Sunday 29 May 2022

Masterpieces Ahead

Upcoming delights from Pelikan
Last week I tantalised you all with the news that there was soon to be a new release of lovelies from our wonderful friends and enablers at Pelikan and luckily for me I have been home alone all week whilst Mrs S is up visiting the out-laws. It hasn't been all plain sailing and puzzling as the usual chores that she would have done have been left to me as well as work as always. I also have to pay especial attention to our rather disturbed cat who is still missing his brother and is prone to wandering the house wailing at all hours of the day and night. But even with those distractions I still managed to work my way through all seven of them and I present my reviews for you here and then once I have edited and sent them to Jakub the puzzles will go on sale probably within a week.

The releases this time are:
We have (from back left):
Hippo designed by James Fortune
Stir the coffee designed by Dan Fast
Boo Burr designed by James Fortune
Four Mirror One designed by Osanori Yamamoto
Fermat meets Fuller designed by Dr Volker Latussek
One Flower designed by Osanori Yamamoto
Time - 4 - T designed by Alexander Magyarics

Time - 4 - T

Time - 4 - T 
This was the first puzzle I worked on because I am always intrigued by everything that Alexander designs. This diminutive and very pretty puzzle is made from Maple and Purpleheart and is vibrantly gorgeous despite being only 42mm across each side and 15mm thick. It's as portable as any Hanayama puzzle and much more pretty. Alexander has been emulating Osanori Yamamoto again with a puzzle consisting of 4 shapes trapped in a frame requiring them to be removed. This is a new idea for Alexander and yet again he shows his mastery of all aspects of puzzle design. Also on show is the Pelikan boys mastery of woodcraft - despite being so tiny, every piece has been made with supreme precision and the movement of everything is smooth and perfect. I did wonder whether rotations might be essential and I will let you discover whether or not that is the case. This is not a difficult puzzle but it is delightful to explore with some nice Aha! moments as you work through.

Simply perfect and precise
Having dismantled it, I would advise leaving the pieces for a few hours before trying to reassemble. It is definitely achievable and leaves you with a great sense of achievement. This is a delightful beginning to my week of Pelikan play.

Four Mirror One

Four Mirror One
This lovely puzzle by Osanori Yamamoto looked very familiar to me but I could not recall where from. After taking my photo and having a fiddle, I realised that I had another copy of this made by Brian Menold way back in 2015. This version by Pelikan is made from Wenge and Ash with a very striking grain enhancing the beauty. At that time, I had managed to disassemble the puzzle within a few minutes and found the reassembly the real challenge. Back then I must have been much better at puzzling because this time taking it apart took me about 30 minutes. Like many of Osanori-san's delightful frame-based creations, there are multiple rotations required to remove the pieces and with this one there are a huge number of rotational moves possible in multiple positions. On a couple of occasions, I had rotated several of the pieces but found myself unable to move further but also could not remember how to return to the beginning. There are no fancy hidden rounded edges here that allow special moves - it is a matter of making the right amount of space to facilitate a rotation before then moving on to the next piece and eventually orienting one of the pieces into the position where it lines up with a T shaped gap and gan slide out. After that the removal of the rest is easy.

Fab - all the T's are identical
Just like last time I played with this puzzle, I left the pieces for a few hours before the reassembly was attempted and this was again a significant challenge for me. It took me even longer than the 40 minutes back in 2015 - I am slightly ashamed to admit that it took me nearly an hour! Great puzzle - if two separate craftsman make it then it probably is good!

One Flower

One Flower
The second of Osanori-san's designs in this release is another frame and burr piece puzzle. This one is utterly gorgeous made from Padauk and Garapa. There are 2 pieces that straddle the frame and there is a decent sized hole in that frame for the pieces to come out but the pieces are almost the same size as the hole and need to be moved into a certain position for them to be releasable. Easy peasy, I thought! Move them around - rotations will be required as usual and this should not take me long. Wrong! At each corner of the frame is a square peg which severely limits the rotations (and other types of moves) and I found myself completely blocked. I realised after 15 minutes of trying the same thing over and over again that I must be missing something. Alternative directions of rotation maybe? Nope! I put it down for a while and only when returning to it on a second day did a thought permeate my dense skull. This must require something special - what if I try... Aha! I don't recall Osanori trying this before.

Nope! No spoiler here - not showing the pieces
The reassembly is fairly straightforward since there are only 2 pieces and a frame but the delight in the special sequence remains. This is one that I will probably be handing out to friends and colleagues to play with and will enjoy watching their confusion when want they want to do won't work.

Stir The Coffee

Stir The Coffee
The first of two absolute masterpieces in this release, Stir The Coffee is a significantly complex burr puzzle intended for people who really enjoy burrs - it is not for the beginner. I have known Dan Fast for many years (it may be nearly a decade now) and he comes across as a loud, brash Canadian with big opinions (you only need to view some of his videos on his CrazyBadCuber channel to realise this). But one consequence of Dan's personality is that when he starts a hobby or project he totally immerses himself in it and ABSOLUTELY masters it. He has been playing with Burrtools for a good few years now and has created some fabulous designs which he puts on Puzzlewillbeplayed and Facebook. Dan's own personal preference is for really high level burrs but he is in touch with the rest of the puzzling world and realises that such puzzles are a very small niche. As part of his mastery of the art of design, Dan has worked out exactly what the average burr puzzler wants...a challenge with a moderate level that remains stable during play. He also has a superb eye for aesthetics and makes shapes that are just beautiful. At a level of 54.4.2, this puzzle was a higher level than I would normally like (I find that anything above 30ish gets too complex for me to keep a track of the moves and possibilities) but yet again Dan has shown his skill - despite requiring so many moves, there are remarkably few false paths and those that are there, are short or circular leading back towards the original path. The challenge here is to discover the correct moves which are remarkably well hidden. The structure is extremely stable throughout and the pieces dance back and forth to stir the coffee in the rather beautiful cup before the simple but stunning teaspoon is removed and then you can empty the cup.

It's a masterpiece
The disassembly took me a good few hours in total with several periods of going round and round in circles trying to find the moves that I was obviously missing. Despite the extremely high level, it was always possible to backtrack to a place I recognised and start again. Only once I was very near the finish did I get lost but then the only way was forward. This is an absolute masterclass in burr design - Dan has got it absolutely right with a beautiful look, a high level but very achievable for anyone used to playing with burrs. Of course, Jakub and Jaroslav have brought this to life in a simply spectacular way. I cannot wait to see whether they produce anything else.

Fermat Meets Fuller

Fermat Meets Fuller
I have to start the review with these simple words:
"Buy this puzzle! It is incredible!"
Dr Latussek has a very strange mind! I do not understand how he designs these things - Burrtools is no use for them, he must do this in his head. This is not normal, there is absolutely nothing in my head at all let alone complex geometric manipulations. Volker has created several packing puzzles over the last few years and I have only ever managed to solve a couple of the simpler ones - it is telling that one had "for kids" in the name. So when I received the Fermat for Fuller, a few things raced echoingly through my empty noggin. First was the memory that I had not yet managed to solve the original Fermat (I had reviewed it unsolved here and Allard had reviewed (solved) it here), and secondly I wanted to know why it was meeting Fuller? 

Volker told me:
"with FERMAT I wanted to learn how triangular parts interact with one of my typical boxes. When I talked to Eric Fuller about this, I came up with the idea of dividing a cube into six triangular parts and in placing this cubic dissection I had a long and clarifying conversation with Eric Fuller some time ago. Then I had the idea to dissect a cube (cubic) into triangular parts (Fermat). Fermat meets Fuller was born.
Pelikan has created this using American Walnut and Merbau (which has stunning grain with amazing looking end-grain faces. The precision required for this puzzle is something to behold - it is simply perfect! Only Jakub and Jaroslav can do this in large numbers! 

Delivery configuration
I even struggled to dismantle the delivery position
I took the two loose pieces out of the box and saw the other four in the base and tried to remove them - I couldn't take them out - this was going to be a challenge! Once I had removed them then I had seen the kinds of manipulations that are possible and hoped that would arm me for the solution. I am terrible at this kind of challenge and did not hold out much hope but once I had seen the possible moves and that there was actually quite a bit of room in the box and a relatively large opening, I had a few ideas.

Needless to say, my ideas all failed for the first couple of days of trying. The next thing to do was to look at how many ways the base layer could be arranged, and then see how I could place the extras in the top layer - this is the real challenge - placing a base layer is fairly easy but this really blocks any space left for getting later pieces inside. After 3 days of failure I was becoming increasingly desperate and was losing hope. I then had a large Eureka moment (no, I did not leap out of the bath and run around naked - even with Mrs S away). I had found an arrangement that would leave a very nice gap to place the final pieces but then had to see whether I could place the first pieces in that position. I was stuck...until I realised that the relative thicknesses of the thick, medium and thin triangles had all been very specifically chosen. These pieces had been designed to allow one very very special sequence of moves. IT IS STUNNING! Volker has out done himself - this puzzle is a design masterpiece and is an essential purchase for any serious puzzler. As I said earlier: 
Believe me, you will not regret it!



Recently Pelikan have produced a series of wonderful puzzles that contribute to Goetz' Burr zoo and I was very pleased to see them continue this with the Hippo. This one has been designed by a relative newcomer to puzzle design, James Fortune, who I have been watching on Facebook for a year now. James has also set up a shop selling his designs that he has 3D printed (I have not tried any of these but they look amazing). For a design to be accepted by Jakub and Jaroslav, it must be pretty special - they always prototype them and check for poor design features like lack of stability or not a fun solve. The Hippo is a wonderful creation which is perfect for all puzzlers interested in burrs. It is beautiful, having been made from Maple, Purpleheart and Walnut with a wonderful bevelled finish and a lovely surprise once you find the correct start of the pathway. It is this first step that I struggled with the most. There are a couple of moves that are nice and easy to find and they are the wrong ones because they lead nowhere. I had taken this to work to play with and during a lunch break people watching me were extremely disappointed to see me go around and around in circles getting nowhere. Luckily I had to work again and used that as an excuse to stop making a fool of myself. 

Eventually I found the very well hidden first moves and I was on my way. This puzzle has a level of which is absolutely perfect. There are a few blind ends but none terribly deep and a lovely wide circle where a lot of possibilities lead you astray. I managed to get the first piece out relatively quickly once I had found the initial moves but the removal of the next two pieces took me a VERY long time. I could always return to the beginning but I was missing a well disguised move which I finally found yesterday. Usually with these, they become very unstable after a few pieces have been taken out but this one does not. It becomes sort of "squishy" and there are a few possible rotations that need to be controlled but with a little effort the removal of all the subsequent pieces can proceed without collapse right down to the very last pair. This is nothing short of extraordinary! During the solution, the hippo moves about a little but remains fairly static with just the sticks moving around him - he really gets in the way! There is also a particular feature of a couple of the burr sticks that links them together - it does look like they should separate on several occasions but they are firmly hooked up.

Beautifully made and a beautiful design.
I currently have this in pieces next to me and have created a BT file (a huge part of the fun) and look forward to reassembling it and trying again. If you enjoy burrs or want to try them out then this is a perfect puzzle for you.

Boo Burr

Boo burr

This is another creation from the prodigious mind of James Fortune and is also a member of the Burr zoo. It is simply gorgeous made from Wenge, Zebrano with Maple pieces hidden inside. I was a little mystified at the name initially but the reason for it becomes apparent very quickly when (at least the way I had it orientated) a white piece unexpectedly drops out of the puzzle into your lap onto a sleeping cat who shot of reminding me that he had a VERY sharp claw that I needed to clip. Yeeeouch! Picking up the fallen piece, I see why the puzzle is called the Boo burr. Genius. Getting to that first piece removal only requires 5 moves (the whole puzzle has level but finding the sequence took me a while. Again the critical position to find is quite well disguised. Once out there are quite a lot of possible paths and I struggled to work out where to go. I think I found the next piece removal by luck more than anything as it required a further 17 moves. From there on, the path is a nice gentle exploration of burr moves which, again, leaves you with a stable, if squishy, puzzle for the entire remainder of the disassembly. The seventh piece removal provides another surprise:

We have two ghosts in the burr!
I will need Burrtools to reassemble it but that is just as much fun as the exploration and disassembly. Another fabulous burr from Pelikan that will keep all us burr enthusiasts very happy!

So we have yet another phenomenal release coming up from Pelikan soon and there are definitely puzzles that you won't want to miss out on. The Fermat for Fuller and Stir the Coffee are essential puzzles in my opinion - absolutely masterpieces of design and craftsmanship! After that, you have quite a few wonderful puzzles to choose from - do you like burrs? Then the creations by James are just the right difficulty level. Do you like these stunning sequential movement puzzles? Then the designs from Osanori-san or Alexander-san are brilliant! Keep an eye out - I don't know when they will go up for sale but it won't be long!


  1. Do you know who at Pelikan is tasked with putting those burrs together? That is no simple task, I had to reassemble my Boo Burr recently and it took me more than an hour. Putting 100 of them together would be a mind-numbing task!

    1. I don't know who does it - but it must be a huge chore for them. It is only a small team so I would not be surprised if the whole bunch sit down and put them together.