Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Join The Club

Join The Club was Scott Elliot's Exchange Puzzle at IPP34 this year. Scott designs and makes his own puzzles using his 3D printer, For more about how he produced The Club and other puzzles, you can read more about it here

The Club is "printed" out of ABS resin and quality and fit is very good and precise. Scott coloured the puzzle black with red trim, something likely possible only with 3D printing, nice! (thanks to George Bell for highlighting this). It's solid, can flex a bit and won't break unless real brute force is used. But there is a bit of a stickiness to the puzzle (probably due to the type of material used) and being a glossy finish, finger prints will start to appear after a while of play. 

Like Scott's IPP33 Exchange Puzzle, the Peppermint, the object is to "weave", if this is the right word to use, the two pieces together to form the shape of the club. Not that simple as I found myself trying all manner of orientations on the two pieces to get them to "intertwine". 

However, IMO,it is still not as difficult as the Peppermint (which I still have not put back together). After several minutes, I found the "trick" and the two pieces slid nicely into place. Pretty elegant and no force whatsoever needed. 

The Club reminds me of a well known Hanayama Cast puzzle designed by a well known European designer which works quite on the same principle. Can you guess which one?

This is the sort of puzzle you can easily pocket around and astound your non-puzzling (or puzzling) friends. Contact Scott via his blog if you wish to purchase one.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Doors & Drawers

I first saw this puzzle on Kevin Sadler's blog. He had bought a copy from Bernhard Schweitzer's table during the IPP34 Puzzle Party in London this August. For some strange reason, I don't recall seeing it at the Puzzle Party...hmm...maybe I was still too jet-lagged from my 13 hour plane ride from Singapore.

Doors & Drawers (D&D) is a design from Mike Toulouzas, who has won several puzzle design awards at IPP31IPP32 and IPP34. The bulk of the workmanship of the puzzle came from Pelikan Workshop (Mike made the cute door knobs) and the puzzle is sold by Bernhard via his PuzzleWood website. I won't go into the details of this 3-party arrangement but you can read it here.

The D&D is a large puzzle and very comfortable in the hands. It resembles a miniature chest and it even comes with four little supporting feet at the bottom to complete the overall look. Quality, fit and construction is top-notch like all Pelikan-made puzzles. A combination of woods are used here...Walnut for the frame, oak for the drawers, katalox for the knobs and Bubinga for the feet.

This is not your typical burr puzzle but probably one can call it a burr puzzle box? And because of this, the D&D is really one of the more fun and interesting puzzles to solve. It not only has 3 "burr" pieces which are interlocked inside the box frame but also 3 other loose pieces (one L-shaped and two rectangular) within. The object of course is to "open" the doors and drawers and remove all 6 pieces.

Solving would require removal of the loose block pieces first, which is not too difficult and thankfully the puzzle is large so that you can quite easily see what goes on inside the box. And then figuring out how to extract the burr pieces, which is much more challenging.

I took a good hour or so to take apart and put everything back together, most time being spent on trying to remove the 3 larger burr pieces locked inside via notches and protrusions which form part of the box frame. But after the first piece is out, the other two are easy. The knobs don't merely add to the aesthetics but also serve as handles for easier pulling and pushing the pieces.

I really like the D&D because it's got other elements of play (the a-ha moments after you remove the loose blocks) apart from the burr solving. And the latter is just right IMHO in terms of difficulty. Not so overly challenging as to frustrate! 

This is my first puzzle from Mike Toulouzas and judging from the D&D, I don't think it would be my last. A great puzzle with an interesting design concept. At 70 euros, its value for money too!

Saturday, 4 October 2014


NumLock was Goh Pit Khiam's entry for the IPP34 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in London this past August. 

This is a "N-ary" puzzle. Don't ask me what it means because I don't really know, but it has something to do with mathematics. For an explanation of N-ary puzzles, you may wish to refer to Dr. Goetz Schwandtner's dedicated N-ary puzzles page on his website. My only other experience with an N-ary puzzle is the Lock 250.

Made by Tom Lensch, the NumLock comprises three woods; Cherry, Canarywood and East Indian Rose Wood. As with all Tom Lensch puzzles, the quality of construction and finish is excellent. All the pieces fit nicely and slide smoothly.

The object is to remove all the pieces from the box frame which consist of 4 sliders interacting with 6 moving blocks (with finger holes).The sliders and blocks all move in linear fashion.

According to Goh, a staggering 143 moves is required to extract the first piece. From my very limited understanding of N-ary puzzles, they usually comprise a repeating sequence of moves to solve, unlike high level burrs with a similar number of moves, so technically speaking, they are somewhat easier (not easy). 

Removable magnetic lid. If only all mechanical puzzles are made like this!

As I was trying to solve the NumLock, I really couldn't figure out the sequence although I did detect some sort of a pattern. Well, repeating sequence or not, I was quite happy when I finally got the first piece out, after a good while of fiddling! Did I take a 143 moves? I don't know....would have lost count along the way anyway. I figured I would not be able to reassemble the pieces so I didn't bother trying. Thankfully Tom had constructed a removable lid on the box for re-setting of the pieces within (so as not to torture the IPP34 participants), so the put-together was easily taken care of.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Accordion 3.5

This one came from my last batch of puzzles from Eric Fuller. Designed by William Hu, the Accordion 3.5 sports a very nice colour contrast through the use of White Oak and Chakte Viga (hmm...never heard of this exotic wood). 

Built to very tight tolerances with very fine sharp edges, the quality and construction is excellent throughout. Careful handling is needed for this one.

Only 4 irregular shaped pieces, this is a level 9.3 interlocking burr. In terms of difficulty, not difficult, especially if you are familiar with some of William Hu's other puzzles such as the Ring Lock. You will probably figure out quite quickly how and what needs to be done. For the uninitiated, may pose a serious challenge tho'

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Caramel Box

Caramel Box is the IPP34 design competition entry from Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu (MINE). It also came in top 10 for most votes garnered for the Puzzlers' Award.

While I am not too familiar with Hashimoto-san, I enjoy MINE's designs and have a couple of his puzzles including the T4-II and T4-III. His packing puzzles usually do not have a lot of pieces (no more than 4), but yet provides a nice (and not overly difficult) challenge that is just right. Caramel Box is one such puzzle, although it did stump me a fair bit longer than the previous two.

There are two challenges here... to get two sets of various irregular shaped pieces flat into the metal box. Usually not a problem since its only a 3x3x2 but in this case the opening of the box has an obstruction in one corner, making the solve more difficult than one might imagine.

Packing the pieces would require you to figure out the shape the pieces must form to fit inside the box...pretty straight forward, although the wrong shape would mean getting stuck along the way. And then figuring out how to insert the pieces into the box...which is not so straight forward. I found the second challenge easier than the first, which is a bit odd since the first is usually the easier of the two.

Quality and build is excellent. The two sets of wood pieces are made from Teak and Poa Rosa respectively and the box is thick walled steel. A really solid mix of metal and wood.

Overall a really nice puzzle of high quality. I believe there are still some copies available for sale. You can purchase the Caramel Box and other puzzles via MINE's website. Yes, he does ship overseas.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


This interlocking puzzle is aptly named, and you can see why. Designed by Tamas Vanyo, one of several "new wave" designers that is pushing the boundaries of interlocking puzzle designs with shapes and styles that go beyond the traditional looking burr. I have several of his designs, including the Noncsi, Orsi and Pentomino Maze.

Tamas is very prolific and he designs an average 3-5 puzzles a month, which he shares on Facebook before they are eventually uploaded to

A rookie wood-worker, the Pharmacy was hand-made by him out of Pear and Beech woods. I had seen his design on Facebook and requested a copy. While overall build and quality cannot be compared to the finishing and precision of professional puzzle craftsmen, my copy turned out to be reasonably well made, coming from an amateur. It even has oil coating to preserve the woods, although this is not apparent externally.

What is rather unusual about this design is that there is an internal plate (shaped like a "cross") which "floats" inside the box frame. Both the plate and frame have irregular cut-outs. The plate cannot be removed and extraction/assembly of the pieces require interaction with both the box frame and the plate which slides within. 

On paper, the Pharmacy is a 31-move level 13 puzzle (ie 13 steps to remove the 1st piece), certainly not the most difficult burr around in theory. But the asymmetrical nature of the cut-outs and sliding plate make the puzzle harder than it appears. Unless the burr pieces are in the correct orientation when going back into the frame, there'll be some dead ends. I managed to get the pieces out but got stuck hopeless during the assembly. With the plate "locked" inside the frame, I was also at a loss at how to generate a burr tools file. I consulted designer Goh Pit Khiam who duly obliged with the solution and thereafter got the pieces back where they belong.

The Pharmacy sports a rather unique and different design and shape. It'll be nice if one of the regular puzzle makers can pick up on this one and produce copies for sale. If so, my only recommendation is to have the internal plate fabricated out of acrylic which not only adds to durability and integrity of the plate/frame combo, but also lends a nice contrast to the wood pieces and frame.

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.
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