August 20, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

Here's Part 5 of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

The Rocking Horse Puzzle - Mike Toulouzas
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

Another beautiful puzzle by Mike Toulouzas! If you're familiar with his work, you could immediately guess it was his from the size, beautiful craftsmanship, and style. It is a sequential discovery puzzle, and the goal is to "rock the horse, and find a nice award as it rocks." Somewhat puzzling! Upon inspection, you'll notice that the horse doesn't rock initially because its feet hit the ground below the rockers.

You'll find various tools along the way, that are generally not too tricky to figure out how to use. There are also some decorative elements you find along the way, which I sort of wished had a purpose. I was a bit confused at the end, but confirmed with the solution sheet that I'd finished. I think it would have been somewhat better if the "award" was automatic once the final panel was removed and the horse was rocked.

Ruled Cube - Chirag Mehta
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

This is a great dissection of a cube. The result, when assembled, has a nice design on it (as the name implies). It isn't particularly difficult, but will take a few minutes to solve. It all comes together quite satisfyingly as well!

Sequence Logic - Jesse Born

This is a nice-looking puzzle box, that takes a little while to solve. It feels a bit like a combination lock, but you can sort of feel your way through the solution like picking a lock. It took some time and taking a few notes along the way, but I was able to solve it. It mainly takes a bit of patience.

One neat thing about this box is that it is reconfigurable, so you can change the combination required to open it.

Simplography - Péter Gál

This is a multi-challenge puzzle where you try to place the six blocks on a card, satisfying any constraints written on the card. The interesting thing is that the blocks can be placed in any orientation as long as they are within the grid.

I found even the easier puzzles to be pretty challenging. For the easier ones, you are given the count of squares that contain white and black pieces on each row and column. The more difficult puzzles omit some information, or give you greater than X or less than X rules. I didn't have any luck with those!


This one seemed simple enough: assemble the six identical pieces and a magnet to make a cube shape with a cross on each face. The pieces are identical, so it couldn't be too hard, right?

Well I spent quite a while on it and didn't have much luck! I'd get close, but that last piece would never fit. Fortunately, Jeff Aurand told me an observation that helped him, and it helped me quite a bit as well! With his observation in mind, I had it solved in a few minutes.

One issue I had with this puzzle is the strength of the magnet. It was pretty challenging to pry the pieces apart sometimes, to the extent that I had to take a break because my fingers were getting tired! Also the coating on the magnet chipped with the heavy abuse in the design competition room.

Sliding Maze - Kirill Grebnev

This is an interesting sliding piece puzzle, where the goal is to move the key piece from one corner to the other. The interesting bit is that the key piece must follow the maze, while other pieces are unconstrained.

This had the look of a puzzle that would take way more time than I wanted to put into it, but fortunately it didn't end up being too bad. There are enough 1x1 pieces that you have a decent amount of freedom, but it was still somewhat challenging figuring out what to do with the two L shaped pieces. This was Kirill's exchange puzzle this year.

Sliding Tetris - Diniar Namdarian

The goal is to remove the ball from the cage. One of the holes is larger than the rest so the ball can escape, the rest are just for poking your fingers through. I liked how it was easy to remove one side so you could reset the puzzle if needed. Also it was generously sized, so poking at the pieces wasn't too annoying.

The solution ended up being interesting and fairly logical, with some nice moves in there. Overall a pretty fun puzzle that was doable but not too easy.

Ze Super Pens - Stephen Chin

Believe it or not, these are puzzle boxes! There is a jewel hidden inside each pen, each has a different solution. I thought it was quite clever how it mostly uses the parts that are already in the pen, with a few modifications.

I was able to get the jewel out of the white pen without too much trouble, but the tan pen was a bit more involved. Pretty neat little puzzles that you could carry with you!

Sym-353 - Jerry Lo & Stanislav Knot

The goal of this one is to make a symmetrical shape by assembling the three pieces flat on the table. There are four solutions. I was able to find one of them, surprisingly, usually I'm not too good at these symmetry puzzles! The other solutions eluded me, and I didn't have time to come back and find them.

Symmetrominoes - Alexandre Muñiz

This puzzle has a number of goals: 1) Fill the tray with the pieces (warmup) 2) All pieces of the same color must have holes aligned the same way 3) Same as #2 but the pieces of each color must form connected groups 4) Same as #2 but with no two pieces of the same color may touch along an edge. (They may touch at corners.)

The first challenge, as intended, was pretty easy. getting all the holes aligned was quite a bit more challenging. I tried for a while, but always ended up with one piece that wouldn't fit!

Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow!

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