September 8, 2010

CMC Puzzles

The last group of puzzles that Jeff loaned to me were a series of puzzles made by CMC Puzzles in Germany. Jeff had written about each of them on his website, so I was interested in trying them out to see how I liked them. Note that all the photos are taken by Jeff.

They are all fairly inexpenve, ranging from 10 to 20 euros, which is a great price range. Here's a direct link to the section ef the CMC website that contains this category of puzzles. They are under the Technikspiele category.

This first one is Beziehungskiste, which is falsely attributed to Stewart Coffin on CMC's website. I believe that this mechanism was invented by Alan Boardman, though I have also seen a similar mechanism in other puzzle boxes. Jeff also notes this in his blog entry about this puzzle. Since I had seen the trick before, it only took a minute or two to solve.

The name means "relationship crate" though the name doesn't seem to have an obvious relationship to the mechanism. Perhaps it has additional meaning in German beyond what can be gathered from Google Translate.

It is made with a laser cutter out of plywood, the finishing is pretty rough and the fit is a bit loose. For the price, this is not unreasonable, but compared to Bits and Pieces, who also produce puzzle boxes in this price range, I prefer the natural wood used by Bits and Pieces.

Rather than purchase this, I would suggest Small Box #2 from the Karakuri Creation Group. The mechanism isn't identical, but the way of solving it is. It is much cleaner and better crafted for only slightly more money, though shipping is included.

This next one is called Bee Box. It has an octagonal shape, which I first thought was related to the bee theme, but then I realized that honey combs are hexagonal, not octagonal. Oh well! The engraving on the top is cute.

The construction quality is similar to Relationship Box: pretty loose, not particularly well finished. There are scorch marks from the laser that you can see in the photo, which looks a bit sloppy.

This puzzle has the unfortunate problem of solving itself during transit. As Jeff mentioned, it arrived solved when he got it. I initially thought that it just wasn't locked properly, but when I received it it was also unlocked! Upon inspection, I don't think the mechanism will typically be able to stay locked during shipping.

As such, if you purchase this puzzle, upon receiving it, you should give it to somebody else to re-lock it, so you can have the enjoyment of solving it. Unfortunately, I don't think it comes with instructions, so this person should be mechanically inclined so they can figure out what needs to be done. If I had done this, I think it would have taken about ten or twenty minutes to solve, but it is hard to tell. You may be tempted to use an external tool for this one, but as Jeff noted in the comments, this is not necessary!

This puzzle box is called Maple Chest, and has a nice little maple leaf on the top. The fit is slightly better on this, though the finish is a bit rough. There was some scorching on the inside of the back panel that you can see in the photo.

Similar to Jeff's experience, I was able to open this one reliably, but I'm not sure if I had the correct solution. The mechanism is not visible when the box is open, so it is hard to tell.

This could probably be opened by jiggling it around randomly enough, but my solution involved an external tool and is not particularly clever. It took me a few minutes to figure this out. I think I have a fairly good understanding of what the mechanism is like, and that is the only solution that I could figure out. I'd be interested to know if there is a better one, but I doubt it.

This box, named Mini Crate, is actually the one that took me the longest to solve, probably about 10 minutes. This was a bit surprising, since, as Jeff notes, it has the same mechanism as another puzzle box that we have both tried.

The construction and finish are similar to the other boxes. There is a slight scorch mark on the lower right of the lid. This one is quite a bit smaller than the other boxes, which makes sense given the name.

I would sugest purchasing Fake Box by the Karakuri Creation Group instead: it has the same mechanism and is much nicer looking.

The last puzzle is Bolt, also by CMC puzzles. It is pretty small, about two inches long. Unlike the other puzzles, this is not a box. The goal is to remove the metal bolt from the wooden stick.

Since this one was pretty small, the number of ways that it could work seemed fairly limited. I tried a few of the usual things that I try, and none of them worked. After studying it for a bit, I was able to figure out the solution.

It is pretty clever, and I like the compact size. It would be a good one to carry in your pocket or something, but it is a bit difficult to give to non-puzzlers. I think most will find this to be quite difficult! I think this is my favorite of these five puzzles.

Overall, I was not very impressed by the puzzle boxes from CMC, but they have a number of other types of puzzles that look pretty interesting. I would just steer clear of these particular puzzle boxes, but I enjoyed Bolt and would recommend it.

A big thanks again to Jeff for loaning me all of these puzzles! They are back in California with Jeff now, along with a number of the puzzle I recently picked up while in Japan, so you can look forward to his posts about those on soon.


  1. Brian, the Bee Box does NOT require external tools. For a spoiler, follow the below link to Grand Illusions:

  2. Thanks Jeff! I should have examined it more closely. The post has been updated to remove that comment, and I added a note that external tools are not necessary.


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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