Sunday 10 February 2019

Juno's Puzzle Won't Bite

Grrrrr! Who's gonna bite first?
A few weeks ago another email went out from the great Junichi Yananose that he had a new toy for us. It was immediately intriguing from the name - it's called the Chubby Crocodile and the picture he sent out was very cute. Of course, I was able to make an even cuter picture when one of the boyz decided that it might be a threat to either us or more importantly his food bowl. The description also piqued my interest - Yukari said:

"The puzzle is a bit tricky to categorize but since it has an internal cavity, we can at least call it a puzzle box. Juno’s initial idea of the puzzle was a burr or lumiki and its motif was a tortoise, and realizing it was a bit too skinny, he decided to modify its shape to a crocodile
Is it a box? It does have a cavity but there is more to a box than just a cavity. It could be a sequential discovery puzzle because at one point a tool becomes available to allow the final step to be done. Equally, it could be a sequential movement or even a hidden maze type puzzle as there are elements of all of these in the solution. Juno does state that it is not a very difficult puzzle but can be enjoyed by collectors and beginners alike. Above all, it is a gorgeously crafted wooden toy which has all the credentials it needed for me to add one to my collection. I have a steadily increasing number of Juno's wonderful toys in my puzzle cabinets. My copy got kidnapped by customs for a couple of weeks before I received a bill for a few quid in VAT and a whacking bonus for the Royal Mail for sorting it out! Grrrrr again!

After the boyz had sniffed about at it and realised that it was not going to eat anyone they let me take some proper photos and get to work on it.

I'm looking at you!
At least he is smiling! Benevolently?
It really is stunningly made and cartoonishly attractive. It's a decent size at 192 × 94 × 43mm and made of Rose Alder, Jarrah with metal pieces inside. The aim is:
"Find treats in the stomach of the chubby crocodile! We have produced a total of five kinds of stomach contents of this wild reptile and hid one or two of them in his belly."
Why is this in the box?
The treats in my copy look like they have been made of Maple or Koto. I had a suspicion that Juno and Yukari were playing more games with me because in the box I found a very cute little white CNC cut bone. My first thought was that this might be a tool for opening it but after an extensive search, there was nowhere for me to put it. I set it aside and wondered what was going on but continued to play.

The eyes look like they might move and they do indeed wiggle a mm or so but nothing happens and I quickly move on. The crocodile legs are able to make him run and this produces a very interesting change in him and reveals a little of the mechanism. Not enough to open him up but a hint of what is required. Whilst playing with him I find that something was able to occur once but then I was unable to backtrack and eventually after I had backtracked, I could not repeat it. Further thought© required. I had to put it down to cook and eat dinner with the lovely Mrs S, who appeared to quite like this one because it is distinctly NOT a cube. She seems to have a thing against geometric objects!

After dinner, I investigated further and quickly found the maze section and worked out how to manipulate my way through which produced a rather surreal end result. At this point, I found a flat plate which I could pull out and stupidly thought that was the end of it. I thought that the hole left by the lever was the "stomach" and I reassembled it at that point. Only the following day did it occur to me that if that was the cavity then where were the "stomach contents"? The bone I had found would not fit in there. DOH! I must have stopped and reassembled the puzzle before I had got to the end! Stupid boy!

The following evening I set to again and realised that I had no idea how I had got to that place before and had to start from scratch with the various movements. This time I removed the plate and realised that it had allowed something VERY important to happen and now I should try some new moves. No spoilers here but if I had looked all over the puzzle then I would have seen my mistake from the previous day. yet more puzzling moves occurred and with a very nice smile on myself, I can definitely say that the Chubby crocodile was not going to be chasing down any more prey. Now I could use a tool and the stomach contents were revealed for all to see:

He's been eating toast!
What I found in my croc's stomach was a little startling and caused a little disharmony in the Sadler household due to my hysterical giggling whilst "she" was watching TV. The joke started by the wonderful George Bell and taken up by Juno and Yukari has continued - to prove that this puzzle was a box there had to be a loaf of bread inside! See this post for an explanation of the bread situation. Now, this is not a whole loaf but 2 slices of toast - hilarious and I can pretty much guarantee that my copy is unique with these stomach contents. Thank you, my friend, for the great puzzle and the lovely giggle! Before closing it back up I made sure that my Croc would not be too hungry at night - I filled him with both bone and bread:

A full stomach!
Putting this puzzle back together is just as much fun as the reverse sequence needs to be worked out and after that, it is yet more puzzling to establish the exact sequence of moves that will open it up every single time. For a few days, it became a bit of a worry bead for me - it is very enjoyable to play with. I will be interested to hear what other puzzlers found in the stomach of their crocs.

Should you get one? It is very reasonably priced and there about 30 left in stock at the moment. I would say yes definitely - it is fun and lovely. BUT there are a lot of new puzzlers who have been hooked by the lure of the sequential discovery puzzle. If that is what you are really most keen on then I would have to temper your enthusiasm by saying that the sequential discovery component of this one is only a very minor part of the solution and if that was your sole reason for purchase then you might be disappointed. If you want a cute, beautifully made artefact with several aspects of puzzling and a nice couple of Aha! moments in it then you cannot go wrong with this.


  1. Thank goodness it was toast not a full loaf. You can rest assured it is not a puzzle box.

    1. Thank you George! I rely on you to tell me when a puzzle is NOT a box!

    2. Glad to be of help.

      The bone appears human and suggests the Chubby Croc is a man-eater! Beware!

    3. I woke up this morning and the snoring lump was still next to me! Mrs S has not been eaten.......yet!

  2. It's a nice but very easy puzzle. Just a labyrinth...kind of a deception..
    But glad you enjoyed it a lot.