Sunday 26 May 2024

Cast Planet

Hanayama Cast Planet
Today, is another quick puzzle review. I had actually failed to solve anything all week. I should have managed it with ease because Mrs S was oop North again for a week and I was home alone with a cat who seems to be steadily improving on his Prozac (even if the cutting of the white powder with a razor blade is giving me headaches). Not only was I far away from the demands of "She who must be flinched from", but I also spent 3 days sitting on my arse attending an on-line conference from 9-5 (note to the Americans - it's an arse not an ass because an ass is a donkey and there's no room in the house for one of those). You might have thought that I could have used my conference time to play with one of my toys but, alas, I am definitely a uni-tasker. If I play with a puzzle, then I seem to have no recollection of what has gone on in the conference...believe me, I tried. It may have been that I attempted the wrong puzzles? I have begun playing with the Box of Celts and so far failed to find even the first step. Plus my copy of Dee Dixon's gorgeous Vertigo puzzle arrived and I similarly failed to find any moves on that as well.

Box of Celts by Numbskull puzzles
Vertigo by Dedwood crafts
It may well be that these are just too complex to be done in a week...especially by a man of very little brains like me. However, it would have been nice to at least find the first move on just one of them before being forced to look for something simpler to solve!

Towards the end of the week I thought I had better do at least a couple of the chores that had been set as a target for me by "She who frightens the sun into setting every night". Part of those chores involved housework and forced me to look in my office. I have been avoiding that room for a while due to the unholy mess. Glancing at the desk revealed a couple of other unsolved but simpler puzzles that had just slipped my attention and rather than tidy said office, I went through the "catastrophe" to pick something for today... hence the Cast Planet as the subject of my blog.

OMG! Luckily, "She who is responsible for thunder" never looks in here
Amongst the unsolved and forgotten puzzles to solve was the Hanayama Cast Planet which I have to say looks lovely but probably remained on the desk because it also looked like it was going to be solved by random movements.

Hanayama rated it as 4 out of 6 and PuzzleMaster as 8 (Demanding) on their scale of 5 - 10. Personally, I would rate it as 3 (or 7) myself. As you would expect from the name and the look of it it consists of a rather rocky looking planet made from silver chromed metal inside a sort of Saturn's ring of gold coloured metal. I wonder whether it should have been called the Cast Virus or Cast Corona but maybe that wouldn't help it sell? It was designed by a new designer to me, Masui Ohno and is effectively a maze puzzle with all parts and paths visible.

The starting point is marked by grooves on the North and South poles of the planet which line up with marks on the ring. Obviously, the planet needs to be manipulated within the ring until the odd cutouts in the ring line up with the correctly shaped "mountains" on the planet to allow them to be slid apart.

I started looking at what kind of movements are possible and realised that the movement of the planet is quite constrained along the orientation of the ring and only at set positions was it possible to rotate the planet out of that axis to open up another sequence of moves in the plane of the ring again. Initially I was very cautious for fear of being unable to return to the beginning and hence, adopted my usual too and fro approach. Unfortunately, after about 5 minutes of puzzling I found myself unable to return to the start. Damn! OK, onward only. 

For the first 15 minutes, it seemed that I was going around in circles with no real plan for how to go about it. I felt that I was just making random moves and either I was going to continue forever making these random moves or it was going to solve itself by pure chance without me being the reason for the solve. At that point, I noticed a shape on the planet and had one of my very are thoughts. I had found a shape that looked like it might be useful and I had a "what if I aim for this?" thoughts. As you all know, thought is a rare thing for me so when it happens, I have to assume that it originated elsewhere and should probably be acted on. From this point, after another 2 or 3 minutes of systematically manoeuvring the planet into successively better positions, it fell apart into my hands and left me with a triumphant grin. Mrs S looked at me with disbelief - she rarely sees me solve anything and thinks that I either cheat or break them apart!

That's actually quite clever!
Having left it for a while, returning it to the strut position was just as tough as solving it. This is partly because it's quite hard to work out where the start position is and there are less clues for which way to move things when going in that direction.

Despite fairly low expectations for this puzzle (I am not really a fan of mazes anymore), this puzzle was actually quite enjoyable and a nice small challenge to be done in about 20-30 minutes. I looks good on display and is perfect for children and newbies as well as dedicated puzzle fans. Buy it from PuzzleMaster if you are in the Americas or from Sloyd or Hendrik if you are in Europe. For only €12-15 or $18CAD then you cannot really go wrong.

Sunday 19 May 2024

So “Easy” That It Took Me a Week

The Persistence of Memory
Just look at the beautiful grain in that!
Having splurged a little while ago and had a delivery of beauties from Brian's wonderful Wood Wonders store. There have been so many fabulous designs produced recently that I had to be pretty choosy in which ones I ordered. Mrs S is already unhappy with the state of my desk and study and I daren't upset her too much more. Of course, no puzzle purchase is complete without something from my friend Alexander Magyarics - he has a warped incredible mind! I particularly adore his cube packing puzzles with a restricted entry and the Persistence of Memory looked fun and not too difficult. Hahaha! Silly me!

It was sold in 2 versions and I am addicted to beautiful wood. Hence the puzzle that arrived was simply stunning - the Box made from Kosso and the pieces made from Boire. Brian stated that this one is similar in design to Collator and, of course, I checked my database of puzzles to see that I definitely had a copy of that one, had solved it and even written about it here. I can see the similarity in design and, as usual, I have absolutely no recollection of solving this one and certainly no memory of how it is solved. Don't tell Mrs S, but I probably only need about 15 puzzles and can rotate through them repeatedly without remembering any solutions - luckily she is very very keen not to read my blog! I guess that I should probably seek out this one again and have a play. 

I have been really really busy with work recently and had little time at home to play. I therefore packed this one into my work bag to show off and hopefully solve during a quiet moment (if I ever get one). The beautiful wood and exceptional finish on this beauty was much admired at work and I even got to play with it a few times. Just like Collator, it has a restricted entry box and 3 pieces of a shape that significantly restricts how they can be inserted inside. Unlike Collator, there are quite a few ways to make a 3x3x3 cube but the entry restrictions are very important. The most complex piece can only be inserted in 3 possible orientations and the next in also just 3. This should cut down all the shapes to attempt and also make the puzzle easier. That may be true for some people but I was seriously flummoxed by the restrictions. After a couple of days of attempts, I managed to pack all 3 pieces inside but the entry holes were not filled - this made me feel ever so slightly less stupid but was not the solution. Perseverance is not only the name of the puzzle but also the name of the game for me! I had to keep at it. Finally, this morning after a whole week of work, I had a wonderful Aha! moment. 

My goodness! That was difficult!
Whilst the assembly of the 3x3x3 cube is simple, the insertion into the box is a significant challenge. It requires 17 moves to assemble it (BT gives the disassembly a level 11.3.3)

I left it assembled for a little while for the photos and to try and forget the moves and found that just disassembling the puzzle is a challenge. It is difficult to see inside the box and work out what is happening. 

This is a really good puzzle - it's probably too difficult to be a casual puzzle to hand to people at work or visitors at home - whilst I am not terribly bright and it took me a week, most casual puzzlers would not be able to solve this in a reasonable period of time. If you get the chance to play with it or find a copy up for sale (along with Collator) then don't hesitate - it is fabulous!
Thank you Brian and Alexander

Sunday 12 May 2024

Locked Three Times Over!

The Vertigo Puzzlebox from Quizbrix
First up, I should let you know that this was sent to me for free for review.

In December 2022 I reviewed the aMAZEing Puzzlebox (also available from PuzzleMaster) and absolutely loved it. A few months later they released a follow up challenge called the Vertigo Puzzlebox and I had intended to buy one this time. Time went by and I got sidetracked by life, work and many many many other puzzles and it sort of fell by the wayside. The new one was reviewed by Steve (Boxes and Booze) reminding me that this was a great designer. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted again by Peleg to ask if I would be happy to review it. I cannot say no to a good designer and it duly arrived from Israel last weekend.

As with the previous puzzle, the challenge is to find and release the gold bar hidden inside the box, using only what is provided as you work through the sequence. The top of the box appears to have the letters QB on it superimposed on each other (I confess that I had to squint at it for a while to see it and thought it might be a D&G logo). The puzzle is made almost entirely using the ⅓ height lego bricks in various sizes and there are a number of voids visible and outlines of larger constructions that look like they should move as a single piece. In one place there is a clear brick and the ability to see right through.

Time to start - the only option available is to push and prod at various bits of the puzzle until you find something that moves and then you are off to the races. The first 4 moves are a nice unlocking sequence which leaves you with the lid removed and a tantalising view of the gold brick inside:

No spoilers here! I cannot reach that gold brick
Having seen the target, it is time to try and work out how to remove it. This is easier said than done. A single tool is found on the way and there appears to be a number of places that it can be used but none of those places seem to actually do anything. There are 8 possible places to use that tool and it requires careful attention to realise when one of them actually does something. after this there are more opportunities to use the tool in other places.

There is slow progress of finding things that move inside but it is not apparent what those movements actually achieve. It is an odd sensation of making progress without truly understanding that you are and only realising it when something else suddenly is possible. after the first few moves inside I hit a brick wall. I could see my target, I could move all sorts of things inside and tantalisingly the brick got closer but then it stopped. I was stuck at this point for several days. I was determined not to use the solution video they link to on their site and kept trying for the best part of a week.

After days of doing the same thing over and over again and then back tracking, I had one of my rare thoughts. What if I...Aha! I had moved a new part of the interior which I had not done before. Did this help? Well sort of except the brick still wasn't reachable. Having got to a new position, I was able to redo some of my previous steps and, of a sudden, I had my gold bar:

That was a real odyssey!
I had a sort of muscle memory of what I thought that I had done to release the gold and attempted to reset the puzzle. Everything went back inside and it looked perfect... or so I thought!

Of course, I usually do these puzzles several times before writing about them and on my second time through, I underwent the initial unlock process and then the second step using the tool. After this the gold bar was removable - something was not right! I looked inside the box and realised that the critical move that had taken me so long to find had not been undone when resetting. I duly went through that move a second time and it still saved too easily. What was I missing?

Continuing to stare deeply into the box, I noticed that the critical move that I had found wasn't a locking or unlocking move. In fact, I could not understand what it did. That is odd because I definitely remembered being absolutely held up before I found that move. I needed to understand what that move had enabled - time to look at one of the removed pieces from the puzzle.


Oooh! That is very clever! After an extra day of fiddling with the puzzle in pieces I realised that this puzzlebox has at least 3 locking mechanisms (it might even have 4!). It is possible to open it without fully realising the extent of these mechanisms but only when working out the full reset do you realise just how much has been put into it. This is a tremendous puzzle made better by working to open and then reset without resorting to the solution videos. Take the time to explore and think© and you will be left with a huge grin on your face.

I might even go as far as to say that the vertigo puzzle is cleverer and more enjoyable than the original aMAZEing puzzlebox. You should definitely check it out. Those are the only puzzles on their site just now but I really hope that they continue to produce more - they both are absolutely fabulous.

Sunday 5 May 2024

A Puzzling Tribute to Christoph Lohe

Very sad news
After my last post (about Christoph Lohe's marvellous design, Neighburr) I received an email from both Laszlo Molnar and Goetz Schwandtner with the very sad news that Christoph had sadly passed away at the end of January this year. It would appear that his family had not had contact with him for a  few days and contacted the police and he was found in his flat. It has been judged to be natural causes. As many of us puzzlers are getting older this sort of thing should not come as a shock but he was only 65 years old. I guess that with what I do for a living, I should not be that surprised.

He was a significant scientist having  received a MSc in Experimental Physics from the Technology University Aachen in 1989 and a PhD in 1993. He worked as a Product manager Ferrofluidics, Nuertingen, Germany, 1996-2000. Project manager Aixtron AG, Aachen, since 2001. As a scientist of note he had been listed as a noteworthy physicist by Marquis Who's Who.

I considered Christoph a friend. We had never met and I was not constantly in touch with him but we exchanged emails every few months to discuss puzzles and his wonderful designs. You can still buy some of them from PuzzleMaster here or print them yourself from Thingiverse here.

His amazing skill as a designer is shown by the fact that I have reviewed 20 of his wonderful designs here on my little section of t'internet. I thought that it would be a nice think to look back at a few of my absolute favourite of his designs. 

Collaboration with the TICMaster, Andrew Crowell
Cyburr and Chamburr from Pelikan
Climburr from Matt Nedeljko               
When the first 2 came out from Pelikan, I wondered whether these two masters of puzzle design had created a completely new type of puzzle and raved about them. They made my top 10(ish) in 2021. The Climburr was felt to be too difficult to produce in wood by Jakub and it was only when Matt Nedeljkogot the courage to attempt them did we get to attempt the final one in the series. Spoiler alert - it was fabulous and made the top ten in the next year.

Locks, Locks, Locks!
Burrlock E
Key Trap
Christoph had a bit of a thing about locks and keys but not in the classical sense. He designed burrs in that shape. The fun thing is that rather than make simple 6 piece burrs where the pieces interact in the 3 axes, Christoph made the burrs with a frame to restrict movement and a key and shackle (and pieces) to lock up in at least 2 of the axes. The one amazing thing about all of Christoph's designs is that they are not terribly high level but are always challenging and fun without being too arduous. I absolutely adored these. The fact that even the late Eric Fuller thought well enough of these to make one of them, does show how good they were.

Framed Burrs
I adore a burr that has just the standard 6 pieces but is constrained in its movement and interaction by the presence of a frame. It makes them so much more interesting.

Neighburr by Brian Menold
Again, we have puzzles that are so good that both Jakub and Brian Menold decided they were worth putting the effort into manufacturing in reasonable numbers. They all had something special and were all great fun without being too difficult.

Unconventional packing puzzles
Whenever I think of this particular type of challenge the names that always spring to mind are the incredible Alexander Magyarics and Osanori Yamamoto. But they were not alone, Christoph also had a fascination with these and designed some amazing puzzles:

Box with 2 balls
Kamelle Box
This is only a few of his great contributions to the puzzling world as well as to my collection but they include my favourites.

Do you have any favourites that you think should be given special mention? If so then please leave a comment below.

Rest in peace Christoph - I was proud to call you a friend.

Sunday 28 April 2024

Always Take Your Photos First!

Neighburr designed by Christophe Lohe made by Brian Menold
Sigh! I have to say it yet again...I'm an eejit! I caused myself a flurry of work at the last moment for this post because I wasn't paying attention. I blame it on the fact that Mrs S is back "ooop North" again and I am home alone with a disturbed cat and a workload that is just too high including having to work the weekend yet again! The disturbed cat is gradually being made better by Prozac - yes, he's on the happy pills and making me look like a coke addict. Every couple of days I can be seen cutting a white powder on a glass coaster with a razor blade! The capsules are 20mg and I need to give him 2.5mg, hence I open capsules, pour out white powder and use a double edged razor to portion it into eighths and into little spoons for each day. The image is perfect, all I need is a rolled up £50 note and I am ready to be arrested! 😱😱😱

Having given my excuses, here is todays puzzle and what I did:

I had a little splurge with Brian Menold's Woodwonders store (I cannot resist the gorgeous woods and his fabulous choices in puzzles) and one of the delights was a caged 6 piece burr designed by Christophe Lohe - the Neighburr. I love burrs in general but I am hopelessly addicted to caged burrs - especially if they are caged 6 piece burrs because the addition of the cage can turn a relatively straight-forward exploration of simple moves into a wonderful interlocking nightmare. It is also made much more fun when the basic grid for the pieces strays away from the standard 2x2xn grid. The Neighburr has burr sticks based on a 2x3x6 grid and ads in the feature that one end is 2x3 and the other 2x2. This allows for much more interesting shapes and interaction. My copy has a wonderfully white Holly frame and the pieces are beautifully coloured Koto (white), Kirandy (yellow) and Redheart. This puzzle is very reminiscent of the Bouquet that I bought and wrote about a few years ago. That one was a fantastic challenge with a level of and this one was described as an even harder level - who could resist? Chris has a special skill with his designs - he always manages to find interesting shapes, interesting moves and just the right difficulty level.

Having received a bunch of puzzles from Brian, I put a few of them in my work bag and started playing whenever I had a brief moment at work. The disturbed cat was interfering with my ability to concentrate at home! There are quite a few moves open to you initially and all but one fails to lead very far which is also part of Chris' special skill. As you work your way in the puzzle does become a little rickety and require a little bit of control of the pieces to allow subsequent moves to happen but no rotations seem to be possible to inadvertently knock you off progress. On several occasions I got lost and couldn't seem to progress or find my way back but always after a little panic found my way to the start. In my usual to and fro process, I managed to gradually work my way in. This puzzle has a wonderful unlocking sequence with a lock mechanism being used, moving a piece before re-locking and then carrying on with another piece. The sequence of Aha! moments is wonderful.

I got to a point where there were a good few pieces sticking right out but not actually free. Everything could be seen inside but I just couldn't find the next move. At this point it was time to extubate a patient and I put it down for a couple of hours. The break did me good, on picking it back up, I could see the next moves straight away and I removed my first piece. Time to back-track. Except...I tilted the puzzle to align the removed piece and a precariously hanging second piece fell out on to my anaesthetic machine. Aargh! I bent down to pick it up hoping that I remembered the correct orientation and tilted it again whereupon 2 more pieces fell out - Double aargh! At this point with my surgeon laughing at me, there was no hope that I would be able to assemble it again without Burrtools. To be honest, I don't really mind that because making the BT file is all part of the fun.

Interesting pieces
I took my photo this morning of the pieces and looked through my photo database and to my horror realised that I had dismantled this one without taking my initial photo. I needed to make my BT file and reassemble it before I could blog about it. As I said above - I'm an eejit! When I went to BT to enter the pieces I suddenly found that this was not an easy one to enter the starting shape without having an assembled puzzle, or at least a photo to use as a reference. Luckily Brian has photos in his archive gallery but even then, this one is a bit awkward to enter into BT without having a puzzle to rotate around and look at from all angles. My initial attempts produced a puzzle with no solutions but after a bit of fiddling with my pieces and pushing them into the frame and rotating it around, I managed it and reassembled the puzzle.

This is absolutely terrific as I have come to expect from Chris. It even has some repeatability due to the lovely locking mechanism. 

Now, it's time to clean the litter tray (yuk!) and spend some time with the disturbed cat whilst playing with some of the others I received from Brian:

Uroborus by Girish Sharma
Persistence of memory by Alexander Magyarics

Yep! A series of wonderful Ribs designed by Andrew Crowell. These are 6 piece board burrs that need to be assembled with rotations. I hope that I have more luck with these than with the RIPley board burr which I haven't managed to assemble after quite a few years!

Sunday 21 April 2024

So Uplifting That It Gave Me a Fright!

Uplift by Dee Dixon
This might be a bit less coherent than normal - I am a bit sick and had to work whilst ill. My thought processes are even slower than usual.

It would appear that Dedwood crafts has become one of my new obsessions. I missed out on the early productions because they were boxes and I "don't collect boxes" but later there were puzzles with interesting shapes and even robot faces which spoke to me. Those voices never seem to go away and my chats with my psychiatrist friend reassures me that they are "normal". Admittedly, when we chat, I am armed with needles and syringes and he is armed with an ECT machine but I am sure that he is not frightened of what I might do with my weapons and is telling me the truth.

Well, several months ago those voices told me to buy the Uplift puzzle from Dee as soon as it came out. It's just a bit embarrassing to be writing about it now when it arrived at the beginning of October last year. My excuse?'s quite difficult! At least for me it was. This has literally been on my evening armchair alongside me to be played with ever since then. I attempted to solve it every evening for several months without getting anywhere. Lord! I am rubbish at puzzles!

This fabulous creation is simply gorgeous...and huge! It is made from quarter-sawn Sapele (with an incredible lustre and grain with a layer of nicely coloured Cherry. The dimensions are 6.75" diameter and 2.25" thick. The aim is to open it up and find the hidden compartment (and a surprise). The central area of the top section can rotate freely around in circles and nothing seems to happen when you do spin it. There is a button on the side where a section of the Sapele can be pushed in a few mm. The obvious thing is to push the button whilst spinning the centre around and of course, it does absolutely nothing. That is disappointing and pleasing at the same time. After a little while trying the same thing over and over again, it occurred to me that I hadn't tried to just lift the lid off. That little wedge on top just lifts off having been held on by a magnet. Inside is the cavity - it's the same size as the wedge/lid and it's empty. It is quite clear that there is a whole lot more space inside for another cavity and that must be what we are looking for. 

Interestingly, the centre section can still spin around with the lid off and the whole interior spins with it. This is a cue to start playing with the button again whilst spinning the interior/centre. I got bored of this after a week when nothing new happened and was left scratching my head wondering what else I could do. Playing around with the magnet on the lid, did reveal that there are more magnets inside but I was completely unable to trigger any changes with it. Now what? It was clear that the layers that are visible on the outside are also maintained on the inside spinning part of the puzzle. There seems to be a little movement between the layers but no change in position, orientation or push of the button (with or without magnet placement) would change anything. Desperation began to set in around February after about 4 months and Mrs S sniggering at me. I was thinking about submerging it in gin when a slip whilst holding it caused me to almost drop it. The new hand position I found myself in revealed something special for me. I wish that I could say that I worked it out through sheer bwain power but alas no!

After my little accident, I had more puzzle to look at! There were cavities to explore and more movements that didn't lead anywhere until a poke of a finger got me one of Dee's little tools (those of you who have played with other Dedwood puzzles will have seen these acrylic rods. I was making progress! With the appropriate tool poised, I found a place to use it did nothing. Nothing at all! Yet again, I was left to try different orientations and combinations of moves with or without button presses whilst standing on my head. Needless to say, I looked very silly and totally failed to continue in my progress. Sigh!

After another few weeks of swearing at an inanimate object, I noticed a rather subtle feature that had eluded me up to this point. Aha! What if I do this? Aha! again. After five months I had finally found the hidden cavity and my lovely little surprise. I have not shown Mrs S that surprise for fear that she will beat me over the head with the puzzle - she really doesn't like what was inside the Uplift. Don't look if you don't want to see what is waiting inside:

All in all, this was fabulous value for money for me. There weren't very many steps involved but I found 2 of them almost impossible to find and a real diversion that had me fooled for longer than I am happy about! I cannot wait for the next release from Dee. I have still not managed to reset the Wardrobe to put it away which is upsetting Mrs S a lot!

Sunday 14 April 2024

Spring With Pelikan (part 2)

Pelikan spring release - coming 17th April 2pm CEST
I do apologise to all of you and especially to Jakub and team about spreading the reviews over 2 weekends! I was just too busy to work on all 6 in one week and have any chance at all of solving and understanding them. It did not change Jakub's intended release date but has inconvenienced him by being late getting my reviews for him.

Today I finish off the final 3 and they are something else in terms of complexity and difficulty. They are also very beautiful!

Euklid for Bernhard

Euklid for Bernhard - simply gorgeous
This fabulous addition to the Euklid series (I have still not managed to solve the Euklid for Nick!) is a tribute from Dr Volker Latussek to the amazing puzzler, collector and friend, Bernhard Schweitzer. Volker wrote the following about the design of this puzzle:
"When Bernhard Schweitzer told me that he was winding up his puzzle collection, I remembered our first meeting at Bernhard's house. Back then, I had designed my first puzzle, which I wanted to enter in the Nob Yoshigahara International Puzzle Design Competition in 2011 after doing some web research. I didn't know that the IPP was being held in Berlin at the time, and Bernhard hadn't told me, but he encouraged me to send in my two copies. WAY is still the most important puzzle for me today. I called it the Puzzle Construction Set because it could be used to formulate very different challenges. I didn't win a prize at the IPP, but the puzzle was published by Popular Playthings under the name ROUNDABOUT. Unfortunately somewhat modified. But back to Bernhard.

Bernhard showed me his collection at the time. I had never seen anything like it before. He told me stories and anecdotes about some of the puzzles from the community, a world that was completely unknown to me. I still remember the HASELGROVE BOX by Jenifer Haselgrove: it was probably my personal key experience that gave me time to think about what I should, and hopefully will, come up with over the years.

With EUKLID FOR BERNHARD, I want to say thank you for the encouraging comments on my ideas and the time we spent together at the puzzle parties at Bernhard's home in Glattbach.

It has become a EUKLID with an addition. When the six blocks are packed into the box, give the puzzle a good shake and then open your ears for a short walk with Jenifer Haselgrove to empty the box again.

Thank you, Bernhard."
Volker tends to stipulate not only the delivery packing as well as the dimensions of his puzzles but also the wood choices as well. His decision this time was absolutely inspired as it is an absolutely gorgeous combination of Purpleheart for the box and Downy Birch for the pieces. Interestingly the pieces are all very similar in size - 21mm deep with 3 pieces 47x25mm, 1 of 47x47mm, another 47x30mm and the other 52x25mm. There are only a few combinations of sizes that will fit within the walls of the box.

Now I had not read this tribute when I received and worked on my copy of this puzzle and had no idea that it might have a common feature with the Hazelgrove box. That would not have helped me much because I don't own and have never played with one of those famous puzzles. I set to in the usual way that I do with this sort of puzzle - I look at all the pieces and try to see which dimensions are combinable inside the confines of the box. 

I found several ways that all the pieces would fit inside but the restricted opening meant that I was unable to achieve the vast majority of them. I played for a couple of days with it and failed every time until I had a sudden Aha! moment and all 6 pieces were inside. I was very pleased with myself and took my obligatory photo. Only when I received the introduction from Volker did I begin to question myself. My solution did not have any fancy locking mechanism and seemed a lot simpler than most of the previous Euklid puzzles. I looked at the solution that was provided by Jakub and my solution was different. You have 2 challenges here - an easier one (mine) and a REALLY fancy one that was the one intended by the designer. The intended solution requires thought and dexterity - it is very impressive (rather like Bernhard!)


Stefka-Flop by Dr Volker Latussek

This is another (and to me, unexpected) entry in the Flop series of packing puzzles. I have said on several occasions that this Flop series of puzzles by Dr Latussek are an incredible feat of puzzle design and when coupled with Pelikan's magnificent craftsmanship and wood choices, they are some of the highlights of my packing puzzle collection. This one was stipulated to be made with a glorious Purpleheart box and Acacia soma pieces. Volker wrote the following about this puzzle:
"Since 1987, the 1996 Bulgarian Olympic champion, Stefka Kostadinova, has held women's high jump the world record with a height of 2.09 meters - providing a fitting conclusion to my little series of packaging puzzles with the STEFKA-FLOP. As previously announced, LITTLE TETRA-FLOP will come as an encore, however, I would still like to pursue the principle further and use the term FLOP here and there, e.g. perhaps for a COFFIN-FLOP.

STEFKA-FLOP with seven pieces follows DICK-FLOP with its six Tetra cubes and FRITZ-FLOP with only five pieces. The boxes are completely filled, and the opening is so large that some pieces have to tumble out of the box. STEFKA-FLOP has a very unusual, and very beautiful, new turning movement in before a flop.

Oskar van Deventer has previously published STEFKA-FLOP under the name UNFOLDED-FLOP. The seven pieces corresponds to the SOMA CUBE with an unfolded v (I). That was a consolation, because at first, I couldn't find a SOMA-FLOP with all seven pieces of the SOMA-CUBE."
They are not just packing puzzles with restricted openings...they are also variants on the Soma cube, using entirely Soma shaped (or a subset of them) and also are TICs as well with the very important requirement that a few of the pieces cannot fit through the entryway without rotation and then often need rotation into place inside the box which adds a special requirement for the correct order.

The Soma cube has 240 3x3x3 assemblies and I am still ashamed to say that it takes me quite some time to find even one of them! And that is without the restriction of doing it within a box and also without further hindrance of restricted entry and rotational moves! This is going to be a hell of a challenge for any puzzler. I spent 3 days attempting this amazing feat of puzzle design and had to peek at the solution to find the last 3 pieces to be inserted. Having restricted the number of pieces I needed to experiment with, I finally managed to find a bunch of cubes that assembled that way and then still could not get them into the box. With a deadline looming I looked at the cube assembly that was required and spent another happy hour or so working out how to put it inside the box. Even with a huge clue, it is still a decent challenge. I am sure that the rest of you with more time to play will manage this without help.

This is a fantastic addition to the series and I cannot wait to see the others that Volker intends (I am sort of hoping they won't be quite so tough).


SISU by Benjamin Heidt
The word Sisu is a Finnish word - it is not easily translatable into English but it roughly means:
Strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. 
Does this mean that it requires enormous strength of will to solve it? I also noticed that there is a hole in the box which goes all the way through and remembered the scene from the recent movie where the hero stabbed a Nazi in the head through and through with his knife. I've added the image below - it's not suitable for people of a nervous disposition or children - You have been warned! Don't look unless you really want to know what the Finnish war hero, Sisu did.

It has been beautifully made by Jakub and team from Mahogany, Ash, some magnets and a steel ball bearing. It is a restricted entry packing puzzle as we have seen many times before and also has pieces that are based on the Soma puzzle. Making this one very different from the others we have seen before, the pieces have some beautifully drilled holes in them. Some of these holes are blind ending and others are part of a channel through the piece and out another hole. The aim seems to be to assemble the pieces in the box and close the lid on top and then to roll the ball bearing through the maze that has been created until it comes out the other side. This means that the assembly requires the formation of a maze that goes entirely through the puzzle. This significantly adds to the challenge!

Now this is an interesting puzzle to write about! I have so far not come even close to solving the full thing. Just before starting to write this review, I have finally managed to assemble the pieces into a cube shape - I am ashamed to say that this has taken me a whole day! I then went to BT and discovered that there is only one possible assembly for these pieces into a cube. I will then need to see how to get them into the box through the H-shaped entry - I assume that only one of the 6 possible orientations of the cube will be possible to assemble in the box and probably not without some fancy sequential moves. The pieces that have rotational symmetry will need to be oriented correctly to form the complete maze - whilst the piece shape might be symmetrical, the holes and channels are not. After this I will have a blind maze to negotiate with the ball bearing.

I love a puzzle with multiple challenges and this will require some significant "Sisu" to achieve it! Despite not having completed the challenge yet, I know that this will be an essential purchase for you all. Hopefully Mrs S will not get upset with my muttering and stab me through the head later tonight!

Thank you Jakub, Jaroslav and team for the wonderful challenges and also to the amazing designers - you are all brilliant. 

Get there at 2pm CEST on 17th April to get your pick of these puzzles.