and Mrs S was distinctly unimpressed with 8 puzzles arriving
I moved them into my study as quickly as possible to prevent violence occurring!
I have written this ahead of release date due to work pressures. My goodness what a week and a bit! Having returned from a week off I have had to pay for it dearly by working my little butt off - 2 weekends in a row and some late finishes at work have meant that trying to solve the latest Pelikan release has been a huge challenge. I have not managed to solve them all yet but I have beaten 6 in a Herculean effort. Let me say, that effort has been worth it - I think this might well be the best Pelikan release ever. 

We have (from back left):
The Cup designed by Ad van der Schagt (also designed the Fourfold puzzle)
Sliders 2 designed by Alexander Magyarics
Waltzing Whales designed by Alfons Eyckmans
Soma Squartata designed by Dr Volker Latussek
Castle Builder Set designed by Tamás Vanyo
TILL designed by Dr Volker Latussek
Double Symmetry designed by Osanori Yamamoto
JB4A designed by Osanori Yamamoto

Onto the puzzles and I will start with the centrepiece which I have not even attempted yet - it is the pick of the bunch and deserves my full attention and not a quick fiddle and fail. 

Castle Builder Set

Castle Builder Set designed by Tamás Vanyo (made from Oak)
This incredible design and work of art created by Jakub and Jaroslav is a sort of freeform pattern creating puzzle (I am not actually certain how it should be classified). I saw this design from Tamás back in January when he published it on his FB page and it intrigued me. The beauty and intricacy of the pieces were unusual and I was hopeful that it might be produced in large numbers for the puzzling world to try. I was not surprised when Jakub showed it to me - he is probably the only craftsman that I know who would take on such a huge production challenge like this.

Even the instructions are beautiful!

The aim is to build a castle with a path from the bottom level to the top that doesn't involve jumping. This sounds easy and just a matter of lifting the pieces out of the frame and placing them where you want them. BUT...whilst each of the pieces trapped in the frame seems to have a 2x2 footprint and looks like they should lift out, they won't actually come out easily. There is a gap in a corner and they will slide around but this was not helpful in my early casual play. I remembered the previous framed puzzles that Pelikan had made and realised that the frame comes apart allowing the pieces to be slid out and also shows why they are trapped:

The pieces have protruding feet!
From here, it can be seen that the pieces are based on a 3x3 footprint with the consequence that they cannot lift vertically out of the frame and also means that constructing your castle requires more thought than just placing the pieces just where you want them for the stairs and paths to line up. This will need a fair bit of space to spread out and then some considerable thought to design your own special castle. I have not yet tried to solve it yet due to time and space constraints but can't wait to get to it - it will be a fun new challenge and when finished will look absolutely stunning on display! This will need to go on the sideboard in my dining room - don't tell Mrs S!

Sliders 2

Sliders 2 by Alexander Magyarics (made from Cherry and Wenge)
Alexander has taken the puzzle world by storm over the last few years. He has designed some of the most complex and yet still fun interlocking packing puzzles I have ever seen and I just cannot resist his stuff. Luckily for us puzzlers, Jakub also agrees that his designs need to be made available to the world. The fun thing (just like Osanori-san) is the ability to create something that looks simple, with only a few pieces which aren't even that complex but requiring real thought and experimentation to solve. Sliders 2 is simply amazing but it comes with a might frighten you too.

When it arrived, the 4 pieces were placed in the 3x3x3 box in such a way that I seriously struggled to remove them - this was a hint of things to come. After 5 minutes of swearing and upsetting Mrs S, I got my pieces for the photo and realised that this was a lot different to the previous Sliders challenge (and, I think, better for it). The 2 sliders are identical which means that the puzzle can be solved in any orientation and interestingly they are held in place without intruding into the puzzle space - they purely block the entrance and oh boy, the really block it! The aim is to create a 3x3x3 cube from the 4 pieces and place them such that they completely fill the entrance (there will be empty cubies below that top face).

Having solved it (with a considerable struggle), I went to Burrtools and found that there are 21 possible ways to make a 3x3x3 cube but only 9 assemblies that have a complete face. This is going to take you quite a bit of thought and I would not be surprised if you need a little hint (I did). Alexander contacted me before I started to play and told me that...

Thank heavens for the hint - it stopped me from using quite a few of the 3x3x3 assemblies that I had found. Now, I wonder whether any of you remember the warning? This puzzle frightened me at one point during the solve process. I thought that I had worked out what to do and was fiddling around with 3 pieces inside and adding a fourth when suddenly I could make several moves but not the one I wanted to. OMG! Time to backtrack and think©...except I could not backtrack. Things had moved inside and I could not work out where they were. I spent a furious ½ hour offing and blinding before realising that one of the pieces inside had partially rotated and was blocking the critical move. had I killed my puzzle before solving it? Thankfully no - once I had realised the issue I was able to rotate it and correct the issue. This then told me there was an added puzzling element - the puzzle needs to be manipulated just right to let the pieces slide but not rotate in the wrong direction. 

My goodness that was tough!

This took me quite a few hours to solve and is probably my favourite of this release - it is super difficult, super fun and frightening too. I would very much suggest that you don't leave this in the solved position for storage because once you have forgotten the solution the chances of dismantling it blind without using a Burrtools file is pretty low. Well done Alexander and Pelikan for a fabulous creation!

Waltzing Whales

Waltzing Whales by Alfons Eyckmans
Alfons is one of the absolute masters of clever burr designs and he has been adding more and more puzzles to Goetz' Burr zoo over the last few years. This wonderful design which looks like a 10 piece burr (an unusual number) actually has 2 hidden pieces inside. As the name implies the external whales and internal whales dance around each other a fair bit before the puzzle comes apart. It has been gloriously manufactured using bright vibrant woods (Wenge, Padauk, Purpleheart, Maple and Cherry) and the attention to detail is stunning - the whales have eyes made with contrasting dowels that have been shaved flush with the surface. It is this craftsmanship that brings us back to Pelikan again and again. 

The movements of the pieces are smooth with the fit being just tight enough where needed to keep it stable and the internal whales (which you realise are there when suddenly a beady eye is looking at you) slide freely as required using gravity to manipulate them. The initial pathway is a lovely bit of experimentation without too many false paths and actually seems pretty logical for the first 15 moves or so. A few of the moves need precise placement of the pieces first which caused me to be blocked for quite a while - I thought that I knew what I had to do but it wouldn't work and only after an hour or so of searching for a hidden path did I realise what I had done wrong before continuing on my way. About 20 moves in I got stuck...the puzzle was quite stretched out with several pieces that looked like they should be removable soon but I just couldn't find the release mechanism. Back and forth I went before I suddenly found a very lovely compound move involving a bunch of pieces at once and Aha! The first piece came out. The puzzle has a perfect challenging level of and the removal of pieces 2 and 3 are still a tough challenge despite being only another 6 moves each - the 2nd and 3rd pieces took me another hour to remove. The pieces remain well held in place, if a little squishy, as they slide and partially rotate on each other. There doesn't seem to be any rotational shortcut and even after 3 pieces have been removed the whole thing stays together without collapsing into a heap. This was a fabulous challenge, extremely well made and my second favourite of the bunch.

The whales have been released
Maybe if you are a genius you can assemble it from memory or even work it out. I will definitely be using Burrtools to put it back together.

Soma Squartata

Soma Squartata by Dr Volker Latussek

Dr Latussek is, quite probably, one of the most clever and interesting puzzle designers in the world just now. He creates challenges that are much more involved and require a lot more understanding than most other designers. A huge number of his designs are too difficult for me because I seem to have a mental block with certain pattern type challenges and block packing puzzles but I am aware that many other puzzlers absolutely adore his challenges. I just wish that my brain worked like his does. It was with considerable trepidation that I picked up the Soma Squartata from the pile sent by Jakub. I did not understand the name and once I had removed the pieces from the box (Volker always instructs a special delivery arrangement), I was extremely frightened by the complexity of the pieces - this does not look like a Soma cube! Luckily for me, Volker always sends me extra information when Jakub sends the puzzles for me to review. This time the extra information included an explanation of the name and the complex shape of the pieces.

This puzzle IS based on a Soma cube shapes but for each of the pieces of a soma cube, a quarter has been removed leaving a sort of spindly more complex shape:

Using just one piece as an example it can be seen how it has been carved out leaving just a "quartata"         
All seven quartered or squartata'd
The aim of this incredible puzzle is, as with all soma cubes, to place the pieces into a cube formation and back into the box so that the opening is completely covered. Initially I was very frightened of this because I thought it might be one of those anti slide type puzzles that Volker seems to love and my brain doesn't understand. Thankfully, that is not the case. It is "just" an assembly puzzle with an extra constraint of requiring the top face to be complete. To me, this was a fabulous fun challenge - it is basically an interlocking challenge - I have ben enjoying the TICs over the last few years and this is similar without the rotations. I did find a couple of assemblies that did not have the completed face and this will be useful for storage. The requirement of the completed face really adds to the challenge and allows you to home in on the one unique solution. It took me quite a few hours to find an assembly that would work but the fun prolonged by the need to place the pieces in the correct order otherwise the assembly gets blocked. For once, a puzzle from Dr Latussek that I found challenging and still very possible - a huge amount of fun which has been beautifully made from Wenge and Acacia by Jakub and Jaroslav.

Double Symmetry

Double Symmetry by Osanori Yamamoto
Osanori-san designs fabulous packing puzzles which I have reviewed many times on this blog but he also is very well known for his stunning interlocking designs that require a very well hidden sequence of moves to dismantle (some of my favourites have included the various Galaxy puzzles (see here, here and here). This gorgeous creation in Ash and Wenge has a beautifully edged frame and 4 pieces interlocked inside. Obviously the aim is to take it apart and this is much easier said than done.

It becomes clear quite quickly that the name of the puzzle comes from the fact that the 2 pairs of identical pieces have been arranged symmetrically in several directions (rotational in the X/Y plane and also in the X/Z plane). There are quite a few moves possible and I found myself getting stuck several times in a loop because the symmetry seemed to force me to do something which the moves on the other side just reversed. After about a ½ hour of fiddling I suddenly made a breakthrough and found a move that did not seem to force me round in circles and from there the pieces dance around each other a bit before finally the first piece can be removed. It is a nice clever sequence as one would expect from Osanori.

The pieces and the frame are symmetrical too
Having taken this apart in the evening, I left it overnight and set to the reassembly from scratch with only a very vague memory of the sequence I had previously found. The challenge is absolutely perfect! It takes a lot of thought and discovery (with several false starts) to reassemble the puzzle - the sense of satisfaction for someone like me who is terrible at assembly puzzles like me was fabulous. This one is right up there with the Galaxy puzzles in my opinion.


JB4A by Osanori Yamamoto (made from Bubinga and Maple)
A release from Pelikan would really not be complete without one of Osanori-san's wonderful small packing puzzles. This is one of my favourites so far - it is made from a gorgeously coloured and grained Bubinga and is a seriously fun challenge. As always, there is a small shape to be made (this time a 3x3x3 cube) from some pretty complex pieces with what at first looks like a rather large opening which you might think would make the puzzle much easier. However, the end result has to have the pieces completely covering up all the openings once finished and with such a big gap this really limits the options. The large hole on the top does allow initial easy insertion but these pieces are quite large and complex and then movement and access get blocked pretty quickly. Looking at the shape of the small columnar hole in the box gives an idea of what is going to be required/possible during the solve but actually doing it is another thing entirely.

No spoiler here
These puzzles look almost trivial when first picked up (especially with the large entry hole) but the reality is that they are a proper challenge for any experienced puzzler. I really enjoyed it - the puzzling time for me was about 2 hours and the sense of satisfaction at the end was fabulous.


TILL by Dr Latussek (made from Garapa)
This lovely chunky puzzle design by Dr Latussek looks wonderful in the yellow wood. It is named after Till Eugenspiel who was an early 14th century resident of Saxony and a prankster responsible for a "chapbook" on which his name sake owl and mirror could be found. The aim of the puzzle is to use the pieces to create mirror symmetric shapes using 2 (easy) or 3 of the pieces (harder).

I am terrible at pattern finding and symmetry puzzles but the size and tactile nature of this one was quite appealing. It is a nice thing to sit in an armchair with and fiddle with 3 relatively simple shapes and put them together to try and find mirror symmetries. I have found 3 symmetries using 2 pieces and 2 solutions using 3 pieces. Interestingly one of the three piece assemblies has mirror symmetries on several different faces. This is a really nice gentle challenge that is suitable for all grades of puzzlers - I think kids would find this fun and might help teach them about symmetry.

The Cup

The Cup by Ad van der Schlag
This last puzzle in the current release is one that I have not had time to solve yet. It is absolutely stunning made from American Walnut and Cherry. This will be a very tough puzzle to dismantle - I love these specially shaped burrs but the combination of rings, boards with burrsticks through the centre do make for a tremendously difficult challenge. It has a level of to take apart and will include quite a few sideways movements of the rings as well as the burrsticks. I always seem to struggle to find the appropriate shifts and then get lost. I look forward to trying this new one as I have never seen a burr from Ad before.

All these puzzles should be available from Pelikan within a week or so - whatever you buy, you will not be disappointed, they are all lovely to look at on display and really nice challenges to puzzle on. I am sure that for those of you in North America who would prefer to buy more locally then they will arrive at PuzzleMaster not long after that.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! It was a lot of work over a short time but I had to try and do such fabulous craftsmanship justice.

  2. Hey kevin, would you have an idea of the price on "Castle Builder Set"?

    1. I’m afraid I’m not told the full price list in advance. They are all ready for sale so it shouldn’t be too much longer.

    2. About 500 CAD, quite the steep price but the puzzle is incredible.