August 20, 2013

2013 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

In my last post, I listed the winners of the design competition but didn't have much time to write anything about the different puzzles. In this series of posts, I will tell you about each puzzle in the competition and give you my brief reaction to each. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2013 Design Competition website.

10 Cutter Blades - Mitsuhiro Odawara

The goal of this puzzle is to arrange the 10 pieces in the tray. All of the pieces have the same "box cutter" shape.

I played with this one for a little while and didn't end up figuring it out, there were a few too many pieces for my taste in this type of puzzle. Worth checking out if you enjoy 2D packing puzzles, though!

4Hex - Hiroaki Hamanaka

This puzzle has two goals: First form a shape that is made of four regular hexagons and all eight dots are visible, then form the same overall shape as in part 1, but with only seven dots visible.

The first challenge is extremely simple, and just sets the stage for the second challenge. The second challenge I found to be much more difficult: you don't know which piece needs to be flipped and even if you do flip the correct piece it is tough to arrange things right! A good but challenging puzzle I wish I could have spent a bit more time with.

4x4x3 Rhombo Box - Albert Gübeli

The goal is to put the four pieces in the box. It is hard to tell from the photo, but the pieces in this puzzle are not arranged on a cubic grid: they are made up of smooshed cubes. This makes it much harder to assemble, since the pieces will only fit in certain orientations relative to the box. Also, the 3x4x4 box has a 3x3 opening, so the order you insert the pieces is important.

I liked that there were only four pieces, enough to make it challenging without being too daunting. I figured this one out in maybe 10-15 minutes and saw a lot of others having fun and success with it.

Albis Ball - Albert Gübeli

The goal is to assemble the four pieces into a ball. There are two sets of two identical pieces (one is a mirror image of the other).

I didn't find it particularly challenging, but it was still satisfying when the pieces slid together into a sphere.

Alexandria's Diamond - Albert Gübeli

The goal is to arrange the two pieces into a convex solid without holes. The catch is that each piece can fold in a number of different ways, which obviously makes it much more difficult!

I didn't spend too long with this one, but found myself a bit annoyed trying to figure out what I could fold and what I couldn't. There are magnets inside to hold it in each of the folded shapes, which is nice to prevent things from falling apart on you but makes it a bit difficult to manipulate. I saw a bunch of people solve it, but I didn't have any luck!

Ball In Cylinder No 1 - Jerry Loo

Designed by fellow blogger, Jerry Loo (Jerry's Blog), the goal of this puzzle is to remove the hidden ball bearing. It is nicely crafted from aluminum and has a good heft to it.

I was able to solve this one a number of times, but couldn't do it reliably! I finally ended up just looking at the solution, and the picture in my head was fairly close to what was actually going on. It is tempting to just rattle a puzzle like this randomly, but careful examination (and a bit of intuition) can lead you towards the solution. Neat puzzle!

There is currently one for sale on his website.

Ball Snake Pyramid - George Bell and Joe Becker

This is a graduated difficulty puzzle with a number of different challenges. The challenge card tells you how to assemble the balls, then you need to fold the snake of balls into a particular shape. Each color ball has a different angle between the hole and the peg. Hard to explain in words, but pretty intuitive when you're looking at it in front of you.

My wife, Kellian, got really hooked on this one and worked on it for a good long while, I think she got through at least 10 of the challenges! (She's not much of a puzzler, so this is quite impressive.) I had a good time with it is well, I'm always a fan of graduated difficulty puzzles, they start you off easy and then ramp up the difficulty. More puzzle bang for your buck! This seems like a good design for ThinkFun to consider producing.

Binary Bud - Namick Salakhov

The goal of this puzzle is to get all of the leaves from the up position to the down position, and then get back to the start.

I was looking forward to this one since I like puzzles based on binary, but I had a lot of trouble getting it to move. I wasn't sure if a move was just tight/jammed or whether it was blocked by another piece. The pieces kind of hurt my hands too, due to the little spikes probably added for grip.

Books/T.V. ? - Sam Cornwell

This puzzle has a number of goals: orient the four blocks like books, then like a TV screen, then in 1234 order, and then in 4321 order. The first two challenges are a bit of a warm up, and the last two test your skill in manipulating the pieces exactly where you want them.

Each of the "books" has a pin the top and bottom on one end which slides around on a track on the top and bottom of the box. It is basically a sliding block puzzle where the pieces can rotate in a restricted manner. I was a bit hesitant about the mechanics of this one, but I had a good time playing around with it. A good medium difficulty and interesting movement.

Bucolic Cube - Yasuhiro Hashimoto

The goal is to assemble the three identical pieces into a 3x3x3 cube. It sounds simple, but it is actually somewhat challenging! It takes advantage of a natural tendency most people have when solving this type of puzzle.

This was one of my favorite puzzles of the competition: it looks simple at first, then you start to think it is impossible!

Alright, that's all for now! I'll do 10 puzzles per post, so this should be a 6-part series. It is a bit exhausting to write, but I hope you enjoy reading it!


  1. I sure do enjoy reading it Brian! Keep it up!

  2. Such a wonderful experience to have played with so many competition puzzles!! Very envious!


  3. Thanks Michel!

    Indeed Kevin! My favorite part of IPP!

  4. The Bucolic Cube is very similar to my best 12, which I really should have entered into the design competition

  5. I made a Bucolic Cube from Live Cubes and put it together in a minute or two. So did my wife and she doesn't do puzzles. Maybe is was dumb luck, but I thought it was way too easy. And I didn't care for all the voids in the result.

  6. Interesting, Bram! Yes, your pieces are the same but with a cube removed.

    John, I think it depends on whether you get stuck in the "trap" of trying to put the pieces together a certain way, I saw a few good puzzlers struggle on this one. Granted, it wasn't for more than a few minutes, but it was longer than they expected!

  7. hi Brian,
    I think RhomboBox is 3x4x4 with a 3x3 hole. Keep up the good work, I enjoy your blog.
    Happy Puzzling,

  8. You're right, Theo, correction made! Glad you're enjoying the blog!


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