January 4, 2012

2011 Karakuri Club Christmas Presents (Part 3)

This next Karakuri Club Christmas present was created by Tatsuo Miyamoto. His works tend to be mechanically quite unique, which is why I kept him on my list from last year. This puzzle box appears to be some kind of an water pump, oil pump, or something.

The horizontal bar teeters back and forth, and is attached to the two arms that go into the box. There is also a handle on the front that tilts from side to side. The note inside the package recommends playing with this puzzle on a table.

I was a bit stumped by this one at first, but came up with an idea for how it may work and ended up being correct. I think it could have quite easily have gone the other direction, and ended up circling around fruitlessly for a while testing incorrect theories. In all, it probably took me less than 5 minutes, but I think it could easily take quite a bit longer.

The solution is decent, but will probably be more appealing once I'm more clear on what this contraption is supposed to represent. It may be a device used in Japan which we're not familiar with here.

I tried for quite a while to find a second compartment, since there is definitely room for one. I did find something, but I'm not quite satisfied that it is correct. Once the solutions are published, we'll see if I was on the right track or simply chasing my tail. Contact me if you have this puzzle and would like to discuss.

Overall, a good puzzle. Some may not like the hidden nature of the mechanism, but I felt like there were enough clues to point you in the correct direction. Not my favorite of this year's puzzles, but still a good  puzzle box. It will be even better if there's a second compartment that I've missed!

Finally, we have a puzzle by Shiro Tajima that folks were eagerly anticipating. In 2009 he did a Tiger, and in 2010 he did a Rabbit, so this year we were expecting a Dragon (based on the Chinese zodiac) and weren't disappointed. Indeed it was a dragon, but somewhat abstractly so. I found the appearance of his previous two Christmas gifts to be more striking.

The first step took me a little while to find, but isn't too tricky and is pretty fun. After that, I had some trouble figuring out where to go next. There was one obvious thing to do, but that didn't quite work. After five minutes or so, it did open up, but I was unable to reproduce the result reliably. With a bit of fiddling, I could get it to open fairly quickly, but not 100% reliably. I shrugged it off and just figured the mechanism was fluky. However, when I was revisiting the puzzle a bit later, I found a way to get it to work 100% reliably, so I guess I was just not quite doing it correctly before. Still, I'd consider that a bit of a negative to the way the mechanism was implemented.

Closing it up can actually be a bit tricky if you haven't quite gotten the hang of how to get it to work reliably, but once you've got things in the right position, it closes smoothly. Folks may be tempted to force it at this point, but no force is required and could definitely cause some damage.

Overall, I think this is a good puzzle, though it has a few shortfalls. Still, I'm very glad to have purchased it in the hopes that Tajima continues this Chinese Zodiac series! Next year we can hope for a snake.

Neil wrote a blog entry about this puzzle as well, so check that out if you'd like to read more, but there are a few semi-spoilers.

That concludes my series of posts on the 2011 Karakuri Club Christmas Presents. Overall, I think Kawashima's box is my favorite, followed by Kamei, but the rest were quite good as well! I'm already looking forward to next year!


  1. Miyamoto's puzzle is an oil derrick, isn't it? Sure looks like one, anyway. Do the two sides go up and down like an oil derrick or see saw?

  2. Yep, that was one of my guesses too. I suppose it does sort of look like this type of derrick: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpjack

    The sides do go up and down like a see-saw.


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