November 23, 2009

Visit to Brett's House (Part 5)

Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Another puzzle that I was excited to see was Secret Base by Hiroshi Iwahara of the Karakuri Creation Group. He also designed Acorn Box and Confetto box, which I mentioned in Part 3 and 4, respectively. Secret Base was one of the first place winners in the 2008 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition at the International Puzzle Party.

As you can see from the photo, this box looks great with a number of colorful and exotic woods. It is made from shiuri cherry, oak, zebra wood, rengas, keyaki (zelkova), and ancient katura. Each is finished beautifully and has a great depth.

I found the Iwahara's description to be pretty amusing:
The craftsman [Iwahara] often watched TV robot animation. When a bad enemy destroys the town and the peace of the people, the shutter of a secret base that is hidden under the ground opens and a robot of the justice comes out to save the peace. It was an exciting scene. The shutter is the motif of this work. There are two spaces inside.
What an interesting source of inspiration! It just goes to show that there are ideas for puzzles all around you, if you have an eye for it.

As Iwahara mentions, there are two compartments to this puzzle. The first is relatively easy to find, though the mechanism is very cool. If you'd like to see what it looks like open, check out the Karakuri section of Rob's Puzzle Page, scroll down to The Karakuri Club Christmas 2007, and click the button to open the boxes.

After the first compartment is open, you need to search for the second one. This one is a bit trickier which I think really makes this a great puzzle. Iwahara could have stopped after creating the unique mechanism for the first compartment, but the additional compartment gives it that extra bit of difficulty that I liked.

Next I decided to try Dona Dona by Shiro Tajima, since it has such an unusual appearance. I had seen it before on the Karakuri website and was curious as to how it worked.

One cool thing about this box is that it has a music box inside. You can wind it up by twisting the cow's head. To start playing the music, you pull the front and the back of the cow apart slightly. The music Dona Dona by Sholom Secunda plays while the cow's head turns slowly. Cute, eh?

Well that's not really the puzzle: the goal is to find the hidden compartment inside. I worked on this one for a little while but didn't have much luck. Brett and Rob ended up giving me the solution on this one because it required an excessive amount of force. Even knowing the solution, it was quite a challenge to get it open. I think Tajima could have used much less powerful magnets here. The puzzle itself is pretty cool, but this detail really ruins it.

At this point, we had been at Brett's house for almost five hours, so we needed to start thinking about hitting the road since I was hoping to visit a friend in Connecticut on the drive home. The last puzzle I attempted was Dovetail Jewel Box, which was Robert Sandfield's exchange gift at the 2003 International Puzzle Party. This was the last in the Sandfield's dovetail series, which I talked about a lot in this post.

As the last puzzle in the series, this one is quite clever. There a bunch of red herrings that play off of the different tricks that were used in the dovetail series: five of them, in fact! I kept thinking I was discovering something that might work, but it ended up being a red herring. Brett read me the first part of the solution, which was quite funny: it pretty much listed all the steps that I had tried and tells you to try them and then ignore them.

Eventually I did discover what I think is the first move, but unfortunately after about a half hour I didn't get any farther than that. As with many of the puzzles in this series, this is a pretty tricky. Hopefully I will have some time to attempt it again.

Well, my time at Brett's was coming to a close, so we started to get ready to leave. As we were leaving, Brett gave me six (!) puzzles: three small cube puzzles by Richard Gain, a packing puzzle by Logika, a packing puzzle by Hanayama, and a super floppy cube! I was beside myself with gratitude, these would surely give me many hours of puzzling enjoyment as well as new material for my blog. I'll be writing about the fun I had with these puzzles in an upcoming entry. Thanks Brett!

Brett also loaned me an extra copy he had of Nemesis Factor, the electronic puzzle invented by Ron Dubrens, who we met at the puzzle dinner the previous night. I was really excited about this, because it sounded like a very interesting puzzle. This one would definitely keep me busy for a while. I joked that I was going to have Kellian hold it while I was driving so I could work on it on the drive back. (Unfortunately, she didn't let me!)

Thanks again to Brett Kuehner for inviting me to his house and letting me play with all those great puzzles, as well as the puzzles he gave to me. Also a big thanks to Rob Stegmann for bringing a ton of interesting puzzles from his collection. I was completely thrilled by the whole experience and was literally grinning during the whole ride home. What an awesome trip!


  1. My jealousy knows no boundry!
    Thanks for a great post again.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Jonas! It was quite sad to leave all these great puzzles behind, I could have stayed for days!

  3. Next time you visit, you are welcome to stay for days :-)


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