December 15, 2011

Cowboy's Hobble

Cowboy's Hobble is a simple-looking disentanglement puzzle recommended to me by George Bell. The folks at Puzzle Master were kind enough to send me a copy to review. Thanks!

Despite its simple appearance, this one is actually fairly difficult! The goal is to remove the ring. I tried a few of the obvious things and ended up going around and circles quite a bit. Each time, I ended up getting stuck on the ball at the end of the string.

Since attacking this one head-on didn't seem to be doing the trick, I started to think about the different ways that the ring could be put back on the puzzle once I had removed it. Following this path eventually led me to the solution, since the tricky-to-find move is much easier to find in reverse. Picking the puzzle up again as I write this, I still forget that blasted move and have to repeat the mental exercise to re-discover it. A sign of a good puzzle!  Definitely worthy of Puzzle Master's 9/10 difficulty rating.

No real downsides to this one as far as I'm concerned: it doesn't have much opportunity to get tangled like many disentanglement puzzles with a string component do. Overall, Cowboy's Hobble was a great disentanglement puzzle! Thanks to George for recommending it to me!

Check out Kevin's review here of Live Wire's version of this puzzle, named Ball and Ring.


  1. I loved this one - it is surprisingly difficult! I got it from Livewire puzzles where it is called Ball and Ring. It is an absolute classic, first described in the book Creative puzzles of the World. It took me an hour to solve and I still struggle when I pick it up again. I reviewed it here.

  2. Indeed! I added a link to your review as well.

  3. Tavern Puzzles has issued this as "Sneaky Pete" Its one of my favorite disentanglement puzzles that I've never been able to solve (without explicit instructions in front of me).

  4. I'm glad you liked it, Brian! Another of my favorite disentanglements is Kirill Grebnev's "Forest Puzzle". This is another puzzle which appears deceptively easy. Unfortunately it is not easy to find, although perhaps you can buy a copy directly from him at

    I don't even have a copy of his Forest Puzzle, but I do have a handmade puzzle from Lambert Bright that is equivalent to Grebnev's "Rings on Stick".

  5. Interesting, Tim! I hadn't noticed that!

    George, Forest Puzzle does look quite tricky! I'll have to take a crack at that one at some point. I wonder if he has trouble finding sticks in the correct proportions.

  6. Just make a Forest Puzzle yourself! You don't need a special stick. The one that won the IPP design comp in 2007 was very ordinary looking. That is why it sets Chinny's blood boiling!

    Making one is easy. It is not easy to assemble the puzzle. This one is hard in both directions!

  7. Hm, that's a thought! Maybe I'll do it while I'm home for Christmas, since I can use my father's drill press.


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