Sunday 9 July 2023

Pelikan Creates Some Flops and New Horizons

Upcoming puzzles from Pelikan and their wonderful designers.
I wasn't expecting anything from Jakub, Jaroslav and team until after the upcoming IPP and was very surprised when an email came from the wonderful Pelikan guys informing me about their upcoming releases and a request for reviews as soon as possible. I then received a beautiful bunch of toys and a growl from she who frightens everyone who meets her. To be honest, I cannot blame her this time - there are another 8 puzzles here and I hadn't put away the toys from the last delivery yet. I know my desk is under the toys but I haven't seen it for a very long time!

Luckily for me, a general email had also gone out telling the world that the Pelikan team were taking a summer break and not returning until tomorrow (10th July) and I, therefore, had a nice 10 day period to plough through these fabulous and difficult puzzles (GULP!). Luckily, I managed to do it (apart from one incredibly tough challenge) with a tiny bit of cheating from Burrtools.

These should be going on sale within the next week or so I hope.

First I have to start with the 2 incredible puzzles from Dr Volker Latussek - they have given this post it's title. We have two more puzzles in the Flop series - believe me, these are not flops as puzzles! They are incredible and one is seriously difficult! Volker emailed me and Jakub to explain what he was trying to achieve:

Fritz Flop

Fritz Flop delivery position
Fritz Flop pieces
Fritz Flop has been beautifully created using a lovely pale Downy Birch wood.
I just love how Volker always specifies a delivery setup for his puzzles. It can be quite a challenge if you aren't paying attention to return the puzzles to the start position. Volker wrote this:
"With the release of TETRA-FLOP I announced a small series of four FLOP-puzzles: FRITZ-FLOP, DICK-FLOP, TEFKA-FLOP and SOMA-FLOP. As an encore, the series will be completed with TETRA-FLOP and for lovers of L-shaped tricubes L-FLOP.

The FLOP series puzzles each consist of a cuboid box completely filled with various tricubes and tetracubes. The box has the largest possible rectangular opening on one side. Each of the four FLOPs has a unique kind of rotation. The solution to each should be unique.

When a FLOP is placed on a flat surface with the opening at the top facing forward, the movement of the pieces is sometimes reminiscent of the Fosbury flop - a revolutionary high-jump technique that sent established records tumbling. The inventor of this technique is the forgotten Austrian athlete, Fritz Pingl, for whom the first FLOP puzzle is dedicated.

My friend Fritz hoped the puzzle could be made in birch wood, and Pelikan were able to fulfil his wish. Many thanks for that.

FRITZ-FLOP has only five pieces: two tricubes and only three of the eight tetracubes, making it the smallest FLOP. I think it's really suited to being a coffee table puzzle. I selected this combination from what seemed like an infinite number of possible combinations. I suspect it is the only combination that fulfils all of the characteristics of a FLOP puzzle. The fact that this combination exists at all, fills me with great wonder, as does the story of the high jump. Please play and enjoy."
I reviewed the Tetra flop from the last release and am surprised to see that some are still available for sale. It was a seriously difficult puzzle but had some wonderful moves in it. I needed a little help and despite that did not feel that I lost out on the puzzling. Working out the moves required after getting a little position help did not detract in any way from my puzzling pleasure.

With the Fritz Flop the puzzle is certainly a lot simpler in design and hence very solvable without help. It is still a challenge with the simpler set of pieces and only looking for a 3x3x2 block shape. The fun part is getting the pieces through the restricted opening which it just smaller than 3x2 in size. There will be rotations and space needs to be left for the rotations to occur. Knowing this helps with working out the possible assemblies to try. Before writing this review I entered the pieces into BT and found that there are 28 possible assemblies of the pieces into the block but doing this is not necessary for the solution. I picked the pieces that I felt were likely to be the last to be inserted and then tried to place the rest into a shape that would allow it. Of course, my first decisions were incorrect and I spent a good few hours attempting impossible solutions - they looked good but there was no way to insert them through the opening. Most of the assemblies stand no chance of insertion and can be discarded quickly. After a few hours, I had exhausted everything I could find apart from one which looked promising but I just couldn't get it to assemble in the box. Time for a break and the following day, I had a fabulous Aha! moment - not only is this a packing puzzle but it is a sequential movement puzzle as well. The rotational move is simply joyful.

Believe me, there are no clues in this photo!
I heartily recommend buying this set - it is pure Latussek genius!

Soma Flop

Soma Flop delivery position
Soma Flop pieces (yes, it's a Soma cube)
Soma Flop has been made using Jatoba and Limbs woods - the voxel size is the same as the others in the series. Again there is a very specific position for the storage. Volker wrote this about it:
"Originally DICK-FLOP and TEFKA-FLOP were scheduled to follow after FRITZ-FLOP, but SOMA-FLOP is really special. Everything is there: the seven parts of the SOMA-CUBE and even a cube-shaped box. The only tricky thing is the size of the opening.


I learnt a lot from my experiences with SOMA PACK and SHRINKING SOMA, but I couldn't achieve what I was hoping for from a FLOP puzzle at first. Obviously, the search was eventually worth it: SOMA-FLOP has a wonderfully confusing solution, which I suspect my mind wasn't willing to see. I couldn't see the solution for absolute ages because I didn't know it existed. I guess that's the difference between the designer and the solver: as the solver, you can trust that SOMA-FLOP has a solution! The opening is amazingly large - any larger in fact and the SOMA pieces could effectively be packed as into an unrestricted box.

My thanks to Pelikan for making this idea a reality and to Oskar van Deventer for inspiring me to create SOMA-FLOP with his PENULTIMATE SOMA."
This puzzle caused me "some difficulty" and a minor heart attack. I have waxed lyrical about Soma cubes before and certainly feel that everyone who collects puzzles should have at least a plain Soma cube and a variant or two in their collections. Combining a Soma cube with a packing puzzle and incorporating aspects of TIC puzzling too is a major triumph. This puzzle is very VERY difficult but don't let that deter you. First thing to do is remove the pieces from the box. Easy peasy? Erm - yes as long as you don't allow anything to move once there is a little space in the box. I was not careful enough and after removal of the easy two pieces, stuff slid around inside and I couldn't take any more pieces out. OMG! It took me over an hour to free them up and get to the point of attempting to solve the puzzle.

As Volker has stated, there is a nice large entry to the box but not quite two voxels wide. This restriction is the key to the rotational requirement. The non planar pieces need to be tilted to be inserted and there needs to be enough space for this to be allowed to happen. Does this help you narrow down the assemblies? I think it does if you are an assembly puzzle aficionado. I am an assembly idiot and as everyone knows - there are 240 possible cubic assemblies of the Soma pieces. 

I played for a while trying to randomly find cubic assemblies that would allow the non-planar pieces to be inserted early and the linear pieces last. I found a few but had no way to easily narrow them down. I do think that this is possible for all you great puzzlers who read my drivel but for me to manage it, I would require many days or weeks of attempts and a lot of swearing. I had a deadline to meet and therefore had to use a hint. I got the solution and squinted at it quickly so that I only viewed the two pieces that were to be entered last which would leave me to find the positions of the other pieces and then the rotation(s) required to solve it. After 3 days of working on the cube to be inserted I realised that  I needed more help. Burrtools told me that there are 18 assemblies that allowed the last 2 pieces to be where I needed them and from there I could visually restrict the other solutions until I had a few possible solutions to work on. 

I worked on these possibilities for another couple of days and managed to decrease my solution set to just one by totally failing to get the pieces into the box. That last assembly also wouldn't go in - even when you know what goes where, it is really really hard to make it happen. My Aha! moment came as a huge relief and pleasure. This is simply superb! I don't think that there are any spoilers in the photo but I have hidden it behind a button just in case.

Petit Box

Petit Box by Osanori Yamamoto
Another beautiful creation by Osanori-san made using Limba and a very vibrant Purpleheart.

Recently, Osanori-san has been designing a whole set of interlocking puzzles where board burrs pieces are locked inside a box frame. I have previously reviewed his Gem puzzle and the Slider 2 which is still available. Like Slider 2, this has four plates trapped inside the cuboidal frame and there is a lot of movement after the first few pieces have been moved. This puzzle is a very nice fun challenge. After that first exploration, the pieces move very freely and it is quite easy to get stuck in a loop. There are a few places where it looks like rotations begin but these are not useful to you. On several occasions, I thought I was getting quite close to the removal of the first piece but could not find the pathway and kept backtracking to the beginning. The fun part of playing with this (and it's predecessor) is that it opens up enough for you to be able to look inside the frame and see what is blocking your moves. In the end for me, I had to open the space inside right up and then plan a potential disassembly. After that, it was "just" a matter of utilising the space that I had to wind the peeves around each other. The removal of the first piece takes only 12 moves but it is a real challenge to find them. Reassembly is fun if you have memorised the positions and the pathway and quite possible from scratch if you have not and you are highly skilled.

4 plates and a frame.

Connecting Cubes

Connecting Cubes by Lucie Pauwels
There are 3 wonderful challenges by Lucie in this release by Pelikan and this one is delightfully colourful and a fun challenge for beginners and experts alike. It is very reminiscent of some of the wonderful challenges made by Vinco that I reviewed many years ago.

This consists of 8 cubes each of which has a unique arrangement of a slot cut out of one face and a connecting board on another face. The aim here is to make a 2x2x2 cube. There are also a few other possible simpler assemblies which you will find along the way. I think this is a perfect coffee table puzzle. It looks gorgeous and is something that no one could resist picking up and playing with. The best way to approach this is to actually think© about the different types of pieces and how they interact and allow the chain of cubelets to build up. I started off with random attempts at assembly and quickly realised that wasn't going to work for me. After that, I attempted an exhaustive search for the correct combination which also failed due to my inability to remember my previously attempted assemblies. Having discovered that that there is much more to this than meets the eye, I categorised the cubelets and established how the different subtypes interacted. After that, it took me another 5 minutes to assemble my cube. It is very pretty and I won't show you the solution!


Archipuzzle by Lucie Pauwels
Lucie designs a whole gamut of different types of puzzle and this is a very different design to what I have seen before. It looks very simple like many of her designs but has just the right challenge level. This is very reminiscent of the extremely challenging Stuffing Burr from Dr Latussek (also still available). The aim is to take the 5 L-shaped notched sticks and assemble them in such a way that the notches are all filled. Lucie's version has 5 sticks which alters the challenge considerably. Each stick has the notches in a different set of orientations. Like most puzzles, I started with random assemblies to see what happened and how they all interact as the chains build up. Quite quickly I came to realise that the chains move further and further apart and then the final piece cannot possibly reach to bridge the gap. Then I realised that the alternative was to build a clump of pieces and hope the ends were close enough to reach each other and then also have the notches the correct orientation. Just as with all of Lucie's designs, this also doesn't work well and it actually requires a little analysis of the types of pieces and how to use them. All in all, this took me nearly an hour and I had my assembled chain. It's a fun thing to do and it's only a slight shame that the created shape is not particularly attractive for storage.


Oekanda by Lucie Pauwels
Oekanda by Lucie Pauwels has been beautifully crafted from Oak with Bubinga pieces. It is reminiscent of the Pin-up box from the February release which is an entry in this year's IPP design competition
The third challenge from Lucie in this release is a real fun one that also requires proper analysis for a satisfying solve. It is a packing puzzle but with a difference - the frame is extremely open and the pieces properly complex making it also an interlocking puzzle. It arrives with the pieces sort of randomly stuck in the frame and on taking the puzzle out of the packing bag, half of them fell out and I couldn't work out how to put them back.

These pieces are really quite complex which made me think it would not be too difficult a challenge to assemble into the 3x3x5 shape with 2 voxels sticking out into the frame. My confidence was misplaced! I found this to be a real challenge to create a shape. My random attempts failed (as usual) and then I realised that I had to think© about the shapes and what possible ways they could be oriented within that cuboid shape. Having realised this and starting to work more systematically on the shape and interactions, I was able to discount quite a few of my possible placements. After an hour of play, I had a major Aha! moment and found my assembly outside of the frame and then worked to place it inside. It really is quite lovely and a fun challenge. I have put the next picture behind a spoiler button - it's not much of a spoiler but don't look if you are worried about seeing too much:


Alma by Alfons Eyckmans
Alma has been made using Maple, Purpleheart and Wenge.
It would seem that no Pelikan release is complete without something wonderful from Alfons Eyckmans. He designs burr puzzles that are both beautiful and interesting to solve. The Alma looks like a very complex construction but is actually just a 6 piece burr made from L shaped plates. I cannot resist Alfons' burrs - there is always something fun to explore and this is no different. The pathway to the removal of the first piece is fairly well hidden but there are only a few relatively short blind pathways to get lost in and the removal of the first piece takes a fun 10 moves. After this it remains quite a stable construction (just a slight tendency for one piece to sag) and then another 4 moves to remove the next. 

6 very nice L-shaped plates
Having disassembled this over about an hour, I scrambled the pieces and left them for a while before attempting a reassembly. I thought that I had a reasonable memory of the process but somehow got stuck and kept going round and around in circles with one of the pieces continually being trivial to remove and not being interlocked as it should. It took me another hour to realise what I was doing wrong and get it back together. I definitely think that for the more advanced burr puzzler there is plenty of scope for this to be an assembly puzzle and for the "normal" ones amongst us (are any of us that normal?) this is a fun one to partially memorise and then work on the assembly from that. Of course entry of the pieces into Burrtools is also part of the fun.

New Horizon

New Horizon
The final, but definitely not the least impressive, of the puzzles in this release is New Horizon from Alfons Eyckmans made from Pink Oak and Wenge.
This is something new from Alfons - I initially thought that it was another of his interlocking burrs in the shape of a cube and oh boy! was I wrong! Some of Alfons' cube burrs are really really tough but this is a whole other level. It is not at all what I was expecting - it is not a disassembly puzzle, it is an assembly challenge and a very very tough one. To take the cube apart it just requires finding the correct places to put your fingers and the pieces just pull apart sequentially until you have 12 rather interesting shapes to analyse.

I removed the first 6 of the pieces and decided to put them back together to form the cube. Unfortunately, even with only a 50% disassembly, I could not seem to work out which pieces went where and in what order. Whilst looking for the entry point for the first of those 6 pieces, another one fell onto my pile and then I really was in trouble - I couldn't remember the order of any of them and quickly decided to complete the dismantling - it was quite a fun thing to do.

12 odd shapes
Having taken my photo I have embarked on an assembly challenge and so far have completely failed. There are notches and "sticking out bits" to analyse and which restrict how the pieces will fit together. Also the orientation of the 1x2x2 voxel oak protuberances which will ultimately form the corners can only fit together in certain ways. This will require quite a lot of analysis and I suspect, will end up with me resorting to Burrtools. But the clever ones amongst you should be able to assemble this from scratch - it will be a wonderful challenge. I will keep trying for a week or so before I resort to BT.

So what should you be buying from this release? Personally, I think they are all fabulous. My favourites have to be the Flop series from Dr Latussek - even with a small cheat they are a wonderful challenge with some brilliant Aha! moments. You should also pick up the remaining Tetra flop to ensure that you get the whole set. After that, I definitely enjoyed the Oekanda from Lucie and the Connecting cubes is perfect as a coffee table puzzle. If you are a burr fanatic then Alfons' puzzles are a delight and I adore these framed plate puzzles from Osanori.

There is something for everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Charles (email address charlesgardenr4 at has contacted me for help but the email address that you gave is incorrect. Please contact me again with the correct email for help.