Here's a cool little packing puzzle with some pretty interesting piece shapes going on:
It's called Nifty Fifty and as you can probably tell it is another of Jean Claude Constantin's puzzles, and in the usual style of Contantin it is made from precision laser cut wood in simple yet distinctive colours. It consists of four irregularly shaped pieces and an even more irregularly shaped base.
Looking at the puzzle as it is shown in the picture above it can be easy to mistake this for a non-linear design where the pieces don't line up with the base at all, but if you turn the puzzle 45 degrees to the side you will notice that it is only made up of straight edges and single unit pieces.
Despite the fact that the pieces do line up nicely within the base finding an actual solution to getting all of them in at the same time is anything but simple! It actually took me a couple of days of on-and-off puzzling to find the solution. Many puzzlers who I have spoken to have also seemed to have had a hell of a time solving this puzzle too! After my recent experiences I am developing a decent respect for four-piece packing puzzles!
Some time after I managed to solve this puzzle George Bell sent me a file showing the 3D representation of the puzzle solved, and it also showed that although there is a lot of free space in the tray once you're done there is in fact only one solution. And that really adds to the appeal for me.
Nifty Fifty is definitely a cool puzzle, any simple looking packing puzzle that takes ages to solve really is a winner in my book. It's another of those 'here, give it a go' type puzzles where you can hand it over to anyone and they'll be happy to try it out.
Also on my 'travels' I noticed a sort of adaptation of this puzzle which is also designed by Jean Claude Constantin called Aladin. This adaptation has the same sort of principle but by it's covered design it also really restricts the movement of the pieces. It looks interesting!