Sunday 19 May 2019

Cast UFO - Level 4? Maybe not! And Some Monkeying About.

Hanayama Cast UFO
Something has definitely changed with Hanayama recently. Their puzzles seem to have become MUCH more difficult than ever before and I am not really sure that you can trust the difficulty level on the box. I struggled with the Cast Trinity for months and months before finally solving it and a part of that eventual solution may well have been luck (I do still thank that one is a really good puzzle) and the Cast Hourglass has confounded me for several months so far and is currently locked in an almighty mess which I cannot get out of.

The Cast UFO was released in Japan a month or so ago and it has just reached Europe and North America in the last week or so ago; it is also available from my friend Tomas at Sloyd if you live in Europe. I had placed my order with Nic Picot's Hanayamapuzzles store based in the UK a good few months ago and it arrived at the Sadler loony bin on Wednesday this last week along with another rather special puzzle from Big Steve. I started playing at first with the Brass Monkey but after an hour or so it had hurt me quite a bit and I was forced to put it down and play with something less painful.

Cast UFO
Lord! These things are hard to photograph! The Cast UFO is labelled as a level 4 out of the Hanayama 6 point scale (and PuzzleMaster call it a Level 8 (Demanding) on their rather odd scale of 5-10. This one should be a nice pleasant challenge without hurting my head too much. It was designed by the amazing Finish designer Vesa Timonen who has shown himself over the years to be rather prolific.

Made from their usual cast metal, this is a lovely thing measuring 4.8 x 4.8 x 2.7 cm and looks exactly like what the Sci-Fi movies of the 50s thought a UFO would look like. There is an inner ball made from 4 equal quarters which can rotate around inside and about each other - they are slippery little buggers which makes this one really quite infuriating to play with - every time you think you might be getting close to a conformation you want, the little buggers slide out of the way. The outer part of the puzzle (saucer) is made from 2 pieces which have been painted/anodised a shiny black colour. With the coolness of a metal puzzle to the touch, it really is a nice worry long as you don't try to solve it!

It looks pretty straight-forward what the approach should be - line up the quarters with the split in the outer saucer and slide it apart. Hahahaha! You don't really think that our clever Vesa would design anything that simple do you? Slightly ashamed of myself, I have to admit that I really did think that and I spent 2 days moving the inner pieces about into different positions to try it. On several occasions, I achieved a tantalising sliding of the saucer halves and I frantically tried to manipulate pieces to allow the slide to continue. Of course, it didn't work and for a couple of minutes, I even locked it up and spent a rather panicky time frantically trying to push it back together! Eventually (after a shameful 2 days) I conceded defeat with that approach and had to do some serious thinking© - Allard would have been proud of me! The important thing to do first with this one (and you could argue that it should be done with them all) is to really LOOK at the puzzle. What do you notice that is odd/interesting? Try to look inside as well for another clue.

I had an epiphany/thought which pointed at a new approach and I fiddled around with it for another couple of days. This is one tricky little sucker. Every time you think you might be achieving something the little internal pieces swivel around and nothing is in the right position anymore. There's nothing to grip hold of and I was reduced to wildly shaking it about which never seems to work.

Whilst watching TV, I wasn't really trying very hard and just managed to achieve something new. I tried to go further by grabbing at a piece and returned it to the beginning...Damn! But now I knew what was needed and another 20 minutes later it was dismantled:

Removed the ball from the UFO
4 sphere quarters and 2 saucer halves
There are quite a few really fiddly parts to the disassembly so this would qualify as a dexterity puzzle as well as a disassembly puzzle. Having taken it apart, the cleverness of the design can be examined and then put it back together. Again, that can be quite a feat of dexterity but eventually, everything is in exactly the right place and, clink, it is a UFO again.

I would estimate that this should be reassigned to at least a level 5 and more likely level 6. It really is quite a difficult puzzle to work out what is required and also to manipulate properly - even knowing what is required, I still find it quite tough to dismantle.

All in all, this is a fairly enjoyable puzzle and well worth a place in your collection (if you are a serious collector then it is essential). If you are new to puzzling or Hanayamas then it will be too difficult - I suggest that you buy a collection from PuzzleMaster and work your way through them from easier to harder.

Big Steve and Ali Do it Again

I mentioned earlier on that I had received a puzzle from Steve which hurt me. The pair of Brass Monkeys have produced the third in the series of their brass burr puzzles, suitably called Brass Monkey 3. Those of us who had bought from them previously were allowed the opportunity to buy early and, of course, I jumped at the chance. The new version should be coming up on their Etsy store very soon and will also be up for sale in PuzzleMaster if you are located over there.

There appears to be something extra
Steve said there would be something extra especially for me in the package. I was rather excited that I might be getting something as a bonus but when the inner box was lifted out of the postal packaging, there was a small clue what had been included - Damn, I was going to have to find a way to give it back to him...maybe at the next MPP?

Oh no! I won't be able to return this one!
Mrs S was very unimpressed at the arrival of part of Steve's tongue depressor collection. Unfortunately, this one had been personalised and therefore I was going to have to keep it - if Steve makes a habit of this, however, I will have to find somewhere to put it...maybe where "the sun don't shine" and he won't be able to see it? I have a certain set of skills that come with my medical training even if I went into anaesthesia to avoid that end of the patient!

Plastic caps removed - Mrs S is very worried that I will damage the granite.
2 engraved circles plus a central hole means it's number 3 - obvious isn't it?
Allard has solved his copy and has raved about it here - he says that you should definitely get one - in fact, he wrote that many many times so it must be true! So far I have found one thing of interest and hurt myself on it! Hopefully, I will find the solution without further damage to me or any damage to the kitchen. I'll let you know.

In the meantime, you should definitely buy this series of puzzles.


  1. OMG! Sorry to hear about your alien abduction by brass monkeys!

    1. Luckily they let me go after conducting a lot of experiments on me!