Friday, 31 January 2014

HALT

Name
HALT

Designer
Stephane Chomine. Stephane has to-date a whopping 452 designs, click here to see them.






Manufacturer
Pelikan. Online seller PuzzleMaster of Canada are retailing them at CA$53.99.

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
6.5cm (Length) x 6.5cm (Width) and 9.0cm (Height). Nice size for the hands.

Materials & Construction
A combination of 2 solid hardwoods. The frame is Wenge and the pieces are Maple. Excellent construction, fit and  finishing throughout. All the pieces are very precisely cut and came to me rather snugly fit. As usual, it spent a good 5 days in my camera dry box to loosen up all the pieces before play.

Overview
Look at the photos above and you can probably tell why the puzzle is called HALT. Only 2 pieces are all is needed to spell out the 4 letters H.A.L.T on the 4 sides of the frame.

Object is to remove the 3 irregular shaped pieces within the rectangular frame and re-assemble them. It took me about 25 minutes to get the first piece out. This was the most difficult part but thereafter, pretty easy to remove the 2nd and 3rd pieces.


The putting back together was much harder tho'. For this sort of burr/interlocking puzzles, I would normally take photos of my steps during disassembly so that I can retrace my steps but in this case, somewhere along the way, I got lost and the photos were of little help. After some time of fiddling and trial and error, I managed to get the pieces back into the frame. Thank goodness its only 3 pieces otherwise I would have had a much harder time.

Difficulty Level
This is a 2-solution level 21.8.2 puzzle requiring 21 moves to remove the first piece and a further 8 to remove the second!; even though after the first piece is out, there are only 2 pieces left in the frame. Largely due to the notches and protruding blocks glued to form the odd-shaped pieces. Although 21 moves may seem like a lot, it is not as difficult as one would imagine, although the re-assembly portion is much more difficult.

Summary
One of those interlocking burrs that look rather intimidating from the outside. But once you settle into the puzzling, really it is quite manageable. 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Low Number Bolt & Nipple Bolt

Name
Low Number Bolt / Nipple Bolt

Designer
Wil Strijbos. For a list of Wil's puzzle designs, click here.


Nipple Bolt left and Low Number Bolt right

Manufacturer
Wil Strijbos. Both are around 20 euros each. Not sure whether they are still available but no harm asking Wil. Please PM me via my Profile email if you wish to contact him to buy one.


Type & Classification
Take Apart


Dimensions
7.6 cm (Length) x 3.7 cm (Width)  

Materials & Construction
Steel with a shiny chrome finish although I would have much preferred a matt finish. Well made and very heavy in the hand. These are large size bolt and nuts.


Overview
These are the 2nd and 3rd bolt puzzles I have from Wil. The first was the Bolt & Washer reviewed previously in this blog.

The objective of both bolts are to unscrew the nuts and remove the washer.


Both bolt puzzles here look exactly the same with very subtle differences. The main difference is that the Nipple Bolt ("NB") has a plastic "knob" on one end.

As far as bolt puzzles go, both the NB and Low Number Bolt ("LNB") employ mechanisms which experienced puzzlers would likely be familiar with. Notwithstanding, both the NB and LNB are fairly challenging and amongst the hardest so far I have come across. For my experiences with other bolt and nut puzzles, please click on the following links to my other posts:-

1. Cross Threaded
2. Nut & Bolt Puzzles
3. Lee Valley Bolts V1
4. Lee Valley Bolts V2

I don't wish to describe in what sense it is challenging since this would be a give-away and I don't wish to spoil anyone's fun. Suffice to say, even though the LNB has a simple trick/mechanism, Wil has in fact deliberately made it rather difficult and the way it is solved would surprise you.



For the NB, it departs from the typical bolt puzzle by requiring a number of steps in the right order to solving, hence it can also be classified as a sequential movement puzzle; requiring around 4 steps to remove the washer.


Summary
If you like bolt puzzles especially ones that provide a good challenge, well, here are two you should get. For the price paid, I  would also consider them value for money.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Galaxy Z

Name
Galaxy Z

Designer
Osanori Yamamoto. For Osanori's other designs, click here.


Notice the wood detailing at the corners


Manufacturer
Pelikan. Mr Puzzle of Australia and PuzzleMaster of Canada were retailing them but currently both are out of stock. Do check back with them if you are interested.

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
9.0cm (Length) x 9.0cm (Width) and 5.2cm (Height).  

Materials & Construction
A combination of 4 solid hardwoods. The frame is Mahogany, the pieces are Wenge while the corner embellishments are Wenge, Paduak and Maple. Very well made and excellent finishing throughout. There is also another version Pelikan made which had a straight edged frame

Overview
The Galaxy Z is a 2012 design from Osanori. It consists of 4 congruent pieces that resides within a square frame. The object is to disassemble and repack the 4 pieces. 

When I first got the Galaxy Z, it was the straight edged version. After a couple of moves, I found myself stuck in the same position over and over. I also found that I could not move a particular piece fully as it kept getting jammed against one of the notches inside the frame. Initially I thought it was the humidity that had expanded the wood and caused the problem, so in went my puzzle into the camera dry box for a good 5 days. But the problem persisted. 

That same weekend, puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam happened to be at my place. What better person than Goh to ask for help; award-winning designer of the Tenary Burr and a host of other well known puzzles. Goh on the spot generated a Burr Tools solution for me, with the starting point at where I was stuck. Despite following the solution, it didn't work because the piece in question couldn't move where it was supposed to, due to the jamming against a notch. 

I contacted Pelikan and showed them a photo of the stuck piece.They replied that it could have been a manufacturing error and duly sent me a replacement puzzle with my next order of puzzles.

This time round, things went smoothly (no pun intended). Within 20 minutes or so, I had my first piece out and the rest came out easily after that. Repacking the pieces was a different kettle of fish. Very difficult! 

As mentioned, the frame within contains a number of notches that protrude from all 4 sides. These mesh and interlock with the pieces. Tried as I did, I could only manage to get 3 but not the 4th piece into the frame most of the time. I was obviously not getting the orientation and sequence right. I referred to the supplied printed solution after squinting at the page (very small diagram steps) for a rather long time, finally managed to fit all 4 pieces back into the frame. 

Difficulty Level
Galaxy Z has a 19.2.3 unique solution; in other words it requires 19 moves to free the first piece, 2 for the next and so on. Reassembly is very much harder than taking it apart, because the latter you are just fiddling and trying different moves here and there, while the former requires you to fit the pieces which won't all go in unless they are in the correct order. 

But what I found was that because it contains only 4 pieces (and all 4 are identical), after a bit of continuous practice, I actually could memorise the key moves and solve the puzzle without the solution. It became relatively easier after that.

Summary
This one must really be a popular puzzle indeed given that both major online puzzle retailers are sold out. Aside from it being very challenging, the superb construction and detailing make this one a very beautiful puzzle to display. A must-have!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pair Dance

Name
Pair Dance

Designer
Osanori Yamamoto. Osanori has designed to-date 167 puzzles!




Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Website www.cubicdissection.com. 40 copies were made, each priced at US$37, currently sold out.


Type & Classification
Interlocking


Dimensions
3.8cm (Length) x 4.2cm (Width) x  5.2cm (Height). Small but easy to handle .

Materials & Construction
Two versions were offered in exotic contrasting solid woods; Jatoba/Purpleheart and Walnut/Imbuya. Very well constructed with bevelled edges. Fit is good; pieces move smoothly, but those in high humidity countries would no doubt want to "dry out" their puzzle if possible before playing. 

Overview

I like this one because....

1. Well made
2. Only 3 pieces
3. Not difficult
4. Inexpensive (well relatively anyway)
5. I didn't have to use Burr Tools



This week was a difficult and busy one for me at work, so as I looked at my more recent puzzle haul (most of them complicated interlocking burrs) and deciding which one to puzzle with, I went straight for the Pair Dance without hesitation. As Eric had stated in his website:-

Pair Dance is a fun little distraction with a level 14 solution. It's not nearly as difficult as that may sound since there are only two pieces. Approachable and interesting, I'm glad I made this little gem!

Eric was right. I got the two pieces out of the frame within 5 minutes or so, but took about 10 to fit them back in correctly. To solve, you need to manipulate the two pieces relative to each other within the frame, requiring 14 moves (I didn't count). During reassembly, if you get them wrong side up, well...you'll need to release the pieces and start over.


Difficulty Level
Some challenge but by no means that difficult. This is one of those puzzles if you keep at it and persist, you'll eventually get it.

Summary
Nice puzzle that you can solve repeatedly quite easily once you get the orientation of the pieces correct. I think its a very good puzzle for those looking to get into more serious burrs.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Jungle Puzzles

I absolutely could not believe my eyes when this married couple, close friends of my wife and I brought over to my home last weekend three string puzzles (classification: disentanglement) that were fashioned out of raw bamboo and cheap comms cord.


Goal: Separate the "ring" from the rest of the stem

Goal: Move either the left or right ring so that both rings are on the same loop

Goal: Remove the ring
They had acquired these puzzles during a trekking holiday in the Endau Rompin National Park in Malaysia. These puzzles were bought for a total of about US$3/- from the indigenous tribal peoples of Peninsular Malaysia known as Orang Asli that reside within the forests of the park. The Orang Asli make these puzzles for sale to tourists and hikers to supplement their income.

While all three do not bear any of the quality and refinement hall marks of Eric Fuller, Brian Young or Pelikan (although hand-made no doubt), nonetheless these were just as challenging as any string puzzle can be. In fact even harder than a "modern" string puzzle because the comms cord would not keep still and kept twisting on its own all over the place. 

My friends and I spent part of the evening trying to solve the three. I am lousy at string puzzles, so I was happy to just fiddle a bit with them (but hardly got anywhere) My friend's wife figured out two out of the three. Kudos for a non-puzzler! The one in the middle photo was still not solved by the time they left my home. 

I did a Google image search of "string puzzles" and found only one puzzle made of exotic hardwood (although this puzzle is available under the guise of different names) that matched the puzzle in the middle photo. I couldn't seem to find similar puzzles for the first and third puzzles. Kevin, any thoughts? (For expert advice on string and entanglement puzzles, you may wish to contact fellow puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler). If anyone else knows of these two I am referring to, please feel free to leave me a comment.

One thing's for sure...a challenging puzzle experience can be had with a darn super cheap puzzle. And also since bamboo has a circular cross section, I wonder if the Orang Asli can fashion a puzzle similar to Stewart Coffin's Double Cross?

However something still puzzles me (no pun intended)...now, who came up first with these string puzzles? The Orang Asli? Did the modern puzzle makers follow the Orang Asli's designs or is it the other way round? Anyone knows?

Update 9 January 2014 : 

Puzzle collector Rob Stegmann has kindly sent me a very detailed and comprehensive comment to this post, which I will include in full text below regarding the three string puzzles above. Makes for very interesting reading and information. (Thank you very much Rob):-

Hi Jerry,

The puzzle with the horizontal bar and two loops of cord hanging from it is called "Solomon's Seal" or more commonly the "Ox Yoke" puzzle - a Google search for the latter will turn up many examples.
According to Professor David Singmaster, it was described by Pacioli in his "De Viribus" circa 1500.
Here are examples from Jerry Slocum's collection:


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/item.htm?id=http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/slocum/LL-SLO-005104&scope=lilly/slocum


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/item.htm?id=http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/slocum/LL-SLO-005073&scope=lilly/slocum

The puzzle where the cord goes in and out of a tube via some holes in the tube looks like an example of a "follow the cord" type tanglement. It is tough to tell from your photo since the precise topology of the left end of the cord is obscured in shadow. But if my assumption about it is correct, and the cord is a continuous loop, then you cannot remove the ring from the cord - you can only remove the cord and ring together from the tube. Just grab the loop end and pull it along the cord, in and out of the holes as the cord goes, until you can get it to the end with the ring - pass it around the ring then unwind it back on itself - you should then be able to remove the cord. This principle has been used in many topologically equivalent tanglement puzzles and is also described in Pacioli. Stewart Coffin used this principle in his "Super Sleeper Stopper" puzzle.

http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/item.htm?id=http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/slocum/LL-SLO-001950&scope=lilly/slocum


Another example called "Delivrez Mon Couer" from Slocum's collection:


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/item.htm?id=http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/slocum/LL-SLO-009488&scope=lilly/slocum

The U-shaped puzzle looks like the U should flex a bit and put slack into the cross-string - does it? If so, this is topologically equivalent to the "Key on Envelope" puzzle patented in 1902 by J. Kellogg (# 695059) and even earlier in 1884 by S. Mount (#295665).

Flex the U so you can pull the cross-string down through the ring and over one of the end blocks, then back through - the cord should now be free of the U and cross-string. Here is an example from Slocum's collection:


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/item.htm?id=http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/lilly/slocum/LL-SLO-019242&scope=lilly/slocum

All of the designs were well-known in the western world as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries or even earlier, though their ultimate origins are lost. However, I think it more probable that the Orang Asli learned about them relatively recently from outside and decided they would make good tourist trinkets, rather than that western explorers somehow discovered and brought the designs back from the Orang Asli prior to the 1500s while failing to mention their "primitive" origins. 

Note that it was very common for puzzle vendors to ascribe fanciful/ancient/exotic origins to puzzles, so had the designs really originated with the Orang Asli I have no doubt that the explorers who found them and the merchants who subsequently popularized them would have capitalized on the story of their origin.

I hope these comments make sense and are helpful - tanglement solutions are tough to describe in words alone! For future reference, you might wish to check out my tanglments page:



http://robspuzzlepage.com/tanglement.htm


Friday, 3 January 2014

Havana's Puzzle Box #3

Name
Havana's Puzzle Box #3

Designer
Eric Fuller. I have earlier posted reviews of the Havana's Box #1 and Havana's Box #2.



Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. Website www.cubicdissection.com. 50 copies were made, each priced at US$149, but all have been sold out. If not for a manufacturing error, there would have been more copies available.


Type & Classification
Trick opening; sequential movement


Dimensions
17 cm (Length) x 4.3 cm (Width) x 4.9 cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
The puzzle comes in several exotic wood combinations. The box and insides are made of Sapele with the 6 veneered outer side panels made of a combination of Quilted Sapele, Birdseye Maple, Flame Maple or Pink Ebony. Construction fit and finish is excellent and all pieces are very delicately cut to tight tolerances. 

Overview
The #3 is the third in the series of cigar puzzle boxes from Eric and the biggest in size so far. This one is named "Mike", after the owner of the bar Eric frequents. For the history of how Eric embarked on this cigar puzzle box making venture, click here.  

Eric plans to have a total of 6 boxes and #4 is slated to come out early this year. The mechanical trick of the #3 is totally different from that of #1 and #2, so you don't really need to have played with the first two boxes to know how to solve #3. Of course prior experience helps.

I fiddled with #3 for a while; the first step was straight forward and one of the end panels came off in a jiffy. Having experienced the first two boxes, I knew Eric won't make things that easy. I played with the box some more and before I knew it, I had solved it. More by chance really, rather than logical deduction of any sort. 



I reset the box and tried to solve it again. Unfortunately I suffered my first puzzle mishap! I had accidentally cracked the opposite end panel. My fault really for being a bit too eager and rough handling. Thankfully the panel remained held together by the veneer so nothing was broken off. 

I contacted Eric to check if I could fully remove the cracked panel so that I could do some glueing repair but Eric came back to say that the way the box was designed and built, it couldn't be fully disassembled. However he did give me some advice on how to go about trying to repair the crack as it stood. So for now I have put aside the box in a safe place until I can get my hands on some Elmer's wood glue to do the job.

UPDATE: 8 Jan 2014 - I managed to glue and repair the cracked panel and now #3 is back in order and works as intended.

Difficulty Level
Above average difficulty. The solution was pretty interesting tho'. But personally I found it somewhat slightly easier than Box #2

Summary
If you already have the #1 and #2 boxes, well, it goes without saying that you must add #3 to your collection.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Tube It In

Happy New Year everyone! Hope all of you had wonderful Christmas and New Year celebrations and holidays. For my first post for 2014, I have chosen a puzzle that was designed and made many years ago, in fact over 32 years ago!....well as one might say, this one is a blast from the past!

Name
Tube It In



Designer
Wil Strijbos. For a list of Wil's other puzzle designs, click here. I had asked Wil when he designed Tube It In. Here is his reply...


In 1982 I took the “Tube it In” with me as a small gift on the 5th IPP. Location: Jerry Slocum, 257 South Palm Drive, Beverly Hills. At that time there was no exchange tradition. Later on I used a second version as an Exchange Gift but I can not remember which year that was.

I made the “Tube it In” in cooperation with the Tube Company I was working for. So it is more then 32 years ago we created this puzzle. 

Manufacturer
Wil Strijbos. Its unavailable, even from Wil himself.


Type & Classification
Packing


Dimensions
4.5 cm (Length) x 2.8 cm (Width) and 2.8 cm (Height). Smallish in size but packs quite a bit of weight (no pun intended).

Materials & Construction
Galvanised steel (thanks to Michel van Ipenburg for pointing this out). 

My copy is a used one with scuffs, scratches and stains. Hey, but what do you expect, its over 30 years old! But overall construction and fit is good. John Devost also made a wooden version of the same puzzle.

Overview
The Tube It In came to me as a gift courtesy of fellow Singaporean puzzle collector and designer Goh Pit Khiam

Consisting of 14 cross-sectionally cut pieces of square and rectangular tubes of different sizes, the object is to unpack and repack all the smaller pieces into the largest piece. As you can tell from the picture, the 13 smaller pieces will need to fit into each other before finally going into the last piece. 



The puzzle came to me in the solved state already so I had the advantage of slowly (and I mean really slowly) removing each piece, laying all the pieces out nicely on my puzzle table in proper order. I knew that if I randomly scattered the 14 pieces all over, I would have had a damn hard time with the reassembly.

After a couple of rounds of unpacking and repacking, I kind of got the gist of it. There is an order of sorts; where the smaller pieces are suppose to go, namely into several smaller sub-groups before combining into the last 3 largest pieces.

Difficulty Rating 
Would have been very difficult if it came unassembled, which I was thankful it was not! Particularly so when there are so many (ie 14) pieces involved! But even if you received it in the solved state and you accidentally messed up the pieces while unpacking, you will likely run into difficulties along the way. Photographs of each stage of disassembly is recommended, since the puzzle does not come with a solution.

Summary
While this puzzle came out in 1982, I think Tube It In is still very unique and original in today's context as a packing puzzle, primarily because it is constructed of existing materials; ie aluminium tubing (cut to the different dimensions) for all its pieces. And given its rarity, no doubt at all as a collector's puzzle.


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