Sunday 5 February 2023

Something for Everyone From Pelikan

OMG! Sooo beautiful - Plus one more that I couldn't easily arrange as I am in mid solve
I have been lucky enough yet again to get advance access to the latest creations from Jakub and Jaroslav's amazing Pelikan factory. This time we have 8 incredibly beautiful challenges varying from the simple and quirky to the unbelievably difficult. There is something for everyone here. 

Luckily for me they arrived in 2 batches. The first 6 arrived 2 weeks ago with a warning not to write anything yet due to delays of the whole release caused by sickness. This certainly made it a little less fraught for me and I have solved those first ones in a leisurely fashion over that 2 weeks. Then unexpectedly another 3 arrived with a request that Jakub would like the solutions as soon as possible. I have been feverishly trying to solve 3 of the hardest ones in the week. There is something for everyone here - if you like burrs then there is something from easy to challenging but fun right up to the OMG difficult. Packing puzzles as well with something that I managed fairly easily to another that is fabulous but really tough.

On we go:

Imogen's Cube

Imogen's Cube by Alfons Eyckmans
         Incredible design and incredible manufacture
Imogen's cube is one of Alfons Eyckmans amazing interlocking cubic designs which he names after significant people - this one was designed and named for the daughter of a puzzling friend. I had already bought this one from Alfons several years ago and have so far failed to dismantle it. I was astounded when I took this out of the box! It is stunningly beautiful made from multiple hardwoods. There is a frame and several interlocking sticks crossing each axis of the puzzle with 4 crossing one direction, 3 in another and 2 the final one. There is a lot of movement in this right from the very beginning and I have managed to get myself lost several times during my to and fro approach to solving these. On several occasions I have found myself with a stick a long way out and nowhere to go but then unable to work out how to get it back in again. The solution level is not astoundingly high but the sheer amount of movement and blind ends seems to have made this really tough for me. In fact I have yet to solve it. For those of you who are really keen on burrs/interlocking solids or those of you who want something truly gorgeous for the display then this will be a must have.


Lucia by Alfons Eyckmans
Another incredible design showing the skills of Alfons. This seems to be something new from him. I have seen him design a number of interlocking cubes and various burrs over the years but I have not really seen him spend much time on a rather special and enjoyable type of 6 piece burr. These have the sticks based on a 3x3x8 voxel grid which allows the construction of the obstructing marts to be much more intricate and more like a maze to navigate. The first one like this was the Dracula from the last release (which is still in stock). This has been beautifully crafted from Acacia with a lovely grain. The exploration is fun and with a level 10.3.2 the disassembly is fun without being too difficult. For those of you with some real burr skill, I definitely recommend scrambling the pieces and after a break attempting a reassembly. It is tough but even I managed it with only a medium struggle.

Pin-up Box

Pin-up Box by Lucie Pauwels
This delightful little packing puzzle by the amazing Lucie Pauwels really packs quite a punch. It is surprisingly heavy for its' size (85x36x46mm) which I presume is due to the density of the Jatoba box. The pieces are made from Wenge and there is a beautifully made pin made withMaple and Bubinga. The pieces are a small subset of the Soma pieces with 4 of them having a hole drilled through. The aim is to assemble the pieces inside the box leaving space for the pin to be poked though the hole into the piece which lines up with it. There are obvious 4 different solutions depending on which piece you wish to pierce. I found this a delightful little challenge to try in the evenings and finding the final one took me a surprising amount of time (but then I am usually terrible at packing puzzles). This is a lovely puzzle for beginners and experienced puzzlers alike.

Lucie has contacted me free I posted this to correct me and tell me the true aim:
"The goal of the Pin-Up Box is to pack everything inside and fix with the pin, in a way that nothing drops out when you hold the box upside down. Four pieces with a pin-hole, each giving a solution."

Time to try again! 


Turtles designed by our very own Jakub
This one is very cute. Jakub decided that he wanted to turn his hand to puzzle design himself and created something delightful. Turtles reminds me of the Bison puzzle from Xmas 2021 - it is a sequentially interlocking puzzle created from Wenge and Acacia. The secret is to find the way to remove the first piece and then it will serially disassemble. In the end you are left with a bunch of rather interesting pieces and a genuine laugh out loud moment when you suddenly realise what the guys have done. When I showed Mrs S, even she was delighted with the end result. It is not a difficult puzzle but it is genuinely delightful.


Timburr by Christoph Lohe
There seems to be no end to the design skills shown by Christoph Lohe. His interlocking/burr puzzles are always relatively simple in basic outline shape but the design of the solution is always a wonderful and very fun challenge. Over the years he has produced a bunch of burrs with frames and they have all been brilliant. I think that the Timburr (beautifully recreated here by Jakub from Purpleheart, Padauk, Wenge and Ash) is one of his very best designs. The solution level is a very high which is astonishing for just a 6 piece burr. Despite the high level and a fair number of dead ends at first, finding the pathway is a pleasant exploration and has 2 or 3 lovely Aha! moments in the process. It took me a couple of evenings to dismantle it.

It looks so simple!
Unfortunately for me, having balanced the pieces on my cat as I sequentially removed them, he rolled over and they all slid off into a pile. Despite this, I was actually able to reassemble the puzzle from scratch with only a couple of days attempting to place the pieces the wrong way around. I found the reassembly challenge even more fun than the initial disassembly (although I very much doubt I could have managed it without having done that first). This puzzle is simply fabulous - one of my favourites in this batch.


Cerberus by Girish Sharma
Girish is a relatively new name to me. I noticed that he suddenly appeared in the IPP design competition winners list this year with what looks like either a TIC or sequentially interlocking cube puzzle. Here we have another interlocking cube puzzle made from Wenge, Padauk, Acacia and Maple. I have always adored these puzzles ever since I got hooked by Richard Gain's microcubology puzzles way back at the beginning of my puzzling career. Initially, I could only disassemble them and over the years got better and better and even enjoy them as assembly puzzles. One of my all time favourite interlocking puzzles is one of Juha Levonen's designs - the Juha's 12. This puzzle has a special piece which marches up and down through the other pieces during the solve process and is absolutely wonderful to play with. The Cerberus by Girish left me with a similar feeling. The pieces move all over the place and one piece in particular marches through. Once it has been removed (after 25 moves) it takes another 5 to remove the second and then 4 to finally separate the last 2 pieces:

Absolutely stunning design and beautifully made
This puzzle was probably my absolute favourite from this release. I am really looking forward to any new creations from Girish in the future.


Umbrella by Tamás Vanyó
On Facebook, Tamás has been designing and producing some absolutely incredible challenges and has worked with Pelikan over the last year to bring them to reality for us all to enjoy, however, I have not seen him design a packing puzzle before. I was surprised and delighted to see the Umbrella amongst the latest arrivals. This packing puzzle has something special which is just what I would expect from Tamás - all the pieces have a unique box like design which allows them to be changed into 2 different shapes. The workmanship required to create this puzzle is astounding - the American Walnut L shaped pieces have a stem and a box round that stem which slides freely into each of the two positions. All the pieces need to be placed into the Ash box. There are quite a lot of solutions and it is a rather delightful soothing process to try and find them. There is always a single voxel gap inside and I have attempted to find solutions which have that gap in various different positions. This is a lovely idea and fun for all experience levels.

Just one of the solutions

Stuffing Burr

Stuffing Burr by Volker Latussek
It would seem that no release from Pelikan is complete without something from Dr Latussek and you will not be disappointed this time. We are all delighted when the good doctor creates yet another of his impossibly difficult packing puzzles (I have still not solved Fermat or Euklid for Nick) but here we have something completely different. It is called a burr but is it really? This nice chunky puzzle is made from absolutely gorgeous Purpleheart and consists of 2 pairs of identical L-shaped pieces which have notches cut into them. The aim is to assemble a shape that allows all the notches to be filled. Only four pieces in the burr and only 8 must be easy? Not for me it wasn't! Would you expect Volker to release an easy puzzle? This was one of the puzzles that arrived earlier this week and I had limited time to play. There is a shape that absolutely screams to be assembled from these pieces - I tried and tried to assemble it and got nowhere. Back to the drawing board and time to totally change my approach - think© differently which is not one of my strong points. It took me a couple of evenings of play before I had my Aha! moment. It really is quite elegant and, in the end, not as tough as I had imagined but really quite clever.

Tube in Cube

Tube in Cube by Volker Latussek
The name of this was at the suggestion of Allard who I assume must have helped with some prototyping. This name is much better than the original and whilst the pieces are not hollow, it is a good description of what needs to be done. Dr Latussek was heavily influenced by the now classic puzzle by Vesa Timonen, Lox in Box which has cylindrical wooden pieces to be packed into a tray. Volker with his amazing 3D design skills really wanted to turn this into a more difficult packing puzzle more than just fitting pieces into a tray. When he knew that I was going to receive a copy he contacted me with his origin story:
Place the eight logs into the box.” This is the simple goal of the wonderful packing puzzle LOX IN BOX by Vesa Timonen. These round rods, beveled on one side, are just crying out to be twisted out of the plane. I wanted to find eight round rods that would fit into an open cube-shaped box. And to do it in a unique arrangement. For this job, I needed to understand the shape of these round rods. At times I was convinced a nice mix of eight round rods would fit into the cube in a particularly clever way, only to learn that by tilting, rotating and swapping, other fillings could be obtained. Those round beveled rods can hurt. In the end, a mix of round rods with only two different lengths won out. Unfortunately, after that, I wondered why I wasn't using my typical box. A new problem was formulated and an intensive collaboration with Pelikan ensued.

The result is TUBE IN CUBE. For this, one round rod had to be shortened. This is not pretty, but in return the round rods unfold their full beauty in the restricted box, at least the part I was allowed to discover. If you want to experience the beauty of the round beveled rods, I highly recommend practising with two rods first and only then successively increasing the number...and so my story ends as it began: “Place the eight logs into the box.
An amazing design and wonderfully brought to life
Volker was not wrong! This puzzle is a fabulous creation and is tremendously difficult without being impossible. The shapes scream out for experimentation in pairs and different combinations but assembly outside the box is impossible because everything is very unstable and rolls all over the place. However, despite this, you get enough ideas to then start assembling in the box. It is also a dexterity puzzle - the pieces just do not want to stay in place (in fact I have really struggled just to get the thing back to the travel position). As you play, it becomes obvious how the short pieces can interact and then it is a matter of working out how to get them inside. Lots of different ideas spring to mind as you play but always the last piece cannot be inserted - not just because the lid gets in the way, but because there is simply no room inside for that piece. Eventually there is an incredible Aha! moment and with a lot of fiddling about the final piece can go inside. The precision is amazing and they only just fit inside the box. This is also my pick from the bunch.

Moving Castles

Moving Castles by Tamás Vanyó
Yes, I am sure that this is one of the puzzles that you would expect from the amazing design brain of Tamás Vanyó! This is the third of his castle collaborations with Pelikan. I have to admit that I have not had much time to try this one yet. It consists of 9 pieces to fit on a frame. Each piece has the same basic structure with a waist that is 2x2 voxels in size which will fit into the frame and then on either side of that waist are the wonderful characteristic castle shapes based on a 3x3 grid. This puzzle is not quite as straightforward as that because they have added an extra twist. There are 8 ways to place the pieces on the frame but the extra challenge is to organise them in such a way that can walk through the entire castle from START to STOP (i.e. create one continuous path using both sides of pieces). There is a start mark on the frame and a small arrow which serves as a sort of "checkpoint" telling you to flip over as it's on the opposite corner of the start and end. 

So far I have managed to assemble all the pieces on the frame which alone was a nice fun challenge but I have certainly not gotten anywhere near creating a path all the way around the puzzle from beginning to end. I think this might well take me several weeks to complete. The assembled puzzle on the frame looks like one of MC Escher's impossible 3D creations and even unsolved looks beautiful on display.

There are some absolutely amazing puzzles here and all have been created with the precision we have come to expect of Jakub, Jaroslav and their team. You will not be disappointed! My favourites from this batch are:
  1. Cerberus - just for the wonderful progressive movement and because I am addicted to interlocking cubes.
  2. Tube in Cube - Volker does it again and uses a new shape to make something incredibly clever.
  3. Timburr - I love Christoph's special burrs.
  4. Turtles - the Aha! moment made me laugh out loud.

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