Recently a reader, Brad Pyle, contacted me and offered to send a puzzle that he had made. Of course, I gladly accepted, and was quite curious as to what it could be. I guess I could have asked, but I thought it would be more fun not knowing!
It arrived in this very small box, which was decorated like a puzzle box! Since he told me to use caution with the puzzle, since it was delicate, I wondered for a bit whether the box might be the puzzle. As it turns out, that wasn't the case, but it is an interesting thought for you puzzle designers out there.
What was inside was this nice little paper cryptex puzzle, along with a two pieces of paper. For those of you not familiar with this type of puzzle, it consists of a number of dials which need to be placed in the appropriate position to reveal the contents inside. The word was coined by Dan Brown (writer of The Davinci Code) in 2003 to describe a portable vault used to hide secret documents. It works much like a cylindrical combination lock commonly used for bikes.
Usually I like to solve these types of puzzles by picking them: applying some amount of force to the drawer while rotating the dials. However, due to the delicate nature of the paper version (and so as not to spoil the fun), I solved it as intended, by decoding the clues Brad sent.
You can see the coded message at the top of this photo and the key down below. You'll notice, however, that there's some missing information! This makes it a bit trickier, but still pretty straight-foward. Give it a try if you'd like! The code itself comes from The Oak Island Mystery, a real-life mystery involving treasure and a coded message.
Decoding the message reveals a riddle, which leads to the eventual solution. Pretty cute! Here's a photo of the cryptex opened. Inside was congratulatory note and a link to Brad's new website: Brad's Brain Teasers and Puzzles.
If you're interested in making one for yourself, you can check out this website for plans. It takes quite a bit of careful cutting and pasting, but in the end you'll have a neat little paper cryptex.
I've been collecting mechanical puzzles since 2008. My favorite types of puzzles are puzzle boxes and disassembly puzzles, though I also enjoy interlocking solids, assembly puzzles, and pretty much everything else.
In the interests of full disclosure: I make a small percentage from purchases made through links in my blog to Amazon and Puzzle Master. I figure if I'm sending them traffic, I might as well get a piece of the pie.