Part 5 of my series of posts about the 2010 Rochester Puzzle Picnic, Jeff Aurand gave a talk about writing a computer program to solve all TenPlate puzzles. At the end of his talk, he had a drawing for a copy of this puzzle, and I won one!
I hadn't had a chance to work on it until now, and I was curious to see how difficult it would be to solve manually. In this photo by Jeff you can see it in one of its solved positions. There are a number of solutions to it, though Jeff would have remind me how many.
This puzzle was designed and made by Jean-Claude Constantin and was Luc De Smet's exchange puzzle at IPP28 in Prague. It is nicely laser cut with what appears to be a veneer of some sort, which gives it a pretty good finish for a laser cut puzzle.
I worked on it for about 20 minutes before dinner one night. My strategy was to just guess at the location of a particular piece, and try to find a combination of the other pieces that would work. When a particular arrangement wouldn't work, I'd rearrange a piece or two in hopes of remedying the issue without screwing something else up. I hoped that I had picked a location that would work for that first piece! Unfortunately I ran out of time that night and had to return to it the next day.
The next day I had a bit more time, and again continued down the same path that I started the previous day. After about 30 more minutes, I was cursing the fact that the last piece wasn't going to fit yet again. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that it would! I was quite satisfied as the last piece slid into place.
The one thing that bugged me about this puzzle was the difficulty in lining up the pieces. Since they are fairly long, it is hard to get them quite lined up so that the grooves slide together. On more than one occasion, I would be lifting the puzzle up and wiggling pieces trying to figure out why it wouldn't slide together, only to have another piece fall out of place.
Also, it is a bit of a dexterity problem to try to get a piece out of the bottom layer without everything falling apart. I ended up just taking off most of the top layer before messing with the bottom layer, since that was usually safer.
A similar puzzle that avoids these issues is StabPuzzle by Logika Spiele. Logically it is the same idea, but physically the pieces are different. This particular puzzle is a bit simpler since it only has 8 pieces rather than 10, but the same idea could be adapted to this 10-piece puzzle. While it may be easier to manipulate, it doesn't look quite as cool as TenPlate or stay together as well.
Rob Stegmann's website has quite a bit of information on this group of puzzles, which he calls Crossed Sticks puzzles. He even wrote a solver that could solve variations of this puzzle up to 5x5. Pretty cool!
Overall, a nice little puzzle. I would say that it is fairly difficult, you'll need to be either lucky or patient when solving this one. Thanks again to Jeff for giving it to me!
17 hours ago