Oskar's Matchboxes is an interesting puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer. It can actually be constructed by just gluing together matchboxes that are of the standard 3:2:1 proportions. I wasn't planning on buying this because I figured I could always make them out of matchboxes, but I never got around to it. Recently I decided to pick up a copy at The Games People Play in Harvard Square.
The version I got was made by Philos Games, a German company that produces as wide assortment of puzzles and games. Since it is mass produced, the price wasn't too bad at around $25. It has a nice appearance and even though the wood is unfinished, it has been sanded smooth. It is made out of Cassia Siamea and Beech, for a nice contrast. The Cassia Siamea has a nice grain pattern. The fit is a bit loose, but passable.
The puzzle itself consists of five pieces, each of which is made of a drawer attached to a lid. (In this version, the 'drawers' are actually blocks of wood.) The objective is to get all of the five matchboxes closed.
When I first tried this one, I got really lucky and was able to solve it in under 5 minutes. Pretty much the first thing I tried worked, which was quite surprising. I shrugged and figured it was an easy puzzle. A few days later I decided that I should probably try it again before I write my blog post, and sure enough it took me quite a bit longer, maybe 20 minutes or so. I must have just randomly positioned the first two pieces correctly on my first attempt or something.
During my second attempt, I discovered a second solution because I was attempting to solve it in a more systematic fashion. I prefer the appearance of the first solution I found to the second: the first one has boxes jutting out in all directions, while the second solution has one side that is flat.
I'd give this a 6/10 in terms of difficulty. It does take a fair amount of patience, but I think most folks will be able to get it if they keep at it for a little while. Overall, this is a solid puzzle, I'm quite pleased with it.
Trevor Wood, Tom Lensch, and Eric Fuller have each made runs of this design, and each one looks a bit different since the thickness of the wood can be chosen by the designer. Here's a photo of the version made by Tom out of super-thin 1/16" wood to replicate the look of real matchboxes. Very cool!
Interestingly, on Trevor Wood's site, he mentions that there are three possible solutions, but Eric and Tom both say that there are two. Trevor says that the third is only possible if the size and position of everything is just right. I haven't found a third solution on mine yet, but I'll keep at it!
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