Thursday 29 March 2012

Packing puzzle heaven - The Breadbox Puzzle

Breadbox from David Litwin
So over the last few weeks I have regaled you with tales of woe! Complaining about how terrible I am at packing puzzles and am determined to try and improve my skills. At the end of January, I saw this post from Gabriel describing this particular puzzle and how much he enjoyed the challenge but still found it solvable (although he is much better than me at packing puzzles). As soon as I saw the pictures I knew I had to have one for myself.
  • It is made of wood - check!
  • It is beautifully made - check!
  • It looks absolutely gorgeous - check!
  • It's a packing puzzle and it might be do-able by a human (or me!) - check!
  • I therefore had to have one!

Sunday 25 March 2012

Hanayama Cast Star

Cast Star
The Cast star from Hanayama came from Puzzle Master as part of my last large consignment of metal puzzles. I chose this one because it was a fairly simple one and should have provided some light relief to my rather overloaded brain (curtesy of the ever more complex twisty puzzles I am also working through).

It comes in the usual immaculate Hanayama black packaging with only the instructions to separate the two pieces. This particular design dates back to the 19th century and has been updated by the great Japanese puzzle designer, Akio Kamei, for today's puzzlers. It is nicely made and is 4.6 x 7.8 x 3.9 cm in size. Difficulty is rated as 3 out of the Hanayama 6 point scale or 7 (Challenging) on the Puzzle Master 5-10 point scale - I think that this is about right.

Brian has reviewed it on his blog here. He took about 15-20 minutes to solve it and was slightly disappointed when he did not get that Aha! moment we are all after. Having said that - it must be moderately tough for Brian to take that long at anything - I have said before that he is a puzzle solving machine!! However, the reviews on the Puzzle Master product page were, by and large, pretty positive. I thought I should give it a try.

As usual with these puzzles there is no solution provided but it can be downloaded from here if you feel you need it. Judging from my experience handing it to novice puzzlers, it is unlikely you will need it.

Thursday 22 March 2012

When is a cube not a cube?

..... When it's a tetrahedron...

Master pyramorphix
..... Or when it's a supercube...

4x4x4 Supercube
5x5x5 Supercube
"He's finally gone mad!" I can hear you say, "what on earth is he talking about?"

No, I haven't lost my mind! Well no more than I usually have - although these puzzles really messed with my head. They looked so innocent and I thought they would not be too hard to solve and would look particularly pretty on my shelf. Certainly the latter is true - they are truly lovely to behold but I have not found them to be in the least bit easy to solve.

I bought the Master pyramorphix from puzl where they call it a Super pyraminx, a pillowed version is also available from them called the Mastermorphix. Both are also available from Mefferts and the HKNow store. So why am I talking such rubbish and talking about cubes in the same breath as this obviously tetrahedral (pyramidal) puzzle? Because functionally it is a cube!

Sunday 18 March 2012

The Destroyer

The Destroyer
Well, I'm sure that with a title like that you were expecting something a little more intimidating than this! The Destroyer came in my last (rather large) batch from Puzzle Master. It is a wire and string puzzle and so automatically I was frightened of it! BUT look at the lengths of the pieces of string - it can't be that bad can it? BUT there are 2 pieces of string so maybe it can be!

It arrived in the usual plastic clamshell package with very little written apart from a pair of diagrams showing that the aim is to remove the red loop with the ball on it. The black string and large ring stay attached to the figure 4! In terms of size - it is 9.1 cm square and 2.9 cm deep, made of good quality anodised wire and the string ends have been heat fused - so they won't pull apart. Puzzle Master rate it as 9 in their 5 to 10 range (Gruelling). I personally would put it at 8 but no-one else I have given it to has managed to solve it so I bow to their superior knowledge.

Gabriel reviewed it on his blog in January 2011 and had little trouble with it but did think he may have gotten lucky. No solution is provided - most experienced puzzlers won't need one but if you do then download it from here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Packing puzzle torture stage 2

After my last post about packing puzzles you would have thought that I'd have had enough!
"Never!" I shout, "I can never have too much torture!Blush!!!

Unhappy Childhood STC#41
Pictured above is another Stewart Coffin design - this is number 41 in his numbering system. My good puzzle friend, craftsman and blogger Neil has spent the last year learning to make wooden puzzles and I have avidly watched his stories of progress and discovery on his blog. In fact I am quite envious of his skills - I do plan to set up a workshop in my garage but at present it is so full of "stuff/crap" that it is impossible. Neil has given a full description of how he made this puzzle here - read it if you have any aspirations at being a puzzle maker - it is truly awe-inspiring!

When I heard that Neil was making one of these, I immediately contacted him to ask him to save one for me. Not long after Christmas 2011 he emailed to let me know that they were ready and after waiting a while to try and get over the Christmas spend, I bought it from him. All the rest sold very quickly on the Puzzle Paradise auction site. My puzzle arrived in mid January and having opted (stupidly) to receive it entirely unsolved, I looked at it with great trepidation and put it on my shelf for later. Every time I thought about doing it, my packing puzzle dread built up and I shied away! Finally, a week ago, at the time I played with the Make room puzzle, I decided to give it a shot. I was also rather frightened because another puzzle pal, Allard, who is a puzzle solving savant has tried to do this and singularly failed! Allard's review is here. Scott Peterson has also made a version previously and you can see pictures of his one at the Puzzle Place wiki.

For other reviews of this puzzle check out Allard's blog - he really loved it. Roxanne did a video review of it on her YouTube channel.

Sunday 11 March 2012

The Whale

The Whale
Yet another wire puzzle from Puzzle Master! When I struggled with the Yak puzzle, I surfed about to see what other bloggers had thought of it and I noticed in the comments on Brian Pletcher's post about "his nemesis" that there was a suggestion from another of my puzzle friends, George Bell (also a truly professional puzzler compared to me!) - he also seems to struggle with wire puzzles and thought that it would be a really good idea for Brian to practice on another of Dick Hess' designs, The Whale.

It comes in the usual Puzzle Master plastic clamshell packaging with the simple instructions to separate the rings. It is 8.5 x 7cm in size and really nicely made of shiny wire (again, no sign of the residue I found on my first puzzle in the batch), the gold diamond-shaped pieces are also nice with no tarnish showing. Just like the Yak puzzle this is a variant on the Boromean Rings. In fact it looks so similar to the Yak that I thought it would be quite easy for me to solve - Oh how wrong I was!!! It has been rated by Puzzle Master as level 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) and I reckon this is about right! No solution is in the package, but if you need one then it can be downloaded from here.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Packing puzzle torture stage 1

I keep torturing myself with packing puzzles! Despite getting quite a bit of practice, I don't seem to be getting any better at them! I am not bad at the 2D versions - I have one lovely one to review coming later. But when it comes to the 3D puzzles, I absolutely love the look of them but am truly hopeless. I would just love it if someone could tell me an approach to go about them that wasn't just a brute force 'try every possible combination until you are successful or go bald/gray' approach! So if you do have a method that wasn't madness then please just contact me.

Make Room STC#127-A
I had been surfing around on Mr Puzzle and drooling over all the toys I wanted when I saw this in the craftsman section of Brian & Sue Young's store (Mr Puzzle). It is available in standard and craftsman versions and, for my collection, I preferred the look of all the fancy woods. In my increasingly desperate attempts to improve my packing skills I decided that I should get one of these to practice on. Unfortunately it remained out of stock for months and months! I had almost given up hope when a news post on their site said that Brian would be making more of these again and this would be the last time he will ever make them. Of course, I had to order one immediately and it arrived last week. The Make room puzzle was designed by Stewart Coffin in 1997 and numbered as 127 in his list of puzzles. Jerry Slocum presented it at IPP21 with 14 solutions and 9 pieces to fit in the box. Brian has slightly altered it to make it more challenging!

Saturday 3 March 2012


Time for another wire disentanglement puzzle from Puzzle Master. This is another one from my recent batch - I chose this because I wanted to give my aching brain a bit of a rest and also because it is a string puzzle which is not rated too hard (I have really become quite frightened of the string ones after my last encounter with them!! This one is called the Scorpion (presumably because of the large flexible tail and the sting in it).

It is packaged well in Puzzle Master's usual plastic clamshell and has a card with it telling you that the aim is to remove the ring. This one is really nicely made and unlike the other one I tried, it had no white residue on it - in fact it sings nicely to the magpie in me (I love shiny things!). Dimensions of the main part  are 8.9 x 5.7 cm. This one jingles less than the others, which should please the present Mrs S! The difficulty is rated as a mere level 8 (Demanding) out of their scale of 5 to 10. I personally found it much easier than this but others I have given it to have all struggled so maybe it is correct. No solution is given and I don't think that you will need one. But if, like me, you want everything to do with your puzzles then you can download a pdf solution here.