Sunday 27 August 2023

Pelikan Will Keep You Puzzling For A Long Time With These

Coming very soon from Jakub and Jaroslav's Pelikan Puzzle store

At the end of last week, I took delivery of a lovely new batch of puzzles that are due to be released from the Pelikan puzzle store within the next week. I have to say that this bunch are incredibly challenging and will keep even the best puzzlers playing for a considerable time. Here we have, starting at the back left:

Paternoster by Alexander Magyarics
Mustang by Alfons Eyckmans
Lange Vinger by Alfons Eyckmans
Der Kreis ist Blau by Volker Latussek
Dunant revised edition by Volker Latussek
King Box by Osanori Yamamoto
Crab by Pelikan

I have had yet another very long work week and have not managed to solve them all but have something to say about every one of them which may help you make a decision on what you should buy (you definitely want a few of these!)


Crab designed by the Pelikan team
I had to start with this one! It is just so cute! It is stunningly made from Bubinga, Wenge and Ash. Thos one continues the line of the animal themed puzzles that Jakub and Jaroslav are producing from their own designs (I don't actually know who is responsible for the actual design of these). So far we have had Turtle,Snail, and Ladybug. All of these have been Kumike style puzzles that are interlocking rather than burr puzzles and have required less in the way of sequential move exploration as many of the burr puzzles have. I was sort of expecting something along those lines but very quickly realised that this is actually a framed burr with the exoskeleton of the crab being a frame and the main body being the burr sticks...Except these are not traditional burr sticks - some of them are hooked. 

The exploration of these is great fun with only a few short blind ends and some really interesting moves. I did get stuck for a little while towards the end of the first piece removal because I was not looking at it properly but found my way after a short break. After a short break I had my first piece removed and then the rest were removed relatively easily after that - the level given to me by Burrtools is which is perfect for me:

A burr with some rather interesting pieces
Having done my usual to and fro approach to the disassembly and retained the orientation of the pieces as they came out, I was even able to reassemble it all the way to the beginning from memory giving me a huge sense of achievement. I think that if the pieces were scrambled then only the very best of you would be able to manage this assembly from scratch.

King Box

King Box designed by Osanori Yamamoto

As soon as I saw this, I wondered whether I had seen it before (don't tell 'she who must be feared' that I don't remember my previous puzzles) and, indeed, I have reviewed this way back in 2018. Pelikan and produced a little brother to the King box called Wing Hanger which I absolutely loved and found it very similar but simpler than the King Box which had been produced by Tom Lensch.

This version is made using Wenge, Padauk and Elm and is stunning. The checkerboard pattern on the end of the 2 pieces will make it easier to reassemble but could make it more confusing to work out the orientation. The two sticks dance around each other multiple times, going in and out of the box as they gradually work their way out. In the end there are just 2 simple burr sticks and a box that has several windows in it. 

Simply gorgeous and fun
Having removed the pieces, I scrambled them and left them for a couple of days. I had no real memory of the assembly and had to work it out from scratch (just as I had done in 2018). I actually found that whilst the checkerboard pattern was sort of useful, it did mislead me for a little while and I spent a happy half hour trying to assemble the puzzle with the sticks the wrong way around. There was a nice Aha! moment when I realised my mistake and assembled the puzzle again.


Paternoster by Alexander Magyarics

We have not had one of Alexander's cubic packing puzzles for a little while and this one is a stunner both for the tremendous design as well as for the incredible workmanship that has been put into this one by Jakub and his team. It has been made with a Mahogany box with 3 Wenge pieces inside which completely fill the cross shaped entrance. The truly special thing about this is that it has a moving part - a whole corner of the box ascends and descends like a lift (elevator to you Yanks) and hence the name Paternoster. To the right you can see the ascending segment.

However, whilst the name is very clever, I really think it should be called "scares the crap out you" because this is what it did! Initially I did not know how many pieces there were inside and quickly discovered the first moves in the removal sequence. That movement of the corner section is really satisfying and smooth. It shows off the superb accuracy of the Pelikan craftsmanship. I moved the corner and one of the pieces and realised that what was inside could now move as it slid without me realising it. I then was unable to return the puzzle back to the start position! Aaaargh! I spent a fairly frenzied half hour or so desperately trying to reset the puzzle with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I put my fingers inside and moved pieces in various directions and found a partial rotational move. OMG! What if I had rotated a piece without realising it? Eventually, with my heart pounding, I reset it and put it down for a while. This was going to be really tough. Having screwed my courage "to the sticking place", I tried again and yes, I did the same thing again - I was stuck! Another half hour and it was back but without me really understanding why it was back. The third time I did it again but instead of panicking and returning to the beginning I decided to continue to try and dismantle it without really understanding what was going on. I found several more movements that may or may not be useful and gradually worked the pieces out. This was a really interesting exploration which did not really leave me with an understanding of the puzzle. When the final piece came out, I was very relieved but had a huge sense of achievement from just a 3 piece puzzle. It's a packing puzzle and I hadn't even packed it yet!

Three piece packing puzzle - soooo difficult
At this point, I could see that it was "just" one of Alexander's 3x3x3 cubes to be assembled in a box with obstructions. I say "just" because I had no real idea of what I had done to take the pieces out and so packing them in was just as hard. Yes, yet again, I got the bloody thing blocked up again several times before I finally got it reassembled. This creation from Alex and Pelikan is stunning!

Lange Vinger

Lange Vinger by Alfons Eyckmans
Alfons specialises in fabulous burr designs. They are all very beautiful and many of them are incredibly tough. This is definitely the case here - the two burrs that have been designed and created are stunning and are extremely difficult puzzles. I think that the disassembly is hard enough - the reassembly will be absolutely impossible without Burrtools. The Lange Vinger is yet another of Alfons' incredible framed 6 piece burrs. This burr is made from Wenge with Lime pieces. It has an odd rotational symmetry to it which really throws my ability to follow moves. The frame pieces have been made so that each one of the main burr sticks is blocked at one end making the disassembly much more complex. I started working on this after the previous ones and was aware that I did not have much time to get it done before the review was due. Previous puzzles have mostly had the frame interfering with the burr stick moves but ultimately the 6 piece burr is mostly dismantled from within the frame until quite late when frame pieces can come out. I spent quite a while working with this thought in mind before realising that this wasn't going to work and then concentrated on trying to move the frame pieces. I think I got lucky on several occasions because I found some very hidden moves that suddenly allowed a frame piece to move sideways and then another axially which freed up a whole lot more movement. 

This took me quite a few hours to dismantle and I was very lucky to do so. The amazing thing about it was that the whole frame came off the burr leaving all 6 pieces in place before they were disassembled. There are a lot of pieces:

6 burr sticks plus 12 frame pieces
It is NOT a puzzle for a burr newbie - it is very tough with a level of It was great fun using Burrtools to reassemble it again.


Mustang by Alfons Eyckmans
This glorious looking burr designed by Alfons has been made from Wenge and Acacia. It is another framed 6 piece burr but, unlike Lange Vinger, it is symmetrical and there is a LOT of possible movement in the 6 central burr sticks. I spent a considerable amount of time going round in circles trying to find a way to make the 6 piece burr begin to disentangle and could not for the life of me find a way to do it. I then figured that the frame possibly would come apart around the burr and attempted to find a way to make space to move a frame stick. I could not do that and had to admit defeat. I had to get the Burrtools file from Jakub and had a look at it to get me started. To my horror and delight, I saw that this was a significantly difficult level at! There would be no way that I would manage to dismantle this without help from Burrtools in the small amount of time allotted to me. I used the file to remove the first two pieces and then proceeded to try to get the rest apart by myself. Even this was a tough challenge as finding the next 9 moves to remove the third piece was very hard. I did manage it eventually and then the rest of the disassembly was a nice sequence. The puzzle remained stable for quite a while before dissolving into a pile of pieces on my lap. 

I haven't yet assembled this - it will be a challenge!
This is another brilliant design that has been perfectly brought to life by Jakub and Jaroslav. It is one of the toughest burr puzzles that they have ever made and is definitely only recommended to burr experts or enthusiasts with a penchant for punishment.

Dunant Second Edition

Dunant 2nd edition by Dr Volker Latussek

When I unwrapped this one, I was almost certain that I had seen it before and then I looked at the name on the box which confirmed that this was one we had seen and loved before. In fact, the first edition, along with with a few others made the top 3 of my best of 2019 list. As soon as I removed the pieces from the initial position, I could see that this new version was very different. 

I have not yet had time to play with this one but Volker knew that it was coming and sent me a little explanation of the rationale for it:
"Playing with C-shaped pieces a few years ago, I discovered their wonderful properties and so HARUN was initially designed. Here, the C-shaped pieces consist of three 2 x 2 x 1 squares joined together and an open 5 x 5 x 5 box. Similarly, DUNANT was born from the idea of developing something from a small number of identical C-shaped pieces, each consisting of three 3 x 3 x 1 squares to be placed in a restricted box. In the end, there were 5 pieces and a 5 x 5 x 8 box with a 5 x 5 square opening through which a red cross is visible. It was named after Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. Unfortunately, I could not position the opening centrally...

With the current release of DUNANT 2ND REVISED EDITION, I have retained the construction principles of DUNANT but abandoned the integer dimensions of 1, 3, 5 and 8. The red cross now looks centred in the box. I hope that the new DUNANT is both easier on the eye and that the path to the solution still feels good, and perhaps that it will inspire you to read about the impressive and harrowing life of Henry Dunant, the first Nobel Peace Prize winner."
I cannot wait to have a proper try with this - if it is anything like as good as the first edition then it is bound to end up in my list for best of 2023!

Der Kreis Ist Blau

Der Kreis Ist Blau by Dr Volker Latussek
(except here is is rot)
This fabulous packing puzzle is another of the amazing creations from the warped mind of Volker Latussek. I removed all the pieces and was very surprised to see no blue cross before realising that Kreis means circle. These pieces are prisms made from six of the fundamental geometric shapes. I was still mystified that it was red but apparently blue wood is kind of hard to come by so Pelikan chose the vibrant Padauk for the circle as well as Acacia and Beech for the other pieces and the box. The box is Volker's standard lipped box which has been very precisely designed and made to just fit the pieces with sliding room only. Rotations will obviously be needed but I have not yet had time to play with this. I suspect that it will be VERY difficult! 

Volker sent me his reasoning behind this puzzle:
"Wassily Kandinsky and most of the teachers at the Bauhaus assigned the colour blue to the shape of the circle. Pelikan nevertheless followed the assignment of Oskar Schlemmer, another highly esteemed teacher at the Bauhaus, and chose the colour red for the circle. A visit to the new Bauhaus Museum in Weimar is well worth the trip for fans of craft art and architectural history, and for me it was a great stimulus to think about polygons: triangle, quadrilateral (square), pentagon, hexagon, octagon, and circle and how they could be packed into my typical box. As with FERMAT, the triangle is full of surprises and so I wish you a long journey of discovery as you play with the polygons.

And if you do manage to pack the six shapes under the lips, you will have learned a lot from this play of shapes, especially when the circle is in the top layer.

DER KREIS IST BLAU (THE CIRCLE IS BLUE) is my first homage to the Bauhaus (1919-1933)."
I am sure that most of you will find this one an essential purchase. Good luck with it!

1 comment:

  1. This reminded me of the crossword-style cubic puzzle I played at my Western Union office. It was a very weird game at first but the it grew on me, mostly because it took less than 10 minutes to play and was a single-player game like crosswords. Might consider this Pelikan thingy.