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!
I was very careful to avoid reading the spoilers at the end of Gabriel's post and certainly didn't click on the  links to the pictures of the solution. The same day that I read that post I contacted David Litwin, the designer to see whether he had any available. I was in luck! He had just one left - the one above has a Walnut frame and tiny slice, Maple large slices and cherry small slices (he originally made many different combinations.

This puzzle was David's entry into the IPP31 last year - the design was a collaboration between David and Bram Cohen (quite a formidable design combination!!) The story of how it came to be is best described by the designer - he posted it on the Twisty puzzles forum here.

It comes in a lovely tin reminiscent of my childhood coloured pencil boxes. The small slices and all but one of the large slices are already placed quite loosely in the frame. Sitting on top of the frame is a piece of cardboard with exactly sized holes cut out for the remaining large slice and the teeny one! As initial impressions go from opening a puzzle, I must say it just doesn't get any better than this!! The challenge here is 2-fold - first of all place the last large slice in the box and for that nice extra frisson of difficulty place all the pieces in the box including the teeny slice/crumb!

I actually took this to work and let a few people have a play before I did (very restrained!). Everyone who saw it thought that it was absolutely stunningly beautiful and couldn't resist having a try (I insisted that if they manage it they NOT show me the solution). Over the first few days quite a lot of people had a try and no-one solved it. Eventually I couldn't resist it any longer and I just had to have a play after work. All the usual random things don't work with this one. It arrives with the pieces in rows and there seems to be lots of space in there but no matter how you rearrange the rows you can never seem to make enough space in one place for the final piece. You really need to pay attention to the shape of the pieces and how they interact with each other. Once you do this, I found the first solution quite straightforward. With this done there still appears to be plenty of wiggle room but despite this the final challenge of placing the crumb eluded me. Eventually I had to give up rearranging bits and start from scratch to discover where the crumb could fit. After about half an hour a little (rather dim) light went on in my head and bang(!) it was completed. The first challenge had taken 10 minutes and the second another half an hour. Even when all the pieces are placed in the frame there still seems to be a little wiggle room. I have not posted any pictures of the solution or spoilers - if you really want one then Contact me and I will send you a photo of the solution. This is the first packing puzzle I have done that I have actually solved by deduction rather than exhaustion - I loved it!!!

As far as I know David has completely sold out of these but may be thinking of making some more if the demand is great enough. If you see one for sale at auction just buy it - you won't be disappointed. Either way visit his website to see some absolutely stunning twisty puzzles (he was the original designer of the kilominx - a 2x2 version of the megaminx which has now been mass produced by Mefferts as that Flowerminx. He has also made and some beautiful acrylic sequential sliding movement puzzles. They aren't cheap but the workmanship is stupendous. David is one of the administrators and a major contributor on the Twisty puzzles forums.


  1. Hi Kevin,
    I'm glad you also liked the Breadbox. It's one of my favorite packing puzzles. The solving process was completely opposite for me. It was more than an hour to figure out the main solution and about 10 more minutes to solve the second part. I guess it varies from puzzler to puzzler.

    Cheers ;-)

    1. There are many puzzles you have reviewed on your blog that I would really struggle to do!

  2. I could see myself messing with this during lunch. Great looking puzzle!!!

    1. You will find your colleagues desperate to take it off you and do it themselves! I know my colleagues all loved playing with it - they still ask me to bring it in for them to play with.