August 17, 2011

2011 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

I covered the 2011 Puzzle Design Competition award winners in my last post about the awards banquet (Part 1, Part 2), but there were plenty of other good puzzles! In the next few posts, I'll give you my brief reaction to each. All the photos are from the 2011 Puzzle Design Competition website.

1more Puzzle - Triangle by Lucie Pauwels

The goal of this puzzle is to make a large triangle from the eight pieces. The pieces are based equilateral triangles that have been joined on different edges. Interestingly, each piece is sequentially larger than the last, starting at 1 unit and ending at 8 units for the largest piece.

It was crafted from wood and had a fairly plain finish, I think a nice tray and a better wood would have helped this one a bit from an aesthetic standpoint. As a puzzle, I found it fairly challenging, I spent about 5-10 minutes on it and didn't have any luck solving it. There are a 20 other shapes you can make, so this one has a good amount of replay value.

4 Piece Burr Cube by Osanori Yamamoto

This puzzle has four identical pieces that you're trying to fit into a cubical 5x5x5 frame. It is nicely crafted out of wood with a great fit and finish.

I spent a good 20 minutes on this one, it is pretty challenging! It is easy to tell where the pieces should end up in the solved state, but getting them to this position is tricky. The pieces get in your way quite a bit, so it is hard to see how the assembly could be possible. With some tricky rotational moves however, it can be done. This was a good one!

7 Pieces, 4 Squares by Emrehan Halici

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the pieces into a square. This can be done with either four, five, six, or seven pieces. I spent a little while working on this one and was able to figure out the four-piece solution without too much trouble, but didn't have any luck with the others during the time I spent. Definitely a good challenge.

16-Axis Knockout Sticks by John and Jane Kostick

This is an interesting geometric construction that uses magnets to hold the pieces together. There is a bronze star-shaped sculpture in the center, which is surrounded by a rhombic triacontahedron. This is then surrounded by a dodecahedral frame. The sticks are held together by precisely placed magnets, so it snaps together in a very satisfying way. The positioning of the magnets also gives you some guidance as to how to assemble it, which makes for a fairly straightforward puzzle. Still, it is a fun object to play around with and certainly displays nicely. Check out John and Jane's website for more photos of their beautiful creations. You can email them if you'd like to purchase one. Check out Allard's review of a similar puzzle he got here.

Abyss by Pantazis Houlis

Abyss is a 3D representation of a hypercube, and you can manipulate it by expanding and collapsing any of its edges. Through these manipulations, the goal is to switch the color of the center cube from Black to Yellow, or the other way around. As a puzzle, I didn't find it to be particularly challenging. However, it was fun to play around with for a bit!

Albis Box by Albert Gübeli

The goal of this puzzle is to put the five pieces into the box. It is a bit hard to tell from the angle of the photo, but the pieces on the left aren't cubes, they do have six sides but have been smushed into some other shape that I don't have a word for. I'm also not sure of the name for the shape of the box. In any event, it was a fun puzzle to play around with. With a little trial and error, I found it possible to figure out what order the pieces needed to go in, and it just took a bit of fiddling after that point to solve it. It felt fairly logical, which I liked and wasn't overly difficult. It probably took me around 5-10 minutes to solve this one.

I watched George Hart work on this one for a bit, and he managed to get the two smushed cubes stuck in there and was having a heck of a time getting them back out. He gave up after a bit, so I offered to help and managed to get them out pretty quickly. That's always fun!

Ampelmann by Roman Götter

This was a unique Berlin-themed puzzle designed after the "walk" and "don't walk" symbols on traffic lights in Berlin. There are two goals: to place the six Ampelmen in the upper part of the traffic light so you can see a red figure (red light) and  to place the six Ampelmen in the lower part of the traffic light so you can see a green figure (green light).

You can't tell from the photo, or just by looking, but there is an oddly shaped border inside the traffic light that restricts how you can place the figures. I didn't much care for this aspect: for me it was just more annoying than fun to have to feel around and figure out what the border is like. Also, I wasn't sure which end was the top and which end was the bottom, and I'm not sure if they're interchangeable.

Berlin Wall by Thomas Atkinson and Kate Jones

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the 24 blocks into a wall that is 4 units high and 21 bricks long. It was created with a laser cutter, so the edges have a char that gives it an unusual look. I played around with this one for a few minutes and managed to build out quite a bit of the wall, but I ended up with two extra pieces that I couldn't place. Since there were so many pieces and no obvious starting point, I gave up on this one in favor of spending time elsewhere.

I didn't check it, but I think the reason there are so many pieces is that it uses all the ways of joining 1 through 4 bricks either by gluing half faces or whole faces. I'm not sure though, so I could be wrong. In any event, I think it would have been better with fewer pieces.

Bishop Cubes by Forrest Bishop

This is a very unique sequential movement puzzle where the goal is to make different shapes. It is a bit hard to tell how it works by looking at the photo, and also pretty challenging when you actually have it in your hands. I'm not really sure how to explain it, but it was fun and challenging to play around with. Check out this video of somebody playing around with it to get a better idea for how it moves.

I tried scrambling it up and returning it to a cube shape, and spent a good 30 minutes working on it. Unfortunately I didn't have much luck! It gets pretty complicated figuring out what moves are possible, and using those moves to get anything productive done. I was able to get it closer to a cube, but not all the way back. On a second attempt, I scrambled it a bit less and had more luck getting it back. Definitely a fun little puzzle to play around with, I may purchase this one at some point. You can get it from the Bishop Cubes website for a pretty reasonable price of $30.

Cola Glass by Tom Lee

This is an interesting-looking disentanglement puzzle that is made out of a Coca Cola Can Glass. It must have been a challenge to drill the holes without breaking the glass! This was a really tricky disentanglement puzzle as well. I figured out the last few steps, but couldn't figure out how to get there from the beginning. I spent a good 20-30 minutes on this one and didn't have any luck. Eventually I peeked at the solution and after seeing it, I'm not surprised that I didn't figure it out. It was pretty involved, but I'm not very good at disentanglements with flexible components like this one. Overall a good puzzle!

 Cube Art by  Durandus Dijken

The goal of this puzzle is to get the same four colors showing on each side. I don't remember exactly, but I think there are around 8 pieces: one 2x2x2 cube, one 1x1x1 cube, three 1x2x2 blocks and three 1x1x2 blocks. Each of which has six colors distributed across six faces. It had a magnetic base and magnets inside the pieces to help with the stability of the puzzle as you assembled it, but it wasn't integral to the solution since the magnets moved around as-needed to hold the pieces in place. A clever idea!

I worked on this one for a bit and got fairly close to solving it, but couldn't quite get it. I think I probably only worked on it for about 10 minutes or so, so I think I could have gotten it if I had spent more time with it. Probably 30-60 minutes would have been sufficient, but too many other puzzles to try!

Cube&Cubes by Laurence Grenier

This was another very unique idea: the goal is to arrange the paper chain such that you see one 2x2 image on the top. To accomplish this, you can rotate the links of the chain and nest them together. I had a great time playing around with this one, it is simple to grasp and enjoyable to manipulate. I think it took me about 10 minutes, but eventually I was able to produce one of the images.

Cubes in Space by Hirokazu Iwasawa (Iwahiro)

This is an interesting variation on the anti-slide puzzle where the goal is to put the cubes inside the box in such a way so that when you close the box the cubes won't go rattling all over the place. This one is quite a bit trickier since the box is not square! It is possible to solve with 12 cubes or with 8.

I played around with this one for a bit, and felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to do, but I got frustrated that I couldn't hold the cubes in the positions where I wanted them and gave up for a bit. I chatted about this one with George Hart and he went to work on it. A few minutes later he stopped by and said he had solved it, and it was good! So I decided to take another stab at it.

With renewed vigor, I managed to get the pieces positioned the way I wanted: it was only then that I discovered a much easier way to do what I had been trying to do! Once you get the 12-piece solution, the 8-piece solution is pretty easy to figure out. Overall, a fun little puzzle!

That's it for today! More to come tomorrow so stay tuned!


  1. Albis Box is our old friend the rhombic dodecahedron. It is easy to cut one into three identical pieces which have six sides and look like cubes that have been squashed. This box packing puzzle is based on that dissection, but I didn't even get time to try it!

  2. Correction: I meant four identical pieces.

  3. Thanks for the review of our entry, the 16-axis Knockout Sticks. As an assembly problem this design is intentionally easy. The more puzzling aspects are a host of coloring problems that can be done using anywhere from 3 to 10 different kinds of woods. Also, there's a larger inverted configuration, but that requires 90 sticks surrounding the bronze 10-axis sculpture. We sent enough sticks to Berlin, but for space reasons, I suppose, only 30 of each shaped stick were on display and all of these challenges were edited out of the design competition. Oh well. Glad you liked it anyway. -Jane Kostick

  4. Thanks for the info, Jane! Sorry that the full puzzle wasn't on display and they edited out your challenges.

  5. Thank you for your efforts!
    They are very interesting and useful.
    Would you mind if I translate into Chinese
    and post it again?
    I will absolutely acknowledge the author and the website of this article.
    Thanks a lot again!
    Mechanical puzzle addict

  6. I suppose that's OK as long as you provide credit and a link back to my site. Also, send me a link to your site so I can see what you're doing. Thanks!

  7. Re: "Provided that you provide credit and a link back to my site. Also, send me a link to your site so I can see what you're doing."
    There are no problems so long as my written English can be up to the standard that I can translate them all into Chinese and vice versa. It’s because I hope I can do the translation as accurate as the ideas in the original article(s)
    Here I would like to state that I've got no website of myself.
    I would recommend my videos of You Tube and my articles in my blog.
    Article recommended:
    Title: New version of Russian ring-string puzzle(1st Ed., May2007)
    Videos strongly recommended
    (1)SPIN -- one of my IPP2011 entries
    (2)Angel-like metal chain and ring puzzle 1/2 (Level 1~2)
    Email address:
    Mechanical puzzle addict
    erauqscme (emcsquare, EMC2)

  8. Excellent reviews as usual Brian! Will await eagerly for the other puzzle reviews too! :-)


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