August 9, 2010

2010 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 2)

Continuing where we left off in the 2010 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1):

Qubami by Kelvin Stott

This puzzle is a cross between Sudoku and a Rubik's cube. Rather than having each face be a solid color, the goal is to arrange the puzzle to get three different colors and three different symbols on every row and column of blocks, on every face of the puzzle. To solve it, I would imagine that you need to determine what a correct configuration would be and then solve it like a Rubik's cube to get the pieces where you want them. Not my type of puzzle, so I didn't try this one.

Remove the Yolk by Robrecht Louage

The goal of this puzzle is to remove the coin, which involves disabling the lock that is preventing the sliding piece that holds the coin from moving to the left. I played around with this puzzle for a while but gave up. Looking at the solution, I don't think I would have figured it out, but who knows? The mechanism is quite sensitive, so even following the instructions I couldn't do it reliably.

Rollo by Tim Snyder

Here is the goal: "Start with the nine octahedral pieces purple face down against the dome, leaving the center triangle open. Using only rolling moves (rotation about an edge) reorient all the octrahedra so that the yellow face is down against the dome." I tried this one out, but didn't spend that long with it. I didn't like the fact that screws were used as the metal contact points for the magnets.

Rose by Hideaki Kawashima

As I said in my 3rd entry about the Karakuri Puzzle Exhibit, this is a nice little puzzle. The movement was a bit stiff at first, but it should loosen up. I liked that the movement was related to the way a rose opens. It isn't too difficult to figure out, with 7 steps to open it.

Screwy Duals by George Bell

I know George Bell from, so I spent a good bit of time on this one. I figured the cube would be easier, so I started with that. I must've worked on it for at least 20 minutes or so, but didn't have any luck. This is a tricky one! I also found it difficult to hold the pieces in place while I was assembling it. I got three of the four red pieces into place (or so I thought) but the last one didn't fit in the remaining space. I'd like to spend more time with this one at some point! You can buy his puzzles in his Shapeways shop, Poly Puzzles. Hooray for 3D printing!

Sharpen your Wits by Perry McDaniel

This is a neat puzzle box whose solution relates to what it depicts, which is always a winner in my book. There is one step in the solution that doesn't quite make sense, but it increases the difficulty somewhat. Otherwise it would be fairly easy. It is a nice large box that is exquisitely crafted. Very nice!

Sliding Pucks by Tony Fisher

This is another twisty puzzle that I didn't spend much time with. There are numbers written on the outside faces which must be arranged in order. Similar to Magnesphere, it is possible to not be able to see these faces while they are on the interior of the puzzle.

Snake by Yuta Akira

Now this puzzle is a real winner: it is a variation on a frequently seen theme that ended up being quite difficult. I'm surprised it didn't do better in the competition! Perhaps it was too difficult to have a broader appeal. I spent a good amount of time on this one without much luck. I hope that it will be sold at a reasonable price sometime in the future. Dick Hess, the master of disentanglement puzzles, also was stumped by this one, so I was in good company.

Spiral Stand by Tom Lee

I stared at this one for a while but found it completely baffling. For some reason the spiral design just boggles my mind and I can't even think of where to begin. I think I had better start out with a simpler but related design before I tackle this one. I glanced at the solution and it is quite lengthy, so I'll bet this one is a real challenge.

Sponge Cakes by Yoshiyuki Ninomiya

This is a really beautiful box by master craftsman Ninomiya. It has three compartments, though you may not even notice the third if you're not looking for it. It isn't particularly difficult, but it is quite a nice box. The detail is just so nice, and it operates flawlessly. I'm surprised this one didn't do better in the competition, though there were a lot of other good puzzles.

Steel and Glass by Hendrik Haak

This was another puzzle that I was really looking forward to trying. It has a striking and impossible appearance, which is appealing. I found the solution to be pretty simple though, it took me a minute or so to figure out. It might prove more difficult for folks who aren't familiar with nut and bolt puzzles, but if you know this type of puzzle I think it will be pretty trivial for you.

Swiss Cross by Swiss Cross

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this one. Is the photo the solution? I checked, and indeed it is. By carefully looking at the photo, it was easy to see how to put this one together. It all slides together rather nicely, but isn't difficult when accompanied by this photo. It might be a nice one to carry in your pocket since it is compact.

Ternary Burr by Pit Khiam

I was interested to try this one because I like puzzles that are based on the gray code. I didn't make much progress on this one. I think I tried it when I was running out of puzzling steam, so after making it a few steps into it I decided to call it quits. It is a neat idea though! I would have liked to have spent more time with it. It is quite large and nicely crafted.

Thaw by Hideaki Kawashima

This is a cute little puzzle box that isn't too hard to solve. It has a very smooth and satisfying mechanism. I really like the pattern on the top: it looks like the top layer has been cut through to reveal a light layer underneath. Pretty cool!

Three Color Dango by Hiroshi Iwahara

This is a cute little box that I didn't find to be too difficult, though it is definitely not simple. It is very nicely crafted with a nice smooth mechanism. There are three compartments that can be accessed in sequence by sliding the dango back and forth. By looking at it carefully, you might be able to guess how this one works.

Three Snakes by Diniar Namdarian

The goal of this one is a bit tricky to explain. Here's the designer's description: Place the three snakes in such a way that none of the three snakes can make a "snake movement" (definition see below). Please find at least three solutions. A "snake movement" is a movement where at least one cube of the snake remains in the same position (without rotation) and the rest of the snake is lifted, rearranged and placed flat in the tray in a new position. Sounds a bit tricky, I didn't have time to attempt this one. It was Diniar's exchange puzzle.

Titanic by Raf Peeters

This is another graduated puzzle that consists of multiple puzzles of increasing difficulty. The object is to move the boats horizontally and vertically to pick up passengers. In order to pick up a passenger, they need to be next to an open seat. Finally, once a boat is full, it can't move. This makes it tricky, since the boat will get in the way of other boats. I started at the easiest level and found it to actually be fairly challenging. Not like ThinkFun where the easy ones are almost trivial, though they are good for younger kids and getting the hang of the rules. Like Cannibal Monsters, it is commercially produced by Smart Games.

UFO-3 by Hiroshi Kaneko

This was another one that I didn't get the chance to try out. It is an interlocking puzzle. It looks fairly difficult. This one would have been much better if it was made out of nicer wood and shined up a bit. Very unique shape!

Utopia by Sjaak Griffioen

This is a graduated logic puzzle that is somewhat similar to Chocolate Fix: in that you are given a card with some rules, and you need to arrange the pieces to fit those rules. The rules are completely different, however. The cards in Utopia specify what you can see when looking down a certain row of buildings, such as the tallest building or the number of buildings of the same height. The rules are a bit complicated at first, but it is an enjoyable puzzle. It is available on Amazon here.

WitzEnd by Louis Toorenburg

At the very end, we have WitzEnd. The goal is to arrange the 9 cubes so that sixteen 3-letter words are shown six horizontally and vertically on both the top and bottom, as well as on the four exposed sides. This sounds like a ridiculously difficult feat, though I'm sure some word nuts out there would enjoy this type of puzzle. I didn't attempt it.

Well that's all of them! I think one of my favorite parts of the puzzle party was getting to hang out in the design competition room. It was a great chance to check out some new puzzler, as well as to meet some puzzlers! Since this was a particularly long IPP, there was plenty of design competition room time available. In normal IPPs I'll bet that the process feels a bit more rushed since you only have a weekend. I definitely got my fill at the end of 6 days!


  1. Thanks for those posts, they are great. And I agree the Spiral Stand (made by my good friend Tom Li from Hong Kong) is very intimidating!

    I love your passion when describing puzzles, and have already become a fan of your blog! :-)


  2. WitzEnd, I invented the WitzEnd puzzle, it is difficult, but not so difficult that it is not achievable, I would rate it 8 out of 10 in difficulty, there is a way to work it out by just looking at the blocks and orientation of the letters. There is a second sneaky solution, unless you get the sneaky solution first in which case there is another second solution


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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