August 25, 2011

2011 Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 2)

When I left off in my post yesterday, I had arrived at Jeff's house and was proceeding to work my way some of his new puzzles!  Next, I decided to give some of the new series of nature-themed Karakuri boxes a try.

The first one that I tried is called Little Tree. It is a nice little square box with a tree on the top. The tree is made from colored woods, which I thought looked nice. As a puzzle, most will find this to be pretty trivial, so I am OK with not having purchased this one, even though it is pretty reasonably priced at $46. Jeff Chiou wrote a blog entry about this puzzle where he notes that the fit is so loose that the puzzle practically solves itself. While I didn't have this problem, a few other people at the party did.

Next up was a box called Mother Tree. This box is about twice as large as Little Tree, and has a more complex design on the top. It is similarly made out of wood that is raised a bit from the surface. Again, this one is quite simple and most will solve it in well under a minute, but I liked the mechanism on this one a bit more because the drawer pops out. That's always a fun little surprise! This one must be a bit more complex to make, since it is significantly more expensive than Little Tree at $137.

Finally, we have Star Night, which is a bit different from the other two: it has a polar bear walking across an icy tundra under a starry night sky. Some folks may not like the "stars" since they're plastic (or glass?), but I think it adds a nice little sparkle to the scene.

You'll quickly notice that the polar bear is held on magnetically, as you may expect. The solution to this one isn't too difficult, but is a bit harder than the previous two. The mechanism is a bit more interesting, so I think this is probably my favorite of the three. Like Mother Tree, Star Night is priced at $137. All three boxes are available for sale now at the Karakuri Creation Group website.

This next puzzle is by Fumio Tsuburai and named Karakuri Yohkan. Yohkan is a type of Japanese dessert that consists of bean jam and gelatin. Tasty! It has a pretty unusual appearance as you can see: there is a wooden sleeve that encloses a speckled brown package.

This box was pretty easy to open, a bit of  fiddling quickly led me to the solution, though perhaps I just got lucky. It is a somewhat unique movement, but I didn't find it to be particularly interesting. It had a bit of a lightweight feel to it, which made me a bit worried about the durability of the mechanism.

Next I tried Cube KW2 by Hideaki Kawashima, which looks a lot like the Karakuri Cube Box series (see this blog post), only it is a bit larger and has less of a bevel on the pieces. Kawashima describes it as a deluxe edition of the cube series, and I agree that it goes beyond any of the cube puzzles in terms of complexity.

This box actually has two small storage compartments, each which are accessed by similar movements. I found this one to be moderately challenging, due to the way it is constructed there are a lot of options for the way it can move. After finding the first bit, it took me a little longer to actually finish opening it. It does a nice job of using your assumptions against you, though at its core it is a fairly common trick. I really enjoyed this one!

While I was working my way through these puzzles, Tanya Thompson from Think Fun arrived, and she brought with her all of the 2011 puzzle exchange puzzles! We all stayed up pretty late working on puzzles, I think I got to bed around 2:30 or so. I hoped I wouldn't be too tired to work on some more puzzles on Saturday!


  1. Yep, I was a bit disappointed with Box with a Tree and Mother Tree as well. Sounds like a fun gathering. Gerard

  2. Indeed it was quite fun! Plenty more to come!

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