October 2, 2014

Stickman #5 (Borg Box)

I have long been an admirer of Stickman #5 (Borg Box), an amazing design by Robert Yarger: I finally had a chance to try it out at the 2011 RPP, thanks to Peter Wiltshire bringing his copy. It has eighty very intricate wooden pieces that hold together in the shape of a box. To open the box, you need to slide the pieces around, and once open you can completely disassemble the puzzle into its component pieces. I loved the way it looked, with the patchwork of pieces all locked together.

This seemed to me like an excellent candidate for 3D printing since no glue-up is required, plus I wanted a copy and it goes for a pretty penny at auction! Of course, nothing would quite be the same as the beauty and craftsmanship of the wood version, but I thought that a plastic version would still be a fun way to appreciate the design. (In case you don't read to the end, I was successful and this is now available for sale! Read the end for details.)

Robert was also interested in the idea, and was kind enough to loan me a prototype of the Borg Box that he had, which I could use to create the model. I'm not much of a 3D modeler, but fortunately this puzzle is based on a cubic grid so I could model it in BurrTools. The tricky part was making sure I had all the pieces correct, since it was too complicated of an assembly puzzle for BurrTools to solve without some help!

What I ended up using was a little-known feature of BurrTools where you can save a solved assembly as a new piece. I gave each piece a distinct color, and had BurrTools assemble each panel separately (with a few color specifications given as hints). Next, I exported each solved panel as its own multi-color piece, and assembled these 6 pieces into the final solution. Finally, using this final solution with the exact color specs of each piece, BurrTools was able to assemble the full puzzle.

Using this process, I was able to identify and correct any errors I made during the initial modeling of the pieces. This was great, so I didn't have to waste any money on printing! The interface is a bit tough to use, but you can actually manually slide the pieces around in virtual space to make sure things are interacting correctly.

So I went and ordered a copy from Shapeways and it turned out quite well! Here's the jumble of pieces I received. Assembling it wasn't all that hard since I had become extremely familiar with the design while modeling it. If you didn't know what you were doing, it would be quite a bear!

I had a bit of an issue with some of the pieces on the top and bottom panels not staying locked together with the runners on that panel, but a small tweak to the design fixed this issue.

The other issue was the fit: it was a bit too loose for my taste, so I tried printing a second copy with a somewhat smaller offset to see if that helped. Unfortunately, this copy was too tight! I started sanding the pieces to fit, but then realized I could just swap some of the pieces from my first model to get a great fit! This did the trick nicely. In the final Shapeways model, I went with this mixed offset approach to get as good of a fit as possible.

Currently I'm offering this for sale at $180 plus shipping, but Shapeways just announced a price increase which will raise the price to $340 after October 7th 2014. You can contact me with the contact me link if you're interested in ordering one. I'm not offering these directly from Shapeways since it is probably best to receive it assembled, and it requires a bit of sanding to get the fit just right.

I've also modeled Stickman Snowflake and have that available for sale (here) direct from Shapeways. The price on this one isn't going up by as much, since there are only six pieces. This is a really neat design with six pieces forming a box that can be completely disassembled. I love the way the corners spiral together on this one!

September 25, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 6)

This is the final post in my series about the puzzles in the 2014 Puzzle Design Competition . All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

Tel Arad - Yael Meron

The goal is to fold the pieces into a three-layer stack. The rectangular pieces are joined by string, which can be slid around to some degree to position the pieces where you'd like them.

I had a good time solving this one, folding problems tend to involve a bit of logic and a bit of trial and error. You can see which pieces need to be adjacent to which pieces based on whether there is string joining them. Yael had a smaller version of this as her exchange puzzle.

Tetra-Pack - Ton Brouwer

The goal is to remove the cube from the tetrahedron and put it back in. This puzzle was one of the Top 10 Vote Getters.

The assembled puzzle looks great, with the points of the cube poking out the sides of the tetrahedron. It was disassembled when I found it, so I tried putting the pieces back in. It turns out that the tetrahedron likes to block you at every turn, the first few pieces are easy but then I started getting stuck. I would have liked to spend more time with this one, it is a neat design.

Thor´s Hammer - Stephan Baumegger

The goal is to disassemble and reassemble the burr. I loved the theme of this one, but it ends up being quite a tricky burr! I was able to get a number of moves along, but it just kept going. I meant to return to this one but didn' thave time.

3 Celestial Stars - Stewart Coffin, Stephen Chin, George Bell

Three different assemblies based on the stellated rhombic dodecahedron, each by a different designer and crafted by Stephen Chin. Each assembly comes apart differently, it is quite an interesting geometry with some nice coordinate motion.

3 Pentagons - Koshi Arai

The goal is to make a flat symmetric shape, there are three solutions. I had a tough time with two-piece Symmetric so I wasn't too optimistic about this three-piece puzzle which seemed similar. I didn't have a chance to figure this one out.

Trinity - Michail Toulouzas

The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the pieces. I had a pretty easy time of doing both of these, which makes me think that I was missing something. Perhaps I just lucked out!

Two Dogs - Diniar Namdarian

The goal is to exchange the position of the two dogs to make them face one another. It is another challenging sliding block puzzle. I really should practice more of these, I had a tough time with this one!

Whitebox - Volker Latussek

The goal is to insert the ball in the maze on one side and navigate it to the other side. I wasn't sure if there was some trick to this one, but I ended up being able to solve it pretty easily with some random shaking and tilting.

Well, that's all for this year's design competition, I hope you enjoyed it! I know I've been slacking off on the blog recently, but hopefully I'll be getting started with more regular posts again.

September 24, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

This is a continuation in my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2014 Puzzle Design Competition . All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

7-4-2 - Lucie Pauwels

The goal is to make two crosses with the seven pieces. The first cross is pretty easy, but getting the second one is more challenging and a clever idea.

Simpleda - Ede Gergényi and Péter Gál

This string disentanglement uses a split and curved piece of wood, which I thought was an unusual choice. Typically you'd see wire here, but it worked pretty well other than the sharp edges on the wood catching the string a bit. The puzzle was a moderately challenging string disentanglement, I think it took me about 5-10 minutes, so not exceedingly difficult.

Six Cube - Evgeniy Grigoriev

This puzzle looks like a burr, but it actually rotates like a Rubik's Cube! This is pretty surprising when you pick it up, but it solves like a twisty puzzle. I'm not much into twisty puzzles, so I didn't dare to scramble this one up.

Six Locks: Two Keys - Simon Nightingale

The goal is to open the box using the keys, but the keys start off inside the box! This puzzle won the Jury Grand Prize.

It wasn't too tricky to free the keys, but actually opening the lid is quite challenging. Fiddling with the various locks started to reveal a pattern, and eventually I had it open. Looking at the solution, I was making some unnessary moves, but it still did the trick. Very clever box and mechanism! I always love to see what Simon has come up with.

Six Ring Circus - Eric Harshbarger

The goal is to assemble the six rings into a sphere. I was able to get most of them together, since the info sheet showed an assembled version I could tell which pieces went where, but getting that last piece in proved to be more difficult! I ended up getting kicked out of the design competition room when it closed, so I had to quit, and I didn't return to this one.

The 69 Puzzle - George Miller

The idea is that you can assemble the cube to make the number 69 when you add up all the external faces. I'm not a big fan of doing math while I'm solving a puzzle, so I opted just to make a cube, which isn't hard at all (of course). Getting the numbers you want on the outside would be more challenging!

Skewered Cubes - Tom Lensch

The goal is to put the two blocks and the divider in the box and close the lid. A simple matter of permutations, right? It turns out to be a bit more complicated than that. It was a bit too difficult for my taste in this type of puzzle, since it took a lot of fiddling to see that a straightforward approach wouldn't work.

Slidoku - Simon Nightingale

A combination of a sliding block puzzle and a sudoku puzzle, the 3x3 frames move and so do the pieces within the frames. The goal is to solve the sudokup by sliding the pieces around. There are some hints marked on the wood regarding which pieces should end up where, but it is still quite challenging! I didn't have time to finish this one.

Space Axis - Osanori Yamamoto

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the three pieces. I liked the use of the contrasting light and dark woods. Since there are only three pieces and there aren't many ways to place them, there isn't much trial and error involved. The puzzle is more about the movements of the pieces to get them into place, which is the part I enjoy.

Sunleaf - Gondos Gábor

The goal is to place the pieces in the tray. When I came around to this one, it looked terribly tedious and difficult, but due to the shape of the pieces it is actually fairly simple. Once you get going, the pieces only seem to go together one way, which makes it more like a jigsaw puzzle than a tray packing puzzle. The final solution has a nice rotational symmetry.

Symptomino - Péter Gál

The goal is to create a symmetric polyomino with 2, 3, and all 4 pieces. These symmetry problems can be tricky challenging, but I didn't find it too tough to figure out the 2 and 3 piece solution. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to find the 4 piece solution.

Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow!

September 23, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)

This is a continuation in my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2014 Puzzle Design Competition . All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

One Flower - Osanori Yamamoto

The goal is to assemble to two pieces inside the frame. This was the type of design I was comparing to Claws of the Devil earlier. It uses a number of rotational movements to create the needed space. I found it to be somewhat less challenging than his other designs, though still quite enjoyable. It was nice that there were only two pieces (other than the frame).

Ooban - Kohno Ichiro (Kichiro)

The goal is to place the three broken oval coins in the pipe with both lids on. The description mentions that it was inspired by Iwahiro's Mmmm, but I found it to be too similar: if you know the solution to one, the other is pretty clear. I thought that there might be something clever to do with the smaller bits of each coin, but they go in pretty easily once you have the rest done. The theme was nice though.

Paper Clip - Dmitry Pevnitskiy, Kirill Grebnev

This is a clever string desentanglement based on the shape of a paper clip. I'm used to having trouble with this type of puzzle, but I was able to figure this one out. It is easy to go around in circles, but once I started to play with some different movements it ended out working out. I often find that is the case with these puzzles rather than immediately seeing that a move will work.

Pent-cil Box - Jerry Loo

The goal is to pack the pieces in the box with the pencil. Unfortunately two pieces were jammed pretty badly in the box, so I wasn't able to try this one. Cute idea though!

Perplexing Pyramid - Simon Bexfield/David Singmaster

The goal is to make a regular tetrahedron from the two hinged pieces. This puzzle was one of the Top 10 Vote Getters.

It is an interesting application of the flexibility of certain 3D printed materials. The solution is pretty clever and challenging to find, it wasn't what I expected it to be.

Pillow Packing - Bram Cohen

The goal is to pack all six pieces in the box. I'm really not much of a fan of this type of box, it consists of two halves that separate into two three-sided C shapes. This makes it really hard to stack the pieces and try things out. A proper acrylic box with a lid may have worked better here. In any event, I couldn't figure it out either! This one is pretty challenging.

Pirate's Wallet Puzzlebox - Robert Yarger

The goal is to open the puzzle box, of course! This puzzle was one of the Top 10 Vote Getters.

I purchased this puzzle from Robert and really enjoyed it. It has a number of surprises along the way, and I liked the hinged straps and lock. Unfortunately, it is somewhat fragile and broke a few times during the competition. This is one I'll be keeping away from inexperienced puzzlers!

Power Tower - Goh Pit Khiam and Jack Krijnen

This is another n-ary puzzle, the goal is to remove all the pieces. The great thing about this one is that there aren't any extraneous control pieces or sliders. This gives it a nice simplicity that lets you understand the underlying pattern more easily.

RingInt - Yael Friedman

This is another take-apart puzzle ring, which I liked a bit better than 42 (though 42 looks really cool). It is much more ring-like, though it doesn't completely disassemble. The black strips run through 1/4 of the ring, and must be slid out in the right sequence. Yael even provided a convenient poker tool to help slide them out.

Rollin', Rollin' - Sam Cornwell

The goal is to move the block from one corner to the other. I liked how this puzzle restricted the movement physically rather than simply drawing arrows or something on the pieces to indicate the movement rule. Each of the rolly pieces could only move along one axis.

I found it pretty challenging to make enough room to get the block out of its corner, but once it was on its way it was fairly easy (since I could move a piece into its corner spot).

Safari Clues Cube - Steve Winter

This is an interlocking 4x4x4 cube, with pegs and grooves added to the pieces to further restrict movement. Since this is a very challenging puzzle to solve right off, it has been divided into a number of challenges of increasing difficulty, so you learn about how the pieces interact. The animal stickers on the side are how the challenges are presented (e.g. use the green and blue piece to make an ostrich and an aligator).

This ensures that you know the orientation of the pieces, but you need to figure out the sequence of assembly. I eventually got tired of the challenges and just skipped to the final challenge of assembling the full cube. It took me quite a while, maybe 45 minutes, to finally get it together. Pretty tricky!

Stay tuned for Part 5 tomorrow!

September 22, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 3)

This is a continuation in my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2014 Puzzle Design Competition . All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

Football Match - Diniar Namdarian

The goal is to move the football from the right goal to the left goal by sliding the pieces. The two white football player pieces have notches to receive the ball.

I fiddled with this one for a little while and didn't have much luck with it. Peeking at the solution, it is a pretty long series of moves, but should be an enjoyable one if you like sliding block puzzles like this. The addition of the football theme was a nice touch on top of the usual move piece X to spot Y puzzle.

4 in 1 - Victor Lam and Kazakh Wong

The goal is to take four of the animal shapes and put them in the "mouth" shape. There are four identical dinosaurs and four identical butterflys, and any combination of four of these will work.

I was prepared to not have much luck with this one, due to the odd shapes and multiple challenges, but it ended up being pretty easy. In fact, I thought it was a little bit too easy, one solution wasn't different enough from the next. Still, it was neat that the puzzle worked with both types of pieces and any combination.

42 - Yael Friedman

The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the ring, which has 42 pieces. That's a lot of pieces! On top of having a lot of pieces, it felt pretty fragile when the pieces were extracted. They bent all over the place, so perhaps a material like metal would be better (though at this size the pieces would probably bend).

I really liked the idea of a burr-ring though. It was pretty tricky even getting the first piece removed, and I didn't dare take out more than two more after that. It was kind of like a micro-Berrocal. Maybe a bracelet would be a better size?

Frustrating Mosaic - Anthony Steed

The goal is to assemble the dodecahedron without opening the box. I don't really want to give anything away about this one, but it actually ended up being more clever than I expected!

The Golden Ratio Box - Peter Wiltshire

The goal is to open the secret compartments of this box. It was also one of the Top Ten Vote Getters.

This box is beautifully crafted by Peter and has an fun and interesting solution. As with Don't Shout, the solution has a nice symmetry but I feel like multiple compartments ideally would have layered solutions of some sort (open one to open the next like Iwahara's Byway or different solutions like Iwahara's Confetto).

Grant's Tomb - Kim Klobucher

The goal of this box is to remove the sarcophagus from the glass enclosed tomb and then free Grant from the sarcophagus.

This additional step on top of opening the box was a fun addition. Kim likes to use gravity pins in his box mechanisms that I don't much care for, but otherwise a nice box!

Infinity - Kirill Grebnev

The goal is to remove the rope loop. This puzzle was one of the Top 10 Vote Getters.

As with his previous entries, it makes use of natural materials which gives it a nice look. Sometimes these can be pretty challenging, but I didn't have too much trouble with this one. It reminded me of a classic disentanglement, though the solution is a bit different.

Ladybird - Robrecht Louage

The goal is to free the coin. I was expecting it to be a "simple" double-maze similar to Medallion, but it had an interesting little twist to it which was unexpected. One minor flaw is that the metal pegs that navigate the maze scratched up the acrylic, but that could probably be prevented with shorter pegs or wood dowels.

Ms. Pack-Man - Chris Enright

The goal is to pack the pieces in the tray. This is a nice sequel Pack-man from IPP32. I didn't have much luck with that one, and I also didn't have any luck with this one in the limited time I had. Packing puzzles with irregular pieces can be quite tricky, but I'd liked to have spent more time on this one.

Naked Secret Box "BLUE" - Akio Yamamoto

This is a puzzle box made entirely out of laser cut acrylic that disassembles into its component pieces. Pretty neat! The beauty of the clear acrylic is that nothing is hidden (hence "naked"), so you can theoretically study it to figure out what to do. Still, it is not trivial, it is a bit tricky to figure out which pieces to move. There was another puzzle in the exchange Naked Secret Box "RED" that was completely different (but with the same construction) and I purchased both.

NumLock - Goh Pit Khiam

The goal is to remove all the pieces and re-assemble, but this is another variation on an n-ary puzzle (I think this one is trinary). The dark pieces in the middle operate similarly to the slider in other n-ary puzzles, but it is unusual to have no slider across all pieces.

I found it difficult to tell which of the dark pieces I was able to move at any time, and since there are six of them it took a bit of fiddling to get the pattern. I really liked how you could remove the magnetically attached faceplate to reset the puzzle, that also lets you peek at the mechanics so you don't just need to use trial and error to figure out which piece can move.

Stay tuned for Part 4 tomorrow!

September 18, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 2)

This is a continuation in my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2014 Puzzle Design Competition. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

Coronation Cube - Richard Gain

The goal is to assemble the seven pieces into a 5x5x5 cube. I have enough trouble with 4x4x4, so I wasn't particularly optimistic about being able to solve this one in the limited time I had (particularly considering the number of possible placements for each piece).

I played with it for a short while, but ended up having to move on, so unfortunately I can't say much about it! I wish I could have spent more time with it.

Cross Links - Michail Toulouzas

The goal is to disassemble and reassemble the puzzle. It is very nicely crafted and looks like a really beautiful puzzle. Unfortunately, the wood unavoidably gets a bit dinged up during the solving process, which is a shame since it is so pretty.

If I remember correctly, taking it apart isn't much of a challenge, but getting it back together is where the puzzle lies. Still, not too challenging once you see what's going on. It wasn't super clear that you haven't assembled it correctly, a lot of people just stuck it back on the stand thinking it was done. The pieces should be seated snugly together when it is complete.

Cubic Dress - Yasuhiro Hashimoto

The goal is to completely cover the cube with fabric. The clip is handy to keep it from slipping off when you're done. It seems like fabric is becoming more popular in puzzles recently!

It seemed impossible at first, since there's not enough fabric to do it the more obvious way, but with a bit of fiddling I was able to figure it out by thinking about how much fabric I had and how to use it most efficiently.

Day and Night - Dimitar Vakarelov

The goal is to swap the positions of the black and white ring. It is hard to see in the picture, but there is a clear plastic sleeve in the middle. I liked that the sleeve was clear so you could see what was going on inside.

I don't consider myself very good at puzzles with flexible elements like this, but I ended up getting through this one without too much trouble. It didn't seem to get tangled much, which is always a good thing in a puzzle like this.

Diagonal Slit Folding Paper #1 - Tsugumitsu Noji

The goal is to separately make two images (IPP/34 and LON/DON) by folding the paper. This type of folding puzzle is often given as a gift in the bag of stuff you get at IPP or left on the table as entertainment, but not often seen in the design competition.

I didn't find it particularly challenging to solve, typically you can reason your way into which way the folds should go based on the image you're trying to get, but the slit in the middle made this one more tricky. One downside to this type of puzzle is that once somebody solves it, you can sort of follow the way the paper has already been folded.

Digi Fork-Lock - Namick Salakhov

The goal is to remove the slider and then return it to its original position.

There have been a lot of this style of puzzle recently, and I'm not sure what differentiates this one. Generally, I think it works best if only one set of pieces moves (the ones going through the n-ary sequence), or maybe that plus a slider. This has a set of switches as well to enable the mechanism, which just adds additional moves without gaining much.

Don't Shout Box - Phil Tomlinson

The goal is to open and close the box. I like the way the curved inlay looks, and it is nicely crafted by Phil. The solution isn't too tricky to find and it reveals two compartments. The solution has a nice symmetry, though perhaps adding additional steps to get to the second compartment would have been interesting.

Dubio 64A - Lucie Pauwels

This puzzle has two goals: assemble a 4x4x4 cube and assemble two cubes simultaneously.

This puzzle has a lot of pieces, so I didn't spend much time on either challenge. Taking a peek at the solution, the second challenge is clever, I wished I had attempted it. I'm not sure I would have figured it out.

Ei Ei Ei - Albert Gübeli

The goal is to assemble the four pieces on the
base into a rhombic dodecahedron such that the outside is all the same color.

Two of the pieces have rotating elements, and I found it fairly simple to determine the correct orientation and placement for the pieces. A simple puzzle that would be pretty accessible to a non-puzzler.

The Fairy's Door Puzzle Box - Michail Toulouzas

This is a puzzle box that won the Puzzler's Award (most votes by IPP attendees). It has some sequential discovery elements, which I always enjoy. I think it was received well because it draws you in quickly, the first few steps are pretty easy. The following steps are more complicated, but still pretty accessible to most puzzlers with a few nice surprises along the way.

On top of all of this, it is a really beautiful puzzle, and I liked the whimsical theme of a Fairy's Door. The only complaint I heard was that the door tends to slam shut on you, which maybe could be fixed by making the hinges a bit tighter. Awesome puzzle!

Five Worms - Frederic Boucher

The goal of this one is to assemble the five worms such that the felt layer glued to the worms fits within the area defined by the worms. I have difficulty with these dual-layer assembly puzzles, so I wasn't able to figure this one out in the time I had. I spent about 5-10 minutes on it without any luck.

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow!