February 14, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 2)

When we left off in Part 1, I was hanging out at Brett's house on Friday the night before the puzzle party. There were plenty of puzzles to try, so I was having a grand old time. At one point we stopped for dinner: a magnificent spread of sushi from the local sushi shop. After that, back to the puzzling!

Throughout the evening, I had been working on Quickstep designed by Jeff Namkung and available through Richard Gain's Microcubology Shapeways shop. Check out a review over on Puzzle Mad.

What had me vexed about this one was that it seemed impossible to combine the piece on the far left with the piece in the upper left without ending up with a gap on an outer face. For some reason, I thought this was an invalid arrangement and kept searching in vain for another option.

I hope I'm not giving anything away (it is in Rich's picture on Microcubology, after all), but it turns out that there is actually supposed to be a gap on one of the external faces! Once I'd come to terms with this, figuring out where the remaining 3 pieces went was a piece of cake! Of course, actually getting them to these positions was pretty challenging, since it requires 3 moves to add the 3rd piece, 5 moves to add the 4th piece, and 11 moves (!) to add the last piece. Pretty impressive!

With a bit of fiddling, I was able to figure it out, but it was certainly a challenge. Awesome puzzle! Also, I really liked the more open design that Rich was using for the pieces, it gives good visibility to what is going on inside, which is nice. Available for purchase here.

At some point, Rob Jones joined us for some puzzling and brought along a number of prototypes crafted by Jane Kostick, maker of the Tetraxis puzzle and more. Typically her puzzles consist of a number of sticks with magnets embedded in them. Based on the angles and spacing of the magnets, interesting geometric shapes emerge as you assemble them.

The prototype that I tried was designed by John Kostick and consisted of a single rhombic dodecahedron and two sets of sticks, one dark and one light. The dodecahedron sits in the center, where it is surrounded by the light sticks in the classic shape described by Stewart Coffin here. Next, the brown pieces are layered up in an interesting cage formation. Overall, the resulting shape is quite beautiful and has a nice symmetry to it! The assembly is fairly challenging, though the magnets guide you a bit. I think it took me a good 15-20 minutes to complete it, and it was quite enjoyable!

Rob brought a few other prototypes, but I didn't get a chance to snap a picture of them. They looked quite cool as well, so definitely keep an eye out for new stuff from Jane.

Next I got a chance to try Rattle Box designed by Tom Jolly and made by Eric Fuller. This is an interesting little puzzle: the goal is to take the cube apart, but there is a little piece inside that likes to prevent that from happening. There is a small hole you can stick your finger in to position the piece. It takes a bit of thought to figure out how to position it, and some dexterity to actually get it in place.

It is very nicely crafted by Eric out of exotic woods, and has a great fit and finish. I liked how he took the corner off of the piece blocking the hole, so you don't wind up poking yourself on it. Also, this makes it a bit easier if you have larger fingers.

One piece moves at the beginning, but you'll quickly come to a halt as the piece in the middle gets in the way. After a bit of inspection, I figured out where I needed to position it and completed the disassembly. Not too tricky, but a nice puzzle nonetheless. Read more in these reviews by Kevin and Allard.

Well at this point it was about 1:00 in the morning, and we needed to get up early for the puzzle party! I was getting pretty tired, as was everybody else, so we decided to head to bed. Here's a shot of Rob Stegmann, Rick Eason, Brett Kuehner, and Nick Baxter (left to right) at the end of the night.

Tomorrow, in Part 3, I'll be covering the actual 2012 New York Puzzle Party!


  1. Thanks for giving me all of the credit, but actually I didn't design that particular piece you took a picture of. It comes directly from Figure 10 on this page: http://tinyurl.com/82x7sa5
    There are at least 4 more versions I've been working on, some of which I did come up with, but based very heavily on John's prior work.

  2. Ah, thanks for the correction, Jane! I've updated the post to give John design credit. Very nice work!

  3. Thank you. There's a curved wire version that he first made in 1965. It works well as a display stand because the arrangement of the wooden sticks mimics the configuration of the bronze wires. You can see a picture of it on tetraxis.com.

  4. Hi Brian, concerning the metal puzzles with balls, I've made quite a satisfying You tube video. You've time, I recommend you watch it because most people only find one way to play it, in fact there are two different movements.
    The title:Third version of double 8 metal ring puzzle
    The link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn4CYCKkQWo

  5. Cool! I'll have to give that a try!


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