June 17, 2010

T4 Popplock

I recently read Jeff Chiou's blog post about some puzzles he borrowed from Jonas Bengtsson, one of which was the T4 Popplock by Ranier Popp. I have seen his awesome looking puzzle locks online, but haven't purchased one yet since they're pretty expensive. Jeff ended up buying a T4 after he borrowed one from Jonas, and he was kind enough to offer to loan it to me. Thanks Jeff!

As you can see from the photo, it as a beautiful looking lock! All of Ranier's locks are individually milled out of brass, and the precision is superb. It is an extremely heavy puzzle, weighing in at over a pound (793g). It comes with a key.

When it arrived, I started working on it right away. As Jeff mentioned, the first move is pretty easy and I discovered it fairly quickly, since it is a standard trick. I also discovered a feature that I knew would be of importance, but was unable to proceed further.

I was stuck at this point for two weeks, playing around with it here and there for a half hour at a time. I emailed Jeff to let him know what I had tried and see if he could offer any small hints help me out. He provided a few bits of information about what not to do, which helped narrow down my search a bit.

This Sunday I headed up to my parents' house and brought a few other puzzles that they could check out, and figured I would bring this one along to see if I could make any progress.

Sure enough, while I was showing it to my mother, something new occurred to me! It was quite a relief to finally be making progress after 2 weeks of being stuck at the same spot. My hopes were high that I was moments away from figuring it out completely, however I immediately became stuck again. I learned slightly more about the feature that I knew would be of importance, but didn't actually discover the next step yet.

The next day, I finally figured out the next step! It was quite similar to what I had already tried, I just wasn't doing it quite right. I think that is my only criticism of this puzzle: this step is a bit harder to discover than it needs to be. There were a few things that could have been done to make it a bit easier to stumble upon, which wouldn't have decreased the difficulty or enjoyment of the puzzle much.

The next and final step only took me a minute or so to figure out, but it is quite cool. I didn't do it quite as intended, but it worked. The intended solution is even more elegant.

In total, I think I spent somewhere between 10 and 15 hours on this one. Puzzles like this take a ton of patience, since they give you so little to work with at first. Many hours of pushing, pulling, twisting, rattling, and whacking trying to figure out what is going on.

Jonas mentions in his blog post that this lock is as good if not better than Danlock (the gold standard for puzzle locks). I think I would agree that the craftsmanship is definitely superior: it is a much more complex mechanism that must have taken a lot of work to produce. As a puzzle, I still think I slightly prefer Danlock.

They both have some neat elements, but Danlock's simplicity gives it a bit of an edge in my mind. I could definitely see how some folks could tilt the other way if they prefer a more novel and clever mechanism. If the second move of the T4 was a bit easier to discover, I think it would have been a bit better.

Overall, an awesome puzzle that I would highly recommend if you have the budget for it. I am tempted, but I probably won't be buying one since they are so expensive and the International Puzzle Party is coming up. Woo hoo! This and other Popplocks can be purchased from Puzzle Master and Grand Illusions.

Thanks again to Jeff for making this review possible!


  1. Congratulations Brian! You did what Jonas and I could not...

  2. Thanks Jeff! It is a very cool puzzle and I'm glad that I got to give it a try!

  3. ...Rainer's latest - the T5 is absolutely brilliant and well worth trying to track down too!


  4. Allard, I am jealous! Hopefully I will get to try a T5 at some point!


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