Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Chicken Puzzle

There are many wooden animal puzzles around. Most notably from the Japanese Kumiki puzzles genre as well as the Karakuri Creation Group. All sorts of animals abound including lions, pigs, cats, elephants, owls and even the skunk.

Then there are some from European craftsmen like Alfons Eyckmans which are more conventional burrs but containing within the puzzle an animal-shaped piece, like his Gobi and Free The Monkey 2. Once in a while, someone comes along and designs a burr puzzle but deliberately fashions it in the shape of an animal. The Chicken is one such puzzle.




A really cute puzzle I might add. the Chicken was designed by Olexandre Kapkan and made by Eric Fuller. Excellent craftsmanship as always and the woods used here are Yellowheart and Cherry; no doubt to reflect the colours of a real chicken as far as possible.
The puzzle is about the right size for comfortable handling, measuring about 10.5cm x 6cm x 5cm. It's actually the size of a large chick. This puzzle was the first to sell out after Eric announced his site update. I was lucky to get the last copy.

According to Eric's Facebook post, there is suppose to be a surprise hidden inside the puzzle (eg Egg?) but I didn't find anything as I played with it. Although it is Level 10.2 with only four pieces and the body, its not an easy puzzle to solve at all. After like moving 5 or 6 steps, I got stuck. Took me the good half an hour to find the correct move and then finally got one drum (I mean leg) of the Chicken out. The rest of the other limbs came out easily after that. Putting it back together was about just as hard as I had to do everything in reverse. I couldn't quite remember all the steps and was forced to do some trial and error before I assembled the lot together. Burr Tools not needed here (at least not for me).



The Chicken is really a great puzzle, not only in terms of the design and look (displays very well and attracts comments) but it also offers a good level of challenge from the puzzling perspective. I only wish those beautiful and superb quality Karakuri animal puzzles can be designed with this level of difficulty, then they will really be outstanding puzzles.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Find The Lid

"Find The Lid" is an interesting trick opening "box" from Tatiana Matveeva of Russia. This was her exchange puzzle at IPP34 in London last year. It's not really a box per se, but six panels with notches interlocked together to form a cube.



The object, as what the name says...is to find the lid (and open the box). The panels are numbered from 1 to 6. Overall construction of the box is good and the panels all appear to be laser cut and fit nicely. Inside there is a coin (a Russian 10 Koiieek) thrown in for good measure (as I later found out after opening the lid) to be discovered.





Its obvious that to find the lid, one would have to press, tug or pull each of the six panels to see which one will move. I quite easily found the single panel that could move but the puzzle is not so straight forward. The panel moved about 1 to 2 mm and thereafter got stuck. It is held back by some restraining mechanism. Ha! not so simple after all!

It took me several minutes trying before I figured out the "trick". Not a totally new or novel locking mechanism that holds the lid, but pretty cleverly applied to this puzzle, considering the puzzle is no bigger than 6cm all round and each of the panels is only about 8mm thick.

No force is needed here. In fact if force is used, the puzzle could possibly end up damaged, especially the internals. A nice exchange puzzle, thanks Tatiana!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Three Coffins

This week saw the arrival of three "coffins" to my home! Three Coffin-designed packing puzzles to be accurate. They are:-

1. The Cruiser
2. Five Fit - Stewart Coffin #177A
3. Martin's Menace - Stewart Coffin #217


The Cruiser
All three puzzles came to me from Creative Crafthouse. Creative Crafthouse has a very extensive catalog of wooden puzzles and games and the company manufactures most of their puzzles in their shop in Florida, USA. They also design their own puzzles. 

All of the three packing puzzles are precision laser cut. Quality, fit and finish is very good. The pieces and tray are made from different hardwoods (and I have asked Creative Crafthouse what these are) while the base of the trays are made of floorboard. Don't let the word "floorboard" put you off; it is extremely sturdy, scratch resistant and durable and can withstand a lot of abuse. You can even clean it, tho I won't recommend using any floor cleaner! Other nice touches include the names and other details etched onto the tray. 

Ranging from US$12 to US$21, these three puzzles represent excellent value for money. Cruiser and Five Fit also come in larger sizes.. What I also really like is that all three puzzles came to me upgraded with tray covers; which makes the puzzle look nicer and storage much neater.


Five Fit - Stewart Coffin Design #177A

I started with what appeared to be the easiest of the lot; Cruiser. Only four piece made up of two congruent pairs of shapes. Not too difficult and I managed to solve it in under five minutes. According to the grading given by Creative Crafthouse for time it takes to solve (less than 1 min - Gifted, less than 5 mins - Smart, less than 10 min - Normal, less than 20 min - Slow,  Never - Sad Situation), I fall into the smart category; for this puzzle only!

My next attempt was with Five Fit. This one consist of five pentominoes. And much tougher than the Cruiser. I must have played with this for nearly half an hour before I finally figured it out. I don't want to have any spoilers here but suffice to say there is a "trick" to this puzzle. You will go around in circles (even tho only five pieces) if you don't discover the trick. Again I have some experience with such packing puzzles and this helped my solving.

Two packing puzzles is enough for one day. I am leaving the last; Martin's Menace for another time and will post a review once I have played with it. It is supposedly a very difficult puzzle from the description. I don't know how to do the "hide/show" thing here, so if any reader wants to see the solutions for the first two puzzles, please PM me and I will send you a photo.

For anyone interested in packing puzzles, these three are great to collect and for beginner and experienced puzzlers alike, its definitely worth checking out Creative Crafthouse's range of products, which judging from these three puzzles, are both high quality and affordable. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

TetraParquet

Here's another interesting co-ordinate motion puzzle I played with earlier in the week. Both in terms of the puzzle design and the physical shape. Anyway I needed something less stressful after my struggle with the Optiborn.



TetraParquet was Stan Issacs' IPP34 Exchange Puzzle in London last year. The puzzle is triangular shaped and consists of six (also triangular shaped) pieces. Its called "TetraParquet" because the puzzle has four faces, and each face consist of a further three triangular faces. It was both designed and made by Wayne Daniel out of exotic woods; which I think is Maple, Paduak and Walnut. The woods give it a symmetrical 3-colour contrast. Construction, fit and finish is very good and everything slides smoothly. Reminds me of the Cast Delta, but in 3-dimensions.

Object of the puzzle is to take apart the six pieces and reassemble. Each of the six pieces have triangular "plates" glued and attached to the edges. These plates are the connectors between the pieces which holds and "lock" the puzzle in place. Very delicate looking parts!



Taking apart is not too difficult (unlike the Pennyhedron puzzles reviewed previous). Some manipulation and you can begin the feel the joints coming apart as the pieces start to split. Putting it together is harder as the pieces only fit together one way (meaning you can't interchange the positions of the pieces since the plates can fit into adjoining pieces only if the pieces are correctly matched). You start off by building two halves and then bring them together. There is then a need to maintain the six pieces slightly apart (not too far that they are totally separate) and slowly ease the six towards each other. Tricky and it took me a bit of fiddling to finally get the puzzle back into the solved state. 

Not a overly difficult puzzle by any means, but certainly it displays very nicely! 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Optiborn

No way! - my first thought after reading Kevin Sadler's review of Optiborn. He had mentioned:- "don't be put off by such a high level - this is definitely solvable by almost any puzzler".


I was not put off by the level 27.2.5.2 of this puzzle...not at all. I was just stumped and stuck like after 10-12 moves...well, more on the solve later.

Optiborn is from the most recent range of puzzles offered by the Pelikan Workshop. I had gotten it together with Castle, reviewed previously. Made of Paduak and Walnut, the puzzle is very well constructed with superb quality and finishing. Nice touches include the fine beveling of the edges and the name of the puzzle engraved on the cage! 

The Pelikan Workshop have always produced quality value for money puzzles in the past. But with their newly revamped website, the level of quality has also correspondingly gone up a few notches as well.

Optiborn was designed by Stephane Chomine, who has done a staggering 497 designs in the last five years, since March 2010. That's an incredible average of 2 designs every week! 

Not a large puzzle by any means, the Optiborn measures about 6cm x 4cm x 4cm. Externally, it doesn't look intimidating, sporting a minimalist look with four regular burr pieces and a ordinary looking cage. But this is a tiger in sheep's clothing! Its really tough...at least I found it so. So don't believe Kevin what he says. After all, he's quite an accomplished burrist, but not so much of a packist (the latter by his own admission; "packist"- one who plays with packing puzzles).



I wrestled with Optiborn for quite a number of evenings; in between playing with other puzzles but got nowhere. Usually hitting a dead end after a number of moves. Finally I threw in the towel and configured the design in burr tools. The first 27 moves look so convoluted and confusing that I knew I wouldn't have been able to solve it on my own. 

Its one thing to design high level burrs using all sorts of notches, grooves, cuts with numerous pieces and odd shapes. But in my opinion, a really good design is one like the Optiborn - innocuous and simple looking, with regular shapes and few pieces...yet in terms of difficulty, punches well above its weight!

Little doubt that those who are into burr puzzles would enjoy this one! And great value for money too! 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Orchid Pennyhedron

A while back, I played with Stephen Chin's Rose Pennyhedron. In my blog post, one reader had also offered an explanation of how the "pennyhedron" puzzles got their name. And there is some other general information on "Rhombic Dodecahedrons"  Over the weekend, I played with another similar puzzle, this time it's the Orchid Pennyhedron, George Bell's IPP34 exchange puzzle. 


The Orchid was designed by George and made by Stephen (or "Chinomotto" as he likes to be known). Quality of construction, fit and finish is very good with contrasting woods used.

Externally both puzzles look rather similar (both have six triangular "facets" to each surface) and both the Rose and Orchid are comprised of three pieces. However while the Rose has three identical (or congruent) pieces, the Orchid only has two. The third piece appears to be a mirror image of the other two.


Like the Rose, the object is to find a way to split the three pieces apart. This is a co-ordinate motion puzzle. The effort required here for the Orchid was no less than that of the Rose. In fact it took me a while longer to both take apart the pieces, and bring them back together again. The fit was so good I took some time to figure out where the pieces were suppose to come apart. Its likely to pose some difficulty to the uninitiated! 

But having played with the Rose previously, I knew what I needed to do. Some pressing at strategic spots and the pieces began to split gradually. I took two tries to reassemble properly as the first attempt did not get a perfect alignment of the three pieces, which resulted in a rather uncomfortable feeling rough edge between two of the pieces.


From what I understand, George and Stephen each have a whole collection of these pennyhedron puzzles, each looking very similar externally but all with various designs and interlocking. If you are keen to find out more or want to get one of these, these two gents would be the people to approach.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Push Box Puzzle

This is one of those puzzles I managed to solve but have no clue how I did it nor can I explain how the puzzle works!



The Push Box Puzzle came courtesy of Simon Nightingale during the IPP34 puzzle exchange. If you didn't already know, Simon was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for the 2014 IPP34 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design competition for his "Six Locks 2 Keys" puzzle.

The Push Box is made from Corian (the stuff that you would normally find on kitchen and sink counter tops). The puzzle is pretty heavy and well made in a nice light blue colour. The joint lines are well hidden and not obvious at all. It looks like Simon had dug out the insides to create the box. I am not sure how strong Corian is but I would think the box would likely crack if dropped onto a hard floor from anything more than 3 feet. The object is the push and "open the box" like a drawer.

The drawer is spring loaded and allows for some movement (several mm) inwards but there is hidden mechanism which keeps the drawer from coming out of the box. Inside there are a couple of ball bearings spinning around, which may or may not have anything to do with the locking mechanism (yes, there are some puzzles where ball bearings are red herrings; serve no function but to merely to confuse).



I fiddled with the puzzle for a while, trying to guess how the drawer is locked inside the box and how the ball bearings come into play. I pushed and released the drawer over and over again, turned the box at all sorts of angles and in all orientations, and all of a sudden, pop out comes the drawer. The drawer cannot be fully withdrawn and part of it remains inside the box. Again I am not sure if the drawer is intended to fully come out, but I don't think so. And the box also cannot be taken apart.

I managed to solve it a couple more times, more through trial and error, but not fully understanding how the hidden mechanism/trick works, at least not until I see the inside. And mind you, I have a fair amount of experience with trick/puzzle boxes. I have emailed Simon for the solution. Hope he replies soon. I am really super curious as to how it operates. I will update this post, once I have seen the solution.
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