The Moon (Mond)

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Usually, most of the packing puzzles you see are either made with square/rectangle or circular trays - Pretty bland in terms of design. Siebenstein-Spiele, by the hands of the extremely prolific Jürgen Reiche, not only escaped from the traditional shapes, but also made a beautiful and original puzzle, The Moon (Mond), in the shape of a waning crescent Moon.

Made with two wood colors to differentiate between the pieces, the puzzle is quite small considering the average size for packing puzzles, measuring 8cm x 6cm (3.1" x 2.4"). Honestly, in this particular design, I'd rather see a unique color for the pieces (dark brown) to make it more challenging, and also because I believe it would've made more sense aesthetically.

Comprised by seven uniquely and irregularly shaped pieces, The Moon actually presents two challenges: the one you already see, where you just need to pack the pieces inside the small area; and a second challenge, much harder, where the goal is to make a cross with the very same pieces. The puzzle is classified as a level 8/10, and I totally agree with it. It's quite challenging.

The first challenge took me about 5 minutes to solve. Probably a difficulty 6/10. The reason is because you already have the outline of the shape you're supposed to do in the tray. Since most of the pieces have a circular edge it's easy to see where they should go. This is not the case with the cross. You can't see the boarders of the cross - You have to go at it blindly, so to speak. Also, the shape of the pieces make it even harder to visualize the shape, because the cross only has straight lines. That means the circular edges of each piece must be facing inward. My first thought was that I had to build the shape of the cross with the empty spaces between the pieces - The cross shape would only be a single empty space in the middle with the outer edges made with the seven pieces. Not sure if this makes sense to you...

After more than half an hour, I gave up that strategy and thought how else could it be possible to solve this thing. Indeed, the circular edges must be facing inward, but it wasn't that easy to figure it out. I made the connection when I was trying to put together two pieces side by side and noticed that part of the cross was visible. A few minutes later, I had finally solved it. This is one tough nut to crack...



Solution: You can download a solution here.

Closing Comments:

The Moon (Mond) is an absolutely stunning little puzzle. It's small size is deceptive, so don't underestimate it. It's also a beautiful decoration piece for your work desk or a coffee table, and surely will be the topic of many conversations. Hopefully you can convince some friends to join the puzzle craze.

Availability: The Moon (Mond) is available at PuzzleMaster for just $11 CAD. For more Siebenstein-Spiele designs click here.


Pentominos "40 Degrees"

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Deal of the Week: This week, you can get 15% off on all Siebenstein-Spiele puzzles. You just need to mention my blog when you place your order. Offer valid until April 25.

Pentominos are probably the most recognizable shapes in packing puzzles and certainly the most used in puzzle design. There are literally countless ways to design a puzzle using the 12 known shapes (a pentomino is comprised of five equal units joined together), but the puzzle you see above actually has more than 12 pieces, it has 20, albeit having duplicates. It was designed by Jürgen Reiche and produced by Siebenstein-Spiele.

What's different about this puzzle - from all other pentomino puzzles for that matter - is that the pieces were cut with a 40 degree angle, making it all the more challenging. There are several shapes for you to try with the included instructions, using all or some of the pieces, but if you're used to this type of puzzles you know that there many other shapes to try and build, way too many to count.

(Click to Enlarge) - Included Challenges

The Pentominos "40 Degrees" were made in Siebenstein style, using different wood tones to create a dramatic effect in contrast. The shape of the tray is like three rhombi were fused together and, despite the small size of the pieces, it turned out pretty nicely, measuring 24cm x 10cm (9.4" x 4").

When analyzing the pieces, I noticed that despite there were identical pentominoes, the pieces themselves weren't identical, because of the 40 degree treatment. Even if you flip both apparently identical pieces their shape is slightly different, depending on where they belong in the tray. This can actually be turned to your advantage, since you can see where each piece might go in spite of another similar pentomino. I also found that building any shape other than the one outlined by the tray's shape is much more difficult. It's basically a visualization problem, because out of the tray it's harder to see where the limits of the shape are. I was constantly counting the units on a particular shape's perimeter to check if I was solving it correctly. The tilt on the pieces is also hard to get used to, but with practice you'll get better. The more shapes you solve, the better you adjust.

(Click to Enlarge) - All 20 Pieces and a 10x6 Shape (12 Pieces)

Closing Comments:

The Pentominos "40 Degrees" will keep you occupied as long as you like. The countless shapes you can build with the 20 pentominoes will surely challenge you for years to come. I applause Siebenstein for turning a known concept into something original and challenging.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Pentominos "40 Degrees" at Sloyd for €19.50. This week, you can get a 15% discount on this puzzle and all others from Siebenstein-Spiele. You just need to mention my blog upon placing your order. Offer valid until April 25.


Die 5 Elemente

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Die 5 Elemente is yet another gorgeous design by Jürgen Reiche and produced by Siebenstein-Spiele. This might even be the most beautiful puzzle they created so far, and even though I've probably mentioned this about another one of their puzzles in a previous review, it seems like every new puzzle they release looks more stunning than its predecessor.

Built using five different colors for the wooden pieces, the puzzle consists of 25 unique squares. How's that possible? Each piece is a combination of a color with a shape (five different shapes available). Since you have five different colors and five different shapes it's possible to combine a color and a shape for all 25 pieces, thus avoiding duplicates. The pieces are laser cut and the shapes are encrusted in the squares to have contrasting colors within each piece. The tray is made of wood and acrylic and measures about 16.5cm in diameter (6.5").

The goal of this puzzle is well known and has been reproduced in countless variations. The original design, to my knowledge, was invented by McLoughlin Bros and dates back to 1888, known as The Giant Puzzle. I reviewed a while ago a modern version of this classic puzzle. Between the two versions (seen below side by side), it's not difficult to guess which one I prefer. Nevertheless, without the original there wouldn't be a version by Siebenstein-Spiele and I'm glad I own both versions. The idea of the puzzle is to arrange all 25 pieces so that no two of the same colors or shapes can be present in any vertical, horizontal or diagonal line.

(Click to Enlarge) - Die 5 Elemente and The Giant Puzzle
You can start by focusing on one challenge at a time, like avoiding having two of the same colors in any line or just do the shape challenge. When you understand the logic for either one of these two challenges you'll have less difficulty to solve the main one. There's just one way, that I know of, to do this, regardless of the shape you start with at the top left corner.

Solving the puzzle may be a little confusing at first, especially because in the Die 5 Elemente each piece has two colors, so you should focus on only one, either the color of the shape itself or the color of the square surrounding the shape. I chose the color of the square because it's much easier to differentiate. To start the correct sequence you just need to choose five unique pieces in shape and color and then place them in either the vertical or the horizontal. It's not important which way you place, but keep consistent as you proceed. The next line you place you just have to follow the same rule and try to not repeat any shape or color.  When solved, you'll see that every line follows a specific order. There's no trick involved, just pure logic.



Closing Comments:

Die 5 Elemente is the perfect coffee table puzzle. It has an easy to understand goal and its stunning appearance will surely make it an easy pick for anyone to try their luck. This is why I love to collect puzzles. Not only the challenge is very enjoyable, but the design also makes it a must-have for any collector.

Availability: Die 5 Elemente is currently out of stock at PuzzleMaster, but be sure to check back regularly to see when it's available again. In the meantime, check out other interesting puzzles by Siebenstein-Spiele.


Treasure Quest

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Who doesn't remember playing Sokoban on the computer way back when? I remember playing countless levels and never get bored. The concept was very creative and made the game extremely addictive. Because I have so many fond memories of the game, I couldn't resist in getting a copy of ThinkFun's Treasure Quest, and finally play the game for real with physical tokens instead of virtual ones.

The game was designed by Harry Nelson - I don't want to say 'invented' because the concept already existed - and the 40 included challenges were created by Serhiy Grabarchuk Jr., Hiroshi Yamamoto and also the designer himself. The game isn't an exact replica of Sokoban, so there's merit of the designer in creating something different while still honoring the original.

(Click to Enlarge) - Beginner Challenge (Start and End Positions)

The theme for one, is different between the two games. While the Sokoban had you reorganizing and replacing crates in different spots, in a warehouse setting, the Treasure Quest puts you in the shoes of an Indiana Jones-type character where the goal is to collect gold masks. In the Sokoban game, the crates never left the game area - the goal was to simply replace them neatly together in another part of the 'warehouse'. On the Treasure Quest, you not only have to remove the gold masks from the game board - using only one exit - but you need to worry about another rule, the arrow tokens. The arrow tokens can only be moved in the direction they're pointing, so you need to think twice about your moves before executing them. Another interesting difference between the two games is the layout. On the Sokoban, every puzzle had basically a different layout, but the Treasure Quest uses the same 7x7 game grid. Only the arrangement of the tokens change from puzzle to puzzle.

(Click to Enlarge) - Advanced Challenge (Start and End Positions)

There are a few other things to keep in mind while you attempt to solve any of the 40 challenges: You can't jump over other tokens; Your character can only slide around a token and move one at a time; The green blocking tokens cannot be moved; If a gold mask gets stuck in a corner you're the one getting stuck and you need to reset the game board and start again.

The difficulty of the game slowly progresses through the four different levels, from Beginner to Expert, but even the Expert levels aren't that challenging, perhaps because I already knew the concept, but some of them can take a few minutes to figure out, and I needed to reset the board a few times. Thinking a few moves ahead will prevent a lot of resets, though.

(Click to Enlarge) - Expert Challenge (Start and End Positions)

Closing Comments:

The Treasure Quest is a great puzzle game, especially if you were (or still are) a fan of Sokoban-style games. My only gripe with it is the small number of available challenges, only 40. The Sokoban had hundreds of them. Unfortunately, this is not an exclusive problem of the game, but actually by ThinkFun themselves, since most of their multiple-challenge games suffer from the same problem. It wouldn't be asking much for at least 100 challenges included in each game.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Treasure Quest game at Sloyd for just €16.


Oval Office

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Taking inspiration in real-life things when designing puzzles is always a nice way to come up with great ideas. Jean Claude Constantin took inspiration, this time, on the White House's Oval Office, although the puzzle's shape is a bit more elongated than the real thing.

The Oval Office puzzle is basically a Trick Box, needing only a couple of different moves to open, even though they're not as straightforward as you might think. The design is different from most puzzle boxes you're used to see around. It's intriguing and rather elegant, but that's not surprising when it comes to Constantin, as his designs are always well thought out.

The shape, also reminiscent of the contours of an eye, doesn't give you many clues as to how you should open the box, but if you look carefully you'll soon notice a few interesting features that look too suspicious to be just red herrings. The size of the puzzle is not too big, but still big enough to stash jewelry or other similar surprises - 15cm x 5.7cm x 5cm (6" x 2.2" 2").

The puzzle is rated as a level 7/10, but after being able to solve it in about 5 minutes, I'm thinking it's not that difficult. More like a 6/10. Also, a thorough observation lets you figure out most of its mechanism. On the top you can see a clear disk that rotates, but it doesn't seem to have an effect on the mechanism itself. The transparency of it is not just for aesthetics, though. Almost at the edge of the disk you can see a hole that, as you rotate the top lid (as seen in the photo below), let's you see through it and study the surroundings below. At first you can only push and pull the lid a little to the sides, but that's enough to accomplish the moves necessary to remove the lid. I won't go into further details, but you'll see it's not difficult to figure it out.

(Click to Enlarge)
Despite the fact it's not that challenging, I really liked the mechanism. It uses some elements you usually see in other puzzle boxes, but how they're presented and combined is sufficient to create a different enough concept that can puzzle you for a while.

Solution: If you feel like giving up, you can download the solution here.

(Click to Enlarge) - Opened
Closing Comments:

Constantin's Oval Office puzzle box won't keep you occupied for long, but as a fan of his puzzles I wasn't disappointed in the least. Its design is absolutely stunning and will certainly capture the attention of anyone that lays eyes on it, puzzler or not.

Availability: The Oval Office puzzle box is available at PuzzleMaster for $38 CAD. If you like this type of puzzles, check out some more here, or more designs from Constantin here.

Links:




Brochettes

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Puzzle design is an art and Jean Claude Constantin is, to me, one of the greatest artists in this subject. He not only creates amazing new concepts and ideas, but he also has enough creativity to present those designs in a beautiful fashion, always surprising me further with each new creation.

The puzzle you see in the photos is called Brochettes (French for Skewers). It's quite rare for Constantin to name his puzzles using other languages other than German, but it's a welcome change. Brochettes consists of 10 skewers, each one unique in color combination and number of cubes. The puzzle comes in its solved state, and the pieces are laid in a 5x5 grid creating a colorful mesh with cubes that looks chaotic at first, but it's actually an organized chaos.

Each skewer can have one, two, three or even four cubes attached. Since the sticks can hold a maximum of five cubes - a limit that's not reached - you will see that it's possible to create different arrangements for the position of the cubes in each skewer. Unlike what you may think, the skewers are not placed in a knitting pattern (a constant movement of underneath and over its perpendicular line). That would be true had the cubes been pointing in opposite directions, but they're actually facing the same direction, as you can see in the photo below, where they are all separated.

(Click to Enlarge)
All cubes have a notch at the bottom so that the sticks can go through them. When solved, the puzzle shows a mixture of the cubes in two possible positions, flat or showing the notch. It doesn't show a particular sequence,though, of which cubes are facing up or down. It's more like a random pattern - that organized chaos.

This is quite a challenging puzzle. It's rated as a level 4/5, but don't underestimate it. It can be a 5/5 for some puzzlers. Since there's not anything like this puzzle around, it will be difficult to get a good idea of how it should be solved or the best way to go about it. My strategy, which is a stretch to call it that, was to lay a few skewers on the tray, parallel to each other, and try different combinations with a couple of skewers perpendicular to them and see if I could find a perfect match.

This is basically a packing puzzle, albeit a little different from the traditional 2D filling puzzles, so you can't really do much more than trial and error (unless you're going at it with a mathematical analysis). Nevertheless, it still took me over an hour to solve it, so it's definitely a tough nut to crack.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

Brochettes is a great puzzle. It gives you a new challenge unlike anything you've ever saw, and just for that it's refreshing enough. But it's not just the new concept. The presentation is gorgeous with different kinds of natural wood, something Constantin has already accustomed us with his countless brilliant designs.

Availability: Brochettes is available at Brilliant Puzzles for about $35 USD. Check out more puzzles of Constantin at their page here.

Links:




Siebenstein-Puzzel

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
This is quite an original puzzle by Siebenstein-Spiele. They've created a puzzle in the shape of a desk name plate with the company name. Jürgen Reiche, who comes up with most of their designs, created this unusual but very interesting puzzle.

Siebenstein-Spiele usually combines wood and acrylic to make their puzzles extra shiny and elegant, also with various tones. In the case of the Siebenstein-Puzzel they only used two wood colors, enough to make a subtle, but enhanced visual effect. There are 11 pieces, each representing a letter of the company's name, and the goal is to rearrange the letters from any scrambled position to spell the correct name. The method is simply, but quite tough to master.

There are three entry/exit points in the puzzle for the tiles to move. Actually, it's more like one exit point and two entry points. The open space in the middle is used to remove the tile directly below and when trying to solve the puzzle you should choose either the left or right entry points to place the tile. It's as simple as that. How hard could it be, right? In fact, it's quite challenging. The manufacturer classifies it as a level 6/7, so it involves some heavy thinking.

Like any puzzle where your task is to rearrange the pieces, there's always some planning ahead before you make your moves. Like a simple sliding puzzle, you might need to mess up a small section of the puzzle before being able to fix it. This back and forth thinking is the logic behind the Siebenstein-Puzzel, or any other similar puzzle. Getting there, however, is easier said than done.

I've been struggling with this one for a few months now, with off and on puzzling and, while I've been able to solve it a couple of times, I still don't know exactly the correct sequence of moves to do it. Removing and placing the tiles back and forth in the puzzle is done in a semi-random way, sometimes knowing the outcome, sometimes hoping for the best. Like experimenting with an unknown device, while studying its behavior and learning as you go. With practice, I'm sure the solution will be clearer. It's a challenge...

(Click to Enlarge) - Scrambled/Starting Position
Closing Comments:

The Siebenstein-Puzzel is one of a kind. Simple in design, but as tough as they come. It's perhaps one of the hardest puzzles from Siebenstein-Spiele. If you like a challenge this might be the one for you. Because of its easy-to-understand goal, many puzzlers and non-puzzlers might go for it, but frustration will prevent some from solving it. If you're lucky enough to have your last name as Siebenstein, you not only get a very cool name plate, but you can also play with it. That would actually be a great idea, for a custom puzzle with your name...

Availability: The Siebenstein-Puzzel is available at Sloyd for €17.50.


Brainstring Advanced

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Brainstring has been a well known brand for many years, synonymous of fascination and curiosity. The way the puzzle is built and the infinite possibilities this apparently simple design is capable of is astonishing. Following the success achieved by the Brainstring Original, Guido Lap, the inventor of the first version, collaborated with the famous puzzle designer Oskar van Deventer to come up with the Brainstring successor, the Brainstring Advanced.

There are clearly some differences between the two puzzles, but some things remained the same, like the intricate mesh of strings, remarkably untangled, as they stretch from one end of the puzzle to the opposite side, as if defying logic. That's the most common characteristic between the two puzzles - So similar, and yet so different.

Now, to the differences: First, the overall shape of both puzzles is what stands out immediately. The first Brainstring was basically a cube, while the newer version is a truncated octahedron, which is visually more attractive. The number of total elastic strings is surprisingly the same, twelve, although the arrangement is different (three per face on the Advanced version and four per face on the Original version). Another welcome improvement over its predecessor is the inclusion of colored strings, which is easier to distinguish from inside the puzzle's transparent surface. The aspect of the pegs also took an overhaul, now looking more like a porcupine, adding a more stylish and bold visual effect.

(Click to Enlarge)
The goal hasn't changed either. Your task, or should I say tasks, is to move the pegs around the puzzle, making different patterns, while making sure to untangle all knots after you finish. When solved, the puzzle should have all strings as a straight line and not touching each other.

There are three main patterns you can attempt when solving the Brainstring Advanced, although you can create your own: The puzzle already comes solved in one of them, which is three of the same colored pegs on each face. You can revert to this pattern when you try any of the others. Another pattern is to have any three different colored pegs on each surface, and finally, any two of the same colored pegs on each surface. All patterns require you not to leave any entangled strings.

I found the difficulty level between the two puzzles about the same. In other words, expect any of the two puzzles to be quite challenging, no matter which pattern you choose to solve first. When you first attempt to solve the puzzle, it looks quite confusing and it's hard to understand what you're supposed to do with the elastic strings. There are two opposite faces where the strings can cross paths, but there's no mention in the rules about how many strings you can maneuver at any given time. For that reason, take it as a clue that you can manipulate as many as you can handle. Be careful though, because it's very easy to lose track of the strings you have out of place and, before you know it, you'll have an entangled mess difficult to get out of. Start with two strings at a time, and as you gain confidence, you can add more strings to your juggling.

Closing Comments:

The Brainstring Advanced is definitely a great improvement from the first version. Its design is more attractive, but above all, it stayed true to the original concept - A fascinating puzzle like no other, perfect for the whole family to try. You won't regret it, that I can promise you.

Availability: The Brainstring Advanced is available at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com, with worldwide shipping available.


Schwungvoll

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Jean Claude Constantin has the habit of designing pretty odd puzzles, many of them leaving us to think what to make of them. Schwungvoll (German for energetic/peppy) is one of those puzzles. With a mesmerizing pattern of wavy and colorful wooden strips, the puzzle is quite intriguing - There's no clues as to how you should go about solving it. None whatsoever.

The puzzle is comprised of 16 colored wooden strips. I want to believe all sixteen colors are different, but some of them look similar and are hard to distinguish between one another. Nevertheless, the effect is rather beautiful for a wooden puzzle. The puzzle is built in two sets of eight strips laid out perpendicular to each other. Each strip is attached to the bottom set ton two separate strips. Note that the screws form a different pattern in each strip with various lengths. The end result is that each strip, either the top set or the bottom set, has two screws along its length. The goal, as you might be suspecting by now, is to take the strips apart and then put them back together.

Now, because the strips are so tightly bound together, there's hardly any room to move them back and forth. All you can do is move the strips a couple millimeters apart from each other, and that's because of the looseness in the screws, otherwise you'd think this wasn't a puzzle at all. I'm not even sure if the strips are supposed to come out separately or in groups of two or three. There's simply nothing in the puzzle that indicates one way or another.

PuzzleMaster rates the Schwungvoll as a difficulty level 9/10. Well, to me it's a level 10, because I don't have the slightest clue on how to even begin solving it. I'm really at a loss here. I suspect there's a very specific sequence of coordinated moves you're supposed to follow. Also, given how tightly the pieces are kept together, we're probably talking about dozens of movements before you can separate all the strips. I've tried everything I could and it's still pretty much in the same form... Well, apparently not everything, or I would've succeeded by now, but I'm out of ideas. It's such a gorgeous puzzle, though...

Closing Comments:

Schwungvoll is probably one of the hardest puzzles I've tried, unsuccessfully, to solve by Constantin. Its design is very attractive and elegant, but behind that pretty cover lies a puzzle so challenging it will baffle the most experienced puzzlers out there. I'd love to see this one taken apart, so if you happen to solve it, please let me know how you did it.

Availability: The Schwungvoll is available from PuzzleMaster for $31 CAD. You can also check out other great (and less challenging) puzzles by Constantin.

Links:




Zig-Zag Knot

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Zig-Zag Knot is a very interesting interlocking puzzle designed by Ronald Kint-Bruynseels. If you played and solved the Gordian's Knot by ThinkFun, then you'll have no trouble tackling this newer variation, which is in my opinion a bit easier than its predecessor.

The Zig-Zag Knot is also comprised of six interlocked pieces, but the design is different enough to provide a new experience. For example, the Gordian's Knot has a configuration that lets you see much better how the pieces interact with each other. In the Zig-Zag Knot, the pieces are tightly connected and it's much harder to see what's going on inside. The color scheme is also a bit different, but the idea remains the same, each piece has a different color. The goal is to slide the pieces in any direction and find the correct sequence of movements to free them all. There's only one way to do this and a million wrong ways. Can you find the right way?

I always found interlocking puzzles a bit intimidating. Not because they're hard to take apart, but because most of the times they're much harder to put back together. I remember solving the Gordian's Knot a few years ago, and how difficult it was to solve and reassemble it, so it's understandable I was a bit apprehensive to try this newer version.

To my surprise, the puzzle was actually easier to solve than I was expecting. There are a few reasons that might easily explain this, but ultimately, I found it even more fun and less frustrating than the Gordian's Knot. One of the main reasons for the easiness of the Zig-Zag Knot compared to the older version is the number of necessary moves to completely solve it. The Gordian's Knot needs a minimum of 69 moves, whereas the Zig-Zag Knot needs only about half of them. 37 to be more precise. Although you can't see much inside the puzzle, the difficulty level is still lower. Another reason could simply be that I'm much better now at solving puzzles than I was a few years ago. Either way, I strongly believe the Zig-Zag Knot is much easier to solve.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

The Zig-Zag Knot is a much bigger improvement over its predecessor. The design is more attractive and elegant, but the real important factor is that it's much more fun to play with. Even if you're not experienced at solving puzzles like these, I'm sure you'll love it.

Availability: You can find the Zig-Zag Knot at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com. Worldwide shipping available.


Smaz Dino Cylinder

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
Labels: ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Smaz is a very well respected name in the puzzle community for his incredible Twisty puzzle designs. His real name is Li Chung Man and the amazing puzzle you see here is one of my favorites among his creations, the Dino Cylinder, first produced by MF8 in 2010.

As the name suggests, this puzzle is based on the Dino Cube mechanism, while the solving process is closely related to the Rainbow Cube. Even though the Smaz Dino Cylinder has basically the same mechanism as the Dino Cube, it's actually much more challenging to solve. Why? Simply because the Cylinder is a shape-sifting puzzle, therefore you not only have to solve by color, but also by shape.

The design of the puzzle is stunning, with a set of unusual stickers that only cover the edges of the pieces. This actually has a purpose, which is to make the shiny black body stand out in contrast with the bright colors. There's also a white version available, but in my opinion not as striking as the black one. Surprisingly the Dino Cylinder is about the same size of the original Rubik's Cube, with a height and diameter of 5.7cm (2.2").

(Click to Enlarge)
Solving the Dino Cylinder was a bit more challenging than I was expecting. To be honest, I'm not that good at solving Twisty puzzles, but I had previously solved Smaz's Dino Cube and thought it was easy, so the cylinder while being obviously harder, I didn't think it could be that much harder.

The Dino Cube can easily be solved by anyone without the need to learn algorithms, and even though this is also true for the Cylinder, not everyone can solve it without the help of a couple algorithms, especially if you end up with a parity problem. That's actually what happened to me and it took me several tries to get it back to its original form since I didn't had any algorithms memorized. Like any other difficult puzzle, it's quite rewarding and gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you finally see it solved.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

The Smaz Dino Cylinder is among my favorite Twisty puzzles, for its outstanding design and apparent simplicity on the surface, but deceptively hard once you get your hands on it. If you know how to solve the Rubik's Cube it can greatly help you by applying some of the same techniques and principles. I definitely recommend it to any Twisty aficionado.

Availability: You can find the Smaz Dino Cylinder at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com.


Symmetrick

Posted on by Gabriel | 4 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Sometimes, the simpler things are the best and the most beautiful - That's exactly what I feel about Vesa Timonen's Symmetrick. Made with only two similar wooden pieces - Emphasis on similar, not identical - solving this puzzle will be anything but simple. The Symmetrick might be one of Vesa's greatest achievements in puzzle design, and already owning many of his incredible puzzles, that says a lot about this one.

The Symmetrick was Tomas Lindén's Exchange Puzzle at the 32nd IPP in Washington D.C., held in 2012. These two designers come from Finland and have collaborated in the past in what I consider one of the hardest puzzles I ever tried to solve, the Double Squared - Yes, I gave up on it and had to look up the solution.

The goal of the puzzle, like its design, it's as simple as it can be: You are asked to make a symmetric shape using the two pieces. The only rule you're told is that both pieces need to be flat on the table, not overlapping or using some kind of trick - It's that simple. Not like the Double Squared - Yes, I'm still pissed about that sneaky solution...

Now, I've had this puzzle probably for about a year - No, it didn't take me that long to solve it. The reason it took me so long to pick it up and try to solve it was exactly for the reasons stated above...that fiendish puzzle... I was just afraid it was going to take forever, again, to solve it like the other one. So, I was always delaying its review until I had the courage to tackle it and be done with it. That happened this week.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. At first, it was a bit difficult. The fact that both pieces have slightly different shapes is a little confusing, to say the least. My initial efforts were all unsuccessful as I merely joined the pieces at obvious spots. I knew the symmetrical shape would be something much more complex than a simple rectangle or trapezium or something. So, after 15 or 20 minutes I started with another strategy. This might contain minor spoilers: with the pieces joined at a given edge I'd started sliding the pieces slowly along that edge and see if I could spot any symmetrical shape or something closely resembling one. It took me probably another 5 or 10 minutes, but I finally discovered the solution. All I can say is that, you won't probably recognize it as a symmetrical shape right away, but don't dismiss it immediately. To my knowledge, only one line of symmetry is possible on the solution. Take some time to analyse the shapes you'll be creating and you'll eventually find it. I'm just glad it didn't take me forever.

Solution: This time, I won't publish here the solution, not even behind a button click. I believe you need to figure this one on your own and I don't want you to give up that easily. I will, however, send you a picture of the solution on request, but only if you can prove you're beyond frustrated...

Closing Comments:

Vesa's Symmetrick puzzle is superb, incredible and anything in between. It's definitely a hard puzzle, but not frustratingly hard. I know that some people will still find it frustrating. I know I was intimidated by it, and it's the designer's fault for designing some of the hardest puzzles around, but the Symmetrick is just not one of them. The solution is very elegant and I'm sure you'll love it as well.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Symmetrick puzzle at Sloyd for just €7.

Update: My puzzle friend Dimiter came up with a clever analysis for the Symmetrick puzzle and was able to solve it without resorting to simple trial and error. You can get a clue with the picture below left. Notice the lines marked denoting two different sized triangles. Dimiter also came up with a new puzzle, based on the same principle as the Symmetrick, but instead of using two pieces, you now have to make a symmetric shape with three pieces. See picture below on the right. Let me know in the comments or e-mail me if you can solve it.

(Click to Enlarge)

20 Cent Box

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
Labels: , , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Jean Claude Constantin has made quite some interesting trick boxes before, of which I own several in my ever-growing collection. However, the 20 Cent Box tops all of the previous ones, at least the ones I tried. The trick involved to solve this puzzle is so clever it requires some serious thinking outside the box. Be prepared for some cursing and a lot of frustration.

The box is quite small, which is a shame, but it won't hinder your experience. It's made with two shades of wood, the lighter one plywood, and comes with a small key. There's a keyhole at the front side but no locking mechanism - Just a hole. At the top there's a slot large enough for a coin to pass through and a small window to peer through. There's also a very small hole at the edge of the top side, which looks intriguing enough, since there's not much you can do with it. All the remaining sides of the box don't have any important features worth mentioning, except for the bottom side, which looks like it could be removed, but there's not a single clue as to how...

The goal of the 20 Cent Box looks simple enough, but after taking a good look at it, you will probably start doubting it, like I did too. On the site, it's clearly stated as the object of the puzzle to "open the box". However, the description gives room for other interpretations as well. It's also said to solve the puzzle to "retrieve the coin". Is it possible to retrieve the coin without opening the box? That was exactly one of my thoughts after I had already spent a shameful amount of time with the puzzle. I kept wondering if it was possible that dexterity could play a big part in solving the puzzle. I noticed that the provided key could be inserted into its corresponding slot all the way into the distance of the coin slot. In other words, if you flipped the box with the key slot facing down and you could somehow manage to balance the coin on the tip of the key (the key tip is about 3mm flat), you could almost get the coin out of the coin slot. I actually got close a few times, but could never quite get it out, short of a millimeter or two. This wasn't most certainly the way to go, so here I was without any more ideas.

I had tried pressing on different spots on the box, see if something would slide. I had study it from every possible angle, but nothing seemed to work. The only thing that kept me intrigued was the small hole at the top, which was enough for part of the key to go through, but the bit on the key wouldn't let go any farther. The key seemed useless, but the hole looked too out of place to be just a red herring. I won't describe the solution any further, because I reckon it will be worth it for you to discover it by yourself. I believe what I described above is enough for you to make an educated guess on how to proceed.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

Constantin's 20 Cent Box is now one of my favorites trick boxes. It's won't require a sequence of movements like the ones used in other boxes, but a combination of things instead. It will surely leave you a smile on your face when you finally get it. If you have one and already managed to solve it, I'd love to hear from you and how you got there. Highly recommended for fans of trick boxes.

Availability: You can get a copy of the 20 Cent Box at PuzzleMaster for $28 CAD. Other designs by Constantin are also available.

Links:




Geranium

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Geranium is one of the most fascinating Rotational/Rearrangement puzzles in years. It's as hard as it looks, and with reason, since it will require a courageous mind to get it completely mixed and solved. The puzzle was designed by Leslie Le and it was released by VeryPuzzle in June 2013.

A good way to describe the Geranium puzzle is as if it was a Twisty puzzle flattened into a 2D surface. The logic and techniques you use on Twisty puzzles will surely be very useful here, to understand the movement and permutations between the five intersecting circles.

Built with a mixture of materials, such as ABS, PVC and Stainless Steel, the puzzle looks gorgeous with a slick and elegant design. The transparent frame covers much of the top surface, and you can only rotate the edges of the circles. The movement is smooth, but you need to ensure the circles are well aligned or they won't move at all.

One of the most famous puzzles in the Intersecting Circles category is the Hungarian Rings. In it, you only have two intersecting rings that share two common points where the beads can be shifted from one ring to another. If I were to classify the difficulty levels of both puzzles, I'd say the Hungarian Rings would be a 1/10 and the Geranium puzzle would be a 10/10. That should give you an idea of how complex and difficult this puzzle is.

(Click to Enlarge)
As mentioned above, the Geranium puzzle consists of five intersecting circles with 25 pieces of various sizes and shapes, although each circle shares many pieces with other circles. However, among all the pieces, there's only one that's shared by all the five circles, a pentagon-shaped piece. The colors are distributed around as a half-moon shape, with each circle also sporting all five colors in different amounts. The goal, like any other in this category, is to simply mix it and then return it to its original pattern.

As you mix the puzzle, the color distribution will vary, depending on which circles you rotate at any given time. Every time you rotate a circle you'll block certain movements in the process due to the different shapes of the pieces, preventing other circles from moving afterwards. It's up to you to evaluate and study which circle to move, anticipating which moves will be subsequently blocked. Conversely, when you have a blocked circle and you need to rotate it, you need to understand which other circles you need to move in order for it to be unblocked. It's this constant block/unblock moves that makes the puzzle so difficult. So far, I only had the courage to partially mix it and return it to the start, which was already pretty scary. Nevertheless, if you're confident enough at solving any complex Twisty puzzle, then I'm sure you won't have any problems with the Geranium.

Closing Comments:

The Geranium puzzle is such an original design it's hard to find a similar one in the market, and an equally difficult one for that matter. The colors and shapes in the puzzle provide a beautiful visual effect that will even captivate the attention of the most distracted puzzlers.

Availability: You can find the Geranium puzzle at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com for €40.


Backspin

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Backspin, a superb Binary Arts puzzle invented by Ferdinand Lammertink over 20 years ago (1992). As many of you know, Binary Arts is now called ThinkFun and puzzles like this have become rarer, either because of lack of creativity or merely they don't want to invest in this type of puzzles. I'm more inclined to go for the latter...

The puzzle is visually very attractive, made with bright colors and a simple mechanism that is easy to understand and, most importantly, easy to solve. The size is also rather big which is nice, measuring about 15.5cm (6.1"). The movement is smooth and unrestricted, making the experience fun and enjoyable.

This concept isn't exactly unique, as you might have seen in other two-layer UFO-type puzzles, but it was enough to inspire other designs and imitations. It consists of 35 colored balls spread across 12 areas. Each area has its correspondent color, although three of them are identical in both front and back - There's only 9 different colors. Since there's room for 36 balls but only 35 are available this creates a hole and thus, making it possible to mix the puzzle with different colored balls per area.

(Click to Enlarge) - Mixed
The goal is to scramble the puzzle as much as you can - Try to put three different colors per area - and then place all balls into the same colored area. You mix the puzzle by rotating the two discs back and forth and using the free space to exchange the balls' positions.

I found that mixing the puzzle is as fun as solving it. At first, my goal was to do what I mentioned above, to have three different colored balls per area. That was accomplished quite easily, so I immediately attempted to solve it. Even it took more time to sort through all the balls, the difficulty was pretty much the same. The puzzle has two types of areas, straight and curved, but you can freely exchange balls between them without any restrictions. This was exactly why I liked it so much. It's neither an intimidating puzzle, nor a frustrating one. It's just plain fun to play with.

(Click to Enlarge) - Front and Back

Closing Comments:

Backspin represents very well what Binary Arts really was. A company that took risks in new ideas and enriched the puzzle community. Yes, you can see many new puzzles and games today by ThinkFun, but the new name wasn't the only change. Something else was lost as well...

Availability: The Backspin puzzle is harder to come by these days. You can still get a copy at Sloyd for about €20.

Links:



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...