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!

September 17, 2014

2014 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

In this series of posts I will tell you about each puzzle in the competition and give you my brief reaction to each. Hope it gives you a bit of information about these puzzles if you weren't at IPP. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2014 Design Competition website.

All-Edges Coverage - Iwahiro (Hirokazu Iwasawa)

The goal is to cover both sides of all six holes in the hexagon with the band of fabric.

This is a simple puzzle that uses a similar principle to some of Iwahiro's other designs, but the hexagonal shape makes it a but more challenging. It took me a little while to solve, but mainly because the band felt a bit tight and I didn't want to force it. Maybe I didn't have it lined up just right though.


Animal Cube - Evgeniy Grigoriev

This is a clever take on a restricted-movement twisty puzzle. The idea is that a face with a goat can't be rotated past a face with a cabbage, and a face with a wolf can't be rotated past a face with a goat. This would be annoying if you needed to check and enforce the rules yourself, but the design of the innards makes it physically impossible to make an illegal move.

I played with this for a bit and found it to be quite challenging. Even getting a single face was tricky for me, but I'm not a twisty specialist. Neat mechanical design, and I liked the added theme.


Art Nouveau - William Waite

The goal is to pack all six pieces into the tray. At first glance it might look like the geometry is somewhat random, but the floral designs hide a familiar geometry. I found it pretty challenging to find the correct arrangement of the pieces, since this geometry, while familiar, is a bit tricky to work with.


BQTTLE - Sándor Bozóki

The goal is to remove the chain from the ring and re-attach it, while keeping the lid on the bottle.

It seems impossible, but with a bit of fiddling I could see how the knot could be undone. Tying the knot in the first place is quite a bit more challenging, I think! Someone else had double-tied the knot, so I was able to undo one of the loops, but didn't undo it completely. I liked this one as a dexterity puzzle, since at first it looks like an impossible object, but in fact it is quite possible (though difficult!)


Caramel Box - Yasuhiro Hashimoto and MINE

The goal is to pack each set of three pieces into the box (two challenges). This was one of the Top Ten Vote Getters.

I really liked this puzzle: it was pretty accessible (not super-hard), but was challenging enough to be enjoyable. Figuring out how to put the three pieces together isn't very hard (which is good), but getting them into the box takes a bit of logical thinking. I also really liked the metal box and woods used. Great puzzle! Wished I had gotten a copy of this since it would be a good one for the coffee table, but they sold out on the Puzzle Party day.


Cassette - JinHoo Ahn

The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the four pieces. It is very nicely made out of metal, I think this is a strong candidate for the Hanayama Cast Puzzle series. This puzzle won a jury honorable mention.

I spent a good 15-20 minutes on this one before I had to move on, and wasn't able to figure it out. I did get a few interesting things happening, but couldn't quite get it apart. Hopefully if Hanayama picks it up, I'll have a chance to work on it more in the future!


Cast U&U - Kyoo Wong

The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the two pieces. Impressively, this puzzle seems to be made out of simple u-bolts and nuts, which may have contributed to the jury's awarding it a Grand Prize.

In addition to a clever construction, the solution is said to be quite clever as well. Unfortunately, I didn't spend enough with this one either to solve it, since it is in the Cast Puzzle series, I anticipate getting a copy shortly, so I decided to spend my time on other puzzles I wouldn't see again. Looking forward to finishing it!


Claws of Satan - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)

The goal is to take the three pieces out of the triangular frame, flip the frame, and reassemble. This puzzle won a jury honorable mention.

This one was a triangular-grid version of similar rectilinear, rotational, take-apart puzzles we've seen in past years (like recent submissions by Osanori Yamamoto). I fiddled around with it for a bit before figuring out which piece was likely to come out first, then I was able to work my way towards that goal. Despite the name, it isn't too pointy to be nice to manipulate.


Complementary  P-arity - Namick Salakhov

The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the puzzle. I was quite interested in giving this one a try, since I like n-ary puzzles (which I assumed this would be). The idea is quite interesting, I think it consists of a binary and a trinary puzzle that need to be solved simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the construction left a bit to be desired: it was very pointy which made it hard to move the pieces, and it was difficult to tell what was supposed to move in the first place (which isn't really the intended challenge). Perhaps it would work better in wood!


Conjuring Conundrum - Louis Coolen and Allard Walker

The goal is to open the briefcase and then assemble the pieces found inside to form a magic-themed image. This puzzle was one of the Top 10 Vote Getters.

This was Allard's exchange puzzle last year, and he was kind enough to give me a copy (thanks Allard!). I had a great time trying to figure out how to open it, it is an awesome mechanism by Louis. The assembly bit at the end by Allard is pretty tricky as well! They used a combination of 3D-printed and pre-manufactured materials, which seems like an excellent use of 3D printing. Great puzzle!


Copy Device - Hiroshi Yamamoto

Arrange the three pieces in the tray so that it makes two identical green areas. This puzzle won an jury honorable mention.

I'm not particularly good at this type of puzzle, so unfortunately I didn't have time to solve it. Seems like a cute design with only three pieces though.


Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

August 25, 2013

2013 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 6)

This is the final part in my series of posts about the 2013 Puzzle Design Competition. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2013 Design Competition website.

T4-II (Tea For Two) - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)

The goal is to put the four pieces into the box. The four pieces are identical, and the box is restricted by holes in the plexiglass.

This is a really cute puzzle, not super difficult but it does have a nice "Ah ha!" moment when you figure out what needs to be done. It was another one of my favorites this year! I was glad to see MINE had some available for sale during the puzzle party. He also has a T4-III, which I also purchased (it is also good!). They will probably be available on MINE's website soon, though it is in Japanese.

TetraCubed - Robert Reid, George Miller, Stan Isaacs

The goal is to fit all eight pieces in the box so that the cubes don't touch, while making a solid figure from the dark pieces. I think this was an exchange puzzle last year.

I found the geometry to be quite confusing, those dark pieces are quite oddly shaped! However, it is a clever dissection. I'm not a big fan of the type of plastic box used, which comes apart in two u-shaped halves. It takes a fair bit of dexterity to hold things in place while you put it all together.

Tetrakis - Yavuz Demirhan

The goal is to assemble the four identical pieces into the cubic frame.

When I found this one, it was already assembled, so I tried taking it apart. It wasn't particularly difficult, requiring about 6 moves to remove the first piece. Putting it together without knowing the solution would be a bit more challenging, which is probably why it was presented as an assembly puzzle!

Tetromino Tablet 18 - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)

The goal is to put the five pieces into the frame. I fiddled with this one for a bit and didn't much care for the mechanic of trying to rotate the pieces around by putting my fingers through the holes, it was a bit cumbersome.

Perhaps there is a clever solution like T4-II, but I couldn't find it! I wish I could have spent a bit more time with this one.

Triangle - Volker Latussek

There are four goals: 1) Make one square using all pieces 2) Make two squares using all pieces 3) Make as many different-sized squares as possible. 4) Make as many different-sized triangles as possible. Triangle is designed by Volker Latussek, designer of Way.

I attempted the first goal for a little while, and didn't end up having much luck. There are a lot of pieces, which makes for a lot of different permutations to deal with. Definitely a good challenge and nicely made, but I didn't have time to complete it.

Tri-Symmetrics - Vladimir Krasnoukhov and Irina Novichkova

In the given position, this object has 120° rotational symmetry. The goal is to make a new, more symmetrical object with 120° rotational, 180° rotational, mirror, and central/point symmetries.

When I got to this one, it was actually in its solved state, which kind of ruins it. Still, I think the "more symmetrical" solution is actually easier to find than the "given position" in the picture! I tried to form the shape in the picture, and it still took me a minute or two even looking at the picture.

Washington Monument - Brian Young


The goal is to open and unlock the puzzle then close and re-lock it. It is possible to open without locking the locking pins in the open position, which means you haven't found the intended solution.

This was Brian Young's exchange puzzle last year, and I purchased it. I didn't find the intended solution when I first opened it, but once I could see inside I was able to figure it out. I would have preferred if you needed to figure it out before it opened at all, but still it has a pretty clever mechanism. It is available for sale on Brian's site here.

ZooLogical Garden #2 - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)


There are two goals: 1) Put four white pieces into the tray and 2) Put any three white pieces and the red piece into the tray.

I didn't actually spend very long on this puzzle, so I can't say much about it. I wasn't able to solve it in the time that I had, but the rotating blue piece seems like an interesting touch!


And that's it! Phew, I hope you enjoyed reading that, since it is a bit of a bear to write! My apologies to any of the designers who may feel like I didn't give their work enough time or consideration, there were a lot of puzzles to go through and only limited time. It was a lot of fun getting to try so many new and fun designs! Next year, I hope the room can stay open past midnight so I can get a few extra hours in!

August 24, 2013

2013 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

This is the fifth part in my series of posts about the 2013 Puzzle Design Competition. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2013 Design Competition website.

Qin Nez Borz - Stephen Chin


This is the only impossible object in the competition: the goal is to figure out how it could have been constructed. There are apparently a number of wooden balls nested inside one another, made of different woods!

There's a hole on the opposite side, and if you press the piece of wood on that side you'll hear laughter and the inside of the ball will light up! You could probably guess this one was Stephen Chin, he likes his electronics!

Rain Drop - Kelly Snache


The goal is to remove the glass tube to release the one dollar bill. I was surprised this was a Kelly Snache design, since he usually focuses on boxes!

I worked on it for a bit and made some progress, but didn't end up being able to figure this one out. When I looked at the solution, it did make sense but it would have taken me a while to get there. One issue with this puzzle is the glass: it broke once during the competition which is kind of dangerous. Plastic may have been a safer choice, but then you'd have to deal with it scratching.

Rattle Twist 4 - Osanori Yamamoto


The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the two pieces in the frame. This puzzle is a bit trickier than Osanori's other entry, since the pieces are more complex.

When I encountered this one, it was disassembled so I tried putting it back together. I spent a little while on it and didn't have any luck, definitely a good challenge. Later on, I also encountered it while it was together, and it was also tricky to get it apart! There is a lot of movement, but it wasn't obvious to me how to proceed.

Ze RD: Evil Twins - Stuart Gee & Stephen Chin

The goal is to disassemble and reassemble the three nested geometric puzzles. Three puzzles in one!

The outer shell and middle shell opened like I expected (a move Stephen loves), but the innermost puzzle has an interesting 3-piece coordinate motion. Quite clever!

Rhombic Maze Burr - Derek Bosch

The goal is to remove the "exit plate", the only plate that has a maze path that leads to its edge. In this picture, it is the plate on the top.

I knew this puzzle was in the works, so I was quite excited to give it a try! I am a big fan of Kagen Schaefer's Maze Burr (which won Puzzle of the Year in 2006), so this looked like it would be interesting. It has twice as many sides, which makes for even more potential configurations of the maze panels.

The initial configuration started out pretty linearly, with each move logically following after the next, but midway through things got a bit more complex. Good fun! I'm hoping to get a copy if Derek starts selling it at some point.

Ring and Cherries on a Stick - Dimitar Vakarelov

The goal is to remove the ring, but the cherries get in the way! It is a fairly simple looking disentanglement puzzle that actually is quite challenging.

When I ran across this one, it was a bit of a tangled mess, so I set myself to cleaning it up. After a little while, I had it back to the starting position but didn't have any idea how to actually solve it! I fiddled with it for a bit, but eventually gave up.

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other - Junichi Yananose


The goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the puzzle. You can't tell from the picture, but this burr is massive, probably about 10 inches high. It looks like a standard 6-piece burr, but there are actually 12 pieces.

I worked on this one a few different times, and kept getting stuck after a few moves, there is a lot of movement which makes it difficult to tell how to proceed. Also, some of the moves require a group of pieces to move together, further adding to the difficulty. Tricky puzzle and very impressive at this size!

Slide Twist Twist Slide - Tony Fisher

 The goal is to assemble the pieces into a 3x4x4 block. The catch? Each of the pieces has a 2x2x2 Rubik's Cube at its center, so you can reconfigure each of the pieces. You need to get them each in the correct configuration, then assemble them.

It is innovative, which is probably what the judges saw in giving it an honorable mention, but I think it is too difficult for my taste. I think even if the correct initial configuration of the pieces was given, it would be a challenge to assemble them.

Snake Case - Hiroaki Hamanaka


The goal is to arrange things so the snake can hide completely in the case. Obviously, the sock is too short! Simple puzzles that look impossible are sometimes the most fun, which is why I really liked this one.

There was a key detail that I noticed which led me to the solution, it is pretty clever! One of my favorites in the competition this year.

Symmetrick - Vesa Timonen


The goal is to assemble the two pieces flat on the table to make a symmetric shape. It seems simple with only two pieces, but it is not easy! There are no tricks to it, no negative space or any of that, but the solution is quite elusive.

I actually got a copy of this at IPP32 and had a heck of a time figuring it out, it's another one of those puzzles that takes advantage of the way you tend to solve these things. Eventually, I just tried an exhaustive approach, since there's only so many ways it can go together! A very clever puzzle, nice and compact, and definitely worth getting a copy. Another great design by Vesa!


Well that's all for today! Tomorrow, the final part of this 6-part series.

August 23, 2013

2013 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)

This is the fourth part in my series of posts about the 2013 Puzzle Design Competition. All photos are by Nick Baxter from the 2013 Design Competition website.

King's Court - Tim Snyder

This is a rolling block puzzle, the goal is to move the 2x2x2 cube to the opposite end of the board by rolling the pieces.

I didn't like the way the pieces and board were designed, since it seemed to encourage illegal moves. For example, if you roll the 2x2x1 piece in picture away from the camera to the open spot, it wants to fall over and keep the base where it is. In actuality, the valid move is for the 2x2x1 to completely occupy the empty space. I think non beveled blocks and a groove between squares (rather than a fence) might have worked better, but then the pieces wouldn't stay in place as nicely. I didn't spend long on it due to the issues I mentioned, but it seemed quite challenging.

Ladder of Brahma - Tom Lee and Kong Tang

The goal is to swap the red and the green pieces, the cones can nest and start over the red piece. This seemed like a minor variation on Tower of Hanoi, but with nesting pieces rather than different sized disks and two goal pieces to move rather than moving the whole stack. I didn't think these changes added much to the puzzle, however.

Manholes 55 - Frederic Boucher

There are three goals: 1) Hide each ball underneath the coin (manhole) of the same color, 2) Place each ball on top of the coin (manhole) of the same color, and 3) Without spinning the puzzle, move the balls to the green areas on each side of the street.

The first goal was pretty easy, the second was a bit tougher, and the third was quite challenging. I was unable to get the last one, it requires quite a bit of dexterity and also requires a particular technique.

Matatom - Christian Blanvillain

Assemble the 12 pieces into a cube such that each face of the cube is a single color.

I found the geometry of this one to be a bit baffling was unable to make a cube, even ignoring the colors. When I looked at the solution, it is actually fairly logical, I just didn't see it!

MazeRoll - Splinter Spierenburgh

The goal is to navigate the ball from one end of the maze to the other. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, since the maze on the cylinder looked pretty trivial. In fact, it is!

However, the tricky part comes when each part of the cylinder is restricted in terms of how far it can move relative to its neighbors. This makes it so that you have to backtrack at a few points. Pretty enjoyable and not super-difficult.

Monge's L-cubes - Peter Gal

This is a graduated difficulty puzzle with multiple challenges: each challenge card shows a top view and a front view of the goal, and you need to figure out how to create a 3D shape that fits this criteria. A neat idea! All of the pieces are L-shaped with different combinations of light and dark cubes.

I solved the first few challenges and enjoyed them. It was a good challenge, so I'm sure the harder ones are quite difficult!

N-one 2 - Osanori Yamamoto

The goal is to assemble the two pieces in the frame. It is very nicely crafted!

I thought this one was going to take me a while, but I didn't end up taking too long on it. maybe I got lucky! As you can probably guess, there are a number of rotational moves required.

Oct-Tetraxis Assemblies - John and Jane Kostick

This is two puzzles in one: surround the cuboctahedron with 12 sticks (somewhat easier) and then surround the same block with the remaining 24 sticks.

Jane and John live quite close by, so I actually had a chance to try this one before IPP! I found the easier puzzle to be still fairly challenging, and it definitely helped to do the two puzzles in that order. This puzzle has a smooshed geometry that I hadn't seen in Jane's work before, which was interesting. It's always fun playing around with these types of puzzles!

Phantom Fish - Leslie Le


The goal is to put the 14 circular segments into the track without overlapping.

I worked on this one for a little bit and kept ending up with not enough room! There were a lot of pieces and a lot of different options for those pieces, so I decided to give up.

A Plugged Well - Brian Young

The goal is to find the barrel of oil. It was Matt Dawson's exchange puzzle at IPP32 in Washington, made by Brian Young.

I purchased a copy of this one at IPP32 and enjoyed solving it. It is a sequential discovery puzzle, so you will find some tools along the path to the solution that you need to use to continue. I love that type of puzzle! Definitely worth checking out, it is a good challenge. There are still some available on Brian's website here.


That's all for today! Tomorrow, Part 5!
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