August 21, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

I wrote about the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition winners in my last two posts about the IPP32 Awards Banquet (Part 1 and Part 2), but there are plenty more good puzzles that were in the competition! Over the next few posts, I'll give you my brief review of each. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

1€ Labyrinth Puzzle - Robrecht Louage

This is another one of those puzzles where the goal is to extract the coin. As you can probably guess from the name, the solution involves navigating a rather complicated maze.

I wasn't a big fan of this one, since the maze is hidden, so it is very difficult to figure out where you are. You could probably do it with enough persistence, but it will take a while! The maze is quite sneakily designed to reduce the likelihood that you will solve it by accident.

13 Triangles - Ed Pegg Jr

This little tray packing puzzle consists of a number of right triangles, each of which has a checker pattern on the back. The idea is that you need to create either an all-orthogonal or all-diagonal grid with the triangles. While it might sound like an added challenge, the idea was to actually reduce the number of combinations you needed to try to find a solution.

Despite the hint of the grid, I found it quite daunting considering the number of pieces involved. I'm sure it could be done if you spent enough time with it, but I wasn't able to figure it out in the time that I had.

3 Color Cube - Lucie Pauwels

The goal of this puzzle is to create a cube that is either all Blue, Yellow, or Red on the outside. Each of the blocks has a number of colors on it, so you need to choose which face will be on the outside, and where it will be placed.

I thought that it should be pretty easy to figure out the placement of the pieces based on the colorings of each, since a piece colored red on three adjacent sides would probably be in the corner, however it was pretty challenging! I spent a good 20 minutes on this one without much luck, though I came fairly close.

3H=6T - Hideki Tsuiki

This oddly named packing puzzle makes use of two shapes, the Hexagonal Bipyramid (H) and the Triangular Antiprismoid (T), both of which are are imaginary cubes. Imaginary cubes are objects which have square projections in three orthogonal directions (like a cube does). The main goal is to pack all the pieces into the larger of the two boxes. The smaller box helps you visualize how the pieces have square projections, I think.

The shapes are fairly unusual, so it was a bit of a challenge figuring out how to pack them into a cube. However, I played around with a few ideas based on the number of pieces and the idea that the solution would be fairly symmetrical, and had it figured out in about 20 minutes. A nice little packing puzzle with some interesting pieces.

3-Layer Tetraxis Array - Jane and John Kostick

This is another beautiful puzzle by the Kosticks, which consists of a bunch of pieces with magnets inside them. There are a number of goals, you can build three separate shapes, but the grand-daddy you see in the picture is all three shapes nested together.

It might look really daunting, but the angles of the pieces and the placements of the magnets guide you quite a bit. Once you start to get the feel for how a shape is coming together, it goes together pretty easily. I think this is my favorite out of Jane's entries this year, just because it is so epic: it is quite a large puzzle and takes a good amount of time to put together. Quite cool! You can contact them through their website to purchase any of their puzzles, they'll even let you choose the woods!

3x3x3 Cube with Chess Board Faces - Albert G├╝beli

The goal of this puzzle is to build a red and black checkered cube, but the interesting part is the pieces! The pieces are created from cubes that are attached on the edges, rather than the faces, using what appears to be colored duck tape. Because of this, they can be flexed. As such, they can fit together in a number of ways that rigid pieces couldn't achieve.

I encountered this one during one of my last passes through the design competition room, not expecting too much, but it actually captivated me for a good 45 minutes! It seemed like it should be so simple: only 6 pieces. However, it was quite challenging! I kept getting stick with one piece remaining that theoretically should fit, however there was no way to actually get the piece into place without breaking the tape. Eventually I had it figured out, but I was nearly at my wit's end! This was a surprisingly good puzzle!

Arrow Blocks - Goh Pit Khiam

A six piece sliding block puzzle? Piece of cake! The goal is to restore both arrows such that the piece with the tip of the white arrow can fit in as well. However, there is an extra layer under the pieces which restricts your movement quite a bit. Fortunately, the lid can be removed if you give up and need to reset the puzzle.

This puzzle had one surprising element that I didn't really expect: I don't want to go into too much detail since it would spoil things, but I didn't much care for it. In some puzzles, this feature is quite brilliant, but in this one I found that it made it too difficult. If you're a real whiz with sliding block puzzles, you may be able to figure out what's going on, but I just ended up going in circles before giving up.

Bare Bones - Steve Winter

This one is just a simple dexterity maze, with the added difficulty that the maze is pretty hard to see! Steve has replaced the conventional walls that you'd usually find in a maze with rods: they work the same way to block the ball's movement, but it is harder to see what is going on.

I had a good time playing around with this one. I found that if you looked really closely, you could start to figure out what constituted a valid path, and start mapping out the maze that way. There weren't a ton of dead ends, but it just becomes difficult being able to see the way forward. Nicely done!

Befuddling Butterfly - William Waite
This tray packing puzzle has pretty unusual pieces: each piece can either have a protrusion or an indentation in one of five positions. In this way, it is a bit similar to Lonpos Cosmic Creatures, though that puzzle has six potential spots for the protrusions/indentations.

I though that this one would be quite well suited toward having a challenge booklet, similar to Lonpos. The full challenge of placing all 10 pieces in the tray was pretty tough, even though there are 231 solutions. The easier challenges would have only 2-3 pieces that need to be placed, building up to all 10. One minor thing that bugged me: it would have been nice if the butterfly's dots were glued down, they fell out whenever I tipped the pieces out.

Bloom - Volker Latussek

The goal of this puzzle is to build a solid circle (no, the negative-space circle on the left isn't the solution, as I hoped!) I fiddled with this one for a bit, and didn't have much trouble making a circle, though I wasn't quite sure whether my circle was circular enough.

It seemed like it was slightly oval, but I thought that the pieces might just be out of alignment. It would have been nice if it is a bit more clear when you've got it. I probably didn't quite get it, but I decided to move on anyways.

Well that's probably enough for today! Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

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