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Friday, 19 October 2012

Glass Nails (Village Games)

Glass Nails - Entangled
Glass Nails - Disentangled
Of all the puzzles in my collection, these are probably the most delicate.
I picked them up a while back on one of my regular trips to Village Games in Camden (London). There were quite a few of these there as I think a batch was made specially for the shop.

As a puzzle this is only really a standard two piece disentanglement, so I won't go into the solving aspect of it. You normally see this type of puzzle pretty much everywhere either made out from simple metal rods or bent nails. Even quite a few Christmas crackers have them in. This version however is made from glass!

I don't know why, but for some reason I find it amusing to have a puzzle that is so well known for being essentially unbreakable made from something as fragile as glass.

I have actually managed to solve it a couple of times as well, but I was pretty nervous in doing so. Really it was added to my collection as more of a curiosity for people to look at and ponder over rather than play with too often.

Still, it's definitely an interesting concept, but I don't think I'd be wanting any more in the collection. I'm nervous enough trying to look after just the one!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Sly Burr (Frank Potts)

Let's face it, there are loads of traditionally shaped 6-piece burrs out there, so for one to stand out from the mahoosive crowd it has to have something in its design to make it really special, and here's one that I think does just that.

Just another 6-piece burr.....or is it?
This is Sly Burr, a design from the mind of Frank Potts which has been brought to life by Brian Young (Mr Puzzle) in Vitex wood (or Papua New Guinean Teak if you prefer). Frank also used this as his exchange puzzle at IPP28 in Prague in 2008. Also, at 6cm across it is a nice size for a burr.

It looks just like a 6-piece burr right? But it really isn't. I could show you a picture of the pieces to prove it...but I won't.

The real joy in this puzzle is working out for yourself just what makes it so special. Since I've had it I have enjoyed giving it over for puzzlers to solve without any directions and watching them get confused almost immediately. They mostly get there shortly afterwards, but it always seems to catch puzzlers out and it gives them a little smile of amusement once it gets moving.

The burr itself is level 9,3 (9 moves to remove the first piece, 3 to remove the second), but the level isn't really the issue. Finding the moves to make in the first place is the real challenge.

As a 'clue' to the solution this is mentioned:

"The hint is in the name...think movies....although working out exactly what the hint tells you about the puzzle may prove just as difficult as doing the burr itself."

After solving the puzzle I just had to ask what the clue is trying to reference to hint at the solution. Frank described the reference as being pretty convoluted, and offered me a nudge in the right direction. After a think (and a bit of Googling) I managed to work out what it was referring to, and I concur in that solving the burr is far easier than trying to work out the clue! If you have this puzzle and fancy an additional challenge then do give it a go for yourself and let me know what you come up with.

I have to admit that normally I'm not really into burr puzzles in general, but this really is a great all-round puzzle. It has few enough pieces to not make it ridiculously difficult, and it has a trick to it that is likely to provide a great 'Ah Ha!' moment to amuse anyone solving it. It is easily one of my absolute favourite burr puzzles, and I'd seriously recommend getting hold of one before they sell out.

You can buy this puzzle directly from the manufacturer, Mr. Puzzle in Australia

Friday, 12 October 2012

Boxed Burr (Tom Lensch)

The Boxed Burr was designed and made by Tom Lensch, and it was also used as his exchange puzzle at IPP17 back in 1997 in San Francisco, and true to his style it is made from wood and well crafted to a perfect fit and finish.

Boxed Burr - Solved
Boxed Burr is made entirely from mahogany, which gives it a lovely colour and a very solid finish

At first glance Boxed Burr looks more like a puzzle box than a burr, and it takes a bit of a strange rotation move to actually remove the first piece (you can see the locking piece one the second picture).
Once the first move is discovered and a piece is removed it becomes much more obvious what kind of puzzle this really is.

It turns out that inside is a standard six-piece burr, but one end of each burr piece is attached to a panel, each of which make up the box shape once they have been correctly assembled. I think it actually looks at it's best with just the first piece removed. The first (locking) piece rotates slightly against its panel, and that allows you to twist it in order to lock it in against the other pieces. I really like puzzles that have the ability to solidly hold themselves in their solved position.

The burr puzzle itself isn't particularly difficult, but having the panels on the pieces makes it a little bit more of a challenge, although not significantly. It shouldn't take an accomplished puzzler too long to find the solution, and I'd even wager that most new puzzlers would be able to solve it with a bit of effort as well.

Although Boxed Burr isn't very difficult to solve it is well worth having just for how fun it is. Plus I think the design is incredibly innovative and aesthetically pleasing as well.

This puzzle came directly from Tom, and that would probably be the best place to start if you were wanting to add one of these to your own collection. Failing that, puzzle auctions are your friends.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Spot The Difference... (Twisties)

Today I wanted to take a quick photo of only the 'twisty' puzzles in my collection. It took longer than expected, but the result is always worth the effort.

After taking the photo I thought it would be fun to take another photo of the same puzzles, but move a few things around.

So here are the two pictures; can you spot the 12 differences, and also name those puzzles?

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


...and after!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Popplock T7 (Rainer Popp)

It's been a while since I reviewed one of Rainer Popp's very well known series of puzzle locks known as Popplocks, but recently he released his latest creation and I was lucky enough to be able to borrow one for the sake of this review.
Popplock T7 - Rainer Popp
This monster of a puzzle lock is the Popplock T7. After the release of the Popplock T6 which was pretty conservatively made, the T7 goes back to its roots and in conventional Popplock style it is machined from solid brass and stainless steel. It weighs in at almost 1100 grams! Which as a comparison is around the same as three cans of Coke!

Now due to this lock being so large and made from these materials it unfortunately has a price tag to match its epic weight. When first released you could pick up one of these for 280 Euros (~$365/~£225), and no matter which way you look at it is an awful lot of money. But due to the extremely high reputation of Rainer's previous Popplocks, all of them sold out within a very short amount of time, even though Rainer described it as being "pretty much different from all the other locks".

When I was first handed the lock the first thing that immediately shocked me was the weight. I turned it over to look at all sides of it before trying to solve it (when it comes to Popplocks I've made the mistake of overlooking small but important details before, so now I make sure to ignore nothing).

The shackle is huge and solid, and obviously won't budge. Under the shackle is an area of raised brass with a stainless steel centre, which looks a bit like a button but also won't move. There is a large flat circle on one side which can be seen in the picture above, this also looks to be a button of some kind and this one does move slightly upon pressing, but not enough to achieve anything.
In fact the only part that does move on this lock to begin with is the circular knob at the bottom that has been stamped with the Popplock logo. This piece rotates, but not to a full 360 degree turn, it is restricted by something.

It became immediately obvious after a few movements that this puzzle has an internal maze which needs to be navigated in order for it to be solved. I'm only happy to mention this because it is so obvious, but I'll leave you to work out how to navigate this maze for yourselves, and also how to release the shackle. Sadly the solution to this puzzle is in all aspects very simple, it only took me a minute or so to open it the first time.

The real ingenuity in this locks design comes from the internals. The maze that you have to navigate in order to open it can be reconfigured to a design of your own creation. With the tools provided you simply remove the walls of the maze and replace them in the way that you would like. Understandably this doesn't however make the puzzle aspect any more interesting for the owner because they would only be navigating their own maze design, but you could ask someone to replace the maze for you. There is also a 'safety release' on one side of the puzzle in case you accidentally create an unsolvable maze, so you can feel free to get as creative as you like without having to worry too much about locking yourself out of your own puzzle. You will need another of the provided tools to open this release, so it can't just be mistaken as part of the solution.
The mechanics of how you can reconfigure the internal maze on this lock really are a thing of beauty, perfectly made and very well implemented.

Several puzzlers were quite displeased with this lock because it really doesn't live up to its Popplock legacy in terms of difficulty, and this is something I can't disagree with. Regardless of how the internal maze was configured I am confident that I still would've had this lock open in the same very short amount of time. No matter how you judge it this is a very simple puzzle as far as its solution is concerned, not just compared with the other Popplocks, but also considering puzzles in general.

Personally, if I had purchased this lock for the price it sold for I would have been a bit disappointed by its level of difficulty, but I would be happy to overlook it because of the complexity and sheer ingenuity of the internal design.
This is not a puzzle I would ever get out just to solve for fun, but I would be eager to show people how it works and just what makes it such an interesting puzzle.

If you're after a challenge or a puzzle that will give you one of those brilliant 'AH HA!' moments then I'd recommend you save your cash for something else. However, if you would be happy owning one of the best machined puzzle locks out there with what I would consider to be a seriously ingenious internal design, but can overlook the inherent simplicity of the puzzle itself (and have a load of cash lying around)  then you could consider trying to hunt one of these down for yourself.

Puzzle Master currently still have some of these available here: Popplock T7 - Puzzle Master

If you liked this then please have a read of my other Popplock reviews:

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mad In China (Jean Claude Constantin)

Packing puzzles tend to come in all shapes and sizes, but this particular one caught my eye because of the complexity of the pieces that need to be packed.
Mad In China - Jean Claude Constantin
This puzzle is called 'Mad In China', a name which I imagine came about due to the slight resemblance between the shape of the pieces and written Chinese characters, and it came as part of an order from Puzzle Master. As some regular puzzlers may have guessed by the laser cut wood this is another creation from the mind of Jean Claude Constantin, and an excellent one at that.

As with all packing puzzles the objective is pretty obvious; get all four of the very irregular pieces to lay flat within the tray. At first glance it really doesn't seem that like much of a challenge. Even though the pieces have very irregular shapes the tray is actually very empty, apart from the four protuberances around the edge.

Immediately it became clear that all four pieces were far too large to go into the tray without being interlaced within each other, so then I began the process of finding the most space-saving assembly of the four pieces outside of the tray. This turned out to be a pretty ineffective method because I had to check each time if my assemblies would also fit into the tray, so I moved on to trying different assemblies within the tray instead.

After a good half hour or so I decided to give this puzzle a rest for a while, but I took it to the Midland's Puzzle Party (MPP) not long after. At the party fellow puzzler Nigel sat down next to me and solved it in what I guess to be less than 10 minutes! Now Nigel is a seasoned puzzler, so I didn't feel disheartened, but it did spur me on to try again later that evening once I got home. After another 10 minutes I managed the solution as well.

Now even though there are only four pieces I would still class this as a moderately difficult packing puzzle, mostly due to the highly irregular shape of the pieces. So if you fancy a challenging packing puzzle that doesn't have too many pieces then this is one for you.
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