Wednesday, 18 October 2017



Dear Puzzling Friends

You may have noticed that I have not been posting and puzzle write-ups/reviews for the past several weeks. This is because I have been busy designing my own mechanical puzzle blog site and e-store (after having attended a website design course). 

My last puzzle post here was on 5th September 2017. My new puzzle reviews/write-ups (from 6th September 2017 onwards) are now found at

Please feel free to check out my new site above. I am still making improvements to it as I go along. Hence I would appreciate any comments you might have regarding my new site. This blog will continue to remain as it is as I am likely to refer to it in my future articles from time time. 

I wish to thank everyone for your support these past 6 years and hope you will continue to offer your support for my new puzzle site above. 

Apart from blogging, I will also make available new puzzles for sale now and again. My new batch of puzzles for sale will be listed towards the end of October/Early November in my Puzzle Shop. Do check back regularly to see what's available.

Thank You,


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Long & Short

This is an interesting Stewart Coffin designed puzzle that was exchanged by Rob Jones at IPP37 in Paris this past August. It's also my first "pin-hole" puzzle from Coffin. Looking at the photos you will probably realise why its called Long & Short. This design is designated STC 20-D.

Outwardly, the Long & Short looks like an ordinary six-piece burr made out of exotic wood (in this case its Wenge) but really its an interlocking puzzle of sorts using a combination of pins inserted into holes.

There are 3 congruent pieces of one design and a pair of another, while the last piece is "pin-less". Object is to take apart and put the puzzle back to together. Very well made by Bart Buie (check out his site here which features a tasty selection of Stewart Coffin puzzles ranging from $45 to a whopping $405 for an STC-7 called Jupiter with 30 different woods!). While the pieces fitted too tightly at first due to the high Singapore humidity, this problem was solved after several hours in my puzzle dry box. The puzzle is about the size of a regular Rubik's Cube.

Taking apart is pretty straight forward; once you have the first piece out, the rest is easily removable. But putting the thing back together is a tad more tricky, particularly if you scramble the pieces. But because there are two sets of identical pieces and the outer surface of the puzzle is not supposed to show any pinholes, the assembly is not overly complicated. Certainly manageable with some patience, although if you got the orientation of the pieces wrong, you may hit a dead end; some pins just don't fit into certain holes. Sorry Burr Tools won't be of any use here. Again, I have to say its at a level of difficulty appropriate for an Exchange Puzzle. Even novices can have fun with the Long & Short and not feel frustrated.

The Long & Short, according to fellow puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler, is the easiest challenge of a much bigger (a bit of an understatement here) puzzle called the Grand Pinhole which has a mind-boggling 43 pieces (if I counted correctly).

Photograph used with kind permission of Kevin Sadler

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge here was designed by Stephan Baumegger and it also won a "Top 10 Vote Getter Award" during the IPP37 Puzzle Design Competition.

Stephan is a prolific puzzle designer (at last count with 191 designs on PWBP) well-known for his interlocking burrs, but not just typical looking ones. Take a look at his Puzzleisure Facebook page and you will find an incredible number of unusual but identifiable "themed" burrs, produced with outstanding beauty, quality and craftsmanship. 

I was rather delighted when I received the Moulin Rouge from Roman Gotter during my IPP37 puzzle exchange with Roman in Paris recently. What was a bit surprising tho is that Stephan's Moulin Rouge doesn't follow the themed burr concept that he is famous fact at first glance it looked a bit "Karakuri-ish". But still the puzzle has a French theme connected with IPP37 - Moulin Rouge (in French means "Red Mill") is a world famous cabaret in Paris.

And so the puzzle resembles a miniature windmill. The object is to "help" Colette, a can-can dancer who's trapped inside the mill to "escape". Practically speaking, it means you have to find a way to open up the windmill to discover Colette who's inside. A trick opening puzzle box one can call it perhaps.

The Moulin Rouge is made of a combination of exotic hardwoods (Amarant, Merbau and Beech) and takes roughly 8-9 moves to solve. No external tools are necessary and yes, as you might have guessed, the fan of the windmill does serve a purpose other than being decorative. 

Unexpectedly I was stuck at the last step of freeing Colette. For more than several minutes I could see Colette but could not fathom a way to get her out of her "trap". For a while, I though Stephan had inadvertently left out something from the puzzle which was necessary to solve it. But as I realised later, I had myself to blame for being careless and not paying close enough attention to the overall puzzle itself. Everything was there which I needed. Nonetheless all ended well and out came Colette. For Exchange puzzles, the Colette is unpainted, like mine in the photo but as I understand, those copies that are for sale have a very detailed painted Colette.

A nice little puzzle indeed! The Moulin Rouge is very well made and provides an adequate amount of challenge, at a level of difficulty which is "just right" for an exchange puzzle.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Number Blocks

Designed by my dear friend and fellow Singaporean Goh Pit Khiam (Goh is the family name), the Number Blocks puzzle won a Honourable Jury Mention at the IPP35 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in Ottawa,Canada in 2015. 

Start Position
If you are familiar with Goh's work, you may have come across several other (physically) similar looking puzzles in the "blocks" family such as his Arrow Blocks, Stumbling Blocks, Road Blocks and Check Box. But don't be mistaken; while they look alike, each of them are different in their own right in terms of design and solutions and all providing good challenges.

The Number Blocks comprise of Sapele for the box, maple for the pieces and walnut for the digits. Dimensionally it is about 4.5 inches square and 1.5 inches tall. Made by Tom Lensch, the puzzle is of the usual outstanding quality and construction and all the pieces move and slide smoothly. 

This is an interlocking "packing puzzle" and the object here is to rearrange the pieces from the start position to the finished position as shown in the photos here. Basically you need to swap the positions of the 3 and the 4 to the right order. 

Solved Position
Like most of Goh's designs, there are not many pieces - just 4 ordinary looking blocks adorned with laser cut digits atop each one. But three of these blocks have extensions popping out from their sides and these protrusions interact with a channel cut into and along all four of the insides of the box. They also restrict each other's movements within the box. The solution takes a number of steps more akin to a burr puzzle. Difficult? Well, for the more experienced puzzler, not overly so nor frustrating. But this a puzzle which requires you to exercise some thinking and re-evaluate how you would solve a packing puzzle. And typical of Goh's design style, there is usually a "trick" of sorts to solving the Number Blocks which results in a nice a-ha moment solution. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Non-Void Cube

Here's the first of my of blog posts on the puzzles which I had the pleasure of exchanging with 95 other participants at the recent IPP37 Puzzle Exchange in Paris, France.

The Non-Void Cube is from Andreas Rover- yes, the ONE who created and free-shared with the world Burr Tools; the indispensable and holy grail of puzzle design tools (no pun intended) for designers everywhere. Without Burr Tools, I am pretty certain that 99.5% of the designs on would not be in existence today, we would not have the huge number wooden and other interlocking puzzles we have now and Eric Fuller would probably still be a professional soldier in the US Army.

At first glance, the Non-Void Cube, with its plastic appearance, looks very much like an ordinary Rubiks Cube without any of the coloured stickers. In fact its a 3D printed interlocking burr designed and created by Andreas. The Cube is very nicely printed and the tolerances between the pieces sufficiently tight. Notwithstanding, the pieces move and slide smoothly and I experienced no jamming whatsoever. Size-wise, the Cube is 6cm all round, the size of a normal Rubiks Cube.

And what is unique about the Non-Void Cube is that it has got no voids (holes) within the cube, yet it has a Level 4.3.3 solution, something that is impossible to achieve with a typical burr design. Andreas managed to create this puzzle by attaching the cubes of the 4 pieces not by joining the faces of the cubes, but via their corners (see photo above). In this manner the pieces can slide in the various directions even without the voids or voxels necessary.

While it takes only 4 moves to remove the first piece (and with some effort not too difficult to figure out) and 3 moves each to remove the next two, the design is not without some trickiness. If you scramble all the pieces after disassembly, and unless you have a very good memory, you may just forget the orientation of the pieces (like I did) and find yourself in a bit of a bind trying to reassemble the thing. Again with some persistence and time, it is do-able. And Burr Tools would not help you here if you can't solve it, Haha!. Is Andreas hiding some features of the software which he is only keeping to himself? 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The (Exploding) Apple

This is a really life-like and cute puzzle I got from Vladimir Krasnoukhov during the IPP37 Puzzle Party in Paris, France a week and a half ago. Designed by Vladimir, I am told it was made by his brother.

The design is based around Vladimir's Curly Cube (or Exploding Cube) puzzle, which has seen the latter take the form of both wood and metal. The Apple is made of wood and painted primarily red with some yellow to be like the real fruit. It looks to have been carved and cut from a single block of wood with some careful gluing or pieces on the inside. It even has a plastic leaf attached to a wooden looking stem! From a far distance, if you can't really see the joint lines, it almost looks real.

Quality of build and construction is good (although like the Curly Cube), I wished the tolerances were tighter to hide the joint lines. Size wise its about 6cm across and 4.5cm tall. In the terms of the solve, unlike the Curly Cube where you have to manipulate the three pieces all about the same time to split them apart, the Apple has a much more elegant (and easier) solution, as was demonstrated to me by Vladimir. Putting it back together requires some gentle nudging of pieces back to their original positions. The puzzle behaves very much like a co-ordinate motion puzzle.

While the puzzling is not at all high level stuff, the uniqueness and cute factor makes up for the lack of it. I just simply had to spend the 20 Euros to buy and own one, given that there were only about 4 copies for sale that day (and all sold out). And if I remember correctly, only my copy (I think) had a leaf.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Hanayama Cast Dot (Prototype)

I was very fortunate to have received a prototype copy of Hanayama's newest release, the Cast Dot from their good folks during IPP37, which took place last weekend in Paris, France. 

The Dot, as far as I can tell is presently only available to the market in Japan via Japanese retailers and several (Japanese) Ebay sellers. But I am sure it will reach the other puzzle and online stores outside Japan pretty soon.

My "beta" puzzle is not the black and silver version presently in the market but sports a brassy and copper steam-punk look instead. Physically (aside from the colour scheme) I don't think there is any difference in the design between my prototype and the production version packaged under Hanayama's Huzzle brand. 

Cast Dot Production Model 
The Dot was designed by Akio Yamamoto, who was also behind the designs of a dozen or more other Cast Puzzles and the multi-coloured series of Naked Secret Boxes. My prototype is made of zinc alloy (I think). For an early version, the quality of my copy was very good and the puzzle functioned as intended. 

The object is to take apart the puzzle into two separate pieces. My initial impression was that the Dot is similar to the Cast Diamond, designed by Scott Elliot. In some ways it is, but the solve in my opinion is harder than the Diamond. It took me a bit of fiddling before I managed to split the two pieces. I tried to remember the moves for later re-assembly but the latter was a tad more difficult than I expected. 

DOT, according to one Hanayama insider familiar with the puzzle stands for (D)-Direction:(O)-Orientation:(T)-Twist...very appropriate since you need to employ all three to solve the DOT.

While the Diamond requires a "one-move" sort of motion" to "fuse" the two separate parts together once you have found the rather precise point of entry, the Dot requires a few more steps. The way the design has been carried out seems like you have to link the parts initially through a sort of mini maze with several twists and turns until you hit a certain "sweet spot"; and wah-la , the two parts suddenly come together and fit (just) so precisely and nicely. Get the orientation wrong at the start and you will remain stuck. Again, because you can see everything that you are doing, so long as you persevere, you will eventually solve it at some point.

Repeat solving becomes progressively easier as you memorise the moves but my second and third attempts at re-solving took me almost as long as my first time, even though I knew how the pieces were suppose to interact with each other. 

The parts of the Dot are very precisely cut and does look a bit delicate. While it is robustly made and can probably stand up to some rough handling, the Dot does not require any force whatsoever and you may damage the puzzle if you force any move by overly twisting or turning. This particular Cast puzzle does require a bit more delicate handling during play than some of the other Cast puzzles in the series. 

It's a nice (very pocketable) puzzle (5.7cm x 4.7cm x 1cm) and just right on the challenge scale for some quick puzzling while on the go, for example during a commute or just to pass some casual time. I played and solved mine on the flight from Paris back to Singapore. It is rated 2 stars in terms of difficulty by Hanayama but I personally think it should be at around 2.5!

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