Saturday, 28 June 2014

Egg

Update 24 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at http://mechanical-puzzles.com

Name
Egg

Designer
Wil Strijbos. For a list of Wil's other puzzle designs, click here.



Manufacturer
Wil Strijbos (under his Streetwise Puzzles label). Priced at 190 Euros each (excl S&H). Please PM me via my Profile email if you wish to contact Wil for availability.  This is a limited edition series and I am not sure if any Eggs are left.

Type & Classification
Sequential movement; trick opening

Dimensions
9.5cm cm (Height) x 7.2cm (Diameter). Weight is 0.5Kg.

Materials & Construction
Aluminium and steel.

The Egg is a large and heavy puzzle. Quality of construction is excellent both externally and internally. Everything is built to fine tolerances. Visually, the Egg sports a very nice unique magenta anodised finish with a matt texture, giving it a distinctive and elegant look. If there was a beauty contest for best looking puzzle, the Egg would definitely rank amongst the top 3 for aesthetics. 

Overview
In a puzzle world where the choice of material for most designers is dominated by either wood or plastic, Wil Strijbos stands out as perhaps the only puzzle designer to use metal (mainly aluminium) to make most of his puzzles. Not just the occasional one now and again, but quite consistently as he churns out several different designs every year (no doubt some are very expensive) but which usually sell out very quickly.  

There is a history about the Egg and how Wil took nearly 30 years to come up with the present Egg puzzle today. In Wil's own words from his newsletter....

See the picture I took (below) when I visited James Dalgety in December 2011. The date on the bottom from the EGG says 1986, so it is now at least 28 years ago that I created this EGG. This first creation will be also in the collection from Jerry Slocum, Dick Hess and in some other collections. 



Maximum production at that time was less then ten. In the 90s last century a company tried to produce the EGG. The result at the end was a broken EGG, too difficult to produce they told me. So when I saw my EGG again in the collection from James Dalgety I decided to give it a try. See the result in the attachment. I’m very proud of the result and I hope you will enjoy playing with it. I’m sure it will be a nice addition to your puzzle collection. 

The object of the Egg is to separate the two halves. Both halves can rotate within certain limits. That's all the feedback one gets when you first handle the Egg. It is obvious there is something holding the two halves together yet allowing limited movement; so the challenge is to figure what this restraining mechanism is and how to release it. 

The Egg is made very challenging by the fact that the mechanism (or trick) is hidden. However, Wil has not made it so hidden that it becomes a pure guess work type puzzle. In fact this is a sequential movement puzzle, meaning that you will need to make the right moves in the correct order to solve the puzzle.

Experienced puzzlers would typically employ some of the more usual tricks as the first step to see how to split apart the Egg. I tried a couple of moves and managed to split the two halves about 10mm apart. First step crossed. From here I was able to take a little peek inside. But unfortunately not much to go on since the main mechanism was still largely hidden from view. However enough for me to start formulating in my mind some theories of how the two halves might be held together. 



This was where I remained stuck for the next several hours as I tried to grapple with the two Egg halves. I employed all the techniques I knew while trying to figure out the mechanism in a systematic and logical manner. But as in most cases, random experimentation won the day and I crossed the next hurdle. The Egg was now split apart more, about an inch or so and I was able to see more of the hidden mechanism. Although this was still insufficient, nonetheless I had something to work with, and was able to narrow down the possibilities on how the internal mechanism might work. A bit more experimentation here and there and I "broke" the Egg apart; solved!

Although not too complicated by any means, the various parts of the locking mechanism and they way they interacted to secure the two halves of the Egg is rather clever. I had read Kevin Sadler's review of the Egg on his blog and he mentioned the challenges of properly re-setting and re-solving the puzzle. I agree. Its tough. After I had reversed the steps to re-join the Egg, I found myself stuck again trying to re-solve. Took me another good forty five minutes or so (even though I thought I had gotten all the steps right) to split the two halves again. This second time round, I made sure I took lots of pictures from all angles and carefully documented the (correct) steps for re-setting and repeat solving. Thereafter, I could resolve quite easily.


From left: Pelikan Egg, Egg #22, chicken egg and quail egg.
Difficulty Rating
From my own count, there are broadly about 10 steps to solve the Egg. Steps 1 to 5 can be found pretty quickly; especially for those who have previous experience with Strijbos puzzles. The real difficulty comes from Step 6 onwards. 

Just to give some perspective; of the more recent puzzles from Wil, I would rank the Egg harder than the Lotus and First Box, probably about the same level as the Angel Box (although the latter has well over 20 steps and takes a lot more time and effort, but gives you more A-ha moments along the way). For the Egg, you could get stuck after Step 5 for a long time without further progress. No force is required; in fact a gentle touch is necessary towards the end stages. (Edit 29 Nov 2014:-With regular practice, you can solve the Egg in under 45 secs (I timed myself once).

Summary
A beautifully made puzzle that not only looks good but provides a very challenging solve. Once you get the moves correct, its quite manageable, making it a puzzle you can pick up and put down for a quick play.

NOTE: For those who are stuck, please feel free to contact me for hints. While its extremely difficult to describe the solution in words, I can email you photos of the internal mechanism to help you along. However, even with photos it still remains a difficult solve, but you can certainly deduce the process/sequence with the help of the photos. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pentomino Maze

Name
Pentomino Maze

Designer
Tamas Vanyo. A very prolific designer with numerous designs to-date. Click here to see his latest designs.




Manufacturer
Pelikan. Currently available from PuzzleMaster.

Type & Classification

Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
10cm (Length) x 6cm (Width) and 3cm (Height). 

Materials & Construction
The frame is Maple while the pieces are Mahogany. As usual, very well made and everything fits and slides together smoothly and nicely.

Overview
This is my third puzzle from Tamas, the previous two being the Orsi and Noncsi reviewed a while back.

Pentominoes have a place in my heart. My first five wooden puzzle designs were based on Pentominoes. Aside from this, I also tend to like non-cube shaped puzzles.

Unlike my amateurishly designed puzzles, Tamas' sophisticated version here consist of an irregular shaped maze frame to which the pieces, consisting of 12 pairs of pentominoes (connected together) must be inserted in to form a rectangular solid box.

As the name implies, the puzzle is indeed like a maze and you need to "navigate" the pieces through a single opening of the frame. Be careful here though as the frame can be rather delicate since its only connected at two places and excessive force may result in breakage.

Removing the pieces is relatively simple since its just a matter of sliding the first piece out and the rest will follow suit. 


Re-assembly (everything in reverse) is far more difficult if you mix up the pieces, their orientation or forget the order they come out. My suggestion is that you photo document your disassembly moves. Trying to first find the rectangular shape of the box with the pieces away from the frame probably won't help much since there are 2339 ways to form a 6 x 10 rectangle using all the 12 pentominoes. Tamas didn't make it easy for this one. But rest assured, there are no rotations needed here.

Difficulty Level
Easy to take apart but very difficult to put together (if you happen to choose to scramble up the pieces and lose your way). But help is at hand for those lost via either Burr Tools or www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com.

Summary
A different take on a very nice interlocking puzzle with a Pentominoes theme, fully utilising all 12 flat pentomino shapes.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ring Lock

Name
Ring Lock

Designer
William Hu. To see more of his designs click here.




Manufacturer
Eric Fuller. From www.cubicdissection.com. Priced at US$54. 

As of this post, there are some still available from Bernhard Schweitzer of www.puzzlewood.de.

Type & Classification
Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
9cm (Length) x 9cm (Width) and 5.4cm (Height). Relatively large; feels very solid and heavy. 

Materials & Construction
A combination of 6 exotic hardwoods;  Paduak, Maple, Walnut, Leopardwood, Yellowheart and Purpleheart which gives it a very nice colour contrast. Construction and fit is excellent but I would advise a bit of a "dry out" in the dry box before commencing play just to be sure that the puzzle is not too snug due to high humidity.

Overview
This is my second interlocking puzzle from designer William Hu, the first being his Box Packing.

The object is to remove the 5 irregular shaped pieces from the rectangular "ring".


This puzzle has rotations, some involving more than one piece at the same time. I counted no less than five 90 degree rotations. Overall the puzzle is not that difficult to solve, but with the rotations thrown in, its rather tricky.

Removing the first piece is relatively simple as you feel your way with the pieces that can move. Once the first piece is out, here's where the challenge begins.

I managed to solve the puzzle quite quickly, in minutes, rather than hours. Perhaps this was because I had a fair bit of experience (and struggle) with Osanori Yamamoto's Orion which bears a couple of similarities, and hence I knew what I needed to do to get the pieces out from the ring.

Difficulty Level
The Ring Lock has a level 2.3.3.4.2 solution. Easy to get the first piece (just 2 moves) removed but the challenge comes thereafter. For experienced puzzlers, probably moderate difficulty. I found the re-assembly a bit harder, so its best to lay out the pieces properly and in the order they come out so that everything can go back in reverse order.


Summary
I quite enjoyed the Ring Lock. With just 5 pieces and not that many moves, its relatively easy to repeat solve once you have memorised the sequence and rotations, which gives the Ring Lock a good amount of replay value. Displays nicely too!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cross Box / 18 Dutch Mills

Last month, I received an email from Vaclav Obsivac or Vinco (as he is known) stating that he had a number of new items on his puzzle website for sale. 

Vinco has a very extensive website comprising numerous interlocking, co-ordinate motion and packing puzzles. He also designs his own puzzles. Prices range from less than 10 euros to about 60 euros so there is something to suit every budget. 

I ordered 5 puzzles including the 2 mentioned here. Both these puzzles are co-ordinate motion puzzles. Presently in my collection, I have 3 such other puzzles; the Choreographed Motion, CM-13 and Diz Puz.

Cross Box
Made of 3 different woods of Walnut, Ash and Plum, the puzzle has a nice colour contrast. Measuring in at 9.7 cm all around, it is a 6 piece puzzle. This one looks more "conventional" compared to the 18 Dutch Mills which is spherical with spaces. It is very well made with a nice fit and finishing. Priced at 38 euros.



Rated difficulty level 4, this is on the more challenging side of things and it took me a while to find out which are the panels to push and pull to start the separation process. Once you hit the sweet spot, everything starts to move outwards and you can see the pieces slowing sliding apart away from the centre. There is a fair amount of sliding motion before the puzz
le totally disentangles into the 6 identical pieces.



Each of the pieces have been meticulously glued together using the 3 different woods and really look like small pieces of art. I found reassembly easier than the taking apart and the pieces could slide into their positions without much difficulty. For this puzzle, you can actually assemble the pieces one by one and while while keeping the 5 pieces still "locked" together just before the point where they fully separate, snuggle the last piece into place...and then slide all the pieces towards the centre again to "close" the puzzle.




18 Dutch Mills
This is one of the biggest interlocking wooden puzzles I have come across. With a 16cm diameter (but actually there's quite a bit of hollow in the centre), it is humongous compared to what's commonly out there. Priced at 32 euros.



The 18 Dutch Mills is made entirely of Cherry. Very good quality of construction throughout with nice fit, but feels rather delicate. It has 6 interlocking pieces comprising of many many triangular blocks glued together. Quite a handful as all the pieces have relatively sharp edges and corners. 

While it looks great with it imposing size, one has to be very careful handling this puzzle. A drop on any hard surface even just a few centimetres high will almost certainly guarantee damage to one or more of the sharp corners.



The challenge is actually figuring out where the pieces join and then how to split them apart. Didn't take me long as with just a bit of pulling and tugging, suddenly everything came apart on my dining table. Thank goodness I had a dinner mat under it or some corners would have been flattened for sure.

Re-assembly was a bit more difficult as I pondered the 6 pieces. Unlike the CrossBox where the engagement points of the pieces are pretty well defined (partly due to the use of mixed colours) this one I had to first determine the orientation of the pieces and how they are suppose to interact. Took me a few attempts but eventually got everything back to the solved state. The rather delicate nature of the puzzle certainly didn't help much either as I was rather over cautious in my handling. Definitely harder than the CrossBox in terms of assembly but strangely, its rated only a 3 in difficulty.

Summary
Both are really great well built puzzles and value for money. If co-ordinate motion puzzles are your kind of thing, well, there are these two to consider. If not there are a huge number of other puzzles on Vinco's site with something to your liking, so its well worth a visit.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

T4-III (Tea For 3) / Square In the Bag

Recently when Mineyuki Uyematsu (Mine) made available the T4 and Square-In-The-Bag puzzles, I hitched an order through puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam to save on some shipping costs and ordered the T4-III and Square In The Bag.

T4-III (Tea For 3)

I had found Mine's T4-II (Tea For 2) pretty fun and challenging. Check out my review here.

Like the T4-II, the T4-III is a 3D packing puzzle and dimensionally the same size as its cousin, at 7.6cm square and 3cm tall. The box is walnut and the 4 pieces are Yellowheart and Purpleheart. Excellent construction and quality overall with good contrasting coloured woods used.



The object is to place all 4 pieces (T-shaped...hence the name!) inside the box. It would have been an easy puzzle if not for the fact that the box has an acrylic cover with a cut-out which the pieces have to go through.

As I already have experience solving the T4-II, I sort of knew how things would operate with the T4-III. It took me several minutes and I got all 4 pieces into the box. Compared with the T4-II, I would say the T4-III is more challenging. However, its not so unduly difficult that it would frustrate. You need to know how to orientate the pieces correctly first (outside of the box) to assess how they would fit inside and then figure which pieces to go inside first (yes, there is a proper sequence here).

Square In The Bag

Last year, I had the chance to borrow and play with Hirokazu Iwasawa's CorRECTly In The Bag, the rectangular version of the puzzle.  



What I have said in my review about CorRECTly In The Bag will be applicable here. Square In The Bag is offered in 3 versions, with the price differentials dependent on the quality and design of the cloth bag provided. The one in the photo is the most expensive of the three with a geometric pattern design and red inner lining.The wood square is a checkered design and both bag and square are beautifully made.



I already knew the solution so took me less than 30 seconds to solve this one. Square In The Bag is one of those puzzles that looks impossible to solve, yet when you solve it (or see the solution happening before your eyes), its incredible and the a-ha moment is really great!

For those living in Europe/USA, you may wish to contact UK based Satomi Beattie of CU-Japan for availability and order of these puzzles.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Orion

Name
Orion

Designer
Osanori Yamamoto. For other designs by Osanori, click here.



Manufacturer
Pelikan.  Currently available from PuzzleMaster.

Type & Classification
Interlocking, sequential movement

Dimensions
7.2cm (Length) x 7.2cm (Width) and 3.5cm (Height).  

Materials & Construction
A combination of 5 solid hardwoods giving the puzzle a very beautiful contrasting finish. The square frame is Mahogany while the pieces are Wenge, Acacia, Paduak and Maple. As with all Pelikan puzzles, the quality and manufacturing is superb. Fit is snug and overall everything feels a bit tight but the pieces can still slide ok. Those living in humid countries may have to "dry out" their puzzle before play.

Overview
Designed in 2014, this is a very recent release and like the earlier Mysterious Galaxy and Galaxy Z, bears a space themed name, "Orion"

Object is to disassemble the 4 pieces that interlocks with the square frame. At first glance, the four pieces (which resemble jigsaw pieces) all look identical. However, as you start playing, you will discover that only two of the 4 pieces are identical. The frame also has a protrusion at one of the inner corners.

All the pieces can move in rectilinear fashion, sideways, up and down. When they are spread sufficiently far apart, each of the pieces can also rotate. I tried various moves for the pieces taking into account their shapes and notches and that one particular corner of the frame; all the while sure that one of the pieces had something to do with that special corner. However, it turned out I was barking up the wrong tree. After being stumped for several days, I threw in the towel and checked the solution, only to discover that the way to extract the first piece was not what I had expected. I had over-complicated things and missed the obvious. 



Firstly all four pieces must be in their correct orientation relative to the frame. Then the right sequence of moves for each of the pieces must follow next and only then can the first of the 4 pieces be removed. I counted 14 moves to get the first piece removed. Once the crucial first piece is out, the rest is easy. Reassembly is the reverse of everything.

I am not certain if the original solved state of the puzzle has everything lined up ready to go or one has to rotate the pieces around the frame to get them in the right positions. My guess is that it would be more difficult in the case of the latter.

Difficulty Level
Very difficult. But relatively easy once the first piece is out. And you need to make sure that the correct piece goes back into the frame first, since all look similar and can get mixed up. The wrong piece means you'll end up stuck. Not a whole lot of moves and with some practice, manageable for repeat solving.

Summary
A very interesting design with just 4 pieces and the frame. Looks deceptively simple (as compared to the high level burrs out there), but is anything but that. The subtle differences in the shape of the pieces add to the complexity and challenge.  And since it comes in 5 different contrasting coloured woods, the puzzle also displays very nicely.
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