April 5, 2010

Small Die Puzzle Box

I recently acquired a copy of Small Die, by Akio Kamei through eBay. It was brand new in-box for somewhat less than the Karakuri Club price, so I was pleased. It arrived a few days ago and I had a good time with it.

It looks like a die, with a number of spots on each side: one through six. I really had no idea how this one worked when I bought it, so I was eager to figure it out.

It became apparent that this was a hidden-mechanism type box rather than a sliding panel box, since nothing appeared to move at first. I fiddled with it for a little while, listening to the various sounds of the mechanism inside and did not make much progress. I set it aside for a while before returning to it.

During this second attempt an idea for how the mechanism might work occurred to me, based on some clues that I had uncovered. I tried testing out this idea a few different ways, and after a few attempts it opened! Woo hoo!

I think it took me about 15-20 minutes in total: this one is quite a bit tricker than most of the other Karakuri Club boxes I have tried so far. I got a bit lucky in my moment of inspiration: it could have taken quite a bit longer if that idea didn't occur to me.

The finish on this box is quite nice, though mine has a bit of a defect: one of the panels overhangs the edge slightly more than it should. Oh well! I got it for a good price. The fit of the panels is also quite good with a nice smooth action.

Overall, I thought this was a clever design, though there was one aspect that irked me a bit. I didn't like how even if you performed the correct sequence of actions, it might not open. It isn't random, but I can't really go into it any more than that without hinting at the solution. Still, I think this is definitely a neat puzzle!

At this year's International Puzzle Party, Akio Kamei is conducting a workshop where participants get to build this particular puzzle! I've signed up for it and I am interested to see how the mechanism actually works, since it isn't visible even when you open the box. I'm really looking forward to meeting him!


  1. Brian
    I'm curious about the solution. I haven't enough experience with Akio's puzzles (they are so beautiful but typically too expensive for me) but one thing I did learn from him directly that often the solution to his puzzles make sense for what the object actually is. So I am curious to know if this solution has something to do with rolling it like you would a common die?
    One of the funniest memories I have of Akio was from my first IPP. In 2006 we went to Jerry's opening of his puzzle room at Indiana University. Of course there was an entire case dedicated to Akio's puzzles. He took one out and was looking at it with Sue Young (the Mrs. of Mr. Puzzle). They were looking at the one that looks like a grenade. Suddenly it fell apart in their hands. Sue was freaking out but no worries, Akio put it back together. It was fun to watch!
    I'm pleased you'll be attending IPP! I sadly will be missing this one. The first time I won't be there since I started attending in 2006. But I'll pleased to read all about it on your blog!

  2. Hi Tanya,

    Yes, you are on the right track with the solution, but the specifics are a bit tricky. It is a cool puzzle!

    Thanks for sharing the story about Akio. Saul Bobroff told me a similar story that I think also took place in a puzzle museum (not sure if it was the puzzle room). One of his boxes was stuck shut, so the curator brings it out carefully with gloves on her hards to see if Akio can fix it. Much to everyone's surprise, he whacks the hell out of it to get it un-stuck, and that did the trick!



Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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