October 26, 2009

Tier Box

I had heard about Tier Box by Eric Fuller from Matt Dawson, who had seen it at the 2009 International Puzzle Party, and it sounded like an interesting box. I planned to purchase one, but since quite a number sold as preorders at IPP I was worried that I might not be able to get one before they sold out: only 34 were made. Also, CubicDissection.com is blocked at my office, so if it went up for sale while I was at work, I could have missed it.

I got the email announcing the new products at CubicDissection while I was driving to a swing dance on a Monday night, so as soon as I pulled into a parking space I hopped on my girlfriend's iPhone to order one. It took a little while since I had to update my address on PayPal (I had recently moved), but I got the order sent and went off to the dance.

A few days later, Tier Box arrived in the mail and I couldn't wait to give it a try. I sat down in my recliner and admired its nice finish and details. The seams were very well done and I also liked his choice of woods, which was quartersawn bubinga and quartersawn paduak. I had to look up what quartersawn was: the log is first cut into quarters, then the boards are cut by cutting parallel to the tree's rings. Eric said that "the quartersawn material was specifically chosen for it's dimensional stability, strength and beauty." Well it certainly looked nice!

I was interested to see how challenging this puzzle could be: it did not have any sliders as far as I could tell from the picture of the box open, so it was 'simply' a series of sliding panels. As I started to move the panels around, I was definitely impressed with the design. The first few moves were not too hard, but then you end up at a dead end. After a bit of fiddling, I figured out the next move, which is where the 'Tier' part of the name comes from.

The next few moves are also quite tricky, and make use of this new interesting move several more times. Eventually, the box opens, but to my surprise the end which I thought was the bottom ended up being the top! I admired the nice finish on the inside of the puzzle as well. I think it took me about 10 minutes to open the box, which was pretty low in terms of dollars per hour of puzzling enjoyment, but the craftsmanship is superb!

I then proceeded to close and open the box a few more times, until I felt like I had a good understanding of its complexity. It is definitely an interesting box. Funny enough, in putting it back together I discovered an interesting move that I probably was supposed to use when opening the box, but I managed to get by without using it. This was unfortunate because it is a pretty cool idea and one of the two very unique features of this box.

I think the only downside to this box is that the fit is a bit loose. The panels had a tendency to slide of their own accord, which, if you don't notice it, can be confusing. I found it best to lay the box on its side so that the panels didn't do this and I could fully appreciate the moves required to open the box. Still, it is a very cool box that I am happy to own.

Tomorrow, a disentanglement puzzle that I purchased in the hopes that it would help me defeat my puzzle nemesis.

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