Monday, August 12, 2013

CubicDissection package!

I was walking towards the mailbox today (we have a 'superbox' for the whole neighborhood) and I noticed the postman loading up all the boxes. Our section just happened to have a parcel in it...but I was in a hurry and had to leave. So several tense hours later, my suspicions were confirmed: I had exciting mail!

Okay, so Entertainment Weekly isn't what I was talking
about, but it's exciting nonetheless

Actually, a large box from CubicDissection!

The package contained the Cold Fusion and the Binary Burr:
Cold Fusion

Binary Burr

Binary burr partly solved

Both puzzles are quite loose, and there is a bit of an issue with gravity on the Binary burr (pieces may tend to drop where they need to remain upright). The Cold Fusion really gave me a start - there are some unexpected movements going on there! I've solved the Binary Burr and its frame (though I haven't put the burr part back together, so it's half-in the frame right now). I'll let you know more as I figure these puzzles out!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trick Bolts

Here's my review of 4 Trick Bolts. The first two are from Lee Valley Tools, and the others are from PuzzleMaster. The Lee Valley Tools set comes in a pack of 2, whereas PuzzleMaster sells them individually.
The first set that I will discuss, shown above, is the Lee Valley Tools set. I am really fond of this version. It features two popular Trick Bolt mechanisms which are not difficult to figure out. The objective of both of them is to remove the nut. Though the puzzles are quite small (smaller than 57mm), the machine work is quite good and their size makes them very good for carrying around. They come packaged together in a tube, and are nice and lightweight.

The second set uses very similar mechanisms to the first set, although the goal is different. The PuzzleMaster versions both have a bent metal ring on them which must be removed to solve the puzzle. One of the puzzles has a bolt welded to the end, where the other only has a few threads.

I don't like these versions quite as much partly because of the way they implement the mechanisms (making the solutions fairly obvious, though they're simple to begin with). The Trick Bolt #1 (the one with only a few threads) also makes solving difficult for those with pudgy fingers. They are quite a bit larger than the Lee Valley versions, standing at just over 57 mm, and significantly heavier. This PuzzleMaster set also has a slightly worn look about them. The Lee Valley set is slightly cheaper (though neither set features the words 'Don't Panic' in large, friendly letters on the cover).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Gratuitous Gnome guards your guineas

Though it might have a Constantin sort of feel at first, this puzzle is actually made by Siebenstein-Spiele and designed by Jurgen Reiche. Like Constantin's Two Keys, you have a double maze to navigate. With this puzzle, however, you also have two pegs whose mobility is limited. There's a plexi layer and a 'wood' layer, both of which can rotate about the metal pen in the middle (aided by the bumpy bits that stick out from the puzzle). If you look closely, there's a coin-shaped hole in the plexi layer (around the 3 o'clock position) and a coin-shaped hole in the 'wood' layer (7 o'clock picture). The goal: first move the plexi layer so that the coin hole lines up with the coin, then move the plexi layer so that the two coin holes line up (and the coin drops to the 'wood' layer), then move the wood layer so that the coin falls through a hole in the bottom of the puzzle (9 o'clock position in the photo).

So: At first glance, the puzzle seems simple. Then you start to try things, and you realize that the mazes need to be rotated in tandem. You can say 'oh, the maze needs to be rotated so I can move the left peg inwards', but doing so requires several steps of planning in advance. Not that such planning is very difficult, because you can see the maze, but it is pleasantly frustrating because you can feel like you're almost there, or that the next move is simple, but you're always facing a new challenge that deceives you.

For the above reason, I quite like this puzzle. It's not quite as difficult as the Cast Medallion, where you can see what you need to do but you can never seem to actually do it because the moves are blocked so far in advance. There's just the right amount of blocking involved, so that you can 'almost' do the move you want to, and kind of have to do some (but not too much) wiggling around to get what you want. In general, though, I'm a fan of double mazes and peg mazes...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Aluminum cylinder and Washer cylinder

My two cents on two of Wil Strijbos' cylinder puzzles. I'll start with the Aluminum cylinder.

Of the two, I prefer the Aluminum cylinder because it gives you a lot more to work with. In the pictures, it's the one with the gap between the lid and the body (and the number 31). The lid can be pushed down, and it pops back up with a spring.

It's a gravity puzzle with a pattern to solving it, which is nice so that you can remember what you've done. You can hear stuff rattling around inside, and after a little bit of playing, the rattling changes (and you can feel a ball bearing in the little hole in the bottom).

So, there's ball bearings involved, and you can 'unsolve' it partially and still have the lid stay on. You also need to move the ball bearings from Point A to Point B. No more to say on the solution front. 
I like the Aluminum cylinder for the reason that even if you can't solve it, pushing the lid and tilting it around is still therapeutic. And it's shiny.

Now for the washer cylinder. I can't provide much more than a physical description because I haven't solved it yet :) . Like the Aluminum cylinder, it has a hole in the bottom. The similarities end...the Washer cylinder, like the name implies, has a washer inside of it. The washer prevents you from peeking inside of the hole >:) .
The washer, then, moves up and down on a post on the inside, and has no other apparent purpose than making things more difficult for the solver (though it could also serve to hold any small parts inside the puzzle - don't want to lose things, now do we). 

Other than a slight rattling when you shake the puzzle (like a small flake of metal rattling around?), there is absolutely no feedback that you're doing things right. No clinking or moving, no bells or whistles. The lid can spin but not be pushed. Makes solving very difficult...

That's about it. Most people can solve the Aluminum cylinder within 15 minutes or so (an enjoyable enough solve), but the Washer cylinder is less...forgiving. Still working on a solution, so once I figure the Washer cylinder out, I'll do another post re-evaluating.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gigantic Lock

Time to address everyone's favourite puzzle: A Really Big Lock.

I have gotten a lot of curiosity about this puzzle over the years. I got it a while back when I asked my local Lee Valley location about puzzles on a whim, and they happened to have a handful of puzzle locks. This has been out of stock at the Lee Valley website for a while, but I recently checked it out and they have it back in stock for $80.

Physical description: this puzzle is very heavy, and could easily be used as a weapon under the right circumstances. One to put in the checked baggage, for sure. It comes with six less substantial keys, of which three are needed to solve the puzzle (there are three duplicates). There are no seams visible on the outside of the puzzle - good craftsmanship, because there are actually several (spoilers!).

Most people that have played with the puzzle either get it right away, or stand there baffled for several minutes until they get a hint (or I get impatient with them - sometimes happens). I personally got the first step right away, and then once the first step is done, the rest follow pretty easily. Once you've found the keyhole, though, there's still a step to go that most will miss.

I quite like this puzzle. The internal movements are nice and smooth, and everything feels solid. My only complaint is that one of the keys is supposed to have a sneaky little trick to it, but that trick can be bypassed. I don't want to say too much more, but each part of the key should be used only once (according to the solution), but there's a part where you can use the same part of one key twice and one part of a key no times whatsoever.

Sadly, the hasp of the lock is way too big to be of any use in normal applications, but I would really like to find a place where it would be practical to use this lock in public. Just for the giggles.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tuttminx series (classic and curvy)

Arright, gotta address the tuttminxes.

I had three of the four Tuttminxes. Let's start with the curvy Tuttminx.

The Curvy Tuttminx is just like Lee Tutt's original, but it has curved cuts.

Still has the hexagonal/pentagonal face arrangement, but the cuts are more round. The problem: the round cuts make it really hard to turn the puzzle. I'm surprised that it didn't come with some sort of turning key like the void Tuttminx does...Anyways, it hurt my fingers to turn it. I often had to use my entire palm to kind of grip the face. 

Next: Classic Tuttminx. This one is much easier to turn, not only because the pieces are bigger, but because the mechanism may have changed somewhat (i.e. to give more leverage). The turning is a lot more smooth on the classic Tuttminx. If you are going to choose only one Tuttminx (not sure why you would - more on that later) then choose this one.

Brief solving interlude: Solving the above two Tuttminxes is the same. It's kind of like a megaminx, but you have to plan for the fact that the hexagonal faces can only turn in increments of two. Otherwise, just pair edges with corners. Again, and again, and again. VERY tedious work, and it requires a lot of concentration to keep track of where you can and cannot turn things (compared to the 7x7, which is tedious but you can do it very easily). The only really interesting bit is the last four or so faces, where you have to choose between pentagon and hexagon for your 'last layer'. Not my favourite for solving...

Then there's the Tuttminx star. A bit pointless (pardon the pun), but it looks real sharp (I'm on a roll here!). It's essentially the Truncated-Icosahedron version of an Alexander's star, or the edges-only version of the Tuttminx. My guess: A good practise for the edges of the last few layers. Good place to try out your moves. Apparently, though, it is possible to get an edge parity if you're not careful...Turning is just fine, but be careful when stickering: the pieces have slightly different shapes, as do the stickers. Also, there's the traditional 'look past the points to see a pentagonal face' approach, or the 'sticker the indentations' approach.

There's also a stickering scheme that makes the pentagonal faces 'pop', making the dodecahedron clear.

And the solution that helps with the 'duplicate colors' issue (or colors that look the same)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cast Harmony

Today's post is about a puzzle that has made me very happy :)

This is one of my favourite cast puzzles so far. It's themed, which is nice, and it is fairly minimalistic in design while still looking 'fancy'. It's also produced my favourite photo so far (the second one, BTW).

Solving: Pretty easy. Took me around 15 minutes while listening to David Sedaris recall his Greek summer camp experiences (the two will, oddly, always be linked in my head...). It's easy enough for the average non-puzzler to solve, yet enough to keep them interested. Becomes a nice fiddle-thing once you've figured it out :)

Really nice puzzle overall. Only problem is that the shine easily tarnishes, so don't put it in the glove compartment of your golf cart :P

Short post because I'm too busy ogling other puzzles right now :)

Monday, July 22, 2013


Today's puzzle is the (poorly assembled) vis. I just looked at the pictures and I think I reassembled it wrong. The bolt should be on the inside...I think? Other images suggest that I was right. Can't find it on PuzzleMaster though...even though it came from them. Oh well.

I came into this puzzle not sure what to expect. I was *really* hoping for a trick bolt-type puzzle. I can't tell you whether or not I was disappointed :)

So: to the puzzle. It's made from a lightweight wood that seems to be somewhat scratched/worn. It seems to be similar to the type used on puzzles like the Welle (Wave), Rechner, and Radbox. Interestingly, I had to disassemble my Kugellager 8 to remove some orange dying powder that they seemed to have used to color the wood, but that's for another review.

I did kind of like this puzzle. Secret-opening puzzles really let you get intimate with the puzzle because you need to inspect it very closely in order to make it reveal its secrets. Once I figured out the mechanism, the surprise was lost, however. It's pretty basic and common, and not terribly repeatable, though if I recall correctly there was another little step involved that changed things up a little bit.

What I'm wondering is whether or not this puzzle has the same mechanism as the Get Charged or Bougie puzzle. Reader input is appreciated!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Brass Treasure Chest

Today, I'm discussing the Brass Treasure Chest. I bought this puzzle from PuzzleMaster.

Though it's photogenic, this puzzle really isn't very good in my opinion. The opening isn't large enough to hold anything, and the solution is way too specific for one to be able to figure it out. Hence, I have no problem revealing what I know of the solution here. I'll do it after the pictures, for those of you who don't like spoilers. For now, I'll just say that it requires an unguessable sequence of moves to open. The exterior reveals no clues, and no sound emanates from the bowels of the chest.

I have nothing against the puzzle other than that the solution has no logic to it. Luck, not cleverness, plays into solving the puzzle. I would be very interested in hearing from those of you that own this puzzle and think differently from me (or even if you have a similar opinion, I guess).










Here's the solution and mechanism, from what I can figure: You need to rotate the puzzle in a specific pattern (it's irrelevant what this pattern is), then rotate one of the legs, then turn the puzzle around some more. I'm thinking that it involves some sort of ball maze, kind of like Marcus Allred's The Lunatic puzzles, though the solution mentions some sort of pin that pops up to hold the lid closed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

By George Burr

Sorry for being away for so long. I was an extra in a film on Thursday (we didn't wrap until midnight+1/2 hour drive meant it was too late) then there was a football game that also had me home late. All is well now, though.

Today's puzzle is the By George Burr, designed by George Syriaque and constructed by Brian Menold.

I love it!! This is one of my favourite assembly-type puzzles because it's just easy enough for a beginner (like me!). Another real self-confidence booster because I can look at it and say 'How am I ever going to assemble it?' and then spend a while fiddling with it and have it magically form the burr shape again and again, without me ever knowing how I did it. Good for playing with when you're not really paying attention, because then it's endlessly replayable. 

The wood and construction is very good, because it's not mass-produced. Brian obviously puts great time and care into his puzzles. The internal edges are all smooth and well-finished, and there are no alignment issues to speak of. The puzzle fits together nicely, even without my humidity control.

Brian's puzzles are available at ; he will periodically update with new limited-run puzzles in the 'Special Puzzles' section.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stickman Puzzle Book

Here's a puzzle that I got back at IPP. The Stickman Puzzle Book, made by Robert Yarger, is a history of all of the puzzles made by Robert Yarger over the past 10 years, with descriptions of the types of wood, original prices, variations, and solutions for each puzzle where a solution can be reasonably given (some have multiple solutions). According to its own entry, the original came inside a complex puzzle box. You had to solve the box, remove the book, then solve the book's casing in order to read.
The book

The opened book

As you can see (or not see), the casing opens into 2 pieces: The 'frame' with the right side and 2 bars (the bottom one is hidden here) and a single bar. 2 moves are required to open it

I just thought that I would post this picture here to make note of the fact that you need to be careful when closing the book, as pages can be easily bent by the piece that hooks around the back.

As for the book itself, it's beautiful. Sadly, this is the only Stickman puzzle in my collection (fingers crossed! Can you help?), so I have to live vicariously. So far, the Stickman puzzles are the only puzzles that stir in me great emotion. Other puzzles may inspire an approving nod, or even an appropriately surprised and envious expression, but I have openly wept at the sight of some of the puzzles in this book.

Of course, in the true Stickman style, there are some mini-puzzles included in the book. After I approached Robert with my concerns about the printing errors on page 27 (see above), he asked me, in a confidential and appropriately sly tone of voice, whether or not I had solved the cipher on that page. When I have the time, I'll post the puzzle here for you guys to figure out.

The puzzle is of exceptional quality, as per the Stickman standard. My only complaints are as follows: while the puzzle is easy to solve, it is not for those with pudgy fingers. The solution requires some movement in areas that are somewhat inaccessible, so a pen may be needed. Furthermore, as per the above, care is needed when closing as damage to the pages can occur.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Apologies and a mathematically correct dinner

That last post was a bit bland. I also forgot the whole bit about the solving experience.

The Mental Blocks was a bit tricky, just because of the small size. I ended up with my pinky kind of wrapped around the whole arrangement, trying to keep the whole thing together while I wiggled the key piece into place. I think that if you hold the whole thing in your fist, like you're gripping a pole with the key space poking up at the top, then there might be more success...

As for the Triple X, it's a simple puzzle but I still couldn't solve it! I tried twisting the pieces every which way and they wouldn't go into the shape on the box! I needed the solution :(

On to dinner: The local grocery store stocks amazingly spicy samosas. I wrote the last post half-asleep, but supper woke me up. Had to send along a well-armed glass of milk to give those samosas a little talking-to. The fun part (relevant part) of the samosas is that these ones are almost perfect equilateral triangles. Even though they seem to want to wage war against my tongue, they're still really good for exploring the self-dual properties of the tetrahedron (and, if you're careful, making perfect hexagons).

Matchbox puzzles

And now for something a little bit smaller:

These are two of the Matchbox puzzles from an unknown company (Could be called Matchbox Puzzles? Not sure...). Little tiny things, they can fit in your pocket. They come individually, and there were four or five different ones available for $3 each at my local toy store. There's the above two ("Mental Blocks" and "Triple X") as well as what appeared to be a ball-pyramid shapemaking puzzle and a tangram set.  The boxes are kind of fun, as well.

Aren't I a good hand model? They come packed flat so you're forced to assemble them, though they come with semi-clear instructions in case you get lost.

These puzzles are just miniature versions of well-known puzzles, so there's not a whole lot of newness there (though I've never played with the Triple X puzzle before, so that was a welcome addition). The wood is smoothed-out Maple (or Pine?) and they're well-finished - no rough edges like the Enigma that I posted about yesterday. That said, they're small and cheap, so the pieces don't fit together very well and you're likely to get a lot of variety in terms of fit. The "Mental Blocks" was terribly tight (the pieces are all off-kilter) and the "Triple X" is at first tight, then becomes loose once everything slides into place.

I'm kind of pleased that I found these. I think that they'll make for some good mini pictures (i.e. with figurines or in other miniature-friendly locations). I might also go and grab the tangram set as an 'emergency' puzzle to stick in a plastic baggie in my wallet...

Still have a backlog of puzzles and pictures, though, so I'll try to post regularly. No lack of material there. If my collection dries up, though, you readers might have to contribute in order to keep the blog running ;)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Revival and Enigma puzzle

This blog has been inactive for a while, so maybe it's time to start it up again. I'll start with the Enigma Burr from Puzzlemaster.

It kind of looks like a normal burr if you don't look too closely (do I ever look too closely when it comes to puzzles?) but this one, unusually, has a 'key' piece that can be removed simply by pulling it out. These types of 'key' pieces tend to make puzzles easier, and in this case it does. Don't be fooled, though: there's still a small element of challenge.

As a non-experienced puzzler, this one took me around 1/2 hour from disassembly to reassembly. That's just a guesstimate, though. In any case, not too hard, and shouldn't be a problem for anyone with experience in burr-type puzzles.

Puzzle quality: This puzzle costs around $12 CAD, which should give you an indication of the quality. Many rough edges on the inside, and the puzzle is quite tight under the current humidity (around 62 %, by the Google). It took me a minute to figure out the second move because everything was packed together so solidly.

There's 6 pieces to this puzzle, and each one only requires 1 move to remove (though I somehow managed to find a 2-move piece on the way back together, so maybe I just wasn't paying attention on the takeapart...).

I haven't really got a basis for a number-value rating, so I'll probably go with something along the lines of 'good', 'horrible'*, 'superb', or other such adjectives. This particular puzzle is only 'good'. Nothing exceptional to see here, though it may be a good confidence booster for someone who thinks they're rubbish at solving burrs.

Final note: I'm too damn lazy to take a good picture of this puzzle. I'll start future reviews with the sort of picture that you can expect from the moderator of the Facebook Puzzle Photography group.

*Is any puzzle really horrible?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shopping some more (Wallet-beating)

Yesterday our plans were changed slightly due to Roxanne's daughter falling ill, but we were still taken to the market. We were greeted by Roxanne with some canned Nescafé, and we ventured off towards the various stalls. We were lucky to have Roxanne with us because she really knows the area and the stores. We would not have found the puzzles that we did without her. It seems like a lot of the places were sometimes good, but the first place we went to had quite a few interesting puzzles (a lot of them KOs, but it was nice to look). After browsing for a while we went off to try to see the Giant Buddha statue but it was too cloudy so we enjoyed a nice lunch (slow service) and I got to play around with a 9x9. Since our guide is otherwise engaged, we are now done with the puzzle shopping. I came out with around 80 new puzzles!!

Puzzle Haul

The above is an image of all of the puzzles that I got in Hong Kong.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dino Tetrahedron

This turn is fine because of my unique solution (above)

This is where the turning issues are (above)

Here are the photos of the prototype. Any suggestions are appreciated (please post suggestions on the forum)