February 28, 2012

Havana's Box #2

I recently purchased the next box in Eric Fuller's cigar puzzle box series, called Havana's Box #2: The Heather. It is named after one of the part-timers that works at Eric's local cigar shop. Like its predecessor, this box is crafted mainly out of quartersawn Sapele. It was available with either a Bleached Lacewood or Quilted Primavera veneer on the lid. I chose the lacewood since it looked nice!

I thought the Wenge veneer on Havana's Box #1 worked alright, but I'm a bit less happy with the Lacewood on Havana's Box #2. As with the Wenge, due to its thinness, it probably can't be sanded down to a nice smooth finish. As such, there were a number of little unfinished pockets in the grain, which looks a bit rough. Additionally, the veneer in my copy was chipped a bit on one end. Despite this, it is still quite a nice looking box!

 One end panel looks a bit unusual, as you can see the photo. This was probably a necessity based on the design, though I would imagine it could have been avoided somehow (though perhaps it would be a pain to do). The general proportions are similar to Havana's Box #1, but it is slightly smaller in all dimensions, particularly lengthwise. There are nice angled bevels on each edge.

The fit on the end panels is a bit loose, to the extent that they'll move on their own when possible. Eric mentioned that he deliberately made the fit a bit loose due to the current dryness of his shop, so hopefully that will tighten up a bit when the puzzle has acclimated to my humidified apartment.

As a puzzle, I found this one to be more challenging than #1, as promised, which was great! The first three moves are pretty simple, but then I hit a dead end. The cute thing about the dead end is that you get a peek at the cigar, but obviously can't quite get it out of the box, so it taunts you. Great design!

Unfortunately, I ended up solving the last bit through an unintended solution. Just so you don't do the same thing, make a note that no whacking is required. The actual solution is more clever, as I later discovered upon inspecting the opened box. It is pretty tricky and should keep even experienced puzzlers puzzled for a good amount of time. The unintended solution could have been prevented, but it would have complicated the design a bit and likely made it more expensive.

Overall, despite the fact that I nit-picked it a bit, I'd say that Havana #2 is an excellent puzzle box for the money. There are currently two Quilted Primavera versions for sale over at Cubic Dissection, if you're interested in checking one out! Also, check out Neil's review of Havana #1 and #2 to read more.

February 25, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 6)

On Sunday morning, I woke up a bit later since we didn't have anywhere to rush off to. After a quick bite of breakfast, we got right back to puzzling!

First I tried out this IPP exchange puzzle by Gary Foshee named Excalibur. It is made out of metal, and has the unique appearance of sword stuck in a stone. I fiddled with this one for a while, the sword spins around quite freely, but not much else!

After a good 10-15 minutes of making little progress, something changed a bit and I tried to figure out what had happened. With a bit more experimentation and fiddling, I had the sword removed! Does that mean I'm the one true king?

Up next, Brett brought out this interesting Bits & Pieces puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer (as you could probably guess). The idea is to navigate the blue gear off to the right. However, it is trickier than it appears since you need to get the correct tooth to land in the last hole, since it is specially shaped. Certain holes are round which (if the gear is in the correct position) allow the gear to rotate 180 degrees. Through a sequence of these moves, you can eventually get it in the proper position.

I could have sat and thought about the solution for a while, but it was a lot more fun just to blunder in the direction of the solution. After a good 15-20 minutes of fiddling, I removed the gear, but putting it back on ended up taking me just as long! It turns out that only one gear tooth will fit in the starting hole as well, so that is also quite a challenge. I fiddled with it so long that my fingers were tinted blue from the anodizing wearing off! Definitely a cool puzzle, and very 'Oskar'!

The next puzzle I tried was another recommendation by Brett, called Bill Darrah's Tri-Plane. It was designed by (you guessed it) Bill Darrah, and exchanged by Joe Becker at IPP 19. At first, it looked like a fairly standard 4x4x4 cube, though quite nicely crafted out of a number of different woods. However, the cool thing about this 4x4x4 cube is that it starts to come apart in any of the 6 possible directions, but only one of them ends up being correct!

I've never seen this many dead-ends at the start of an interlocking 4x4x4 cube before, so that was pretty novel. As it turns out, however, this didn't make it particularly difficult to take apart: I think I had it apart in a minute or two, but it was still fun to play around with.

The sun was shining on Sunday, so Rob brought out this interesting object he brought: it is a mirror that creates a pattern when you use it to reflect sunlight on a blank surface. This particular mirror was given at a past IPP and shows the image of the classic IPP burr. Pretty neat!

What's even more amazing is that this technology dates back to the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC through 24 AD). It is called a Chinese Magic Mirror; check out the link for more info on Wikipedia.

Ken Irvine came by to puzzle with us, and brought along with him a number of 4x4x4 cube puzzle that he designed. I must have worked through about 6 or 8 of them, and they're all quite clever in their own way, each with an interesting movement of some sort! Hopefully he'll be submitting his designs to Ishino's site or better yet putting them on Shapeways so more people can enjoy them!

He also brought this little packing puzzle called 9T that he designed and made for his father's ninetieth birthday (if I remember correctly), so the goal is to pack the nine T's in the box. The unique feature is that there are a few blocks glued in the box to make things trickier and there is a T glued on each side of the lid. They are in different positions, so there are two possible solutions depending which side of the lid you use. Neat idea!

As it was getting a bit later in the afternoon and I wanted to be driving while it was still daylight, I decided to head out. A big thanks to Brett for letting me stay at his place and all the tasty food and puzzling puzzles! I'm already looking forward to doing it again next year! I'll close with this photo of Ken behind a heap of puzzles on Brett's dining room table:

February 20, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 5)

Continuing where we left off in Part 4, I was hanging out at Brett's house after the New York Puzzle Party, working on some puzzles with Brett, Nick, Rob, and Rick.

One puzzle that had me vexed for a bit was this Painted Lady Tavern Puzzle by Tucker-Jones House. I fiddled with it for a bit and ended up with a jammed up mess, but when I untangled the mess the ring came off! That's can be quite a bad thing with this type of puzzle, since it is often hard to figure out how to get it back on!

After a while of trying, I didn't have any luck and asked somebody to look at the instructions and put it back, so I could try removing it again. Nick was kind enough to oblige, though even with the instructions it was a bit of a challenge getting things properly positioned.

On my second attempt, I got the hang of it and was able to take it off and put it back on again without too much trouble. I think my issue on the first attempt was that the series of links connecting the antenna to the wings was a bit twisted around, reducing the amount of freedom you have in manipulating the thing. Rob managed to untwist it while we had the ring off, so after that it was a bit easier. A fun puzzle, but watch out for getting that bit twisted up!

Next I tried a few puzzles designed by Marcel Gillen and produced by Bits and Pieces. These are All Hail the Queen and All Hail the King, part of his chess piece series that also includes a Rook, Knight, Bishop, and Pawn.

I had actually purchased the Queen at NYPP, but the King was a copy that Brett had on hand. I was glad to have the opportunity to try them both, so I can compare them here. I tried the Queen first, and it took me about 5-10 minutes. There are a few things you'll find to do right at the start, but none of them lead to the puzzle opening. With a bit more fiddling, I had it apart. It is a nice mechanism, with just enough clues to lead to you the solution.

The King was surprisingly similar, which is a bit unfortunate. Since I had just tried the Queen, I was trying similar things and it ended up working out. If I had only tried the King, I think it would have taken me a similar amount of time as the Queen. Normally, I would say it wasn't worth owning both since the mechanisms are similar, but I would find it hard to resist owning the whole set if I could manage it!

While I was grabbing All Hail The King from Brett's puzzle shelves, I spotted another puzzle by Marcel Gillen called Fire Plug (a.k.a. Fire Hydrant and Play With Fire). I played around with this one for a good 10 minutes or so before I started to figure out how the mechanism worked. It turns out that it is pretty similar to another popular puzzle (I won't mention which, since that'd make it too easy).

Gradually coming to this realization was quite a bit of fun. Once I'd figured out how it worked, I had it apart a few moments later. Very clever, particularly considering that it came quite a bit earlier than the popular puzzle which it is similar to.

It seemed like there would be chance of getting this one stuck if you didn't assemble it correctly, but I didn't want to test this. It is possible that there is a feature built-in that prevents it from happening, but I couldn't tell just by looking at it. Check out Jerry's review here.

Next, Brett brought out this nice-looking puzzle by Eric Fuller designed by Tom Jolly called Packulier (photo by Eric). The idea is to assemble the four pieces inside the box,  which has a few protrusions to make it tricky. I think I had seen this one before but hadn't tried it, since it looked too tricky. However, this time I was feeling more adventurous and decided to give it a try.

As it turns out, with a little bit of experimentation, I was able to figure out what the placement of the pieces must be. After that was done, it was "just" a matter of figuring out how to get them into the box! The whole process took me a good 20-30 minutes, but was a fun and logical process. I really liked this one because there weren't tons of different permutations to test out. A nice design and very well made!

Peeking through some of Brett's puzzle drawers for a puzzle I wanted to try, I spotted this interesting-looking sequential movement puzzle called Brain-Chek. It is sort of like a lights-out puzzle, where the goal is to get the whole grid white or red. There is a shuttle that is inserted in the lower right hand corner and slides along the grooves between the squares. As the shuttle passes a square, it toggles from white to red or visa-versa. This is the Easy mode!

In the Normal mode, rather than toggling the colors, the arrows rotate 120 degrees in one direction (depending which direction you pass them on). The goal is to scramble it up and return them to normal. In the hard mode, both the rotation and color toggling are in effect! Check out a video of it in action here.

The really cool thing about this puzzle is that it is all mechanical: the shuttle (which is different for each of the three levels), has little bits that interact with the squares causing the various movements, sort of like a mechanical calculator. Very cool! I'd definitely snap this one up if I ever had the chance, since I love mechanical stuff like this.

Well at this point we were all pretty exhausted after a long day at the New York Puzzle Party followed by a bunch of puzzling. I think it was around 1:00 AM, perhaps a bit later, so we gradually headed off to bed. Fortunately, there would be more puzzling on Sunday! Coming up in Part 6!

February 16, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 4)

After the actual New York Puzzle Party (described in Part 3), Brett, Rob, Rick, Nick, and I headed back to Brett's house to continue playing around with puzzles. The NYPP event is fun, I really like just hanging out and trying out puzzles best of all!

First up, I tried a puzzle that Nick Baxter had just purchased from Will Strijbos at NYPP called Safe. It was designed by Jurgen and is "hot off the presses"! The goal is to remove the coin, which is accomplished by moving the two overlaid mazes and shifting the rivets in and out. The mechanics are similar to Oskar's Medallion in that sense, but the coin adds an interesting element, since you need to progressively shift it down through the levels (each has a coin-sized hole) to get it out.

I spent a good 20-30 minutes on this one, I'd say. It took a bit of trial an error to figure out what the correct path was for each layer, but wasn't too tricky. The first position where you shift the coin from its holding place to the upper maze level seemed a bit off to me: the holes didn't quite line up but I was able to shake the coin into position. There is probably a better positioning where the holes line up perfectly, but I was unable to find it. Overall, a good puzzle!

Next I tried Kugellager 7, which is a puzzle by Jean-Claude Constantin. This is another one of those puzzles that requires an large number of moves due to its recursive nature. It is an extension of his Kugellager puzzle which "only" had 5 levels (1,250 moves): Kugellager 7 has 7 levels and a whopping 4,802 moves!

I played around with it for a little bit, just until I got the last pin to move a level or two, before I decided to head back to the start. I could tell what needed to be done, but didn't want to take the time to do it with so many other good puzzles around to try! Definitely not a puzzle for everyone, but if you enjoy slogging through high move-count puzzles like this (as I do), it is worth checking out.

While I was at it, Brett brought out a copy of another n-ary puzzle: Tern Key, a trinary puzzle designed by Goh Pit Khiam and made by Eric Fuller. This one has a much more manageable number of moves, only 134 since it only has four digits.

I really enjoyed solving this one, it took me a bit to get the hang of the sequence of moves. I really liked the use of acrylic, since it had a nice smooth movement and gave a good view of the mechanism. This seems like it would be another fun one to speed-solve once you get the hang of it! (Speaking of speed-solving, I have been practicing and solved The Brain in 39 seconds yesterday!)

I tried this set of wire puzzles next, which was quite nice. None of them were particularly challenging, but they had nice movements. I liked the way that they had little balls on the ends of the wire, rather than using nail heads to get the required width. This gave it a nice smooth feel and appearance.

Well, I'll have to leave off here for now, but there's a few more puzzles to write about from Saturday that I'll write about in Part 5, and another whole day of puzzling on Sunday!

February 15, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 3)

We woke up bright and early on Saturday to head into New York for the 2012 NYPP! The event started at 9:30 AM and we wanted to make sure we got there a bit early in case seating was limited. Fortunately, this year the event was held in a large room with a good number of chairs set up to watch the talks and tables set up for buying and selling.

Before the lectures started, folks milled about greeting each other and showing the various puzzles they brought. I saw a number of people that I knew from previous NYPP and IPP events, including Tanya Thompson, Saul Bobroff, Chris Morgan, Tim Udall, David Leschinsky, Tim Rowett, Will Strijbos, Tom Cutrofello, and many more.

I set up on a half-table that I shared with Rick Eason, where I laid out some puzzles that I brought. When I got a chance, made a bee line for Will's table, since there were a few puzzles that I was considering purchasing from him. The prices were the same as usual, but at least I didn't have to worry about shipping! Plus, there's the instant gratification aspect. I ended up purchasing 4 Steps Visible Lock (last year's IPP Design Competition winner), which I had been regretting not purchasing at IPP. I also got a Washer Cylinder, which sounded like an interesting challenge.

Tanya had brought one ThinkFun's latest puzzles, Turnstile, which I was also quite interested to see. I had helped test it, so I was interested to see how the physical version compared with testing it online. In all, the mechanics seemed to work quite well! The turnstiles clicked around into place nicely. One thing that I noticed was that the pieces tip over pretty easily, so I may fill the bases with putty or something to give them a bit more weight. Perhaps you get used to it after playing with it a bit though! As a puzzle, it is top-notch: you really have to think about your moves to succeed on the tougher challenges. It is on sale now at Amazon.

At about this time, the talks were ready to start so we headed to our seats. The first talk was given by Rob Stegmann, who spoke about a puzzle called Hoo Doo by Tryne in the 1950's. It is a puzzle where you need to arrange colored pegs in an 8x8 grid to meet certain criteria, but the problem Rob talked about was arranging them such that there are no duplicate colors in any row, column, or diagonal. He then drew a parallel between this and the classic 8 Queens Puzzle, since it equivalent to having 8 simultaneous solutions to this problem. Using this and some additional research, he drew the conclusion that the puzzle was impossible. He then walked through a similar analysis was done of the Orchard Puzzle.

Up next was a presentation by Oded Light on a new product called DBox. It is basically a puzzle construction set similar to LiveCube, however the pieces twist together rather than press together, so the connections are more stable. Also, the pieces are quite a bit larger at about 1 inch wide. This makes DBox potentially better for smaller-format puzzles such Soma cubes.

You could build something like a 6-piece burr with them, but you'd need to purchase a few sets (32 cubes per set). The presentation was pretty engaging, though it did come off a bit like a 30 minute sales pitch for DBox. The puzzle set comes with a number of challenges, generally assembly puzzles similar to Soma but with different pieces and color patterns. I ended up purchasing a set, so I'll do a full review at a later date.

After this talk, we took a break for lunch. I went with a fairly large group that headed to Saigon Grill, a very tasty Vietnamese place that did an excellent job of accommodating our big group. I had a cold and had partially lost my voice, which was pretty annoying what with all the talking that I was doing, but the big bowl of La Sa Ga soup helped things a bit!

When we got back, folks socialized and bought/sold puzzles for a bit before the next presentation started. Next was a presentation by Haym Hirsh who spoke about his hobby of collecting craft art. He brought in a number of examples which were laid out on tables. These included chains made out of bottlecaps, boxes made out of cigarette wrappers, a clock made out of matchsticks, and many other things. I wish I had gotten more pictures of his table, since there were some really cool items there.

The next presentation was also pretty interesting: Michael Cahill gave a talk about how he assembled an 18,000 piece jigsaw puzzle! Aside from being quite an undertaking, he also had some funny anecdotes about various problems he ran into, including a cat upsetting his work and the trouble he had getting the puzzle to NYPP. It all culminated quite nicely when he unveiled the completed puzzle, which was mounted in four separate frames.

The final presentation was Tom's annual review of his favorite iPhone/iPad puzzle apps from the prior year. He briefly went through each one and described the mechanics. It is always interesting seeing what creative developers have come up with! Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on this one, so you'll have to head over to Tom's blog to read about his thoughts on puzzle apps!

After the presentations were done, there was a bit more socializing before everybody headed out for the evening. Brett, Rob, Rick, Nick, and I went back to Brett's house where we had some pizza and played with a bunch more puzzles. Check out Part 4 for that!

A big thanks to Tom Cutrofello for organizing the New York Puzzle Party! It was a great event and I look forward to seeing everybody again next year!

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!

February 13, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 1)

This last weekend was the 2012 New York Puzzle Party, organized by Tom Cutrofello! I had an awesome time last year, so I was really looking forward to going again. Brett Kuehner was kind enough to invite me to stay at his house again this year, along with Nick Baxter, Rob Stegmann, and Rick Eason. Nick was actually in the Boston area to visit his son at MIT, so I gave him a ride down to Brett's place in New Jersey. It was great getting a chance to chat with him about puzzles!

When we got to Brett's house, Rob was already there and we started playing around with some puzzles. The first one that caught my eye was The Brain, by Mag-Nif. It is a puzzle I'm sure many of you are familiar with, but I hadn't ever really played around with one before. The goal is to move all of the sliders to the out position.

It is a nice implementation of the classic Gray Code puzzle. If you're familiar with this group of puzzles, it isn't difficult at all, but if you're not it could take a little while to get the hang of it. It has a nice movement which makes it pretty addictive to see how fast you can solve it. Brett demonstrated, and it was impressive seeing how fast he could manipulate those sliders!

The world record is 28.3 seconds (open and closed), amazing! Brett had an extra copy which he gave me, and I've been practicing a bit today and the fastest I got was around 50 seconds opened and closed. Still pretty quick for a 170 move puzzle! It clears your mind nicely as you go, since it is mainly just muscle memory.

Up next, I was psyched to see that Rob brought a copy of one of Rocky Chiaro's latest puzzles, Its A Hardly. It is a puzzle based on the shape of an early Harley-Davidson Knucklehead engine. It is a cute little puzzle and hand-machined by Rocky out of brass.

Rob said it was easy, so I was surprised when it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to take the darn thing apart! Once I figured it out, I was surprised that I hadn't tried the correct move sooner. It is a bit sneaky, though!

After that, I picked up a 2011 Karakuri Club Christmas present Rob bought that I hadn't tried yet: String Box 2011 by Fumio Tsuburai. He has done a number of String Boxes in the past, all of which have a similar appearance. The string passes through the box and is tied in a bow on top. I untied the bow, but the lid was still held firmly in place.

Pulling the string left and right doesn't yield any clues, but there didn't appear to be anything else that moved. I tried a few things and eventually had it open, though I wasn't quite sure what I had done. However, with a bit more fiddling I determined what the trick was, and could reproduce it reliably. It is tricky! The other folks at the party were unable to solve it, so I was pretty pleased with myself! I'll definitely consider adding Tsuburai next year based on this one.

Brett had another Karakuri Club Christmas present that I hadn't tried: Japanese Puzzle Box Maze 7 Steps by Hiroyuki Oka. It was a beautifully crafted puzzle box that was more of a traditional box than the Karakuri Club usually produces. However, the keyways are quite a bit trickier than you'll usually find.

Unfortunately, due to the current humidity conditions, this box was open but unable to close. I got a pretty good sense of what was involved in opening it, however, since you could just remove the lid and pretend that it was there. The keyways are tough and could definitely keep the you occupied for a while if you haven't seen this type of trick before! Another nice feature is that the top and bottom panels are not simply yosegi veneers, instead they are solid. A good box, but I wasn't too disappointed that I hadn't ordered Oka's box this year.

Next I tried one of Will Strijbos' bolt puzzles, I think this is #2 but I'm not sure. It is a good sized bolt, and has a nice heft to it. Definitely a high-quality bolt puzzle!

It seems pretty impenetrable at first: the nut won't move much, and there don't seem to be any other obvious things to do. The tip of the bolt looks a bit unusual, but also doesn't seem to do anything. I figured out the solution to this one after a few minutes, and it was a bit unexpected. Pretty neat!

After that, I tried Will's Bolt Puzzle #3, which has a similar appearance to #2 except for an unusual ring around the head of the bolt. This one has been reviewed by Allard and Jeff.

I figured out the first step without too much trouble. The next step is a bit tricker, but still not too bad. I definitely liked this one! Not too hard, but fun to solve. One thing to watch out for with this one is that there are some small parts that are pretty easy to lose, so watch out for that when you're solving it.


Well that's all for this post, there's a few more puzzles for Friday night, which I'll cover in Part 2. Part 3 I will start writing about the actual puzzle party and more. Stay tuned!

February 7, 2012

Reilly's Cube

Reilly's Cube is a puzzle designed by Mike Reilly and manufactured by Creative Crafthouse. The folks at Creative Crafthouse were kind enough to send me a copy to review. Thanks! (Photo by Mike Reilly)

The puzzle consists of eight blocks, each with three faces with a peg and a hole. The peg and hole can be in one of four different configurations. The goal is to assemble the cube such that all the pegs and holes fit together. Simple enough, right?

I thought so, and quickly dissembled the puzzle and expected to be able to put it back together without too much trouble. About 15-20 minutes later I hadn't made much progress: I kept getting in situations where I had one or two pieces left that wouldn't fit!

I figured that randomly trying combinations would probably take me a while, so I decided to take a more methodical approach, similar to the way I solved some of Vinco's eight-piece puzzles like Diagra and Cubicula. I numbered the different hole configurations and figured out which ones could go together, then uniquely identified each piece based on its hole configuration.

With this method, I was able to try the different alternatives much more efficiently and without worrying that I would miss something. It may sound like work, but I quite enjoyed the process! With this in hand and a bit of logic to find a good starting point, I was able to find the solution in another 30 minutes or so. It still took a fair amount of trial and error, but it was comforting knowing that I would find the solution at some point.

I was curious if there were additional solutions, so I plugged the puzzle into Burr Tools. As it turns out, there are a total of 3 solutions, all of which are pretty similar. This is generally considered undesirable in a puzzle, but it doesn't really bother me much!

The quality of the construction is good for a puzzle produced in larger quantities, but there is a fair amount of variability in the fit between the pieces. It fits well when assembled correctly, though there are some small gaps between the pieces. The snugness of the fit holds it together nicely, which I liked. You wouldn't want this one to fall apart on you! Overall, Reilly's Cube is a good little puzzle if you don't mind a bit of trial and error, though most assembly puzzles tend to have this quality. Check it out over at Creative Crafthouse!

Mike Reilly had a Kickstarter page devoted to Reilly's Cube where you can watch a video about it. He has also posted a few videos on YouTube (Solution Video and Description Video). The second video is pretty amusing with the dogs howling/barking like crazy in the background.

February 6, 2012

Saturn Wire Puzzle

During my last trip to Eureka Puzzles & Games to purchase Cast Donuts, I also ended up purchasing a wire puzzle by Jean-Claude Constantin named Saturn on the recommendation of David Leschinsky, the owner of Eureka. He said that it was one of those puzzles you could even demonstrate the solution to somebody, and they'd still have trouble solving it. That's always fun, and it looked like an interesting puzzle so I decided to give it a try.

I played around with it a bit on the subway ride home, but always ended up at a dead end! There were a number of ways to approach it, but I always ended up either being stuck immediately, or going around the spiral a bit before getting stuck. Quite perplexing!

When I got home, I tried thinking through how the rod would have to go back on the puzzle, hoping that it would be a bit more obvious than taking it off. This may be the case to some degree, but it didn't end up helping me much since I found it hard to visualize.

With a bit more fiddling, I was able to finally get it off, but I didn't know quite what I had done! I put it back on without too much trouble, but when I tried to remove it again, I found myself at the same dead ends that I had found before. It turns out that the correct movement is pretty subtle, and must be done just right to succeed, which is pretty cool! Eventually I figured it out, but it took me a good 30-45 minutes in all.

I have shown this one to a few people, even demonstrating the solution, and due to the subtle nature of the movement, none have been able to replicate it (though they didn't spend long on it). It was fun watching them do exactly what I just did (in their minds), only to come to a dead-end.

Definitely a fun little puzzle that is worth checking out if you enjoy wire puzzles. It can be purchased from EurekaPuzzle Master, or Sloyd. Thanks to David for the good tip!
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