Sunday 1 January 2023

Happy New Year! My top ten(ish) puzzles of 2022

Still a shithole!

Happy New Year everyone! I have no idea what happened to 2022! It went by in a haze of work with a little bit of puzzling providing some relief. We are not finished with this pandemic but the knock on effects of lock downs and down turns in the economy has made working in the NHS a bit of a nightmare to put it mildly. I am very much hoping that 2023 will be a better year for everyone.

As for puzzles…it was a pretty good year for acquisitions and I spent a fortune yet again. For solving, it has been much less wonderful - time has been hard to come by and the complexity of my work has gone up so much that I cannot concentrate on any toys during a case and I don’t get any breaks between cases to play. I do hope that next year provides a little respite and I can make some headway on clearing my rather embarrassing backlog. I bought quite a few wonderful and highly rated puzzles from the late and sadly missed Eric Fuller and have barely managed to play, let alone solve any of them. The number of Eric’s puzzles that were shown at Peter Hajek’s End of Year Puzzle Party was a very heartening tribute and reminded me of how many I had to catch up on.

Almost there

These are just outside my top ten(ish) puzzles purely because there were so many great designs and creations that towards the end I had to arbitrarily push a few to this group:

Legal Packing

Holy crap! I found this so so difficult!
It’s just plastic, it’s just a tray packing puzzle, it hasn’t won any awards! It bloody took me 2 years to solve it! The final Aha! moment was wonderful with a truly elegant solution which meant that it had to end up in my top ten solves of 2022 for that very reason

Castle sets 

I have watched in awe as my friend Tamás Vanyó showed off his amazingly complex puzzle designs on his FB page. His castle type designs (Castle builder set and Minas Tirith) looked particularly gorgeous and challenging. I was stunned to when Jakub and Jaroslav decided to make any of them because the complexity was incredibly high. Not only did they do a wonderful job but they improved the designs by adding a marble maze inside. These puzzles are on display on my desk next to me!

On with my top ten(ish) puzzles solved in 2022:

13) Stir the Coffee

Stir the coffee
Jakub and Jaroslav always create beautiful pieces and they rely heavily on great designers to provide them with puzzles that we will not only love to look at but will also love to play with. A simple burr (or even a horrifically complex one) is not something they will go for. There has to be something fun, some kind of special Aha! moment or a whimsy about the design that will stimulate them to put the not inconsiderable work in to bring a puzzle to life. Dan Fast has turned his hand to burr design for quite a few years now and has started to 3D print them for sale via his FB page. Many of his designs are very high level (too high for me) but some have an element of whimsy to them. The Stir the Coffee burr produced by Pelikan was just such a burr. I looked gorgeous and the solving process was such fun. It had to be one of my puzzles of the year.

12) Packing with Alexander

Sliders 2
Alexander Magyarics has a tremendous talent with all sorts of packing puzzles. I have a bunch of his 3D printed tray puzzles which vary from sublime to ridiculous in difficulty level. I keep returning to them and failing and then putting them away for a while. Luckily for us puzzlers, he has also had a bunch of his 3D TIC type packing puzzles made in wood by either Brian Menold or Pelikan and a few have been astonishingly difficult yet astonishingly good. I have to pick out the Sliders 2 from early in the year which was stunning and also the Insider puzzle from July and still available.

11) The aMAZEing Puzzlebox

The aMAZEing Puzzlebox
I have read about several designers who make their puzzles from Lego bricks and either sell them as completed puzzles or sell the plans for others to build. They have always intrigued me but never quite tipped me over to spending cash yet. I’m not entirely sure why…it may be my irrational aversion to plastic puzzles (I only buy a few of them), or possibly because they are “puzzle boxes” which I “don’t collect”. More likely, it is fear that they might entice me into the world of Lego which might end up with a murder in the PuzzleMad household (that would be mine!). When Peleg offered me a copy of his aMAZEing Puzzlebox to review, I couldn’t say no and thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the sequence of steps and discovering the various tools and establishing where to use them. I suspect that I am hooked!

10) Climburr

I have admired many of Christoph Lohe’s amazing designs over the years and have watched the fabulous development of Matthew Nedeljko’s fine wood craftsmanship for a couple of years. When they teamed up to produce the third and final puzzle in Chris' TIC series and the final one, Climburr, had design input from the TIC-Master himself (Andrew Crowell), I had to add one to my collection. The previous two (Chamburr and Cyborg) had been in last year’s Top 10. I was not disappointed - it was beautifully made with a lovely sequence of moves which were a nice challenge to find. This is a wonderful end to the trio which I keep together despite being made by different craftsmen.

I did manage to get a copy of the Jammed Gem when it came out and have only had time to idly play with it so far. It was in several of the top 3 puzzles at Peter’s EPP and I must try harder!

9) Akaki’s Picnic

Akaki's Picnic Basket
The late Eric Fuller only ever produced puzzles that he personally thought were fun and challenging. He had seen the amazing designs of Picnic baskets with items to pack inside created and 3D printed by Akaki Kuumeri. I had bought them because they looked gorgeous and I am a sucker for a puzzle set. I had not had time to play with them for nearly a year until I was told off by Ali for being so tardy. On his advice, I moved them to the top of my queue and took them on holiday with me to Edinburgh. As is usual with Ali (and of course, Eric) he was right. Each puzzle literally only has 4 simple pieces to place in the 3x3x3 cube yet the challenge is still tremendously fun and surprisingly difficult to do. Having left it untouched for such a long time, I now have it in my top 10 of the year!

8) Snappy Burr

Snappy burr
Jerry has appeared in almost every top 10 of mine since I began doing them. His puzzles are always instantly recognisable and are beautifully made from lovely wood with a very fine lacquer finish. What marks Jerry’s work from others is the incredible complex puzzle locking mechanisms that he creates. I don’t know how his brain works - he is definitely not like the rest of us but I am very grateful for his work. He gets very easily distracted and when he is supposed to be making puzzles for people on his list, he gets side-tracked and designs something new. Then he cannot resist taking the time to make it and I am lucky to be one of the puzzlers he asks for an opinion from. The Snappy burr was immediately delightful for the magnetic snapping movement it made which ended up as a bit of a fidget toy for me for a rather long time. Completion of this puzzle took me rather a long time because Jerry has used a set of moves that I have never seen him do before. It was quite fun to discover and the reassembly was a challenge too. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next year!

7) Loki

No, not the Marvel character but it was a devil of a challenge. Boaz Feldman has exploded onto the puzzle lock scene with triumph after triumph! I received a copy of Loki, his sequential discovery lock puzzle early in the year and it took me over two weeks to manage a complete solution. There is considerable extra fun because the reset mechanism also has to be worked out since it is not the same as the opening mechanism. Boaz has a new puzzle released recently and this has reminded me that I really need to get a copy as soon as possible.

6) Pelikan’s Burr Zoo contributions 

Waltzing Whales and Hippo Burr

Boo burr and Dino 2 

This year has been an incredibly creative success for Jakub and Jaroslav’s Pelikan puzzles - they produced dozens and dozens of phenomenal puzzles with a very diverse list of puzzle types and from many wonderful designers. You all know that I adore burrs (as long as they are not too difficult and particularly love the puzzles with hidden internal pieces making them part of Goetz' burr zoo. They started the year very strong with Waltzing Whales designed by one of the masters - Alfons Eyckmans. In May they added two more, Hippo burr and Boo Burr both by James Fortune - the hippo was particularly amazing fun!Dino 2, another one of Alfon’s creation was part of the September release and again brilliant fun with just the right level of complexity for me. Finally just sneaking another one in for Christmas, they produced the fabulous Dracula, also from Alfons (my goodness, he had a great year!) which is a 6 piece burr with sticks based on a 3x3x9 grid forming a wonderful maze-like solve process with the bonus of an extra piece inside.

5) Visitor Q+ and Res Q

ResQ by Eric
VisitorQ+ by Frederic
Well what can I say? Frederic Boucher is a master puzzle designer with an eye for challenges that are very different for most of the usual puzzles we see. He had created the Visitor Q (my version is a unique “plus” version) and then collaborated with the Doctor of wood, Eric Fuller to create the ResQ. Unfortunately I had missed out on this due to shopping cart difficulties when it came out. On hearing that, Frederic very generously gave me a special copy of VisitorQ last year and I had singularly failed for a very long time. I was then very kindly lent the ResQ by a trusting friend and I failed for a while with that but persevered with solving them both side by side. The space odyssey that I went through was truly mind blowing and a huge amount of fun. The final move on the ResQ took me days to work out and left me with the feeling that two of the very best in the world had collaborated to produce something absolutely incredible!

4) Angry Walter

Angry Walter
Another puzzle box that I was not sure about buying until a friend of mine corresponded and worked very hard to convince me that it was well worth the outlay and the time. As usual, I saw within a few minutes that I had been stupid to be so reticent. Dee Dixon’s DEDwood crafts has produced a number of stunning puzzle boxes over the last couple of years and they have been very well received by the community and won prizes in the Design competition. Indeed, Angry Walter won a top 10 vote getters prize this year. I got stuck on several parts of the solution and a very gentle nudge got me going - I had a wonderful time solving this and I am now completely converted to Dee’s puzzles.

3) Burr Bot and Burr Bank

I count myself very lucky to have managed to buy copies of Andrew Crowell’s new obsession. Having previously mastered the skill of TIC design, he moved on to sequential discovery puzzles that utilise burr features as well as sequential discovery tools. Burr bot was a wonderful introduction to his whimsy which was just preparation to the tour de force that was Burr bank which had many Aha! moments and a led me to a false sense of success before I realised there was yet more to do. These creations are “only” 3D printed plastic but are still absolutely stunning and remain on display in my puzzle cabinets rather than put away in a drawer.

2) Mittan

Another habitual entrant in my top 10 is the incredible Junichi Yananose who’s store is constantly inundated with wonderful creations in several puzzle genre’s. The amazing Mittan was a masterpiece that allowed my to buy a puzzlebox and a sequential discovery puzzle in one piece. Being a gorgeous cat shape, it was acceptable (even liked) by Mrs S and allowed to remain on the mantlepiece in our living room. The sequence of moves is a lovely fun thing to explore with just the right difficulty level. The final step had me stumped for nearly a week and required a lot of thought before I found what Juno had masterfully hidden. I eventually had the cat’s bell and his little fish dinner (thankfully not bread this time).

Such an amazing range of puzzles from Juno
Juno had not been only responsible for one fabulous challenge in 2022! He created yet more board burrs with some very unusual pieces in them as well as the Card case which had the most wonderful mechanism to explore (literally).

1) Dr Latussek Packs A Punch

Fermat meets Fuller - a masterpiece and a fitting tribute to Eric

My top acquisition for Peter Hajek’s EPP had to be the incredible, mind-bending, Fermat meets Fuller packing puzzle designed by Dr Volker Latussek and stunningly produced by Pelikan. I began the review of this on my site with the words “Buy this puzzle! It is incredible!” and I have to stand by this - it is one of the most wonderful puzzles to solve I have ever seen. Volker has expanded from cylindrical packing pieces to blocks and now to triangular prisms. This puzzle was beautifully and accurately made as you would expect from Pelikan and is very difficult. There are quite a few potential arrangements of the pieces but none achievable in the restricted entry of the box until you find a critical move which is absolutely stunning. The Aha! moment was one of the best of 2022. I am amazed that I managed to solve it (the original Fermat remains unsolved)

Having singled out the Fermat for Fuller as my best of the year, I cannot stop without mentioning a few of the other creations from the twisted mind of Volker!

The recent Eros which is STILL available from Pelikan and PuzzleMaster has shades of the much loved Casino which was my number one for 2018. There are 4 squircle disks and 2 hearts to be placed in the usual Latussek box and the sequence to find to get them in is wonderful.

I could not miss out on the amazing Tau as well - Volker has graduated from simple shapes to polyominoes but increased the complexity by adding in 45º bevelled faces on them and a single voxel blocking the entrance. Again, the finding the several assemblies is fun and a nice challenge but working out exactly how to get the correct one inside the box requiring several complex tight rotations is fabulous.

If you can find any of these then don’t hesitate! Just buy them and ask questions later!

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. 

Happy New Year to you all!

I really hope that you all have a wonderful year in 2023 with good health, success and plenty of wonderful puzzling. I look forward to entertaining and maybe helping many of you in this year.


  1. Great choices! It's hard to pick favorites when we're in a time of such puzzly abundance!

    1. Yes, indeed! It took me quite some time going back through my records to work out what was going in and it’s quite obvious that I struggled to narrow it down.