Thursday 24 November 2011

XS Headstress Spheroid

Next in my consignment from Puzzle Master is the XS Headstress Spheroid puzzle. I have said many times that I love wooden puzzles and have tried to get a few more that don't break the bank. This one is very reasonable at $25. I chose this because it was different from the usual cubes and other cartesian shapes. It is made by Family games as part of a series.

It arrives in a really beautiful bit of packaging - a big box with a plastic insert holding it all in place - very inviting! The puzzle is a 13cm diameter sphere made from 6 wooden pieces which are somehow interlocked. I don't know what wood it is made from but it is looks great - unfortunately it is not as superbly made as others in my collection but it is mass manufactured and fairly inexpensive. It is all pretty sturdy with no play in the pieces whatsoever. The instructions are simply to take it apart and put it back together again. It has been rated as 8 (Demanding) in the 5 to 10 scale by Puzzle Master. I think it is probably a bit easier than this - maybe a 6 or 7. No solution is supplied and if you want one then download it from here.

This one is great in your hands because of the sheer size of it and the fact that it is made from "hoops" of wood. Looking at it closely you can see how it is held together and that one of the pieces is different from the others so you obviously start trying to move this. Soon there is a discovery moment followed very very quickly by an "oh no!" moment. Even my long suffering wife looked up in alarm as I blurted this when the whole thing just fell to pieces on the kitchen work surface before I really had a chance to take note of how it was held together!

6 near identical pieces
At this point it becomes clear that the real puzzle is the reassembly. I had to break for dinner at this point - I know that I am stupid for starting a puzzle just before eating but I had itchy hands and couldn't resist it!

After dinner and washing up I settled down to put it back together. It quickly became apparent that this as also a bit of a dexterity puzzle - I needed another hand to hold the pieces in place whilst picking up more. I also discovered that the pieces are subtly different and not all are interchangeable (I suspect this is due to manufacturing anomalies rather than by design) and this made it quite a bit more awkward to put back together. I seemed to have everything ready to insert the key piece and found that things were too tight to let it go in; I had to try assembling the pieces in a different order before it would all fit.

Eventually I had it all reassembled and back on the shelf - I think it took about 10 - 15 minutes to finish it. To be honest, I am a bit frightened of this one and haven't tried again because it is so fiddly to hold all the pieces correctly. Certainly worth adding to your collection if you want something large and attractive but don't expect a major puzzling challenge.

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