Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Conjuring Conundrum

Name
Conjuring Conundrum

Designers
Allard Walker and Louis Coolen. Allard runs his own puzzle blog Puzzling Times.



Manufacturer
Allard Walker and Louis Coolen. Available now only from Wil Strijbos for 48 Euros. Please PM me via my blog profile email if you do not have Wil's contact details.

Type & Classification
Sequential Discovery; 2D Assembly

Dimensions
10cm (length) x 7cm (Width) x 1.8cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
The puzzle is made up of a combination of materials including aluminium, steel, fabric and acrylic. The miniature briefcase (for business cards) is commercially available. The insides are actually very decently "modded" by hand, considering there is a fair amount of cutting and glueing. Comes packaged in a cardboard box with the IPP33 logo and text bearing both designers' names. Accompanied by a sealed solution sheet. For a very interesting account of how Allard and Louis created and produced the Conjuring Conundrum, click here.

IPP
The Conjuring Conundrum was Allard's Exchange Puzzle at IPP33 in Tokyo, Japan just this past August.

The briefcase with all its contents out (well, almost all)
Overview
I met puzzle collector and blogger Allard Walker the first time in person at IPP33 outside the lobby of the hotel where event was held. He looks better in person than the photograph on his blog profile. I had corresponded with Allard from time to time via email over the last couple of years (usually asking him for his opinion on a certain puzzle or for help in solving etc) prior to our meeting. We were both part of a group that took a trip into Tokyo city to look for some Karakuri puzzles. I have never met Louis but from what I have heard, he is a master solver, solving puzzles sometimes in minutes when others may take hours, days or months.

I was an Exchange Assistant (to puzzle collector Diniar Namdarian) at IPP33 and assistants typically only assist and do not get any exchange puzzles. Nonetheless Allard was very kind to give me a copy of his Conjuring Conundrum as a gift (thank you Allard). He told me a story of how Peter Wiltshire had given him (Allard) an exchange puzzle when Allard himself was an exchange assistant, and encouraged me to pass on this tradition when I myself one day become a puzzle exchanger, which hopefully will be soon.

The Conjuring Conundrum is actually two puzzles in one. The first puzzle is to open the briefcase. Step one is very easy...just undo the latches like any other normal briefcase as you would. Then the tough part comes. The lid of the case can only open a little bit enough for you to take a peek inside. There are things inside that look rather confusing and messy.

This is a sequential discovery puzzle so Allard and Louis have provided certain "tools" for use in opening the case. I fiddled with the case and studied whatever I could see inside. I was surprise to find myself quite quick to figure the way to opening the case lid. Very good use of the tools provided and clever execution of the mechanism I might add. Actually just opening the lid of the briefcase itself would already have made a pretty good puzzle, but Allard and Louis went further...

Having opened up the case, I found a fabric cloth bag containing a number of irregular shaped pieces of white acrylic. A little instruction card came with it; the object (of this second puzzle) is to form a shape of some sort using the pieces provided, on the back cover of the briefcase as a working surface. ie 2D assembly.

While Allard later told me that opening the brief case was the hard part, I have to disagree. Arranging the acrylic pieces to form the intended shape was to me the more difficult of the two. In fact so difficult for me that I had to ask Allard for help.

I got nowhere with his initial clues and after a long time trying, my patience ran out and I checked the solution. The solution was just as cryptic as Allard's clues and again I emailed Allard for help. Finally he gave me the intended position of two of the pieces and I was on my way again. After some more pushing the pieces around, I eventually solved the second puzzle and got the shape required, well more or less at least, although not fully complete...whew! I am glad that I was not the only one who had problems with the second puzzle. Apparently puzzle blogger Kevin Sadler was also stumped by the pieces in the bag.

Update 1 Nov 2013 - I was encouraged by Allard and Louis to try to (fully) complete the 2D assembly (packing) puzzle so I took it out of my puzzle cabinet to have another go at it...discovered the final solution after 10mins. All the time it was actually there "staring" at me in the face! Really unexpected trick...unusual twist for a 2D packing puzzle!!

Difficulty Level
Overall a difficult puzzle in my opinion, both the first and second parts, especially for those who have not much experience with sequential discovery type puzzles. Personally I found the second challenge far more difficult than the first, maybe because I am much better at sequential discovery puzzles as opposed to packing ones which I am crap at.

Summary
Great puzzle and certainly good value for money since you are getting two puzzles in one. For a sequential discovery puzzle, a rather unique and very clever trick incorporated within. And something for those who also happen to like packing puzzles.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cast G & G

Name
Cast G & G

Designer
Jin-Hoo Ahn, of South Korea.


Manufacturer
Hanayama. Launched in June 2013, the G&G is available from the usual online retailers including Sloyd of Finland and PuzzleMaster of Canada.

Type & Classification
Take-part; disentanglement.

Dimensions
6cm (Height) x 2.5cm (Width)

Materials & Construction
Made of zinc alloy (I think) and brass. Quality of construction here is generally good. One G is finished in chrome while the other is shiny brass.

IPP
The Cast G&G (also known as the Double G) won the 2012 Jury Grand Prize at IPP32 in Washington, USA

Overview
I sat next to G&G designer Jin-Hoo Ahn at dinner during IPP33 in Japan this year. A nice young man (just about twenty years old I estimated) heading for university to earn his degree. I wonder what new puzzles will emerge from him in the years to come. Over dinner he let me try out a cardboard puzzle (similar to the G&G), to which I couldn't figure out of course; at least not for the duration of the dinner.


The aim is to separate the two Gs. The G&G if I may say so, is in some ways similar to Hanayama's Cast Coil. You need to do a series of twist and turns to disentangle the two Gs. While the Cast Coil has grooves to allow the pieces to rotate against each other, the G&G has little "bumps" instead, strategically placed on the corners and edges of both Gs. This has the opposite effect of preventing or limiting movement and rotation of the two Gs which makes the puzzle challenging.

While it didn't take me long to split the two pieces, some time early on was spent studying how the two Gs interacted with each other. And of course the usual trial and error of going through the different movements of the Gs. I went through a number of dead ends. After a while, I sort of figured out how each G could move against the other and eventually solved the puzzle. Reassembly here was much easier; slide the Gs together, twist it a bit here and there and somehow it locks itself again.

Difficulty Level
Hanayama rates it at 3 out of 6 stars and I think the rating is about right. Random manipulation is unlikely to help you solve the puzzle, other than by sheer chance. As I mentioned, careful observation would serve you better.

Summary
Not a difficult puzzle by any means, but no walk in the park either. If you are the sort that is hung up about keeping your puzzles new and pristine, I think you can forget it with the G&G. The shiny surfaces of the Gs will be scratched invariably as mine was. Fellow puzzle blogger Gabriel Fernandes' copy was also similarly scratched after the solve; seems like his was worse than mine! And remember, there is no force needed here. If the pieces cannot move, its because its intended that way. Be gentle with the pieces and this will preserve the shine better.
_____________________________________________________________
For photos of my other puzzles please click here.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Popplock T8

Update 26 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at http://mechanical-puzzles.com

Name
Popplock T8

Designer
Rainer Popp, who is perhaps the undisputed master of trick/puzzle lock design. Since his first lock the T1, Rainer has come up with a new puzzle lock virtually every year.


For all my reviews of Popplocks from T2 to T7 in this blog, please click below:-
1. T2
2. T3
3. T4
4. T5
5. T6
6. T7

Manufacturer
Rainer Popp. Unfortunately no longer available from the usual online retailers such as Puzzlemaster and Grand Illusions. May be available from Rainer direct or possibly Wil Strijbos.

Type & Classification
Trick/puzzle lock.

Dimensions
14cm (Length) x 3cm (Width) and 8.5cm (Height). Very heavy!

Materials & Construction
Lock body and shackle are both made of stainless steel, with some brass bits. In the tradition of Popplocks, supreme quality and manufacture with a very high price to match.

Overview
After the somewhat less than positive (and in some quarters very critical) reaction to the earlier T7 by puzzlers, many of whom had felt let down by the puzzling experience, I think Rainer has been able to regain and dominate the high ground in puzzle lock design with the T8.

The T7 is water under the bridge. As far as I can tell, every puzzler that I have been in contact with, and from what I can glean from the Internet, Facebook, puzzle forums etc, the T8 appears to be getting a standing ovation. Hence the quick sell-out by puzzle retailers, notwithstanding the very high price tag.


The T8 breaks away from the traditional "padlock look" and instead adopts a contemporary, clean and very modern styling I am add. At first glance, the uninitiated may not even think its a lock. The T8 has a stainless steel body, as opposed to the usual brass. This is only the second time Rainer has chosen to use steel; the first being the limited edition T2 (or T2VA).

The shackle runs through the cylindrical lock body which at one end sticks out a brass knob with a protruding red dot. The other end is engraved with Rainer's Popplock logo. The T8 comes without a key, so obviously it is intended that you can open the lock without one.

Rainer usually has a number of tricks up his sleeve when it comes to the Popplocks so I was trying to use all my experience with the previous six Popplocks to figure out what possible mechanism might there be which is holding the shackle in place. The T8 took me a long time; over several days of intermittent puzzling before I came upon the solution. And even here, it was not a case of logical deduction or analysis but more through trial and error (read "random trying this and that").

In the end, after I had unshackled the T8, I could only marvel at the ingenuity of the design. The solution is really so simple and elegant; but of course only after having figured it out and with hindsight.

Difficulty Level
Very difficult when you are struggling to find out the solution. Most puzzlers are stuck after the first one or two steps. Some very experienced puzzlers have taken days to solve.  But simple to execute once you know how to. Very easy (and fun) repeatable solving.

From Left: T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, T7 & T8
Only the T3, T7 & T8 do not have keys or key holes
Summary
The T8 scores top marks in my book not only for quality and design (very unique and unusual mechanism/trick), but also for the puzzling experience. Expensive but well worth it. As I mentioned in a Facebook post, I think from a practical standpoint given the way the T8 is solved, it can also actually be used like a real lock, tho' I doubt if anyone would!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Cast Coil

Name
Cast Coil

Designer
Edi Nagata, who is also well known for a number of puzzle designs including the famous Polo Shirt and Arrow Case packing puzzles.


Manufacturer
Hanayama. Launched back in 2011, the Cast Coil is available from various online retailers including PuzzleMaster of Canada and Ebay.

Type & Classification
Take-part; disentanglement

Dimensions
3.3cm (Length) x 3.3cm (Width) and 2.5cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
Made of zinc alloy and brass. Quality of construction, finish and fit is generally good. Both pieces have a matt patina surface (which is what I like). Not a large puzzle by any means but very weighty in the hands.

IPP
Edi's Twin Snake puzzle, the wooden version of which the Cast Coil is based on, was his competition entry for IPP29 at San Francisco, USA in 2009.

Overview
The Cast Coil is not new, having been around commercially since 2011. I have had it for quite a while and recently got round to it. The object is to dis-entangle/separate the two interlocking pieces that have been "coiled" together. Initially when I started puzzling with it, I found myself getting stuck. Firstly the two pieces are pretty tight (and this seems to be the general consensus amongst several other puzzlers). Secondly, trying to get the right orientation with the puzzle was also not easy as both pieces look almost identical, but not quite (thanks to puzzler George Bell for pointing this out to me).


On closer examination, one would discover there are grooves cut into each of the pieces and here is where they allow for rotation of the two pieces against each other. For the initial several minutes, I found the pieces locked in a dead end which ever way I tried. But eventually once I figured out the twist and turns, and how the two pieces interacted with each other, things became easier as I went along.

Re-assembly took me a whole lot longer to "twine" the two pieces back to the original state. I had to once again figure out how to orientate the pieces correctly and then to twist and slide the pieces back into position. The two pieces fit well and snug with relatively tight tolerances, so once in a while, even though the pieces seem stuck, rotation may actually be possible. Just be more gentle and persist.

Difficulty Level
Hanayama rates the Coil at 3-stars (out of 6). About there, I guess.

Summary
Not overly difficult but provides a decent challenge. A well constructed (and very pocket-able) puzzle that can be solved repeatedly once you have remembered the sequence of moves. And yes, after some time puzzling, the two pieces do become looser and you can move the pieces more easily.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Choreographed Motion

Name
Choreographed Motion

Designer
Andreas Rover. For those of you who do not know, Andreas is the developer of BurrTools, the wonderful saviour programme that allows users to solve mechanical puzzles, mainly those consisting of square, prism or sphere shaped units, including high level burrs.

Manufacturer
Andreas Rover. Currently still available via his website for 17 Euros.

Type & Classification
Interlocking; Take-Apart.

Dimensions
6.4cm (length) x 6.4cm (Width) x 2.7cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
Acrylic (perspex). Overall good quality of build with the moving pieces nicely cut to tight tolerances. There is glueing of pieces involved here. As the acrylic is transparent, there are some areas where you do see the dried glue between the joined surfaces and a couple of small stains here and there. But this can't be helped since Andreas did it all manually by hand, 140 copies in all! Check out how he did it from his site.

IPP
Choreographed Motion was Andreas' Exchange Puzzle at IPP29 at San Francisco, USA in 2009.


Overview
I first saw the Choreographed Motion from fellow puzzle blogger Oli Sovary-Soos' Flickr album that accompanies his Hotmail. I asked Oli where he had got his copy from and he promptly directed me to Andrea's puzzle website. After exchanging email with Andreas and several days later, the Choreographed Motion, along with two of his other puzzle designs were on their way to me.

The Choreographed Motion consists of an acrylic box "frame" within which sit four interlocking pieces. Each of the pieces have notches and grooves formed by different shaped black acrylic pieces glued to the transparent ones. Physically, the Choreographed Motion does bear a certain resemblance to the Internal Combustion puzzle, except here you can see the insides.


The object of the puzzle is of course to remove the four individual pieces. However, unlike the Internal Combustion which is more a sequential movement puzzle, the Choreographed Motion requires (as the cleverly chosen name does suggest) certain coordinated moves to disassemble the puzzle.

I tried the traditional one-piece-at-a-time approach but from very early on, discovered that this wasn't going to work. More than one, two or even three of the pieces have to be manipulated, all at the same time, to slowly manoeuvre each piece away from the frame. While disassembly was fairly challenging, surprisingly I found the assembly easier (strange!) and was able to get the pieces back into place quite a bit faster than I had taken them apart.


Difficulty Level
A nice challenge but not too difficult, given its only two dimensional. The pieces may squeak a bit here and there at first and you will experience some tightness, but after some playing, they will be "seasoned" and loosen up slightly so that movement becomes smoother. With some practice, I actually could solve it repeatedly quite easily.

Summary
For 17 Euros, very good value for money both from a quality and puzzling standpoint. Nice design of a "framed burr" puzzle using transparent acrylic (instead of the usual wood). I am wondering how much more difficult it would be if the frame is not transparent. Highly recommended and do approach Andreas before he runs out.
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