Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hanayama Cast Galaxy

A puzzle designer's dream....enter a puzzle design competition, win a prize and a major puzzle manufacturer picks up your winning design and mass produces it...leading to fame and fortune! 

In recent years, a number of designers have had their IPP award winning designs produced by Hanayama. They include Vesa Timonen (Cast Loop), Dmitry Pevnitskiy & Kirill Grebnev (Cast Harmony), JinHoo Ahn (Cast G&G) and Kyoo Wong (Cast U&U). But Bram Cohen has had not one but two of his designs turned into commercial puzzles (Cast Rattle, Cast Galaxy)

Released in July this year, the Galaxy is the latest cast puzzle from Hanayama. As of the date of this blog post, the Galaxy is also the best selling cast puzzle domestically in Japan (loads of royalties for Bram, congrats!).

I bought my copy from Torito who had set up shop during IPP34 in London this past August. The Galaxy can also be purchased from PuzzleMaster and Ebay.

The Galaxy is fabricated out of steel (I think). Consisting of 4 interlocking pieces, the object is to separate them. Fit and finishing is overall good and in this instance, I actually like the shiny surface. 

Hanayama has rated it 3 stars for difficulty level, but I think it deserves perhaps a 3.5. Solving requires you to twist and turn the pieces in various directions; for most part you'll hit a dead end and be confused. But get them (just) right in the correct position and they can thereafter be disentangled. Some co-ordinate motion is required. Virtually no chance of accidental solving. 

Both the taking apart and re-assembly is more than fairly challenging. The putting back together is I feel more difficult and you have to make sure you set up the pieces correctly. However, once you get the hang of it, its quite manageable to repeat solve. Overall a nice looking, compact and fun puzzle; one of the best ones so far from Hanayama that I have come across.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Naked Secret Box "RED"

The Naked Secret Box "RED" is Meiko Kimura's IPP34 Exchange Puzzle. Meiko is the owner of Japanese online puzzle retailer Torito.

One look at the puzzle and you can probably guess why its called what it is. There is also a "BLUE" version (somewhat physically similar to the "RED") which was her puzzle design competition entry.

The puzzle was designed by Akio Yamamoto and made entirely out of acrylic. Object is to remove the lid and take apart the box entirely into the 6 pieces. Imagine it a 6 piece board burr interlocked, with very widely spaced apart pieces. Build and construction is excellent and pieces are all precisely laser cut.

Solving is not difficult but there is a sequence of movements to follow. The pieces also must be in the correct orientation for it to fit together properly.

From the practical standpoint, you could put some keepsakes inside. Non-puzzlers would probably take quite some time to get it open without resorting to brute force or breaking the box.

The "BLUE" version is available from Torito for around US$27/-. Not expensive considering the high quality, but unfortunately Torito does not ship internationally any more. Anyone wanting a copy would have to get someone they know in Japan to buy it for them, or perhaps use a commercial drop shipping service.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Heavy Metal From IPP34

These two puzzles came from IPP34. The Cast Metal Puzzle (cube) was Markku Vesala's Exchange Puzzle while the Brass Ball was purchased from Dmitry Pevnitskiy during the Puzzle Party.

The Brass Ball is a co-ordinate motion puzzle. Relatively easy to take apart (with some pressing and tugging here and there) but a real bummer to reassemble. 

Somehow every time I think I have all the pieces in position ready to slide back together, something will be stuck, not to mention its really difficult to operate all the 4 pieces at the same time. When Dmitry demonstrated the Brass Ball to me at IPP, he could put it back together in a matter of seconds!

I am still struggling with this one and it remains on my table in 4 separate pieces. If anyone has the solution to this, please help, thanks.

Edit: 7.5 hours later, I played with the Brass Ball again and after a while of fiddling, got it assembled.

The Cast Metal Puzzle #81/125 on the other hand is easier. Comprising 6 pieces of tetraminoes and pentaminoes, the pieces are "interlocked" together by a magnetic ball bearing in the centre. 

Nice concept, very well made and high quality. Being cast iron, its also very heavy in the hand for such a small puzzle measuring only 3cm square.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


RetroFit is one of several puzzles which I acquired recently from Eric Fuller's latest puzzle offering. 

The name given is appropriate for this puzzle; "Retro" - it was designed 4 years ago by Singaporean designer Goh Pit Khiam in 2010 and "Fit" - object is to fit the 5 identical polyominoes (in this case, nonominoes- made up of 9 units), flush into the box frame which is partially covered by a "floating" acrylic sheet.

This version from Eric is made of Rosewood, Ipe, Walnut, Bubinga, Paduak for the pieces and  Maple for the box frame. Construction and finish is excellent as always. An earlier version made of laser cut Walnut exists also for this design, which was Walt Hoppe's IPP31 Exchange Puzzle in Berlin reviewed by Allard in his blog.

This packing puzzle is IMHO just nice; not too many pieces, fun and the right difficulty level; ie enough challenge to hold your continual interest but not overly difficult. However you do need to think a bit outside the box (or frame) to figure this one out and the solution, when you discover it, would surprise you.

Saturday, 6 September 2014


The Larva (and Ladybird which featured at IPP34 in London this August) are the latest designs from Belgian designer Robrecht Louage. 

Robrecht is very well known in the puzzling community for his "remove-the-coin" and hidden maze/route finding puzzles. 

Amongst his designs are the La Cerradura Doble, 1 Euro LabyrinthRemove The Yolk and Escape From Alcatraz. Robrecht's most famous design; the 4 Steps Visible Lock was also the winner of the Grand Jury prize at the IPP31 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in Berlin in 2011.

Object is to remove a Euro 50 cent coin through a cut-out in the upper cover. While the previous remove-the-coin puzzles involved a hidden maze, the Larva's consist of navigating two metal sliders through two visible and movable maze plates. The Larva appears to be a new design take.....a "cross" between the La Cerradura Doble and 1 Euro Labyrinth.

The puzzle is made of Trespa and acrylic and is very well made. Everything is precisely machined cut to very tight tolerances and fit and finish is excellent. The Larva name and worm etchings add to the fine detailing.

From a puzzling standpoint, it is not an overly difficult puzzle for more experienced puzzlers, especially those who have played with Robrecht's previous works. But it is no walk in the park either. One of the challenges is to figure out how the two maze plates interact with each other and which direction either is suppose to go in order for the coin to be freed.

Personally I found it a bit more difficult than La Cerradura Doble. However because you can see what you are doing and can chart your progress as you go along, you feel the urge to continue to the end and not put it down; just the sort of puzzle to occupy you for a good half to one hour on a lazy Saturday afternoon, with an end in sight and not too much stress. The Larva is fun and very manageable.

For those of you who may not be aware, the Larva and Ladybird puzzles is a collaboration between Robrecht and puzzle collector Michel van Ipenburg. If anyone is interested in acquiring any one of these puzzles, please PM me via my blog email and I will link you up with the aforementioned gentlemen.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Broken Bricks

Broken Bricks is a nice and fun packing puzzle and this copy also happened to be the last one owned by Russian puzzle designer and maker, Vladimir Krasnoukhov. I bought it from him during the IPP34 Puzzle Party.


Measuring about 7.5cm square and 4.5cm tall, this is surprisingly a seriously heavy puzzle, with a very thick-walled box frame and six pieces made from a combination of Wenge, Bubinga, Paduak and Buche woods. Overall pretty decent construction, fit and finish throughout.

The box has curved edges and and detailing on the sides and the contrasting coloured pieces have diagonal cuts on each of them. 2 solutions exist for this puzzle which is of fairly moderate difficulty. 

For other puzzles from Vladimir, click here.

Friday, 29 August 2014


This puzzle came to me courtesy of Hirokazu Iwasawa ("Iwahiro") and is called Aroma. 

Iwahiro has a number of well known puzzle designs to his name including two IPP awarding winning ones; the  "ODD Puzzle" and Square In The Bag.

 I obtained this during the IPP34 puzzle party and I should have asked him why it bears such an unusual name, but I didn't.

Aroma was Iwahiro's IPP30 Exchange Puzzle. Made of a very hard and solid type of plastic, and I mean this one is really very very solid, the puzzle is sized around 7.7cm x 6.7cm x 2.3cm. Fit and finish is very good. Tight tolerances.

It is a co-ordinate motion puzzle and the object is to fit the 3 identical pieces flush (sideways) into the hexagonal frame. I played with the puzzle while on the flight back to Singapore after IPP34 in London. I thought it would take me longer to figure this one out but several minutes was all I needed. Not difficult but a nice fun solve.

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