March 4, 2010

New York Puzzle Party (Part 3)

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you're just joining us.

Sunday was actually the day I was most looking forward to: I was (reasonably) well rested and had pretty much the whole day to try a bunch of Brett's puzzles. Rob and Rick were there as well, and we would later be joined by Daniel Deschamps, who we met at NYPP.

First up: an interesting burr puzzle designed and made by Jerry McFarland named Quadlock. It is a 19 piece burr that is fairly challenging to disassemble, and even harder to get back together.

As you would expect from Jerry, it is perfectly crafted with a beautiful fit. The finish is awesomely smooth and the contrasting woods give it a nice appearance.

At first, the only things that move are the four rods running through the center in the top of the picture. They form the lock that keeps the puzzle from coming apart further. After playing around with it for a few minutes, I was able to start the disassembly process. I was quite careful when taking it apart, since I didn't want to have to spend the whole day putting it back together again. It was quite cool how the whole puzzle came apart piece by piece; it is a very nicely designed puzzle.

Once I had it completely apart, I started the process of putting it back together again. Since I had laid out the pieces in the orientation and order in which they were taken out, this wasn't too first! Then I started to get a bit confused. Which piece went in next? Did I get the orientation wrong?

Eventually I was able to figure out how to get it back together, but not without breaking a sweat! I think it took me about 20 minutes or so. Definitely a neat puzzle, I really admire Jerry's work.

Next, I tried Die In Prison 2 made by Eric Fuller. The burr was designed by Ronald Kint Bruynseels with a solid block in the middle, but Eric added the modification (in version 2) that the box in the middle was a puzzle box. Brett thought I'd get a kick out of it, so I gave it a try.

I was able to get the burr apart fairly easily, but the box had me stumped for quite a while. Eventually I discovered something very clever, which I think was supposed to be the solution, but it didn't work! Brett thought that I had the right idea and tried it himself, but didn't have any luck either. We thought that it might be stuck because of the dry winter air: it had a very precise fit and the humidity can cause this to happen. After a little while of trying, we both gave up. Oh well! If the solution was what we thought it was, it is pretty cool. If it is even fancier and we just didn't figure it out, all the better!

Putting the burr back together wasn't too bad, but I think it ended up taking me about 10 or 15 minutes. Besides the potential humidity issue with the box, I thought it was a great puzzle. The idea of combining two types of puzzles was a really clever idea. Also, the craftsmanship was quite nice!

After this, I was quite excited to get to try a GarE Maxton puzzle: Micro-Conundrum. GarE crafts some amazing puzzle sculptures out of metal, and this is one of his more affordable puzzles due to its small size. However, even his affordable puzzles still cost several hundred dollars! This one was on loan from John Devost to Brett from the puzzle library. Thanks John!

What I really like about this, and his other puzzles, is his use of contrasting metals. It really gives the puzzle a nice appearance. Even though it is quite small, it is a hefty puzzle. He offers several options for the finish on the edges: this one had beveled edges on each piece, which I thought gave it a nice appearance.

This one is actually slightly tricky to take apart: it has an unusual trick that holds it together which I thought was pretty clever. Once you get the first piece out, though, it is pretty trivial to disassemble it completely. In fact, I shut my eyes through the rest of the disassembly so reassembly would be a bit harder.

Two of the pieces are fairly large, which made it easy to determine their orientation relative to one another, so reassembling this one wasn't too tricky. Still, it is a beautiful work of art and a nice little puzzle.

I would love to see some of his larger works, particularly The Labyrinth: a metal puzzle box! It weighs 30 pounds and is about five inches square. Needless to say, it (presumably) costs a fortune: you need to call him to get a price.

Speaking of puzzle boxes, I had the pleasure of trying a puzzle box by the famed Yoshiyuki Ninomiya of the Karakuri Creation Group. I had heard great things about his work from Matt Dawson, so it was cool to get to try one of his puzzles in person.

This was his 2009 Christmas present named Packing Box (mini) Ⅲ. Recently, he has done a number of puzzles that have this general appearance, and honestly it doesn't appeal to me quite as much as some of the other boxes that the folks at the KCG have made.

However, his craftsmanship is absolutely top notch. Due to the way it is constructed, the features of the crate almost completely hide any trace of which panels you can move. This one actually stumped me for quite a while, even though the solution ended up being fairly simple. Daniel told me he was disappointed by how easy it was, but I actually found it fairly challenging! I think it took me a good 20-30 minutes to open this one.

Next, I tried a puzzle called FlatTrick by Vaclav Obsivac (a.k.a. Vinco). It is a cool coordinate motion puzzle that consists of six identical pieces.

I really like Vinco's puzzles, they are very nicely made and a lot of fun to play around with. This one is not particularly difficult, due to the pieces being all the same. Taking it apart is easy, and getting it back together is only moderately more challenging.

Still, as you can see from the picture, the coordinate motion action of this puzzle is really quite cool. It sort of explodes in all directions, which is a lot of fun. Jonas has an entry about this puzzle on his blog.

This framed burr puzzle by Franklin Gonslaves is named Enigma and I found to be pretty challenging. I think part of the reason it was challenging was due to the tight fit, though, so perhaps it would be a bit easier if the pieces slid a bit more freely. This was probably also due to the dry winter air and will be better in the summer.

The craftsmanship is good, with a very close fit. Of course, the downside to such a close fit is that the puzzle can be less tolerant of humidity changes. It ended up taking me about 20-30 minutes to get this one apart and back together.

What made this one tricky was the fact that there was a dead end at the beginning of the disassembly. I kept thinking that I was on the right path and was just unable to find the next piece to move, but I ended up having to backtrack to the beginning and find a different route. Pretty cool!

After this, I tried Burrnoose by Tom Jolly, made by Eric Fuller. Tom comes up with some really cool designs and this one was no exception. There are six oddly shaped pieces (the colorful ones) that extend above and below a 4x4 square noose that constrains them. At first, it looks like there is no movement at all, but then you discover a neat little trick that gets things going.

After that, it gets a little chaotic with the six pieces and the frame moving around. Still, there is a unique solution for disassembly. I think it took me maybe 5 minutes to get it apart and 10 minutes to get it back together. Not super hard, but it was fun to play with.

Also, the craftsmanship was superb! The fit was excellent and I really liked the choice of woods. The colors are what make this puzzle really stand out. Very cool!

Ok, I just did a count and it has taken me almost two hours to write about these seven puzzles and I have 14 more to go, so it doesn't look like I'm going to finish everything tonight. Stay tuned for Part 4 (and probably Part 5)! Thanks to Brett for letting me try all these neat puzzles!


  1. I'm always glad to have you come by and play with puzzles, so you are quite welcome.

    The framed burr you didn't have the name for is "Enigma", by Franklin Gonsalves.

  2. Thanks for the info, Brett! I updated the post.

  3. great blog, Brian!


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