August 21, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 6)

Here's the last part of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Tagai - Shiro Tajima

Another clever design by Shiro Tajima, this box has an unusual movement you quickly discover when you start fiddling with it. It seems like you'll be able to get the box open, but can't quite find the room to do it. As with Kakoi, this is based on a Japanese character "Tagai". This one was harder than Kakoi, but still doable.

There Goes Bill - Kelly Snache

This is Kelly's box for the Jabberwockey chest. The goal is to set Bill the Lizard free from the chimney. As is often the case with Kelly's work, this box is packed with various mechanisms, knobs that turn and things to prod and pull.

I was able to make some progress, but eventually got stuck and needed to peek at the solution to make sure I was on the right track, since it felt a bit fragile. There ended up being an issue with the last step that prevented me from releasing Bill. Once the chimney is removed, you can peek inside to see what the hell is going on in there!

Threaded - Haym Hirsh

There are two goals to this puzzle, but the main goal is to make a 2x2x3 shape whose components stay together after assembly, by threading two long bolts and one short bolt through the shape.

The theme of this one was great, using actual spools of thread to create the pieces. Adding thimbles as the nuts on the threading was a nice touch too! As a puzzle, it was pretty fun to solve: doable but not too easy.

3 Pieces 9 Symmetric Shapes - Emrehan Halici

The goal is to make 9 symmetric shapes using the 3 pieces. Whew! The first few are pretty easy, but then they get more complex. I found a few but then needed to move on and didn't get a chance to come back. Pretty neat that so many symmetric shapes can be made from this set of pieces though!

Tripla - Andrei Ivanov
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

This is a nice 3-piece assembly with some very sturdy stainless steel pieces. You could give this to pretty much anybody without fear of them damaging it!

The solution itself isn't too hard, and can be arrived at logically. Still, I found it enjoyable to solve.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee - Brian Young
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

This is Brian's box for the Jabberwockey chest. The goal is to separate the two halves, Tweedledum and Tweedledee! The four nuts sometimes spin freely, and sometimes lock up on you. Puzzling!

I really enjoyed this one, the final step was particularly neat! I can't say much else without giving anything away.

2&1 - Donghoon Pee

This was an unusual puzzle: the goal is to arrange the five pieces in the grass such that all pieces of the same color, including the little shape printed in the middle of the grass, are connected.

I made a solid effort on this one, but didn't end up having any luck. It starts out easily, of course, but rapidly you find yourself outside of the grass or with no way to make things touch.

Unlawful Assembly - Goh Pit Khiam

Another interesting design by Goh Pit Khiam, try to pack the pieces flat into the box. It quickly becomes apparent what the final configuration will look like, but getting there is a bit challenging with the box blocking your way.

I usually really enjoy his puzzles, but this one felt a bit more fiddly than some of his other stuff. "The move" was pretty challenging to line up, I find it more satisfying when it just works once you know what to do.

Will You Marry Me #50 - Yael Friedman

The goal is to take apart the ring to find a hidden "diamond ring". Not too tricky, but an excellent use of the limited space that a ring presents. Particularly impressive that they were able to hide a ring inside the ring! I always wanted to see a ring that had elements of a secret box, and this is the closest I think I've seen.

XYZ Cube - Chirag Mehta

Another cubic dissection by Chirag (who also designed Ruled Cube). This one I found to be quite a bit trickier! While the dissection was interesting and it was fun to figure out, it didn't hold together when assembled.

Yo Dawg, I Herd You Like Hexominoes - Wei-Hwa Huang

Assemble the hexominoes on the mat inside the rectangle, but there are some markers on the mat to help you out, and some of the pieces are clear. Puzzling!

I stared at this one for a bit and had a few guesses about how the markings were supposed to be helpful, but didn't really have the time/desire to figure out if I was correct by trial/error.

Looking at the solution, I was pretty far off. It is quite clever, but I'm not sure if many people would be able to follow the same line of thought.

That concludes my reactions to the different puzzles in the design competition this year! There were a lot of good puzzles this year, and I was glad that we had more time than usual to work through them. Hope you enjoyed it!


  1. Brilliant review of the puzzles. Thanks so much Brian and everyone else involved in the review as well as, of course, those putting their puzzles forward. This is a great analysis of the puzzles and their strengths and where they might be improved - really enjoyed it.

  2. Your 6 volume treatise was both enjoyable and informative. I'd love to know how you retain such specificity on so many puzzles - it seems like you're reviewing 60 or 70 puzzles through your six separate blogs. Impressive!

  3. This is lovely Brian, very informative and enjoyable, thanks for sharing this!


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