August 23, 2011

2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)

This is the fourth and last post in my series reviewing the puzzles in the 2011 Puzzle Design Competition.

Snake Cube by Hideaki Kawashima

This is another 2010 Karakuri Club Christmas Present that I already own. Check out the full review here, I really enjoyed it! I thought this one would win something, since it has a nice movement with an interesting pattern, but I guess there were a bunch of other good puzzles this year, too!

Spin by Tom Lee

I unfortunately didn't have time to attempt this one. Like I've mentioned before, I'm not particularly good at string disentanglements, and it looked like this one would take me a while. I'll have to practice up on them before IPP32 so I can get through more of these next year.

Spinnomotto by Stephen Chin

This is another interesting and unique puzzle by Stephen Chin. The goal is to open the box and find the small top inside. He used a woodworking process called segmented wood turning to create the pattern on the barrel. In this process, segments of wood are layer up and glued together to make a decorative pattern. Very neat!

The top of the barrel has a plastic covering, through which you can see a hole and a metal ball. You can't quite get the metal ball into the hole because of a lip around the hole. There is also a top that is part of the puzzle. There are a few steps to this puzzle, I found the beginning pretty easy, but the ending is a bit tougher with a nice little surprise. It also contains a bit of electronics that plays a little tune when you solve it, which is cute.

Spiral-n by Dimitar Vakarelov

Unfortunately this is another set of string puzzles I didn't get a chance to solve. Similar to Fan-2n, techniques for Spiral 2 are used to solve Spiral 4. It looks tricky!

Spots by Steve Kemp

The goal of this puzzle is to put the magnetic tiles on each face of the cube, so that the numbers 1-6 are represented by the dots. Unlike a standard die, the spots are not oriented symmetrically, which makes it a good deal harder!

I played around with this one briefly, but it seemed like ti was going to take quite a while considering how many pieces there were (48). Perhaps there is a clever way to do it in a reasonable amount of time, but I didn't discover it during the short time I worked on it.

Tea Time by Victor Lam and Kazakh Wong

This is a cute little puzzle that consists of a beautifully turned teacup and saucer, with a spoon stuck through the handle of the teacup. The spoon is held in place by a cube (sugar cube?) and string, and the goal is to remove them. The teacup is quite thin, which is impressive, but it made me a bit afraid that I was going to damage it.

As a puzzle, it was fairly easy, even with the flexible component that usually causes me trouble. One annoying thing was getting the string back through the cube, the hole was a bit too small to do it easily so I had to kind of twist up the string and feed it through like I was threading a needle.

Three-Cornered Deadlock by Hideaki Kawashima

This is another puzzle box by Kawashima, and the goal is to open all three boxes at the same time. It looks a bit like three Snake Cubes stuck together, and is quite large. The movements are similar to Snake Cube, but not exactly the same. I started out and was able to open one of the boxes fairly easily, and I hoped that there was a clever way to simultaneously open all three boxes. Unfortunately, you just need to leave the lid off of the first box, then backtrack and do the second box. This feels a bit repetitious, I wish there was something new added in there along the way.

Tick Box by Sam Cornwell

This is a bit of a variation on a sliding-block puzzle, the goal is to disassemble and reassemble it. At first, it seems like nothing will move, which is a bit surprising for a puzzle of this type. It turns out that there is something sneaky going on with this one!  It took me about 3 minutes to solve, but I wasn't quite sure what I had done until it fell apart. Once it was apart, I could see what was going on.

TriPenTile by Péter Gál

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the pieces to fill in the holes. There are additional problems in the booklet too. As you may be aware, regular pentagons cannot tile a plane, so while these pentagons have sides that are the same length, the angles have been tweaked to allow them to tile properly without gaps.

I worked on the bottom problem for a good 10-20 minutes, but didn't have any luck. The geometry is very confusing, so it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what piece would fit where. Contrast this with pentomino packing where you can tell visually what is possible quite easily. This makes for an interesting challenge above the usual tray packing puzzles. I also liked the book format, it packs up nicely to bring with you.

Triple Mosaic by Wim Zwaan

The goal of this puzzle is to make a mosaic with 9, 6, or 4 black squares. The pieces are all tetrominoes (like Tetris), though there is no square piece. There are four L's, two I's, two T's, and one S. The pieces are all nicely crafted from solid wenge and maple, so they can be flipped over, which makes it even more tricky.

I spent a little while trying to make the 9-square mosaic, and didn't have much luck. I could get it mostly done, but always had the odd piece or two that wouldn't fit. I really liked this one, because it gives you a bit of a starting point for your packing, since the colors need to match up properly. This reduces the search space somewhat, so you don't need to try every piece that fits, only the ones that will continue your coloring. Still, I found it pretty tough and couldn't complete it in the 10 or so minutes I spent on this one.

Twelve Piece Burr Ball by George Miller

The goal of this puzzle is to disassemble and re-assemble the burr. Each piece is a half-circle that is notched on the inside and outside of the curve in five different spots. By aligning the notches, the ball below can be constructed. I started to take the first piece out of this one, but quickly realized that it would become a bit of a mess so I decided to leave it alone. It seems like it would take quite a bit of trial and error to figure out the arrangement of the pieces, and it would be quite challenging with this unusual geometry. George notes that the flexibility of the wood is necessary to get the first piece out, which made me a bit nervous.

Twisted-8 by David Pitcher

This is another baffling twisty puzzle that I didn't attempt. The designer notes that it turns on 10 different axes: the eight axes around the equator turn 180 degrees and the two axes at the four-sided vertexes can turn in 45 degree increments, allowing for shape-shifting.

Wandering Chain - Three Rings by Ede Gergényi

This is another interesting looking chain disentanglement puzzle, and I wasn't optimistic about being able to figure it out during the time I had. The geometry of it is pretty confusing, with the three rings linked together in an interesting way. I think I spent a good 10-20 minutes on this one, but didn't have any luck solving it. It does have a nice visual appeal, it doesn't leave your eye a place to rest.

WAY by Volker Latussek

This is an interesting construction puzzle where the goal is to build free-standing circuits. Free-standing in the sense that they won't fall over, and circuit in the sense that it is one big loop of pipe. One thing that wasn't clear from those instructions is that you can build up off the table, you're not restricted to building the circuit flat.

I liked the way that this puzzle had a number of different challenges of increasing difficulty: you could start out by trying to build with 2 L's, 2C's, and 1 S and move up from there. I found this beginning challenge to be pretty tricky, since adding that third dimension makes things a bit more complicated.

I'm not sure whether it would change the puzzle at all, but it would have been nice of the pieces linked together somehow to make the structure more stable. Or perhaps had flat spots so they didn't roll around quite as much. Still, it was an interesting and fun challenge.

You can purchase this puzzle or find more information here.

Xmatrix Cubus by Jeremy Goode

The goal of this puzzle is to navigate the ball from the gold frame to the silver frame and back again. I'm not a huge fan of this type of puzzle, but it is very nice looking and fairly challenging to solve. I spent a little while wandering around in the maze, but didn't have much luck with it. Due to the way the maze is constructed, it is a bit challenging to see what the path looks like, though I guess that's the point! You can purchase it here.

Zen by Carbriel Lai

Finally, we have Zen which is another flexible string disentanglement puzzle, and has the unusual component of a laser-cut acrylic frame. Personally, I prefer the classic bent-wire look, but this sure does look different! Again, I didn't have any luck solving this one.

Well that's all! I hope you've enjoyed this series of posts about the design competition puzzles. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Here are links to the whole series of posts in case you missed something:

Berlin Awards Banquet (Part 1) - Top 10 Vote Getters
Berlin Awards Banquet (Part 2) - Award Winners
2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)
2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 2)
2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 3)
2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)


  1. I must say I don't see how the judges can get through so many puzzles! I have often glanced at the solution after a quick try, because there is so little time to try each one. Often I have regretted doing this.

  2. Thanks for such a comprehensive run through. In a way it is a good thing I did not attend - I might end up going broke!!


  3. Great blog series on IPP Germany...thanks Brian! :)

  4. Great job on the write up of the puzzles! There is usually so little info on the entries....

  5. Re: The geometry of it is pretty confusing, with the three rings linked together in an interesting way
    Dear Brian,
    Concerning this wire disentanglement, I have figured out what the underlying structure of it.
    If you have time, would you please take a look at the following video, which had been made before the official solution announced.
    Title: Another IPP2011 entries -- Wandering Chain - Three Rings
    The video does not only tell you the solution(actually the solution is not that important), it also tell you the design principle
    behind this very wire(string)puzzle.
    If you really like to watch it, I'm going to send you the link separately. Because 2 days ago, I wrote down some other links the comments disappeared two times.
    Mechanical puzzle addict

  6. George: Indeed! I know that one copy is sent to California and one is sent to Europe before the competition, so maybe Nick has extra time to review them? I guess it is probably just so he can get the photos and descriptions prepared.

    Thanks Kevin, John, and Jerry! Glad you enjoyed the series! It is a bit tedious to write, but I'm glad folks are finding it interesting!

    Mechanical Puzzle Learner: Sorry, your other comment got incorrectly classified as spam. I unflagged it so it should be visible now. I'll check out the videos!

  7. Thank you Brian for the excellent report on what happened in Berlin. It is very well written and complete. Your blog is very important for people like me that could not make it to Berlin. It answers to the famous question: "What is new in the puzzle world?" Now I know… Please continue the good work!

  8. Thanks Daniel! We missed seeing you in Berlin! Hope you can make it to IPP32 next year!

  9. Re: your other comment got incorrectly classified as spam. I unflagged it so it should be visible now
    So I add the link of the video that I recommended a few days ago.
    Title: Another IPP2011 entries -- Wandering Chain - Three Rings
    Hope you like the video!
    Mechanical puzzle learner

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