Sunday 18 September 2022

Humiliated by Fred and Ali…


A unique puzzle (VLE = very limited edition) from Frederic Boucher
Quite a long time ago I received a wonderful puzzling gift from a very generous friend of mine with a bunch of fabulous new toys to play with (including the amazing Visitor Q which I parallel solved with a loan copy of Res Q from the very trusting Andrew Coles). These have kept me occupied for the best part of a year. One of these beauties was the Tsubomi packing puzzle. It is named for the Japanese word for Bud and the puzzle has 5 buds to be placed inside the rather beautifully made wooden box. Frederic's craftsmanship is always quietly understated - he doesn’t use fancy woods but everything is perfectly made and the contrast in colours along with some lovely grain is always a delight. I am really proud to be one of only 2 owners of this particular puzzle.

Minima XIII
In my odyssey with Visitor Q which took me such a long time, whenever I put down one of his puzzles, I would invariably pick up another to try. It was often Tsubomi or Minima XIII (which I solved after a few hours only to be later told that Fred had made a mistake and once he had sent me an updated version I cannot solve it). The Tsubomi had frighten me because of the sheer complexity of the pieces and I was somehow convinced that there might be a rotational move. I had picked the puzzle up probably 30 times over the year and somehow could never manage to solve it. Humiliated by Frederic again! Aaargh!

At the recent MPP XLII the Tsubomi was in my box of puzzles for people to try. A few people had a look at it but no one seemed keen to sink much time into it. I was kind of hoping that someone would solve it to give me some confidence to try it again myself. After lunch Ali picked it up, asked a few questions which I didn’t know the answers too and set to it. I was heartened to see that he takes the same approach to these as I do. Part of me always wonders whether I go about them completely wrong which might account for how I seem to struggle. I guess that if we have a similar approach and I continually fail the best explanation is that I’m not very bright or very good at puzzles! To my shock/horror Ali solve the bloody thing in about an hour. I was flabbergasted! I took it home in the saved state and the following day took the pieces out and saw that the solution was entirely linear (I had tried rotations on several occasions but there is very little space inside the box for such bulky pieces to be allowed to rotate. Humbled by this, I scrambled the pieces and put them aside. I then got really really busy at work and did not find time to play for a good couple of weeks.

Eventually I got back to it and, as expected, discovered that I had absolutely no recollection of the solution (or even the order that the pieces went back inside). Yet again, try to make a 4x4x4 shape - there will be quite a few gaps and 6 of the missing voxels will need to coincide with the cubies attached to the interior of the box. Humiliation!!! I still couldn’t do it! I was a able to make a cube but not coinciding with the captive cubies and then eventually after a few hours I managed to make a cube that would fit in the space but the orientation of several of the buds was such that they couldn’t be fed through the 4x2 entrance hole at the top of the box. Wow! This was some challenge for a man who is a self confessed packing puzzle idiot.

I couldn’t let it go! I had to solve it… I had a blog post to write. Just this morning, I still didn’t have it finished. By pure luck whilst considering my failure, I absently put the pieces together and I had a cube with gaps in the right places and, ooooh the pieces oriented correctly. I hadn’t even really been concentrating. Was it right? I did the reverse of the solution outside of the box and… YESSSSSS!

Months and months of attempts and I solve it by accident!
Such an amazing feeling to finally get it solved. Frederic Boucher designs and makes incredible puzzles (this is why I could not resist buying his latest collaboration with Eric -  the jammed gem). I was rather shocked at how difficult this one was but the sense of achievement when I finally got there was enormous. 

I cannot wait to see what the next production and designs bring for us. He is simply incredible! Thank you my friend.


  1. Love this puzzle! I had a very similar experience and was convinced there must be rotations (I thought it was an apparent cube for a while, which didn't help lol). Frederic really is such an amazing designer (and an all around good guy) - my solve rate of his designs is abysmal... but I keep on trying!

    1. I’m so glad that someone else has a similar issue solving these! If you struggle then with your skills then I don’t feel so bad.

  2. Looks at though there MUST be rotations involved! What is the level?

    1. I’ve been contacted by Fred and it seems that I have made a huge mistake. Update coming for the next blog post. Read that hint as “I’m an eeejit”! 😱😱😱