Sunday 25 September 2016

Euro Falle 5 - A Public Service Announcement

The Euro Falle family - 05 at the bottom.
Hi guys, I've had a rather busy weekend at the end of a week of annual leave. My week has been full of household chores (leaving me rather stiff and sore) and then finished off with a special Midlands Puzzle Party in the home town of Dr Simon Nightingale, who has received more IPP design competition trophies than anyone else in history. We had a great time and lots of recent IPP puzzles were shown off and even a magic show was delivered. This has left me with very little time for a blog post so I am delighted that the Mike Desilets, the PuzzleMad roving reporter, has stepped up to the mark and delivered a public service announcement for you.

Aloha Kākou gentle readers,

It’s a rather sad occasion for me as I find myself the bearer of less-than-happy news about a new puzzle that has just hit the market. I actually had some other work underway for Puzzlemad, but a catastrophic puzzling experience this past week has stimulated me to produce this rush job of an article. I’ve rushed it to press because I suspect that there are folks out there with a finger hovering over the “buy” button for this particular puzzle and I wanted to get this information out quickly to facilitate informed decision making. Informed spending, I should say.

Euro Falle 05 - a Siebenstein Spiele production.
The puzzle of which I speak is the very recently released Euro Falle 05, the fourth in a series that seems to have started, oddly, at 02. You can find my review of the earlier Euro Falles here and here if you are new to the blog. With some slight reservations, I have been a fan of the series and was happy to have purchased and played with them. My misgivings were due largely to construction problems. I experienced more of these issues subsequent to the blog reviews, but did not see fit to make an issue of it. However, having plunked down yet more good money for the new Euro Falle 05 and given it a play, I feel I will now have to terminate my relationship with them, effective immediately (Ed - very strong stuff!). Unfortunately, I cannot divulge the exact nature of the deficiency without completely spoiling the puzzle. What I can say is that in the course of two solves of Euro Falle 05 (solved correctly, as designed, I assure you) the puzzle has become completely unusable. As you may know, damaged goods always find their way to me for some reason. I have come to terms with that fact and learned to take it in stride. However, I believe the issue with this puzzle is no fluke. I don’t think I simply got the bad one in the lot. The problem seems to be directly related to the engineering and construction of the puzzle. I could be wrong (I sure hope I am), but I think this is going to be the norm with this puzzle, and I want you to be aware of, at the very least, the potential to have completely wasted your money. Well, I guess you will get to play with it at least once, so not a complete waste, but nearly so.

That’s really the most I can say about it on the front page of Puzzlemad. However, if you already have this puzzle and have solved it (I saw a shot of it on Allard’s blog, amidst his IPP haul, so I assume there are quite a few out there already), or if you don’t intend to buy it anyway, or you do but you don’t care about the solving experience, then click the spoiler button below. Behind that button I show the innards and explain the nature of the problem in excruciating detail, as well as discuss repair options. Again, this will be a complete spoiler, so think it over before you click. Along those same lines, I may spoil other puzzles for you behind that magic button if I feel the need to make comparison with other puzzles and mechanisms. That section is really meant for the serious collector, designer, and/or puzzler who doesn’t mind an unbarred discussion. You’ve been warned!

One other piece of information I think puzzlers should know regarding Euro Falle 05 is that the solution is the same as for another very recently released, and very attractive, puzzle from Siebenstein Spiele. Exactly the same. If you are like me, you don’t really need to have two similar forms of the same puzzle. Or at least when you do, you make the decision consciously, due to some aesthetic or collectability factor. Personally, I was more than a bit disappointed when I discovered these two were functionally the same. And then, to add insult to injury, one of them self-destructed! Know, however, that the ‘other’ puzzle, although having the exact same mechanism, has functioned just fine so far and I am very pleased with it in all respects.

If you have had a different experience with Euro Falle 05, please do register your opinion in the comments below. If for some reason I received the only bad one in the batch, it would be good for everyone to know that and downgrade my dire warnings accordingly. If you are the adventurous type and just have to experience it for yourself, Euro Falle 05 is now up on the shelf at and, of course, Puzzlemaster.

Well, I am very sorry to write such a bummer of a post. Kevin works hard to keep Puzzlemad upbeat and positive. That’s pretty easy to do with the top-notch (burr pun) puzzles he reviews. But this, too, is part of the puzzling experience. Sometimes stuff doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. I’m just thankful I have a place to vent about it (Ed - I welcome all types of review and whilst I do try to keep positive, sometimes it is necessary to provide real world experience that may not be as we would wish). But I promise you that my next contribution will be wildly positive (Ed - thank Gawd for that!). In fact, let me say one positive thing right now: the Euro Falle 05, conceptually, is a great puzzle. That’s small comfort if it doesn’t work more than once. But the fact remains, it’s a great idea and it really stumped me for quite a while (I actually solved the ‘other’ puzzle first, so that was where the stumping occurred, but as mentioned, same solution). It is quite tricky and fun, and therefore all the more tragic to write about. There I go again. Ok, I think Kevin should take over from here....
Ed - I guess that is my cue to put one of those javascript hide and reveal buttons just about now....

It's not all bad....
But let’s end this post on a high note! Puzzle Box 001, also brand new from Siebenstein Spiele, is absolutely fantastic! It is quite a beautiful puzzle and functions perfectly. I very highly recommend Puzzle Box 001. It shows the heights that Siebenstein Spiele can reach when they are on their game.

Puzzle Box 001 front
Puzzle Box 001 rear
Pictures copied from PuzzleMaster

Ed - Thank you Mike for such a detailed exposition about the failings of a very popular puzzle in a great series. I personally do not own any of these puzzles and am very grateful for the warning. It has been said that I very seldom, if ever, post a bad review and this may make you feel that I am in the pocket of the designers and producers. Maybe I have been very lucky or maybe I just choose well but I have very rarely had a problem with any of my purchases. I do tend to not review something if it is less than good but if there is a systematic problem then I will not shy away from informing people of it.

If any other puzzlers feel the urge to post a review as a PuzzleMad roving reporter (good or bad) then please feel free to drop me a line via my Contact page. If English is not your first language then that's not a problem - I edit everything (even Mike's wonderful prose.

Sunday 18 September 2016

They Were "Big in Japan"

Slide Packing - It was "Big in Japan"
When the package arrived from Mineyuki Uyematsu, Mrs S was not amused at yet another delivery of toys for me. My excuse was that 2 of these were VERY special and had been major winners in the IPP design competition. That evening whilst I was balancing beautiful blocks of wood on my sleeping cat's head as I tried to solve them my wife looked pityingly at the cat and sang so you could say that these were "Big in Japan, Alright?" I, of course, couldn't resist it and joined in with her and sang along. Now those of you of a "certain age" will understand my reference in the title - let me say this takes me back to very happy times! Quickly click on play in the video below - go on, you know you want to! Go to 1min 10sec for the best bit!

Did you watch it? Did it bring back memories? Yes, I know, Mrs S and I are completely crackers!

Sunday 11 September 2016

Packing in some beautiful wood

BDSM with interesting box to pack
At least twice this year (here and here) I have waxed lyrical about the fantastic collaboration between extraordinary puzzle designer Laszlo Kmolnar and the amazing craftsman Brian Menold. Laszlo has produced a whole series of cubic packing puzzles which look quite simple yet require some very complex thinking because they are not just about randomly rearranging pieces until they fit in the container. Each design has added something special....either rotational moves to orient some of the pieces once inside the container or some very unusual diagonal sliding moves to get the pieces to interlink. The shapes are just "simple" cubes very like the classic Soma cube but with containers that have very constrained (and sometimes multiple) openings for the pieces to be placed through. So not only do you need to find the correct one of a number of possible cube constructions but then you need to work out how to get the pieces through the window(s) and then how to get them facing the correct way. I absolutely adored the ones I had bought so far and despite not being good at packing puzzles, I had managed to solve them all.

I am not sure why the puzzle was called BDSM - I am not really into that scene despite all the Whack! Ouch!'s that I receive but maybe it's because you need to be masochistic to try it?

Sunday 4 September 2016

Cast Cake

No Fiddling! It's Time to Think©

Hanayama Cast Cake
Last weekend I blogged about 2 of the latest Hanayama cast puzzles which have yet to be generally available outside of Japan. I am sure they will be available from all the usual puzzle suppliers soon. I began my odyssey with the easiest of them (a level 1), the Cast Diamond and decided that it was a fun little puzzle with little challenge for the experienced puzzler but a really nice one to give to friends to watch them attempt. Then I moved on to the hardest of them (level 6 out of 6), the Cast Infinity which I actually found relatively easy but I have been told by other puzzlers that it actually isn't as easy as I think it is and many people may find it a reasonable challenge.

I had seen on Facebook that quite a few puzzlers had really struggled with the supposedly easier challenge of the Cast Cake. The Cake is rated as a level 4 on Hanayama's 6 point scale putting it at the same difficulty level as the Cast Möbius which Mike reviewed for me here. He was not very impressed with it and rated it much easier than a 4 (as would I) and it certainly would not be in the same league as others rated as level 4 like the Cast Marble, Cast Radix, Cast Donuts and others. All of those have been reviewed by me (Marble, Radix, Donuts) and I have thoroughly enjoyed them but consistently thought of them as considerably harder than the level 4 they had been given. I have to say that the Cast Cake also should be rated as a level 5 or maybe 5½. This puzzle was designed by the incredibly talented Bram Cohen who is responsible for quite a few puzzles in my collection, many of which are incredibly challenging.