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Friday, 29 April 2011

Fat Lock

As you can probably tell by it's design this is another of Jean Claude Constantin's creations:

This great little puzzle is called 'Fat Lock' and it has actually turned out to be my favourite puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin thus far.
In true JCC fashion this is crafted from laser cut wood pieces and stainless steel bolts, and I love the natural feel of the pieces.

Inside the main body of this puzzle there are four sliding wooden plates with mazes engraved into them. There is also a metal bolt which can slide along the slot in the main body which runs within the mazes of the inner plates. The goal is to navigate all of the maze plates into the correct position around the bolt to make it possible to remove the central wooden plate which is holding the shackle piece in place. It sounds confusing but it all makes sense when you see it for real.

The way in which this puzzle works is extremely clever, and that is what makes this my favourite! The maze plates work on a kind of binary system, and you have to work this out in order to open the lock. It took me a good while to work out that what I thought to be random movements were in fact a very specific sequence.

All in all it took me about 20 minutes or so to solve the Fat Lock, and to repeat the solution actually does take a fair bit of time considering how the puzzle operates. It is a phenomenal puzzle, and I recommend that if you get the chance to buy one then don't hesitate!

This puzzle is on loan to me from a fellow puzzler, but he got it through Wil Strijbos who is now working closely with Jean Claude Constantin.

EDIT: Since writing this I decided that I liked this puzzle so much that I would buy my own copy from Wil Strijbos. Not only that, I also took the time to count how many steps it takes to fully solve this puzzle, and that is 500. It takes 250 steps to open the lock and then the same 250 steps in reverse to close it again. And it is awesome!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Cast Rattle

Here is one of the newest puzzles from the extensive Cast series from Japanese puzzle manufacturer Hanayama:

This is the Cast Rattle, and once again Hanayama have done a great job at making it look shiny and amazing. The Rattle is made of four identical pieces which have been finished in a nice bright chrome, and the name has been etched onto the side of one of the pieces. On a shelf this puzzle looks brilliant!

It isn't immediately apparent from looking at it why it is called the Cast Rattle, but once you have it out of the packaging it makes perfect sense. The pieces do quite literally rattle around as you hold it, and to begin with it seems like there is no method to the madness, but obviously that isn't the case.

It actually took me a little while to solve the Rattle, probably an hour or so in total over a couple of days. For a while it really seemed like the pieces were impossible to separate, but after some real thinking I worked out that there could only be one solution, but even putting it into practice was a little difficult considering that the pieces won't stay still.

I will say that the Cast Rattle does come close to being one of my top favourite puzzles in the Cast series, but the main reason why it isn't right at the top is simply because it doesn't hold a solid position when in it's starting position. I know I's called the 'Rattle' for a reason, and honestly it doesn't make it any less decent as a puzzle, but I'm just picky like that.

The Cast Rattle was kindly sent to me by the guys at Puzzle Master, and if you head over there you will find the whole Hanayama Cast series, as well as a ton of other very cool puzzles!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Pagoda No.3

Here is a beautiful puzzle that I won during the recent Puzzle Paradise Australian relief auction. It was just about to end with no bids and I just didn't have the heart to let it go unsold.

This is the Pagoda Puzzle Box No.3, and it is a puzzle collaboration between Matt Dawson and Makishi which began with Pagoda No.1 (MakDaw No.1) which was entered into the 2009 IPP Puzzle Design Competition. Pagoda No.3 is limited as only 40 have been made.

It is constructed from oak, walnut and maple which gives it that look of real quality. The pagoda shape coupled with the contrasting woods really make this puzzle box stand out in a collection, and Makishi's signature brand on the back finishes the look off nicely.

The two lower 'pagoda' pieces rotate, and looking at the picture you may be able to guess how the mechanism works.
As a puzzle I've found the Pagoda No.3 to be actually quite difficult. I have opened it several times, but I've found that the real challenge is in actually remembering the sequence of moves that I did to achieve it. It is designed in such a way that it is quite easy to confuse yourself, and you can end up closing the box up again rather than opening it. So it may not take you too long to solve (I think it only took me around 10 minutes or so the first time), but it could take you a little while to do it reliably.

Unfortunately as these are limited to only 40 they will become quite difficult to find, but if you do happen to come across one then I wouldn't hesitate in going for it, I doubt that you would be disappointed, the design and build quality really are superb!

Also check out Brian's blog post of his Pagoda Puzzle Box.

Monday, 11 April 2011

My First DIY Puzzles

After a bit of pondering I decided that I really wanted to make some kind of puzzle myself. I went through a few possibilities of how I was going to do this, but I was fairly limited by the fact that I am completely inept in crafts such as woodwork and metalwork, and besides that I didn't have the tools anyway.

I also considered using Lego like Neil describes on his blog, but as all of my Lego is happily tucked away in my Mum's loft (where it has been for a while) I decided to go for dice.

Dice are brilliant building blocks for projects like this as they are manufactured to consistently be the same size and shape. I managed to assemble these two standard 3x3x3 Soma Cubes using only the dice, some super glue and a solid ruler. I made the black one first, and normally all standard Soma Cubes have 240 distinct solutions, but as all of the numbers on each side match I imagine this number is greatly reduced. It could even have only one solution, but I'd need someone with better Burrtools skills to find that out for me.

The first one went pretty well so I went on to make another, except I designed it with coloured die so that a pattern could be formed on the surface. I love the look of this one, and as well as the pattern all of the sides of the cube are numbered just as a normal die would be.

Now I said that dice are consistently manufactured to the exact same size and shape, but this isn't always entirely true. I attempted to build a burr puzzle which would have been made of over 120 cube units, and each burr piece would've had to be 6 units long. The sides of each die look very flat, but there are slight irregularities. The irregularities are so slight that they really make no difference on my 3x3x3 cubes, but on pieces that are 6 units long the irregularities add up and cause some real alignment issues.

Oh well, my first DIY puzzle attempt went quite well I think, now I shall have to find some better manufactured die to build something a bit more exciting. Watch this space!

I gave a set of my dice cubes to Allard at our last get together, and he has done a little write up for them on his blog. Check it out!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Here is a puzzle which was sent to me by Puzzle This, a great company to deal with right here in the UK.

This awesome looking puzzle is called 'Cyclone', and believe it or not the design actually first came into the world in 1972 from designer Holger Strom as a lamp! And it won the Danish Design Award in 2001.You can find a whole load more info links for this puzzle on Rob's Puzzle Page.

The Cyclone is made up of 30 thin plastic pieces, and these can all come together to form the beautiful triacontrahedron you can see in the photo above. The Cyclone is available in several different colour designs including black/blue, black/red and multi-colour, all of which can be found on Puzzle This.

I spent a long time staring at this puzzle before I could bring myself to take it apart. After a careful examination I dismantled the whole thing and started reassembly. I remembered from close inspection that the Cyclone has 12 vertices where five tiles come together, and dividing those there are the other 20 vertices where three tiles come together, so I did have an idea of what I was trying to do, but achieving it was still pretty difficult. I kept losing track of where I was, and pieces kept falling out from places that I wasn't paying attention to, so quite a bit of dexterity was needed to put it together again.
I think it actually took me around half an hour or so of solid puzzling to put the whole thing back together again, and I really enjoyed doing it as well!

Considering how inexpensive this puzzle you really can't go wrong with adding one to your collection. The design is very clever as well as beautiful, and the puzzle experience is great too!

This puzzle was very kindly sent to me by Puzzle This here in the UK, and they are great to deal with.
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