Thursday, 27 February 2014

Involute

Name
Involute

Designer
Stewart Coffin. Check out his over 250+ designs here.



Manufacturer
Brian Menold. Online retail shop Wood Wonders.  My copy priced at US$26 (unavailable). But available in Red Oak for US$22.


Type & Classification
Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
6.7cm (Length) x 6.7cm (Width) x 6.7cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
The 8 pieces of the puzzle which interlock to form the cube is made of Tasmanian Rose Myrtle with the corners made from Rosewood. Construction fit and finish is very good; solid quality and value for US$26.

Overview
This is my third puzzle from Brian after Twin Pentominoes and Stacks Of Sticks both reviewed earlier in this blog. I had received this from him a while back but only got around to it this week.

This one is a real beast! Looks innocuous; just like any other 4x4x4 cube out there but a nightmare to solve, especially the re-assembly. Although only 4x4x4, it comprises 8 pieces all of irregular and non-identical shapes.

Initially I didn't think it would be that difficult; especially after I got the 1st piece out (easy) and even the 2nd and 3rd piece was removed pretty quickly with the right moves...thereafter I was stuck. I had dried the puzzle in my dry box to make sure there was no tightness due to wood expansion (and its a really good thing I did, because this puzzle probably cannot be solved if the pieces fit too snugly). 



Although I am generally lousy at interlocking burrs, I have enough experience to know that some interlocking burr pieces don't disengage in the way one would normally expect them to. So I tried a different angle...and yes, my alternate approach did work and I managed to free up pieces #4 and #5. The rest came out pretty easily thereafter. Here is where the intimidation started!

But I made one serious misstep. I forgot to document my steps with photos which I usually do, especially with burrs. After all the pieces had come apart and I had photographed them for this blog post, I started to reassemble them. Horrors! I had forgotten the orientation of the pieces and sequence. I spent a long while trying to fit the pieces together but nothing worked. General confusion pervaded.

I activated Burr Tools. While the programme did not reveal a solution (because you can't use Burr Tools on this particular type of puzzle), the final assembly of the Involute (combined with my photo of the disassembled pieces) gave me clues as to where the different pieces were positioned, relative to one other. (Those who know how to use Burr Tools would know what I mean). Aided by this, I was able to slowly piece everything back to together. Whew!

Difficulty Level
Extremely difficult; particularly the re-assembly. And Burr Tools doesn't work here either, except perhaps for the way I have described above.

Summary
For anyone who enjoys a really difficult challenge with interlocking burrs, this one is a must- have. Just remember to document your steps as you play to save you a ton of headache and frustration later. A real gem from Stewart Coffin. And for the price paid, excellent value for money too!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Owl

Name
Owl. No prizes for guessing why its called what its called!

Designer
Stephan Baumegger. You can check out his own and other puzzle designs on his Facebook page. Nice collection with photos.



Manufacturer
Stephan Baumegger. The Owl is available for 40 euros. His puzzles range from 40 euros to around 120 euros depending on the complexity.

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
7.9cm (Length) x 5cm (Width) and 5cm (Height).  

Materials & Construction
Stephan crafts his puzzles from a variety of exotic hardwoods. My copy of the Owl consist of Wenge for the outer frame, Elm for the inner frame and Tiger Wood for the pieces

Overall, very well constructed with nice bevelling on the edges, although the inner frame and a couple of the pieces had a few small rough edges here and there. But all the pieces fit perfectly and slide smoothly against each other. I did not have to place in my camera dry box to de-humidify.

Overview
This is my first puzzle from Austrian puzzle designer and maker, Stephan Baumegger. I had learnt about Stephan from Saul Symonds puzzle blog. After checking out his Facebook page, I promptly shot an email asking Stephan about the availability of his puzzles and pricing. I thought the Owl looked really cute and ordered one. A week later, the Owl flew into my home.

The Owl consist of 5 pieces; an outer rectangular frame, a rather unusual and uncommon smaller inner frame and 3 loose pieces. The inner frame can slide left to right, limited by the interlocking of itself with the outer frame and the 3 irregular notched pieces.

Two frames to house the 3 pieces
As in most interlocking puzzles, removing the first piece from the Owl consists of a combination of moves of the other pieces as well and in sequence. In the case of the Owl, to extract the first piece is in my opinion the most difficult. Took me a good 30 minutes to do this. You move the pieces as well as the inner frame to create an exit for the first piece. Thereafter, the other two were relatively easier.

I took pains to remember the steps and practised removing and putting back each piece individually so that I would have an easier time later with the reassembly. True enough after I had done this several times, I could repeat solving without a cinch.

Difficulty Level
The Owl is a level 7.4.5 puzzle with a unique solution. 7 moves to remove the first piece. While challenging, I didn't find it too difficult. The putting back together I feel is easier than the taking apart for this puzzle.

Summary
Interesting design, sufficiently challenging and overall a fun puzzle. Nice looking too (like an Owl), especially with the contrasting woods used. And did I mention, Stephan can also make your puzzle in your choice of woods.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

All Tetra Stick

Name
All Tetra Stick. 

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


The square block at the top left corner of the opening is fixed
Manufacturer
Pelikan. Available via email from Puzzlewood of Germany and PuzzleMaster of Canada.

Type & Classification

3D Packing, sequential movement

Dimensions
4cm (Length) x 4cm (Width) and 12cm (Height).  

Materials & Construction
The Tetra Stick comes in 3 wood options. In all 3, the pieces are Maple but there is a choice of materials for the box; Walnut, Bubinga or Zebrano. My copy in the photo is Bubinga.

Very well constructed with excellent finishing throughout. All the pieces fit perfectly and slide smoothly within the box.

Overview
I suppose the puzzle is called Tetra Stick because well, firstly it looks like a stubby stick or sorts. Secondly, the way the pieces "fall" into the box (and you need to slide them some sideways we well) as you pack them in resembles the computer game Tetris. Thirdly, because each of the 8 pieces are formed out of 4 connected squares (ie tetrominoes), the "tetro" bit forms part of the name since the game Tetris also comprises of falling 2D tetrominoes!

The Tetra Stick is a really nice departure from the ubiquitous square or cube shape of many wooden interlocking or packing puzzles. Very nice shape I must say which I like a lot!

The puzzle comes solved so you basically "pour" the pieces out and re-pack them in. All the 8 tetromino pieces are non-identical.


Removing the pieces is very easy, just pour them out! Re-packing is more challenging. While you can group the pieces together outside the box and get it into the shape that will eventually fit the box, you must take into account the box having an obstruction at its opening; ie a square cube that is affixed to one of the corners. 

This effectively means that you can only solve the repacking part by inserting one piece at a time and orientating the pieces in a way that will fit through the opening. You can't just plonk in the whole lot together. This requires planning of the sequence of the insertions. Once a piece is inside, you may also have to manoeuvre it by sliding it into the correct position or allow for other pieces to fit in thereafter. Gravity does the job and as you let go each piece at the opening, it slides into the box almost like in slow motion.

Difficulty Level
Challenging but by no means very difficult. Once you can sort out the shape the pieces need to form in order to fit inside the box, the rest is a matter of getting them in one by one in the correct manner though the partially obstructed opening. Or course the initial attempt to get the pieces into the right shape may already prove very challenging for some.

Summary
Very nice looking and well-made packing puzzle. 3 different choice of wood combinations. Looks different from the norm. Definitely worth getting!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Triaxe

Name
Triaxe

Designer
Stephane Chomine. A prolific designer, Stephane has to-date 457 designs, click here to see them.

Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. From his website, 40 copies were made priced at US$73/-. Currently all sold out. 

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
6.7cm (Length) x 6.7cm (Width) and 6.7cm (Height). 

Materials & Construction
The cage is Quilted Maple and the pieces Bloodwood. Nice colour contrast. Workmanship is top-notch and fit and finish is excellent. Surprisingly, my copy has not really been affected by the high humidity and despite not being in my camera dry-box, the movements are still smooth and easy. 

A word of caution; the edges and corners of the cage are all straight, sharp and precise. One careless drop on a hard or rough surface is almost guaranteed a ding, dent or worse, crack on the cage and Eric will have to make you another one. Handle the puzzle over thick carpet or on your bed.

Overview
The Triaxe consists of a cage within which are three different shaped pieces interlocked together. The object of course is to disassemble and fit the pieces back into the cage again. Unlike the HALT reviewed earlier (another of Staphane Chomine's designs), this one is far far more difficult. I took a good half hour or more to remove the first of the three pieces. Thereafter the other two were pretty easy. Mainly through trial and error rather than a systematic or logical sequence.

However, when it came to putting back everything, I was stuck, really stuck. I had lost track of the orientation of the pieces relative to the frame somewhere during disassembly. I found myself the next couple of hours trying to manipulate the pieces to fit each other, without any success. Every time, the last piece was always kept out of the cage somehow and couldn't find its way inside. 


In the end I gave up and resorted to Burr Tools. Only with the help of the programme did I manage to fit the pieces back together. No way I could have succeeded without the aid of this life-saving and "frustration alleviating" software.  

Difficulty Level
Extremely difficult! Especially during re-assembly. This is a level 24.3 one-solution only puzzle requiring 24 moves to remove the first piece from the cage!

Summary
There are interlocking burrs that look intimidating but in fact are really quite manageable. The Triaxe not only looks intimidating, it IS intimidating!  As Eric mentioned on his site..."with only three pieces it's not impossible, but this is definitely an advanced puzzle. Lots of movement and lots of dead ends. Lucky for you I'm shipping it assembled!" 

Its a good thing he did; otherwise I would have had no chance even to take it apart without external help!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Orsi

Name
Orsi (Tamas named the puzzle Orsi after one of his family members)

Designer
Tamas Vanyo. To see his designs click here.



Manufacturer
Pelikan. Online sellers PuzzleMaster of Canada are retailing them at CA$49.99 while Mr Puzzle of Australia for A$55.00

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
8.3cm (Length) x 8.3cm (Width) and 6.0cm (Height). Nice beefy size for the hands.

Materials & Construction
A combination of 2 solid hardwoods. The frame is Bubinga and the pieces are Maple. As usual, excellent construction, fit and  finishing throughout. All the pieces are very precisely cut and fit just nicely. Not too snug and movement is smooth.

Overview
This is my second puzzle from Tamas, the first one being Noncsi reviewed a while back.

I must say when I first handled and looked at the Orsi, I thought I would be in for a long haul. It looked like a really complicated interlocking burr. 

The Orsi consist of a box frame without top and bottom and surrounding the 4 sides are rectangular cut-outs. Nestled within the frame are 6 congruent "U" shaped pieces which interlock together. 


I started with the usual pushing and pulling and generally trying to feel my way around the puzzle. Some pushing downwards and two of the pieces came out, one after the other. The next challenge was to get the remaining 4 out and this time, some pulling in the opposite direction did the trick. The next 2 pieces slid. The final 2 were easy. Re-assembly was the reverse and because all 6 pieces were the same, this made it easier. No Burr Tools required here; what a relief! Even the photos which I usually take to document my steps were not needed.

As I am usually lousy with interlocking burrs, I was actually pretty surprised at myself for solving the Orsi in a relatively quick time, within minutes rather than hours/days. As fellow puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler has remarked, you have not solved it until you can repeat your performance twice in succession, to show the solving was not a fluke.

I disassembled the Orsi and put it back together again, not twice but trice!

Difficulty Level
This is a level 7.3.3.2.3 puzzle requiring 7 moves to remove the first piece and a 3 to remove the second and so on. Personally I found it easy-moderate in difficulty, certainly easier than the Noncsi. So will not pose too much of a challenge for experienced burr puzzlers.

Summary
Again, one of those interlocking burrs that look rather intimidating at first glance, but actually very doable. Play with it slowly and deliberately and you will discover that the interlocking mechanism/process is actually not as complicated as it seems, but consists of some repeated steps which are easy to remember. I like this one; provides a feel good factor - I managed to solve it without any frustration!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

T4-II (Tea For 2)

Name
T4-II (Tea For 2)

Designer
Mineyuki Uyematsu who has done over 70 designs to-date.

Manufacturer
Mineyuki Uyematsu. Mineyuki sells the T4-II and other puzzles on his website but is currently sold out. The site is in Japanese so Google translate would help.



Type & Classification

3D Packing

Dimensions
7.6cm (Length) x 7.6cm (Width) x 3cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
A combination of several exotic hardwoods; the box frame is made of what looks like Walnut. Cover is frosted acrylic. Very well made and the pieces have nice bevelled edges throughout.

IPP
T4-II is Mineyuki's entry for the 2013 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition at IPP33 in Tokyo, Japan this year. 

Overview
I first handled this rather nice looking puzzle at IPP33 during the two days judging process of the design entries but didn't get anywhere with it. When it came to the day of the Puzzle Party, Mineyuki had a number of copies for sale and I duly bought one.

T4-II is a 3D packing puzzle and the object is to fit the 4 pieces into the box. Simple it seems when you first look at the 4 identical T-shaped pieces and try to figure out the layout it would take within the box (not hard this latter part). Except that you have to get them through an odd-shaped looking cut-out on the acrylic cover that seals the box. Even this part seems manageable until you discover that always the last piece can't seem to go in.

The cover makes the puzzle tricky and a bit of thinking outside the box (no pun intended) is required here. Not the usual method of trial and error here; which I normally first adopt, but to no avail of course.

I studied the cut-out in greater detail and tried various movements and orientations with the pieces. Suddenly something clicked and I was on my way to packing all 4 pieces in nicely.

Difficulty Level
Challenging but not too difficult. There is one first important step that will lead the solving process and once you discover this step, the rest becomes obvious. Like I mentioned above, you need to depart from the typical approach here.

Summary

For those who like packing puzzles, this is a good one to acquire. Fun and with an unexpected (but rather rewarding) solution.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Easy EIGHT / Hard EIGHT

Name
Easy EIGHT / Hard EIGHT

Designer
Robert Aubrey Hearn. Bob maintains his here.




Manufacturer
Walt and Chris Hoppe. There may still be a few copies available from Bob.

Type & Classification

2D Packing

Dimensions
10.8cm (length) x 10.8cm (Width) x 1.5cm (Thickness)

Materials & Construction
I believe the tray is walnut while the pieces are laser cut cherry. Quality fit and finish is very good. The fit is just right (with the very slightest play between the pieces) which is necessary for this type of puzzle. Overall a nice size for handling.

Overview
I got this puzzle from fellow puzzle collector and blogger Roxanne Wong (who was selling a few copies on behalf of Bob) during the Puzzle Party at IPP33 last August in Japan.

This packing puzzle comes with two challenges. The object is to place the 5 letters "E.I.G.H.T" into 2 different frames which sit on both sides of the tray. The easier challenge is of course the "Easy EIGHT" side.

Difficulty Level
The Easy EIGHT is easy. I am not good at packing puzzles, but this one took me about 10 minutes or so and I figured it out. The straight edges of the square frame obviously were a great help.

The Hard EIGHT is hard! Hard enough that I gave up after sometime. Here's a continual oval shaped frame with no straight edges and corners to guide whatsoever. I checked the solution and it didn't appear to look that difficult; but aren't all puzzles like that only upon hindsight?

Summary
A nice challenging duo-packing puzzle using only 5 letters of the alphabet. There's another similar 2D packing puzzle but using 10 numbers instead, called Digigrams.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

CM13

Name
CM13

Designer
Andreas Rover. For those of you who do not know, Andreas is the developer of BurrTools, the wonderful saviour programme that allows users to solve mechanical puzzles, mainly those consisting of square, prism or sphere shaped units, including high level burrs.



Manufacturer
Andreas Rover. Currently still available via his website for 15 Euros. Check it to understand a bit more about the CM13 and how it came into being. There are also a number of his other designs featured, some of which are still available for sale.

Type & Classification

Interlocking; Take-Apart.

Dimensions
11cm (length) x 10.5cm (Width) x 1.5cm (Thickness)

Materials & Construction
Rosewood is the material for my copy. Andreas also made the CM13 in Walnut. Construction fit and finish is very good. The individual pieces are themselves constructed out of smaller units glued and nailed together to form the necessary shapes for the CM13. All the pieces are laser cut to exact tolerances but movement is generally smooth.

IPP
CM13 was Andreas' Exchange Puzzle at IPP28 at Prague in 2008.

Overview
This is my second puzzle from Andreas after the Choreographed Motion reviewed a while back. 

The object of the puzzle is to take apart the CM13 and then to reassemble it. According to Andreas, this is the world's first multi-level coordinated motion puzzle! There are 4 steps to go through before the pieces separate.  All the 4 steps are coordinate motion moves which require you to manipulate all the individual pieces more or less together at the same time. No force is required. Took me about 15 minutes or so to take it apart and put it back together.



Difficulty Level
Pretty easy. The very first move will take a bit of effort but once you see the puzzle coming apart slowly, you will automatically understand how the puzzle works. Along the way, you will also know once a step is completed. The final step before the puzzle comes apart totally is also slightly tricky. Not sure if its just me or intended this way tho'. Compared to the Choreographed Motion, the CM13 is much easier.

Summary
An interesting interlocking puzzle that requires coordinated moves all the way; and there are not too many of these types of puzzles around. For 15 euros and the quality, well worth the money too.
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