Sunday 9 August 2015

Part 2 of the "Two fer" in Honour of IPP35 - a BOX!

Not just any box! It's the Stickman Edelweiss Puzzlebox

It's not a box! It's a packing puzzle!
The decision on the winners of the 2015 IPP design competition should have been decided by now so I can safely publish my review of my latest toy!

At this time of the year certain select people on the Stickman mailing list will receive an email informing them of the availability of a new puzzle box. The number made has increased recently but it is still a pretty limited edition run. I have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of the list for a few years. I reviewed the Pirate’s wallet chest last year and reviewed it here. I had heard rumours of a collaboration between the Stickman (Robert Yarger) and the incredible William Waite this year and was very excited to receive an email again a few weeks ago. It was in my inbox when I woke up in the morning and before I had even eaten my breakfast some PayPal electronic money was sent! It's such a shame that PayPal money ends up being real money!

Now you all know by now that I don’t collect boxes (I have been threatened with a lot more Whack! Ouch! occasions if I do begin collecting boxes) so I can hear you all screaming at me how can you possibly justify these? Not only is it a box but it is a pretty expensive box! My excuse is that I CAN buy a box if there is some other puzzling aspect to it. Last year’s puzzle was a sequential discovery puzzle and this year it is a 2D packing puzzle (hence the connection with William who specialises in this sort of puzzle). Therefore I CAN justify it. Plus of course, I can justify it because IT’S A STICKMAN! So the Stickman Edelweiss Puzzlebox #28 was purchased and on it’s way across the pond to me.

Perpetual Hinge
remains unsolved
My friend Shane got his copy first and immediately set to work and sent me tales of woe at how difficult it was and how much he was struggling to solve it. That didn't surprise me - I have a Perpetual hinge which I have owned for 3 or 4 years and have yet to solve it. Stickman does describe it as "Difficult" which gives me a small excuse. I refuse to look at the solution so that might stay closed for a few more years yet!

The customs officials held my Edelweiss puzzlebox hostage for a few days and extracted their ransom before it finally arrive chez moi. The first thing I did was admire the fantastic woodwork and finish. Mine appears to be made from Walnut and Maple with a very nice laser cut laminated wood on the top and bottom forming a pattern. It is hexagonal in shape and layered too. The diameter is 12 cm edge to edge and it is 7.5cm high. There are different pieces on the top and bottom. The bottom revealed that mine was limited edition number 73 out of 100.

Bottom of the Edelweiss Puzzlebox/packing puzzle
The instructions say there are:
2 secret compartments which become accessible only after fitting the pieces into the tray to produce either a flower or a snowflake.
Flower and snowflake solutions vary somewhat in difficulty, but both are extremely challenging. As an aid to solving this puzzle a simpler 3-section puzzle is also included on the reverse side, and its solution will provide the correct position of all pieces.
I was not sure that I understood the instructions but I sort of realised it was a tray packing puzzle (which I am rubbish at) but like Shane I threw caution to the wind and removed all the pieces from the top. I decided I was not going to use the clues on the 3 pieces below for help  and set to trying to put it back together. At this point I gained a little idea of the internal mechanism - the pieces sort of “snap” into place in the tray and also when you put them all in a heap they link together. Yep! There are magnets inside these beautifully made pieces. They must interact with something under the lid to release a locking mechanism (although for the life of me, I could not envisage how that might work).

Lot's of pieces - different colours and some even etched
Like Shane, I struggled to get the pieces back into anything resembling a flower or snowflake - I am so bad at this sort of thing that it took me 3 days to make anything that would fit in the tray. Having finally made a shape that would fit, with great glee I tugged on the tray in the opening direction and……. it was still locked! Hmmm! Now I was really stumped. I tried different orientations and it didn't work. I then decided that there must be another way these pieces went together so I took them all off and tried again - another day went by and I couldn't find an alternate assembly! Oh the pain!! Now I was buggered!

So I eventually decided to try to solve it using the simpler 3 piece puzzle and put them in place in LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of different directions and orientations and NOPE! Still locked! I'm not good at combinatorics but I think there are 72 different ways to put the 3 pieces in the tray and I really struggled to keep track of what I had tried. I gave up in disgust! What next? I was stumped but still determined not to look at the instructions. I was discussing my failure with Derek last Friday evening and was pleased to hear that he had the same problems as me. He made a little suggestion which I’m not sure he really meant but something inside my tiny mind clicked and I tried something new. Suddenly the first compartment was open and I was able to see the locking mechanism. Very clever and actually a very simple locking mechanism but really not an easy thing to fathom or solve  intuitively. I took a quick pic and emailed Shane who was rather stunned that I had managed it (not as stunned as me). Having done one side, I put it down to eat dinner with Mrs S - I couldn't risk another Whack! Ouch!

Try balancing puzzle pieces
on that!
After eating and cleaning up, with thoughts whirring in my head I sat down in the living room to watch some TV and continue puzzling in the pleasant company of Mrs S and a cat or 2. It is unbelievably difficult to solve a tray puzzle with a cat on your lap but I was determined to finish it.

After a bit of thought and some fiddling I was delighted to have the second compartment open and a second mechanism was revealed. I idly wondered why there was any need for a second mechanism at all - it is not like Rob to put anything unnecessary into one of his masterpieces. I sat and examined all the pieces I had in my lap and thought for a while. I then had an incredibly amazed moment of understanding - 2 mechanisms are required for a very unusual reason. And I cannot tell you that reason without giving too much away but needless to say, I was amazed that he had carried such a thing off - in Yiddish it would be described as Chutzpah! When any of you who own this puzzle open yours, you will realise what I mean and maybe one day I can reveal why.

Opened both compartments - NO hints given in this picture!
Robert and William have this entered into the IPP design competition and hence my delayed publication of this review. By the time you read this (and when I have woken up on Monday morning) the world will know whether they have won. I think it does stand a good chance - it has the right combination of beauty, craftsmanship, cleverness and also simplicity! I love it and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to solve and own it. I think this will live outside my study with other spectacular puzzles!


  1. Lovely write up for such a lovely puzzle box. What Chutzpah you have to write two entries in one day!

  2. Very nice! I can see William Waite's contribution in this box (he has created many 2D laser-cut puzzles).