Sunday 15 March 2015

Cast Plate

Hanayama Cast Plate
Unfortunately this weekend has passed in a haze of office work and DIY rather than puzzling - unfortunately writing a lecture, getting my paperwork up to date and regrouting my bathroom had to take priority - she TOLD me so in no uncertain terms and backed it up with a few lashes of the 'Cat O'Nine tails' tongue! So this afternoon I needed a fairly quick and easy puzzle to review.

Luckily, I still have one or two fairly easy ones left in my stash. The last Hanayama puzzle left unopened is the Cast Plate. This little beauty is just a level 2 on Hanayama's own 6 point difficulty scale and level 6 (Tricky) on Puzzle Master's odd scale. I did not expect to be stuck for long and would be able to write something for you fairly quickly and then could continue my chores (sob!)

As with all the Hanayama puzzles, it is beautifully packaged and the instructions are simply to take it apart and then reassemble it. With only 2 pieces this should not be too much of a challenge. This is a new version of a truly classic puzzle which has been around for hundreds of years in a number of forms. The version by Hanayama was (re)designed by Nob Yashigahara in collaboration with Jerry Slocum. In fact it appears to have been the last puzzle that Nob designed - it actually says "Nob's last present" on the back of the disk to commemorate this fact. If you want some more information then just have a look at Rob Stegmann's treatise on them - he has quite a few and has a magnificent write up (in fact he has a magnificent write up on just about everything!)

Cast Medal
These all share the same common feature they are in reality maze puzzles. The aim is to walk the ring from hole to hole on the plate to try and edge towards the exit point and remove it. It has the same idea as the similar difficulty level Cast Medal which I really enjoyed (and reviewed here at the end of 2013) because of the little extras within the solution. The puzzle is beautifully made and looks like it is made from old iron. I doubt it will rust however! Gabriel reviewed it back in 2012 and Brian did too in 2010. No solution is provided but Rob has put one on his page or you can download the official Hanayama solution sheet here.

The first thing I did was take my obligatory photos and then began to wander around the maze. There are several forks in the path that can be taken at various points and subsequent to that, a few blind ends. I managed to get caught up in a ring path for a while as I went round and round in circles and was rather surprised to have this happen more than once during my exploration. There is also a little lump at 12 O'clock on the plate which blocks several key moves and forces you to find your way around using an alternative path! Looking at Rob's picture I am delighted to see that there are no fewer than 6 dead ends and 3 rings that can be followed to entrap the unwary. This is considerably more complex a maze than the Cast Medal and makes for a rather pleasant 20 minutes of exploration.

It is quite obvious where the exit point is but not completely clear where the penultimate position is. Eventually, after a while my aha! moment arrived and I had the 2 pieces separated for the obligatory photo!

Hmm! Can I remember the path back? Nope!
I left it for a while to totally obliterate what memory I had of the pathway and the reassembly actually took me even longer! Interestingly, I have done this puzzle 4 or 5 times now since the first time and, whilst I remember the occasional key position that I need to reach, I cannot just achieve either direction in a single fluid sequence. I always seem to get lost in a loop or caught at a dead end.

This is a really pleasant little diversion and great value for money at just $13. Definitely perfect for kids and total beginners but as a historic piece it should probably be in any collection. In reality we all know that every puzzler should aim to collect the entire Hanayama set in the end!

Now it is time for me to get back to working on Steve Miller's Fire puzzle! I have deciphered all the clues and as expected they are cryptic and mean absolutely nothing to me! I have managed only the first step on the puzzle itself! Remember these are limited editions so buy it quickly before he runs out! I do also need to work my way through a whole lot of wooden beauties too from Stephan Baumegger and Jakub at the New Pelikan Workshop - have a look at my New additions page if you want to drool over some real beauties.

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