Saturday, 29 April 2017

Loopy Box

"Loopy" in the English language means "mad or silly" or "having many loops". In the case of the Loopy Box puzzle, it is hardly the former (given its very difficult challenge quotient) but certainly the latter, as I shall try to describe below.



First off, its credentials; designed by Jean-Claude Constantin (now I haven't played with a JCC design for a long time, the last one in my hands was over 3 years ago; the Lock 250). It is also manufactured by him out of laser cut wood with the sides and bottom glued/screwed together to form a box. This puzzle was also Allard Walker's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle in Canada in 2015. 

The puzzle measures about 11cm x 10.5cm x 7.5cm and is essentially a box with a lid that is "locked" in place by a piece of thick rope (see photo). Quality and construction is very good, typical of the JCC standard. The object is to open the lid and solve a second puzzle inside, a modified Hanayama Cast Claw that has an extra U-shaped piece linking the two claws.



In the last few years Allard Walker has had this habit of making puzzle exchangers work really hard by exchanging not one but two puzzles at the same time (usually one contained inside the other; see Conjuring Conundrum and Baffling Bolted Book). Well, he is a gentleman of means and can afford it... and I for one is certainly not complaining, since I am getting two separate puzzles from him in one exchange! The second challenge after the box is open is to take apart the Cast Devil.

Now back to the puzzle; as one can observe, the only sensible way of opening the lid would be to remove the length of thick rope. But unfortunately this is hardly that simple as I found out. The rope passes through a hole in a vertical slat and holds the lid down. The rope itself is attached in some way to a dial (and what's underneath the numbers and inside can't be seen clearly if at all, I tried shining a torch but it didn't help). It would be obvious that the dial (which can turn in both directions) has something to do with the rope's release.

I spent an estimated three to four days trying to disentangle and release the rope and even read Kevin Sadler's experience with the Loopy Box hoping to find some clues. But Kevin, like all good puzzle bloggers gave little clues on his blog and his photos didn't indicate anything of use either. Nothing worked and after some more trying I gave up and asked Kevin for a clue. He said he was too busy during that time and he also had to find his copy from his collection of several thousand puzzles. Not forgetting, he is a busy doctor and also. has Mrs S (which I had the privilege of meeting at IPP34 in London) to spend time with too!), He did mention that it involved quite a bit of dexterity and that was all I had to go on. I left the Loopy Box alone. Fast forward to the present after several weeks, and I had a go at it again, but still no luck. After trying incessantly, I contacted Allard for help this time. Now why did't I contact Allard in the first place back then??



When I saw the solution from Allard I said to myself - damn!, now why didn't I think of it? The way to remove the rope is pretty clever (I am sure those disentanglement puzzle experts would have quite quickly figured it out) but the physical execution of the correct technique is more than fairly difficult (even when you know exactly what needs to be done). Everything was pretty fiddly and my only criticism is that perhaps the dial and other parts could have been made larger to accommodate bigger fingers! After more than several minutes, I finally freed the rope and opened the lid to face the second puzzle!


Nope - I didn't go on to the modified Cast Devil and decided I will leave it for another day. For all those interested, the Loopy Box is available from Puzzle Master in Canada for CA$52.99 and from Puzzle Shop in Germany for 35 Euros.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Cast Puzzle Vortex In A Bottle

Impossible object puzzles never cease to amaze me. They are really in a category of their own and generally, among mechanical puzzles, come far and few in between. Primarily because they are so hard to produce or "put together" into an impossible object. 


I always love it when I am able to get my hands on one. I have several really cool impossible objects in my collection including some "seemingly impossible" ones like the Puzzle Jam and 4 Street Elbows and the more "solvable" types like the Exchange Washington DC, Smiley In A Bottle and Coke Bottle #1.

This one here is the design and handiwork of Hiroaki Namba, who also gave us the Double Cast Puzzle Hook reviewed earlier. This impossible object was Mr Namba's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle in Ottawa, Canada in 2015. 

It consist of an ordinary bottle with a standard Hanayama Cast Vortex inside. I have never played with a Cast Vortex so can't comment on it, but it's rated 5 stars on the difficulty level quotient (meaning it's really very difficult) by Hanayama. And judging by the video solutions posted on YouTube, it looks extremely challenging to take apart just on its own, not to mention extracting it from a bottle.


No doubt of course Mr Namba would have found a way to twist and solve the Vortex into the bottle, and probably doing it in a very elegant way too! Inside the bottle, the Vortex cannot be taken out as it is obstructed by the narrow mouth of the bottle and the only way it seems would be to (partially) disengage the three parts before extraction.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Square & Equilateral Triangle

I have never been a huge fan of shape forming puzzles. But after I played with Emrehan Halici's Four Triangles Five Shapes, and more recently Andrea Rover's Growing Triangle, this sort of puzzles, plus the "form-a-symmetrical shape" ones have gotten more of my attention (and liking). I have also recently designed something along similar lines and hopefully will be able to showcase it at IPP37 this coming August.



Square & Equilateral Triangle (SET) is Halici's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle. There are two goals here; use the five irregular shaped pieces to form a square and the same five pieces to form an equilateral triangle (a triangle with three sides of equal length).

It makes me wonder about the genius of Turkish Halici to be able to come up with a design for two different (and symmetrical) shapes using the same pieces; incredible! Unlike his Four Triangles Five Shapes which I failed dismally, I am proud to say that I managed to solve SET without any help, although it took me a number of short puzzling sessions over several days.

I managed to solve the square within a matter of minutes, but the equilateral triangle took about fifteen times longer...it simply eluded me despite my many attempts to try the different combination of putting the five pieces side by side. Finally the A-ha moment arrived one day during a lunch time break.

[Edit 20 April 2017 - Stanislav Knot has come up with an additional 9 different shapes using the 5 pieces. Thanks Stan!]

For folks who are into this sort of puzzles, the SET has just the "right level of difficulty" for an exchange puzzle; one relatively easy goal to get the juices going and a second much tougher challenge. Anyone keen to see the two solutions please PM me here.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Ovolo

Its been a while since I last played with a Yavuz Demirhan puzzle. The last one was the Quadrant 1 reviewed over a year and a half ago. This time, Yavuz's design is the Ovolo, which was also the Exchange Puzzle of Brian Young at last year's IPP36 in Kyoto, Japan.


This is a rather nice and unusual looking 8 piece interlocking puzzle, consisting of 6 board pieces cut from 10mm acrylic and two other wooden pieces (made fromQueensland Blackbean) each comprising of three sticks glued together - like in the form of the X, Y and Z axes (see photo).  

Dimensionally the size of the assembled puzzle is 7cm x 7cm x 7cm. Construction fit and finish from Brian is as usual, impeccable and the combo of acrylic and wood gives the puzzle a rather interesting and striking appearance.


The object of course is to dis-assemble the puzzle and then -reassemble it. Taking the puzzle apart was not too difficult for me and it took just a bit of experimentation to find out how the pieces moved. I took my time with the Ovolo, wanting to commit the moves to memory so that I could (hopefully) re-assemble the thing without any help later. Took me somewhere around 5-6 moves and I got the first piece out. The rest came apart quite easily thereafter.


As Brian says on his website which retails the Ovolo for A$40/-..."this puzzle is not so difficult to take apart. But mix up the pieces, walk away and forget about them, come back later and you'll find it quite difficult to put back together. There are many false moves and dead ends; 42 false assemblies and just ONE level 5 solution.


Brian is absolutely spot on about the ease of taking the puzzle apart...but unfortunately I didn't even have to "mix up the pieces, walk away and forget about them..."; in fact while I immediately tried to put everything together hoping my memory of the moves was still fresh....I couldn't!  Somehow I got the orientation of the pieces wrong and ended up with the false assemblies. Visually, the clear acrylic was no help either and in fact added to the confusion and difficulty (that's why perhaps acrylic was used).

Finally after several days, I threw in the towel and emailed Brian/Sue for the solution. The assembly process didn't quite seem the exact opposite of the way I had taken apart the pieces...but no complaints...I got the Ovolo back to its original state. Nice attractive looking puzzle with fairly simple looking pieces. Don't let the level 5.2.2.1.1.3 solution fool you. Relatively easy to disassemble but putting everything back together can be a real nightmare! 


Friday, 7 April 2017

Pack Your Passport

American Eitan Cher's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle, Pack Your Passport is IMHO one of the nicest looking 2D packing puzzles I have come across, and believe me, I have quite a large number in my collection, and none of them come close!


This is a meticulously crafted puzzle that measures 13cm x 9.5cm x 1.7cm, about the size of a real passport. It consists of a number of layers of acrylic glued together to form a two-page "passport" with the covers held together by rubber bands. The puzzle including the 10 irregular pieces that come with it are precision laser cut and the entire package smacks of high quality. As I understand, Eitan has access to a number of laser cutting machines at his disposal, hence his ability to ensure quality control over the final product.


Not only is the puzzle beautiful to look at and feel, the design concept of the puzzle also deserves commendation. IPP35 was hosted in Canada and IPP36 in Japan. Pack Your Passport was designed by Rex Perez of the Philippines and aligns itself very well thematically. On the first page of the "passport" is the Canadian flag with a cut-out of a maple leaf; detach and flip it over and you see the Japanese flag with a cut-out of the sun. the second layer stores the 10 loose pieces which are neatly stored in their own slots. 



The goals are simple and clear, use all 10 pieces to form the maple leaf of the Canadian flag and the second challenge is to use the same 10 pieces to form the sun of the Japanese flag. Believe me, both challenges are very difficult, since there are 10 pieces involved and in the case of the Japanese flag, there is only one solution. Quite a design feat, I might add.

I struggled with the Canadian flag for a couple of days before I decided I needed help and promptly shot a message to Rex for a clue. Quick was his reply (he too couldn't solve it sometimes!) and he indicated to me where one of the 10 pieces was suppose to fit within the cut-out. With this, I was able to solve the puzzle during the next hour or so. Next I tried the Japanese flag but as of the date of this post, I have still not solve this one. Still waiting for Rex to forward a clue. 


Between the two challenges, the Canadian flag is the easier one, since careful observation will reveal that there are a couple of pieces that can only fit (or not) in certain places within the cut-out and this reduces the level of difficulty somewhat, but perhaps still not enough! 

For packing puzzle lovers that also demand top-notch quality, Pack Your Passport is a must-have. From what I can tell, it is commercially available from http://www.puzzle-shop.de.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Growing Triangle - Growing Pain

This was both a fun and challenging puzzle that I have been playing with during the course of this week. Growing Triangle is the design of Andreas Rover, the man behind Burr Tools, a free software programme that has brought relief to thousands of frustrated puzzlers (myself included) and changed the course of history for designing and solving burr (and other) puzzle designs.


I obtained Growing Triangle from Andreas during the Puzzle Exchange at IPP35 in Canada two years ago. In Andrea's own words....

"This puzzle is inspired by "London Squares" which was designed by Li Zhunyou and exchanged by James Kerley at IPP34. Although I very much enjoyed the puzzle I spotted some "usability problems" and I want to fix with this design"

Growing Triangle is precision laser cut from 6mm clear acrylic< Made by Mr Puzzle, it consist of 12 irregular shaped pieces. Each of the pieces are also etched with markings to indicate the number of triangular units within. The finishing touches include a nice red drawstring pouch.



There are 11 challenges to the puzzle, simplest being to take 2 of the 12 pieces and form an isosceles triangle of 4 units length per side. Then take 3 pieces and form a triangle of 5 units per side, 4 pieces to form triangle of 6 units per side until all 12 pieces are used to form the largest triangle of 14 units length per side. Each challenge offers a unique solution and as you would imagine, moving from 2 to 12 pieces becomes progressively harder and painful. I have shown just the first two solutions here as an illustration of what this puzzle is about.

The first several challenges are not difficult and it is rather obvious which pieces are needed for the solve. From my personal standpoint it becomes "exponentially" difficult once you go past 5 pieces. The instructions do not tell you which of the 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on... pieces to use. You need to figure this out for yourself! But it does not require any form of random selection...rather if you study the puzzle sizes from the beginning, from 2 to 3 to 4 unit lengths and beyond, you will realise there is a trick to finding the area size of the next required piece as your triangle enlarges (grows). 

So far I have grown my triangle to 11 units length per side using 9 of the 12 pieces. But I have since remained stuck at this level (but I am still trying).

Oh, and did I mention that you can use Burr Tools to solve all 11 challenges of the puzzle? :-) 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Slideways Cube

Ray Stanton is well-known for his series of co-ordinate motion "pseudo-burr" puzzles, burrs that look as such but do not behave like a typical burr during the solve.



The Slideways Cube from Ray, which was also his IPP35 Exchange Puzzle is no exception. Physically it looks like an ordinary cube (interlocking) puzzle. It measures about 5.5cm on all sides and manufactured by Pelikan Puzzles out of Mahogany and Cherry. Consisting of just three pieces, each piece is a combination of straight and slanted cut smaller cubes/rectangles glued together. Quality, fit and finish is very good.

The object is to take apart the three pieces and re-assemble. Like Ray's previous puzzles of a similar nature such as the Quad Slideways Burr, Double Slideways Burr, one of the key challenges is to first discover how the puzzle would come apart. Then comes which part/area of the puzzle to press/pull in order to separate the pieces. Pelikan has done such a great job of construction that it took me quite a while to find the joint lines, which are so well hidden, where the three pieces meet; ie the starting point. The fit is snug (made more so by the high Singapore humidity) so it took some effort (and dehumidifying) to slowly ease the pieces outwards away from each other. It comes to a point where the pieces would release themselves and come apart.



Unlike the two other puzzles mentioned, the re-assembly for the Slideways Cube is not as difficult since the final shape to achieve is a cube and the cherry/mahogany combination has a surface pattern which also gives some indication how to pieces are to end up together. Moreover, with just three pieces, it is very manageable with just two hands. No clumsiness of handling here, unlike the Double Slideways Burr which had six pieces. (Hint: always good to photograph the puzzle before you start....and during solve...it will save you a lot of headache later). I have decided not to show the puzzle in mid-solve as this gives away too much. As of the date of this post, Pelikan does not list the Slideways Cube on their site, so I guess there is none available for sale. Not sure of Ray has any spare copies tho'

[Edit 26 March : John Devost has a copy available here]
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