August 16, 2011

Berlin Awards Banquet (Part 2)

Yesterday I left off while I was going through the 2011 International Puzzle Party Design Competition Top 10 Vote Getters, so I'll pick up now with my thoughts on the jury prize winners and the puzzler's award.

Jury Honorable Mention

House With Trees by Hiroshi Iwahara is a puzzle box that I actually own and have reviewed already, so you can check out my full review here. As you can see from the photo, it is a beautiful looking box that makes great use of contrasting woods.

It has an interesting solution that can be quite hard to discover if you're not familiar with Iwahara's earlier work, Box with Tree, which has some similarities. Box with a Tree actually won an Honorable Mention  back in 2006, and I was actually a bit surprised that this box won an award, since the mechanism is so similar. However, it sort of takes Box with Tree to the next level, and is an interesting box on its own merit, so that is probably why it won something.

T-3 by Hiroshi Yamamoto is an assembly puzzle with multiple goals. The first is to make a T pentomino and additionally you can try to make other pentominos. It is made from laser cut acrylic.

This is a bit similar to the classic T puzzle that dates back to the 20th century, but rather than having four pieces it has three, and the pieces are a bit more oddly shaped. What's more impressive is that these three odd shaped pieces can also make three other pentominoes! I'm not quite sure how you go about designing something to work out that way, but I found it fairly impressive.

As a puzzle, I didn't find it particularly difficult, I was able to create the T shape and a P shape without too much trouble, probably in about 5-10 minutes. Since there were a bunch of puzzles to be played with, I didn't try to find any others.

While it is interesting from a geometric standpoint, I'm not a big fan of assembly puzzles of this type. Still, I can definitely appreciate that this is a very interesting pentomino dissection. Definitely worth checking out if this type of puzzle is up your alley.

Fracture-10 by David Pitcher is a very interesting-looking twisty puzzle. It can turn on five different axes, all located at the vertexes around its equator. Each axis can turn in increments of 90 degrees, if not blocked by bandaged pieces.

Unfortunately, I can't really say much about this puzzle since I didn't spend much time trying to solve it. Due to the geometry and the fact that moves can be blocked, it is likely to be pretty tricky though! I'll leave it to the twisty-puzzle specialists to weigh in on the merits of this one!

Jury First Prize

Judge's Gavel by Mike Toulouzas was a puzzle that I was really interested in checking out. The goal is to remove the small ring trapped around the handle of the gavel. It is masterfully crafted by Mike and has the appearance of a real gavel.

It took me a little while to figure this one out, probably about 15 minutes or so. I had the right idea, but I wasn't quite doing it correctly so it took me a bit longer. I had hoped that it involved more than just whacking the gavel, and I was not disappointed.

One funny thing about this puzzle is that you could always tell when somebody was working on it, since the sound of the gavel rapping on the gavel block was pretty loud! I guess that's the point of a real gavel though, so it is true to form.

I really liked the solution to this one because it felt fairly logical. It was not overly complicated, but still challenging: most people could probably solve it in a reasonable amount of time (under an hour). It is reminiscent of some of the classic designs Hoffman's Puzzles Old & New. I think the only downside is that folks may be reluctant to use sufficient force on a particular move, that was what hung me up for a bit since I didn't want to damage it. Still, it is a solid puzzle and I can definitely see why it did so well! Here's a photo of Mike with his trophy.

MT5T (Make the 5 Tetrominoes) by Mineyuki Uyematsu is an interesting assembly puzzle: the goal is to assemble the black pieces such that they completely surround the five tetrominoes.

This is another puzzle I didn't have sufficient time for: I toyed around with it for a little while, but was unable to solve it. As such, I can't really give a good evaluation of it. Probably worth checking out since the judges enjoyed it, though!

Superstrings by Richard Gain is a two-piece puzzle where the goal is to take it apart and put it back together. Richard's main medium has been 3D printed puzzles in his Shapeways shop, Microcubology, so is should come as no surprise that this puzzle takes particular advantage of this medium. Each piece consists of a single "string" that twists around in an interesting way to create the shape of the piece. I would imagine it would be quite a challenge to do this in wood without the puzzle being too fragile, but it works quite nicely in nylon. The pieces appear almost identical, though they are not quite identical, which makes for a very symmetrical looking puzzle.

When I first went to try this one, it was actually disassembled, so I set myself to the task of reassembling it. It was pretty clear how I wanted to position the pieces, but getting to that point proved quite challenging. I tried to visualize how the puzzle must have been disassembled and work my way back from there, but it was quite tricky to visualize because the pieces are so complex. After maybe 20-30 minutes I was able to get it together, a good challenge but not impossible if you stick with it. After assembling it, I found that it is quite a bit easier to disassemble.

The solution path is pretty tricky since there are a number of dead-ends and a few rotational moves. The complexity of the pieces definitely adds to the difficulty here. I can't really think of any downsides with this one, it was an elegantly designed puzzle that was fun to solve. Well done, Richard!

Jury Grand Prize

The jury grand prize went to a puzzle that I was also very interested in trying: 4 Steps Visible Lock by Robrecht Louage. Just from looking at it in the photos, I had high hopes for this one and I wasn't disappointed! The goal is to remove the coin.

It is nicely constructed and a good size, perhaps six inches long. At first, when I started playing around with it I was a bit confused: I couldn't tell what was preventing the coin from sliding toward the hole. After closer inspection, I figured out the first step. It progresses along nicely like this, each step you can figure out what to do next entirely by visually examining the puzzle. This is a welcome idea after dealing with lots of puzzles with hidden mechanisms! You would think that it would be straightforward, but particularly the first and fourth steps are a bit tricky. I think it took me about 10 minutes to solve, but it could easily take longer.

Again, no real downsides that I can think of to this one, it was really well executed and I can definitely see why the judges looked favorably upon it. It was one of my favorites of the competition, and was a fun one to watch people working their way through.

Puzzlers Award

The puzzlers award this year went to NOBOX Puzzle by Simon Nightingale. This was another one that I was really eager to try: the goal is to lock the box then unlock it, which is pretty unusual for a puzzle box.

I think this was one of the first puzzles that I went to when I initially arrived, I was very curious to see how it worked. I spent a good amount of time on it, but didn't make any progress. I tried to figure out what was going on with the mechanism, but couldn't quite figure it out. This went on for most of the weekend until I finally decided to give up and take a look at the solution. After seeing the solution, I'm not surprised that I had trouble figuring it out, it is pretty complicated! Locking the box requires a very specific sequence of steps that I don't think I would have stumbled across very soon. Unlocking it is quite a bit easier, though it could prove difficult if you weren't the one who locked it.

I'm not entirely sure what the mechanism is inside, but the way it works is quite impressive! What's even more impressive is how well camouflaged it is inside the two plain-looking boxes.  Personally, I found the solution to be a bit too difficult to find to enjoy it as a puzzle, since the inner mechanism is so complicated and I didn't think there were sufficient clues to figuring it out. Perhaps if I was more familiar with his earlier work, particularly the One-Piece Packing Puzzle, I would have had a better shot at it. Still, it is an impressively engineered and crafted puzzle, and I can definitely admire that!

Well, that's the end of the award winners! Congratulations to all the winners!

After the awards were presented, we all hung out for a while, congratulating everybody and talking about the different puzzles. After a while, I headed down to the lobby to see if there was any puzzling going on there, but I think most folks just stayed up in the banquet hall and then headed to bed. It had been an awesome puzzle party, and I was really glad to have attended! I'm already looking forward to next year!

Here's a link to my photos from IPP31.

Well, that's the end of my experience at the 2011 International Puzzle Party in Berlin! Up next, I'll have a few more posts where I go through the other design competition puzzle entries with a brief review of each.


  1. these puzzles are really amazing.i stumbled upon the secret/puzzle boxes first when i was traveling in rajasthan, india. ever since then i have been interested in their working and designing. after searching for codes that help in designing them i came across this page. this is some brilliant work.

  2. A fantastic blog with a lot of useful information. I would love to get updates from you. Keep blogging. All the best.


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