February 25, 2011

2011 New York Puzzle Party (Part 3)

It was getting pretty late at this point, but I still had a bit of an urge to puzzle, and there were plenty of puzzles to choose from! One that caught my attention was The Wave, by CMC Puzzles. Unlike many puzzles which have a lot of right angles, this one has nice curves.

The object is to get the balls from one side to the other and back again. It is a bit hard to describe, but the balls interact with both the curved grooves as well as the straight grooves below, and you can slide the panel with the curved grooves up and down in the frame.

In the photo, the top ball prevents the slider from moving any further down, but it can make it over the hump and move to the left, while the other balls keep to the right.

This seemed very similar to the classic binary puzzle (e.g. Patience Puzzle), but it didn't work quite like I expected. I'd need to study it a bit more, but I think it is somewhat different.

I had a good time with this puzzle, it was much better than my experience with their puzzle boxes. I think laser cutting lends itself more readily to puzzles of this type. The clear acrylic top was nice, and I liked the curved design. It is a fun puzzle to fiddle around with, though pretty challenging. It took me maybe 10 minutes to solve, but it could take a bit longer if you're not as familiar with this type of puzzle. Laurie Brokenshire also did it quite quickly.

Up next, I was excited to try a type puzzle that I had seen a lot of photos of recently on the puzzle forums. This is a Coin Jigsaw Puzzle by Jeremy "Grin-an" Barret". Check out his website CoinCutArt for lots more photos and to purchase these remarkable (and inexpensive!) hand-made puzzles.

Cutting coins to make interesting designs is not a new art, but Jeremy decided to take it to the next level by cutting the coins into jigsaw puzzles. This requires an extraordinarily thin blade (half as thick as a human hair) in order to minimize the material removed. Jeremy developed a special technique to reduce the number of blades he breaks, but he still goes through several on each coin!

I found the story behind these puzzles to be quite interesting: after developing his technique, Jeremy tried selling these puzzles at a craft fair disassembled in small jewelry boxes with pictures on top, just like a regular jigsaw. Unfortunately, buyers didn't believe that the puzzle would actually assemble! It seemed impossible that the pieces could be cut so small out of an actual coin.

After an unenthusiastic response by buyers, he reassembled some of the puzzles and put them in transparent coin flips. He noticed that now the puzzles looked like coins again, so perhaps buyers would be more likely to purchase them. Indeed they were: customers were amazed and baffled that such a feat was even possible! Jeremy quickly sold out, and now coin puzzles are his most popular item.

You can get all different coins and numbers of pieces: dimes are 12 pieces and the silver dollar above is 25 pieces, which take between one and three hours to make. Jeremy spent 18 hours making a 52-piece puzzle out of a 1921 Silver Morgan Dollar!

I guess that's enough background: on to the puzzle! Most people will be content just marveling at how these coin jigsaws were crafted, but I wanted to see how hard it was to put it back together. Brett was kind enough to let me disassemble one of his, and I decided to start with a large one, the silver dollar shown above.

It was very neat seeing the tiny pieces as I scrambled them up. I quickly realized that one of the main challenges is recognizing the front and back of the pieces! Both sides are silver, and since they are so small it is hard to see patterns. I started out with the edges and any words I could find, since those were easier. I think it took me about 15 minutes to get it back together. Probably not something I'd do over and over again, but I was happy to see that it was doable! Some folks may prefer using tweezers (particularly on smaller coins), but I liked using my hands.

If you're ever trying to solve one of these, I would suggest assembling it in the case it came in! I did it on a table and it was a pain getting it back in the case! I tried to just move it, but half of it fell apart and I had to put it back together. The second attempt, I was smarter and used a piece of paper to make the transfer. Phew!

I think the last puzzle I accomplished Friday evening was an exchange puzzle that Laurie Brokenshire brought, named CuBeAll. Laurie had exchanged it (I think) at the IPP two years ago in San Francisco, and it is designed and crafted by Vaclav Obsivac (a.k.a. Vinco).

The objective is to create this cube shape. There are eight pieces, one of which is a hexagonal loop! The others are either three balls in a row, or three balls at an angle. Laurie told me a clever story about how pool cues went through the set of balls and got stuck, but some ended up getting bent. It was fairly elaborate, but that's all that I remember!

As a puzzle, I found it to be top notch! I was puzzled for a while, but eventually I figured it out by using logic, which is the most satisfying type of puzzle. I have a really hard time with puzzles constructed using spheres, such as George Bell's designs, and this one was no exception. I've found that it really helps if I look at a picture of the completed puzzle. Even though it is just as "simple" 3x3x3 cube, it helps me to be able to look at the completed form and visualize how the pieces can fit inside it.

It is expertly crafted by Vinco to have a nice tight fit. The final piece snaps into place and holds the whole thing together. Very cool! Once I had solved it, Laurie cruelly informed me that I didn't have the checkering pattern! Fortunately, it turned out to be a fairly easy thing to fix, and as you can see in the photo above I got it!

At this point, it was well past midnight and we needed to get to sleep for the puzzle party, so folks headed to bed. Next up, I'll cover the actual puzzle party!


  1. Thanks for the awesome review on my Numismatic Jigsaw Puzzles. Not quite the spoiler but reassemble the coin puzzle on a card of sorts and place the foam insert from the case on top flipping it back into its plastic snap. Perhaps part of the puzzle is getting it back in its case where it is best displayed. Thanks Once again. Jeremy Barrett aka Coin Guy

  2. and an update. I started a 60 piece last june in the same 1921 Morgan you spoke of in your blog. I recently finished it getting extra pieces where i could. I ended with 69 pieces and only I know of the one near visible flaw I made. Want to see it, e-mail me at grinan2@netzero.com or look it up on FaceBook. Thanks again...JB


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