September 26, 2009

Cast Laby and Cast Heart

Next I picked up Cast Laby and Cast Heart. David, the owner of Eureka Puzzles, had recommended Cast Laby. From looking at it, I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what the solution would be: it is basically just a double sided maze, so how interesting could it be? He assured me that it was an interesting puzzle, so I decided to give it a try.

This puzzle was re-designed by Nobuyuki Yoshigahara based on a 19th century British design. As it turns out, the puzzle was actually quite interesting. I tried to solve it just by wandering around in the maze, but that approach proved futile. Perhaps you will be more lucky, but I had to take a systematic approach to make sure that I tried every possible path before abandoning a particular starting point. There are multiple places and orientations where you can enter the maze, which makes it more challenging.

The pins on the piece that you navigate through the maze are offset, so you need to rotate the piece around to get them in the correct orientation. There were two moves that I thought were particularly clever, I appreciated that Nob went to the trouble of making the solution interesting: it would have been easy to come up with a fairly simple maze but it is clear that he put some effort into making it challenging and as interesting as possible.

This puzzle is rated a 5/6 on the Hanayama difficulty scale, and I was suprised to find that I agree with that rating. It took me about an hour to take it apart and maybe a minute to get it back together because I paid such close attention when I was taking it apart. If you find the solution by luck, it might be challenging to get back together, particularly if you don't know which exit you came out of! Check out Oli's review of Cast Laby here.

Cast Heart was another one that I wasn't entirely sure about. It is very different from the other Hanayamas because of the flexible chain. I thought that it was worth trying, since I was enjoying almost all the Hanayama puzzles so far, this one was probably good as well. Note: the chains are not connected like it appears in the picture.

I didn't like the physical appearance of this puzzle quite as much as some of the other Hanayamas: it looks a bit sloppy when lying around on your desk. I think I would have gone with a smooth finish on the big heart rather than the studs around the outside. Also, the small  heart sits in a groove in the large heart, but it takes a bit of fiddling to get it to line up right because the chain gets in the way. It would have been much better if there were magnets to hold it in place. Also, the chain is a bit coarse, which makes it harder to manipulate.

That said, the imagery of "the tight bond holding together the hearts of lovers the world over" is kind of nice, I suppose. There is something about the chain that makes the bond seem oppressive, however, but I digress!

The solution to this puzzle is actually quite nice, at least for me as a novice disentanglement solver. When solving this, I had to fiddled with it for a while before I noticed that I needed to think outside the box. I think people experienced with disentanglement puzzles will find this fairly easy, but I would agree with the 4/6 Hanayama rating. It took me about 20 minutes to solve, I think.

Tomorrow, I'll write about two puzzles that I bought online: one from an auction and an amazing puzzle lock made by a puzzle designer in Israel!


  1. Have you tried solving you Hanayamas six months later? In my experience, many of them are just as difficult as the first time, while for others one remembers certain clues that make them easier. Still, I am often surprised how much one forgets, and many can seem almost as difficult as the first time.

  2. I do sometimes, but usually just for the ones with moderate difficulty that aren't too tedious. Taking Quartet apart was a fun challenge, but I don't think I'd want to put myself through that again (though now that I mention it, it does make me want to try it). Baroq on the other hand, is a lot of fun to play around with.

    Sometimes I bring these to parties and stuff, so I'll run through the solution to make sure I can 'fix' it if somebody abandons it in a partially solved state.


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