Monday, 22 August 2016

Halve A Heart

This is the first of my IPP36 Exchange Puzzles I am reviewing. I thought I would start off with something not too complicated and which I am familiar with.

Halve A Heart was designed and produced by Scott Elliot for his exchange in Kyoto, Japan just several weeks ago. 3D printed, Halve A Heart follows a recent string of puzzles in the last couple of years that bears a similar theme; the object is to put two pieces together to form a particular shape. In 2014, Scott came up with Join The Club and in 2015, his Diamond Engagement.

First off, the puzzle measures about 4.5cm x 4.5cm x 1.4cm. Quality of print is good and the puzzle is solid printed (not hollow) which gives it a hefty feel and makes it pretty durable. The two halves join together to form a heart. In fact the red is so red it looks like blood, how appropriate for this puzzle!

While there are only two pieces each with identical shapes, putting together was (to my surprise) more difficult that I had expected. The halves need to twist and slide against each other to finally form the intended shape. It did take me more than several minutes before I found the right orientation of both pieces relative to each other and discovered the point where the two pieces would mesh together nicely in one smooth motion. Halve A Heart appears to be more difficult than the previous two puzzles. No force whatsoever is needed. In fact the assembled heart was a bit on the "loose" side for my copy and while the pieces will not fall apart, the heart would not hold its shape unless it was lying flat on a table.

Notwithstanding, a nice pocket-able little puzzle that will probably frustrate non-puzzlers and maybe even some puzzlers. Scott made a number of these for sale and he may still have some copies left over if anyone is interested.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Sliding Block Puzzle Locks

Some weeks ago puzzle collector Otis Cheng from China had mentioned on his Facebook post that he had acquired two sliding puzzle locks that had been designed by a group of students from a Beijing 12th grade middle school. The students had designed the locks with the help of their teacher who happened to be a puzzler! 

I thought they look pretty impressive and a rather unique approach to a puzzle lock design. But thanks to Otis I managed to get my hands on two such puzzle locks when I met him at IPP36 in Kyoto this August.

Both lock designs were adapted and eventually mass produced by Mi-Toys. The two locks are about the same size measuring 11cm x 7.5cm x 1.5cm (including the shackle) with one a tad smaller than the other. They are layered and formed together with laser cut wood. The moving blocks within are covered by a clear acrylic cover with cut-outs sufficient for the acompanying key to aid in moving the blocks around inside the lock. Fingers would be too big for this the key actually serves a useful purpose here!

The shackle of each lock is restrained by the blocks inside the lock. Both puzzles work on the principle of sliding blocks and once the blocks have been moved into their intended final positions, the shackle extends upwards and is freed.

Of the two puzzles one is relatively easy while the other (with more pieces) is quite a bit harder. While travelling back to Singapore from Kyoto, I took the opportunity to play with both locks and thankfully managed to solve both during the one hour domestic flight from Osaka to Tokyo. Hence you will notice the less than acceptable photos of the solved puzzles as they were both solved on my lap during flight.

An interesting take on the traditional sliding block puzzle or puzzle padlock, or both, whichever way you choose to see it. As of this post, I can't seem to find them on the Mi-Toys site but I think eventually they will make their way there.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Stumbling Blocks

Goh Pit Khiam has done it again, winning another Jury's Honourable Mention in this year's IPP36 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition for Chain Store. Last year at IPP35, Goh had 2 Honourable Mentions; for his Road Blocks and Number Blocks. Aside from Chain Store, Goh also attained a Top 10 Vote Getter for his Stumbling Blocks, the subject of this post.

At first look, Stumbling Blocks looks very much like Road Blocks; physically they are about the same dimensions at 4" square and consist of a box tray with wide edges and four pieces to be inserted into the centre square hole of the tray as the objective. As you can see from the photo, there are channels constructed inside the box so its not a simple matter of trying to fit the pieces in like the typical packing puzzle. The box is Maple and the pieces Jatoba. Made by Tom Lensch, my copy has excellent build quality, fit and finish. All the pieces fit snugly and nicely. And there is no need to use any force for this puzzle.

For those who have solved the Road Blocks, you may think you have some clue as to how to solve Stumbling Blocks; well possibly. However, the solutions for both puzzles are totally different and Stumbling Blocks has IMHO a tad more elegant solution. A solution I might add that is quite characteristic of Goh's design style. Those of you acquainted with Goh many puzzle designs, especially the packing ones will know what I mean. Perhaps because I have played with a number of Goh's puzzles and familiar with his style (and tricks) that I didn't find Stumbling Blocks too difficult. But this is not to say that Stumbling Blocks is easy as I saw quite a few IPP attendees pouring themselves over the puzzle at the judging table without much success.

If you are interested in a nice well made packing style puzzle with just 4 pieces, topped off with a more than moderately difficult challenge and a unique (unusual) solution, Stumbling Blocks may just be the puzzle for you. For serious collectors, a definite must-have!

Both Stumbling Blocks and Chain Store are available from Tom Lensch.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Cast Cake

It's been a while since I last played with a Hanayama Cast puzzle. The Cast Cake is one of their most recent releases from the Cast Puzzle series, having been launched to the market just this past July. 

Gone is the packaging in the form of a black box with clear window and gold text; instead the newer contemporary looking box has the word "HUZZLE", presumably a combination of the words Hanayama and puzzle and spots a nice photo of the puzzle contained within.

The Cast Cake is the brainchild of IPP award-winning designer Bram Cohen, who also designed the Cast Rattle and the Cast Galaxy, the latter one of my personal Cast favourites.

The Cake, well, it's round and looks like a cake with a slice of it eaten. And it measures 4cm in diameter. It looks to me to be made of stonewashed brass or copper as it has a pretty good heft to it. Construction fit and finish on my copy is very good and everything fits and moves nicely without any experiencing of jamming.

The Cake consists of a 3/4 hollowed out circular "cage" and inside resides 3 rotating 3/4 discs sandwiched against one another. The object is to remove the 3 discs from the cage.

It's rated 4 out of 6 stars meaning that its more than moderately difficult but I think it deserves 5 stars because it is way harder than it looks or what I had expected. At first I thought one of the discs could "spiral" its way sideways out like a circular burr, so I tried solving it that way, but apparently not. It took me a good half and hour of manipulating and rolling the 3 discs inside and trying to feel for an "opening" of sorts before suddenly I felt something give and I was able to pull the discs out. I am not sure what I had done but it worked. As I was re-assembling the puzzle, I took time to experiment and was able to discover a technique to it. Thereafter I was able to repeat solving the Cake a majority of the time. Very challenging at first but once you understand what needs to be done (and I am not going to say anymore here to spoil other people's fun), its a matter of practice to get it right.

If anyone needs help, please PM me (I will have to draw a diagram to show you as it is impossible to explain in words).

Currently only available in Japan but should hit retail stores in other countries and available from the usual online sellers in the weeks to come. 


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

IPP36 - Puzzle Party - 7th August 2016

This year's International Puzzle Party (IPP36) was held in Kyoto, Japan from 4th to 7th August 2016. The venue chosen for the festivities was the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel situated about 3.5 km from downtown Kyoto and about 94 km from Kyoto Kansai International Airport.

There were 137 invitees including spouses, partners and kids. Typically the number of attendees for IPPs held in Asia tend to be lesser as a many puzzlers from the US and Europe do not wish to make the long (and perhaps rather costly) journey to Japan.

The Puzzle Party itself was held on Sunday 7th August. To know more and what typically happens at the Puzzle Party, click here.

As the turnout for this year's IPP was lower, the number of "stalls" were fewer and consequently, a lesser number and variety of puzzles were also offered for sale. Nonetheless, the mood of the attendees was no less exuberant and the crowd rushed in when the event doors were opened at 9am sharp. I will let the pictures do the talking....scroll down further to see close-ups...

Eitan Cher

Robert Sandfield

Susumu Kimura & Meiko Kimura (Torito Japan)

Atsushi Katagiri

Shiro Tajima

Brian & Sue Young (Mr Puzzle Australia)

Takahisa Nakanishi

Frederic Boucher (with Anh Bui, Vietnam)

Osanori Yamamoto

Koshi & Yuko Arai

Andrew Rhoda & Kathy Hess

Guan Shi & Min Shih

Emrehan Halici & Ezgi Karasin

The Krasnoukhovs

Wil Strijbos

Tania Gillen

Left: Andreas Rover (Burr Tools) and Gary Foshee

Oscar & Jose van Deventer

Peter Hajek

Henry Strout

John Rausch

Steve Nicholls & Stephen Miller

Allan Stein (Puzzlemaster, Canada) & Amy Jepson

Carl & Patricia Hoff

Nick Baxter (standing) and Jerry Slocum

Sue Toorenburg

Naoaki Takashima

Mr & Mrs Edi Nagata

Hiroshi Uchinaka

Hiroshi Yamamoto

Jerry Slocum

Scott Elliot

Kathleen Malcolmson ("Please please buy my puzzle...")
& Ginda Fisher (kneeling)

Peter von Knorre

Hirokazu Iwasawa
Close up shots of the puzzles...

That's all folks! Look out for my future posts on Exchange Puzzles....
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