Sunday 18 February 2024

Truly Something to Behold

Soon to be released by Pelikan
At  the beginning of the week before last I took delivery of a VERY large box from Jakub and Jaroslav containing 7 puzzles and a request to have reviews as quickly as possible. I am just human and with my simple brain cannot possibly solve all of these in that short time (especially when you realise that there are hundreds of challenges here and some are really very difficult indeed.

Here we have:
Back row:
    Matchbox Playground - an extension of Oskar's original design by Péter Gál
Middle row:
    Filling V by Dr Volker Latussek
    Flummox by Benjamin Heidt
    Appletree by Benjamin Heidt
Front Row:
    Parallel Burr Cube #2 by Osanori Yamamoto
    Rattle Twist Duo by Osanori Yamamoto
    MRI by Benjamin Heidt

My picture does not do justice to the beauty and quality of them all (for that, you should wait for the official photos from Ivan Danik which appear on the Pelikan site.

Pelikan 2024 Feb

Stunning series this time with what looks like one of the most gorgeous puzzle sets I’ve ever seen.

Filling V 

Fillin V by Volker Latussek
Sent with just the triomino left out

Dr Latussek returns to challenge us with another of his wonderful packing puzzles that look much easier than they actually are. This one made of ????? comprises 6 L tetrominoes plus an L Triomino giving us the required 27 voxels to make up a solid cube. I could instantly see that there were several ways to make the cube and each of these could be attempted in several orientations with respect to the box. This box has a nice large slotted entry hole which looks like it shouldn’t be much of a hindrance to inserting the pieces. Dr Latussek said this:

"While working on the FLOP series, I had some fun working with completely filled boxes. I ‘d already done some preliminary work using L-shaped tetracubes, so it made sense to me to work on Lazlo Molnar and Alexander Magyarics’ six Ls puzzles and to combine them with the V-shaped tricube to make one of the 65 possible cubes and then put them in a box with only one opening. Of course, I started with my usual CASINO box, only to learn that this recipe doesn’t produce a sufficiently challenging puzzle, and neither does a FLOP box. Actually, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Given the filling of a cube-shaped box, the actual design task was to find the correct, single, continuous opening.

Despite the numerous specifications, FILLING V is a challenging puzzle whose solution still surprises me. But there will never be a FILLING I."

Having found several possible cubes, I quickly noticed that many could be discarded because of the requirement to place an L shape (or even more than one) in at the end as a last piece. This cut down the options considerably and then left me with the need to place 5 pieces in the box. Here lies the challenge for this puzzle. There seems to be plenty of space to place 5 pieces but with lots of wiggle room and all you can do is wiggle and I needed quite a bit more space than that. At this point it’s a request to think© and notice what the box does allow you to do. There is a really lovely Aha! moment here and suddenly the wiggle room becomes room to really do something. Burrtools told me that there are 65 possible ways to assemble the pieces into a 3x3x3 cube but I found something pleasing quite early on.

I placed my last piece in the box with a huge grin on my face! This is, on the face of it, a much simpler puzzle than the Flop series but I think is better for it. The best description is “elegant” - it’s almost as elegant as the classic Casino which won so many accolades.

It’s an essential purchase!


Flummox by Benjamin Heidt
This beautiful and rather diminutive creation was designed by a new name on the scene, Benjamin Heidt. If this is a typical example of puzzles from him then I hope that Jakub and Jaroslav make more. It is a fabulous variant on the classic 6 piece burr with length of 6 voxels (pieces made from a vibrant Purpleheart). The addition of little additional pieces (made from Maple) added onto the sides of the burr sticks which interfere with the the usual movement of the pieces and make the solution much more interesting.

The solution level is: which is just right for all but the most masochistic of burr solvers and is delightful to explore. From the start position there are 4 or 5 possible moves and then further exploration after some of them. This took me about an hour to solve using my usual to and fro method which also meant that I could reassemble it from memory. The really good solvers will disassemble it relatively quickly and then have a really nice challenge assembling from scratch.

Beautifully made pieces


Appletree by Benjamin Heidt
Here we have another very interesting design by Benjamin Heidt. It is a beautifully burr made in the shape of an Apple tree complete with apples amongst the foliage. It has been stunningly created using American Walnut, Acacia with Padauk apples.

This takes a bit of fiddling and exploration in every direction to find the first piece to move and after this, if you’re anything like me, it’s followed by an “Oh my God!!!” moment as all of a sudden a whole LOT of pieces move in various directions. Slight panic ensued and I quickly decided to return to the beginning and discovered that it wouldn’t go - aaargh! It took a frantic few minutes to sort of scrunch it back together and breathe a sigh of relief. I had to gird myself before trying again. This is fun! For me it’s a puzzle version of a rollercoaster.

Having done that several times and worked out how it locked and unlocked, I proceeded to explore and quickly found that several pieces were removable. I kept them in a place where I could tell the position and orientation. After removing 4 or 5 the trunk fell off and it sort of scrunched up again. I was lost! Despite this, the puzzle remained pretty stable even if everything was jiggly. I actually struggled to remove the remaining pieces, they did not just fall apart. Over the next 20 minutes I gradually disassembled it piece by piece and, oh boy, there are a lot of pieces.

Appletree pieces
After all of that, I had not even done the main challenge! This is not a stunningly designed sequential disassembly puzzle as I alluded to above…it is actually an assembly puzzle - the tree, as received, is in a "transport configuration" - the actual aim of the puzzle is to assemble the tree again but with 4 red apples on each side of the tree. There is no way that I was going to reassemble the transport solution without assistance let alone the main challenge and so I am off to Burrtools for a happy time sketching pieces out. Great fun!

Rattle Twist Duo

Rattle Twist Duo by Osanori Yamamoto
My friend's version
This beautiful interlocking puzzle designed by Osanori Yamamoto is made from Maple (pieces) with 2 different frames: one Jatoba and the other Zebrano. This one was so good that it was made for me by my greatly missed friend and mentor Tsy Hung Chein (aka Felix). Felix had one of the best eyes for a fabulous puzzle and if he took the time to make a copy and send it to me then you can be assured that there is something special about it. I had absolutely adored the copy sent to me - and I am delighted that many others will now get to experience a puzzle that looks simple but has significant challenge to it. 

Osanori-san’s documentation that he sent to Jakub said that the 2 interlocking pieces should be sent out locked on one frame with the aim being to remove them and place them on the other and then return it to the start position. Like many of his creations, rotations are both possible and required. For a puzzle with only 2 pieces to be fitted on a relatively simple frame, this should not be so difficult. Despite having done it before, it took me a good hour to disassemble one and assemble the other. 

Then going back the other way after a delay to allow forgetting was just as much of a challenge.

Parallel Burr Cube #2 

Parallel Burr Cube #2 by Osanori Yamamoto
Another challenge by Osanori-san, this consists of a Frame made from Bubinga and a set of 6 board burr pieces made from Limba. It is strikingly beautiful. Initially I thought that this was just a framed 6 board burr but it’s not quite this. The boards are held apart from each other by the frame making sure they interact loosely with each other being trapped by just the end-plates of each board. At the beginning there are several possible moves but the paths are mostly dead-ended after just 1 or 2 moves. This means no huge long fruitless pathways to explore. It requires a search for something that goes somewhere and for me, took quite a while to find the required move that opened up the puzzle for further exploration. The first piece can be removed quite quickly after just 6 moves which then allows you to peek inside and gain some more understanding of the interaction of the pieces. Having removed the first piece, it does not seem to get any simpler and the puzzle transforms into almost a disentanglement puzzle - it is like unravelling a knot inside a box whilst you can only see a small section of the knot at a time. It is at times frustrating, sometimes fiddly as the boards can catch on the edges as there is a little wiggle room, but is always an enjoyable exploration. The move count is not particularly high but it is still fun to explore and work out at each stage how to make room for the next piece to slide.

You can see how the pieces are locked in place
Having dismantled the puzzle over about an hour or more, I had kept the pieces in order of their removal and remembered which position they had come from. All with the aim of facilitating reassembly without resorting to Burrtools. I was feeling quite proud of myself as I inserted the first three and then for some reason the fourth one just couldn’t be inserted. What was I doing wrong? A careful look at the shapes of the pieces revealed that the second piece had been inserted upside down followed by the third correctly and this couldn’t leave room to insert the next. OK, having realised this, take it apart again…except I couldn’t dismantle it! Aargh! Minor panic ensues and I have to work out all over again how to undo the interior disentanglement puzzle I had created for myself. After a frantic 10 minutes, I had all the pieces and admonished myself for being an eeejit and not keeping track of piece orientation as well as order. After this it went back together nice and smoothly. This puzzle is wonderful - it looks great, is sort of a burr and disentanglement puzzle at the same time and, if you are good enough, it can be a really tough assembly puzzle as well.


MRI by Benjamin Heidt
This new rather quirky and very attractive puzzle design by Benjamin Heidt is a new type of puzzle for Pelikan and I am not certain how to categorise it. Apparently Benjamin is a technician who works on MRI machines in hospitals. He must be very used to working with magnets and there are several of them inside this puzzle. It looks just like an MRI scanner complete with a patient (he has hair and a nose!) on the scanning platform inside the magnet. The aim is to remove the patient from the scanner by unlocking the hidden interior mechanism. One thing Benjamin should know is that you must NEVER bring another ferrous metal object inside the Faraday cage walls of an MRI room because it will turn into a missile if released in the room (believe me, I have seen it with an old Molybdenum steel oxygen cylinder - it moves very fast and does a LOT of damage!) but here he has disobeyed all the rules. The puzzle has a magnetic ball bearing on the floor held by a magnet embedded inside it and obviously this magnetic bearing is used to somehow unlock the patient from the scanner and remove him. 

I do not know how many steps is required because I have so far not managed to do much more than make interesting clicking noises as I move the bearing over the surface. I am making things happen inside but so far I have made no progress with the release - my patient may well starve to death in the MRI! I may be reduced to having to take it to work and asking a kind radiographer to take an Xray of it for me.

This is certainly something interesting which we have never seen before from the Pelikan workshop. Well worth adding to your collection for the quirkiness and the considerable puzzling challenge.

Matchbox Playground

Matchbox Playground - an extension of Oskar's idea by Péter Gál
This rather large puzzle set must be one of the most beautiful puzzle sets that I have ever seen! It is simply stunning and an amazing scope of work by the designer and by the craftsmen. It is the result of an epic amount of work by the incredible puzzle designer, Péter Gál.

The box opens like a matchbox
There are puzzle sheets and an explainer inside
Cubic dissection version
I have quite a few burr sets and this one ranks up there alongside the very best of them and will take pride of place in my collection. It is not a burr set but a set of increasingly difficult assembly puzzles based on the wonderful and clever Oskar’s Matchboxes puzzle that has been produced by several craftsmen over the years as well as 3D printed. Oskar's original puzzle had 5 pieces and I found that one pretty challenging. Later the idea was extended by Alexander Kapkan with 6 pieces and again by Onno Hein with 6 pieces in a different configuration. Over more than a year Péter had performed an exhaustive computational analysis. A smaller version of this had been released in the IPP design competition in 2016. Péter's analysis was restricted to a 3x2x1 matchbox with the matches attached at the gridlines giving 14 possible match/matchbox pairs. This puzzle set is contained in a gorgeous box shaped and sliding open like a matchbox itself to reveal the full set of 14 possible pieces and an envelope with an explanation and puzzle challenges ranging from using just 4 pieces up to the maximum of 13. 

Just look at the presentation here - it is amazing!
There are effectively hundreds of challenges here as each one has multiple solutions to find. The individual boxes are stunningly made out of Maple, Wenge and Jatoba and the case made from Maple, Wenge and Oak.

This picture will be essential if I am going to put them back!
When I took a few out to admire them, I realised straight away that I would need a photo of how they were arranged in the box! If you do just tip them out then an additional challenge for you will be to pack them back in again - I was not brave enough to do that! The challenges are really fun to do and require considerable thought. The cards show just the required pieces and not the eventual shape that you need to use. This means that simple entry into Burrtools is not possible. I have managed the first couple of challenges and really look forward to spending real time with this set. This is absolutely fabulous! I have put 3 of my solutions to the first challenge behind a spoiler button - if you plan to buy the set then don't look at it:

Should you buy this set? Hell yes! It's stunningly gorgeous, a whole lot of puzzling challenges. I absolutely love puzzles that come with a booklet of challenges e.g. the Peanut puzzle, the cubic Mazeburr, Rhombic Mazeburr and Split Mazeburr and this new one from Pelikan is just amazing!

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