Sunday 31 December 2023

Happy New Year! My top ten(ish) puzzles of 2023

Finally cleared my desk

Now I have a REAL puzzle room!

Happy New Year to you all! I have no idea what happened to 2022 - it seems to have disappeared without me noticing.
Welcome to my customary end of year post looking back at how I did over 2023 and which were the best puzzles I managed to solve. As always, thinking about it was triggered by Peter Hajek's request for the top 3 acquisitions of the year. Peter wants to know the best arrivals in the collection and I always write about my best puzzles solved which makes it a little harder to come up with a good list. Whilst I have had a pretty good year of puzzle arrivals (much to the disgust of "she who must be feared"), it has felt like a bad year for me in terms of puzzle solving. I feel that I have worked my little arse off in the various hospitals and don't think that I solved very many. Except that after looking back through my archive of blog posts and my database, can I see that I didn't do that badly. 

Nowhere Near Solving!
I did purchase quite a lot of puzzles that I have so far completely failed to solve (some despite months of trying)! So here is a quick list of what look like absolutely fabulous puzzles purchased that I cannot solve:

Orbit by Dee Dixon (I've found nothing useful whatsoever!)

Uplift by Dee Dixon (It rotates and a button pushes but that's it!)

Burner by Dee Dixon (only arrived a few days ago)

Smack-N Moles by Stickman (gorgeous and I have no idea what is going on inside)

WDIGMI from Tanner Reyes (a gift that looks gorgeous and compelling and is completely beyond my meagre packing skills)

A whole bunch of N-ary wire puzzles from Aaron Wang - they should be lovely and logical and yet I am still stuck! Thank heavens for the quick reset!

Crazy Double Circle Cube - Encouraged by Jason Burgo to give it a try and was getting somewhere when the black version broke on me. I have since replaced it with a coloured plastic one and am too frightened to touch it again!

Free the Washer from Phil Wigfield. Phil is quite a character and creates some absolutely beautiful puzzles from brass and steel. He has got rather side-tracked on dexterity puzzles which I cannot do but also an SD puzzle earlier this year. I've been trying for months (9 of them) and only managed to find one move!! Aargh!

Euroka - stunning design by Juno. I dismantled it and it now sits in its' cloth bag in pieces because I cannot put it back together despite having a video to look at.

Almost there
In this section I always place a few fabulous puzzles that in anyone's year should be a top ten puzzle but because I am greedy and have bought more puzzles than Mrs S thinks are good for me, I have to place a few fab toys in this section just to highlight how great a year it has been:

Magyarics Amazement
Alexander continued to work with Pelikan as well as 3D print some of his own puzzles and they are all so SO good but due to some amazing challenges also produced this year, they have been dropped down to the "almost there" list and believe me, they really are almost there! It is a mark of how good a year it was that these are down in this section:

Captain Hook

I almost feel guilty that one of Alexander's puzzles is in this position. His stuff is all incredible and with Captain Hook, his entry into burr design has the usual Magyarics flair with some very unusual shaped pieces and a very confusing yet fun sequence to assembly as well as disassembly. In a normal year this would be right up there at the top.


This is CLASSIC Magyarics design! A packing puzzle with restricted entry. Alexander has done many of these over the years and all are fun. Many of them (erm Tigridia) are almost too difficult for a [numpty]( like me. The Infinite puzzle, however is just spot on! It is difficult but not impossible and supremely logical! It is possibly the best of Alexander's designs to date!

Stupendous Osanori
I received puzzles by Osanori-san both from himself as well as recreated beautifully by Pelikan. I am continually amazed at his design skills. There were some of the best puzzles ever from him this year


Gem was an incredible design both as an assembly puzzle when bought direct from the designer but also still fun as a disassembly puzzle from Pelikan. It is a remarkably simple design but the sequence to discover is fabulous.


Shutout won a prize at the IPP in 2022 and for a very good reason. The version from Osanori himself as well as the Pelikan version is stunning and a perfect challenge for all levels of puzzler.

Finally...On with my top ten(ish) puzzles solved in 2023:

12) Japanese packing delights
I have bought rather an embarrassing number of packing puzzles from Mine and have only managed to solve an even more embarrassingly low number of them. The tray packing puzzles are a particularly difficult challenge for me but there have been a few that were loved at MPPs and by a certain fellow puzzle blogger and so I worked extra hard on those.

Chained Lumbars looks so easy with identical sized sticks held together by a chain - that chain really gets in the way so you have to work out how best to use it.

Coin Wallet - Piles of coins to be inserted through a limited opening into a plastic wallet. Can it be that difficult? I spent quite a long time working on it and really loved the final sequence - I keep it in my work bag to torture colleagues with.

Karakuri packing - Allard loved it, Michael Q loved it and I couldn't solve it! Finally, I had to impress a young lady at work and worked on this during a very long boring operation in the angio suite. I amazed both myself and my colleague by doing it within an hour or so. The required moves are beautifully hidden!

11) Peanut puzzle

The Peanut puzzle is an incredible design by the Puzzle Master himself, Stewart Coffin. I have never managed to get a beautiful wooden version but was sorely tempted when I saw the cast resin versions created by Lewis Evans. They look amazing and he has recreated Mark McCallum's work as a ring bound booklet giving a whole lot of wonderful challenges. I am terrible at this sort of puzzle but absolutely adore playing with these amazing designs.

10) Parasitic Burr

The whole puzzle world was shocked when our dear friend Eric died so suddenly and unexpectedly. We mourned him and we even mourned his business as many thought it would go with him. I was delighted when Steve, Tom and Jeff decided to continue his legacy and create beautiful puzzles with incredible precision and also choose designs that are so much fun to solve. I could not resist the Parasitic burr by Tyler Hudson (who has designed some really fabulous puzzles) and was delighted to receive something not only beautiful but also a lovely fun challenge that took me nearly a month to solve without resorting to Burrtools.

9) TIC Food

I was delighted to receive 6 food based TICs designed by Laszlo Kmolnar and made by Jeff Baz in the spring from a new friend of mine (Neil Seidlitz) and spent a very happy month working out how to put them together. Even though I am terrible at assembly puzzles, I seem to be getting almost "fair to middling" at these TIC puzzles. The wonderful assortment of shiny woods makes them particularly wonderful!

8) A whole bunch of animals

Jakub, Jaroslav and team have had a tremendous year in 2023 producing some absolutely stunning puzzles for us in multiple different genres. The thing that has stood out this year for me has been the sudden arrival of Kumiki themed puzzles either of their own design or designed by some other fabulous designers. They were all gorgeous and clever in their own way. I think my favourite has been the crab but it is very hard to choose just one.

7) Amazing Twisty Puzzles
I know, I know! Most of you are not that interested in Twisty puzzles but you really should be! They are relatively cheap, have some incredible geometries in them and, once you have gained some experience with them, can be reduced to relatively simple ideas requiring only the use of rather basic techniques and often a lot of intuition.

The Crazy Pyraminx crystal looks horrific but literally can be solved using the old up, up, down down sequence in creative ways. It is almost solved by intuition alone. It is fabulous!

The Son-mum 4x4 is another tremendous puzzle that looks horrific but again is almost entirely solved by intuition until you then have to solve a standard 4x4 cube. It is wonderful and fun.

The Master mixup cube type one looks even worse than the others because when scrambled it looks like a Porcupine. I was worried that I would need some fancy commutator (which I am not good at finding) to solve it but yet again, that was not the case and it solves mostly by intuition - amazing!

Finally I have to shout out the creators at Sengso for producing various crazy cubes. I thought they might be relatively easy but have been delighted to see internal bandaging which adds a whole level of complexity to the solve process. They include the Crazy 2x2 plus set, the crazy 4x4 versions and on my list to buy is the Crazy 5x5 versions too

6) Handy Burr

Jerry McFarland makes it into my top ten pretty much every year! His brain is just not normal - he seems to discover something new and beautiful to do with wood and magnets every year. People do complain that he doesn't manufacture enough to keep up with demand but that's because his attention span is just too short to stick at any one thing for very long. I am always very grateful when he contacts me to sow off a new creation. The Handy burr made me laugh out loud when I realised what he had designed and seemed to be wanting me to do. Fabulous!

5) OMG Packing Heaven or Hell
Almost every time I type Dr Latussek's name I have to comment on his incredible (warped) mind! Volker has had an amazing year with multiple designs produced absolutely beautifully by Jakub and Jaroslav's Pelikan puzzles. There were so many to choose from and all have differing geometry and difficulty levels. I have to stress that some of the ones I highlight here are the ones that were not too difficult for me but I am so delighted to have a good collection of them. My utter faves from 2023 were: 

Tube in cube - the use of cylinders with slanted cuts in a cubic packing puzzle was bamboozling for me but very rewarding when I finally worked it out

Ode to the Bevel - was not terribly difficult to work out various assemblies but all but one was blocked. It had such a lovely move to get that last piece placed.

Fritz Flop - The Flop series are really very difficult and most required me to head to Burrtools to find possible assemblies (I really loved Tetra flop despite having to use BT) but the Fritz flop has a more restricted set of pieces and was actually solvable by me within a few hours. Three of the set are still available now and Fritz flop is on sale!!!

4) Bad Moon

Another incredible creation from Dee Dixon! His craftsmanship is stunning and choice of woods inspired. His puzzles are all nice and chunky which makes them a tactile delight to play with. The logic is superb and great fun to work through. I particularly loved the use of curved surfaces and tracks in this which confused my usually rectilinear brain. In fact I got myself into some trouble and had to use my anaesthetic skillz to get myself out of trouble (Thank heavens for the Glidescope!)

3) Dial Case

Juno has had a relatively quiet year this year but his foray back into SD puzzles was not a disappointment. In any normal year, this would be my absolute number one puzzle of the year but there were so many incredible puzzles to choose from that this amazing creation came 3rd! This was a significant challenge with multiple steps and as always, all pieces beautifully made from wood. The sequence of Aha! moments was marvellous and some of them really quite hard to find. I also really love how Juno always teases me about boxes!

2) Walter's Radio

Yes, Dee Dixon has two slots in my top ten this year!
Last year Angry Walter only made it to number 4 in my top ten. It was an incredible puzzle and the amazing thing is that Dee managed to surpass even that this year. It was less beautiful than Walter had been with his gorgeous cacophony of wonderful woods but the puzzling steps were very complex and confusing. This one took me 3 months to find all the steps - it was stupendous!

1) TIC Vault

I heard about the TIC Vault at last year's EPP and contacted Andrew Crowell as a result, shortly afterwards. Boy! I was not disappointed! A combination of sequential discovery puzzle and difficult TIC is very hard to beat! The only possible way this could have been improved would have been to have been manufactured from wood. The puzzle was/is a masterpiece of design in multiple genres and made me laugh out loud as I completed all of the complex sequences on the way to finding my way inside. Andrew is the master of the TIC and also becoming a master of SD puzzles!

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 2024 with good health, success and plenty of wonderful puzzling. I look forward to entertaining and maybe helping many of you in this year. Hopefully there will not be any skipped blog weeks either (I've had enough of being operated on now for quite some time 🤞🤞🤞).


  1. I'm looking for help with the Captain hook 5 Piece burr puzzle, I got given one disassembled!

    1. If you use my contact page to get in touch then I can try and help you.