Sunday 21 July 2019

Diniar A-mazes me and Unlocks Just the Right Combination

Every year around now (i.e. just before IPP) I have a little chat with the King of the sequential movement puzzles, Diniar Namdarian, about his latest releases. He shows me a bunch of pictures of stuff he has designed and made and I pick a few. After a minute or so (the chat is via FB messenger so often a little disjointed), he asks whether I really don't want to choose one or other and makes a comment like "that one is really good" or "it's the best of the bunch" and I hesitate for a moment and tell him that I will buy them all. This happened yet again this year and I received a bunch of new toys a while ago. The latest batch looks like this:

I cannot resist the colours!
After the wheeling and dealing have been done, I usually have to admit to him that I have failed to solve one or other of his previous creations and he very gently makes fun of me. The problem is threefold...

  1. I cannot resist buying all of his creations (they are really reasonably priced),
  2. They usually have multiple challenges and come with a wonderful ebook of delight,
  3. I am simply rubbish as sequential movement puzzles!
The Mazeburr-L immediately sprung to my attention amongst the pictures he showed me. The name Mazeburr for me is synonymous with fun...I have all three of the other shaped Mazeburrs and have an extensive supply of challenges for them.

Three Mazeburrs so far now I have another to add to the series.
The existing Mazeburrs (including the Split Mazeburr which I reviewed in March this year) all consist of a bunch of maze plates on the surface of a shape with pins that protrude into the maze from plates underneath. The aim is to remove the plate with the opening on it by effectively navigating multiple mazes simultaneously. They vary in length of solution from a nice easy 20 moves up to an impossible (for me at least) 350 moves. They are a delight to look at and a delight to play with too. The Mazeburr-L consists of sticks with gaps "cut" into them and a frame to hold them in place but that is where any similarity ends - the aim of this Mazeburr is to manipulate the gaps in the sticks to allow you to advance the little blue ball from its' starting position to the square exit hole and then out (in the picture at the top the blue ball needs to move from the top right position to the bottom left where you can just about see a small gap in the covering acrylic.

Diniar provided a lovely 16-page ebook (which lives on my iPad) to go with the puzzle and I have been working my way through the challenges. The sticks are all numbered and each end is marked with an 'a' end and a 'b' end to ensure that the puzzle is set up in the correct orientation:

22 different burr sticks
Initially, when I started playing I felt I had to guess where the gaps were going to be (or remember where they had been from setting up the next challenge when I realised that Diniar's attention to detail was superb...It's impossible to see it in my photos but there is a groove printed into the top surface of each of the sticks marking the position of the underlying gaps. This means that guesswork is not required. Once the puzzle is set up as shown in the diagram (complete with start and end position) then play begins:

Just 6 of the 84 challenges
Notice I have been marking the ones I have solved off in my pdf viewer app
The sticks all lie within notched grooves forming a 3x3 grid and each of the sticks can be in any of 7 positions (they all start in the centre of position) and they need to be moved where the gaps will allow. This moves the gaps around and then the ball can hop through the gaps into adjacent spaces and then the sticks moved again to set up the next move of the ball. At certain points, there are several options for where the ball could be moved and as the decision tree widens the puzzle gets tougher. On many occasions, I found myself fairly close to the exit and blocked, needing to backtrack a fair way to an earlier part of the decision tree. This can get quite confusing at times but is very rewarding when the ball finds its' way out.

Solved it - on to the next one.
The solving process for me is a mixture of logic and trial and error which, for me, is rather soothing. The challenges escalate in the number of moves required but I seldom manage to solve them using the minimum number of moves. The difficulty level, like the other Mazeburrs, is not really just a function of the length of the solution (the longest is 45 moves), it is much more related to the size of the decision tree and how much back and forth is required. I found most of these quite soothing to solve (I have solved just over half of them so far) although I have been forced to play with this one when Mrs S is not in the room - the ratcheting in the burr stick grooves means that every single move of the sticks makes a clacking noise and if they move several notches at a time (up to 6) then there is a very annoying (to Mrs S) THRRRRAP sound. I guess that if I need to make 30 or 40 of these noises for each challenge then Mrs S may well go beyond the Whack! Ouch! and may even melt the plastic puzzles and encase me inside the molten mess (especially if the pile of burning wooden puzzles is still alight).

Lots of pieces and spares too
Diniar provided a nice little bag with all the sticks inside as well as spare blue balls (because everyone needs more blue balls!) and also spare corner pieces which may snap after repeated flexing to open the puzzle up. I have to say that this has been a wonderful purchase and for the number of challenges has been fabulous value for money. Diniar always prints his designs so well and puts so much thought into the challenges - when he makes them available, don't hesitate, just say yes!

Combination Lock
The one puzzle in the bunch that I hesitated on was the Combination Lock - I hesitated because it is just a single challenge and looks like a free-form sliding piece puzzle. I am simply terrible at this sort of puzzle. So when I left it out of my selection, Diniar put me straight and I quickly gave in. Let's face it, these are 3D printed and are not terribly expensive. Straight up, let me say, Diniar was right! This puzzle is a lovely challenge and a beautiful little voyage of discovery.

The aim is to move the lettered buttons from the start position at the top into the end positions along the bottom right-hand side. They move via the slots in the centre rotational piece and obviously, will need to be moved back and forth via the extra "storage area" on the left-hand side. To you, this looks easy but, to me, it looks like an impossible task. I have had this next to me in my pile of puzzles to be played with for a few weeks and have not dared to pick it up until now. This week I had a little free time when I had to wait for Mrs S to attend the dentist. I gave her a lift and stopped off in a nice little cafe to drink, stuff my face with a cake and play with toys (much to the amusement of both other customers and the baristas). With trepidation, I took it out and quickly started to move pieces around.

It becomes obvious quite quickly that, whilst it looks like there is a lot of leeway to move pieces, there are actually considerable constraints to what you can and cannot do:

The deepest slot in the centre cannot be accessed from any of the start positions due to the length of the arms of the slot which causes a problem later on in the solve, the shallow slots in the centre don't allow full movement of the pieces to or from the storage area and the centre cannot rotate much when pieces are in any of the shallow storage slots.

The learning curve is quite steep, I discovered the above constraints very quickly and gradually found more problems as I moved pieces around and found the moves that I wanted to make in the order I wanted to make them very definitely hindered. I had a nice 45-minute wait for Mrs S to have her mouth "seen to" (unfortunately the lips were not sewn shut preventing the frequent furious talking to that occurs chez Moi - Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! This amount of time was just about right for me to have my coffee and a sneaky cake (Whack! Ouch!) AND solve this wonderful challenge:

Done it! Fabulous!
Diniar was right - when you buy any of his latest releases then you MUST ensure that this is in the purchase. It is just the right difficulty level, with several Aha! moments and a satisfying end. The reverse process is also a challenge (I doubt that you will remember the sequence that you performed to get there). This is also perfect for kids and newbies to try their hand at.

Thank you, my friend, these were wonderful.


  1. The ever vigilant and exceptionally knowledgeable Nick Baxter has contacted me to tell me that the Combination lock is not a new is, in fact, a very old design attributed to the Combination Novelty Company and designed originally by DE Dow. Nick does agree that it is a brilliant puzzle, though!
    Pic here

  2. I thought I had commented this already...

    Where can one purchase Diniar's puzzles?


    1. Sorry for the delay - for some reason Google will not let me post comments using my iPhone or iPad's mobile browser!

      Diniar sells them direct - he can be contacted by email or via his Facebook account.

    2. Which of course, begs the question... What is his e-mail address? I don't have it and could not find it. And I got off Facebook well over a year ago. Thanks!