August 16, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

After plenty of folks giving me a hard time for slacking off on the blogging, here's a write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! I hope you enjoy it since it took a while to write! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Adam & Eve - Alan Rolfs, Tom Sun, George Miller

Adam & Eve was Roxanne Miller's exchange puzzle this year. The goal is to link Adam and Eve's heads together, with the apple still wrapped around Adam's legs.

Interestingly, this puzzle is nicely machined out of brass rather made out of bent wire. The theme is pretty...creative, which some may or may not enjoy. I spent some time on this one during my initial run through the puzzles, and didn't have much luck with it!


Barreled Bolt - Eitan Cher and David Tsur
(Jury First Prize)

This is an interesting twisty puzzle with fairly limited movements: you can rotate the front, back, and sides of the barrel, but not the top or bottom. In addition, the middle band can be rotated to move the threaded bolt pieces up and down!

It is really nicely 3D printed in color with magnets inside to help align things. Surprisingly, it is not too difficult due to the limited movement. Typically I can't solve any of the crazy (or ever less crazy) twisty puzzles in the competition, but I was able to do this one. I hope this one will be available commercially at some point, since the combination of a fun/original movement and being reasonable to solve would make it a good one to share with non-puzzlers.


Bastille - Volker Latussek

The goal of this one is just to take the seven blocks out and put them back. The blocks are quarter-circles with dimensions equal to the hole size on each axis, I think. It is nicely crafted out of walnut and beech.

This one is quite approachable, anybody can start poking around at the blocks, rotating things around, but it will take a bit of thought to figure out how to solve it. My first few ideas didn't work, but eventually I got it figured out. Typically I'm not a huge fan of poking at things through holes, the dexterity aspect can get annoying. Fortunately, this one wasn't too bad because the size was large enough.


Black & White Antislide - Volker Latussek

The goal of this puzzle is to place either the black or white pieces into the box, such that they can't slide around when the box is closed. The interesting aspect is that once this is done, you must be able to add the remaining pieces of the opposite color to the box and close the box! Together, all of the pieces make a 3x3x3 with no holes, so you'll need to plan carefully to make sure the other pieces can be added. Nicely crafted out of samena and hevea.

I thought it was quite surprising that solutions starting with both black and white pieces were possible! I was able to figure out the solution starting with the white pieces, after a fair amount of effort. I spent some time working on the black solution as well, but ran out of time.


Burr Lock E - Christoph Lohe

This creatively-shaped burr was built by Eric Fuller, with the perfect fit/finish you expect from his work. The four white pieces, as well as the key and shackle, all move. There are also a few cubes glued inside the frame.

I made quite a bit of progress on this one, but eventually got stuck and didn't have a chance to come back to it! I'd say it is reasonably challenging as far as burrs go and the theme was great.


BurrNova - Jerry McFarland
(Jury Honorable Mention)

I was eager to give this one a try when I read the note: "This is a semi-automatic burr, with magnets providing surprising help along the way." The first move is pretty obvious, and once you make the second move, the subsequent 11 moves happen automatically (and quickly!) thanks to the magnets. The fit is very nice, with Jerry's trademark satiny finish.

Continuing with the disassembly is not immediately obvious, but can be worked out. I didn't get too far through the disassembly for fear of the magnets causing the whole thing to explode. However, Peter Wiltshire said he had gotten it almost all the way apart and didn't have an issue with that.


Clover - Aaron Wang

This is a pretty simple-looking disentanglement where the goal is to remove the ring. Fortunately, the string can be removed in the somewhat likely case that you get things tangled up. I definitely appreciate that touch, particularly when the string is long like this!

I had an idea for what needed to be done on this one, but wasn't able to make it happen. Guess I need to practice disentanglements more!


Colonel's Bouquet - George Sicherman

This puzzle has several challenges: join any two to make a symmetric shape or join all four pieces to make a solid box.

I tried the solid box challenge first and figured it out without too much trouble. The symmetric shape challenges proved a bit more difficult! You'd think it would be easy with only two pieces, but I found it pretty challenging. I think I got one of the solutions, but didn't end up having time to try finding more. Pretty clever that all four symmetric shape challenges are possible, and you can still make a box from all the pieces.


Color Cube Sudoku - Raphael Meyers

There are multiple challenges to this one that take a while to describe, but the first goal is to make a 6x6 latin square, a color can only appear once in each row/column.

I spent a little bit of time on this one during my first pass through the room, but didn't end up coming back to it. It appears to be a ThinkFun product, so there must be something interesting about it! Nick mentioned that there was an observation you could make that made it more doable.


Congruent Figures by Overlapping - Takumi Horiguchi

The goal is pretty much in the name of the puzzle: divide the four pieces into two pairs and overlap both pairs so they make congruent figures. Since the blue shapes can overlap and you don't know which pairs to select, this is pretty tricky!

I attempted this one for a little while, but didn't end up being able to solve it. Interesting idea and nice construction if you enjoy this type of puzzle.


Convex Polygon IrN-6a - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)

As you could guess from the name, the goal is to make a convex polygon. The pieces are quite simple, but I didn't have any luck with this one either.

It is noted in the solution that it is possible to get very close to a correct solution, but still not be quite right! Perhaps it would be more interesting if the side measurements were given.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (of 6!) tomorrow!

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