Tuesday 31 December 2019

Happy New Year - My top puzzles of 2019

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope that the new year and, indeed, the new decade will be a great one for you!

In 2019 I seem to have done rather well (especially in terms of the amount of hard-earned cash spent) in my accumulation of toys. Mrs S is less than enthusiastic but as long as my study is kept tidy she tolerates it...barely! 

I am always triggered to start writing this post when I receive the annual email from Peter Hajek asking for a puzzler's top 3 acquisitions (for his end of year puzzle party). My aim in this post is to highlight the very best puzzles of the year - I only include puzzles that I have actually managed to solve this year in this list - if I receive a puzzle in a previous year and solved it in 2019 then it stands a chance but others that I have bought this year but not solved will not be in my list this year.

I try to make it a top 10 but that is totally impossible and so I cheat by bunching puzzles into groups too. It might not be technically right but it's my blog and I'll do whatever I want as long as Mrs S lets me. Whack! Ouch!

So let's start off by breaking a rule straight away!

Fabulous Puzzle Not Allowed In This List

This year Mrs S and I celebrated our suffering of 25 years of wedded bliss (Whack! Ouch!) and to commemorate that we gave each other some lovely gifts. Mrs S received some specially commissioned jewellery and I, at last, received the one(?) puzzle I had lusted after for quite a lot of years. I managed to get a copy of Miguel Berrocal's Goliath. This has taken me months of wheedling and cajoling and it finally arrived in time for our anniversary. Why is it not in my proper top 10? For 2 reasons mostly - first of all, I have really had an incredibly busy year this year and had no real time to spend on a puzzle of this magnitude. Mostly I have not solved it because Mrs S is very frightened of the weight of it - it is MUCH too heavy to solve on my lap in my armchair during my evenings in front of the TV. Mrs S won't allow it in the kitchen for fear of a tile or granite catastrophe. I, therefore, need to organise a space in our dining room and this has not happened yet. Hopefully, in 2020 I will have the chance to explore this beauty fully.

Drum roll..................And now on to my "Top 10ish puzzles of 2019"

Continuing with breaking the rules lets start at number 12!

12) 136 Minute Cube/205 Minute Box
136-minute cube solved and ready for reassembly
Reassembled as the 205-minute box
The sequence cube was an incredible design by Aleksandr Leontev which he shared with me at the beginning of the year and when he tried to make a copy discovered that it proved to be impossible to construct in a stable manner. As a compromise (which probably actually saved my sanity) he created a variant with only a single removable piece rather than entirely dismantleable. This was called either the 136-minute cube or 205-minute box depending on which pieces were used. Those numbers were supposed to denote how long it should take but in my case, the numbers were considerably higher! It was a wonderful piece of 3D printing and a masterpiece of N-ary puzzle design.

11) Rex Beats Me

Kusing 25
Rex Rossano Perez has continued to produce top quality sequential discovery puzzles made from laser cut acrylic. I received the Kusing 25 as a wonderful surprise gift earlier this year and which I solved without understanding initially. It took me another 3 weeks to decide to cheat and open it up and look at the mechanism inside. Even with being able to see inside, it took me a good ½ hour to fully understand the mechanism. It is a work of absolute genius and beautifully implemented

10) RDS Interlock Puzzle

RDS Interlock PLUS
My Bulgarian friend Stefan worked with the genius that is Derek Bosch to produce a full analysis of the RDS interlock puzzle and produced a wonderful set that included all the pieces needed to make all the possible constructions. In total, there are 27 assemblies possible with the provided pieces and I had a wonderful time trying to find as many as I possibly could. This was made all the more challenging by the dexterity needed to hold all the pieces in place whilst placing more into the puzzle. Inside the outer shell is another puzzle which is also great fun, the 4 Dimensional Trapsticks which has only one assembly which took me 3 days. Apart from the superb puzzling provided by this multilayered puzzle, this was made all the more special by the incredible 3D printing by Stefan (in my opinion he is the best in the world) and especially the fact that this was given to me as a gift. Thank you, my friend! 

9) Ternary/Quinary Cube
Ternary/Quinary Cube
Johan Heyns has been producing wonderful wooden creations for a few years now and I have managed to obtain quite a few of them. He has also developed a fascination with the N-ary puzzles and after a discussion with Aleksandr Leontev, he produced a batch of Ternary/Quinary cubes. These gorgeous puzzles smell as good as they look and provided a wonderful challenge. Arriving in the Ternary form, they require steps to solve and then the maze plates can be flipped into a Quinary form which requires 1251.2.2.2 to solve - a fun challenge...EXCEPT that I had not paid attention to how my plates were originally orientated and had the additional challenge of assembling it into a fully functional puzzle - it only took me 3 or 4 hours to work it out. After I had put it away, we were informed by Jack Krijnen that this puzzle actually has 4 challenges as the orientation of the maze plates can be mixed and matched. Brilliant puzzle!

8) Combination Lock
Combination Lock
The Combination lock is a wonderful sequential move puzzle that I bought from Diniar Namdarian. I actually hesitated to buy this puzzle along with the others because I was feeling a little guilty at the amount of money that I had spent! Diniar argued with me and I am soo soooo glad that he did. The combination lock here is a reproduction of a classic puzzle produced by the Combination Novelty Company and designed originally by DE Dow. I finished off my review with the statement that if you order other puzzles from Diniar then make sure that you pick up a copy of this. No matter how many times I have solved it, I struggle to do it again. Brilliant!

7) Brass Monkey #3
Brass Monkeys all lined up
My very good friends, Big Steve and Ali have formed a wonderful puzzle company which produces items of quality! The third in their series of Brass 6 piece burr puzzles (BM#3) was released this year and apart from being beautifully made, it is also a lovely clever challenge which might also be rather painful to solve. As a set, they look incredible on display and the weight of them makes Mrs S nervous when they are played within the kitchen. It was a wonderful challenge which took me a while. Whilst you are at their Etsy store, you should also buy a copy of their Nova Plexus and the Hyperboloid burr or to save on postage in North America buy from PuzzleMaster.

6) Fidget Burr
Fidget Burr
Whenever Jerry asks me if I am interested in offering feedback on a new design, I just say yes! I don't think about it - the answer is always gimme gimme gimme. After a little exchange of PayPal and a long wait as the Royal Mail holds things hostage, I get to play with a puzzle that is classic Jerry (you can tell who made it instantly). This puzzle can double up as a fidget toy - it has magnets in like the last few that he has designed and it makes a wonderful noise as you move pieces around. It is quite a challenge to find the second move with this one and when you do, the Aha! moment is wonderful. Even after the very well hidden move has been found, there is still a real challenge ahead to fully dismantle the puzzle. It requires a lovely piece of logic to solve and then reassembly is just as much fun.

5) TICs Galore
A BIG bunch of TICs from Bernhard

Let's not forget the rather large number of TIC's that I bought from Brian! This is just a small selection

Andrew Crowell has taken the puzzle world by storm! He has been designing Turning interlocking cubes the last 2 years like the world was about to end! They vary in complexity from relatively challenging to totally mind-boggling. I absolutely adore them! Initially, I wanted to receive them fully assembled into beautiful cubes and work out how to take them apart but now as my skills have improved I can actually appreciate the challenge of them entirely as assembly puzzles. Some are still kicking my butt but it's a very enjoyable failure. Of course, absolutely no-one makes these as well as the incredible Brian Menold! who's choice of glorious woods is inspired!

4) Derek & Eric'S Marvellous Split Mazeburr
Magnificent Mazeburr
When Derek showed me his designs for a new version of his Mazeburr puzzle (I had previously adored the rhombic version) and promised me that I could have a 3D printed version if he could perfect the design, I was over the moon. I love to have series’ of puzzles and this would have been great. Then the Doctor of wood, Eric Fuller, decided to have a try at making one, I knew I had to have a copy. In fact, whilst pacing the Post-operative care unit, looking after a bunch of patients at 6pm, the email came in and I took the required 60 seconds on my phone to buy a copy. It was stunning in wood and the booklet that Derek had designed to go with it provided a whole lotta fun for several months. I’ve only scratched the surface with it but it has to be one of the best designs and creations of the year!

3) Pelikan Packs A Whole Lotta Brilliance Into 2019

A Whole bunch of Packing puzzles designed by Osanori Yamamoto

When Jakub and Jaroslav team up with the amazing Osanori Yamamoto then you are absolutely guaranteed a fabulous puzzle! It will be beautifully made and the puzzling will be just the right level of difficulty - a stunning challenge to go back to again and again. The pictures above are not all they produced this year but they were some of my favourites of the entire year. I am generally not good at Packing puzzles but these are making me change my mind - they have just the right number of pieces to ensure that trial and error are not required and we are left with a puzzle that is a delight to solve.

Incredible designs by the unbelievably talented Volker Latussek

Of course, there were a number of puzzles designed by Volker Latussek this year and 2 were produced by Pelikan - The Dunant was an amazing and very interesting challenge which was one of the very few where I began my review with the words "Go buy it now" as the very first thing I wrote. It is a tremendous and very difficult challenge which took me a few days to work out with a wonderful Aha! moment. Then also by Dr Latussek, there was the Harun/Guillotine puzzle. My copy was a wonderful gift from Allard of the basic Rombol version but both Eric and Jakub produced more beautiful versions. This also is a tremendous puzzle finishing out the year of wonderful puzzles from Pelikan.

2) Juno’s Sequential Discovery Puzzles
The most amazing sequential discovery puzzle of the year - the Slammed Car

Sequential Discovery Board Burred Box
Chubby Crocodile - being attacked
Juno had an incredible year - he produced a bunch of sequential discovery puzzles which the world swooped on very quickly. They rapidly gained acclaim from puzzlers everywhere including on my blog - Slammed car, Board burr and Crocodile. The Slammed car won the 2019 Jury grand prize in the IPP design competition and for very good reason - it is a Tour de force puzzle with so many steps and a very complex end step which kept me stumped for many weeks. The quality of the craftsmanship and the extent of the puzzling make this one of the very best puzzles of the entire year.

Juno has released (on Boxing day) a new SD puzzle which may be of interest to you all - the Ring Case is a box/SD puzzle and is still available at the time of writing - you may want to check it out as there is a chance that it might end up in next year's top ten.

BUT Juno is beaten out of the top spot this year by another fabulous challenge that may be a surprise to many of you:

1) Skewby Copter Plus

Yes, my puzzle of the year for 2019 is not made of wood! It’s not a burr or an interlocking puzzle! It’s the best twisty puzzle I’ve ever seen - an amazing work of design and manufacturing ending with a fabulous logical challenge. It’s the Skewby Copter plus, designed by Diogo Souza and manufactured by MF8,  is an incredible hybrid of the Curvy Copter Plus (an improved unbandaged version) and a Skewb. It is so complex that one needs a plan just to scramble it and end up with a horrific mess. The approach to solving it is a multistage process which is logical and fun. There are no complex algorithms as the solution uses basic principles. There are several fun parities to contend with as well and I think, one of the best puzzles ever designed and produced.

Do you agree with my top 10? If you have any different thoughts then please comment below or even use my Contact page to tell me how wrong I am. I look forward to your thoughts.

Usually, I try and show off some photos of the "State of the Union/Collection" but at this moment in time, my study has relapsed into being a huge shithole again with puzzles and papers everywhere. I will, no doubt, be forced to tidy up again before long and then I will endeavour to update my collection photos.


  1. Foreign Office Reporting:

    Slammed Car - Fully agree, great solve and impeccable craftsmanship, deserves all the praise it gets. On my top shelf.

    I would add that U-shaped thing on a stick from JCC (via Wil). I thought that was very clever, and the top ten must include a tanglement.

    Also, although i know it is not from 2019, my personal list for this year includes Mineyuki Uyematsu's 4L, which i just got around to. Wow, what a puzzle!

    1. Glad that you approve Mike. I have so many that are suitable for a best of list that it is really hard to choose! Most of the disentanglement puzzles that I got in 2019 were so complex that I struggled with them and found them less enjoyable.

      And yes 4L is amazing!

  2. Thanks for such a great list of puzzles. I've been looking forward to this for a while (since this time last year in fact!).

    I have just ordered the Pelikan Eggplant puzzle, so glad to see it making number 3 on the list.

    Given your praise of Jigsaw 29 last year, I thought that one of Yuu Asaka's latest efforts may have made it onto the list. Although I cannot attest for Wave 5's merits (since I have not completed it yet), it is certainly very hard, and presumably very clever too.

    1. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my post and even follow them year on year! Hopefully I can keep it going for another year! Apart from jigsaw 19 I don’t have any other of Yuu Asaka's puzzles yet. I’m hoping to get them this year sometime.

      You will love the Eggplant!

    2. My Eggplant puzzle finally arrived. It's smaller than I had expected!

      I do love a good puzzle list! Have you any plans to do any more outside your yearly top 10 (ish)?

      Something that I (being a relative puzzle novice) would find really helpful is some sort of list looking at puzzles that are cheap/easily available. I get excited about reading about puzzles like Slammed Car... until I look into how to buy one.

    3. I completely understand at how shocking the prices can be. I have spent a small fortune over the last 9 years. I suggest that you read Gabriel’s blog for puzzles that are much more affordable. Hopefully I also will get back to reviewing some cheaper puzzles sometime but not sure when.