June 30, 2010

Top This!

Ok, enough with the self-indulgent meta-posts and back to our regularly scheduled puzzling. Another one of the puzzles that I got from ThinkFun was Top This!. It looked like an interesting variation on the usual assembly puzzle, so I thought it might be fun to try.

Top This! consists of two sets of pieces, one is orange and the other is blue. Each set contains two copies of each of the five tetrominos, which are the five ways of arranging four squares. The puzzle was invented by two junior high students from Taipei, Yu-chuan Lin and Chun-yen Chou.

Each of the challenge cards shows you two orange pieces and two blue pieces, and your task is to arrange them in the same shape so that one could cover the other. In the harder challenges, you have three pieces of each color to arrange.

A pretty neat concept, since usually with assembly puzzles you are trying to make a predetermined shape out of a set of pieces. In this puzzle, you don't know what the final shape is. Instead, you need to figure out how two different sets of pieces can make one shape.

Another interesting thing about this puzzle is that it demonstrates how approaching a problem from a different angle can make all the difference. Sometimes I would try in vain for several minutes to arrange the blue pieces in a way that the orange pieces could cover them. Having no luck, I would then try to arrange the orange pieces so that the blue pieces could cover them and would solve it almost immediately. You wouldn't think it would make a difference, but it really does.

As with all of ThinkFun's graduated puzzles, the fourty challenges start out with beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. I got through the beginner and intermediates pretty quickly (maybe 30 minutes or so). The advanced were a bit tougher, some I got pretty quickly and others I spent a few minutes on. The expert ones were a bit tougher, as you would expect. I think I got through the whole set in between 1 and 2 hours.

I don't want to give too much away, but somewhere among the challenges is a neat little trick that stumped me for a while. I thought it was great that they only put it in once, since it really caught me off guard!

One thing that I didn't like as much about this puzzle was the feel of the pieces. I think a denser plastic would have been preferable to me. Also, I'm not a big fan of the bag to hold the pieces since I'm a little OCD and the bag doesn't fit in tidily with my other puzzles. I'd rather a box or something for them, but that would drive up the price.

Overall, Top This! is a neat little puzzle at a very reasonable price. Definitely worth checking out!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm glad you liked this one! I have a mathematical paper on this game (or you can ask Andy Liu at IPP all about it as he was instrumental in bringing this one to ThinkFun).


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