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Friday, 29 June 2012

Bin Laden (Rik van Grol)

Don't worry about the title, there's no relation to the war on terror or any of that madness, this is definitely puzzle related. I managed to win this one from the recent Baxterweb puzzle auction.

Bin Laden by Rik van Grol
Bin Laden was the IPP exchange puzzle from Rik van Grol back in 2006 (IPP26) in Boston. The puzzle was designed and assembled by him, only the parts were laser cut by Buttonius Puzzles & Plastics.

As far as I'm aware this puzzle is made entirely from layered laser cut wood, which does make it look a bit plain, but it does have a pretty sturdy feel to it. I love that little 'legs' that have been added to the base, just a nice touch that wasn't necessary but is really charming to have there.

The puzzle has several simple sounding objectives:

  1. Remove all four coins from their trays.
  2. Get all of the trays into the open position at the same time.
  3. Close all of the trays again.

The name of the puzzle isn't random, it is very relevant to the design. Here's what Rik has to say about it:

  • 'Bin', which is short for 'binary', refers to the solution method.
  • 'Laden' is the Dutch word for 'drawer' or 'tray'.
  • 'Bin Laden' is the name of someone considered by many as the personification of the devil. In a devilish streak I took the liberty to ignore the 'rules' of a true binary puzzle...
Bin Laden - All Trays Open
So, it's a binary puzzle Jim, but not as we know it!

If you've read a few of my past posts you'll know I'm a big fan of puzzles with binary style solutions, it's safe to say I know the sequences to solve these puzzle pretty well. So I got the puzzle out of it's pack and started solving.

I got off to a great start, the sequence was perfect binary, any second now it would be open.....oh.....wait....

At move number seven the final drawer stops halfway. I give it a gentle rattle in case it's gotten stuck...nothing moves. I reverse the sequence back to the beginning to try again in case I'd gotten it wrong, nope, only half way out again.

It took me another 20 or so minutes to properly work out the solution sequence!

It turns out Rik designed Bin Laden to trip up smug puzzlers who happen to know their binary sequences. The solution is devilish, just like Rik says, and really enjoyable to repeat. I'd wager that any binary puzzle enthusiast would trip up on this puzzle exactly like I did, but simply because of that it's worth doing. It's not often a binary puzzle surprises you as the solutions tend to run the same way.

All in all a very cool little puzzle!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Kcube K-419 (Kim Klobucher)

When I first started collecting puzzles I found myself doing a lot of internet browsing for puzzle designers and manufacturers, just to see what was really out there. During that time I found literally hundreds of links that ended up waiting in my 'favourites' list until I was ready to buy something.

There are a few links that I will visit on a regular basis, just to marvel at the beauty of the puzzles, even though I know that I can't buy any of them. One of these links is to GarE Maxton's website, in which he lists epic metal puzzles, but sadly I am unlikely to ever own one due to the incredibly high price tags. Another of these links is to Kcube Designs, a website run by Kim Klobucher showcasing some of the most incredible looking puzzle boxes I have ever seen. Although not overly expensive, Kim makes his Kcubes in very limited numbers, and as such getting hold of one is very difficult.

So when Kim sent out an email to his mailing list (one that I had added my name to years ago) saying that he had prepared another batch of puzzle boxes, to say that I was excited would've been a massive understatement.

Now I'm not sure exactly how long I spent looking at and refreshing the Kcube Designs Sales Page, but I estimate it to be something ridiculous like 13 hours. As soon as the puzzles were shown on the site I shot an email off to Kim with a list of several puzzles I would like in the order of which I would prefer. This is the best approach given that they sell out so quickly.

I was over the moon when Kim replied to my email saying that I was able to buy my first choice of puzzle box, the K-419. And a very short time later, a package arrived at my door.

Kcube K-419 (25)
This is K-419 (25). It is a 419 move puzzle box, and this version (number 25) is made from mun ebony, olive wood, black limba, jatoba, purpleheart and brass inlay with gaboon ebony. That's a lot of exotic woods! And I think it looks incredible!

The main thing that attracted me to these puzzle boxes when I first saw them was the brass inlay. You hardly ever see any kind of wooden puzzle with brass inlay, which is a shame considering the quality finish it gives the puzzle.

The reason I chose this particular design as my main choice of box was because of the mechanism used to achieve the number of moves required to open it. Like many of the puzzles with such a high number of moves, it works on a trinary Gray Code pattern of movement, implemented using a series of brass pins running through channels cut into the wooden pieces. It is extremely similar to the Fat Lock and Super Cubi puzzles I wrote about a while back that also happen to be some of my favourite puzzles.

Kcube K-419 (25) - Opened
A good thing about this particular type of solution is that as long as you don't undo the last move you did, you will always be moving in a forward direction. However with a solution of 419 moves it is very easy to get turned around and start closing the box back up again. Also due to the nature of the design you will need to do a full reverse sequence of 419 moves in order to close the box back up again from the open position. So depending on how you count, this puzzle could be considered to have a 838 move solution! Although if you think that's bad keep in mind that Kim also makes a 3546 move box as well.

It took me a good while to properly work out how the opening sequence works, and even now that I fully understand it, it still takes me around three minutes to open the box to find that glass marble, and then another three to close it again. Because of this it is unlikely that many other people will want to try and solve it (unless you're a certain Dutch puzzler by the name of Louis), but I'm more than happy to have it in my collection as possibly my favourite puzzle regardless.

Kcube K-419 (25) - Close-Up - Lid Removed
Although it takes a lot of effort to get into, I find the solving experience great fun and I am likely to continue going back to solve it again and again for a long time to come.

If the opportunity to own one of these wonderful boxes comes up then do not hesitate in getting one, you will not regret it!
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