August 20, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 5)

Here's Part 5 of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

The Rocking Horse Puzzle - Mike Toulouzas
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

Another beautiful puzzle by Mike Toulouzas! If you're familiar with his work, you could immediately guess it was his from the size, beautiful craftsmanship, and style. It is a sequential discovery puzzle, and the goal is to "rock the horse, and find a nice award as it rocks." Somewhat puzzling! Upon inspection, you'll notice that the horse doesn't rock initially because its feet hit the ground below the rockers.

You'll find various tools along the way, that are generally not too tricky to figure out how to use. There are also some decorative elements you find along the way, which I sort of wished had a purpose. I was a bit confused at the end, but confirmed with the solution sheet that I'd finished. I think it would have been somewhat better if the "award" was automatic once the final panel was removed and the horse was rocked.

Ruled Cube - Chirag Mehta
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

This is a great dissection of a cube. The result, when assembled, has a nice design on it (as the name implies). It isn't particularly difficult, but will take a few minutes to solve. It all comes together quite satisfyingly as well!

Sequence Logic - Jesse Born

This is a nice-looking puzzle box, that takes a little while to solve. It feels a bit like a combination lock, but you can sort of feel your way through the solution like picking a lock. It took some time and taking a few notes along the way, but I was able to solve it. It mainly takes a bit of patience.

One neat thing about this box is that it is reconfigurable, so you can change the combination required to open it.

Simplography - Péter Gál

This is a multi-challenge puzzle where you try to place the six blocks on a card, satisfying any constraints written on the card. The interesting thing is that the blocks can be placed in any orientation as long as they are within the grid.

I found even the easier puzzles to be pretty challenging. For the easier ones, you are given the count of squares that contain white and black pieces on each row and column. The more difficult puzzles omit some information, or give you greater than X or less than X rules. I didn't have any luck with those!


This one seemed simple enough: assemble the six identical pieces and a magnet to make a cube shape with a cross on each face. The pieces are identical, so it couldn't be too hard, right?

Well I spent quite a while on it and didn't have much luck! I'd get close, but that last piece would never fit. Fortunately, Jeff Aurand told me an observation that helped him, and it helped me quite a bit as well! With his observation in mind, I had it solved in a few minutes.

One issue I had with this puzzle is the strength of the magnet. It was pretty challenging to pry the pieces apart sometimes, to the extent that I had to take a break because my fingers were getting tired! Also the coating on the magnet chipped with the heavy abuse in the design competition room.

Sliding Maze - Kirill Grebnev

This is an interesting sliding piece puzzle, where the goal is to move the key piece from one corner to the other. The interesting bit is that the key piece must follow the maze, while other pieces are unconstrained.

This had the look of a puzzle that would take way more time than I wanted to put into it, but fortunately it didn't end up being too bad. There are enough 1x1 pieces that you have a decent amount of freedom, but it was still somewhat challenging figuring out what to do with the two L shaped pieces. This was Kirill's exchange puzzle this year.

Sliding Tetris - Diniar Namdarian

The goal is to remove the ball from the cage. One of the holes is larger than the rest so the ball can escape, the rest are just for poking your fingers through. I liked how it was easy to remove one side so you could reset the puzzle if needed. Also it was generously sized, so poking at the pieces wasn't too annoying.

The solution ended up being interesting and fairly logical, with some nice moves in there. Overall a pretty fun puzzle that was doable but not too easy.

Ze Super Pens - Stephen Chin

Believe it or not, these are puzzle boxes! There is a jewel hidden inside each pen, each has a different solution. I thought it was quite clever how it mostly uses the parts that are already in the pen, with a few modifications.

I was able to get the jewel out of the white pen without too much trouble, but the tan pen was a bit more involved. Pretty neat little puzzles that you could carry with you!

Sym-353 - Jerry Lo & Stanislav Knot

The goal of this one is to make a symmetrical shape by assembling the three pieces flat on the table. There are four solutions. I was able to find one of them, surprisingly, usually I'm not too good at these symmetry puzzles! The other solutions eluded me, and I didn't have time to come back and find them.

Symmetrominoes - Alexandre Muñiz

This puzzle has a number of goals: 1) Fill the tray with the pieces (warmup) 2) All pieces of the same color must have holes aligned the same way 3) Same as #2 but the pieces of each color must form connected groups 4) Same as #2 but with no two pieces of the same color may touch along an edge. (They may touch at corners.)

The first challenge, as intended, was pretty easy. getting all the holes aligned was quite a bit more challenging. I tried for a while, but always ended up with one piece that wouldn't fit!

Stay tuned for Part 6 tomorrow!

August 19, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 4)

Here's Part 4 of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Lucky Cube - Keiichi Miyazaki

This is a nice little folding puzzle with a number of challenges involving creating a particular shape with the correct light/dark faces showing. The pieces lock together well in various configurations, and fold up to the desired shape.

Typically for a multi-challenge puzzle I don't have time to do all of them, but I think I finished all of these! So quite doable, and still a fun one to work on.

MiSenary Puzzle Box - Michel van Ipenburg

This puzzle box takes quite a few moves to open, and has an interesting mechanism. I liked the window on the front that showed your progress, it would be very difficult otherwise!

Due to the repetitive nature of the solution, I wished it were a little smoother/quieter. I think could have benefited from something to help keep the lid aligned, since it liked to tilt from side to side as you manipulated it.

Moulin Rouge - Stephan Baumegger
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

An appropriately themed puzzle for this year's IPP in Paris! It takes a common mechanism, adds a bit, and then there's a bit of a twist at the end. Overall, quite an enjoyable puzzle and nicely made. This was Roman Götter's exchange puzzle, very nice!

The Mouse's Tale - Simon Nightingale

This is Simon's box for the Jabberwockey chest. It has some rather cryptic etching on the acrylic lid, with text inside a mouse's tail.

I fiddled with this one a bit and was able to get it open reliably. I had done it correctly, but there is a more elegant way to figure it out, which I saw when I looked at the solution. Clever, but I'm not sure whether I would have been able to figure it out that way! There is also a hidden compartment inside the box.

Neckische Würfel (Mischievous Cubes) - Albert Gübeli

The goal is to assemble the six pieces into a shape to form a red and gold cube. This squashed rhombic geometry is generally quite challenging for me, and this puzzle proved no different!

You would think the colors would help, but Albert added some extraneous coloring that isn't visible in the final solution to throw you off the track. I think it could still be challenging without this, but it is hard to tell.

No Full Pirouette! - Namick Salakhov
(Jury First Prize)

This baffling contraption is reminiscent of Spin Out or Crazy Elephant Dance, but each sliding piece is different, which definitely complicates things. The goal is to get all of the blue triangles pointing to the right. The starting position has all the green triangles pointing to the right.

While I feel like the design lacks some elegance, it was pretty fun to fiddle around with and see how things interacted. You could logically figure out what needed to be done, and then try to work it through. I would have liked if the tray under the sliding pieces was red or something, so you could see clearly when there was extra space available between the pieces. Often this space is quite small, and eliminating it where you don't want it is key.

Nonagon 48 - Koshi Arai

Speaking of baffling geometries, this one was also quite challenging for me. The pieces are created from nonagons, 11 with 4 nonagons (tetranons) and two with 2 nonagons (dinons) for a total of 48 nonagons!

I was able to get a few pieces in place along the edges, but as things progressed I rapidly got confused! I attempted to make it a bit easier by peeking at the solution and placing a few pieces to get myself started, but even placing the last 5 pieces was pretty challenging.

La Pajarita Convexa (The Convex Bow Tie) - Primitivo Familiar Ramos

The goal is to find all 11 convex shapes that can be made using eight identical right triangles. That's a lot of convex shapes!

I found a couple of shapes, but then had to move on. I saw one person writing them down as they found them, which seemed like a good idea! Finding a few isn't difficult, but finding them all could be pretty challenging.

Pencil Box - Kohno Ichiro

The goal is to open the box, and I was able to do so quite easily. Taking a look at the solution, it turns out that I had done it incorrectly, but the correct way was quite a bit more difficult physically, due to issues with leverage and friction on one of the sliding panels. It is an interesting idea, but needs some work on the implementation to avoid unintended solutions.

Pent Up - Louis Toorenburg

The goal is to put all 12 pentomino pieces on the board so that the same color shows through each of the holes, covering the black squares with blue tiles. Only three of the colors can be solved on each board.

When I read that last bit, I thought to myself: I don't want to spend time trying to solve a color that isn't possible, so I took a quick peek to make sure I was working on a color that had a valid solution! It turns out that is still pretty darn challenging. A lot of the placements are forced by the coloring, but you still have quite a bit of freedom at the beginning. Eventually I got it, but it took a fair amount of effort. There are a number of challenges so it could keep you busy for a while!

Perfect Match - ZhaoYue (Turing)

The goal is to put the blocks into the box and close the lid. While I don't necessarily find 3D printing objectionable, there was some warping on the pieces that was a bit confusing. Was it part of the intended solution to use the warping to your advantage? Nope! Also the box makes a racket when you drop the cubes in. The cubes are printed with a very high infill percentage, so they have a nice weight to them. I think this puzzle would have been better in wood.

I was able to find a solution and close the lid without any force (confirmed by Brett Kuehner!), but it wasn't the correct solution. I checked the correct solution, and the lid went on a hair smoother.

Puzzle Bracelet - Yael Friedman
(Jury Honorable Mention)

This is an interesting puzzle that you could wear! The goal is to take it apart and put it back together. From the photo, it may look pretty obvious, but in fact it is somewhat challenging.

I tried to take it apart briefly and failed, and when I attempted it again, I found somebody else had taken it apart! So I set myself to the task of putting it back together, which is a bit challenging if you didn't see how it came apart. Eventually I got it though, with a bit of trial and error. Nice little puzzle very nicely 3D printed! I'd get one for Kellian if it were being produced.

Stay tuned for Part 5 tomorrow!

August 18, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 3)

Here's Part 3 of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Galette - Osanori Yamamoto
(Top 10 Vote Getter)

The goal is to get the five pieces into the box, using some combination of the hole on the side and the hole in the top.

I spent a decent amount of time on this one before getting it figured out. A bit challenging but doable with some thought!

Ze Genie Bottle - Stephen Chin

Of course, who else but Stephen could have made this? It has a tippy top that whistles on the top, and is nicely turned.

It combines a few mechanisms well, with a bit of a twist at the end! You're not done until it comes completely apart.

Hardcore - Laszlo Molnar

A fairly simple puzzle with some readily available components: Livecube blocks and a plastic ball like you'd get out one of those coin operated toy machines. The idea is to get the three pieces into the ball.

I spent a fair amount of time on this one, but didn't have much luck! I could get very, very close to getting it to shut, but deep down I knew that it wasn't correct! At the end of IPP I finally peeked at the solution, and it was what I had expected, I was just unable to make it happen!

Hazmat Cargo - Carl Hoff

This puzzle has an interesting goal: put the nine pieces onto the barge, so that no pieces touch (even by a corner). The production is top notch, with some very slick metal components combined with 3D printed parts.

I found it to be quite challenging, since you quickly run out of room leaving the required space between the pieces. I meant to come back to this one, but unfortunately didn't have time. I think this would be well-suited to a graduated puzzle design with multiple challenges, giving you a starting position with some pieces placed and you need to complete it.

Homage to Mr Rubik "Egg" -  Tibor Sipos & Imre Kokenyesi

A cubical Smart Egg (based on Andras Zagyvai's design), you put the brass rod into the cube then try to get it through the maze and out the other end. The tricky thing is that the maze can be manipulated by rotating the cube layers.

This is very nicely crafted and must have been quite a challenge to design and build. However, I feel like it could have benefited from a more snug fit, it was hard to hold all three layers in the position I wanted while examining things or moving the rod.

Identical Twins - Osanori Yamamoto
(Puzzlers Award)

The goal is to put the two identical pieces into the frame. It is nice that you only have to deal with two pieces, and they're fairly simple. There are not many options for correct assemblies, so that helps out as well. Overall, not too challenging but a fun little puzzle nonetheless!

In a Cage - Shiro Tajima
(Jury Honorable Mention)

This is an interesting puzzle box, where the box is stuck in a cage. You can slide the box around in the cage, but you can't directly manipulate the panels on the box, an interesting concept!

I enjoyed solving this one, though the fit on one panel was a bit tight and it seemed to bind up occasionally. Perhaps a slightly larger cage is required to let the box move more freely.

Kakoi - Shiro Tajima
(Jury Grand Prize)

Another great puzzle box by Tajima, this puzzle is inspired by the Japanese kanji letter "Kakoi". Four parts move quite readily at the beginning, but you'll have to think a bit to get it open. Overall, not too challenging but there's a beautiful moment when you discover a particular step!

Kissel - Vinco Obsivac

The goal of this one is to create an interlocking icosahedral shape with the four pieces. I spent a fair amount of time on this one but didn't have much luck! When you get it correct, the pieces click into place quite nicely (or so I hear!). I wish I could have spent a bit more time with this one, since it seemed doable.

Lacing Problem - Lucie Pauwels

The idea is to thread the shoelace through the MDF such that the color on the shoelace matches the color on the board. It starts out simply enough, but then you have some decisions to make! To add some complexity, the shoelace has some coloring that doesn't get used. Fortunately, the board coloring is rotationally symmetric, so you're a bit limited in terms of starting positions.

Still, I didn't have time to solve this one since it required a fair amount of trial and error. Furthermore, physically threading the shoelace took some time and it can take a while before you find yourself at a dead end. So I think you'd have to take a pretty systematic approach to solve this one!

One issue I had was sometimes it wasn't entirely clear whether the color was sufficiently on the correct side of the board (like a small amount of white was showing). So I wasn't entirely confident that a move was acceptable.


This puzzle has several goals, each using all the pieces: 1) Rotational symmetry 2) Mirror symmetry 3) Yellow and blue shapes are congruent (may be rotated or reflected) 4) Both the yellow and blue shapes are symmetric. Whew!

I wasn't sure whether or not the legos could be disassembled and reassembled, but I confirmed that they stay as-is. I solved the first challenge, but didn't have time to come back for the others. Sort of neat that it was made out of Legos, though it doesn't really take advantage of the fact that they are Legos.

Stay tuned for Part 4 (of 6!) tomorrow!

August 17, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 2)

Here's Part 2 of my write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Cubemaker - Volker Latussek

The goal is to make five dark cubes from the five blocks. Each block has two half dark cubes. So, for example, in the photo there are three completed dark cubes.

I came back to this one a few times and was pretty happy to actually figure it out! The piece in the middle of the photo is a bit problematic, since you quickly run out of pieces if you get too far away from it. This was Marti Reis's exchange this year.

CUBI 20 - Frederic Boucher

The goal is to put the five pieces in the box, but the pieces aren't standard: some are shifted by a half-cube. Also, the box has some cubes and half-cubes glued in place.

I think I would have liked to see this one in a bit larger size, it was a bit tricky poking pieces into the corners. I didn't end up spending enough time on this one to solve it.

I ended up looking at the solution to pack it up at the end of IPP and as you assemble it one of the pieces really likes to tilt over and get wedged in the wrong place. It took me some work to free it!

Diabolical 3 Cubed - Rod Bogart & Zach Bogart

There are a three goals to this one, the first of which is to place the tiles into the 3D tray so the 12 edges that meet show the 12 pentomino shapes.

I put in a pretty solid effort on this one, but couldn't quite solve it. The 3D tray and beveled cuts on the wooden pieces was nice, but it may be good to lower the outer rim on the tray to make it easier to pull out the pieces.

Down the Rabbit-Hole - Peter Wiltshire

This is Peter's box for the Jabberwockey chest. It fits the Alice theme nicely, and is very well crafted.

At the beginning, it seems like there's nothing you can do, but there's a nice moment when you figure it out, it has an unusual movement. After that, with a bit more work, I was able to get it open but didn't quite understand how!

It took a few more attempts to figure out what I did, and even then I'm not quite sure how it works. Typically I like it the other way around: you get some kind of feedback that lets you guess how it works, then you test your hypothesis and succeed.

The Egyptian Glove: Band - Jonathan Leaman

The goal is to cover the tetrahedron using the canvas band. I enjoy these 3D cover-up puzzles, they're usually pretty doable but have something interesting going on.

I tried wrapping the band in various efficient ways and eventually found a solution that seemed correct. Checking the solution, I found there was a more graceful way to arrive at the same position, but I probably wouldn't have though of it!

The Egyptian Glove: Triangles - Jonathan Leaman

Pretty much everything that I said about The Egyptian Glove: Band applies to this one as well, so I won't repeat it. Also a good puzzle!

Fang Duet - Hayassi (Noboru Hayashi)

Seems like a fairly standard nail puzzle, like you see all over the place, right? Nope! This one is quite challenging. It is surprising that there are still good nail puzzle designs that haven't been thought of!

I spent a lot of time on this one and didn't have any luck. It seemed as though I was making some progress, but then I ended up back where I started. In the last hour before we needed to pack up, I looked at the solution and was not surprised that I had trouble figuring it out! This could make a good Hanayama Cast Puzzle, I think!

Fang Quartet - Hayassi (Noboru Hayashi)

Not having solved the 2-piece version, I didn't think I had any chance at solving a 4-piece version. So not much I can say about this one, unfortunately!

Four Hands Puzzle - Ray Stanton & Pelikan

This is a 6-piece coordinate motion puzzle beautifully turned into a ball. As the name implies, you're potentially going to need some extra hands to get this thing back together.

I sort of enjoy these dexterity put-together challenges, and didn't find this one too bad compared to some admittedly crazy others in the same genre (e.g. Rosebud).

Free Me 5 - Joe Turner
(Jury Honorable Mention)

The goal is to take the coin out of the puzzle. Often these remove-the-coin puzzles can be annoying in one way or another with hidden mazes or a bunch of hidden locking pins sliding around, but this one was great!

It is a sequential discovery puzzle: you find tools along the way and need to figure out how to use them. There are a few good moments in there, overall quite enjoyable!

Free the Marble - Laurence Grenier
(Top  10 Vote Getter)

Another goal in the name of the puzzle: get the marble out. There are three rings linked together in a chain, but the marble in the middle prevents them from moving very freely.

I didn't have much luck with this one on my first attempt, but when I came back to it I was able to figure it out. Interestingly, once you get things freed up a bit, there is still some puzzling to do, it doesn't just pop out. A nice, elegant design!

Stay tuned for Part 3 (of 6!) tomorrow!

August 16, 2017

2017 Puzzle Design Competition (Part 1)

After plenty of folks giving me a hard time for slacking off on the blogging, here's a write-up of the various puzzles in the design competition this year! I hope you enjoy it since it took a while to write! (Photo credit to Nick Baxter)

Adam & Eve - Alan Rolfs, Tom Sun, George Miller

Adam & Eve was Roxanne Miller's exchange puzzle this year. The goal is to link Adam and Eve's heads together, with the apple still wrapped around Adam's legs.

Interestingly, this puzzle is nicely machined out of brass rather made out of bent wire. The theme is pretty...creative, which some may or may not enjoy. I spent some time on this one during my initial run through the puzzles, and didn't have much luck with it!

Barreled Bolt - Eitan Cher and David Tsur
(Jury First Prize)

This is an interesting twisty puzzle with fairly limited movements: you can rotate the front, back, and sides of the barrel, but not the top or bottom. In addition, the middle band can be rotated to move the threaded bolt pieces up and down!

It is really nicely 3D printed in color with magnets inside to help align things. Surprisingly, it is not too difficult due to the limited movement. Typically I can't solve any of the crazy (or ever less crazy) twisty puzzles in the competition, but I was able to do this one. I hope this one will be available commercially at some point, since the combination of a fun/original movement and being reasonable to solve would make it a good one to share with non-puzzlers.

Bastille - Volker Latussek

The goal of this one is just to take the seven blocks out and put them back. The blocks are quarter-circles with dimensions equal to the hole size on each axis, I think. It is nicely crafted out of walnut and beech.

This one is quite approachable, anybody can start poking around at the blocks, rotating things around, but it will take a bit of thought to figure out how to solve it. My first few ideas didn't work, but eventually I got it figured out. Typically I'm not a huge fan of poking at things through holes, the dexterity aspect can get annoying. Fortunately, this one wasn't too bad because the size was large enough.

Black & White Antislide - Volker Latussek

The goal of this puzzle is to place either the black or white pieces into the box, such that they can't slide around when the box is closed. The interesting aspect is that once this is done, you must be able to add the remaining pieces of the opposite color to the box and close the box! Together, all of the pieces make a 3x3x3 with no holes, so you'll need to plan carefully to make sure the other pieces can be added. Nicely crafted out of samena and hevea.

I thought it was quite surprising that solutions starting with both black and white pieces were possible! I was able to figure out the solution starting with the white pieces, after a fair amount of effort. I spent some time working on the black solution as well, but ran out of time.

Burr Lock E - Christoph Lohe

This creatively-shaped burr was built by Eric Fuller, with the perfect fit/finish you expect from his work. The four white pieces, as well as the key and shackle, all move. There are also a few cubes glued inside the frame.

I made quite a bit of progress on this one, but eventually got stuck and didn't have a chance to come back to it! I'd say it is reasonably challenging as far as burrs go and the theme was great.

BurrNova - Jerry McFarland
(Jury Honorable Mention)

I was eager to give this one a try when I read the note: "This is a semi-automatic burr, with magnets providing surprising help along the way." The first move is pretty obvious, and once you make the second move, the subsequent 11 moves happen automatically (and quickly!) thanks to the magnets. The fit is very nice, with Jerry's trademark satiny finish.

Continuing with the disassembly is not immediately obvious, but can be worked out. I didn't get too far through the disassembly for fear of the magnets causing the whole thing to explode. However, Peter Wiltshire said he had gotten it almost all the way apart and didn't have an issue with that.

Clover - Aaron Wang

This is a pretty simple-looking disentanglement where the goal is to remove the ring. Fortunately, the string can be removed in the somewhat likely case that you get things tangled up. I definitely appreciate that touch, particularly when the string is long like this!

I had an idea for what needed to be done on this one, but wasn't able to make it happen. Guess I need to practice disentanglements more!

Colonel's Bouquet - George Sicherman

This puzzle has several challenges: join any two to make a symmetric shape or join all four pieces to make a solid box.

I tried the solid box challenge first and figured it out without too much trouble. The symmetric shape challenges proved a bit more difficult! You'd think it would be easy with only two pieces, but I found it pretty challenging. I think I got one of the solutions, but didn't end up having time to try finding more. Pretty clever that all four symmetric shape challenges are possible, and you can still make a box from all the pieces.

Color Cube Sudoku - Raphael Meyers

There are multiple challenges to this one that take a while to describe, but the first goal is to make a 6x6 latin square, a color can only appear once in each row/column.

I spent a little bit of time on this one during my first pass through the room, but didn't end up coming back to it. It appears to be a ThinkFun product, so there must be something interesting about it! Nick mentioned that there was an observation you could make that made it more doable.

Congruent Figures by Overlapping - Takumi Horiguchi

The goal is pretty much in the name of the puzzle: divide the four pieces into two pairs and overlap both pairs so they make congruent figures. Since the blue shapes can overlap and you don't know which pairs to select, this is pretty tricky!

I attempted this one for a little while, but didn't end up being able to solve it. Interesting idea and nice construction if you enjoy this type of puzzle.

Convex Polygon IrN-6a - MINE (Mineyuki Uyematsu)

As you could guess from the name, the goal is to make a convex polygon. The pieces are quite simple, but I didn't have any luck with this one either.

It is noted in the solution that it is possible to get very close to a correct solution, but still not be quite right! Perhaps it would be more interesting if the side measurements were given.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (of 6!) tomorrow!
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