Sunday 7 May 2023

A Coronation Needs Cake to Celebrate

The Dessert TICs or Cake TICs by Laszlo Kmolnar
I saw Neal show these off on a Mechanical Puzzle Facebook group a few weeks ago and I asked about them. The shapes are freely available to download and print but I have been told that the purchase of a 3D printer is grounds for divorce (which I cannot afford) and I really do prefer my puzzles in woof where possible. Luckily Neal was open to selling the set to me and for a very reasonable sum the whizzed across the Atlantic to chez Puzzlemad for me to marvel at. I have not had much contact with Laszlo for a while and had no idea that he had taken his unbelievable puzzle design skills into the TIC world - let me say that yet again, he has done something wonderful and designed some beautiful puzzles with just the right challenge level.

The beautiful wooden sticks were all made by Jeff Baz and he also assembled 4 of the puzzles. For a while Jeff was also selling stacks of wooden sticks for puzzlers to assemble into their own toys and Matt Hochberg made the other 2 puzzles for Neal. Jeff's usual items for sale are gorgeous wooden chopsticks and other wooden art and he seems to have stopped making puzzles for the moment and also is not making the sticks either but hopefully he will restart sometime in the future.

Neal very helpfully disassembled the 6 TICs for me prior to sending them and they were well packed with no glue calamities in transit. I had a bunch of challenges to play with. I have often in the past hesitated to do assembly puzzles because I am generally bad at them. But over the last year or so, I have gotten a little better due to the TICs I have attempted from various designers. I was very glad that these had been sent to me disassembled. They are all a very nice challenge level with only one of them being exceptionally difficult. Neal suggested that I start with Cookie, then Cake, then Scone and then Macaron. Off I went - I took them to work to play with in the odd moment of down time. Staring in the ascribed order.

CookieTIC was a beautiful way to start. These are all a pair of ring shaped larger pieces that have the interlocking then rotation to be done before sliding together into a 4x4x3 cuboid and then having the smaller pieces to filling the gaps. Sometimes the filling of these gaps requires a partial disarticulation and the sliding back together with the piece inside. The rotational aspects are very like a disentanglement puzzle in reverse with the possible movements highly constrained. This one took me just 15 minutes and left me with a smile. On to the next...

CakeTIC had a much bigger gap to slide the 2 ring pieces together but this did not make the assembly into place any easier due to the large paddle shapes at the end of the rings. This fun one took me a little while longer but had a fabulous Aha! moment when it did come together.

Scone proved troublesome! I attempted it and failed. I could not get the two ring pieces to interlock. I was always blocked in doing what I needed. Time to move on before frustration sets in and I push too hard and snap a joint...

MacaronTIC had some absolutely gorgeous dark woods and a very interesting initial assembly and then a little more of a challenge to place the 3 smaller pieces. There were a couple of possible assemblies but one was not actually possible.

BaklavaTIC was next and was not a disappointment (I cannot resist Baklava!). Another fun entanglement phase which was extremely blocked up by the very large face on the larger open ring and then more interesting insertions. This probably took me about 30 minutes to find the full solution and on to the last one...

MuffinTIC was oddly very easy for me and I managed it in just 10 minutes - it is beautiful and a satisfying solve. It was time to go back to the SconeTIC... as an Englishman, I should be very good at devouring scones as it is part of my cultural heritage but maybe the absence of clotted cream and jam was affecting my abilities? There was something about this one that was really preventing me from finding a solution. I had developed a small audience whilst I was working on the others and they were all beginning to think I was some kind of genius until SconeTIC. At this point they saws me struggle and get nowhere for quite a while and realised that I am really a bear of very small brain and after a little mocking had occurred they all lost interest.

I had to take it home again and analyse it properly. I finally realised what was causing me so much trouble. Looking at the two large interlocking pieces, I realised that there was at least 2 ways that these could be assembled into the base cuboid shape and clearly only one of them was going to be correct. Maybe I had spent all my time attempting the wrong one? I changed my orientation of the two pieces as they attach and tried again. Still no luck, maybe a different orientation. Aha! I managed to get them interacting nicely and after a very fancy move but definitely not using any force I made a cuboid and set to inserting the final pieces. BUT they wouldn't go. No matter what I tried, I could not get the U-shaped piece inside. Then after looking very carefully I realised that the gaps left in the assembled cuboid could not possibly fit the remaining shapes. The wonderful thing with this particular TIC was that not only were there two possible frame assemblies but they were both reachable. So how do I get to the other one? I then realised that there were four possible ways to introduce the two frame pieces to each other and I assume that one of them allows the incorrect assembly. Time to try the other 3. Even knowing this, it was a huge challenge to get the other assembly. I think it must have taken me over 2 hours over a couple of sessions and kept me partially occupied during yesterday's coronation. Finally I had it done and could take a group photo:

Scone finally solved!

Stunning as an assembled set
I have assembled and disassembled them all now a few times and they are wonderful. The sticks are beautifully made and finished and the woods are gorgeous. I think I will keep them in the assembled state for storage and display. It might be too easy to lose a piece if I don't (I do have a single tetromino in my living room and I have absolutely no idea which puzzle it came from - I guess that I will eventually find which one has a piece missing!

Time to get back to the SD puzzles that I have had no luck with!


  1. Hi Kevin - do you have links for the 3D printer please, as a 3D printer wasn't a divorcing matter for me? (Can't see them on either ARCPuzzles or the Printable Puzzles Project).

    1. I can’t find the specific link. I think it’s in the wedding contract papers I signed nearly 30 years ago. In 1994 she insisted that a warning go in about 3D printers being grounds for reversal of the marriage! 😱

    2. D'oh! I meant the links for the downloads to print my own set - serves me right for not reading before hitting send.

    3. I don't have the links myself. I am sure that someone on the mechanical puzzle Discord will have them or on Facebook.