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Monday 11 December 2017

How?Box (Peter Hajek / Pelikan)

Oops! It's been a while (a long while actually) since my last blog post, but I'm just going to write this as if no time has passed and hope for the best.

I recently went through the process of moving my entire puzzle collection. This (as you can probably imagine) was a massive amount of hassle, it did however also give me the chance to pick up all of my puzzles, and re-solve quite a few of them. This was one of them.

The How?Box is a puzzle box designed by Peter Hajek, and expertly made by Pelikan.

Now I'm already a fan of Peter's design work, so when I heard that he had a design being made by Pelikan there was no chance I was going to miss out on it!

The How?Box came in either light wood or dark wood, and naturally I went for dark. There were only 15 made in each colour, so of course they sold out remarkably quickly.

Here's what Peter had to say:

“How?Box is a sequential discovery puzzle. Tools are found along the way to solve challenges, but things are not necessarily what they seem. The boxes come with numbered certificates of ownership. The solution is enclosed in sealed envelope.”

There was a bit of confusion when my parcel arrived from Pelikan, because although the website showed that it came with a key, I couldn't seem to find one. Turns out, that's perfectly fine, and just me being a bit slow.

This box is heavy; that was one of my first impressions. The other was that this is seriously well made! From the detailing on the feet to the splines on the corners and the exposed brass hinges at the back, this thing screams quality. Thankfully it is also incredibly sturdy, with a very solid build. Honestly I wish I could show you the inside, because it is even more impressive than the outside, sadly it would also give away some of the solution.

Now I managed to solve this in a pretty speedy amount of time. I'm putting this down to the fact I've solved several of Peter's designs, so I'm starting to understand how his devious mind works. Even though I solved it relatively quickly, I could easily have gotten stuck for quite a while at a couple of steps. The last step in particular is very tricky if you haven't come across it before.

To this day I still class this as one of my favourite puzzle boxes of all time. I know it's not the most difficult box out there, but in terms of how much I enjoyed solving it (and re-solving it) this one goes very high up on my list.

If you get the chance to solve one of these you absolutely have to give it a go! I promise you won't be disappointed.

Light version with key (image coutesy of Pelikan Puzzles)

Saturday 16 January 2016

Popplock T9 (Rainer Popp)

Now to continue on with a puzzle series that I have written about over the last few years, the Popplocks. This time looking at the Popplock T9, the 9th unique design in Rainer Popp's epic series.

I didn't manage to buy one of these when they were first released, but after hearing and reading so many positive things I couldn't turn down the chance to pick one up when I had the chance a couple of weeks ago.
Popplock T9
Once again we have a design fully machined from solid brass and stainless steel, the T9 is certainly another puzzle that can be classed under the 'heavy metal' category. Weighing in at just over a whopping 1kg you really don't want to drop this one on your foot by accident!

Craftsmanship -as we have come to expect- is second to none. Rainer really knows his stuff, and I cannot fault a single piece of his manufacturing on this lock.

You'll notice as well that we have now returned to a design that has a separate key, which we haven't seen since the release of the T6. The key is also great quality, and I didn't have any fear of breaking it (like I might've done with the original key for the T2).

While it looks great and is made well, these aspects are dwarfed by the sheer genius and complexity of the solving process. And when I say 'complex' I really mean it. There is a lot going on inside the shell of this thing, which you can only truly appreciate when you check out the exploded diagrams in the booklet after solving it. Or physically take it apart. Which I know at least one (clearly unhinged) fellow puzzler has done, although unless you are particularly skilled, brave, mad or all of the above, I wouldn't recommend.

I did manage to solve the lock within about half an hour or so, but I think I may have gotten a lucky bit of inspiration. It easily could've taken me days had I not noticed some incredibly subtle details.

When it comes to replay value this is potentially one of the best locks in the series. I have re-solved it many times over the last couple of weeks, and I reckon I'll keep on doing so. It is a complex and highly enjoyable solve. Plus, this is probably the only Popplock that has a reset that is almost as satisfying as the solve! I won't elaborate on that because you really have to see it for yourself.

All in all another excellent lock in a truly brilliant series. Sadly since I'm late to write this post all regular retailers of this design have long since sold out. But keep an eye open long enough and you'll find one.

Now I'll just sit here and patiently wait for the T10...

Thursday 27 August 2015

Chess Piece Puzzles (Hanayama)

The full set
When I heard that Hanayama were going to be making their own versions of Marcel Gillen's original Chess Piece Puzzle designs I was pretty interested to say the least.

I've been fortunate enough to solve most of the originals myself, and they are great puzzles, but owning them is a tricky business since they are quite rare to come by. Now that Hanayama and Marcel have teamed up, these designs can finally be available (and affordable) for everyone!

Don't they look great! Being cast, each piece has a nice weight to it, and they have been finished with Hanayama's trademark high-quality chrome plating. A limited edition of 100 gold plated sets were also made and sold at IPP35 in Canada.

They all have their name engraved on the base. The size of the pieces have been reduced compared with the originals. The King (the tallest) stands at just under 11cm. I personally much prefer the smaller size since they resemble actual chess pieces even better.

Modifications were made to how some of the designs work, but these are certainly for the better. For example, one of the original designs had a slight tendency to lock itself up......permanently. This problem has been completely solved in the Hanayama version. The overall solving process for each of the pieces (as far as I'm aware) is either identical or very close to how Marcel designed to originals to work.

Even with all the good things I have pointed out already the thing that I'm most pleased with is that inside each piece you will find a hidden token. And when you find these tokens, instead of a rubbish piece of painted plastic (as was in the B&P reproductions) you will find a beautifully cast and plated gold token, bearing the symbol and the name of the piece it belongs to. Perfect!

I wouldn't say that any of these are hugely difficult. Any of them should be able to be solved by a puzzle novice with a bit of determination.

Someone asked me if I were to only buy one which would it be, and the answer to that is simply that there is no way you should only be owning one of these! That said, the Pawn would be my favourite in terms of having the most enjoyable solution.

Although currently only available in Japan, I ordered my set from the Felix Puzzle Company through Facebook, but these should be arriving on the general market any day now. They are understandably more expensive than your average Cast Series puzzle, but certainly affordable and well worth the cost.



Monday 16 March 2015

Le Mini David (Miguel Ortiz Berrocal)

It's hard not to be excited every time a new puzzle is on its way, but for this special case I must've checked the post tracking website twenty times a day until it arrived!

David, all shiny and clean after his bath
This is 'Le Mini David' (I'm going to refer to him here as just 'David'), and I know he (I'm also going to refer to him as a he) looks quite different from most of the puzzles I have spoken about to date.

David was created by the late Spanish sculptor, Miguel Ortiz Berrocal in 1968. Berrocal is best known for his works that blended together sculpture and mechanical puzzle design, of which David here is a fine example. Sadly, Berrocal passed away in 2006.

Ever since I first had the chance to play with one of Berrocal's creations at Gathering for Gardner CoM II (2011), I knew I wanted one. However I knew that due to their rather high average price tag it probably wasn't going to be for a while. Recently however the stars aligned!

I found David here at auction, looking incredibly neglected. When I say he was neglected I mean that I don't think he had been taken apart or cleaned in literally decades. There was metal powder buildup on most of the pieces, and there was dust and dirt clogging up every gap. This edition is nickel plated, and luckily there were no major signs of damage to that.

On the face of it David looks like a standard 'bust' style sculpture, and it's easy to miss the fact that he is made up of 23 unique and quite complex pieces, all fully interlocked into the sculpture you can see here. Since he had not even been taken apart by the seller, I was very nervous to see if all of the parts were actually there, as well as in a functional state.

I started to disassemble the bust, and as well as being very relieved to see that all of the parts were there, I was also surprised at exactly how complex the individual pieces were. One of the parts (usually giggled at by most people when noticed first time) is the genitalia, which when disassembled takes the form of a gold plated and agate stone set ring.

I never thought I'd end up bathing a puzzle someday
I decided immediately after his arrival that David needed a bath. The pieces needed a lot of cleaning, but I wanted to be as gentle as possible. I wasn't exactly going to be putting the poor guy in the dishwasher or anything like that. I decided the safest bet was using only a sponge and warm water. I didn't want to risk anything chemical based in case of reactions with the nickel plating.

The picture here shows the pieces rinsing off after what must've been close to an hour of cleaning. I don't even want to tell you what colour the water was after the first clean!

Overall I'm really happy with the finish I managed to get all of the pieces back to. A few marks remain here and there, but considering the condition he was in, and his age, I think the result is excellent!

I dried all of the pieces off, and further hand dried with a cloth to prevent water marking. Now I could get on with the best bit...the reassembly!

23 unique and surprisingly complex pieces
This is the point where I realised that I didn't really pay much attention when I took him apart. I was so worried about the condition and number of pieces I completely forgot to note how the pieces went together. This was a brilliant bit of luck, because now I got to solve it properly!

It was genuinely more difficult than I thought to get him back together again. The assembly sequence goes from one piece to the next, and occasionally I tried to get ahead of myself and had to go back and put a piece in that I missed out.

When I visited James Dalgety at his Puzzle Museum there was one rule he was very adamant about, and that was that if you took anything apart you weren't allowed to leave until it was put back together again. The only exception to this rule was when it came to the Berrocal's. He said that he enjoyed assembling these sculptures so much that they were the only puzzles he didn't mind people leaving for him to put back together. Now that I have one of my own I can see exactly why these are the exception.

Le Mini David has become an instant favourite in my collection. Not because of something as boring as rarity or monetary value, but because everything about the design is a joy to behold. The assembled look is artistically striking. The pieces are beautifully complex, and fit perfectly. The puzzle aspect is tricky, but certainly solvable by anyone who really tries (Mrs. Paradox did it!).

There's only one real problem, and that is that David here is part of a series of designs...and I just know the hunt will be back on again at some point to find him a companion.

Also check out my video showing the full disassembly and reassembly process:

Friday 9 January 2015

Puzzle Paradox Is On Facebook!

It's been very quiet on here for a while now, but I've not disappeared!

I have taken most of my ramblings over to the Puzzle Paradox Facebook Page, and if you need a bit more puzzlement in your life then look forward to hearing from you on there.

I still fully intend to keep this blog going, however it will primarily be used for reviews, while the Facebook page will be used for a huge assortment of random mostly puzzle related updates and musings.

Click here to head over to Puzzle Paradox on Facebook
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