September 13, 2009

A Curiousity Awakened

I had always kept an eye on, because I felt like it was a website where I would find something interesting to buy, but nothing had ever really caught my eye. This all changed one day in December when I saw that they came out with a Crest of Hyrule t-shirt from my favorite game, Zelda. Of course, I had to buy it, but I hate having to spend such a large proportion of the purchase price on shipping and handling, so I poked around for something else to buy.

I came across a set of products called Fiendish Japanese Pocket Puzzles, which were described as "almost too deviously evil to inflict on you and your friends." Enough said! I like a good challenge and picked out two to start with. I picked out Cast Vortex because it looked cool and Cast Duet because it seemed like the type of puzzle that I could probably figure out.

When they arrived, I started out on Cast Duet first. I figured I would start with the easier of the two and work my way up. As expected, it was a maze-type puzzle where you had to navigate the donut shape around the grid. What I didn't expect was that the donut shape was actually two magnetically attached pieces that followed separate routes to the exit (hence 'Duet').

To actually remove the rings from the grid is not particularly interesting, since they can be solved separately. There was one move that was not intuitively obvious at first, so that was interesting. Eventually by manipulating the puzzle I solved it in about 30 minutes.

What I found more interesting was the secondary challenge to position both rings, connected magnetically, in each of the four marked positions. This was interesting because it actually relied on manipulating both rings strategically so they don't get in each others way. When simply removing the rings, you can ignore one while you solve the other. Overall, I'd say that this puzzle by Oskar van Deventer is a solid buy for the money.

Cast Vortex by Akio Yamamoto was a completely different beast. It was twisting and confusing, with what seemed like no logical solution. When solving this type of puzzle, I frequently have to abandon a methodical approach and just fiddle with it until it comes apart. After an hour or so of fiddling, it finally did come apart, but I was completely stumped as to how to get it back together. I worked on it for about a week before I eventually peeked at the last step of the solution to get me started. Even once I knew how to get started, it still took me a few hours to finally get it back together.

Now that I have tried other Hanayama puzzles, I would say that this one is significantly more difficult than the other difficulty level 5 Hanayama puzzles and should probably be a level 6. That said, it is a beautiful puzzle that is a lot of fun to manipulate and satisfying to solve. It is particularly satisfying to put it back together because everything sort of snaps into place all at once and you are left with this beautiful swirling trefoil shape. Highly recommended!

So that is how my interest in mechanical puzzles was awakened. Coming up next: I tried my hand at building a puzzle.


  1. Brian
    Next time you are in Beverly and have some time,
    I have a some puzzles in Beverly. You can see my work in Eurka.
    Saul Bobroff 978 9225703

  2. Thanks Saul! I'll definitely give you a ring some time when I'm headed up to Beverly. My parents live up there so I visit frequently.

    I would love to see your puzzles. I have indeed seen your creations at Eureka before: Tooth and Nail as well as 4 Street Elbows. I am completely baffled by both!

  3. Look here for a "map" to the cast DUET:

  4. Cool article, George, thanks for posting it! I was debating creating a map when I was trying to figure out the secondary challenges, but I never got around to it.

  5. Vortex is a real monster. I have solved a couple of Hanayamas that are considered as very hard puzzles (Chain, Enigma, NEWS, Elk), but this Vortex guy beats all of them by at least two level in my opinion. Obviously the best puzzle I have ever seen.

  6. Indeed, Vortex is a tough one! I love the way it looks and the feel of the pieces though. So satisfying when you get it back to the original position. I should try it again sometime, I haven't touched it in a while since it is so tricky.


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