Thursday 24 May 2012

Popplock T3

Popplock T3
A puzzle friend of mine has decided to get more seriously into photography which is an expensive hobby (probably more expensive than puzzles - although my wife and Allard might argue against that). So to finance the purchase of a rather fancy new camera he decided to sell off a few of his puzzles. When word went out, I just happened to be sitting at my computer and immediately responded when I saw there was one puzzle I had missed out on previously available (Eric Fuller’s Galaxy) and of special interest to me was the Popplock T3.

Back in December I described my adventure with Rainer Popp’s most recent invention - the Popplock T6  and I really loved the puzzle solve (it was very tough) and the shear quality of the manufacture. The T6 had been specifically produced by Rainer to answer the general clamour for a slightly cheaper puzzle. This had just wetted my appetite for something else from him but I had struggled to find anything at a reasonable price and had rapidly been outbid at the various auction sites! I understand that a T2 is still available from Sloyd for nearly €200 but this would use all of my puzzle budget in one go! I was really delighted to be able to get this one without selling an organ!

It would appear that just about everyone has reviewed this before me! Jeff Chiou, Brian, Oli, Allard and most recently Jerry. All of whom really enjoyed this lock and most rated it as in their top 2 puzzle locks. I just HAD to try one!

Sunday 20 May 2012

Hanayama Cast Chain

Cast Chain
Next up for review today is yet another of the seemingly never-ending series of Hanayama cast metal puzzles. This company seems to be so prolific - I must have reviewed dozens of their puzzles and I never seem to get bored with them and keep coming back to my older ones to repeat the solution. They are always interesting and always beautifully made. This is the Cast Chain. As with the rest, it came from Puzzle Master who sell the whole range - this one costs a very reasonable $13.

I had left this one until last (amongst my last delivery) because of the difficulty rating and because the last time I had a play with a friend's copy, I managed to completely confuse myself and gave it up after making only one move (which may well have been a wrong one!) It is rated as a level 10 (mind boggling) by Puzzle Master or the top level 6 out of 6 by Hanayama themselves. It was designed (yet again) by the great Oskar van Deventer and won an honourable mention at the IPP 22 in Antwerp (very fitting since Oskar comes from Holland). It comes packaged in the usual nice Hanayama black box, its' dimensions are 7.6 x 3.9 x 3.9 cm. Made of cast tin (galvanized with gold and copper), it has a nice weight and looks like a cast iron chain that you might find on a ship. The individual pieces are numbered 1 to 3 and look identical. Closer inspection reveals that each of them is very slightly different from the others and these differences are obviously key in the solution. The other nice feature of this puzzle is that it can be solved in three different ways depending on which piece is the centre of the trio. Talking of solutions - if you need it (you might!) then it can be downloaded from here.

Other bloggers have reviewed it before: The great Brian Pletcher reviewed it and really enjoyed it - he initially solved it using some force and when he looked up the solution realised that he had gotten it wrong - As always DON'T USE FORCE! This puzzle is smooth as butter. He says:
"the mechanics are interesting and the solution is simple and logical but not trivial to discover"
It was also reviewed by Oli on his blog and I am sure he will be mortified to be reminded that he needed to look up the solution (I am sure that now he is so much further along in his puzzling career then he would have no problem with it now!) Much more recently Moises also reviewed it and had to resort to dreaming techniques to solve it! The feedback reviews on the Puzzle Master product page are almost all 4 and 5 star reviews.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Let's take it up a gear!

During my last twisty puzzle review I mentioned that there was more to talk about when it comes to cubes and here I am again with yet another of those damn twisty puzzle reviews! When Ernö Rubik first developed his (and our) beloved cube puzzle he would not have believed how much variety there was to come!

Gear cube
The gear cube caught my eye whilst surfing around some of the twisty puzzle YouTube nuts. I saw an unboxing from Kenneth (aka RedKB) and thought that this was a totally awesome (excuse the Americanism!) idea. It was designed originally by Oskar van Deventer (I have got to meet this man someday) who called it the caution cube after getting his finger caught in the gears (the original Shapeways version had very sharp edges!)

Other bloggers have also reviewed it - Gabriel was first with his review, followed by Brian and much more recently Oli has just started his trek into twisty madness and reviewed it here (He is nowhere near as crazy about the twisties as I have become!!)

This puzzle looks horrifically complex because when you turn one face the centre face turns with it. For every half turn of a face the centre turns 90º. At the same time as doing this the middle cubies rotate around so it very quickly gets to look rather scrambled and sort of shape-shifted. To see this amazing cube in action have a look at this video by by larfrtc:

Sunday 13 May 2012

Butterfly's Revenge

Butterfly's Revenge
Hey guys! Time again for another review of one of my Puzzle Master deliveries. Yes, as you all know by now, I just lurve wire puzzles and I have been progressing on to more and more difficult ones over the last few months. Actually - I lurve almost all puzzle's!!

This one is the Butterfly’s Revenge made specially for Puzzle Master and it is at the top end of the difficulty range - they have rated it as Level 10 out of 10 (Mind Boggling) and I must agree with that. It is packaged in the standard clamshell packaging and has a diagram pointing to the shuttle piece intimating that this should be removed. It consists of rather a large number of rings and wires as well as a ball and a very large button - all of which must have a purpose. There is no need to be frightened of the string aspect of this because the string is quite short and coupled with the ball, button and rings, there is limited capacity for tangling it into an unsolvable knot. It is nicely anodised and the brass rings are good quality. Dimensions are 15.9 x 10.5 cm when opened out. No solution is provided and it is quite possible you may need it - even if you are an experienced puzzler, this one WILL give you some difficulty! The solution can be downloaded from here.

Monday 7 May 2012

More twisty madness!!

No reviews today but I just had to tell someone who might appreciate it!! (Mrs S just looks at me and shakes her head - she doesn't appreciate the magic of these!!)

Postie arrived on Saturday with some new twisties - it had taken quite a while for them to arrive from Calvin's HKnowstore in Hong Kong.

Toys, toys and more toys!
This should keep me occupied for some time!
We have here:
  • The 4x4x6 Cuboid (back left) designed by the amazing TomZ and mass produced by Calvin himself.
  • The 5x5x4 Cuboid (back right) designed and mass produced by Ayi.
  • A crazy 3x3x3 planet - this is a series of 8 with different ones having differently fixed or mobile centre circles on different faces. I bought 2 with which I can make any of the whole series. Hence I have 8 puzzles for the price of 2 (The one I have constructed in the photo is the easiest - the Jupiter).
  • The front 2 are the Witeden 3x3x7 crazy cubes types I & II. They are cubic cuboids which can be used as a 3x3 cube but have top and bottom circles. Type I has non-rotating top circles and type II has a rotating top and non-rotating bottom circle.
I have only had a play with the 4x4x6 so far - it scrambles like this:

OMG - shapeshifts in all directions
Such fun!!!

If you have any suggestions for anything else along these lines which you consider essential then please let me know or post a comment below for everyone to see.

Sunday 6 May 2012

When is a puzzle truly solved? - Gordian Knot

Gordian Knot
When is a puzzle truly solved?

Many of my friends who are not hardcore puzzlers often are delighted when I give them a new puzzle to play with especially when the premise seems easy (like wire puzzles) or the puzzle seems really pretty. They wander off muttering to themselves that it can’t be that difficult and jingle away. Many of them come back with broad grins on their faces saying:
I’ve solved it, and it only took me x minutes! See I must be a master puzzler like you!”.

They then proceed to hand me the pieces of the puzzle and look upset when I say that they haven’t solved it yet - they now have to put it back to the initial state and then do it again.

But I solved it”, they say, “you can see that!!

So when is a puzzle truly solved?

My response to them all has been the same thing for over a year of torturing now:
"A puzzle is only truly solved when you can open/disassemble it and then put it back together again… And then, you have to do it a second time quicker than the first! This proves to me that the puzzle hasn’t just been opened by blind luck - it has been understood and truly mastered!"
(My exception to this would be jigsaws, where the time limit can be physically finding the pieces and dexterity puzzles where luck does play a significant part - but I NEVER play with those sorts of puzzle).

So what has this got to do with the Gordian Knot wire puzzle from Puzzle Master? I think that this puzzle may well be the first puzzle that is the exception to the rule. Here I will discuss this and decide whether this is a bad thing or not.

Continuing my recent batch of wire puzzles from the Puzzle Master collection, I couldn’t resist one that looked rather like a “Cat’s cradle” - this is the Gordian Knot (not to be confused with the plastic board burr puzzle holding the same name). I chose it because it looked oddly complex yet, having just a single loop of string also looked weirdly simple. BUT, note that this has been rated as a 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) on the Puzzle Master difficulty scale and hence must be a real challenge! Plus it was designed by Alan Stein himself, one of the brothers who own and run Puzzle Master and my previous experience of one of his puzzles was astonishingly good.

This puzzle arrived in the usual clamshell box with the simple instructions just to remove the loop of string. It consists of 4 loops of wire and a single strand connected together into a complex mesh with a string looped through the centre - it is 15 x 6.6 x 2.5cm in size and is fairly pricey for a wire puzzle at $20. Quality is great and the loop of string has been heat sealed and doesn’t fray with use. No solution is provided and you may well need one - if so it can be downloaded from here. More about that later!

Tuesday 1 May 2012


Continuing with my batch of Puzzle Master, puzzles, it’s time again for a review of another Puzzle Master wire puzzle. This time I am reviewing the Brontosaurus puzzle, another one from the rather prolific (should I say horrific?) Dick Hess. This is very similar in design to the other puzzles from him. I have reviewed the Yak puzzle here and the Whale here - if you look closely at the general shape, you will see that the underlying structure and shape is almost identical. The basic concept of freeing up the Borromeans rings is really much the same as in the other two puzzles.

Like the others, this comes in the standard Puzzle Master clamshell packaging with the instructions to just remove the ring and shuttle. It is supposed to look like a dinosaur but I do struggle to see the likeness. Puzzle Master have rated this as a 10 out of 10 (Mind Boggling) on their difficulty scale and despite having done the others, I have to agree with them. This is one tough puzzle!!! No solution is provided but if you need one (and you might!!) then it can be downloaded from here.