Sunday, 28 August 2011

Pagoda No 3

I acquired this wooden puzzle from PuzzleParadise a while back. The No3 is made by the Matthew Dawson/Makishi duo and limited to 40 units. Mine happens to be No 16 of the lot. The No 3 is made of a combination of walnut, oak and maple to give the puzzle a nice contrast of colour finishes. The puzzle measures about 5 1/8in x 3in x 3in. Construction and quality is first rate and photos posted on the net really do not do justice to the puzzle when you see and hold the actual piece in your hands.

The puzzle consist of a rectangular box with a door and knob in front (actually a drawer), and sitting on top of the box are 4 horizontal square wooden pieces stacked together to form the sloping "roof" of the pagoda. 3 out of the 4 pieces are movable and can be rotated in either direction. The topmost piece can also be pulled upwards or pushed downwards, apart from rotating in either direction.


The object of the puzzle as you would have guessed is to open the door (ie pull out the drawer from the puzzle).  In order to do this, one must turn the two lower pieces of the "roof" while pulling, pushing and twisting the topmost piece. The mechanism which keeps the drawer locked in place actually consist of an internal cylindrical maze. You need to pull, push and/or twist the top piece, while manipulating the lower two pieces by rotating them in order to work through the maze to release the drawer.

I spent a good half a day trying to get the drawer out of the puzzle but was not successful. At the time of this writing, I still have not solved this puzzle. I looked at the solution that came with the puzzle but this was of little help to me.  I resorted to emailing Matthew Dawson who was kind enough to furnish me a hand-drawn sketch of maze and how it should be traversed. Despite Matthew's kind assistance , nonetheless, I continue to remain at the stage with the top piece half sticking out. Clearly I am not doing things right and remain trapped somewhere inside the maze. Most puzzlers it seems can open the Pagoda quite easily and only find difficulty when closing...for me, well...sigh sigh! While the puzzle feels very solidly constructed, I really do hope I have not forced anything in the course of my twisting and turning to damage some internal part, like I nearly did with my Blind Labyrint 1C!. The last thing I want to do is to send it back to Matthew Dawson for repair.


This for me is a very difficult puzzle (or maybe I am just lousy at mazes; oh no!!...I have not even started on my Revomaze Blue yet!). Be that as it may, the design of the Pagoda is definitely far more unique and interesting than traditional puzzle boxes and given its limited run, makes a wonderful collector's item. It also looks great as a display piece on the desk.

For now, rather than continue to feel frustrated and get no where, I will put No3 away and play with my other puzzles. I will definitely come back to it another day. There are several other reviews of the No3 and the Pagoda series, so you may like to check out the following blogs; Kevin's Puzzle Blog, Oli's Mechanical Puzzle Blog, Brian's Damn Puzzle Blog and Neil's Puzzle Blog.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Brass Trap Puzzle

This puzzle came from Hendrik Haak's site www.puzzle-shop.de and is listed as "Messingfalle" which translated by Google means "brass trap". Indeed it is a trap, since the object of the puzzle is to remove a coin (not included) from the puzzle. In fact the puzzle has enough space within to hold several coins. The puzzle is sort of in reverse order because you have to solve (ie open) the puzzle in order to place the coin within (since none is supplied), only then would the coin be trapped. You could probably then pass it to someone to try to solve. The coin that I placed in the puzzle is a Singapore 50cent coin, the largest coin of our currency in general circulation.


I first saw this puzzle on puzzle-shop.de but didn't pay much attention to it. It was only when I read Brian's write-up on the Berlin IPP which mentioned someone playing with a brass cylinder with a coin inside that I decided to re-visit www.puzzle-shop.de and discovered that both puzzles were the same...Hendrik Haak must have brought some of his brass puzzles to Berlin IPP.


The puzzle is very well machined and quality is very good. It is a small puzzle measuring about 1 1/2in in diameter. Not at all difficult but nevertheless a nice puzzle to own, particularly if you are into metal ones like me.

Moscow

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I do not why this puzzle is called Moscow. Perhaps this question should be directed to Hendrik Haak from whom I acquired the puzzle via his website www.puzzle-shop.de. Whatever the name, this is a nice little pocketable puzzle consisting of a wooden rectangular block with a steel peg inserted in the middle.



The wooden block measures 2 5/8in long and 3/4in square while the steel peg is 2in long and 1/2in in diameter. Judging from the orange colour of the wood, my guess is that the block is made of Paduak while the two ends are probably made of ash. Both quality and finish are very good.



The object of the puzzle is to remove the steel peg from the wooden block. The puzzle would pose a reasonable challenge for most but those who are fairly experienced especially with dovetail or similar wooden puzzles would probably figure out the solution fairly quickly. 

There is a locking mechanism that keeps the steel peg inside the wooden block. I have hidden the steel peg behind the wooden block in the photo so as not to give away too much how the peg is locked in place. I took only about 5 mins to solve it the puzzle. Overall a nicely made puzzle with a clever mechanism.

Note: I have received a lot of emails asking for the solution to this puzzle. In fact, the most, of all the puzzles posted on this blog. There is no need to suffer in silence. Please don't hesitate to contact me via my Profile Email if you need the solution. I will send it to you in PDF format.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Wunder Puzzle Mechanism # 1

This wood puzzle is from a limited edition series of 3 puzzles made by Eric Fuller. According to Cubicdissection, Eric was inspired to make these puzzles based on a wood joint puzzle he had seen on Facebook and subsequently borrowed from its owner, a Peter Wiltshire of Canada.  I was fortunate to buy one of the last few pieces available out of the 45 that was put up for sale. I had originally wanted to buy the No.2 as it is supposedly the most difficult to solve but lo and behold, it was sold out before I could get my hands on it. My last check on the Cubicdissection site shows that all 3 puzzles have been sold out.
My version has the No.1 mechanism. The puzzle measures 1 inch square and is 3 3/8 inches long. It is made of a combination of three different species of wood namely Caroline Ash, Black Walnut and Sapelle used for the two ends. I would say that the puzzle is extremely well made and the finish is excellent. The fit of the joints between the two main separable pieces is very good and snug, not even a hint of looseness. Although pretty expensive (after all it is a limited edition item), it is definitely well worth the money.

When I first unpacked the puzzle a few days after receiving it, I initially thought the very snug fit was due to the high humidity of Singapore having "penetrated" the puzzle and caused the woods to expand. But after a day in my camera dry box (inbuilt with a electric humidifier at a No 44 setting ), the puzzle remained the same. I then realised that the very snug fit was due to the very tight tolerances of the high quality construction (and in part due to the internal mechanism).


The object of the Wunder Puzzle is to separate the Ash (beige) portion from the Walnut (dark) portion. At first sight, given that the two pieces are joined in a such a way (at different and awkward angles) that separation seems virtually impossible. After holding and studying the puzzle for some moments, I begin my manipulation of tugging, pulling, pushing, sliding etc..to see how to get the pieces to move. Within 10 minutes or so, I managed to figure out the mechanism (and with some dexterity) separated the two pieces smoothly. As I took apart and examined the separate pieces, I thought the work put into making this puzzle and the intricacy of the mechanism was quite remarkable.

The No.1 in my opinion is not difficult and based on other reviews I have come across, it appears to be the simplest of the 3 puzzles. Unfortunately I have no way of comparing my No.1 against No.2 or the version with the Original Mechanism.  Nonetheless it is still a pretty tricky puzzle, and for the uninitiated, will pose a fair challenge. Other reviews and information on the entire Wunder Puzzle Series can be found on Neil's blog and Allard's blog.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Bougie

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The word "Bougie" (thanks to Oli for letting me know) is French for spark-plug. 

I acquired this Jean Claude Constantine designed puzzle from PuzzleMaster. Made out of what I think is Paduak, the puzzle consists of a spark-plug enclosed by an orange coloured wooden frame with two horizontal metal rods running across from one side of the frame to other. The puzzle is slightly larger than a standard spark-plug and measures about 3 7/8 inches tall, 1 7/8 inches wide and 1 inch in depth. Overall the puzzle is relatively well made with a nice finish. The only complain I have is that the rods have some slight scratches and marks which I can't seem to get rid of. As to whether the spark-plug is usable, that unfortunately I cannot tell, although the spark-plug does look new and shinny.

The object of the puzzle is of course to get the spark-plug out of its framed enclosure. PuzzleMaster rates it as a level 6 and I agree. For someone with experience with puzzles, it is relatively easy to discover the solution; the kind of mechanism which is familiar and common to several other wooden puzzles.  This is one of those puzzles which somehow I knew what to do the moment I unpacked it and managed to get the spark-plug out in almost a jiffy.

From a puzzling aspect, it does not provide too much of a challenge for any puzzle enthusiast. But from a display standpoint, I think it is a rather unique combination of wood and metal, and definitely will get a conversation started. 

Calling all spark-plug manufacturers out there - Bosch, Denso, Autolite, Champion, NGK etc - use this puzzle to showcase your brand! But of course don't forget the royalty payments to Mr JCC.

Pineapple, Plums & Peanuts

These three glass puzzles were bought from a local gift and games shop in Singapore called Bloomington. For those living in Singapore, its at Basement One of Anchor Point Shopping Mall. For puzzlers in Europe and the US, they are available from PuzzleMaster. My three puzzles (according to Bloomington's owner) are the original versions made by the Toyo Glass Company of Japan and acquired by him a number of years back. All 3 puzzles are packing type puzzles consisting of a glass cup into which you will "pack" in the various pieces of plastic fruit and nuts. Rob's Puzzle Page has a huge section on packing puzzles of which the 3 puzzles are mentioned.


The object of all 3 puzzles is to pack the loose pieces into their respective glass containers such that all fit nicely within the glass without "overflowing" the rim. So far I have only assembled and solved the Pineapple Puzzle which appeared the easiest of the three, given the squarish and right-angle shapes of the pineapple pieces. This is a level 8 puzzle according to PuzzleMaster and I think the rating is about right.

The Pineapple has 12 individual separate pieces of which no two are identical and putting them into the glass bottom and working your way up to the top was pretty challenging. It took me well over an hour or so before I finally managed to land the last piece into its correct place. The trick is to get the first couple of bottom layer pieces right, then the rest of the pieces become easier to complete. For those keen on this puzzle; here's a tip-try starting off with the bottom pieces outside of the glass first, to save you dipping your fingers in and out of the glass to change a wrong piece, especially for those with large hands. The glass is small and measures about 2 3/4 inches tall with a diameter also about 2 3/4 inches.


At the time of this writing, I have just started playing with the Plums Puzzle. Although it has 9 fairly large pieces, every single piece is irregularly odd-shaped and all look similar. I am already having difficulties finding the first few right pieces to fit the bottom of the glass...the Peanuts Puzzle looks even more foreboding (rated at level 10) so I guess I will have to save both the Plums and Peanuts reviews for some other time.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Curly Cube

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I got this from PuzzleMaster but kept it away until a couple of months back when I saw Kevin's review of it in PuzzleMad. There is also a write-up of a wooden version (called the Exploding Cube) by Allard of Puzzling-Times. This is a take-apart type puzzle and both gentlemen have stated that this is relatively straight forward. I couldn't agree more. In fact when I was removing the puzzle from of its packaging, I actually could feel the pieces trying to disengage themselves.
The puzzle is about 1 3/4 inches square and its size feels about just right in the palm, neither too big nor too small and pretty weighty. The quality of my version is reasonably good except that I suppose the 3 interlocking pieces could have been manufactured to slightly tighter tolerances to give it an even snugger fit. While the puzzle doesn't come apart easily when being held, the pieces do tend to exhibit slight movement as they rub against each other. Again I must stress that I am referring to my own puzzle; I am also no expert in metal casting or manufacturing techniques so perhaps this is the way the puzzle is meant to be.

It is also a pity that the "curly" shape of each of the 3 interlocking pieces are formed by fusing of two other separate pieces together, resulting in join lines which are very visible, even externally when the puzzle is in the solved state. (See Kevin's photos on his site). I think with the wooden version, these lines are probably less obvious.
The puzzling aspect has been described by both Kevin and Allard so I would not go into this, except to say that I found it easier to take apart than to put it back together. Overall, despite the few minor shortcomings mentioned above, this is a still a nice looking metal cube and with those curly lines on its sides, makes for an interesting display item.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Cubus

The Cubus is a 3-dimensional labyrinth puzzle designed by Jeremy Goode and available from Xmatrix. This is the smaller of the 2 sizes available; the larger version called the Quadrus. Although described as pocket size, I doubt if anyone can fit a Cubus which measures about 2 3/4 inches square, comfortably into a shirt or trouser pocket. More likely it can fit into a jacket or coat pocket or handbag.

The Cubus that I acquired is the "blue" version which has the 3D maze made out of a bluish colour transparent acrylic (or as some would call it perspex). The maze itself looks highly complicated and is housed within a clear acrylic cube.  Both the Quadrus and Cubus also come in a light yellow version. The Cubus was shortlisted Gift Of The Year 2010 and although this may come as a surprise to many, it was also entered for the recent 2011 IPP Puzzle Design Competition, even though both the Cubus and Quadrus have been on sale for quite some time already. Someone on the Revomaze forum commented that as long as a puzzle is designed within 2 years of the competition date, that puzzle would still be eligible to enter, which therefore explains why.


I find the construction of the Cubus to be first rate. All the 6 sides forming the cube are neatly fused together and there are no rough edges or corners of any sort. Overall quality is very good and the Cubus feels solid in the hand. Do note though that acrylic can scratch easily so be careful about the surface you place a Cubus or Quadrus on...I know this because I use to own acrylic fish tanks!

The object of the puzzle is to navigate a small ball bearing from the silver coloured top frame to the bottom gold coloured frame through the 3D maze and then back again. In the first photo above, the silver frame is shown as the top. Unless you are in some kind of a speed competition, it doesn't really matter whether you start from silver to gold or vice-versa; the point is to use gravity (and dexterity) to get the ball bearing to travel through the 3D maze from top to bottom.

I took about 35mins just to complete one direction, albeit at a very leisurely pace while watching TV. The Xmatrix site claims that it is possible to complete both directions in 4 minutes.  I suppose there must have been some  capable individual(s) who can achieve this kind of record time. While challenging enough for a serious puzzler, I think where the Cubus can really shine is as a coffee table or executive puzzle; where just about anyone (puzzler or not, adult or kid) can pick it up, admire its see-through 3D maze, have a play with it and then put it down.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Six Key Mine

The Six Key Mine puzzle was designed by the late Robert Rose who sadly passed away several years ago. This puzzle won 1st prize in the 2003 IPP Puzzle Design Competition.  It is one of the more unusual looking all-metal puzzles in the sense that it is neither squarish, rectangular, cylindrical nor just a sphere per se (like the Isis).  Rather the puzzle consists of a polished aluminium hollowed-out sphere or ball with six aluminium pegs inserted into its sides, which gives it an almost alien UFO kind of look. The original version by Robert Rose was also made entirely of aluminium except that the pegs there were anodized red instead of powder coated blue, as it is in my version which was made by Bits & Pieces.  Bits & Pieces also re-named the puzzle "Einstein"; as to why this is so I can't figure out. My puzzle is well made and of good quality. The pegs fit properly into their respective holes and can even be adjusted with a small screwdriver to either have a very snug or slightly looser fit.


This puzzle is extremely difficult to find anywhere (and Bits & Pieces no longer makes or sells it).  I was really really fortunate to get the last piece from Oy Sloyd Ab. It was a situation where I just happened to be at the right (web)site at the right time.

Each hole has a small groove cut out to match the entry of the peg but all with different orientations
The puzzle is slightly less than 3 inches wide from peg to peg and feels hefty in the palm. The object of the puzzle is to place all 6 pegs into the 6 holes in the sphere. This is not easy as all the 6 pegs are not identical to each other, especially where the bottom half (where there is a flat protruding portion) is concerned. The whole purpose of making each peg different is so that if you inserted a peg into a hole which it does not belong, it would block another peg later from entering. To make things even harder, the holes themselves all have different orientations relative to the sphere.

Despite a long while of trial and error to figure out which peg goes where, every time I would end up with a couple of pegs that couldn't be fully inserted because the first few ones were placed in the wrong holes to begin with. There are just too many combinations to test and I have a number of other puzzles to go through. I gave up trying after some time and went for the solution. Only then did I manage to get all 6 pegs correctly into the sphere.

Overall I would say that this is a very challenging puzzle indeed, at least for me. Some of my friends who saw it were also very intrigued by its unique appearance. And of course none had any clue as to what this strange looking object was!

Isis AR Limited Edition Purple

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What attracted me to the Isis Puzzle (particularly this one) was the nice purple colour. The Isis is pretty well known having been around for quite a while already, sold mainly by Sonic Games in the UK and also by PuzzleMaster. I had seen photos of limited edition ones of various colours on the net and my intention was to get one of these instead. Limited editions with unusual colours are hard to find anywhere. Finally, along came this used Isis for sale on Ebay and I managed to snag this one for a very reasonable secondhand price. This version is from the "Andrew Reeves Signature Collection" and made in purple with gold bands. The Isis which came to me was made for the American market and sold by The Sharper Image in the US.

There have been both positive as well as some negative comments on the net about the Isis, one being the quality of manufacture. But my purple Isis appears not to have any quality issues as far as I could tell when I first took the puzzle out of the box (but wait...read on!). The Isis is a very heavy puzzle made entirely of aluminium. My version appears to be very well made, except for some scuffs and very minor marks on the surface which was obviously caused by the previous owner.

The object of the puzzle is to open the Isis and retrieve a special code of some sort which then leads to some other bigger competition online where a large cash prize awaits. I am not really into this sort of thing and right from the start I had decided I was just going to look at any solution available and solve it. While waiting for the Isis to be shipped to me in Singapore, I scoured the internet for information on solving the puzzle. Not only did I find tips and clues, but there are a few forum postings which give the entire solution, step by step. The one I found pretty useful can be found here. (WARNING! - If you do not want to know the solution, DO NOT click on the link and spoil your fun or frustration). For those more visually inclined, YouTube also has a number of videos showing how to solve the Isis and resetting the puzzle thereafter. Again, DOT NOT click on the link if you don't want to see how its done. Following the steps on video, I quite easily opened up the two halves of the Isis in under 5 mins or so.
See the gap between the purple portion and the golden band in the  middle ?

I must say the internal mechanism is both quite clever and rather complicated. I would never have been able to solve it without the solution. After having examined the inner workings of the Isis, I decided to put the Isis back together and here is where I ran into a glitch; after the two halves had locked into place, I found there was still a gap of about 1-2mm between the two halves. I tried re-doing the steps again to open and close the puzzle properly but couldn't, not even after watching the video again several times. My Isis seems to have frozen solid and remains shut tight. At the time of this writing, I am still out of luck! If anyone reading this can offer any advice on how to re-open the Isis (* I can't even seem to hear the 3rd ball bearing now), this would be much appreciated, thank you!
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