Thursday, 20 October 2016

Trois Chocolats

Trois Chocolats is a 2015 dexterity puzzle from Frederic Boucher. In recent years, he has also designed several others including Manholes 55, Pyramida and one of my favourites, Smiley In A Bottle. As of this post, Eric Fuller is also selling one of Frederic's non-dexterity puzzles, a 2D packing puzzle called Artefacts, well-worth taking a look!

 Trois Chocolats consists of a square jar with a screw cover and inside there are 3 cubes, each with a cavity, made from maple, cherry and wenge with a fourth smaller wenge solid block. The jar looks to be something you can commercially buy off the shelf but the cubes are hand-glued and finished, and very nicely done I might add. The jar measures 10cm tall and about 6.5cm wide. 

Looking at the photos I think you can guess what the object of the puzzle is; yes, to get the cubes to stack atop one another and the smaller block to fit inside the wenge cube. The cubes have been constructed in such a way that there is a particular order for stacking them; maple at the bottom and wenge on top with the cherry in between. Any other combination and the stack will have gaps.

When I first looked at the puzzle, I thought it was going to be a really tough challenge given there are 4 pieces. And in the early stages I had some difficulty with all the cubes rolling around inside the jar. But as I puzzled on, turning the jar in all directions, it didn't appear as difficult as I had expected. I slowly got the hang of it. I could get the cherry onto the maple cube and with some persistence, the wenge thereafter. The part that was most difficult was to get the small block into the cavity of the wenge cube. This took me a good twenty minutes to get right and occasionally in between, the other 3 cubes would dislodge and I had to start all over again. 

Trios Chocolats is a rather interesting design from Frederic and as i can testify, not impossible to solve; in fact surprisingly manageable, so long as you keep at it. For those into dexterity or bottle puzzles, here's one worth collecting.  

Monday, 17 October 2016

Magiq #8 & Tango 72

For this year's IPP36 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition, I submitted two entries. One was my own design (the subject of this post) while the second was a joint entry with fellow puzzler Primitivo Familiar Ramos, which I shall write about at a later date.

My first entry was called Magiq#8 and the goal (as can be seen from the photos) is to re-arrange the 5 pieces and change the #8 to a #0. Saying "abracadabra" would certainly help! I didn't manage to win any prizes...but hey, its the participation that counts right? 

Although this year's design bears some resemblance to my entry at last year's IPP competition, the "69", the Magiq#8 is totally different in terms of the solve. My design was expertly crafted by Tom Lensch and consists of exotic woods comprising walnut, holly, shedua and yellowheart. Construction, fit and finish is excellent and I particularly liked the perimeter trim added by Tom to the top edge of the box.

Its not as straight forward a packing puzzle as one might expect and there is a trick to it. No spoilers so I shall not say anymore. What's the difficulty level? I can't say as I have not received any feedback so far, although puzzler Marc Pawliger did casually mention to me in the competition room that he found it quite devilish... If anyone is keen to purchase a copy, please contact Tom Lensch via his website to check on availability. 

My Exchange Puzzle is "Tango 72". This year, I designed a sliding block puzzle consisting of 5 pieces, 4 of which are identical. Like most sliding puzzles, the goal is to rearrange the pieces from a starting position to an end position, while only moving the pieces (left, right, up and down) within the tray. 

Here the end result is to form the words IPP36 from a scrambled state. It takes a minimum 72 moves to arrive at the final solution. I tried to make my design accommodate an additional but easier challenge with fewer moves, but somehow didn't quite manage to succeed. Tango 72 is made from 3mm laser cut acrylic and I have a couple of copies left for sale if anyone is interested.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Murbiter's Devilish Burr

The past few days were spent on Rosemary Howbrigg's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle, Murbiter's Devilish Burr designed by Primitivo Familiar Ramos. 

"Murbiter" is the ancient Arabic name of a town in Valencia, Spain called Sagunto, where Primitivo was born. I think this is the second burr Primitivo has named Murbiter; In 2014, Primitivo's own Exchange Puzzle was called the Murbiter's Psuedo Burr, the latter incidentally which was a lot easier to solve.

The design was produced for the Exchange by Brian Young of Mr Australia. The puzzle measures about 8cm x 8cm x 8cm and the pieces are made from Queensland Silver Ash while the burr ends with their rather nice edges are a contrasty reddish brown Western Australian Jarrah. Overall build quality and construction is excellent and all the pieces are snug but move smoothly.

I was stuck like that for some time even with Burr Tools
What is noticeably different about the Murbiter are the burr ends that lend the "I" shape to each piece (and according to James Dalgety, this technically should not qualify the Murbiter as a "burr" in the traditional sense of the word). The ends are not there just to make the puzzle look different but are integral to the design and the way the puzzle interlocks. Without the ends, the Murbiter has only a maximum level 6 solution. And since we are talking about the number of moves, I might as well deal with the puzzling aspect. This is a mid-level 15 solution burr and requires a total of 21 moves to take the thing fully apart. I did manage to take it apart (after quite a lot of time and effort), but putting it back together was really beyond me. It's not only devilish, its hellish! Make no's way harder than it's level 15 solution would suggest.

I must insist that this puzzle is such a dexterous handful it requires more than two hands to solve! Even with the aid of Burr Tools, its difficult! Thank goodness I had my supportive wife to help....she supported and held the first three pieces in place with her hands while I slowly piled on the rest with mine. Brian says that the Murbiter "is a real challenge but not impossible"...which IMHO is somewhat of an understatement! Which is why Brian has also made an interesting video of himself solving the Murbiter unsupported, so go watch it. Don't worry, I doubt it will be a spoiler for anyone, given the way the solving goes.

For interlocking puzzle addicts, this is an interesting looking (and real challenging) one to add to your collection. Available from Mr Puzzle for A$59.09.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


Can two ordinary ordinary zippers that are joined together become a real mechanical puzzle? Well in the genius hands of Hirokazu Iwasawa, they definitely can! And here it is... 

Hirokazu (or Hiro) is very well known for what I call his "offbeat" designs. Yes he does design regular looking and playable puzzles too such the well known Odd Puzzle, Alcyl, Tritalon and the Jam Series but he also has a hidden talent for coming up with unique puzzles that most would not imagine possible; that is using everyday objects like the zippers shown here and choosing non-typical materials such as cloth and fabric. 

Many in the puzzle community will remember his extremely popular Square In The Bag which won the IPP32 Puzzlers' Award and his subsequent CorRECTly In The Bag. Amazing how he is able to think up such unusual and unique puzzle designs that actually work.

Zipper was Hiro's IPP36 exchange puzzle in Tokyo this past August. Made of two zippers joined together, the puzzle provides two challenges. 

1. Completely zip up one of the two colour zippers 
2. Zip up both zippers completely. 

My puzzler friend Khuong An Nguyen has suggested that Hiro may have been inspired by or based his Zipper design on the "Mobius Strip". Click here to find out what this is...a rather interesting read.

The Zipper measures about 29 cm and comes with two seperate zipper pulls. My copy is a green-yellow version though there are other colour combinations for sale. Quality wise the zipper is above average as the two zippers are physically glued together and can come apart if too much force is used or if you try to peel them apart. The zipper itself has already been pre-twisted so it's not just a simple task of finding the opening ends and zipping them up. 

For some strange reason in my search for the solution to the first challenge, I actually discovered and solved the second challenge. Physically as you examine the zippers, it does not look possible to zip both zippers together at the same time but in typical Hiro fashion, the solution is definitely out there and apart from eliciting my amazement, it's actually a pretty elegant solution in the final state. 

From the puzzling perspective, Zipper is not a very difficult puzzle to solve but presents a challenge that requires some thinking and close visual examination. You must not allow yourself to think that it is impossible physically, which was my initial experience with CorRECTly In The Bag.  Mentally reinforce to yourself that it is indeed solvable and there is a way to do it without resorting to force or tearing the zippers apart...You'll be surprised.   

All in, a great (exchange) puzzle that is very far removed from the norm and Zipper can be enjoyed by both seasoned and novice puzzlers alike. In fact non-puzzlers will probably have fun with it too since some thinking out of the box is required as is typical of Hiro's puzzles of this nature. 

Zipper is manufactured by DYLAN-KOBO in Japan. Currently it appears that the Zipper is not listed and available. Best to contact the site owner MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu). MINE ships internationally.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

CheckerBored 3

CheckerBored 3 is anything but boring! 

I had thought that with the fair amount of practice I have had with packing puzzles designed by Goh Pit Khiam such as Dancing ShoesAlmost ThereFusion etc and Stewart Coffin's CCC-1Cruiser and Five-FIt, I would have been able to solve William Waite's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle the CheckerBored 3. But this was not to be the case, sadly. 

Waite runs a website called Puzzlemist selling some very beautiful (and very difficult looking) 2D packing puzzles based on various themes, all which have been designed and produced him. 

Waite's CheckerBored 3 consists of a regular square tray(10cm x 10cm) and six 6 other pieces. The pieces look as if they have been dissected from a regular 8x8 checker board into different shapes and 5 of the pieces consists of diagonal half squares as well. 

The entire puzzle has been precision laser cut with the darker squares laser etched in a grid pattern. Quality fit and finish is very good and each puzzle comes in a sponge lined box for protection. 

The object is to place all the 6 pieces into the tray to make a checker board pattern and with
half squares permitted. 

The typical starting point would be to try placing all 6 pieces inside the tray and adjusting the pieces randomly to find a fit. But of course this would have been too easy and yielded no success. Somehow one piece just "didn't gel in with the others". I think I must have spent several hours over the course of a few days of puzzling but got no where; to the point I actually wondered if I had been given a wrong piece(s). Finally I threw in the towel and shot Waite an email asking for the solution. Waite replied to say he was traveling and had no access to the solution until the following week. But he did give me a couple of hints.

Using his hints....yes, it is possible to lay out the 6 given pieces in the tray in a checker board pattern as intended and it looks why didn't I try that??

Nothing more needs to be said. A very challenging puzzle IMHO and die hard packing fans (Dave Holt, if you are reading this) won't be disappointed. You won't find CheckerBored 3 on his site but you can try contacting Waite directly (via his site contact) for availability.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Cast Lock

The Cast Lock is one of Hanayama's recent offerings and based on the 2014 IPP34 award winning competition entry design "Cassette" of Jin-Hoo Ann from Korea. 

Shaped like a small padlock, the puzzle measures about 4.3cm x 3.1cm x 2.1cm. It consists of 4 aluminium pieces of which two "elongated" rings with notches form the shackle while the other two form the body of the lock. The objective here is to dismantle the lock into four pieces and put it back together again. Quality of construction, fit and finish is very good and there is certain "looseness" of the puzzle which I believe is intended for easy movement of the pieces. While the rings can swivel around the body of the lock pretty easily, the disassembly is anything but that.

I don't have many Hanayama cast puzzles in my collection and for those that I own, I have managed to solve most of them without any help (well, I don't have many of the really difficult ones anyway!). But sadly, this lock eluded me despite several days of on-off playing. I managed to get past what I would consider the second stage and thereafter remained stuck. And stuck for a long time. Finally I threw in the towel and checked out the video solution which some kind soul had placed on YouTube. Looking at the movements which are serial and sequential in nature, I would not have been able to solve the Cast Lock on my own. The number of twist and turns and precise moves required to un-shackle the lock is pretty confusing and mind-boggling to say the least.

This is a very difficult puzzle to take apart and Hanayama rates it 5 out of 6 stars (I think it should be a 6 out of 6). It has stumped quite a number of puzzlers since it came to the market but I know of one puzzler, blogger Kevin Sadler who has managed to solve it. Check out his review here

Jin-Hoo Ahn has really designed a gem. As I looked the individual pieces, they don't look that complicated but yet the sum of the four parts result in a very challenging puzzle requiring a lot of effort to solve. This is one of those prime examples of "less is more"? If you want a really difficult take-apart puzzle, the Cast Lock is one that will provide a lot of value for money. Outside of Japan, its presently available from PuzzleMaster of Canada.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Hexator & Kissel

Over the weekend, I played with two IPP36 Exchange Puzzles designed and manufactured by Vaclav Obsivac from the Czech Republic, more popularly known to the puzzle community as Vinco. I have a number of Vinco's puzzles in my collection including the Cross Box, Murbiter's Pseudo-Burr and the very large sized 18 Dutch Mills

Vinco's online puzzle site has an incredible and very extensive range of interlocking and co-ordinate motion puzzles, made of different woods, a large selection of them using exotic woods and all at very reasonable prices. 

Both my exchange copies came assembled. Both are well made with good fit and finish using Cherry wood and will display rather nicely.

The first is the Hexator, a burr-shaped interlocking solid with 6 irregular pieces each made of different rectangular blocks glued together. Measuring about 5.5cm all round, this was Abel Garcia's exchange puzzle. Taking apart the Hexator was not to difficult once you find where the pieces connect and slide them apart. But the challenge came during the re-assembly. I didn't think it was going to be that difficult but the moment I scrambled the pieces, I wished I hadn't done so. While its only 6 pieces, the pieces are (almost) identical to each other but not so. They just look confusingly similar.

There is only one solution and if you can't find the right pieces to mesh together correctly and in the correct sequence, you'll be going around in circles like I did. To borrow the phrase from one puzzler, the Hexator is confusingly disorientating. While Vinco had deliberately constructed the puzzle to have a symmetrical external pattern of colours on all 6 sides by using darker and lighter woods, I found that this didn't help me much. Thankfully he added the printed solution to the packaging. 

The next is Patrick Major's exchange puzzle, the Kissel, a puzzle comprising 4 identical pieces, each consisting of 3 balls joined together in an L-shape. In the solved state, the puzzle forms a symmetrical bunching of 12 balls. The overall size of the bunch is approximately 7cm all round with each ball about 2.7cm in diameter. 

The Kissel took me even longer than the Hexator to take apart. I had thought that this was possibly co-ordinate motion puzzle and tried to remove the pieces as such. However it was not the case. As I was pulling and pushing (the usual way I disentangle such puzzles) trying to find the one piece that can move, suddenly a piece came off and everything came tumbling down. Again, I had little luck with the dis-assembly and had to resort to the solution. In a way the Kissel sort of resembled a co-ordinate motion puzzle but not quite, since I more or less had to "snap" the last piece into place to lock down the rest, even though a slight amount of force (not excessive) was needed.
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