August 17, 2012

IPP32: Awards Banquet (Part 1)

Sunday was a fairly leisurely day, I had a chance to sleep in for the first day in quite a while and went to the Spy Museum with Kellian. We checked out the Spy in the City experience, where they give you a little electronic device that guides you on a spy mission. It was fairly fun, but not quite challenging enough for our taste. Still, a nice way to spend an afternoon!

Before the awards banquet, we hung out for a bit in the lobby. I got a chance to try some new designs by Ken Irvine, which were quite enjoyable! Eric Fuller and Tom Lensch were taking orders to make some of Ken's designs, which is a real credit to their quality! Keep an eye out for them in the future. Here's a photo of William Waite playing with one of Ken's designs with Norman Sandfield and Kagen Schaefer.

At around 6:30 we headed in for another tasty buffet. This time rather than having everybody make a mad dash for the buffet (which resulted in long lines at the previous banquet), they sent us table by table, which was much more orderly. After dinner, we took our annual photo of all the puzzlers from the Renegade forum (photo by Jen Dantzer-Jackson, Neil's girlfriend):

Starting in the back left, we have Brian Young, Scott Elliott, Matt Dawson, Richard Gain, Nick Baxter, Brett Kuehner, Ken Irvine, George Syriaque, Brian Pletcher, Jim Strayer, Peter Wiltshire, Neil Hutchison, and Rob Stegmann. In the bottom row: George Bell, Eric Fuller, Allard Walker, Stephen Chin, Roxanne Wong, Jeff Aurand (lying down), Robert "Stickman" Yarger (brown cap), Gregory Benedetti, and Derek Bosch. Quite a good turnout among the Renegades!

Now for the competition results! A jury awards the Jury Grand Prizes, Jury First Prizes, and Jury Honorable Mentions. Puzzle party attendees also vote on their top five choices, and the puzzle that gets the most votes receives the Puzzlers' Award. Starting two years ago, they have also announced the Top 10 Vote Getters who weren't recognized with a Jury prize, which is a nice way of recognizing puzzles that a lot of puzzle party attendees liked.

Top Ten Vote Getters

Blind Burr by Gregory Benedetti was an interesting burr variation that had an unusual movement. I don't want to give too much detail on it since it would sort of spoil things if you knew too much. It is a challenge to solve without this information, you could spend a while spinning your wheels! It is very nicely crafted by Maurice Vigouroux, and fits together nicely.

From a design perspective this is an interesting puzzle, but it is definitely a puzzler's puzzle. If you gave it to an inexperienced puzzler, it could be pretty frustrating, I think. If you're looking for a challenge though, this is a fun one!

The Locked Room Mystery by Simon Nightingale is a puzzle box where the goal is to open the box with the key. Unfortunately, the key is inside the box! It has an interesting series of moves similar to a Karakuri box that I tried recently. However, the move sequence is more challenging, and the seemingly impossible nature of the puzzle makes it even more appealing. This is one I would have loved to get a copy of!

This is a nice one because it is pretty accessible, I think most people will be able to solve it if they stick with it for a while. There's nothing particularly sneaky about it (no whacking/shaking required), and you'll soon discover how it works, though actually freeing the key will take some persistence and systematic trial and error. One downside to this one is that the windows tend to scratch a bit with use due to the nature of the puzzle. One thing I really liked is the way the lock is actually used: it is a bit hard to tell how turning the lock will unlock the door, since there doesn't appear to be a latch! I heard that Simon was particularly proud of this little detail.

The Vault by Mike Toulouzas was one that I had seen on the design competition website and really looked forward to trying. It looked like a real beast, with its safe-like appearance. Fortunately, there are large keyholes on each side and the back, so you can peek inside to see what is going on! Without these, it would basically be a combination lock.

Because you can see the mechanism, I think most people will be able to get it open rather quickly. However, there is still a sense of accomplishment when it clicks open and you feel like you've cracked the safe!

Getting it open is only half the challenge! Once you get it open, a little spring-loaded piece pops out to keep the door from shutting, and you need to figure out how to close it. I was able to get it closed fairly easily...too easily in fact! It turns out that the spring-loaded mechanism was binding a bit, so I was able to cheat. A look at the solution revealed that a much more elegant solution was intended. It would have been much cooler if the binding issue was resolved so you really needed to figure out the ending. One other issue was that the weight of the door tended to tip the puzzle over on you when the door was open. Still an impressive puzzle: it had a neat mechanism and also looked fantastic! The craftsmanship was superb, and it was quite a fun one to solve!

Ze House of Mouse Ze Dong by Stephen Chin is a variation on Stephen's exchange puzzle to make it more challenging. The goal is to find the mouse hiding in the house. In this version, he added several additional sequential-discovery elements that make it a bit more challenging to get the mouse out of the house. Also, there are some electronics involved, as Stephen loves to do! When you stick your finger in the hole, the mouse starts laughing at you, which is pretty amusing.

This puzzle (and the exchange) has a nice little surprise built in, which will make it a fun one to show to friends. The solution is fairly challenging to find, particularly if you haven't solved the exchange version. One drawback is that the mechanism is a bit fragile: it is easy to jam up the mechanism inside the house, though it can be fixed if you poke around a bit. You also need to be careful not to poke through the little black bag that is inside the hole. This happened a few times to the competition version of the puzzle. Still, a fun little puzzle, despite the fact that it mocks you as you try to solve it!

Jury Honorable Mention

Heptagon 48 by Koshi Arai is a tray packing puzzle made out of marble, which is an unusual material for a puzzle. It worked nicely though, with the pieces fitting so well together to the point that they blended in with the edges of the tray.

The puzzle is based on the fact that heptagons (7-sided polygons) can tile the plane, though they leave pentagonal spaces as seen in the photo. I found the spaces to be pretty distracting, since I wasn't quite sure what the tiling would end up looking like. It would have been nice if they gave an example of what a heptagonal tiling with pentagonal spaces looked like, though I guess you could say that's part of the puzzle!

I found this one to be quite challenging, just because the geometry was quite unfamiliar to me. I wasn't sure what the pattern of pentagonal spaces would be like, so I soon got frustrated and peeked at the solution to see what kind of pattern I was trying to make. That helped a bit, but it was still quite challenging given the number of pieces.

I decided to make the challenge a bit easier by filling in a few pieces using the solution, and then trying to do the rest myself. Still, it was quite challenging! I needed to add a few more pieces from the solution before I was able to finish it on my own. If you enjoy this type of tray-packing puzzle with a fairly large number of pieces, then you might like this one, but I found it too challenging for my taste. The marble was quite nice though and it was an interesting tiling that you ended up constructing!

RotoPrism 2 by David Pitcher was one that I didn't really understand: I found three axes that would turn, but was only able to turn each 180 degrees. The directions noted that a 90 degree turn was possible, but I couldn't find it. After the awards banquet, I was speaking with Bram Cohen and he explained how to get to the 90 degree turn. He also explained that in order to enable this apparently simple twisty puzzle, there was some fairly complicated mechanics going on inside.

Unfortunately, I don't really know enough about twisty puzzles to really appreciate this one, though I'm sure it is quite impressive if the judges liked it! I played around with it a bit, but wasn't able to make much progress since I couldn't find the 90 degree turn.

Well that's all for now! In Part 2, I will go through the First Prizes, Grand Prizes, and Puzzlers Award!


  1. The Blind Burr I thought was very cool. I was able to get it apart and back together in about an hour. Reassembly was the hard part ... It is a standard looking 6-piece Burr that turns out to be completely different from what you expect!

  2. Hi Brian,
    Thank you very much for your detailed posts. Reading them feels like we had been there ourselves.
    A small precision : Like the Daedalus, the Blind Burr was created by Gregory Benedetti and crafted for him by Maurice Vigouroux.

  3. That vault puzzle looks really awesome!

  4. Looks like this year IPP was a great thing !

    Lots of awesome original puzzle designs
    on YouTube. Look at Gear Box puzzle for
    starters and enjoy !

  5. Hi Pio, thanks for the correction! I've updated the post.

    Indeed Moises, it is quite a cool puzzle! I think 3 copies will be available for sale, though probably for a pretty penny, though well worth it considering the work involved! The craftsman contacted me that he was working to resolve the issue that I described.

  6. I particularly liked the Locked Room Mystery by Simon.


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