Sunday 5 July 2020

Pelikan Packs Them In!

Coming soon to a webstore near everyone!
New toys from the New Pelikan Workshop
Yes,  I am back and raring to go! I'm still pretty knackered and at the start of my first day back at work I thought I would check my O2 sats. I was pleased to say that they were a good 97% but a bit shocked that walking 400m along a corridor had left me with a heart rate of 130! I need to get my fitness back soon. People did comment that I looked rather thin (I'm down to 57Kg) but I'm eating normally again and the weight should come back up fairly quickly. Of course, the idiot who writes the on call rotas had put me down for the Trauma service yesterday (Saturday) and that took it out of me - luckily, all I do on a Sunday is sit and write a blog post! I'm thinking that I will have to shoot the rota service organiser soon - Oh wait....that would be me. Doh! One thing I did see yesterday reminds me that the wonderful wood craftsmen we take for granted risk life and fingers every day - one poor chap decided that he'd put his hand through a table saw. Ouch!!  I suspect he will only be able to count to 8½ from now on and maybe even less! Be careful out there, Eric, Brian, Jakub, Terry, Yavuz et al.

These puzzles are due to be released by the New Pelikan Workshop very soon and I suspect that they will also come up for sale (probably a few weeks later) from PuzzleMaster in Canada or JPGames in the UK. They are ALL worth your hard-earned cash and your choice depends on how tough you like your puzzling to be.

Whilst off sick with the dreaded virus, I was offered a bunch of new toys by Jakub and Jaroslav to review before they go on sale. I was feeling like hell and had not managed any puzzling for over a week but I had more or less decided that I was probably going to survive so the transaction was done and a large package winged across Europe at an unbelievable speed! I was delighted to receive copies of 2 new cube packing puzzles by the "Master of the disturbingly simple", Osanori Yamamoto (PuzzleMad links) as well as a 2 new incredibly gorgeous designs by Volker Latussek (PuzzleMad links) and a new multi-packing puzzle by Alexander Magyarics (PuzzleMad links). They all looked absolutely stunning which is exactly what we have come to expect from those Pelikan boys! The wood choices are great with fabulous grain and contrasting colours. So which ones should I start on? Unfortunately, my spirit was willing but the brain was definitely NOT functioning terribly well - I had a quick fiddle for a day or 2 after they arrived and I just couldn't do anything - in fact, I kept falling asleep! These puzzles are definitely NOT boring but they will need a very good attention span and a well functioning brain! I would need to wait until my brain fog had improved a bit more.

Later in the week, I started to feel a whole lot better and set to work  puzzles again.

Diamond Hole

Diamond Hole by Osanori Yamamoto
This one is made form Wenge and Maple and the name/designer has been etched onto the puzzle
Osanori-san keeps producing designs based on a small cube or cuboid cavity (literally just a 3x3x3 or 3x3x2) within a simple box which has one or more holes at some position and the aim is to insert a small number (usually just 3 or 4) of oddly shaped pieces into the cavity such that the hole(s) are completely obscured - this may completely fill the cavity but often does not. The premise of these puzzles is incredibly simple but the sheer challenge and enjoyment that is achieved with such a simple idea cannot be underestimated. Sometimes rotations are required but mostly it is just a dance of the pieces in a beautiful pattern that is required before they settle into place. Looking at the pieces, you can see that there is going to be a reasonable amount of space left inside the box but the complexity of the pieces coupled with the restriction to movement caused by the diagonal half filled voxels along the edges of the holes make for a really fun challenge.

My usual approach (I assume that everyone does the same) is to make the cubic shape outside the box. Then I find that none of the shapes I make will cover the holes properly and have to make the shapes several (even many) times before it seems to fit properly. My problem is having a memory of a bluebottle (apparently we have been doing a disservice to Goldfish) - I am fairly certain that several times I made the same cubic shape as I did earlier to check against the box but couldn't remember it. I tried at least 6 different cubes but Burrtools tells me there aren't 6 cubic assemblies. 

Having finally found a number of cubes that fill the holes, it was time to assemble it inside the box. Again, I assume most of you take your cubes and try to disassemble them constrained by the holes? For some reason, this was not happening for me! Some of my cubes could be rotated and tried in different orientations and hopefully......NOPE! Try again! I got fixated on one particularly nice cubic assembly and tried it for hours and hours. Sigh! Maybe my cube was wrong? Hell yes! I found another cubic assembly that didn't seem quite as nice but did fit the shape and after trying several different orientations, I thought I had something promising. Time to try getting it into the actual box. Even that is a huge challenge! Which piece to try in which order? I was fixated and kept trying the same idea over and over again and, of course, failing. Aaaargh! In my enfeebled state, I kept trying the same thing and for once, I have disproved the theory - something changed and I had the puzzle solved! Yessss - I loved it!

At last! It took me hours!
I immediately dismantled it and proved that I was a Bluebottle - I could not for the life of me put it back together again! Another hour and I had managed it! This puzzle is one of my favourites - it has just the right level of challenge and looks beautiful. If you have played with others by Oasnori-san then you owe it to yourself and your collection to get this one!


Neptune also by Osanori Yamamoto
Mahogany box and Wenge pieces
This puzzle really worried me when I took it out of the packaging! The box contains a 3x3x3 cavity but a very restrictive pair of slot entry/exit holes which looked like they would make it really tough to get the pieces oriented correctly and there were 6 pieces to be packed! I am RUBBISH at packing puzzles and as soon as there are more than 3 pieces then I struggle a lot. I even felt compelled to buy the One piece packing puzzle from Eric's latest releases! This puzzle is COMPLETELY different to the other puzzles from Osanori-san, the pieces are very simple (3 pentominos and 3 tetrominos) and the total voxel count is 27 - no gaps.

Back to the toil - make a cube outside the box. Easier said than done! My first several hours left me unable to even make a 3x3x3 cube from the 6 simple pieces. This worried me because I could tell that the solution would have to include at least one rotation (look at the shapes and the slots and it is pretty obvious). Eventually I found a cube assembly and then realised that I would have to try 6 different orientations before ruling it out as the correct assembly. OMG - this might take me months. My first assembly looked lovely but after rotating it 6 times, it very quickly became apparent that it was impossible to assemble it inside the box. There is one very important constraint that is immediately obvious as soon as you actually try an assembly. OK. Time to find another assembly - Burrtools and Puzzlewillbeplayed tells me that there are 8 possible ways to make a cube and each one needs to be looked at in 6 orientations - 48 possible combinations. I was betting that I would find the right one as number 48. I spent an evening in front of the TV with a still quite sick Mrs S talking to myself as I tried to find an alternate assembly. Luckily Mrs S was too ill to do any more than glower at me muttering the evil painful things she was going to do to me when she got better. I dont really blame her - I was swearing away while she was trying to watch TV and I had given her a life-threatening virus which made her feel bloody awful! At that time I would have murdered me painfully as well! Out of the blue, I found another assembly. I could actually tell that it was different because it met a particular constraint that I had set which should make entry through the slots possible.

Yesssss! This was a huge challenge for me!
Unlike Diamond hole, this does not take a lot of careful planning for the actual assembly as there is no real dance of the pieces around each other. There is a certain fairly obvious order and the rotation(s) are important but not difficult and then suddenly you have an assembled cube inside the box! The Aha! moment is delicious - it is a more "normal" packing puzzle than most of his designs but the restrictive entry and the rotations make it much more interesting than a standard packing puzzle. It also has a fair bit of repeatability - I have been unable to solve it a second time despite trying for a couple more hours. This is well worth adding to your collection but very different to what has gone before!


Hydrant by Alexander Magyarics
3 puzzle challenges in 1
Alexander Magyarics is a relative newcomer to the world of puzzle design but he has crashed into it and rapidly made a huge name for himself as someone with a huge talent! He doesn't seem to just be a manipulator of Burrtools to make things that interlock, he has a unique knack of finding shapes and challenges that are not only just the right level of difficulty but are also great fun - they require exploration and thought and a lot of movement! Every single one of his puzzles that I have tried has been a rapid favourite and Hydrant does not disappoint. Beautifully made by Jakub and Jaroslav from Padauk, Ash, Iroko and Wenge, this rather complex box comes with 6 equally complex  to be inserted inside. Not all at once, I hasten to add - there are 3 separate challenges requiring different combinations of the pieces:

Challenge 1
Challenge 2
Challenge 3
I would suggest that you actually start with challenge 2 and then move on to the other 2. The pieces leave gaps in the 3x3 cavity of the box and the aim is to insert them inside such that there are no holes visible in the H shaped entry slot at the top. These pieces are shaped in such a way that it is actually quite difficult to find a way to put them in the box. Once there are other pieces inside then things get very blocked very quickly and there needs to be a wonderful dance of pieces before they all settle into place. I expected this to be a mass difficult challenge but, as always seems to be the case with Alexander's puzzles, these are just superb! Just the right difficulty level to provide a decent challenge and lovely Aha! moment without leading to a balding puzzler tearing what little hair he has left out! This bloody iMac is causing me to lose most of it without help from puzzles! Small spoiler behind the button - only press if you are not distressed by getting hints:

The solutions took me a few hours to find - I heartily recommend this to anyone who likes interlocking puzzles - in particular, if you enjoy the simple packing puzzles designed by Osanori-san then these will be right up your street. Fabulous!

Yin Yang

Yin Yang presented protruding
6 simple pieces - fit them fully inside the box
My copy of Yin yang has been crafted from Cherry, Maple and Wenge - it is simply stunning. Dr Volker Latussek is responsible for some truly amazing packing puzzles! His mind seems to work very differently to many other designers and he is incredibly particular that his puzzles are beautifully presented in both the unsolved as well as the solved state. The Yin Yang puzzle looks just as its' name would suggest in both solved and unsolved states. There are 6 simple blocks of wood to be fitted through the Yin (or yang) with the aim being to completely fill the cavity of the box.which is a 4x4x3 cuboid. These shapes look pretty simple and there's a decent sized hole which places a small restriction on how pieces can be put inside. Yet again.....make a cuboid outside the box! How hard can it be with such simple pieces? OMG! I am really not very bright! I spent a good few hours over a couple of evenings just trying to make the assembly. It wouldn't fit together and I had begun to think that Jakub was trying to make me look foolish (something I frequently manage without any assistance!) but on the third day of searching, I had a wonderful Aha! moment - my cuboid was complete. Right then place it inside the box. Except it wasn't to be that easy. The shapes and orientation revealed certain requirements for movements which was a fun discovery.

I tried for an hour to get the shape I had made into the box and couldn't for the life of me do it. OMG! was there an alternate assembly that I hadn't found despite 3 days of trying? Time to Think©. So I thunk for an evening and it hit me right between the eyes! Not terribly bright and I hope that you don't have the same problem. I finally got it and was delighted - it looks stunning in the solved shape as well.

Solved at last!
This puzzle is absolutely fabulous - the premise is simple but the execution of it is a lovely challenge. I suspect that most of you hardcore puzzlers out there will find this a lot easier than I did because you are all much cleverer than me. It is well worth the effort being just the right difficulty level.


Dufour by Volker Latussek
Out of the box
This beautiful puzzle by Dr Latussek is a whole different level of challenge. One of the features that marks Volker's approach is that he always stipulates a way that the puzzle should be presented to be solved and that is usually just as gorgeous (and often as much of a challenge) as the actual puzzle solution. Dufour arrives in a box with a beautiful cross visible on top and the whole assembly slides out of the box to reveal a 2x2 square on the opposite face. Having admired the beautiful construction - this one made from Oak and Padauk, I carefully took it apart to find 8 pieces which need to be fitted back into the box and ending up with all the pieces flush with the surface. Looking at the shapes of the pieces, I knew that I was going to really struggle - have I told you that packing puzzles are really not my forté.

We have 8 hexominos to fit in a 4x4x3 box
There will be no gaps once packed
I have worked on this for over a week on and off and have so far not even come close to solving it. It may be that this is too difficult for me - maybe too many pieces or maybe the shapes are too complex? For anyone who loves very difficult packing puzzles, this will be a wonderful challenge. I am unable also to put it back to the starting shape either despite the "assistance" provided by the coloured pieces. Yet again, Dr Latussek shows that he is the master of this sort of puzzle!

So, which would I recommend? All of them, of course! It depends on your puzzle type preferences. Are you into difficult packing puzzles? Then you really want the Yin yang and Neptune puzzles and consider the Dufour if you are wanting a particularly tough challenge. Do you like interlocking packing puzzles that require sequences of moves to solve then Hydrant and Diamond hole are must buys! Luckily for me, I have bought them all! Maybe you should too!

Are you into puzzle locks? Of course you are - have a look at my New additions page for a new lock produced by a brilliant new craftsman, Andrew Coles. Allard also received and reviewed his first puzzle. So far I've been working too much to have more than a look and take some photos. First impressions are that this is top notch craftsmanship.

It's great to be healthy again - make sure that you stay safe out there! Social distancing is the main thing you can do and when that is not possible it is worthwhile wearing a mask - it won't protect you but it will protect others from you. If everyone does this then it will generally decrease transmission of this awful disease. Do NOT take any notice of the crazy idiots who claim that masks poison them or that they cause CO2 retention and headaches etc from that. I've worn a mask for over 25 years with no evidence of poisoning and anyone who knows about respiratory physiology and chemistry will tell you that CO2 is a tiny molecule that passes through membranes and materials very fast indeed. You cannot get CO2 retention from a mask!

Take care everyone - keep safe and as my friend Michel says, "keep puzzling".


  1. I'm very glad I'm not the only one struggling on the - find an assembly - step of Yingyang :D. Solved Diamond hole last night, one of my favourite Osanoris so far! The dance was great :)

    1. Keep trying! The Aha! moment is wonderful!!!!

  2. I need help with dufour. I’ve spent way too much time unsuccessfully trying to solve it. Can you help me?

    1. The most fun way to do that if you can’t solve it yourself I’d to enter the puzzle into Burrtools. If you would rather not do that then please use my contact page.