October 19, 2011

Redstone Box

Redstone Box (a.k.a. Melting Block) is Creative Crafthouse's version of this classic packing puzzle designed by Thomas O`Beirne. The folks at Creative Crafthouse were kind enough to send me a copy to review. Thanks!

The puzzle consists of a box with a lid, with a red block on the top serving as the handle to help slide the lid off. Inside, you'll find that the box is packed completely full. So what's the puzzle? To find room for the red block on the top of the box! The fun of this puzzle is that it seems impossible, but indeed is quite possible.

This puzzle uses a commonly used principle whereby a tiny amount of wiggle room in the initial configuration can be 'collected' (by rearranging the pieces) into one spot that is big enough to contain the target piece. Of course, even if you know the principle, this can be quite tricky in practice!

I think it took me a good 30 minutes to solve this one, which was really starting to try my patience since it seems like it shouldn't be all that hard! One thing that tripped me up a bit is that the fit of the pieces isn't quite right. In the correct orientation, they stick up a bit above the edge of the box and it takes force to get the lid on. Initially, I figured that I was wrong and tried different things, but eventually I determined that I was probably on the right track initially and it was just a snug fit. A quick glance at the solution confirmed that I was correct. Even with this in mind, it still took me a while to finish it off, the solution isn't very intuitive! As Kevin mentions in his blog entry, even after solving it once it can be a good challenge to do it again. Allard also posted a review here.

For more info, check out Creative Crafthouse's video about this puzzle here.

I would imagine that the fit issue was just a problem with my particular copy of the puzzle, and generally won't be an issue. If you do, I'm sure they would let you exchange it per their returns policy. [Update: Dave from Creative Crafthouse said that this is the first reported incident of the cover being too tight]. Aside from that issue, the quality of the puzzle is good, with a smooth finish and nicely beveled pieces. Some folks may not like that the red piece is stained rather than a natural wood color, but I think it makes it pop nicely. The stain lets the grain of the wood show through, so is much better than paint. Overall, Redstone Box is a fun puzzle that is worth checking out!

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