August 11, 2011

Berlin Puzzle Exchange Day

Saturday was the day of the Puzzle Exchange! For those of you not familiar with the International Puzzle Party, the puzzle exchange is where each participant brings many copies of a single puzzle to exchange with other participants in the exchange. Folks register for this in advance so everyone knows how many puzzles to have made and to bring. The puzzles need to be new (i.e. not available before the exchange), so it is a great chance to add a bunch of new items to your collection.

I wasn't exchanging this year since my collecting is more focused on boxes, and very few boxes are available in the exchange. However, each exchanger can have one assistant who helps keep track of which puzzles they have received, so I was helping out Stephen Chin. In addition to being helpful to him, it gave me a chance to figure out if I wanted to try to buy any of the exchange puzzles the following day at the puzzle party!

Stephen had a pretty incredible exchange present this year: he was exchanging Drunken Dancing Fraulein, one of his design competition entries. I'll write more about it when I get to my reviews of the design competition puzzles, but it is a beautifully hand-crafted top that is also a whistle and a puzzle box! I may be a bit biased, but this was my favorite puzzle in the exchange so it was fun helping give them out to everyone.

We wandered around the room crossing people off our list as we gave and received puzzles from each person. There were a number of good puzzles, though unfortunately the Sandfields, Perry McDaniel, and Matt Dawson weren't exchanging: I would have looked forward to seeing what they came up with since they're also into puzzle boxes.

Folks put one copy of each puzzle on the exchange table so everyone can see all the puzzles un-packaged in one spot. Here's a bunch of pictures as I walked around the table, you can click for a larger version:

Iwahiro, another puzzle designer that I keep an eye on, exchanged Gem Box which is in the upper left of the photo. It is a fairly large box that you're trying to put four octahedrons inside. I was thinking about getting this one, but didn't end up buying it since I was able to solve Stephen's copy. It is pretty good, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as MMMM (one of his other puzzles).

I ended up purchasing two puzzles in the photo above: the round one near the center of the picture is Crazy Bottles, which simulates the situation where you have bottles of different known sizes and are trying to get a particular volume left over (see Three Jug Problem). It was designed by Jean-Claude Constantin and exchanged by Manfred Ullrich.

I also purchased the one with the clear, square, plastic piece on a wooden base called Houdini's Torture Cell designed and exchanged by Brian Young. This one is based on the final lock in his The Opening Bat puzzle: it is such a cool mechanism he wanted to make it a bit more widely available and easier to show to people, which I thought was great. If you actually got the bat, you probably don't want to look at this one until you've solved the bat. Full reviews to come in subsequent posts once I've had some time to play around with them more.

I was thinking of purchasing the box with the five bolts on the top in the upper left corner of the picture above, but after solving Stephen's copy I didn't end up getting it. It is called Reach Open Space and was exchanged by Tatiana Matveeva. The mechanism is not bad, but not quite interesting enough that I wanted to purchase it.

I did end up buying Dick Hess's exchange, which is in the box directly to the left of Reach Open Space. He created two wire puzzles where the purpose is not to remove a piece, but rather to flip a piece upside down. It had a rodeo theme: the idea was to get the cowboy back on the Bull/Steer. Topographically they are the Boromean Rings that he frequently uses in other puzzles (The Yak, The Whale, and The Brontosaurus).

In the bottom right of this photo you can see Stephen Chin's Drunken Dancing Fraulein. Isn't that a nice looking puzzle? In the bottom left is Tanya Thompson's which is an interesting variation on the traditional crossed sticks design. It was produced by Logika Spiele, so I'll bet that will be commercially available at some point, which is good.

I ended up purchasing the reddish box in the center of the table called Laby Box that was designed by Jean-Claude Constantin and exchanged by Hendrik Haak. It is basically two sliding mazes that are linked together by three sets of two pins that need to be slide up and down while the mazes are slid left and right to open the box. It is a bit simpler than it sounds since it is all visible, but does take a number of steps to open. I'll bet this one will be pretty readily available from places where you can buy Constantin's work.

Overall, a solid batch of puzzles! Sorry that I can't go into detail on all of them, but that would take a while and I haven't actually played with them all. Let me know if you have questions about any of them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. Thanks to Stephen for letting me help out in the exchange! Here's a photo of Stephen exhausted from gathering all this loot.

After the exchange, I headed over to the design competition room where I logged a few more hours. This was the time when the lectures were going on, and I decided to skip most of them in favor of playing with the design competition puzzles.

I did attend one presentation by Rainer Popp and Friedhelm von Knorre's on puzzle locks, since I love Ranier's work (check out his site at He talked a bit about some design decisions and challenges he faced in some of his designs, which was quite interesting. However, I've only solved T3 and T4, so I had to shut my eyes and plug my ears when he was talking about the others. I didn't want to spoil the others since I'm hoping to have the chance to solve them at some point.

Next up was the banquet! The banquet was quite good, plenty of food and it was really tasty too! Again folks were pretty hungry, so there was a stampede for the buffet when it first opened. Fortunately our table was pretty close so I got some food without waiting too long. I sat with Rob Stegmann (Rob's Puzzle Page) and his daughter Chelsea, George Bell, Brett Kuehner and his family, Richard Gain (Microcubology) and his son Adam, and Tanya Thompson from ThinkFun.

There were a few presentations about upcoming puzzle parties in the US, Japan, and Europe, and then some performances. There was an odd fellow who was the MC and also did a bit of pop-and-lock dancing and break dancing. There was someone who was an expert in memory techniques who taught us a technique for memorizing a list of random words. There was a stunt bike-rider who did some pretty cool tricks, I think that was probably my favorite of the performances.

After dinner, folks hung out for a bit and chatted. I went down to the lobby to hang out and do some puzzles. I brought a few of the puzzles that Stephen got in the exchange with me so I could try them out before I decided whether or not I wanted to buy them the next day. I think I mentioned them already above with the photos of the exchange table, so I won't go through them here.

Coming up next, the actual puzzle party!


  1. Hi Brian, thanks for the write up of what took place at IPP Berlin...Looks like you and all others had a great time! many of the puzzles on the table in the photos look amazing...hope to see your reviews soon.


  2. Hi Biran, thank you for the write-up. It is almost (but not quite) as good as being there!

  3. Glad you enjoyed it, David! I hope to make it by Eureka soon!

  4. Thanks Jerry! I just found your blog and am enjoying reading it as well!

  5. Hey Brian. It was good to meet you at the IPP - love the write ups you are doing and congratulations on getting married. Gerard

  6. Thanks Gerard! It was great meeting you as well! Hope to see you at the next IPP!


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