Jury First Prize
burr in a cage, which can be a bit daunting, however this puzzle box is just the right level of difficulty.
|Peter Wiltshire with his trophy designed by|
Yavuz Demirhan and made by Tom Lensch!
Only 20 were made, most of which were destined for use in another project, but a few of which went to collectors. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a copy from Peter, thanks Peter! Overall, this is an awesome puzzle box, definitely worthy of the First Prize. [Update: I just found out that Peter has decided to make more! They will be listed on Puzzle Paradise, so keep an eye over there!]
Houdini's Torture Chamber by Brian Young is an excellent puzzle, and quite unique! The goal is to extract Houdini (the upside-down peg) from the tank (the plastic enclosure). This was Brian's exchange puzzle last year, which I purchased.
It is a sequential discovery puzzle, meaning that you discover tools to help you along the way as you work on the puzzle. However, what you do with the tools you are given is the challenge! Most people that I have showed this to are able to figure it out in a reasonable amount of time, 10-20 minutes, and are quite pleased by the way it works. It utilizes an interesting mechanic to enable the solution: no dexterity or whacking required!
As far as drawbacks, there isn't much to speak of, other than that you need to put it back the way it started properly: if you don't do it correctly it can be either trivial or tricky to get it back apart, depending on the error. Still, the odds of doing this accidentally are pretty low for an experienced puzzler (or a non-puzzler with some common sense). This is a great puzzle and I'm glad to see that it got some recognition in the competition.
Jury Grand Prize
Double G by Jinhoo Ahn is a puzzle that I was really looking forward to checking out. It looks a lot like a Hanayama Cast Puzzle-style design, and I'm a huge fan of Hanayama Cast Puzzles. It is a nice, hefty puzzle machined out of aluminum, where the goal is to separate the two pieces.
It would be pretty straightforward, but there are some annoying protrusions from the corners of the pieces that stop the obvious path toward separating them. The actual move sequence takes a number of moves, various rotations and such, that is fairly tricky. Once I started to get the hang of how to avoid the obstructions, I was able to get it apart without too much trouble.
I did like it, though I'm not sure I agree that it deserves a Grand Prize. The design does have a nice simplicity and elegance, as well as a fairly broad appeal due to these factors, which is probably why it did so well.
Smartegg by Andras Zagyvai is a very interesting sequential movement puzzle. The goal is to start with the stick on one end of the egg, and work your way to the other end. This seems easy enough when you look at the picture, but I assure you it is quite challenging!
The rod has nobs on either end, which restrict its movement, and the egg also has an inner core which rotates and moves up and down. The stick interacts with both the core and the external maze, resulting in quite a complex maze! I spent a good hour to solve this one the first time, and it took me another half hour to solve it a second time since I wasn't quite sure of exactly what I had done. To add insult to injury, multiple people told me that this is one of Andras' easier versions of this puzzle! I hate to think what a hard one would be like: it could keep you busy for quite a while!
The mechanics of this puzzle are quite interesting, he really takes it to the next level from a design perspective. There are lots of interesting moves to discover, it isn't all the same which is part of what makes it challenging. Also, the craftsmanship is superb, it feels great to play with.
The only drawback to this one that I can think of is the hidden-maze aspect: you can peer through the slots to try and figure out what the core looks like, but at times it feels like things are behaving a bit randomly. With persistence, puzzlers should be able to overcome this, but it could be a bit frustrating at first. Overall, a top notch puzzle and an excellent choice by the judges!
Finally we come to the Puzzlers Award, which is awarded based on votes by all the attendees. This year, the Puzzlers Award went to Square in the Bag by Iwahiro (Hirokazu Iwasawa). It seems simple enough: put the square in the bag! Unfortunately, the bag is half the height of the square, so it really doesn't want to fit.
When I first saw a picture of this one, I had a guess about how it would be solved. It turns out I was correct about how it could fit in the bag, but actually getting it to fit in that way is the tricky part. Note that the square doesn't flex at all, and the bag isn't stretchy at all either. The fit is a bit tight at one point, but you wouldn't want it to be too much looser.
This is a great puzzle because it appealed to all skill levels, everybody wanted to give it a try and generally people had a good time with it. It has a "that's impossible" reaction when you first see it, which is fun. It would be a good one to carry around with you and show to non-puzzlers. With a bit of patience, most should be able to figure it out. For all these reasons, I can definitely see why it did so well!
Well, that brings us to the end of the awards banquet, and the end of my trip to the 2012 International Puzzle Party in Washington, DC. I hope you've enjoyed reading it! Up next, I'll be reviewing the rest of the eighty (!) puzzles in the design competition!