December 2, 2009

Cast Hook and Cast Medal

Last weekend I headed over to Eureka Puzzles & Games to look for some new puzzles. My girlfriend was away visiting a friend, so I had plenty of time to hang out for a while. When I walked in, I was greeted by a fellow named Mike who remembered me from the mechanical puzzles event that Eureka organized a few months ago. He said that he had been reading my blog, so "Hi Mike!" if you're reading this.

Mike was quite helpful and showed me a number of new puzzles that had arrived recently. There were two interesting puzzles from Hanayama that are actually not part of the Cast Puzzle series. They are part of a new series called Puzzle Gallery.

The first one was called Globe Ball: the goal is to take the puzzle apart and put it back together. It was designed by Vesa Timonen of Finland. It is similar to Vesa's design Tangerine, which won a three way tie for First Prize in the 2008 Puzzle Design Competition. This puzzle has an additional layer which makes it a bit trickier than Tangerine (I think, I haven't actually tried it). I was quite curious as to how it worked and ended up purchasing it.

For the sake of continuity, I'll tell you what I thought about it even though I'm going to continue telling you about my Eureka visit in a moment.

The construction of this puzzle is quite nice for a plastic puzzle. It comes on a black base that helps keep in from rolling away, which I appreciated. The plastics used are quite solid and smooth. This smoothness helps when manipulating the puzzle as well. The design for this puzzle is interesting; there are three layers with a red 'magma' layer as the inner core. I think it took me about five or ten minutes to solve it, but I really enjoyed the mechanics of it. Even once I had completed it, I took it apart and put it back together a few more times just for the fun of it.

I think the only downside to this puzzle is that you are working "blind" in a sense, so there is a bit of guesswork involved, even when you know how to do it. Some may like this because it adds to the difficulty, but it also makes it feel a bit random. Still, I really enjoyed this puzzle and am happy to have it.

Another puzzle that Mike showed me from the same series was called Dual Circle. This one was designed by Oskar Van Deventer and has a very cool mechanism. The object is to scramble the puzzle and return it to its solved state, so it is a twisty puzzle.

Each of the rings can rotate, but when it rotates, it also rotates the wedge of the other ring that is in its center. For example, if you rotate the blue ring clockwise, it would also rotate the wedge of the red ring that is currently in the center of the blue ring. I toyed around with this one for a bit and couldn't solve it, but didn't end up buying it. Maybe in the future! This one also has a nice stand for display.

Mike brought out another puzzle that he thought I might like: it was an assembly puzzle in the shape of pudding! It is named Glass Puzzle - Pudding. This was a display copy that was unpackaged and disassembled, so I couldn't help but give it a try. I had seen this type of puzzle before, where you have to put plastic food into a glass container, but I never really saw the appeal and had never tried one. They seem like they would be quite difficult given the irregular shapes of the pieces.

This one, however, I found to be quite enjoyable since the pieces had nubs and holes that you needed to line up. This made it a bit easier to keep track of what was going on, since there were only a finite number of positions that were possible. Both the top and the base also had nubs and holes. There are three layers, each of which has four pieces.

I worked on this one for maybe 15 or 20 minutes before I solved it. Woo hoo! It was quite satisfying when the last piece clicked into place. It is a nicely made little puzzle with an actual glass container which makes it a bit more classy, I suppose.

I hung out for a while longer and played with a few more puzzles and ended up buying two more Hanayama Cast Puzzles: Cast Hook and Cast Medal.

I worked on Cast Hook on the way home on the subway. It was also designed by Vesa Timonen (the same designer who made Globe Ball). It is a nice little puzzle but is not too challenging (1/6 on Hanayama's difficulty scale). It has a nice appearance with two identical pieces. The sharp angles at the ends of the pieces contrast nicely with the curvy loops on the other end.

It has an interesting movement that releases the pieces, but if you don't get it lined up quite right, the movement is not smooth. I think that it might have been better to use a smoother finish on the metal to keep things from jamming up.

Another cool aspect of this puzzle is that once you find the right movement, it doesn't immediately come apart. The hooks on the end get in your way! There is one more motion required to completely disentangle the pieces, which I thought was a nice touch.

I showed this one around a bit at Thanksgiving and most folks didn't have much trouble with it. Like with many puzzles, this one is actually a bit tougher to get back together than it is to take apart. Not too much so, though.

The other puzzle that I got was Cast Medal. It was designed by James Dalgety after the legend of the Ring and the Salmon, whose image appears on the coat of arms of Glasgow City. This looked like an interesting puzzle, so I was eager to give it a try.

I worked on it for about 30 minutes on the subway, after I finished Cast Hook, but didn't have much luck. When I got home, I continued to work on it, and eventually got it figured out, but the first half of the solution took a lot more force than is normal. I decided to check out the solution to see if I had solved it correctly.

Indeed, I did have the first half of the solution correct, but the gap in the ring was slightly too narrow, so I really had to pull it hard at some points. This was unfortunate, because I probably could have solved it quite a bit faster if this wasn't the case, since I was hesitant to use this much force at first. After using some pliers to open the ring up a bit, it worked much better.

I actually found a different solution to the second half that bypasses most of the holes. It did feel a bit odd when I was doing it, since I thought the holes would be used for something interesting. After seeing the actual solution, it is much more graceful. I like how it is reminiscent of a fish jumping out of the water.

Overall, a nice puzzle, despite my issues with the ring. If you are having trouble, try opening it up very slightly. If you open it up too much you'll just be able to pull it off the edge, so be careful. It wasn't too difficult, many of my family members were able to solve it, so I think the difficulty rating of 2/6 is appropriate.

Not sure what's coming up next, but it is bound to be interesting, so stay tuned!


  1. Amazing coincidence, I received both these Hanayama puzzles today!! I also found the second solution for the Metal, mine seemed perfectly aligned and I didn't need any force. I'm having more trouble with the Hook, my daughter took it apart in under a minute, but I wasn't watching and now I can't get it back together again. Perhaps the puzzle should be shipped in this configuration as it seems harder when you don't know how it came apart.

    I also bought a Marble and Helix, the second one looks quite challenging. The Marble I got apart but can't seem to get it back together yet!

  2. Hi Brian,
    Glad you enjoyed the puzzles.
    George, I had the same experience with a cast Marble we had as a demo at Eureka. I got it apart and then went to help a customer and didn't pay attention and I couldn't get it back together.

  3. Hah, that is funny, George. Guess they had some quality that we both found appealing. I actually wanted to purchase Cast Marble as well, but they were out of stock. Helix looks cool too.

    Thanks for showing me some cool puzzles, Mike!

  4. Man, I had a tough time with that Hook!! Call me dense, but that is one hard one star Hanayama. It is definitely harder to assemble it if you have never seen it disassembled. Very nice puzzle!


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