March 8, 2010

New York Puzzle Party (Part 4)

Check out parts 1, 2, and 3 if you're just joining us.

When I left off, I was about 1/3 of the way through writing about all of the puzzles I got to try when I was hanging out at Brett's house on Sunday with Rob, Rick, and Daniel. Needless to say, we were having an awesome time talking and solving puzzles.

One puzzle I spent quite a bit of time on was a box by Kim Klobucher. Brett had two of them, and this was the one that had fewer moves. I'm not sure which one this is or the exact number of moves, however. I had tried this box back in November during my first visit to Brett's house, but didn't have much luck with it. This time I was resolved to spend more time on it and hopefully solve it.

The box is very nicely crafted; I love the way Kim's work looks. The inlays on the top and contrasting woods gives it a very unique look.

This puzzle uses a pin and groove system, so solving it is a lot like solving a burr or traditional Japanese puzzle box. You find a part that moves, then try to find something else that moves until the box finally opens. However, this definitely does not mean that this is an easy puzzle. I think there were six parts that moved, and there were plenty of dead-ends that made this quite challenging.

Eventually after working on it for a good 30-45 minutes, I was able to get it open, but I definitely didn't have a good understanding of how it operated. It took me another 15-20 minutes to get it shut again, since I was more-or-less stumbling around blindly. It was tough keeping track of what was going on! I had a good time with this puzzle and will definitely consider getting one the next time Kim has some available.

Next, I tried a cute little puzzle box by Shiro Tajima named Cheese de Chu. It was Tajima's 2007 Christmas present: his 2008 and 2009 presents were also animal-themed.

This was a fairly well crafted box, though I was a bit disappointed that the mouse was only decorative. The mechanism is pretty clever, though not too difficult to discover. It took me about a minute to figure it out.

My only complaint about this one is that it is kind of a pain to get it back together if you take it completely apart. Still, a cute little box.

After that, I tried an interesting-looking burr that Brett suggested I take a look at. It is a burr with a bit of a trick to it. I don't want to go spoiling the surprise, so I can't really say any more about it. It wasn't nearly as difficult as it appeared. The fit and craftsmanship were quite nice, and I liked the used of different colored woods.

I was psyched that Rob had brought along one of his new acquisitions: Tornado Burr designed by Junichi Yananose and made by Eric Fuller. Rob's version is made out of paduak, which had a brilliant color. This design won an honorable mention in the 2007 Puzzle Design Competition at the International Puzzle Party.

The movement of this burr is very unusual: groups of four parallel pieces rotate around an off-center axis, in such a way that it shifts the rest of the puzzle. It is really quite unique!

I was completely baffled by this one: I think I could have gotten it apart, but I had zero confidence that I would be able to put it back together. Even after making two of these tricky rotational moves, I found it difficult to get it back to the starting position. I am not usually too shy about taking puzzles like this apart, but this one was quite intimidating! This is one I wish I could have spent a bit more time with and mastered.

The fit is quite good, but I found that what made this particularly tricky was that pieces tended to move without me moving them, due to gravity. This made it even harder to keep track of what was going on, but I don't think it could have been remedied by a tighter fit, since that would lead to difficulty getting the pieces lined up correctly to move in the first place.

This next puzzle, Schluessel by R.D. (a.k.a Roger), was probably my favorite puzzle of this trip. It consists of a key that is inserted into a keyhole in an aluminum block, and the goal is to remove the key.

I "solved" this one after a few minutes by shaking the hell out of it, but Rob informed me that there was a much more elegant solution that I should try to find. Daniel gave me the hint that he loves using this puzzle as an example of lateral thinking.

With this in mind, I worked on it for a few more minutes and, to my delight, discovered a truly marvelous solution. I wish I could share it with you, so that you could also be in awe of its splendor, but I don't want to rob anybody of the joy of discovering it for themselves if they ever get the chance. Too bad it is so hard to find these: I'd buy one in a second!

The next puzzle I tried was a nice looking puzzle box, though there isn't anything boxy about it! It is a beautifully turned spherical box.The panels are made up of multiple woods that have been laminated together, which gives it a very cool appearance.

The puzzle itself wasn't too challenging, it operated like a traditional Japanese puzzle box, but the craftsmanship was superb! It also had a cute little stand to keep it from rolling away.

I was quite happy to get a chance to try another Sandfield/McDaniel puzzle: DoveTail Bar Puzzle. This one was designed by Norman Sandfield and crafted by Perry McDaniel.

It was quite nicely made, and I liked the whimsical design. The puzzle itself was quite clever, with a neat little mechanism that is somewhat similar to another one of Sandfield's designs. This one didn't take me too long, maybe about 5 minutes.

The next puzzle I tried was Beehive, a Bits and Pieces reproduction of a puzzle mentioned by Louis Hoffman in his book Puzzles Old and New.

This is another one where I didn't arrive at the correct solution, but it is a cool idea. If you have a particularly good grip (or a grippy jar-opening pad), you might stumble across the wrong solution before finding the right one.

The quality is good, considering that it is a reproduction. Bits and Pieces tends to do a much better job with metal puzzles.

This puzzle, Barrel, was also a Bits and Pieces reproduction from Puzzles Old and New. I had a similar experience with this one as I did with Beehive. I was able to get it open, but not quite the right way. Oh well! Still a neat puzzle, but I think Beehive is a bit more clever.

Rob also brought Yamaosa Burr, a burr designed by Osanori Yamamoto and made by Eric Fuller. He hasn't solved this one yet, and decided to see if I could figure it out.
I like a challenge, so I spent a good 30-45 minutes on this one, but didn't have any luck. It was very nicely made by Eric, though I didn't get to enjoy seeing what the completed puzzle looked like! I took this picture so I could try making it out of LiveCube blocks and solving it at some point in the future. It is funny that a rectilinear burr like this can be so challenging with only three pieces!

I think I neglected to mention that today was Valentine's day, so I decided that it would be a good idea to head out and meet my girlfriend for dinner before it got too late. Also, my mind was getting a bit frazzled from all of this puzzling: I definitely got my fill! So after a full day of puzzling, I hit the road and headed back home. I'll leave you with a picture of one of Brett's puzzle shelves:

And a picture of the table at which we did most of the puzzling.

Again, thanks to Brett and his family for their hospitality and letting all of us stay at their house. I had a great time!


  1. Hi Brian
    Just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying following your great puzzle blog. I was hoping to make it across to NY again this year (I made my first trip in 2008) but couldn't make it happen this time. So it has been a real pleasure to follow your obvious enthusiasm for these delightful puzzles. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comment, I am glad that you are enjoying the blog. Too bad that you couldn't make it to NY this year. Perhaps I will see you at IPP if you're planning to attend, I just bought my ticket today. I've enjoyed several of your puzzles from Shapeways, keep up the good work!



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