August 8, 2010

2010 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

I covered the 2010 Puzzle Design Competition award winners in my last post, but there were plenty of other cool puzzles in the competition! In the next few posts, I'll be writing up my reaction to each of the remaining puzzles. Hope you enjoy it! All photos are from Names have been posted for puzzles that I know, but they haven't been publicly listed yet. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you can identify them!

#2 Pencil Case by Kagen Schaefer

This is a fairly unusual puzzle box that is quite a bit different from Kagen's prior work. It is beautifully crafted, as you would expect. I noticed that a large compartment was accessible immediately by sliding a panel to the right, as you can see in the photo. Inside the box were a number of pencils and the black hole you can see in the photo is a pencil sharpener. Depending on the individual, it might take a short while to solve this one, though some will solve it right away: the mechanism is pretty unique.

1443 by Donghoon Pee

This is an assembly puzzle that consists of 24 foam pieces that resemble the 24 characters of the Korean alphabet. It can be assembled into 13x4x3 and 13x12x1 shapes, as well as others. While the idea of having pieces that are the characters of the alphabet is somewhat appealing, there are way more pieces involved than I like to see in this type of puzzle. I didn't try to solve this one, because I thought that it would take too long.

2 Loops by Tom Lee

2 Loops is a puzzle where the goal is to remove the golden ring. It is attached to the frame by a doubled-over short length of rope. The disentanglement puzzles with flexible elements can get pretty tricky since there are so many options for what to do and it is easy to get them tangled up. This one was no exception! It took me a good 20-30 minutes to solve this one and get it back together. Even having done it, I'm not quite sure what I did, so I could definitely have spent more time with this one. It is a nice simple design.

2/3 Bump Cube by Hidetoshi Takeji

This is a Rubik's Cube variation that combines a Rubik's Domino (2x3x3) and the Mirror Cube. I didn't think this was particularly original since it combines two old ideas in an un-interesting way. I didn't spend time solving any of the twisty puzzles, since they tend to take a while.

3 Piece Burr Yamaosa by Osanori Yamamoto

This is a 3-piece burr of moderate difficulty. There is a rotational move, which makes it a bit more tricky. I spent a little while on this, but was unable to assemble it. It has the same name as a puzzle that Rob Stegmann brought to the 2009 New York Puzzle Party (blog entry), but I just noticed that now and am not sure if the pieces are the same. I didn't have any luck with that one either!

3 Pieces Octa-2 by Hiroshi Kaneko

This is an interesting assembly puzzle. As you can tell from the name, it has 3 pieces, which are unusually shaped. It is nicely crafted with a good fit, and I liked the wood choice. The stand was a nice touch. It isn't too hard to get apart: it interlocks, but once you remove the key piece it comes right apart. It took me maybe 5-10 minutes to get it back together after jumbling the pieces, which surprised me. The unusually shaped pieces were more confusing than I anticipated.

A Piece of the Pie by Allan Stein

This is a puzzle box that I was looking forward to trying. It has a neat appearance with the bolt going through the pie and the mutilated cutlery. However, upon trying it, I was able to open it easily with a simple trick. I looked at the solution, and there was supposed to be another step, but I hadn't needed to do it because the puzzle wasn't left in the correct starting position. I tried to return it to the starting position and it still didn't require an additional step to unlock, so I'm not quite sure what was wrong. Oh well!

Ambidextrous Hexduos by Matt Dawson and Robert Yarger

This is a fancy version of the puzzle boxes that Matt was presenting in the puzzle exchange where the goal is to open both boxes. I really liked this one and ended up purchasing a copy. It is beautifully crafted by Robert Yarger out of multiple woods that have been laminated together to give it the striped appearance. The solution is subtle and tricky to find, but cool. I was a bit disappointed that the solution is essentially the same for both boxes; I was hoping for two different tricks. However, the symetry in solutions is appropriate given the name.

Anteater by Yoko Kakuda

This is a pretty simple puzzle, a bit too simple for my taste. I got it as a Christmas present from the Karakuri Creation Group back in December. Some folks may enjoy the simplicity, but I wish there was a bit more to it.

Assorted Snakes by Osanori Yamamoto

This is a 5x5x5 assembly puzzle. There are four identical pieces which must be assembled into a 5x5x5 cube. I worked on this one for a good amount of time, maybe 20-30 minutes, but didn't have much luck with it. I was able to figure out how the first 3 pieces went, but I couldn't figure out how to get the 4th one in. The last piece is always the toughest! I really liked this one as far as this type of puzzle goes: the fact that all the pieces are the same is quite appealing, and it is tough to solve.

Black Box by Hirokazu Iwasawa (Iwahiro)

This puzzle consists of a box that has some polarizing elements on the inside, as well as nine triangular polarizing plates that can be placed inside the box. The goal is to make the box appear completely black. It was an interesting concept, but I didn't spend more than about 10 minutes on it and I think logically finding the solution would take quite a bit longer. I never got past the phase of just messing around with it: I think you would need to take a systematic approach since this is fairly difficult.

Black or White by Tomas Lindén and Vesa Timonen

The goal of this puzzle is to make a black (or white) square. It is a bit hard to tell from the picture, but each piece has a light and a dark side like an othello piece, where the border between light and dark is in the center of the edge. I incorrectly assumed that this one had to have some kind of cheesy trick, so I only worked on it for a few minutes before looking and the solution. In fact, the solution is quite a bit more clever than I anticipated.

Bump Domino Jared McComb

This is a Rubik's Cube variation that combines a Rubik's Domino (2x3x3) and the Mirror Cube. This is essentially the same puzzle as 2/3 Bump Cube. I'm not sure why the designer would enter both.

Butterfly Cage by George Miller

This is a beautiful example of what you can do with a laser cutter and some acrylic. George picked out some very nice iridescent acrylic for this one. The idea is to build a cage that doesn't have any mutant butterflies (i.e. no two-headed butterflies). Each piece has 4 half-butterflies on it, some of which have a slot in the back and some have a slot in the front and some have a slot in the back. They are also facing in different directions. I spent a good 10-20 minutes on this one, but this is another one where I would have needed a good amount of time to solve with a systematic approach. Cute puzzle!

Cannibal Monsters by Raf Peeters

Cannibal Monsters is a com-mercially available puzzle by Smart Games. It is a graduated puzzle with 48 challenges of increasing difficulty. It is similar to Lunar Lockout in that pieces can only be moved horizontally or vertically until they hit another piece. The difference is that rather than stopping when they hit a piece, they 'eat' them, meaning that the moving piece nests on top of the eaten piece. The tricky part is that each piece has a pattern on the top and the bottom of it, and the pattern on the top of the eaten monster must match up with the pattern on the bottom of the eating monster. The goal is to end up with only one tall monster.

I spent a while playing around with this one, since I had considered purchasing it before because I like graduated puzzles (more bang for your buck!) However, I didn't find it to be as enjoyable as other puzzles like Rush Hour and River Crossing, because it was harder to easily tell which moves were valid. I suppose you get better at it with time. I found the challenges, even the easy ones, to be pretty difficult. I would imagine the difficult ones are quite hard!

Chronos by Pantazis Houlis

This puzzle is a 3D representation of the 4D pentachoron (made from five tetrahedrons). The goal is to change the color of the internal rod to any of the ten possible colors. It is made out of rubber connectors and telescoping metal rods. Quite a unique puzzle! I didn't much care for the somewhat vague objective of switching the color of the internal rod. I didn't find it to be too difficult. Update: Pantazis mentioned this additional challenge which sounds more interesting and difficult - go through all ten different colors in the middle without repeating any of them.

Curvy Copter by Tom van der Zanden

This puzzle was inspired by the Bevel Cube (Okamoto) and Helicopter Cube (Cowan). By angling the cuts of the Bevel/Helicopter Cube, the otherwise hidden edge pieces were made visible. This looked like a very cool cube variation, but I didn't know where to begin to solve it. This was my favorite of the twisty puzzles.

Enveloop by Kohfuh Satoh

The goal of this puzzle is to remove the string and stick from the envelope. It reminded me of the buttonhole puzzle, only rather than being looped around a single buttonhole, the needle and thread are looped across two holes. It actually took me a little while to figure this one out. Once I got it, it seemed obvious, but it took me a while to get to that point. It also took me a while to put back. Cute and simple puzzle.

Globular Embrace 4 Rings by Namick Salakhov

This is an acrylic 4-piece puzzle where the goal is to take apart and reassemble the pieces. I didn't find this one to be particularly difficult. I may not have done it right, but the starting position wasn't very stable. It tended to collapse toward the direction of solving itself.

Hinomaru by Albert Gübeli

This is a simple 3-piece coordinate motion puzzle. The three pieces come apart in the typical coordinate motion fashion.

Japanese Sweets Box by Kyoko Hoshino

This is a cute little puzzle box that incorporates fabric, as Hoshino likes to do. The sweets can be taken out of the box, each sits in a little wooden tray. This one worked just like I expected it to, though there is a bit of misdirection that keeps it from being entirely straightforward. I think I liked this multi-color version better than the all-white version that they are currently selling.

Kepler Cube by Katsuhiko Okamoto

This is a nested twisty puzzle where the outer puzzle is a void cube and the inner puzzle is a apex-turning octahedron. The two puzzles are only connected at three points marked by stars. Therefore, if you are turning a face that includes a star, they will turn together. Otherwise, they will turn separately. I didn't try this one out, since it would probably take quite a while to solve.

Magnesphere by Mustafa Kürsat AY

Magnesphere is a sort of twisty puzzle with a magnetic core. The eight wedges rotate similarly to a 2x2x2 Rubik's cube, though rather than having colors on the outside, there are three identical pictures that you are trying to orient facing the clear wedge. It is a bit tricky to explain. I didn't much care for it because you can't usually see where the pictures are, unless they are visible through the clear wedge/window. I guess that's the point, but I have a terrible memory for that type of thing.

Minotaur's Burr by Frank Potts and Brian Young

This puzzle appears to be a 3 piece burr, but as you can sort of see in the picture, it is more of a maze. By shifting the maze, you can navigate one of the pieces to the exit. The funny thing about this one was that the piece that you navigate toward the exit can rotate, but it doesn't do anything when you rotate it because it is rotationally symmetric. Still, I was convinced that it wasn't while I was solving it. Only once I got it apart did I realize I was doing all that rotating for nothing. It is a fun puzzle, solidly crafted out of wood and metal. It is heavy!

MMMDXLVI by Kim Klobucher

This is a beast of a puzzle box by Kim Klobucher that requires an absurd 3546 moves to open! You can read about my struggles with this one at the end of this blog post. It is nicely crafted with a smooth motion. I really like Kim's use of different woods, his puzzle boxes have a very unique look. Not something I would want in my collection because it is just so painful to solve, but a nice box nonetheless!

Nicolas et Fridolin by Gregory Benedetti

This is a burr-in-frame style puzzle where not only do you have to figure out how to put the pieces together, you need to get them together inside the frame. I saw a number of people struggling with this one, but didn't spend any time on it myself since I thought it would take too long.

Ninja's Tool Box by Kohno Ichiro

This was another puzzle box that I was quite eager to try. When I saw the picture and read the name, I was hoping there would be some kind of ninja tools involved in opening the box. This wasn't the case, and unfortunately it was quite easy. Maybe it was just me, but it was somewhat difficult to get the box to stay locked at all.

Not So Easy by Teddy Sakamoto

Not so easy looks like a simple 8-piece jigsaw puzzle, but as the name implies it is a bit more tricky than you would expect since the pieces are tapered. I spent a good 10-15 minutes on this one and couldn't get it together. I thought I was systematically trying all the configurations, but I must've gotten mixed up somewhere. As soon as I put it down, somebody else was able to get it together pretty much on their first try! It is funny how if you get lucky with the first piece you place, sometimes this type of puzzle can work out very easily. It is a nice simple little puzzle.

Pinwheel by Bram Cohen and Jerry McFarland

This is a very nice looking puzzle that I actually got a sneak peek at back in January, thanks to John Devost. Check out that blog entry for a full review. I actually found it to be fairly simple, but a lot of people had difficulty with it. It is a non-trivial coordinate motion puzzle.

Quadrus by Jeremy Goode

This is a variation on a familiar dexterity puzzle where you are rolling a ball through a maze. The maze is quite unusual though, not your typical walls and floors. I'm not quite sure how to describe it. It is more like a series of pipes weaving around, and sometimes you have room to fit the ball through them, other times you ride along them. I played around with this one for a few minutes, but lost interest in it. This isn't really my type of puzzle, though it is a nice example of the genre.

Phew, I'm getting tired of typing! Are you tired of reading? We're more than half of the way through, so this seems like a good place to take a break. Stay tuned for Part 2!


  1. Pinwheel is by Bram Cohen
    Curvy Copter is by Tom van der Zanden (sp)
    Kepler Cube is by the same guy that did the Latch Cube (can't remember his name)

  2. Sweet! Thanks Derek! The post has been updated

  3. I love reading these writeups! I can't think of anything to add today, but I've just been reading one after another, whenever it's time to go to sleep then I'm not quite sleepy yet :-)



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