Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #8 - Bean Bag Drawer 2

Note: Most puzzlers would have received their Christmas presents by now, however, in order not to reveal any spoilers, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here. Instead there is a password protected link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see them.




Name
Bean Bag Drawer 2. This is the actual name as stated on a card which came inside the packaging.

Designer
Hiroshi Iwahara

Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
13.5cm x 9.5cm x 9.5cm (the largest of the Christmas presents this year)

Materials & Construction
Combination of at least 4 different woods including what appears to be cherry and maple More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016. Construction fit and finish is excellent.

Overview
To find the hidden compartment. Multiple moves (can't give the exact number at this moment as not fully solved) required to open the box.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the partially solved state of the puzzle. Password - hiwahara
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it. 


Difficulty Level
I only managed to solve this puzzle partially. There are two stages and the second has eluded me so far, despite getting some hints from Otis Cheng. Like Iwahara's 2014 present Confetto Box 2, which I solved halfway (without realizing there was more), the Bean Bag Drawer 2 surpasses its 2014 cousin in terms of difficulty. This latest present appears very difficult, for me definitely... not merely by Christmas Presents standard but also measured against other puzzle boxes I gave played with in general. But it seems that quite a few puzzlers have managed to get this one solved! 

Summary
This is my second puzzle from Iwahara and certainly won't be my last. From what I can tell, the general consensus is that Iwahawa designs are clear favorites among puzzlers who go for Karakuri presents (alongside Kamei puzzles). A large and great looking puzzle box which displays beautifully.

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #7 - Coin Box

Note: Most puzzlers would have received their Christmas presents by now, however, in order not to reveal any spoilers, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here. Instead there is a password protected link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see them.




Name
Coin Box. For obvious reasons as you can see from the photo above. Name to be confirmed.

Designer
Fumio Tsuburai

Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
9.5cm x 8.5cm x 6.5cm

Materials & Construction
Looks to be paduak throughout with yosegi finishing on the top surface. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016. Construction fit and finish is excellent.

Overview
To find the hidden compartment. 5 moves required to open the box. Not only a puzzle but functional as well. You can actually deposit coins into it like a piggy bank.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - tsuburai
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it. 


Difficulty Level
This one totally stumped me. Thanks to Stephen Miller (the inventor of the Fire puzzle), who happened to have purchased all 9 presents and who told me what I needed to do to solve the puzzle.

Summary
This is my first puzzle by Tsuburai. The solution and way to solve was certainly not what I expected; hence a bit of a surprise here. For this puzzle, some accompanying instructions I think would have been appropriate. I don't want to put a spoiler here so I will update this part once the solutions to all the presents have been sent to their owners early next year.

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #6 - Rectangular Box

Note: Most puzzlers would have received their Christmas presents by now, however, in order not to reveal any spoilers, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here. Instead there is a password protected link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see them.




Name
Rectangular Box. Sorry for such a lousy working name, but I couldn't think of anything else which will not give any clues away. Name to be confirmed.

Designer
Hideaki Kawashima

Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
11cm x 6cm x 6cm

Materials & Construction
There's a bit of purpleheart here and there but I can't really tell what is the wood used for the overall build. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016. Construction fit and finish is excellent with nice detailing and everything slides smoothly as intended. 

Overview
To find the hidden compartment. A whopping 16 moves (thanks to Brett and Oli for highlighting this to me; I had missed the last 4 steps) required to solve the puzzle completely.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - kawashima
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it. Also DO NOT click on the comments below as there are spoilers in the comments.


Difficulty Level
Moderately difficult, by far the most challenging, compared to the previous 5 presents.

Summary
This is my first puzzle by Kawashima. A rather unusual puzzle box with quite a number of moves by Karakuri Christmas Presents standard. Quite a fair bit to do here. Very tricky to the last and requires careful observation to get the moves right. Got me stumped for a while. IMHO, this is the level of difficulty appropriate for a Christmas present, not easy yet sufficiently difficult to let puzzlers feel they are really getting puzzling value for money.

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #5 - Monkey

Note: Most puzzlers would have received their Christmas presents by now, however, in order not to reveal any spoilers, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here. Instead there is a password protected link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see them.



Name
Monkey. Name to be confirmed.

Designer
Shiro Tajima 

Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
8cm x 7cm x 6cm

Materials & Construction
Not sure what are the woods used are but could be mahogany or teak with cherry. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016. Construction fit and finish is excellent. 

Overview
To reveal a secret compartment inside the Monkey. 5 moves required to solve the puzzle.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - shirotajima
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it.


Difficulty Level
Not as easy as the previous 4 presents and also quite tricky.

Summary
This is my first puzzle from Shiro Tajima. Really a very nice puzzle with great detailing and finishing. As you solve it, you will discover a rather cute surprise along the way. The mechanism is an interesting one and quite unique. A fun solve!

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #4 - Panda

Note: As quite a number of puzzlers (mainly in the US and Europe) have not received their Christmas presents, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here so as not to spoil their surprise. Instead there is a link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see it.



Name
Panda. Name to be confirmed.

Designer
Osamu Kasho 

Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
8cm x 8cm x 5.5cm

Materials & Construction
Can't state for sure what are the woods used are but could well be magnolia and walnut. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016. Construction fit and finish is excellent. 

Overview
The objective here is to "open" the Panda to find a hidden compartment. 2 moves are required to solve the puzzle but finding where to start may be tricky for some.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - osamukasho
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it.


Difficulty Level
Relatively easy.

Summary
This is my first puzzle from Kasho and certainly won't be my last. Nice workmanship and the Panda is really very cute! Certainly will order another present again from him in 2016

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

2015 Karakuri Christmas Present #3 - Gentleman Crocodile

Note: As quite a number of puzzlers (mainly in the US and Europe) have not received their Christmas presents, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here so as not to spoil their surprise. Instead there is a link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see it

Name
Gentleman Crocodile (as stated on the label of the box)

Designer
Yun Kakuda (on her 2014 Christmas present, click here)



Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
16.5cm x 5cm x 4.5cm

Materials & Construction
Not sure what is the wood used but it looks like acacia wood for the whole crocodile and bits of walnut and maple for the hat on its head. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016.

Construction fit and finish is excellent. All panels slide smoothly and are very precisely joined. 

Overview
The objective here is to find and locate a secret compartment within the crocodile. 4 moves are required to solve the puzzle.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - yunkakuda
There are spoilers. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it.


Difficulty Level
Pretty tricky to find the secret compartment. Very well hidden and not obvious at all.

Summary
Typical of Kaduda's designs, this is another animal themed puzzle. Great looking with a rather clever and cool mechanism.

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Monday, 21 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Present #2 - Box Wrapped With Bow And Ribbon

Note: As quite a number of puzzlers (mainly in the US and Europe) have not received their Christmas presents, there will be no photo(s) of the solved puzzle posted here so as not to spoil their surprise. Instead there is a link further down the page for you to click on should you wish to see it

Name
Box Wrapped With Bow And Ribbon. This is my "working name" at this point in time. Actual name to come later.

Designer
Akio Kamei (on his 2014 Christmas present, click here)




Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
8cm x 8cm x 5.5cm

Materials & Construction
A combination of exotic hardwoods with contrasting colours including what appears to be purpleheart, teak and walnut. The two layered bow on top is a real beauty. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016.

Construction fit and finish is excellent. All panels slide smoothly and are very precisely joined. 

Overview
The objective here is to open the box which resembles a box wrapped with ribbon and bow. 5 moves are required before the top portion of the box is detached to reveal an empty container housed within.

Solution
WARNING: The link here shows the solved state of the puzzle. Password - akiokamei 
Its a spoiler. DO NOT click on the link if you do not wish to see it.

Difficulty Level
Not difficult once you discover the solution but pretty tricky at the beginning. I found myself fiddling with the puzzle for a while before figuring out the necessary steps to open.

Summary
Beautifully made with all the details and nice finishing touches. Great for placing small items inside like jewellery and other keepsakes.

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

2015 Karakuri Present #1 - "Book"

Name
Book

Designer
Tatsuo Miyamoto (on his 2014 Christmas present, click here)



Type & Classification
Trick Opening Puzzle Box

Dimensions
10.5cm x 12cm x 4.5cm

Materials & Construction
A combination of exotic hardwoods with contrasting colours including what appears to be walnut and paduak. More information once the solution/specs are sent to me early 2016.

Construction fit and finish is excellent. All panels slide smoothly and are very precisely joined. With nice finishing touches like a spine label, the puzzle really looks every bit like a real book!

Overview
The objective here is to "open" the book. 4 moves are required before the box is solved and the "pages" slide out revealing a cavity which can hold small items. There are two circular cut-outs so the designer intended for small pieces of paper, cards etc to kept inside and easily taken out.



Difficulty Level
For anyone who has had some experience with trick opening or Japanese puzzle boxes, its pretty easy.

Summary
Miyamoto's 2015 Christmas present has a nearly similar mechanism to his 2014 puzzle but with a couple of more steps added this year. And applied to a different object. Very nice indeed and a great display piece!

For information on Karakuri Christmas Presents generally, please click here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Packed In Tokyo

Made by the Toyo Glass Company of Japan, Packed In Tokyo was designed by the late famous puzzle designer Nob Yoshigahara. Nob had designed well over 200 mechanical puzzles during his life time, including many from the glass puzzle series. For more information on Nob's life, click here and here.



My copy of Packed In Tokyo was released around 1992. As the name suggests, its a packing puzzle but with a very unique and interesting theme; imagine its rush hour in Tokyo and people are squeezing themselves into a subway car...The goal here is to pack the 8 white figurines into a rocking glass. The figurines are made of heavy duty plastic and very solid. They are a mixture of men, women and kids of both genders, different ages, shapes and sizes. The glass container has coloured words like "bang" and train doors printed around it to illustrate how tightly squeezed everyone in the train car is/will be.



While the puzzle is not an easy puzzle by any means, its not frustratingly difficult either. I would rate it as more than moderately difficult. Although 8 figurines seem like too many to pack into the glass, the clue is actually in the shapes of the figurines. The figurines have been molded so as to fit the inside curve of the glass and/or against each other...just nicely. We puzzlers are generally used to geometric or similar shaped packing puzzles where the pack is usually very obvious if gotten correct but not so here...there are arms, legs, bodies, bags all over the place in different contortions. Look at the photos and you will know what I mean.

I experimented with different ways of packing and several times, everything fitted into the glass but always, someone's head will be just poking a tad above the top edge. At other times, I forced the last figurine a bit and felt the fit was way too tight and again "everyone" didn't look quite comfortable inside. Eventually after some time of trial and error, I finally managed to get all 8 figurines packed inside the glass just below the top level with all the 8 persons just a wee bit loose against each other (so no force needed at all). Now I knew I had done it correctly and the assembled puzzle looks correct! And I will assume also a unique solution here.

Overall Packed In Tokyo is a great design and high quality glass puzzle with more than sufficient challenge; not to mention the vintage of it makes it a rare collectible.


Sunday, 13 December 2015

TetraHexed

Now isn't this a handsome looking puzzle? The TetraHexed shown here is Stan Issacs' IPP35 Exchange Puzzle.


The TetraHexed is a Stewart Coffin design that dates back to 1971. The original copy called Cetus was made by a company called Skor-Mor. It was made of Styrene and Stan's mother had bought it for him from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

This beautifully crafted version is made by Wayne Daniels and comprises of three woods, one which is Paduak, and the other two likely to be Cherry and Mahogany (although I can't be sure). Dimensionally, each triangular edge is 10cm x 10cm x10cm. All the pieces are very precisely cut with sharp edges and fit is perfect. The puzzle is just loose enough for the pieces to slide nicely yet the puzzle holds itself together properly. Really nice quality here.

In the packaging Stan has also provided 4 classifications for this puzzle:-

1. Hordern-Dalgety - INT-POLY
2. Slocum: 3.2 - Interlocking solid, geometric
3. Hajek Big Six - Packing 3-d
4. Houlis - +BU+GE+IN+MA+WD+04+TE

Now #4 above has me stumped; what do the letters and numbers mean? If anyone knows, please feel free to add a comment here.


The object of the TetraHexed is take the puzzle apart and put it together again with an additional challenge of putting three colours on each face.

This is a 6-piece co-ordinate motion puzzle. Dis-assembly and re-assembly is not too difficult as you manipulate the pieces. My way is to split it into two halves and then further split each of the halves. But putting it together with three different colours for each face is more tricky and requires some thinking and experimenting. All the 6 pieces are identical save for one different colour for each pair.  

Not difficult from the puzzling standpoint, but certainly this is one of those puzzles that would look really good on the coffee table!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Moose Ball

The Moose Ball was the second puzzle I brought along on my present business trip, together with the Cubic Burr.


This is a "tetrahedrally based puzzle with only four pieces"...according to the instructions which came with the puzzle. If you are stumped by the technical term (like I was, click here), And if you are wondering what's a moose, click here.

This puzzle was Simon Bexfield's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle and Simon 3D printed the puzzle himself. Nicely done and quality and fit is good. 

The puzzle consists of 4 pieces and the object is to take it apart and put the pieces back together again. When I first handled it I thought it was some sort of co-ordinate motion puzzle and tried to pull all 4 pieces apart together. Not really so, as I played with it and figured what needed to be done since the 4 pieces are "locked" together.


Its not a difficult puzzle and most experienced puzzlers would be able to solve it quite quickly. Putting it back together is a slight tad harder but with only 4 pieces and single solution, not hard to figure out either.

I believe Simon has the Moose Ball available for sale (and not only in black) but in a variety of colours as well. If you would like want, you can contact Simon via his website.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Cubic Burr

Designed by Tom Jolly, who has to-date 68 designs on PWBP, the Cubic Burr was Tim Udall's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. Also made by Tim himself, this one is hardy, can stand knocks and abuse. That's why I took it with me on my present business trip for some puzzling (instead of pubbing) fun after work.




The Cubic Burr is a 6-piece interlocking solid with one congruent pair of pieces. Its made of Red Meranti which gives it the dark brown appearance. The Cubic Burr is 7.5cm square all round and solid and heavy. Construction and finish is good and all the pieces appear well cut and glued together. The only gripe I have is that I wished the pieces could slide against each other more smoothly; it was a bit stiff here and there but thankfully there was no jamming during play and things improved as the burr got broken in.

The Burr came solved so the object is to disassemble and re-assemble the 6 pieces. It didn't look like one of those complicated type high-level burrs but this puzzle is no walk in the park either with a level 6.9.4.5.2 solution. Right from the start I was stumped a while and it took me a good nearly 10 minutes to move the first piece, after a bit of shaking and light banging to make sure the pieces were not stuck to each other (which I initially thought they were).



With some manipulation, I was able to remove the first piece and after nine more moves, the second came out. Because the burr consists of only 6 pieces and the first two came out in a similar sort of way, it was easier to remember the moves and the orientation of the pieces. This is one of those burrs which I did not have to resort to Burr Tools for assistance. Of course I didn't want to scramble the pieces and give myself problems later. So I did the smart thing to lay the pieces out on my hotel room bed in the order they came apart during the solve. Returning the pieces to the solved cube was the reverse and I managed this without too much fuss.

Overall a nice and well made interlocking puzzle with just the right level of difficulty for an exchange puzzle. Fun to solve too!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Smiley In A Bottle

The last few puzzle designs from Frederic Boucher were very nice packing puzzles, including the Marble Cake, Tool Box and his IPP35 Puzzle Design Competition entry, Artefacts all reviewed previously. 


But just recently, Frederic has expanded his portfolio to include an impossible object; although sometime earlier in 2003, he had a rather unusual dexterity puzzle called Manholes 55

The puzzle I received from Frederic is called "Smiley In A Bottle". This Impossible Bottle comes in a rather small package, the bottle appears to be an ordinary glass bottle about 13cm tall and about 5cm in diameter. At first glance, it looks like the typical Impossible Bottle puzzle with a rod inside and a bolt and nut running through it, and so it does. But Frederic has taken the design a few notches up. 


There are two challenges here:-

Challenge #1 - Remove the rod, bolt and nut and smiley from the bottle.
Challenge #2 - Using only the rod, bolt and nut (and no other external tools), place the smiley on the end of the bolt that protrudes from the bottom of the bottle.

The first challenge is quite manageable for most puzzlers, especially those who have played with similar bottles before. Back in 2012, I had solved Wil Strijbos' Coke Bottle #1, so I knew what I had to do and got everything out in about 5 minutes.

It was the second challenge that stumped me for a while. To solve this step, some "out of the bottle" thinking is required and you are only allowed to use what you have from the bottle. The rod, bolt and nut is definitely necessary but the trick is to figure out how to use them correctly. After a bit of analysis, I proceeded. A pair of steady hands would also help things along faster. Compared to challenge #1, here I took three times as long to complete and then finally the a-ha moment! Because of challenge #2, Smiley In A Bottle is not just a impossible bottle, but can be considered a "sequential discovery" puzzle as well.


The Smiley In A Bottle is, IMHO a brilliant first attempt by Frederic at an impossible object. Well constructed and executed with an easier (not easy) challenge, and a second which is novel and more than moderately difficult challenge. For impossible bottle fans, this is a must-have to collect.

The copy I have from Frederic is according to him, the easier version. He has also made several copies of a harder version; one with two bolts/nuts through the rod. They are available for sale at a very reasonable 1,200/1,500 Japanese Yen (approx. US$9.75/12.20) respectively. 

If you would like a copy of either puzzle, PM me via this blog's email and I will put you directly in touch with Frederic.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Here's A Sharp Looking Puzzle!

If there was an award at IPP35 for an Exchange Puzzle with the most original design, I think it should go to David Litwin's "Straight Up".



The "Straight Up" looks just like a real traditional shaving razor and comes nicely packaged in an attractive box too. Its made of laser cut acrylic and David has chosen a pearlescent finish for the handle to give it an authentic look. Very nicely made indeed!



As you might guess, the object is to unfold the "razor" and expose the "blade". Not that simple, because the blade is restrained in its handle by a locking mechanism. To unlock the blade fully, you need to navigate a" maze" (forming the words IPP) cut into the blade. This took me a couple of minutes of trying before I got it out; because you can't really see clearly all that's happening within, although you know what's there and needs to be done.


Notice anything special about the maze?
To return the blade to its folded position, its the reverse but I found this step a tad harder even though now all is exposed and you can see how the blade is to be locked back into position and what goes where. A bit of dexterity here and there is also required.

Overall, not that difficult to solve with some trying, and certainly not as challenging as David's previous (IPP33) Exchange Puzzle, a packing puzzle called City Block. But very unusual, neat idea and a "sharp" looker!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Pinned Wedge Key Puzzle

A rather long name but here's a fun (but not too difficult) puzzle I solved over the weekend. The Pinned Wedge Key Puzzle (PWKP) was Keith Winegar's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle to me in Ottawa, Canada this past August.


When I first saw his puzzle, I was reminded of two earlier puzzles with a similar design; Wil Strijbos' 4-Piece metal puzzle, and Hanayama's Cast Spiral. The object is to take apart the 4 pieces and then reassemble. 

Keith has designed a number of wedge key style puzzles in the past but he takes the PWKP design a couple of notches up.

Firstly in terms of construction, finish and quality...very good. The 4 jigsaw looking pieces are very precisely cut and all the outer edges and surfaces are beveled and smoothed. The puzzle is pretty hefty and solid with a size of 8.8cm x 8.8cm x 2.2cm and made of Black Walnut. 

What is different about the PWKP is that its made more difficult with a number of iron set screws inserted into the pieces. Besides the 4 pieces which "wedge" together to lock themselves, the screws serve as double reinforcement locking. The trick is to figure out how remove the screws and un-wedge the 4 pieces.


Another unusual thing is that the puzzle comes with two paper clips and a large thick rubber band. These are the only "tools" that a solver may use to help take apart the PWKP. No other external tools permitted!

It took me about 10 minutes to figure things out and separate the 4 pieces. Putting everything back was just the reverse.

Overall, a moderately challenging but great puzzle. Novices may take quite a while or even much longer, but for experienced puzzlers, it would be a relatively fast and fun solve. The PWKP is not commercially available but some of Keith's other designs and his earlier wedge key puzzle are available from PuzzleMaster.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ternary Burr

The Ternary Burr is quite a monster of a burr. Not only in terms of its physical size (9.5cm x 9.5cm x 12.5cm) but also the level of difficulty. I have had the Ternary Burr for two years now, having bought it from Eric Fuller back in 2013 and its been hiding at the back of my puzzle closet since.

The Ternary Burr belongs to a group of puzzles that are known as "N-ary" puzzles. A very informative write-up with loads of photos about "N-ary" puzzles by Goetz Schwandtner can be found here

Designed by well-known Singaporean puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam, there are only 68 copies of the Ternary Burr that have been so far made and sold commercially; 30 copies from Brian Young in 2009 and 38 from Eric Fuller.  Hence the rather expensive (but value for money) price of US$274.

The Ternary Burr has a "base-3" mechanism with inherent dead ends. What is this "base-3" mechanism? Here's what Goh had to say:-


In an n-ary puzzle, each stage can have n positions. In the Ternary burr, each stage consists of only one piece which can be in one of three different positions. If there are two stages, there would be 3 x 3 different positions of both pieces. If there are m stages, then there are n^m different positions. The mechanism of the puzzle tries to make the puzzle go through all these positions, thus creating plenty of moves before disassembly. In the Ternary burr mechanism, it doesn't really go through every possible combination of piece positions. Some of them are dead-ends. In the later designs like the NumLock, it really does go through every piece positions before dis-assembly occurs.



The Ternary Burr from Eric is made from Cherry and Walnut. It consists of a total of 22 pieces including a 17-piece cage which can be dismantled fully. The cage houses 5 Walnut interlocking burr pieces which have to be shifted in a particular sequence requiring a total of 75 moves to remove the first piece. A total of 98 moves is needed to fully take apart the entire burr. And there is only one solution!

Construction fit and finish is excellent and the pieces all move smoothly after some dry-box de-humidification.Given its size, the Ternary Burr is very heavy and solid and quite a large handful to hold for average size hands.



Needless to say, a burr at this level is well beyond me. I tried to figure out the N-ary sequence but this proved way to difficult and confusing, resulting in me getting stuck a number of times mid-way. A very good memory would certainly help, since there are repeating moves.  

Even with the aid of Burr Tools which I needed, it took a fairly long time for me to get through the entire sequence and extract the first piece. And then to disassemble the remaining 17 pieces of the cage. Putting back the whole thing together took me even longer as I grappled with the 22 pieces, first forming the rectangular cage and then going though the reverse N-ary moves to insert the 5 burr pieces back into the cage. For a really amazing feat of the Ternary Burr's re-assembly (without any aids), check out Brian Young's video on YouTube. Incredible!



The Ternary Burr is no doubt for hardcore burrists. Yes, today there are some higher level burrs around but none made in the fashion of the Ternary Burr, with most of its pieces dissimilar, as you can see from the photo. Unfortunately its not commercially available and the only way to get one is through private sale or auction. Given that they are also very difficult to make (Eric said "crafting this design took all (his) abilities"), we are unlikely to see any new copies on the market anytime soon.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Novice's Burr

Most serious puzzlers in the community would probably have heard of Yvon Pelletier, the affable and very friendly French Canadian living in Montreal who crafts wooden puzzles as a hobby. Its an almost full-time hobby I would imagine, for Yvon has made over 700 burrs and interlocking puzzles to-date and will no doubt continue to make even more. 



I was very pleasantly surprised when I met Yvon at IPP35 in Canada this past August, barely recognizing him from his Facebook photo (not everyone has a mohawk!). He gave me as a present one of my designs that he had made. This puzzle is my Novice's Burr.

I was surprised that Yvon bothered to make a copy of the design since there are so many other more interesting, nicer and highly complicated burrs out there on PWBP. And he didn't just fashion it out using one type of wood (which would have made the puzzle looking rather plain) but in fact selected four types of wood including Oak, Louro Faia, Ebony and Wenge. And painstakingly gluing cube units together to create a puzzle that is aesthetically pleasing with contrasting colour tones and texture. From the top, the puzzle even looks like it has a checker board pattern. 

Yvon Pelletier with some of his beautiful creations
This is the first time I have seen Yvon's work in person and I must say (for an amateur woodworker) his quality of craftsmanship is up there with the very best. Unfortunately Yvon only makes puzzles for himself (or as gifts for friends) and does not sell any commercially. The fit and finish of my Novice's Burr is very good although the pieces were a wee bit too snug due to the humid Singapore weather. But a few days in the dry box did the trick. I was pleased to be able to handle a real copy of my puzzle design; sadly most of my other designs will probably only remain on paper and never see the light of day.



The Novice's Burr is a Level 5.2.3.4.4 (hence the name!) which requires a total of 18 moves to totally disassemble. I tried to make it as simple as possible from a design standpoint using just two plates with four congruent (and simple) burr pieces. While it has a Level 5 solution, but as I played with it, I discovered that I could actually rotate the plates with all the pieces still intact and one or two of the pieces can also rotate accordingly. Perhaps after drying, the looseness contributed to this. It would appear then the rotations can possibly increase the number of steps to remove the first piece and make the puzzle harder. Anyway I didn't bother to experiment further. A design flaw of mine and certainly unintended of course! Oh well....

Really happy to have a working copy of my Novice's Burr in my collection. My sincere thanks to Yvon for a beautifully crafted present!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Triburrlism

Triburrlism is my second Steve Nicholls designed puzzle. My first was the Kray Twins, his IPP34 Exchange Puzzle to me which I had no success because it was tough. But for this second puzzle, I had much better luck.


Triburrlism, like the Kray Twins is a "diagonal" burr. Consisting of three pieces, it was made by Steve from 3D printing out of ABS resin. My copy (which I acquired from Steve during the IPP35 Puzzle Party) came in three colours with a slightly textured surface. The printing and finishing is very good and the puzzle has a smooth snug fit with nice clean edges. Dimensionally its around 4cm x 4cm x 3cm thick; not a large puzzle by any means, but easy enough handle comfortably.


The Triburrlism came un-assembled and the object is to get the three pieces together to form a symmetrical shape. which must fit inside the tin it came in. While the final shape is not stated, you can roughly tell by examining the pieces and their notches what the solved state is supposed to end up looking like. 

Unlike the Kray Twins which I needed Burr Tools help from Steve, I managed to solve the Triburrlism with a bit of persistence and experimentation. From a design standpoint, the Triburrlism, by nature of having just three pieces is a lot easier than the Kray Twins which has six. With just only three pieces, its not too difficult to figure out how the pieces will interlock together in its final shape but getting the moves right for the pieces to mesh properly is the challenging part. Half the number of pieces versus the Kray Twins but IMHO less than half the difficulty. But nonetheless still fairly challenging and this one has a twist to it; two in fact :-). It takes approximately ten moves to fully assemble the puzzle.


Once solved, repeat solving is pretty easy with a bit of practice. If diagonal burrs is what you like, the Triburrlism is a great little puzzle and a good lead up to the Kray Twins! Its available from Steve by request.



Thursday, 5 November 2015

Packed Pyramid

I am on a roll....here's another packing puzzle featuring a pyramid. This time the puzzle in question is the Packed Pyramid, Norton Starr's IPP35 Exchange Puzzle. The Packed Pyramid was designed and crafted by Bill Sheckels, a custom furniture maker who also makes very nice looking puzzles on the side.



This puzzle is quite a thing of beauty. The pieces are made from dark Mexican Ebony while the tray is Zebrawood. All in all, good colour contrast, solid, very well made with a nice smooth finish.The 4 pieces are identical pentehedrons (a 5 sided 3D polygon).

There are 3 challenges here; namely to form a pyramid shape outside the tray, then form the pyramid inside tray and finally packing the 4 pieces flat into the tray. The last challenge really isn't one since the puzzle came packed already, probably for ease of transportation and storage for the Exchange.

While there are only 4 pieces and all look the same, the task of the forming the pyramid is not as easy as it may appear...in fact, rather difficult and tricky. Trying to just combine two of the four pieces together to form some sort of coherent shape is itself pretty confusing and I found myself fumbling quite a bit. The trick is not to try to work all four pieces at the same time but start with just two. Eventually you will figure it out after some time. For some puzzlers, that may take quite a while.



Once the first challenge is solved, the second of forming the pyramid inside the tray is not difficult, at least not as difficult as the pyramid packing puzzle the "Lockdown" reviewed in the previous post. Here things are pretty straight forward. The third challenge of just placing all the 4 pieces back flat into the tray is also easy.

Overall a really nice high quality shape-forming cum packing puzzle that is challenging but not frustratingly so. Again, just the right level of difficulty for an Exchange Puzzle! 

The Packed Pyramid is available from Bill via his Etsy puzzle shop linked from his site mentioned above. 
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