Sunday, 24 March 2013

Twin Box Pentominoes


Name
Twin Box Pentominoes

Designer
Primitivo F. Ramos. He also designed the Pack The Podium puzzle, featured on Puzzle Place.


Manufacturer
Brian Menold. Online retail shop Wood Wonders. Special limited edition of four copies each priced at US$58. Currently unavailable.

Type & Classification
Pentominoes 3D Packing Puzzle

Dimensions
8.7cm (Length) 8.7x cm (Width) x 6.9cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
The outer box frame sides are made from Paduak while the corners are English Sycamore. The pentominoes are Yellowheart. Construction fit and finish is excellent. The pentominoes fit well and slide smoothly. But because the tolerances are very tight, this puzzle may "lock up" in very humid conditions, as did mine. But half a day or so in a camera dry box solved the problem.

Overview
Twin Pentominoes is my second puzzle from Brian Menold. The first is Stacks Of Sticks reviewed earlier in this blog. A very attractive and aesthetically pleasing puzzle. The choice of exotic hard woods creates a very nice colourful contrast, particularly the orange Paduak frame and the Yellowheart pentominoes. Probably this was what attracted me to this puzzle in the first place. Brian made a short run of four copies, each with a combination of different woods but I think this version is perhaps the most striking. This is a fairly large puzzle and feels quite a handful in the palm.

The object is to remove the pentominoes from the frame and reassemble them within. I had read from fellow puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler's blog review that the Twin Box is a very difficult packing puzzle and even he couldn't solve it without help. And so I found out the same for myself as I started to remove each piece. After the first several pieces, I knew straight away I would have a lot of trouble getting them back into the frame later. I was already getting confused by the different orientations of the box as I slid the pieces around and then out of the confines of the box.  Some pieces even had to be moved two together at the same time to be extracted.

Numbering the pieces but still of little use at the end
I decided to mark and number each piece. I even took photos and notes of how each piece slid out on my iPad, hoping this will allow for easier assembly later. But as I discovered later, I had missed a step or two during the numbering, and well...everything came out and was in a mess. All my efforts to document the disassembly for future assembly had been futile.

Re-assembly proved virtually impossible for me. Each time I could get no more than four to five pentominoes into the box before getting stuck. Finally I sought the help of Kevin and he immediately obliged by sending over the solution he obtained using Burr Tools. There is a staggering 11,821 solutions! Difficult to imagine that with thousands of solutions, the puzzle is still so difficult. With the help of the programme, I eventually got the pieces back into the frame in the right sequence...Whew! Using Burr Tools, I also found some solutions which are easier to execute than others.

Difficulty Level
Just two words....extremely difficult!

Summary
A really very nice and well-made puzzle. The colours catch everyone's attention. For the workmanship that went into it, very good value for money too. And if you want a really gruelling and ultra challenging puzzling experience (and sleepless nights), the Twin Box will also not disappoint!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Drive Down Lombard Street


Name
A Drive Down Lombard Street

Designer
Brian Young


Manufacturer
Brian Young. Puzzle directly available from him via his website Mr Puzzle Australia priced at A$70/-

Type & Classification
Dexterity & Sliding

Dimensions
14.4cm (Length) x 7.6cm (Width) x 3.7cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
The box is made of Papua New Guinean Rosewood, six sliding tiles made from Western Australia Jarrah, acrylic and steel. Construction fit and finish is to a very high standard. The tiles fit well and slide smoothly. There is enough "gap" between the tiles so humidity would not be an issue for this puzzle.

IPP
The Drive Down Lombard Street was Brian's Exchange Puzzle during IPP29 in San Francisco, USA in August 2009. Like most of Brian's exchange puzzles, this one is a themed puzzle inspired by the popular tourist attraction, Lombard Street in San Francisco, which is the world's most crookedest street.

Overview
The object of the puzzle is to "take a drive down Lombard Street"; manoeuvring a ball bearing from tile to tile at the starting point on top, ie Hyde Street down to the bottom end point, Leavensworth Street. Each of the six tiles have grooves and notches cut into them to allow the ball bearing to roll atop each tile and to move from one to the next. All the six tiles are also able to move or slide, similar to a regular sliding puzzle. The tiles are covered by acrylic so you cannot physically touch them but must use dexterity in order to move them around within the confines of the box.

Solving the puzzle requires one not only the use dexterity to move the ball bearing from tile to tile, but also  the tiles need to be in the correct orientation to enable the grooves to be aligned properly for the ball bearing to roll from one tile to the next. Basically slide/move the tiles to form a maze with the grooves and navigate the ball bearing through the maze. To make things even harder, the grooves on each tile are cut differently so forming the maze is not that simple.

And because there is a one empty space to allow the tiles to slide, the ball bearing can quite easily fall off a tile (if one is not careful during the sliding  process) to the bottom of the box. I think Brian also deliberately made the grooves shallow enough to allow this to happen to make the puzzle harder. Here you have to reposition the ball bearing on the starting point again and begin all over.

Difficulty Level
The puzzle provides a fair amount of challenge but is not very difficult. Yes, it requires dexterity and some thinking to get the tiles in the right positions. I took about twenty minutes to get from start to finish, with several falls and re-starts in between. After a while you will get the hang of it and you can quite easily prevent the ball bearing from dropping over the side as you move the tiles around.

Brian states that the "ultimate solution" is one with the least dexterity required; with minimal tile movement. I am not sure if I solved it with less or more steps than what he intended as I was just focused on getting the ball bearing to the end point. But his solution sheet requires a minimum of fourteen steps, and this is only after certain tiles are already in the right starting position.

Summary
The Drive Down Lombard Street provides a nice and different twist to the usual sliding puzzle genre in that there is also a dexterity element thrown in. It doesn't take too long to solve. But more importantly, I think its a pretty fun puzzle to spend time with.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Crystal Puzzle Skull

NOTE: If you want the instructions for the skull, please email me using my blog email in my profile.

Name
Crystal Skull Puzzle

Designer
Unknown
Crystal Puzzle Skull on an LED light pedestal
Manufacturer
Manufactured by Jeruel Industrial Co Ltd and available from Play N Learn, www.play-n-learn.com at SGD$15.90. Also available from Grand Illusions. Comes in two versions, the clear one which is shown here and a black(ish) translucent one.

Type & Classification
3D assembly

Dimensions
7.cm (Height) x 5.4cm (Width) x 7.9cm (Depth).

Materials & Construction
The puzzle consist of 48 interlocking pieces made of clear hard plastic. Quality of construction is good and all the pieces fit together nicely with reasonably tight tolerances. No force required. Once assembled, the puzzle pieces are "lock" together in place by a screw rod and the whole assembly feels solid and weighty.


Overview
If my pewter Platypus is the "poor man's Berrocal", then the Crystal Puzzle Skull must surely be the "destitute man's Berrocal".

After reading Moises Reyes' review of the Skull on his blog, I just had to get myself one. And so I did. And so I spent a leisurely Sunday evening assembling the 48 pieces together to form this rather nice looking 3D jigsaw puzzle.

Very therapeutic stacking the pieces vertically one on top of another and watching the Skull slowly take shape. I didn't have to think too much (or at all) building the Skull. Its nice not to be frustrated by dead ends once in a while.

After I had finished the Skull, I even placed it on a pedestal of LED white lights (used for my Betta aquarium) to see how well the Skull would light up. Very nice, but the photo doesn't do the illuminated Skull justice tho'

Difficulty Level
Overall easy if you follow the instructions. If not, its very tough. And if you make a mistake, you will know because the pieces won't fit. However, it does take a fair bit of time to finish the assembly since stacking requires somewhat carefully handling. I also felt that the illustrations of some of the pieces in the instruction sheet could have been better. A number of pieces look similar but are really not so.

Summary
The Skull is one of many 3D jigsaw puzzles from the same manufacturer/distributor, so if you like colourful and cute objects that display well, go for it. Personally I found only the Skull and perhaps a couple of others such as the Apple or Heart appealing, but that's just me. Fellow puzzle bloggers Oli Sovary-Soos has several and Roxanne Wong has the entire collection. And good value for the money too, both from the "puzzling" perspective and quality.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Lunatic Lock


Name
Lunatic Lock

Designer
Gary Foshee


Manufacturer
My copy was bought from Ebay, a real steal at around US$5/- plus, if my memory is correct. According to the packaging, it was made by Puzzle Makers International, Taiwan. Currently available from several online retailers including Bits & PiecesPuzzleMaster and Serious Puzzles.

Type & Classification
Trick/Puzzle Lock

Dimensions
7.5cm (Height) x 5.7cm (Width) x 1.2cm (Thickness).

Materials & Construction
Brushed aluminium for the lock body and steel for the shackle. Overall quality is slightly above average (for my copy) but everything works properly. Sure, it's not a Popplock..... but hey its also at least fifteen times cheaper!

References
See http://www.puzzle-place.com/wiki/Gary_Foshee. There are at least six puzzle blog reviews on the Lunatic Lock. See also http://www.puzzle-place.com/wiki/Lunatic_Lock


Overview
I must be one of the last bloggers to play with and review the Lunatic Lock. I have had this lock for some time now and only recently discovered it at the back of my puzzle closet.

This trick lock comes without a key nor a keyhole, but has a bolt sticking out underneath the shackle. So the only way to solve it would obviously have something to do with this particular bolt. Took me about half an hour or so of fiddling to figure out the solution.

If you compare it with the Popplock range, the internal mechanism can be considered relatively simple. But because it is hidden (unlike the Popplocks which is more sequential discovery oriented), it makes the solve a little bit more tricky. Nimble fingers and a soft touch would certainly help here.

Difficulty Level
While not a difficult puzzle lock, nonetheless it is no walk in the park by any means either and the beginner/casual puzzler would face some degree of challenge.

Summary
If you are not sure about whether you are going to like trick/puzzle locks, the Lunatic Lock is a very good introduction to the puzzle lock genre. Inexpensive and pain free to try before plonking down serious cash for the (much) more up-scale and very expensive Popplocks.
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