Sunday 25 August 2019

Blame the Royal Mail For the Delay in Your Puzzling!

Latest Pelikan Offering
Many of you might have noticed at about midnight last night (BST) that Jakub and Jaroslav put up a bunch of new puzzles for sale on the New Pelikan Workshop. I think that they were hoping that they would go up a week ago but thanks to the Royal Mail, the date had to be put back. I do apologise! Why should the Royal Mail affect the sale of puzzles from the Czech Republic? Because Jakub always offers me the opportunity to buy the puzzles a week or so in advance and in return I write some of the descriptions and a mini-review for his site. This does mean there is a big pressure on me to photograph and solve them as quickly as I can after arrival so as not to disappoint the hungry puzzling masses.

Jakub posted out my batch of puzzles on 7th August and they left his country on the 9th. After that, there was a note on the tracking that they had arrived in London and there it stopped. It usually takes only another 48 hours to be delivered at this stage. The Royal Mail tracking site acknowledged their existence but not that they were in the UK. They were nowhere to be seen. This can not be blamed on Her Majesty's Customs and Excise department as, for the moment at least, we remain in the EU and no Customs should be due. Yes, the Royal Mail had lost them. After 10 days I even phoned them and they said this was not trackable in the UK (a lie). After another 3 days later it suddenly appeared at my house to my (and Jakub's relief - he really wanted to sell this batch of puzzles). The pressure was really on now - I had to solve them quickly so that you can buy them. As I type here it would appear that one, Petit Pack,  is already sold out. So, without further delay, here are my thoughts on the latest batch.

Petit Pack by Osanori Yamamoto

Petit Pack
Another lovely packing puzzle by the Master, Osanori Yamamoto. Pelikan has made this available in 4 gorgeous wood choices (A Cherry box and choice of Bubinga, Wenge, Purpleheart or Padauk pieces). The puzzle should be received by you with the pieces in the configuration above so that you get no clue about the eventual solution. There are just 3 pieces to fit into the 3x3 box.

3 simple pieces - I chose Purpleheart
These puzzles are a great challenge with a low number of pieces to fit in a box open at diagonally opposite corners with no gaps visible in the bigger hole. The first time I did it, I think I cheated by introducing pieces through the smaller hole and I found the challenge relatively easy. Next, it occurred to me that there might be more of a challenge if I place all pieces into the box via the front hole. This way the packing puzzle requires a lovely dance of the pieces around and has a lovely Aha! moment as you find the right order and the moves. The sequence is fun to find and at level 7.2.2, not terribly tough. It is perfect for beginners and experienced puzzles and, of course, if you are a packing puzzle collector then it's an essential purchase.

Solved it!
This one took me about 10 minutes for one approach and another 15 for the best solution
It is interesting to me that this has sold out so quickly whereas the others released by Pelikan have not. This puzzle is my least favourite of the releases this time - it is still a great little challenge but not as good as the other recent releases from Yamamoto-san including Petit ring and Pack 012.

Dunant by Volker Latussek

Let me start off this review with these words:
This is an absolutely amazing puzzle! Just another packing puzzle? Hell no! This is in part interlocking puzzle and part sequential movement puzzle. It is wonderful and seriously difficult. It was entered into the IPP design competition this year and it says a lot about the other entries that this did not win and award. The Aha! moment with this is a multiple and prolonged event. It is available with an Oak box and either Ovangkol or Mahogany pieces.

Initially, when you invert the box you pull out 3 pieces that simply slide in and out easily but clearly are nowhere near the solution as they protrude from the box in the start position. I initially thought that this was impossible until I realised that the 2 larger pieces can be divided up until we have 5 identical pieces.

Looks impossible here
The + shapes split in two - maybe there is a solution?
I spent a long time searching for a configuration that stands a chance of fitting in the box by searching outside the box. Even this is a tough challenge as I discovered when during a very long (7 hour) vascular angiography case I gave this to the nurses and radiographers to play with. It was fascinating to watch them all fail to even find a position that was possible. In the end, I found 2 conformations that might possibly fit inside the constraints of the box only to discover that I could not get them through the pretty large opening at the top. This was going to take a very complex sequence to get them into the box and then get them organised appropriately. I think there must be at least 3 Aha! moments in the solution and quite a lot of groaning too. This puzzle is wonderful - for €36 it's a bargain!

No! I am not going to show the solution here! Find it yourself and ask me by email if you need help.

Party by Klaas Jan Damstra

I cannot resist puzzles designed by Klaas! Both he and my friend Chris Lohe seem to have a marvellous eye for a puzzle with a wonderful balance of interesting shape and fun solution without being impossibly high level or impossibly difficult.

Party is a wonderfully picturesque puzzle with a burr appearing to float in the middle of a frame. Just a three-piece burr held in an open cubic cage, how hard can it be? Well, let me tell you that it's part simple, part tough and completely fun…just like a party should be. In most good parties there should be dancing and that's just what we have. The disassembly sees the three pieces moving around and about each other in a fun way with a few but not too many choices to lead you astray.

I had an interesting and promising conformation and rotated the puzzle to look at the back when a piece dropped out onto the bemused cat on my lap. Needless to say, it didn't stay in the starting orientation! After a few more moves the remaining pieces were out and at that point, I had a wonderful realisation…all of them were identical! Wow! What a lovely and clever design!

I did not know until after I had removed them that the three pieces were identical
The real challenge comes later. Having scrambled (even if by accident) the pieces, the reassembly is a really pleasant but doable puzzle. It took me about 45 minutes and left me with a big grin – I finally had solved something (after my weeks of failure with the Slammed car and Eric's burrset) and really enjoyed the process. This puzzle is available in several choices of wood. I chose Maple frame (when Jakub posted my blurb I realised that the frame is actually Cherry) with Ovangkol which has a gorgeous grain but it is also available with Purpleheart or Wenge pieces. All are lovely!

Well worth a place in your collection even if you are not a burr fanatic.

Rattle Twist III by Osanori Yamamoto

Rattle Twist III
I already own The Rattle Twist duo (I & II) made for me by a very good puzzling friend and I was very keen to investigate this 3rd one in the series (there are even a 4th and 5th published). These puzzles are all designed by the amazing Osanori Yamamoto and his devious mind manages to produce wonderful challenges with very few pieces which may or may not require rotational moves. As a quick interesting feature let me show you that this definitely has rotations in the solution:

Mine arrived doing this and who knows where it should have started!
This puzzle shares the same pieces as the original pair but a different plate for them to be arranged within. There are 4 different woods available and I couldn't resist the Cherry (again, in my blurb for Jakub I thought that it was Maple) and Purpleheart combination. The other options are Padauk, Merbau and Bubinga. Challenge to fit just 2 pieces in a simple frame? Shouldn't take long? I thought so and I thought wrong (as usual) – it took me several hours. There's at least one rotation and the pieces get caught amongst each other blocking most moves. Eventually, I had to stop and think© about what I needed to do and how the shapes would do it before solving it. As is usual for me I tried random moves but this just would not work for me here. The moves are quite well hidden.

Finally managed it - only 2 pieces and it still took me over 2 hours!
This is a lovely idea and I'm pleased to own the third in the series – so beautifully made by Pelikan too.

Merlin by Stephan Baumegger

Merlin is a serious work of art for serious puzzlers! This tremendous puzzle was designed by the genius Stephan Baumegger at the request of Dave Holt (The Metagrobologist) to accompany the Arthur and the Excalibur (also Cubic caged burrs) in the theme of TH White's “Once and Future King”. This gorgeous burr consists of 8 burrsticks in 2 sets of 4 and Merlin's wand passing through too. This is a high level burr at 64.7.3. The burrsticks move but they are heavily constrained by the wand which can only move along 2 constrained paths. I have not managed to solve this yet (and may not ever manage it) but this is one incredibly beautiful puzzle which will be fun to try, fail and then put back on display.

This is available with either Purpleheart and Wenge burr sticks or Merbau and Wenge sticks - either choice is fabulous and will provide you with many many hours of puzzling. I was particularly fascinated to read the account written by my friend James Cardinal on Facebook as he solved his copy (from Stephan) - read it here:

This latest batch from Jakub and Jaroslav are all superb - my favourites are Dunant,  Party and then Rattle Twist III. The Merlin is a stunning addition to your collection even if you never manage to solve it. Go out there and give Pelikan your money...I did! Much to Mrs S' disgust - no Whack! Ouch! ...Yet.


  1. Replies
    1. Omg! Yep! Did mistake to be corrected shortly. For some reason I was reading soon of Eliot's poetry and his name stuck in my brain.

    2. The TH vs TS makes them easy to exchange, too

  2. I ordered all of these except the Merlin - I just can't see ever getting a 64-move piece back in place after taking the thing apart. Beautiful puzzle, though.

    Petit Pack will go well with Petit Ring and Pack 3 - I love how Osanori works through variations of the same kind of setup, finding new tricks and moves.

    Dunant follows right on the heels of Harun (from Eric Fuller), also by Latussek and with a similar structure. It's got me completely baffled at the moment. (Dunant founded the Red Cross, so there's a visual link there - Harun is surely Harun-al-Rashid of the Arabian Nights - perhaps a reference to stories within stories - a clew?)

    Looking forward to Rattle Trap III as well, though now I want I and II. Are the pieces the same in this one, too? That would make a nice set.

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up as usual

    1. It's my pleasure to write the reviews! I'm delighted that I get feedback occasionally. Unfortunately I missed out on Harun - I can't buy everything even if it looks like I do! Thank you for the history behind some of the puzzles...I had no idea.