November 16, 2009

New York Puzzle Dinner

This weekend I headed down to New York for a puzzle collector's get-together that was organized by Brett Kuehner. I was really looking forward to this event because I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet some fellow puzzlers, talk about puzzles, and try a bunch of puzzles that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to try otherwise. I was particularly psyched to meet Rob Stegmann, since I refer to his site, Rob's Puzzle Page, on almost a daily basis.

We met up at Telephone Bar & Grill at 6:00. I was a bit early since I didn't want to miss a minute of the puzzling action. Rob and Brett were both there and introduced themselves. We had a nice long table in a room in the back of the restaurant that would be perfect for our purposes.

Lots of other people came, I think it was something like 15 or 20 total. I tend to get pretty absorbed in the puzzles so I didn't get a good count. George Hart was there: he has designed a number of very cool geometric assembly puzzles (check out his site). Tom Cutrofello was also there, who is the Mechanical Puzzles Correspondent for Games Magazine. He also has a puzzle blog here. I also met Ron Dubrens, who designed Rubik's Rabbit (a.k.a. Rubik's Hat), Nemesis Factor, and Tickle-me Elmo (not a puzzle). There were a bunch of other puzzlers there, but I didn't catch everybody's name. So if you are one of those people, sorry for not mentioning you!

Brett had brought a number of twisty puzzles, including a Super Floppy Cube (left), an Edge-turning Void Cube, a Gigaminx, a 3x3x4, a 2x2x3, and a number of others. I picked up the super floppy cube because I had seen it before and was really curious to see its mechanism. It is like a 1x1x3 Rubik's cube, but unlike a normal Floppy Cube where all you can do is rotate the edges 180 degrees, on the Super Floppy Cube you can rotate them 90 degrees to create all sorts of interesting shapes.

I toyed around with this for a bit, but decided that I didn't want to mess it up. Brett said it wasn't particularly hard and said to go ahead and scramble it, but there was too much other stuff that I wanted to check out. Plus, I am a bit afraid of twisty puzzles (check out Facing My Twisty Puzzle Demons).

Next, Rob handed me Schraubenwuerful, which is a puzzle by the mysterious Roger. "Roger" has designed a number of very unique puzzles, but nobody knows who he is. As Rob told me, one of the most perplexing things about Roger's puzzles is that there are no instructions: you just have to figure out what to do. This one, Rob speculates, involves screwing all the bolts into the metal block.

I played with this one a good portion of the night and had zero luck with it. I could tell that the bolts were interacting with each other in some way, but I couldn't get anything to move from its starting position other than one bolt that freely screwed into the block. I kept putting it down and picking it back up again: it was surprisingly addictive for a puzzle that I was making no progress on. I think this is one that I would need to spend a few weeks working on.

There was also a Rubik's Touch Cube that someone brought (I forget who), which was pretty interesting. I had recently read George Bell's review of it on, so it was interesting to see one in person. I definitely agreed with his assessment that it was a bit awkward to manipulate. You rotate the cube by swiping you finger across the slice that you want to rotate, but you can only do this on what is currently the top face of the cube. Given the huge number of things that could be done with the computer inside this device, it was quite unfortunate that they didn't pack some more puzzles into it, particularly at its hefty price tag. I won't be buying one of these, but it was nice to see it. As you can see, it looks quite cool in the dark.

Tom Cutrofellow had recently purchased a number of puzzles from Allan Boardman, who was downsizing his collection. He brought a few of these new puzzles, one of which was this cool little box shown on the left. It was handed to me upside-down, so I thought it was supposed to look like a lego block or something, which is why I took the picture this way. I later realized that these were supposed to be legs.

It is a puzzle box, but Tom didn't know the name of the box or designer. I played around with this one for a bit without much luck. Later I saw that a fellow named Derek across the table had solved it, so I decided to give it another try. This time I was able to solve it, which was quite a relief since I hadn't been very successful in solvingthings this evening. The solution was simple but it took me a while to find it. It was a nice little box!

Rob handed me a tray packing puzzle by William Waite called Diamond Teaser. The object is to put all four pieces into the tray in such a way that the holes are symmetric (there are not enough pieces to fill it entirely). I worked on this one for about 10 or 15 minutes, but couldn't figure out how to get the holes in a symmetric pattern and gave up for a bit. Derek tried it for a while and also didn't have any luck. Tom decided to give it a try and figured it out, but unfortunately I glanced over and saw the solution as he did it. It is quite clever!

George Hart brought a few of his 3D-printed puzzles, which were quite neat. There was a set of three puzzles, two of which are shown to the left, that consist of a cube dissected along a spiral cut. The first cube was divided into two spiral pieces, the second into three pieces, and the third into four pieces!

I solved all three, and I think the three piece one was is my favorite. It is the colorful one on the left hand side of the picture. You would think that they would be pretty easy to put these back together, but the three and four piece ones were a little tricky at first. You can read more about the two-piece version on his website here.

There were a ton of other puzzles, but unfortunately I can't remember them all. Thanks to everybody for all the great puzzles they brought and a big thanks to Brett for organizing this fantastic event! I had an awesome time!

Rob was kind enough to give me a copy of a hexagonal packing puzzle he created, so as soon as I got back to the hotel I gave it a try. What, you thought I would have had enough after more than three hours of puzzling? Not a chance!

The objective of this puzzle is to make a hexagon and then a star. I worked on making the hexagon it for about a half hour, but I didn't have much luck. I really need to work on assembly puzzles, so this one will be good practice for me.

Rob also gave me a little cube assembly puzzle reminiscent of Snafooz that was made out of erasers. I was able to get that one figured out pretty quickly. A nice little puzzle for 99 cents. Thanks for the puzzles, Rob!

In my next entry, I'll write about my trip to Brett's house on Sunday where I got to see even more of Brett and Rob's collections. (It was awesome!)


  1. I know u probably are busy, but just wanted to say that I like your reviews and hope that many more are coming in the future.

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you are enjoying them! There will definitely be many more in the future.

  3. Hi Brian!

    Good meeting you at the dinner. I'm subscribing to your blog now. The world has too many political blogs and not enough puzzle blogs!

    Tom Cutrofello
    New York City

  4. Hi Tom!

    It was good meeting you as well! Thanks for subscribing to my blog. See you at NYPP if not before!

  5. Hi Tom,

    Very Nice Blog, with interesting puzzles.
    I just bought the Super Floppy Disk.

    Do you know my site ?


  6. Hi Gisela,

    Actually this is my blog! Glad you like it though.


  7. I don't think Rob actually created the hexagonal packing puzzle. I am looking at one on my desk that is at least 50 years old. Unfortunately I have lost one piece. Perhaps Rob would like to trade me a complete one for this antique.


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