August 27, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 7)

This is the seventh (and final!) 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.

Tritalon - Iwahiro (Hirokazu Iwasawa)

This was another one of the puzzles that I was quite interested in trying, since I'd seen some folks posting about it over on the Renegade forum. The goal is to remove the coin, but it is trapped by three sturdy aluminum pieces connected by metal rods.

I noticed something about this one pretty much immediately that led me to the solution. I think it took me about 2-3 minutes, though a good portion of this was spent actually executing the solution. It does have a bit of a tendency to jam up, which is unfortunately unavoidable due to the design. Still, it is an excellent design and a fun easier one for friends to try. You need to be a bit careful when disassembling it completely to reassemble it properly, but complete disassemble isn't necessary to solve it.

TriTangle - David Pitcher

This is another twisty puzzle  that I unfortunately didn't have the time to make much of an effort on. It looks fairly simple, since it only has three turning axes, however after fiddling with it a bit I didn't make much progress.

Twisted Symmetry - Steve Winter

This is a dexterity maze where the goal is to navigate the ball from the entrance to the exit. It is a bit hard to tell where the entrance and exit are, but if you look closely you'll find them. Steve has also painted symmetric designs on each face using an enamel paint, which adds a bit to the otherwise plain white appearance.

As a puzzle, this one is a bit more complicated than Bare Bones, his other design. I did like the fact that you could actually completely remove the ball from this one, using his interesting lever-release mechanism. Also, when you first introduce the ball to the puzzle, it pops in nicely by pushing a piece aside, but then won't come out until you get to the exit. A nice touch!

Varibyrinth - Rohit Kumar Singh

This is quite a unique puzzle that is a combination of a sliding block puzzle and a maze. The goal is to position the pieces such that the ball can roll from the start to the finish. What I really liked was that rather than just having boring lines painted on the sliding pieces, which would essentially be the same puzzle, there is actually a ball which needs to roll through the maze once you've solved it.

Rohit has also implemented a really neat mechanism that prevents the ball from starting its journey until the pieces are in the correct position. This prevents you from cheating and moving the ball around with the pieces. Once the pieces are in the correct position, a switch on the bottom can be flipped, which moves a gate out of the way and allows the ball to move. I'm not quite sure how it works, but there are little metal balls on the pieces that clearly have something to do with it. Perhaps magnetism? Let me know if you know!

[Update: I heard from Rohit that it actually works like a lock: below each sliding piece is a spring-loaded pin. Only when each piece is the correct position, do the pins properly line up to allow the piece on the bottom to slide. Quite clever!]

As a puzzle, it was a tough challenge trying to figure out the route, but similar to Peanut Gallery, it is much easier to solve on paper and then try to reproduce the solution with the sliding blocks. If you just start sliding blocks around, you'll spend a lot of time trying to get the pieces in a position that may or may not end up being correct.

W8-Variation - Donghoon Pee

The goal of this puzzle is to use all of the eight pieces to build a checkered shape that is the same shape as any of the eight pieces. Pretty neat, since it has eight different goals, and the checkering helps limit the options that you need to try. This one didn't really grab me to spend much time with it, unfortunately. I spent a few minutes, but didn't end up making much progress.

Washington Skyline - William Waite

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble all the pieces in a loop. The pieces contain the parts of an imaginary skyline with iconic DC buildings/monuments. Also hidden in the skyline are three presidents' profiles, so the challenge is to find those as well.

I found this to be a pretty tough assembly puzzle, since there are a bunch of pieces and they all fit together. The only way to tell whether you've got it right is whether the skyline makes sense: the buildings should all end up upright. Pretty neat!

With Luck or Effort - Ichiro Kohno

The goal of this puzzle is to get the ball onto the end of the stick (as in the photo). You can either do it by trying to be lucky (with luck), or with dexterity (with effort). I went with the dexterity route and ended up making it on my first try! There is a groove on the edge of the rod, so it stays in there fairly nicely. You just need to keep it from rolling off the far end. Not much of a challenge, so I didn't much care for this one.

W-Toast - Osanori Yamamoto

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the four identical pieces within the frame. Sounds simple enough, but getting that last piece in there was quite tricky! There's plenty of rotational moves required.

The craftsmanship is quite nice, I liked the use of contrasting wood on the corners of the frame as well as on the blocks connecting the two L-shaped parts of each piece.

XXXII - Sándor Bozóki

The goal of this puzzle is to to balance the 32 sticks on top of the Washington Monument. It is similar to the classic nail balancing puzzle, but is a bit trickier because you don't have the heads on the nails to use. I found it to be quite a dexterity challenge to get the sticks assembled in the proper shape, since they tend to fall apart or slip out of position. Pretty neat!


Well that brings us to the end of my series of posts on the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition puzzles! I hope you've enjoyed reading them! I'll be on vacation for the next week, but when I return I'll be writing about the awesome weekend I just at at the Rochester Puzzle Picnic.

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