Sunday 16 November 2014

Lucky Clover

Lucky Clover
Looking at the picture above you could be forgiven for thinking that it is another Hanayama puzzle - but it is not! This is the last puzzle I have left from my previous Puzzle Master delivery and luckily, as I have just published in my New additions page, I have this very week had another consignment delivered to regale you with.

This one had interested me for some time because of the extreme difficulty level - 10 (Mind Boggling) on Puzzle Master's odd 5-10 scale and also because it is nice and shiny for the magpie in me. The designer is the great master Oskar van Deventer and was entered into the Design competition of the 24th International Puzzle Party in 2004. Apparently it was mass produced by Bits and Pieces but you cannot tell this from the packaging which only has Puzzle Master's own branding on it. It is nicely packaged and explains that the aim is to take it apart and put it back together again. There is no solution provided with it but it can be downloaded for free from here.

It is not as nicely made as the Hanayama puzzles and the surface of the puzzle is easily scratched. Gabriel reviewed it here and seemed to enjoy the challenge. There has been one complaint by a reviewer on the product page that their copy broke. I am surprised by that because it does seem very robust to me. Another reviewer mentioned an alternative solution using force and I would suspect that this might cause a breakage. There is absolutely no need for force - everything just slides apart!

Not so pretty now!!
The packaging holds it into shape very well and it is important to be careful initially as just picking it up causes a jingling noise and a horrible mess!

So I sat down and made sure that Mrs S was nowhere nearby - this is a noisy puzzle!!! There is enough jingling during the solve of this puzzle to have me boiled alive, skinned, salted and then hung drawn and quartered - note the most painful order of the torture she would choose for me.

The initial movement discovers very little because so much is blocked. But quickly you find a new way that the pieces can interact and you hope that you have been really clever and got much closer to the solution in one easy step. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like this! You discover quite a few different possibilities and if you are clever (like me) you will back track every now and then to the beginning. I seriously suggest doing this - not to learn the reassembly but because going back and forth allows you to discover new features and also gradually gain a proper understanding of how the various pieces interact. This puzzle is very pleasant like that because it keeps throwing you more information to help you on your way.

I got stuck after a series of moves and could not for the life of me work out what to do next - everything I tried was blocked and I always had all four rings linked together.... just in different orders! This is where a particularly nice Aha! moment arrives and suddenly I had a chain!

Still a fair way to go!
Even after managing this there are a good few more moves to do and then you end up with this:

4 absolutely identical rings
After a little scrambling I left them for a while and attempted the reassembly. This is where your earlier choices will have been important! If you had done what I said and gone back and forth a bit (especially during the earlier parts) then you will have gained a proper understanding of the function of the puzzle and will manage the reassembly without too much difficulty - I managed to put it back in about 3 minutes. If you had just marched forward the whole time then there is a significant chance that you will struggle again to put it back together and may even need the solution!

This is a really rewarding puzzle to solve - there is a lot more to it that I expected and definitely a good Aha moment or two. I would suggest that anyone into disentanglements would enjoy it and for just $16 you cannot go wrong! I think I will bring this one to work for a little torturing of my colleagues! I know a particular young lady who loves my shiny things and can be easily led astray during a long operating list...... Noella!!!!

An Update!

Last week I mentioned how the Wurmm puzzle had completely thrown me for ages! I had tried for many many hours to worm my wurmm out of the maze and had gotten absolutely nowhere! I am pleased to report that I managed to solve it about 1/2 hour after publishing the post! Yet another sign that my mojo was returning!

Found the exit point
Do I dare try again? Of course!
Not bad value for money at $8!


  1. Kevin, nice post...I don't have the Clover puzzle, seems like I should get it!

    1. It is fiddly, scratches easily but is just amazing how it solves! Once you have fathomed the secret then it is not hard but getting to that point is a very fun experience! You won't regret it!