November 1, 2012

2012 Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 2)

When I left off last time, I had finished working my way through a number of lovely Stickman puzzle boxes that Peter Wiltshire had brought to RPP. After that, I turned my attention to an awesome puzzle that Jim Strayer had brought: The Lost Day, a puzzle chest by Kelly Snache. I had a great time with The Lost Weekend previously, so I was quite interested to see this earlier work.

The chest conceals 16 separate compartments, which are hidden and locked in a variety of creative ways. It is quite a difficult puzzle, so I attempted it with the help of Peter Wiltshire and Brian Young, plus the occasional hint from Jim.

Above is a photo showing how it starts: the basket with three eggs is part of the puzzle! The tricky thing about a puzzle like this, is that it is difficult to tell where to start. Each surface is quite large, and could contain something important! It definitely helped to have another few sets of eyes (and brains)!

The whole thing was a bit of a blur of secret compartments, magnetic locks, and more, so I can't really get too much into the actual details, but suffice it to say that it was a real blast to solve! One of my favorite parts about puzzle boxes is seeing new and unique mechanisms, and creative ways of applying old principles, and this chest was just jam packed!

I think it ended up taking us a good hour or two to finish finding everything, even with some hints from Jim. On your own, without any hints, it could definitely take a day, probably more!

It was getting pretty late at this point, but I couldn't help but try out a few of the exchange puzzles. I picked up Slap Shot Puzzle, Allan Stein's exchange, since it looked pretty unusual. As an experienced puzzle, I didn't find it particularly challenging, since it uses a familiar trick. It is pretty neat because the trick is related to the object, so that was a nice touch.

Next I tried Hyperboloid Six-Piece Burr, Naoaki Takashima's exchange. The goal is to assemble the six pieces into a cube, which pretty much is like your standard diagonal burr design. However, Naoaki mentioned that he recently discovered that a 7th piece could be added as well, and included that in his exchange too! At first, it is a bit tricky to see how a 7th piece could possibly fit, but after a bit of fiddling, I had figured it out. Not too challenging, but a neat idea. I think this may have worked better in a more slippery medium than wood, since the fit is quite snug. Maybe metal or plastic would be good.

Another one that had intrigued me was Encircling the "X" Puzzle, Abraham Jacob's exchange. I liked that it only had two pieces, often these types of puzzles prove to be pretty interesting! It was particularly intriguing since both pieces were rigid, so it doesn't seem to give you a lot to work with.

After a few tries, I was able to get the ring on, but it used a good deal more force than I thought was appropriate. I'm not sure if I did it right, but it seemed like there was only one way to get the ring back off, and it used similar force. Definitely not ideal, since you don't want folks to get into the habit of forcing your puzzles!

Finally, I decided to try Bram Cohen's exchange, Holistic Ring. It is "holistic" because all four bands need to move simultaneously to assemble or disassemble the ring. This contrasts with the typical design, where the outer bands fold outward first.

Throwing caution to the wind, I took the ring apart and scrambled it up. I figured I had done enough puzzle rings to be able to figure this one out, but who knows! It took a bit of work to figure out what went where, since it differs from the traditional design, but I eventually got it figured out. It is neat to see one of his new puzzle ring designs in person!  It would be great to try one in metal, since the pieces would slide together much more smoothly, I would imagine. Of course, that would have probably been prohibitively expensive for an exchange.

At this point I was pretty exhausted, and headed to bed. Jeff's house was so full of puzzlers that Clayton and I ended up sleeping out in his neighbor's motor home, which he was kind enough to loan to Jeff for the occasion! It was pretty neat, I'd never slept in a motor home before! There's something appealing about having everything you need in such a compact space.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

October 16, 2012

2012 Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 1)

A few weeks after IPP, I headed off to another awesome puzzle event: the Rochester Puzzle Picnic! Jeff Aurand hosts it at his house each year, and it is probably my favorite event of the year: I like that it is a fairly small gathering, so you can spend more time with folks; Jeff is big fan of puzzle boxes (as am I) so there often a number of new puzzle boxes to check out; and Jeff is an excellent host and grill-master, so I'm always quite happy and well fed. A big thanks to Jeff for everything!


We had an excellent crowd this year! In the back row starting on the left: Alex, Kelly Snache, Tanya's son Brandon, Peter Wiltshire, Ken Irvine, Jim Strayer, Brian Young (a.k.a. Mr. Puzzle), Brian Pletcher, Jeff Aurand, and Clayton Jones. In the bottom row, starting on the left: Susan Strayer, Tanya Thompson, Sue Young, and Helene Irvine. It was a particular treat to have Brian and Sue Young join us this year all the way from Australia! He and his wife stayed in the US after IPP, so they were able to join us!

This year I came with my friend Clayton, a non-puzzler friend of mine who is quite good at solving puzzles, so I thought he might enjoy coming along as well. It was definitely nice having company for the 8 hour drive! When we arrived Friday evening, folks were already puzzling, so we dove right in.


The first box I tried was by Hiroshi Iwahara named Wave Box (with a crayon). It seemed good to start with since people were remarking that it was incredibly easy. It is fairly large, with a number of thin vertical pieces that presumably would have something to do with the locking mechanism. Nope!

The actual locking mechanism is quite trivial, you'll probably figure it out before you think you've started. The box does do something cool when you open it, but it isn't really worth it in my opinion. To be fair, Iwahara did note in his description that it is easy to open!

Next up, Peter Wiltshire was kind enough to bring a number of boxes from his collection by Robert Yarger. I was quite excited to give these a try, since I've only had the chance to solve a handful of his boxes, but am a big fan of his work.

This first box is The Oakwood Slide Box (Stickman #1). As his first box, how cool could it be? As it turns out, quite cool! There are three compartments that you can access, which are revealed in sequence.    There's a great a-ha! moment with each drawer as you reveal it.

The first drawer wasn't too tough, but I had a bit of trouble figuring out the second one. I think I may have been treating it a bit too gingerly for fear of damaging this awesome puzzle. With a bit of a prod from Peter, I was back on my way and figured out the final drawer, which is another nice surprise. Overall, an awesome box!

The next logical box to try would be Stickman #2 (55 Move Box) and fortunately Peter had brought that as well! This box is much more involved that #1, as you could guess from the move count. What you might not guess from its fairly simple appearance is the unusual nature of the moves required. On a few occasions I discovered a new type of move and chuckled to myself with delight. Very cool!

There are a few sneaky things about this box that make it an excellent challenge. There are four compartments to find, so you need to keep that in mind as you progress along. Another great puzzle box!

Next up, we have Stickman #5 (Takeapart Box a.k.a. The Borg Box). We all have puzzles that really catch our eye when we first see a picture of them, and Borg Box is one of mine. I had always wanted to give one of these a try, so you can imagine my delight that I finally got the chance!

The amazing thing about this box is that it is constructed entirely from interlocking pieces (nearly 80 of them!) and no glue! This is a pretty remarkable feat, and on top of that the box just looks incredible.

I didn't know what to expect in terms of the difficulty of the moves, and as it turns out it is fairly difficult! It is quite non-linear in that there are a number of things you can do at any given point, so you really need to remember what's going on. I got a bit stuck at one point, but managed to figure things out and get the box open.

After opening the box, there is the added challenge of disassembling the box into its individual pieces. Robert highly recommends keeping the pieces from each panel separate if you do this, and charges a fee if you need to ship it back to him for reassembly! I decided that discretion was the better part of valor (and didn't want to spend hours trying to get it back together if I screwed something up) and decided to close it back up without taking any of the panels apart. Maybe someday!

The final Stickman box that I tried was Stickman #7 (The Beast Box). This box consists of four drawers inside a frame. They can be slid back and forth in the frame, but are restricted by a maze that is on each face of each drawer and a pin on the frame. This pin can be moved up and down through the maze by lifting a sliding piece on four faces of the frame, and by moving the drawers in and out you can work the pin through the maze.

The thing that makes it difficult is that the pins are double-sided: each interacts with two drawers! So essentially to solve one maze, you need to also be working your way around the other mazes. Quite complicated! Additionally, the faces of the drawers are different, so depending on how you insert the drawer, the puzzle is harder or easier. It was originally thought that there were 666 possible combinations (hence the name), but it later turned out that the number of settings was 538. Plenty to keep you busy for quite some time!

Fortunately, Peter had left it in one of the easier settings! It is quite a beautiful box, and a good bit smaller than I had expected, given the detail. I had a really though time figuring it out on even the easiest setting! What makes it tricky is that you don't really know what the mazes look like on the inside faces, and those are the ones you are dealing with. So not only are you navigating 8 mazes simultaneously, but you can't see them! With a bit of help from Peter, I eventually extracted the first drawer, but it was quite a challenge! I imagine if you spend more time with it, you start to understand and visualize the interactions better, but I found it to be quite difficult!

A big thanks to Peter for bringing these Stickman boxes, it was awesome to get the chance to try them!

Well that's where I'll leave off for now! Stay tuned for plenty more to come!


August 27, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 7)

This is the seventh (and final!) part of my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2012 Design Competition that did not win an award. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

Tritalon - Iwahiro (Hirokazu Iwasawa)

This was another one of the puzzles that I was quite interested in trying, since I'd seen some folks posting about it over on the Renegade forum. The goal is to remove the coin, but it is trapped by three sturdy aluminum pieces connected by metal rods.

I noticed something about this one pretty much immediately that led me to the solution. I think it took me about 2-3 minutes, though a good portion of this was spent actually executing the solution. It does have a bit of a tendency to jam up, which is unfortunately unavoidable due to the design. Still, it is an excellent design and a fun easier one for friends to try. You need to be a bit careful when disassembling it completely to reassemble it properly, but complete disassemble isn't necessary to solve it.

TriTangle - David Pitcher

This is another twisty puzzle  that I unfortunately didn't have the time to make much of an effort on. It looks fairly simple, since it only has three turning axes, however after fiddling with it a bit I didn't make much progress.

Twisted Symmetry - Steve Winter

This is a dexterity maze where the goal is to navigate the ball from the entrance to the exit. It is a bit hard to tell where the entrance and exit are, but if you look closely you'll find them. Steve has also painted symmetric designs on each face using an enamel paint, which adds a bit to the otherwise plain white appearance.

As a puzzle, this one is a bit more complicated than Bare Bones, his other design. I did like the fact that you could actually completely remove the ball from this one, using his interesting lever-release mechanism. Also, when you first introduce the ball to the puzzle, it pops in nicely by pushing a piece aside, but then won't come out until you get to the exit. A nice touch!

Varibyrinth - Rohit Kumar Singh

This is quite a unique puzzle that is a combination of a sliding block puzzle and a maze. The goal is to position the pieces such that the ball can roll from the start to the finish. What I really liked was that rather than just having boring lines painted on the sliding pieces, which would essentially be the same puzzle, there is actually a ball which needs to roll through the maze once you've solved it.

Rohit has also implemented a really neat mechanism that prevents the ball from starting its journey until the pieces are in the correct position. This prevents you from cheating and moving the ball around with the pieces. Once the pieces are in the correct position, a switch on the bottom can be flipped, which moves a gate out of the way and allows the ball to move. I'm not quite sure how it works, but there are little metal balls on the pieces that clearly have something to do with it. Perhaps magnetism? Let me know if you know!

[Update: I heard from Rohit that it actually works like a lock: below each sliding piece is a spring-loaded pin. Only when each piece is the correct position, do the pins properly line up to allow the piece on the bottom to slide. Quite clever!]

As a puzzle, it was a tough challenge trying to figure out the route, but similar to Peanut Gallery, it is much easier to solve on paper and then try to reproduce the solution with the sliding blocks. If you just start sliding blocks around, you'll spend a lot of time trying to get the pieces in a position that may or may not end up being correct.

W8-Variation - Donghoon Pee

The goal of this puzzle is to use all of the eight pieces to build a checkered shape that is the same shape as any of the eight pieces. Pretty neat, since it has eight different goals, and the checkering helps limit the options that you need to try. This one didn't really grab me to spend much time with it, unfortunately. I spent a few minutes, but didn't end up making much progress.

Washington Skyline - William Waite

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble all the pieces in a loop. The pieces contain the parts of an imaginary skyline with iconic DC buildings/monuments. Also hidden in the skyline are three presidents' profiles, so the challenge is to find those as well.

I found this to be a pretty tough assembly puzzle, since there are a bunch of pieces and they all fit together. The only way to tell whether you've got it right is whether the skyline makes sense: the buildings should all end up upright. Pretty neat!

With Luck or Effort - Ichiro Kohno

The goal of this puzzle is to get the ball onto the end of the stick (as in the photo). You can either do it by trying to be lucky (with luck), or with dexterity (with effort). I went with the dexterity route and ended up making it on my first try! There is a groove on the edge of the rod, so it stays in there fairly nicely. You just need to keep it from rolling off the far end. Not much of a challenge, so I didn't much care for this one.

W-Toast - Osanori Yamamoto

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the four identical pieces within the frame. Sounds simple enough, but getting that last piece in there was quite tricky! There's plenty of rotational moves required.

The craftsmanship is quite nice, I liked the use of contrasting wood on the corners of the frame as well as on the blocks connecting the two L-shaped parts of each piece.

XXXII - Sándor Bozóki

The goal of this puzzle is to to balance the 32 sticks on top of the Washington Monument. It is similar to the classic nail balancing puzzle, but is a bit trickier because you don't have the heads on the nails to use. I found it to be quite a dexterity challenge to get the sticks assembled in the proper shape, since they tend to fall apart or slip out of position. Pretty neat!


Well that brings us to the end of my series of posts on the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition puzzles! I hope you've enjoyed reading them! I'll be on vacation for the next week, but when I return I'll be writing about the awesome weekend I just at at the Rochester Puzzle Picnic.

August 26, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 6)

This is the sixth part of my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2012 Design Competition that did not win an award. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

Rat Box - Sam Cornwell

The goal of this puzzle is to disassemble the box and then reassemble it. When I first encountered it, it was already apart, so I tried putting it together. There are only four pieces, so it wasn't too much of a challenge, but it was pretty satisfying. Taking it apart is a pretty simple matter once you see how it goes together, so I'd think of this more as a put-together than a take-apart puzzle.

Rattle Twist Duo - Osanori Yamamoto

This burr consists of two pieces and a frame, you can choose either of the two frames (not both!) and the puzzle is somewhat different. It has the interesting property that the frame can rotate freely around the pieces on the interior, which makes it somewhat harder to figure out how to disassemble it.

However, I encountered it when it was disassembled, so I set myself to the task of putting it together. This wasn't too bad, since there aren't that many pieces and the possibilities are somewhat limited. However, it was good practice trying to visualize how it would come apart, in order to figure out how to put it together.

ReCube - Viktor Genel

This puzzle is a three-piece coordinate motion puzzle made from stainless steel infused with bronze (probably a 3D printing process. The fit was extremely snug, making it quite a challenge to take apart. Also, the pieces were very sharp, in order to better disguise the seams, so you had to be careful.

Getting it back together was also no easy task, there are six pointy bits that all need to be in just the right spot for it to slide together. A nice coordinate motion puzzle, but not for kids or hemopheliacs!

Six Cushion Shot - Wayne Daniel

This dissection of the cube is based on the virtual path of a particle bouncing around inside a cube. A neat concept, though I didn't find that it helped me much in figuring it out! There are 19 pieces, which seems like a lot, but once you start to see how things go together, the rest falls into place nicely.

Square Waltz - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu) with Kzy* (Kazuya Oiso)

This unusual puzzle consists of a glass surface that sits above a mirror, with pieces made of stained glass of two different colors, orange and white. The goal is to put the pieces on the glass, such that you see a white or orange square in the reflection below.

I spent a little while with this one, maybe 5-10 minutes, but didn't have much luck. It is pretty challenging with the number of possible combinations of white or orange surfaces to try. It would have been neat if the white or orange challenge was significantly easier, so you could have some sort of progression.
StarHex II - Jacob Lettie, Kate Jones, Elijah Allen

The goal of this tray packing puzzle is to assemble the 17 tiles such that the total length of common edges between tiles of the same color is minimized. What? Exactly! I think it means that you want to have tiles of the same color touching as little as possible. I wasn't a big fan of this one since the goal wasn't concrete, though I guess it gives you something to strive for. Usually with something like this, I'd be happy enough just being able to get the tiles to fit, much less worrying about which tiles are next to which!

Tango in Nut - Namick Salakhov

This is another unique puzzle: it consists of a nut that is split in half, and the two halves can slide relative to one another. There's a bolt inside the nut that is also cut and half and can slide. The goal is to get the bolt out. There's also a little tool provided to help you turn the bolt when it is hard to get a grip on it! A nice thought, but why not just put a handle on the bolt? It probably has something to do with the construction process, which seemed to be the same foam material as Fidgety Rabbits.

I tried this one a few times, and kept getting stuck at the same spot. It was a bit fiddly for my taste, needing to use the tool and such. Interesting concept, but just a bit hard to play with.

Target in a Cube - Bertrand Michaut

The goal of this puzzle is to take it apart and put it back together. I initially shunned it, since it looked so ridiculously difficult. Somebody had taken it apart, and it was just a mess of very large and very small pieces (some only a single cube). Eventually, I saw Ken Irvine manage to put it back together (he's quite good with this type of puzzle) and decided to take a crack at it myself the next time I discovered that it was disassembled.

Indeed, it was quite a beast to put back together. It was pretty easy to start figuring out where the big pieces went, and gradually work your way to the smaller pieces. However, I was unsure what to do with the two extra cubes and a single double-cube piece. It turns out that these pieces just slide around on the inside, getting in your way! This turns into the real clincher, because you need to have a very good mental picture of the passageways inside the puzzle (and how they move!) to close it up properly. I swear, I knew what was going on inside, but it seemed like the little blocks kept getting hung up on things. I put it together and took it apart a good 2-3 times, but still had trouble with the last few steps where the blocks need to be manipulated.

It is sort of funny that I ended up spending so much time on this one (probably a good two hours), I think the fact that it was such a daunting challenge sucked me in. Still, I didn't particularly care for it as a puzzle, it lacked a certain elegance, and the little bits rattling around on the inside were pretty maddening.

Trapentrix - Timur Evbatyrov

This twisty puzzle has a nice start pattern on each side. I didn't spend any time with this one, unfortunately! It looks like it wouldn't be too impossible, but I'm sure it would be quite a challenge!


Triangle-Square-Pentagon - Emrehan Halici

The goal of this puzzle is to make a triangle, a square, and a pentagon with three, four, and five pieces, respectively. It isn't too challenging, I think I was able to do all three in about 5 minutes, but it was enjoyable. I particularly liked how the two pairs of rectangular pieces fit together nicely, but that wonky W-shaped piece doesn't seem to belong. In the end, it ends up getting along with the others quite well!


Ok, that's all  for Part 6! Our final installment is coming up tomorrow! Phew!

August 25, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

This is the fifth part of my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2012 Design Competition that did not win an award. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

Multidodecahedron - Tom van der Zanden

This beast of a twisty puzzle contains another twisty puzzle! Turns of the outer puzzle affect the inner puzzle also, and the goal is to solve both simultaneously. Oddly enough, this one stayed completely unscrambled for most of the weekend, though near the end somebody finally mixed it up. Probably too challenging to be worth attempting in the short time we had!

Nested Cubes - Tom Lensch

The goal of this puzzle is to put all the boxes inside the larger box, along with each of their lids. The tricky part is that the larger box has a metal rod protruding from the base (somewhat off center), which must align with holes in each of the smaller boxes.

I enjoyed this one: you sort of need to think of how you are going to approach it, since there are a few different options. Do you start with the smaller box and work your way to the larger ones, or the other way around? It is a bit repetitive, but I still found it fairly enjoyable. At one point I lost track of the orientation of one of the boxes that I had decided on, and ended up having to start over. Oops! Still, I think it ended up taking me about 15-20 minutes.

New 3-4-5iamonds - Koshi Arai

The goal of this puzzle is to pack the pieces into the tray. You can either do it with only the light side of the piece up, or with either side up for an easier challenge. I fiddled with this one for a bit, but didn't have much luck: those last few pieces always got me! Personally, I like tray packing puzzles with fewer pieces, 20 felt like a bit much.

One Circle - Two Circles - Diniar Namdarian

The goal of this puzzle is to get the marbles in groups of four aligned with the little colored dots on the frame. The center piece can be rotated to either form two circles or one big loop in order to re-order the pieces. I played with it for a bit and got it almost completed, but two pieces were in the wrong position and I threw in the towel. I think if I spent a bit more time with it, I could have figured it out though.

One big annoyance with this one was how easy it was to jam things up: it is pretty easy to accidentally start to rotate the center with only 7 marbles rather than 8, which causes problems. With practice, this could probably be avoided, but I encountered it quite frequently. Still, I liked that it was a fairly manageable sequential movement puzzle that I could actually make a good effort at solving.

Pack-Man - Chris Enright

This is a cute tray packing puzzle with five pieces. I really liked the theme on this one, and the fact that there were fewer pieces. Still, I didn't find it easy! I think I spent a good 15 minutes on it, without being able to solve it. I had intended to come back and make another attempt, but unfortunately I ran out of time. This seems like it would be a good one for mass market (though licensing would probably be an issue) or as an exchange puzzle.

Peanut Gallery - Eric Harshbarger
The goal of this puzzle is to arrange the pieces such that they are in the same arrangement as in the photo, but so that no two pieces of the same color are touching. Since I don't much like blundering in the direction of a solution when I'm not sure quite what it looks like, I just picked up the pieces to figure out the 'solved' state, then worked my way back to the way it is shown in the photo. Cheating? I suppose, but I think it works out the same way if you do backwards like I did or drawn out what the solved state will look like and do it forwards.

I made some pretty good progress, but got somewhat frustrated fiddling with the little pieces. I think it would have worked better if they were quite a bit larger. After a little while, you get to understand what types of moves are possible, and see how to clear the way for the move that you want to make. It was pretty tricky!

Pearson Puzzle Pieces - Randy Pearson

Inspired by Stewart Coffin's Pieces of Eight, this is an interesting dissection of the cube into eight pieces. I thought that it would be a bit like some of the Vinco designs like Diagra where the pieces link together in sequence, however they actually end up spanning either two or three positions within the cube, depending on the piece.

I didn't find it too challenging to figure out, I think it took me about 10 minutes, but it was quite satisfying dropping the last piece into place. One thing I noticed is that the final cube didn't hold together particularly well. Perhaps a frame, magnets, or just a tighter fit would help. Still, a fun little assembly puzzle!

Perplexing Palace Puzzle - James Dalgety

The goal of this puzzle is to help the queen escape for her jubilee! There are a number of discs blocking her movement, and you need to figure out how to get her to one of the exits. I fiddled with this one for a short while before deciding that it was impossible without some trickery.

This is a nice feature, I don't like when it takes you too long to figure that out, since many folks will just give up. In this case, it is fairly obvious, so I don't feel like I'm giving much away. For the actual trick, I thought that it tried a bit too hard to be tricky: somewhat less trickiness would have probably sufficed.

Prickly Burr 12 - Peter Conrad

I was a bit puzzled by this one, since it is somewhat hard to tell what the goal shape is. It looks like a cube, but I wasn't sure if there was a particular arrangement of pointy bits and holes on the outside that I was looking for (i.e. all the holes should be hidden). I also didn't know what the arrangement of pieces was going to be like: criss-crossed horizontal or some vertical and some horizontal?

Because of this confusion, I peeked at the solution to figure out what I was trying to do. With that in mind, I still didn't have a whole lot of luck actually making the assembly since indeed the holes are allowed to face the outside of the solution. Definitely a good challenge!

Puzzle in a Puzzle Box - Thomas Beutner

A puzzle in a puzzle box! First open the box, then assemble a pyramid from the pieces inside. The puzzle box is quite nicely crafted from walnut, with an ebony triangle on the top. The puzzle box itself isn't too tricky, it uses a trick that I've seen on a few boxes before. Once you have the box open, you find a number of pieces inside which you can use to construct a pyramid.

There's a bit of a trick to this part as well, that I thought was a bit too difficult to discover, though I didn't spend a lot of time trying. I think if you actually go through the full process of discovering the trick, it will be a nice surprise.

Well that's all for today! Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow!

August 24, 2012

2012 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)

This is the fourth part of my series of posts about the puzzles in the 2012 Design Competition that did not win an award. All of the photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2012 Puzzle Design Competition website.

IPP32WDC - Ken Irvine

The goal of this puzzle is to pack all the pieces into the frame, and the neat thing is the pieces spell out IPP32WDC. This puzzle I found to be a bit too complicated for my taste, there were a lot of pieces, and the frame is also quite irregular. I worked on it briefly, but soon gave up. The solution interlocks nicely, with the final piece holding everything in place. A neat design, just not something that I'd like to solve.

I've had the pleasure of trying a number of Ken's new 4x4x4 interlocking cube designs, and have had a great time with those! Hopefully he'll submit one of those next year.


J Loops - Camille Xu

This rather involved looking disentanglement puzzle had me pretty stumped! I haven't done very many puzzles in this style, so I find them quite challenging. Disentanglement puzzles with a rope like this are frequently tricky, since you need to be careful not to tangle the rope while trying to disentangle it!

Just One More - Tom Lock

The goal of this puzzle is to assemble the pieces such that the little cube will also fit. It doesn't look like there will be room, but indeed there is! I didn't find it too tough to figure out how the cube could fit, but the hard part was actually getting all the polyominos to fit correctly! It is a bit easier because you have the single cube piece to play with, but still I found it to be pretty challenging.

Little Game Hunter - Robert Yarger

I have previously written about this puzzle box, since I purchased it last year. It is a cute puzzle, with the second move being a pretty good challenge to find. Once you get going, it isn't too bad, but keep good track of the pieces when things start to come apart!

In the competition room, I had a good time going over to put this one back together whenever a frustrated puzzler left it half-apart. At least I got plenty of practice! The sequence to put it back together is pretty tricky, even if you have the pieces in the correct place. You need to put things back in the right order too!

Little Window - Tom Jolly

The goal of this puzzle is to take it apart or put it together. Since it was together, I tried taking it apart. There were a few moves, and then a bit of a sneaky part. It could have taken a while, but the way I was solving it managed to bypass some of the sneakiness! A nice little puzzle that is very well crafted. I particularly liked the gradient of color on the Manzanita wood pieces.

Lock Device - Hiroshi Yamamoto

The goal of this puzzle is to place the five pieces on the table such that they are all interlocked (in two dimensions). In other words, you can push and pull on any of the pieces and none of them will move relative to the others.

This one was fairly difficult, since there are so many ways to arrange the five pieces, but gradually you start to figure out how they fit relative to one another. An interesting challenge!

Lucy - Kelly Snache

Since I am a fan of puzzle boxes, I was eager to give this one a try. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no luck with it! The lid on the top will rattle, and you can hear bits moving around on the inside, but I wasn't able to get it to open up. Eventually, I decided to look at the solution and even with the solution I couldn't get it open!

Fellow blogger, Neil Hutchison, set himself to the task of taking this one apart during one of the last nights at IPP, and eventually managed to solve it. The insides looked quite complicated, with bits shifting around and whatnot. I'm not a big fan of these puzzles with intricate hidden locks.

Match the Eight Cubes - Gregory Benedetti

The goal of this puzzle is to make eight cubes (hence the name!) All of the eight pieces are identical, with a black half and a blue half. They are made out of plastic, since some amount of flexing is necessary to complete the assembly, so wood wouldn't work very well.

It seemed pretty easy to start linking the pieces together in a way that formed a cube, and I started to figure out the different ways they could go together. I was getting close, but that last piece would need a whole lot more than a little flex to fit in, so I took a different approach. That ended up working, and resulted in an interesting little assembly.

The Matrix - Pantazis Houlis

The goal of this puzzle is to get the four colored marbles into the matching colored windows on the side of the puzzle. There are also four windows on the opposite side of the puzzle, and a set of tubes that connects the four on the front to the four in the back, but changes the ordering. You can rotate the top in order to change the set of tubes that is in play, there are two different sets, and each one can either be navigated forwards or backwards, permuting the set of balls. One thing you can't tell from the photo is the size of the puzzle: it is probably about a foot tall! Quite a unique looking puzzle.

It was a neat idea for a puzzle, but I found it quite annoying that you couldn't see which ball was in which tube, particularly since it is possible to accidentally get two balls in the same tube. To really solve this one properly, you'd be best off diagramming the different possible permutations on paper, which would allow you to work out the way to the correct solution. I didn't have the time to do that, unfortunately, but it probably would have been fun!

Mechanical Rings - Yuta Akira

This is a cute little two-piece take-apart puzzle inspired by Cast Coil. Despite only being two pieces, it is a good challenge getting them apart and putting them back together. I think it took me about 5-10 minutes, but it could definitely take longer if you're not accustomed to this type of puzzle. I'd say it would be a perfect one for Hanayama, but I'm afraid it is too similar to Cast Coil for them to produce it.


Well that's all for today! Hope you're enjoying it! Stay tuned for Part 5 tomorrow!
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