August 25, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

This is the fifth part of my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2012 Design Competition that did not win an award. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

Multidodecahedron - Tom van der Zanden

This beast of a twisty puzzle contains another twisty puzzle! Turns of the outer puzzle affect the inner puzzle also, and the goal is to solve both simultaneously. Oddly enough, this one stayed completely unscrambled for most of the weekend, though near the end somebody finally mixed it up. Probably too challenging to be worth attempting in the short time we had!

Nested Cubes - Tom Lensch

The goal of this puzzle is to put all the boxes inside the larger box, along with each of their lids. The tricky part is that the larger box has a metal rod protruding from the base (somewhat off center), which must align with holes in each of the smaller boxes.

I enjoyed this one: you sort of need to think of how you are going to approach it, since there are a few different options. Do you start with the smaller box and work your way to the larger ones, or the other way around? It is a bit repetitive, but I still found it fairly enjoyable. At one point I lost track of the orientation of one of the boxes that I had decided on, and ended up having to start over. Oops! Still, I think it ended up taking me about 15-20 minutes.

New 3-4-5iamonds - Koshi Arai

The goal of this puzzle is to pack the pieces into the tray. You can either do it with only the light side of the piece up, or with either side up for an easier challenge. I fiddled with this one for a bit, but didn't have much luck: those last few pieces always got me! Personally, I like tray packing puzzles with fewer pieces, 20 felt like a bit much.

One Circle - Two Circles - Diniar Namdarian

The goal of this puzzle is to get the marbles in groups of four aligned with the little colored dots on the frame. The center piece can be rotated to either form two circles or one big loop in order to re-order the pieces. I played with it for a bit and got it almost completed, but two pieces were in the wrong position and I threw in the towel. I think if I spent a bit more time with it, I could have figured it out though.

One big annoyance with this one was how easy it was to jam things up: it is pretty easy to accidentally start to rotate the center with only 7 marbles rather than 8, which causes problems. With practice, this could probably be avoided, but I encountered it quite frequently. Still, I liked that it was a fairly manageable sequential movement puzzle that I could actually make a good effort at solving.

Pack-Man - Chris Enright

This is a cute tray packing puzzle with five pieces. I really liked the theme on this one, and the fact that there were fewer pieces. Still, I didn't find it easy! I think I spent a good 15 minutes on it, without being able to solve it. I had intended to come back and make another attempt, but unfortunately I ran out of time. This seems like it would be a good one for mass market (though licensing would probably be an issue) or as an exchange puzzle.

Peanut Gallery - Eric Harshbarger
The goal of this puzzle is to arrange the pieces such that they are in the same arrangement as in the photo, but so that no two pieces of the same color are touching. Since I don't much like blundering in the direction of a solution when I'm not sure quite what it looks like, I just picked up the pieces to figure out the 'solved' state, then worked my way back to the way it is shown in the photo. Cheating? I suppose, but I think it works out the same way if you do backwards like I did or drawn out what the solved state will look like and do it forwards.

I made some pretty good progress, but got somewhat frustrated fiddling with the little pieces. I think it would have worked better if they were quite a bit larger. After a little while, you get to understand what types of moves are possible, and see how to clear the way for the move that you want to make. It was pretty tricky!

Pearson Puzzle Pieces - Randy Pearson

Inspired by Stewart Coffin's Pieces of Eight, this is an interesting dissection of the cube into eight pieces. I thought that it would be a bit like some of the Vinco designs like Diagra where the pieces link together in sequence, however they actually end up spanning either two or three positions within the cube, depending on the piece.

I didn't find it too challenging to figure out, I think it took me about 10 minutes, but it was quite satisfying dropping the last piece into place. One thing I noticed is that the final cube didn't hold together particularly well. Perhaps a frame, magnets, or just a tighter fit would help. Still, a fun little assembly puzzle!

Perplexing Palace Puzzle - James Dalgety

The goal of this puzzle is to help the queen escape for her jubilee! There are a number of discs blocking her movement, and you need to figure out how to get her to one of the exits. I fiddled with this one for a short while before deciding that it was impossible without some trickery.

This is a nice feature, I don't like when it takes you too long to figure that out, since many folks will just give up. In this case, it is fairly obvious, so I don't feel like I'm giving much away. For the actual trick, I thought that it tried a bit too hard to be tricky: somewhat less trickiness would have probably sufficed.

Prickly Burr 12 - Peter Conrad

I was a bit puzzled by this one, since it is somewhat hard to tell what the goal shape is. It looks like a cube, but I wasn't sure if there was a particular arrangement of pointy bits and holes on the outside that I was looking for (i.e. all the holes should be hidden). I also didn't know what the arrangement of pieces was going to be like: criss-crossed horizontal or some vertical and some horizontal?

Because of this confusion, I peeked at the solution to figure out what I was trying to do. With that in mind, I still didn't have a whole lot of luck actually making the assembly since indeed the holes are allowed to face the outside of the solution. Definitely a good challenge!

Puzzle in a Puzzle Box - Thomas Beutner

A puzzle in a puzzle box! First open the box, then assemble a pyramid from the pieces inside. The puzzle box is quite nicely crafted from walnut, with an ebony triangle on the top. The puzzle box itself isn't too tricky, it uses a trick that I've seen on a few boxes before. Once you have the box open, you find a number of pieces inside which you can use to construct a pyramid.

There's a bit of a trick to this part as well, that I thought was a bit too difficult to discover, though I didn't spend a lot of time trying. I think if you actually go through the full process of discovering the trick, it will be a nice surprise.

Well that's all for today! Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow!

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