November 19, 2009

Visit to Brett's House (Part 3)

Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

After lunch, we went back to the puzzles. Here is another shot of the puzzles Rob brought. One puzzle that I didn't mention earlier was Revomaze, which is the blue cylinder in the bottom left of the photo.

I had been tempted to buy one of these for quite a while. They are fairly expensive at about $120 each, but from what I have heard they are very cool puzzles. It is a hidden maze puzzle where you are trying to navigate a maze that is hidden inside the cylinder. It is tough though, because it is possible to 'fall off' the maze and then have to return to the start.

This is really one of those puzzles that you need to experience to fully understand, which is part of why I had never bought one before. Another reason is that there are five different types (not counting the limited edition ones), so once I get one I'm probably going to end up buying the whole set, which is a lot of money.

Still, it was a very cool puzzle. The weight of it is quite nice and the mechanism is very smooth and sturdy feeling. I played around with it for a bit, but even the easiest one is supposed to be quite difficult so I didn't have much hope of solving it. I definitely want one, but there are so many other puzzles I'd like to buy, it is hard to decide which!

Revomaze will be releasing plastic versions of these puzzles for much less, which is quite tempting. Early reviews are quite favorable, so I may just hold out for these. Unfortunately, they are not identical to the metal versions, but it sounds like they may be close enough that it is worth it to save some money. We'll see!

While I was puzzling away, my girlfriend was working on a few assembly puzzles that Rob had given her to try, since she tends to be better with assembly puzzles, but unfortunately she wasn't having much luck. To be fair, they were pretty tricky!

Brett and Rob decided that if she was having trouble with these assembly puzzles, perhaps she should try the one piece packing puzzle by Simon Nightingale. All you have to do is put the cube into the box, so how hard could it be? She took it from Rob and tried to place the piece into the box, but it just jumped back out again, much to her surprise. We all had a good chuckle at this.

A little while later, Brett's son Kai came by and Kellian showed him the puzzle in disgust, saying how she couldn't even solve this one piece packing puzzle. She handed it to him and he solved it immediately, placing the piece directly into the box without any trouble at all. Of course, Kellian was quite surprised and amused by this, and we all laughed about it for quite a while. The timing was perfect!

Just in case you're not familiar with this puzzle, there are magnets both in the box and in the cube. Unless you know the solution, the cube will pop back up due to magnetic repulsion. This clever puzzle won the 2001 Puzzlers' Award at the International Puzzle Party Design Competition. Bits and Pieces made a replica of it that was pretty inexpensive, but it is no longer available.

At around this time, Brett started to bring out some of his collection. I had no idea what to expect, but I was thrilled when he brought out box after box of amazing puzzle boxes! I should have know he was a puzzle box nut, because Matt Dawson was the one who introduced me to him.

I started out with Acorn Box, by Hiroshi Iwahara of the Karakuri Creation Group. It was very nicely crafted with a cute little acorn on the top. I had seen this puzzle before on the Karakuri website and was interested to give it a try since Iwahara's description was intriguing:
This box opens with only one move. The cover rattles. But, the cover doesn't open even when you pull it up or turn any points of the box. It was unveiled at an exhibition that was held in Feb. 2008 by the craftsman and Mr. Ninomiya. At the exhibition, a customer who experienced Karakuri for the first time opened it very quickly, but a veteran of puzzles needed 30 minutes. This caused a lot of laughter!
This sounded interesting, because it means that the solution was probably something that is atypical for a puzzle box, so a puzzle box expert might not expect it, but was something that one might try to do if you weren't familiar with puzzle boxes. I wondered which category I fit into at this point!

I played around with it for a bit, and as Iwahara mentions, the lid rattles like it is loose, but doesn't come off. This was nice because it sort of draws you in since it feels like it is almost ready to open. This is in contrast to many boxes which appear quite impenetrable at first.

After a few minutes I figured out the trick: it is indeed pretty simple but I was quite surprised and amused when I found it. Kellian also gave it a try and was able to figure it out after a few minutes. Not too challenging, but a nice little box! It is currently available on the Karakuri website for $55 (including S&H!) which I think is a pretty good deal.

Next I decided to attempt Portable Pen Puzzle Box by Eric Fuller. I was dazzled by the beautiful wood used on the lid and thought that it might not be too challenging given its size. The box contains a pen made by John Devost.

The first few moves were simple enough, the typical way that a sliding panel puzzle box works. However, then I got stuck! I thought that the mechanism probably involved whacking the box in some manner, but I didn't want to whack it too hard because I could hear the pen bouncing around and didn't want to damage it. I would imagine that Eric probably thought of this, but it still made me nervous so I ended up giving up on this one. I hate giving up, especially when I feel like I'm close, but there were so many other puzzles to try.

So many puzzles to write about...continued tomorrow!

Update: Check out Part 4!


  1. The one-piece packing puzzle you played with was the version Simon did as an exchange at IPP19. I was fortunate to find it for sale a few years ago.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Brett! I updated the text and photo.


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