September 24, 2009

Cast Enigma and Cast News

As I was getting more into the Hanayama series, I had read through a lot of the comments on PuzzleMaster and was getting pretty familiar with even the puzzles I didn't own yet. I had read a lot about Cast Enigma and Cast News, so I decided to pick them up on my next trip to Eureka, my local puzzle shop.

Cast Enigma, designed by Eldon Vaughn, came highly recommended by David, the owner of Eureka, so I knew it was going to be a great puzzle. Based on the comments at PuzzleMaster, it was considered to be one of the hardest of the Hanayamas, so I was definitely in for a challenge. The puzzle itself has a decent finish, though its appearance is less elegant than some of the other Hanayamas. It doesn't have a nice appearance when sitting on a shelf: it just looks like a jumble of metal. A puzzle like this really needs to be hung.

The solution to this one is very nice because it is lengthy, but you have some sense of progress. There are some dead ends, however, which makes this one more challenging than Cast Baroq. I found this puzzle to be fairly similar to the ODD Packing Puzzle I described yesterday: as you play around with it, you build an understanding of how the pieces interact and restrict each other, which helps you move along.

I think this one took me about an hour, maybe a bit more, to take apart and put back. I definitely agree that it is one of the hardest Hanayamas. I found it to be of similar difficulty to Equa, News, Quartet, Vortex (see my blog entry about Vortex). I would definitely recommend this one!

I thought Cast News was going to be a real beast: it had no visible moving parts, but you could hear things shifting around inside. It has a nice appearance with a good weight in your hand. I was particularly daunted by this puzzle because the comments on PuzzleMaster suggest that it took a very long time for some people to solve this one. This puzzle was designed by Nob Yoshigahara at 19 years of age!

I tried what I thought was a fairly obvious thing to try with a hidden mechanism puzzle, and lo and behold it opened! I was curious as to why people were having such trouble with it when I solved it so quickly. After more inspection, I determined that my puzzle was missing half of its locking mechanism! There were locking pins that were supposed to be there but weren't, which made it a much easier puzzle. This was quite disappointing because now I'll never know if I would have been able to solve the puzzle as it was designed, since the solution is apparent once you see the mechanism.

I checked the solution on PuzzleMaster, and indeed, my puzzle did not require a second step to open! I scoured the web to see if I could get an explanation of what the mechanism should be (I had a good idea, but was curious).

I found a website where the author discussed his theory as to the inner workings of the puzzle. I won't link to it here since it would spoil the puzzle for you to see his page, but you can probably find it by searching if you'd like. Since my puzzle was already broken, I decided to disassemble it to confirm or deny his hypothesis.

It took a hammer and a screwdriver, but I was able to pry the cover off of the mechanism and confirm that my pin was indeed missing: it hadn't slipped back and gotten jammed. He wasn't far off on his theory, but I thought he would be curious, so I sent him a few pictures that he posted on his site.

I had bent the panels a bit when removing them, but I was able to bend them back with a set of pliers before I hammered them back into place. Definitely don't do this with your puzzle: you can't really do it without getting some scratches on your puzzle.

Eureka was kind enough to take my broken News in exchange for a new one, but unfortunately I missed out on the experience of solving the full puzzle. As such, I can only hypothesize that this would be a very hard puzzle to solve, but I am sure it is well worth it! Check out Oli's blog entry about his experience with Cast News.

Tomorrow: I attempt the last of the level 6 Hanayamas!


  1. Bummer that your News was defective. Mine was not but it still only took me 5 minutes. But others like the Nut Case took me days.

  2. Man, 5 minutes? That's incredible. I guess with some puzzles it just clicks, and others one can struggle with for hours.

  3. I got my Enigma apart in an hour or so. But I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing and one year later it still sits in 3 pieces! Seems much trickier to assemble than take apart.

  4. Yeah, I had a heck of a time putting it back together as well! The tricky thing with this type of puzzle is that there isn't really an obvious way to start putting it back together: there are a number of different orientations for the pieces and such. Also, it isn't really all that obvious when you reach the completed reassembled state.

  5. This is my favorite hanayama cast puzzle.
    i can disassemble and reassemble them in under 2 minutes. i always do this every week so i don't forget the sequence..been doing this for almost 3 months now..


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