Sunday 22 April 2018

Two Balls are Better Than One!

Box with 2 balls
Another quickie today! I was on call for 24 hours yesterday and that is not good for rest, relaxation and today I am absolutely knackered! Plus it has been a very busy and very stressful week with almost no puzzle solving being done. Luckily there have been a few purchases made and they are currently winging their way over various ponds to me and hopefully will provide some good entertainment for both me and you!

I knew the title would grab your attention! Most of us puzzlers tend to be boys and so would generally agree with that statement! However, if you are a girl then maybe you might disagree. Also as a medic, I know that sometimes 2 is surplus to requirement and thus one should be removed (my Urology attending physician friend, Steve Canfield, would agree)! Luckily for me, there was no knife in painful places involved in today's puzzle blog!

Today's focus is on a couple of puzzles I bought a while ago from the "published professor of wood", Brian Menold. His last batch of beauties included the Box with 2 balls designed by one of my good friends, Christoph Lohe. Brain said this about it:

"Another of Chris’s designs that I loved was this beauty. I loved the idea of the three captive pieces. The goal is simple. Removed the two steel balls from the box. The wood pieces inside the box do not come out. The acrylic sides help you to see what is going on and I used three contrasting woods for the pieces in the box to help distinguish them from one another."
I too have come to absolutely love Chris' designs! He seems to have a knack (as does Klaas Jan Damstra) of designing a puzzle that has more to it than a super tough high level of moves. There is a certain element of fun to the discovery of the Aha! moments as well as very quirky unusual shapes that make them a delight to play with and solve. This particular puzzle is only a level 19.15 and so should not be terribly difficult but it has proved to me to be a very tough challenge! It is a gorgeous thing with the box made from acrylic and Bolivian Rosewood and the pieces from Yellowheart, Wenge, Padauk with 2 steel balls.

Brian has made it very nicely and initially, only the Padauk piece can rise up out of the box releasing the balls and other pieces to move around inside. This puzzle is a mixture of a dexterity puzzle and an interlocking puzzle, the box needs to be turned back and forth as well as inverted periodically to control the sliding of the pieces and the balls inside. At times the Yellow heart piece also protrudes through the hole in the top. I did find half way through that I had completely forgotten my route and was unable to return the puzzle back to the beginning. For at least a day, I had to store the puzzle with one or more pieces sticking out the top. The puzzle is very reminiscent of the Sliding Tetris puzzle from Diniar Namdarian that made it into my Top Ten of 2017. Consisting of various shapes held captive in a cube with a ball held captive within a shifting maze, there are many similarities. The addition of the extra ball in a more confined space makes this puzzle a significant challenge.

When I first got hold of it I couldn't resist playing and on day two of play, I managed to dump two really pretty large heavy steel balls on top of a very unamused cat's head! I paid for that with a scratch as he shot off my lap. I was not expecting both balls to drop out at the same time but, POW! they did and in the end, I had no idea how I had managed it. In fact, if you think about it, dumping both balls out together cannot possibly be a Level 19.15.

I've got both my balls out!
After the requisite photos of my balls lying free, I tried to put them back in their box. Except I had no recollection of how I had done it. There are lots of ways of getting both balls inside with all the wooden shapes lying inside but getting the balls to the start position proved elusive. I worked on it for another couple of evenings before resorting to Burrtools (just for a clue). When I had entered it into BT and looked at the solution it had found, I sat back in amazement. It did not find the solution I had used to get them out! It had only found a route which required each of them to be inserted separately and juggling the first one inside a bit before adding the second one into the box. I and my bruised cat were both very certain that both balls had dropped out together. This motivated me to go back to the puzzle myself and confirm that I was not going mad and imagining things. For once BT had not provided the help I required. Finally, after another 2 days of play, I had managed to reset the puzzle after adding both balls at the same time. YES! I was right!

A little discussion with Chris confirmed that another puzzler had done the same thing and informed him. Let's just say that this was not what Chris had intended but he confirmed that my solution was correct. I love this puzzle! For some reason, I cannot for the life of me remember the path through it and despite having solved it 4 or 5 times, I currently have it stuck in an unsolved position as I cannot seem to find the way back to the beginning!

Yes, it is good to have 2 balls despite the fact that I am only allowed to look at them wistfully from across the bedroom where they are kept in a pickling jar on Mrs S' bedside table!

Kamelle Box

Kamelle Box
Brian also produced this clever little puzzle in that same batch. I consider it a crime to buy just one at a time, so I had to buy this one too (ahem! as well as the Cross in Cross). The Kamelle box is yet another design by Chris Lohe (I seem to be developing a collection of his designs). Brian described it like this:
"The last batch of designs Chris sent me had several designs that grabbed my attention. This one, The Kamelle Box, was one of the first. I love packing puzzles that seem simple but are actually quite challenging! Laszlo Molnar’s designs come to mind. Well I thought this clever design fit into that category too! Just place the three pieces into the box. A hole in the clear bottom helps with this but maybe not as much as you would like. Give this a try."
As soon as the name Laszlo Molnar came up I knew I had to have it! I have most of Laszlo's puzzles from Brian and have reviewed them here and here and here. Anything similar to one of Laszlo's puzzles is a "must have" for me! Brian made 3 versions available; I chose one of them and it was removed from my shopping cart by someone else buying it even more quickly! I chose another and my copy is a Red Elm box and Yellowheart pieces. It is truly lovely.

The first thing most packing puzzlers do is try and assemble the puzzle outside the box to work out how it can go together in a shape that should theoretically fit. I found a few possibilities and then had a play to see how the odd-shaped piece might go through the L shaped orifice at the top.

The bottom is acrylic with a hole for manipulating the pieces
There is a hole in the bottom to allow a finger inside (or a piece to protrude) and I set to playing with it. Just 3 pieces? Should be easy peasy? Hell no! I spent an hour getting nowhere and then another one! Eventually, I thought, "similar to one of Laszlo's designs?" Aha! What about a rotational move?

The Aha! moment was wonderful and with great pleasure, I had this:

Solved it!
I thought I had been really clever! I even put it back on the shelf convinced that I had solved it. At the last MPP, I brought it with me to show to the guys and I was a little surprised when Rob Hegge (visiting from the Netherlands) solved it in about 15 minutes. I know I am not terribly bright but I really didn't think I was quite that dim! I congratulated him on finding it so quickly and asked him whether he thought the rotation was good. He asked "what rotation?" and my jaw dropped! Is this solvable without a rotation? Apparently so!

I had solved it completely the wrong way and now need to go back to it and try again. OMG! I will be doing that as soon as I've finished with this blog post!

Not only do Brian and Chris produce fabulous puzzles...they manage to prove that I am a very poor puzzler! I really MUST do better!

Over the last few years, I have waxed lyrical about the incredible disentanglement designs from my friend Aaron Wang. He makes some of the most difficult (and fun) wire and string puzzles you will ever see. Mostly I have suggested that people visit the website of the Felix puzzle store to buy them but the lack of an English translation has put people off. The puzzles are now available direct from Aaron if you wish - he has put his current batch up for sale on the Puzzle Paradise auction site. There are lots of great ones to choose from - have a browse and check back for my reviews and then buy won't be disappointed!


  1. I enjoyed both puzzles and thanks for bringing them!

    1. It was my pleasure! I gained a whole lot by you being there - I found out there was a true non-rotational solution! Thank you!