April 15, 2010

Snowflake and Tri-Frame

Last weekend I was in Urban Outfitters (a clothing store that also sells a bunch of other random stuff) and noticed that they had a whole lineup of bamboo puzzles for $10 each. They are sold under the name "EcoGame" (they don't seem to have a website) and are imported by streamlinenyc.com from China. On the Streamline website they have the full set of puzzles shown, but they only seem to sell to retail customers. [Update: It looks like Puzzle Master is selling them now!]

From left to right, top to bottom are a Soma cube, a Hedgehog puzzle (not sure of the standard name), a Pagoda burr, a diagonal burr (with no key piece), a 24-piece Chuck puzzle (I think), Locked Nest, a rounded diagonal burr (same solution as the one above it), an assembly pyramid (non-interlocking), and Snowflake. As you can see, they make frequent use of the light/dark lamination for a pretty good effect.

I ended up buying two, the first of which was sold under the name Snowflake. When I tried it out in the store, I was unable to figure out how to take it apart, so I figured it would be a good challenge.

Unfortunately when I got it home and inspected it more closely, I discovered that it was pretty much just a fancy-looking version of the 9-piece Pagoda burr that they were also selling! I wasn't able to get it apart in the store because the fit was quite snug. The 9-piece Pagoda burr had such a loose fit that the piece that moves first wiggles around quite a bit. The tight fit makes it a bit harder, making it necessary to inspect the joints to figure out what you can move and how.

Still, it isn't a very difficult puzzle, I solved it in a few minutes. However, I did like their use of contrasting colors of bamboo. It gives the puzzle a nice appearance. Also, as I mentioned, the fit is actually pretty good considering it is a mass-produced puzzle. The pieces fit snugly together and the finish isn't bad. Overall, I thought it was a good buy for $10.

The second puzzle I purchased was sold under the name Tri-Frame. It is a design I recognized from Stewart Coffin's Puzzling World of Polyhedral Dissections which he named Locked Nest. However, rather than using hexagonal rods, they used dowels.

This one was given a 5/5 star difficulty rating, so I was hoping it would keep me busy for a while. Before I purchased it, I took it out of the box to see how good the fit was, and was happy to see that the  pegs were held in place fairly well.

When I got home, I took it apart and set myself to the task of putting it back together. I immediately noticed that although the fit seemed good when the puzzle was assembled, a stick going through a single hole did not have enough friction to stay in place: it was only when the structure started to come together that there was enough friction.

This made it quite a dexterity problem, because the rods kept slipping out as I was getting things arranged. Eventually I was able to start making progress. Figuring out the assembly itself was a bit tricky at first, since it is hard to figure out where to start. Once I got a few of the pieces in place it became a lot more obvious where the rest should go.

Overall, this was a fun puzzle and a good deal for the price, but I probably wouldn't recommend it due to the fit. I actually didn't like the light/dark lamination on this one as much as the others, it just looks a bit chaotic to my eye since the holes are not consistently drilled relative to the coloring.

16 comments:

  1. Hello Brian,

    accidentally came across the "EcoGame" collection and noticed the Soma cube. I actually never thought that some company would pick up the idea of the Soma Summarum (IPP 2002 entry) and also make use some of the name (similar puzzle I made named TRILOGIC). From the looks of it the aim has changed to complete the puzzle in such a way that you get layers all the way around?

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  2. Great blog Brian! Interesting looking puzzles :)

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  3. Interesting, Roland! I hadn't thought that the lamination could have been more than decorative! I'll buy it next time I am in Harvard square and see if I can find a solution where all the layers are lined up.

    Thanks, John!

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  4. They carry these at Eureka now as well! I'm slightly confused by the wording of the paragraph describing the fit of the puzzle. Can you clarify?

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  5. Oh cool! They were sold out at Urban Outfitters, so I couldn't check out the layered Soma.

    Regarding the fit, Snowflake was a bit tight, but with this design I thought it was better to be a bit more tight, since it makes the first move less obvious. It is better now that I've played with it a bit.

    Tri-Frame stays together quite well once it is assembled. However, there isn't enough friction to hold it together while you are assembling it. The drilled holes are slightly too large, so the rods slide out. As you get more pieces into place, the slight imprecision in the assembly makes for enough friction to hold everything in place.

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  6. Hey Brian,

    I recently purchased the snowflake puzzle and cn't get it back together! Can you help me out?

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  7. Sure! Send me an email using the Contact Me link on the right.

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  8. I recently bought the pyramid one and it's pretty annoying not being able to figure out what to do with this last oddball piece, lol.

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  9. Yeah, that one looked pretty tricky! I didn't try it. Good luck!

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  10. a note about the tri-frame. i found it easier to put some the dowels in without all of their tubes in place. individual dowels can be partially removed to insert tubes later. putting in more dowels early, helps to hold the frame together.

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  11. Thanks for the tips! This one is a bit of a dexterity puzzle.

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  12. Have come across an Eco Game puzzle that was sold under the name "Snowflake" and was rated 4 stars (unbelievable). However it is not the snowflake that you have mentioned here. There are 24 pieces that are exactly the same. Can't tell you what it looked like when it was all joined up as I have forgotten, it's been so long! Any ideas?

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  13. Maybe, just send me an email using the Contact Me link on the right hand side of the page. I'll reply back and you can send me some photos.

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  14. My friend just bought me the Eco Game pyramid... the lack of interlocking pieces makes it highly unstable as every time you jostle it, it just falls apart again. I haven't finished putting it together yet (I just got off work a bit ago) largely in part due to my own clumsiness... also, when I wasn't entirely sure I had the right start and I glanced at the included solution, it is so tiny that I can't even read it if I wanted to just cheat. All that said, it's a lovely piece that I'll have to put on a high shelf and I love that my friend thought of me.

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  15. Hay Brian ! Its moustafa ! My sister bought me the snowflake thing and I'm not doinG well with the assembly ! So can you help me out ?!

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  16. Sure! I don't want to post it here, but if you email me using the Contact Me link up above to the right, I'll try to help if I can.

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Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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