Thursday, 31 March 2016

Free Willy !!

Designed by the Dutch designer Oskar van Deventer, made by George Miller and exchanged by Nick Baxter in 2005, this nice little puzzle was the first one crafted using 3D printers.

Willy has to be positioned properly so that the puzzle completely fits inside the box.

This is a pretty fragile puzzle due to its materials used and you should play with a lot of care: no force at all, but gentle moves only.
As you have guessed the goal is to free Willy (the blue plastic dolphin) from the maze. On each side of the solid are pegs that prevent Willy to move freely, so you will have to go through many sides of the white solid while turning Will to finally free it.

Oskar has accustomed us to mazes and this one is no exception to the others: you will get lost easily inside the maze....Poor Willy!! ;-)
Actually, when I played with this puzzle, I had the feeling that I went back to previous steps many times and what I considered as moving forward was more stepping back....but perhaps I also went back making some moves inside the holes. Anyway, after many (more than what is needed) moves, I solved the puzzle.


Don't judge a puzzle only on its size: this one is pretty small but will keep you puzzling for some time. And mazes like this one (not hidden mazes) are always fun to play with. Especially because you usually know the goal but cannot remember all the right steps in the right order!

 Which maze(s) from Oskar is/are your favourite one(s)?

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Number blocks

Number blocks is a puzzle designed by the very talented Pit Khiam Goh (Goh is his last name by the way) for IPP 2015 and was awarded as "Honorable Mention" by the Jury, which was well deserved!

This puzzle was crafted by Tom Lensch. No need to speak about him because I assume that everybody already knows how good his craftmanship is.

Number blocks is composed of 4 pieces of wood with protrusions that fit inside a box. Each piece has a number on its top and the goal is to rearrange the numbers, hence the name.

Below on the left the starting position and on the right the solved position:

I see you coming and wonder how can these pieces move. Well the number 4 does not have any protrusions and thus you can just take it out, which creates a hole in the tray to be able to move the other pieces. Simple as that!

The moves are smooth and it's really fun to play with this puzzle and notice that at some point you're stuck....whatever you do you cannot achieve what you want...and that will prevent you from solving the puzzle :-)

I tried many combinations and was always stuck. Damn! How is it possible?! Well it is, but there is a clever features that you need to use!! And you will have to think out of the box! And no force (even small) is needed nor advised.

So after the puzzle is solved you can still try to arrange the pieces to find other combinations. If there were no protusions at all you could have 24 possbilities. For example (1st two numbers for top row and last two numbers for bottom row): 1234, 1243, 1324, 1342, etc.
Actually you have fewer possibilities due to the constraints of the pieces. I managed to find all the possibilities:


These extra challenges are not really difficult, but it's still fun to try to see how we can increase the fun of a puzzle. I am  almost sure that no other combinations can be found, but in case you find others feel free to add a comment :-)

To conclude: a really nice and enjoyable puzzle for a reasonable price.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sweta cross

I know that this puzzle has been reviewed many times over the past recent weeks, but nevermind I also wanted to give my feeling about this puzzle.

This metal puzzle was designed and made by Wil Strijbos with a reference of the Swiss flag (hence the wooden cross shape that goes with the puzzle) and also of the name of one of his friends. Makes sense, right? :-)

The puzzle looks like clearly Wil's past puzzle called the aluminium cross, but that where the similarities end. With of course the same goal: separate the 2 parts of the puzzle.

 I like the shape of the puzzle and I feel it's really nice that it comes with a wooden stand (unfortunately it does not protect the bottom of puzzle, which would have been even nicer). The finish of the puzzle is good and the precision is, of course, very good!

The big difference with  the aluminium cross is that this puzzle has many ball bearings that go in and out of small metal rods and you can see that through plexi windows. So actually the puzzle would have been harder without this windows, but less nice. Sometimes you have to choose between two difficult options :-)

When you play with this puzzle you notice the ball bearings that randomly enter the metal rods or leave out of them but you cannot clearly see what going on in these rods. No matter what would be the outcome you still move again and again the puzzle just to admire the movements of these ball bearings...Yes I know pretty useless. But perhaps you hope secretly that with a bit of luck you will manage to solve the puzzle. But you will never solve it with luck. Don't worry, this is not a difficult puzzle at all, you just need to have good ideas at the right moment...

For the moment only 2 ball bearings...but after maybe more...or less...

I solved it and could admire the mechanism which is simple but efficient. It works all the time and once you know the method you can solve this puzzle easily and very fast! No need to say that it is much simpler than the alu cross and less painful for your fingers. If anyone has already played (I am sure!) with the alu cross they should know what I am talking about...

Solved!! Doing my best not to spoil....not easy...maybe that was the puzzle...

To conclude: a pretty easy puzzle, a nice one though and well, either you collect metal puzzle and/or like Wil's puzzles, I am sure you will like this one!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Some wooden wonders from Brian Menold

I recently received a nice package with one packing puzzle and one co-motion puzzle, packaged and crafted carefully by Brian Menold who is running a puzzle company in the USA.

I could say the same things about Brian Menold than for Pelikan puzzle: that was my first order to Brian because he is used to making burr puzzles, and most of the time when I can be interested by a puzzle, between the time he puts some puzzles on his website and when I can place an order they are all sold out....!!

So this time I was lucky enough to order on time a packing puzzle designed by Laszlo Molnar and one co-motion puzzle designed by Gregory Benedetti :-)

Front: co-motion puzzle / Back: packing puzzle

The first puzzle is a co-motion puzzle called "Little Slide Plank" and is composed of 3 (pretty weird) pieces. It is not difficult to solve. Actually you just need 2 fingers (from the same hand) and if you hold the puzzle with your 2 fingers correctly placed then the pieces disassemble by themselves. So in case you're lucky I would advise you to hold it on a soft surface....

The craftmanship is very good: not too tight, not too loose. Just the right fit that allows you to solve the puzzle in a "peaceful way" ;-)
With co-motion puzzles it's usually (well, that's my feeling) more difficult to reassemble them than solving. If you try to reassemble it just after disassemble this puzzle that should be easy. But just wait one or more hour(s) and "scramble" the pieces, then it's more challenging.

But normally you should not be stuck because there is a features that is very useful: the color of the wood, especially the color of the small bands on each side, which form a cross. Just looking at the colors then with a bit of trial and errors your life will be made easier :-)

The second puzzle, "No Holes Barred", I ordered is a packing puzzle designed by Laszlo Molnar and which goal is, of course, to pack all the pieces inside the box.

The pieces are almost the same and then you think that it will be easy....Sorry, but no it's not...It's challenging! So it's definitely good!!

The thing you notice is the small cube already attached to the box. So well, it's not a surprise that you will have to take it into account when putting the pieces inside the box (because it blocks pieces in some orientations).

In my opinion, there are 2 challenges with this puzzle: try to make a cube with the pieces and then try to find the way to make these pieces fit inside the box. The 1st challenge is the most difficult one.
Indeed it's pretty difficult to make a cube because it will not be a "regular cube" but will have some holes. I managed to make a cube but could not put the pieces inside the box: one was just not possible to fit inside...So I needed to give up with this idea and as I could not figure out any other configurations I asked some help from Laszlo who was kind enough to help. Thanks!

It seems that this puzzle is not the most difficult from Laszlo, I whish I could have tried some of the other, which were also crafted by Brian.

To conclude: nice and original puzzles crafted with great woods by the seasoned Brian Menold. Next update for Brian's puzzles will be at the end of the month. So check out often his website and be quick!
HERE you can find some of the other puzzles Brian crafted. Some puzzles are still available but only burr puzzles.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Some wood from the Pelikan woods

Recently a package arrived somewhere from Eastern Europe, guess from where? From Pelikan company, what did you expect?!
They sent the package with priority mail and it took less than 1 week to come, that's a top quality service, you cannot deny it, and if the quality is as good, then I understand why so many people only say goods things about Pelikan!

I had a bit of time to take some quick pictures during the week-end and was luck enough that it's was pretty sunny (or not to rainy, depending your point of view).

That's my first order from Pelikan. Yes, I know I should be ashamed, but well I have never been a super fan of burr puzzles, and most of the puzzles they craft are burr puzzles. So guess what I ordered?.....burr puzzles!!

No, just joking, honestly....

I ordered the 3 wooden ball puzzles: convolution ball, Mochalov ball and the slideways ball

Back left: convolution ball / Middle: Mochalov ball  / Front: slideways ball

Three things that you notice first: they all come with wooden stand, which is very very appreciable since you may not always have stands for your puzzles (that usually stand whithout stands). The second thing you notice is the size of the puzzle: not small at all (9cm diamater for the 2 biggest). And finally you also notice the quality of the work!

The convolution ball designed by Stewart Coffin is made out of wenge and maple, the look is absolutely wonderful due to the the checkered pattern, the fit is perfect (well, same comment for the two other puzzles!!) which makes the solving process not easy at all. Indeed it's so precisely cut, not too tight (but tight enough not to fall apart by itself) and not loose at all. I managed to disassemble 2 pieces, but for the third one I wonder how to proceed, it's a puzzle after all ;-) I have not considered yet rotations which seem to be required (no spoil, it's written on Pelikan's website), that may explain why I am blocked...
But no worries, I will win!!! I just need to try it again :-)

The ball in the middle is designed by Leonid Mochalov, a Russian puzzle designer who has invented many puzzles and luckily some companies (because Leonid does not produce puzzles) like Pelikan decided to produce them. That would be a pitty it you see many designs, but never the puzzles...
What strikes you is the diversity of woods used: 8 different nice woods (purpleheart, wenge, mapple, padouk, american walnut, acacia, bubingo and jatoba). As far as I know, I don't know any other puzzles made with so many different woods, and these are not common woods. They are colorful, almost "precious", just judge by yourself below:

Wenge is one of my favourite woods, I love the grain and the natural lines of it.
Fit, quality and craftmanship are still on the top level for this puzzle!
The difficulty is first to find out which is (or are) the piece to take first. Then, it's pretty straight forward, but that's not so easy to start. It's more complicated to reassemble but not impossible at all. The design is clever, which makes the pieces hold to each other and not fall apart easily.
I think this is nice to have made another puzzle ball with different wood and different pattern, so that you can reallt differentiate which is the Mochalov one from the convolution ball.
Definitely a nice pair!

I could not have avoided the last puzzle ball made with simpler woods (cherry, acacia, mapple) but with the most original stand which results in making you believe that you have a real golf ball in front of you! Yeah, you have the ball you have the stand...Humm but I doubt you would like to use this wooden puzzle as a golf ball: too big and too beautiful of course ;-)
I like to have stand for the puzzle, but I also appreciate to have the name of the puzzle, of the designer and of the puzzle company written on the stand, and all three are gathered here.

This puzzles was designed by Ray Stanton and belongs to a series of 3 coordination-motion puzzles (I dont know what is the thris one, by the way) with all the same kind of mechanism but each time in a different shape, which makes the puzzles challenging even if you managed to solve the same with the cube shape for example.
This puzzle is tricky, tricky enough to trick you each time you try to solve it!
You need to push on specific pieces and usually there is one or 2 fingers wrongly places that prevent the pieces from moving. But once you find where to press, all the 3 pieces slide together! Very fun to play with. You can also solve the puzzle is you hold one piece, but you need to find the correct piece, not easy to see where a piece "starts" and where it "ends"...
And if you're really puzzles, well you can also spin the puzzle and the pieces will slide apart by themselves.

To conlude, very nicely crafted puzzles, super good quality. No wonder why Pelikan is one of the favourite wooden suppliers!!!

In case you're not familiar with Pelikan puzzles -your turn to be ashamed! - then look HERE.
They have still some puzzles on sale, but don't hesitate too long...