Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
6Dec/110

Cast H&H

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

In my latest shipment from Puzzle Master, I received this from the Hanayama Cast series of puzzles. Cast H&H, like its name suggests consists of two pieces shaped like the letter 'H' which are entangled around one another. The goal is to separate them and then put the puzzle back to its starting position. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.

Cast H&H boxed

Cast H&H boxed

This is another puzzle designed by the prolific designer Oskar van Deventer and is ranked 5/6 on the Hanayama scale (9/10 from Puzzle Master). As usual, the puzzle comes packaged in the familiar Hanayama Black and Gold packaging, which I realise I keep talking about but never show. So to rectify that, I'm using a picture of the puzzle boxed here!

The starting position

The starting position

I really like the look of this puzzle. It's finished with a highly polished chrome material, and the curves really do make this a great looking puzzle from any angle. There's something about the sharp lines in the centre, along with the wavy lines of the puzzles profile that makes you want to pick it up. And when you do, you realise just how smooth and tactile a puzzle it really is. As you've come to expect, one of the pieces is stamped with the puzzle's name, and the Hanayama logo. If nothing else, this allows you to keep track of one piece's location and orientation when trying to solve the puzzle.

Now if you happen to have someone who dislikes the clinking of Metal on Metal while you try to solve a puzzle, then I'd suggest not playing with this while they're around. It's very hard to keep this one quiet, so maybe best to play with this one on your own. I found it fairly easy to get turned around when trying to solve this one, and as such it took nearly half an hour to separate the two pieces. Given that it's not any easier to put it back together, I spent probably the same time again to get it back to the start. Along the way, I managed to re-solve it while trying to re-entangle it, possibly more than once!

The range of movements between the two pieces is surprisingly high. It's possible to slide the pieces along their centres, rotate one piece along the outer curves of the other, rotate it in the top or bottom gap that would be the top/bottom of the letter H and also rotate the pieces entirely within themselves. That may sound like gobbledygook, but if you've played with the puzzle then you'll know what I mean. (And if you've not, then get one and you'll understand!)

The two Cast H&H pieces

The two Cast H&H pieces

This fairly large number of possible moves with very similar looking pieces leads to the ease with which you can get turned around while solving this one. But it's not that easy. The shape of the pieces are very cleverly constructed so that a move that may be possible with one end of the pieces, isn't possible with the other. Frustrating, but certainly gets you thinking as to how you can maneuver the pieces where you need them.

Some 'helpful' text

Some 'helpful' text

No solution is included with the puzzle, again as to be expected from the Hanayama puzzles, but if you're really struggling then head over here to download one. Since I'd not noticed it before, even the box tells you there's no solution to be found. After all, we all love the feeling when we solve a new puzzle, so why spoil the experience!

This was a very enjoyable puzzle to work on. Just the right level of frustration, but not so much that you'll not be able to solve it and be forced to go looking at a solution. As always, the Cast series puzzles are not expensive, and with the holidays coming up, these make great stocking stuffers!



11Nov/111

Cast Marble

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

Cast Marble is another puzzle from the Hanayama Cast Series of puzzles this time, designed by Oskar van Deventer and Bram Cohen. The goal of the puzzle is to take apart the four pieces, and put them back together. Thanks Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.



Cast Marble

Cast Marble

As you can see this is another great looking puzzle with contrasting colours of anodised/chromed metals used for the body and the marble. At 1.5" x 1" deep it's not a large puzzle, and as Brian already pointed out in his review the darker body of the puzzle really shows fingerprints well, so if you're like me, you'll find yourself reaching for the cleaning cloth to keep it print free. Given that it's a solid metal puzzle, it has a good weight in your hands, even with the size being quite diminutive.

As we've come to expect the puzzle name, and Hanayama logo are laser etched into the top of one of the pieces, just in case you forget which puzzle you're playing with. As much as I'm joking about it, it really is a nice touch, and something I'm happy to see Hanayama doing.

Cast Marble initial movement

Cast Marble initial movement

Straight out of the familiar black and gold Hanayama packaging, you'll find that the puzzle wants to move into the position you see above. This seems to be the natural movement that you'll find when you start playing. As you might have guessed it's not going to help you to solve the puzzle, but it might let you see each of the parts a little more clearly.

The silver ball in the centre of the puzzle spins freely inside the frame pieces, and this is helped given just how smooth the finish is on the puzzle. Given the puzzles small size, and how slick the surfaces are, it does add an extra challenge to the puzzle. I found that even once I found out how to take the pieces apart, manipulating the pieces was still challenging.

Rated as 4/6 on the Hanayama scale and 8/10 by Puzzle Master (their scale starting at 5), this is a challenging little puzzle. I spent 15-20 minutes to figure out how to take it apart for the first time. When it started to come apart, the two frame sections stuck against one another as they were separating, leaving me thinking I wasn't solving it correctly. It turns out that a small adjustment to the positioning of the four pieces, and they slid apart very smoothly, with a very satisfying motion. Much like the Cast Loop puzzle, the movement of the pieces as the puzzle comes apart is almost hypnotic, and its a very graceful thing to watch come apart then slide back together.

Cast marble in pieces

Cast marble in pieces

Once you have the pieces apart, the twisted shape which leads to this unusual motion is revealed. If you take care when opening the puzzle, then re-assembly shouldn't be too difficult, but as is the case when taking it apart, precise alignment is required. I found it easier putting the pieces back together than taking them apart, mainly because it seems to need less dexterity, and also that the puzzle doesn't want to rotate in the horizontal axis around the ball (like you see in the second image).

I think this is a reasonable challenge, and will keep most people puzzled for a fair while. More seasoned puzzlers may figure this out faster, but the movement alone makes it worth adding to your collection. I highly recommend Cast Marble, and it's probably second only to Cast Loop in terms of my favorite Hanayama puzzle at this point. If you don't have this already, definitely consider picking up a copy. Oli has also written about the Cast Marble, so to read his thoughts, head over here.



24Oct/110

Cast Spiral

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

Cast Spiral is another puzzle from the Hanayama Cast series, this one designed by Kennet Walker. This puzzle is similar to a number of 'Jigsaw' puzzles where a small number of apparently identical pieces are linked in a seemingly endless spiral, the goal being to separate the pieces then put them back together. Cast Spiral takes the idea one step further and rather than a 4 piece puzzle, this is a five piece version. Puzzle Master kindly sent me this copy to review. Thanks Puzzle Master!

Cast Spiral

Cast Spiral

I have a couple of different versions of this style of puzzle, and the wooden version below called Wooden Spiral can be purchased from Puzzle Master. Think Fun also produce a version in plastic called the a-ha! 4 Piece Jigsaw . Both of these puzzles work on the same principle and if you have solved either, then you'll have a good idea of how to approach the Cast Spiral.

Cast Spiral and Wooden Spiral side by side.

Cast Spiral and Wooden Spiral side by side.

Cast Spiral is a nice progression in this style of puzzle. It's a heavy puzzle, and being made from solid metal, you can be quite confident passing this to any of your friends to have a bash at solving it. (Note: No hitting or dropping of the puzzle is required to solve it.) The finish on the surface is plain, but well finished, and bears the Hanayama logo. Given that this is an older puzzle in the Cast series, originally released in 2003, the name of the puzzle isn't on there, unlike most of the newer releases. The shape of the puzzle itself is also interesting. rather than going for a plain cylinder, the pieces taper from the centre to the outside, with a slightly flattened spot in the middle, making for a rather pleasing shape, that leaves the puzzle looking as though it's floating above the table.

Side view of Cast Spiral and Wooden Spiral showing the spiral nature of the pieces.

Side view of Cast Spiral and Wooden Spiral showing the spiral nature of the pieces.

As you can see from the side, it looks as though there's no way to separate the five pieces of the puzzle, however as I mentioned earlier, the solution to this puzzle has its roots in the jigsaw style puzzles I've already mentioned. Unlike the wooden or plastic four piece versions, the pieces of Cast Spiral are not all identical. So just picking it up and using the trick you already know isn't going to work. You're going to have to find out how to implement the trick, which adds a little extra challenge if you're familiar with this style of puzzle.

Identical pieces?

Identical pieces?

Hanayama rates this as a Level 5/6 puzzle, and Puzzle Master a Level 9/10 - Grueling. I think it's fair to say this is a tough puzzle, however it's perhaps only a 4 in Hanayama's scale given that there's a number of tougher puzzles been released since this one. It's nice that even if you know the solution to one of the four piece puzzles, that it's not going to instantly work on the Spiral, so it may catch a few people out. If you've not come across one of these before, then it's a tough puzzle, but a fairly enjoyable one at that. If you're really stuck then you'll find a solution here.

Like the other Cast puzzles I've already reviewed, I highly recommend adding this to your collection. It's a really solid puzzle, with a nice twist in the solution. None of the cast series are overly expensive so really there's no reason not to own one!

To see what everyone else is saying about these puzzles (yes, seems everyone else has reviewed this before me), have a read of the reviews by Allard, Brian, Jerry, Kevin and Oli.



5Oct/114

Cast Nutcase

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

Cast Nutcase is another puzzle in the Cast series from Hanayama designed by Oskar van Deventer. Measuring in at 1.25" diameter, by just under 2" long, the goal is to remove the small nut encased inside the hollow part of the puzzle by taking the two halves of the puzzle apart. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.

There is a second goal to the puzzle, but I'll talk about that later ...


Cast Nutcase in the starting position

Cast Nutcase in the starting position

As you'd expect, the puzzle comes in the standard Hanayama black and gold packaging, with the puzzle held in shrink wrapped plastic to keep it in place. The puzzle consists of 5 pieces, including the small bolt that can be seen through holes in the ends of the puzzle. The two bolts threaded onto the centre of the puzzle will spin up and down the threads and each has 'Cast' and 'Nut' engraved into opposite sides of the bolt. The familiar Hanayama logo is also engraved into the edge of the bolt.

Closeup showing the small nut trapped inside

Closeup showing the small nut trapped inside

Closeup of the engraving on the nuts

Closeup of the engraving on the nuts

The look of this puzzle is interesting as a galvanised, bronzed bolt, with some interesting patina patterning on various surfaces. It may not be the prettiest of the Hanayama puzzles, but it's by no means ugly either. Looking at the puzzle, it seems impossible, as the two nuts in the centre of the puzzle are threaded onto a seemingly full thread which extends from one end of the puzzle to the other. The only clue as to what is going on is that the thread is not made from a single piece of metal, and it split into sections. Pulling on each end of the puzzle will show that the sections are alternately connected to either end of the puzzle, so there is some hope that the parts will separate.

Rated as 6/6 by Hanayama and 10/10 - Mind Boggling by Puzzle Master. I have to agree with this rating. It's a tough puzzle and will certainly test you whether you're a seasoned puzzler or not. It took me around an hour to open this one, and even then I think I may have been a little lucky. I could certainly see it taking a lot longer to open this puzzle. You should be able to figure this one out by looking closely at how things are put together, and from that work out what's going on, but there could be a lot of trial and error before you get it opened. If you get really stuck, there's a solution here. For me, this puzzle is a little like picking a lock, and feeling your way around what's happening with little changes to the parts of the puzzle as you go.

The small nut free from it's "Nut Case"

The small nut free from it's "Nut Case"

My biggest problem with this puzzle is that the nuts don't turn smoothly on the threads if there's any misalignment at all. Given the way that the puzzle opens, and the design on the nuts, this is inherent in the design, and I don't think there's much that can be done to avoid it. Sadly, I feel that the sticking of the nuts as you turn them does detract from the overall experience, and I had several times where one of the bolts would lock up, and significant banging of the puzzle on my desk was required to get things moving again. Given that very precise alignment of the various parts is required to solve the puzzle, the stickyness does make things less enjoyable. Having solved this a number of times, keeping the threads aligned by pushing together on each end of the puzzle with one hand while turning the bolts helps however that is only useful for the first half of the solution. If things get misaligned, then it's tough to get it back in sync.

Overall this is a challenging puzzle, but I fell there's a little too much guess work and hidden trickery to make this a stand out puzzle. If you want a real challenge, then pick this one up, but if you're just looking for a fun puzzle, I'd say it's best to pass this one by.

The Case Nut Puzzle

Now, remember way back at the start, I said there was a second goal ...

The second goal for the puzzle, just to prove it's possible

The second goal for the puzzle, just to prove it's possible

If you think that the first goal is tough enough, then I'd say stay away from the second. Once you've solved it a few times, and you know what's going on, give this a shot.

Warning: this is a lot tougher!

The nuts on the puzzle are designed to go on in one orientation, so that when closed they spell "Nut Case". But it is possible to reverse the orientation so that they spell "Case Nut". The photo above proves that it's possible. Now I will say, make sure you understand how to open it normally before doing this, as all the little markers you've used to solve the puzzle in its first configuration will be of no use to you! When putting the puzzle into this second configuration, things are much tougher, so don't say I didn't warn you. I think this puzzle may just go up to 11!



23Sep/110

Cast Violon

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

Cast Violon is yet another superb puzzle from the Hanayama Cast Series. This puzzle was originally created by Joseph L. Litle in 1965, the Cast version was adapted by Nob Yoshigahara. Puzzle Master kindly sent me this puzzle to review.

Cast Violon in the starting state.

Cast Violon in the starting state.

Nob had this to say about the puzzle.

"Patented in America in 1965, this puzzle was originally created by Joseph L. Litle. The idea to make this puzzle came to me after playing with a wooden copy built for me by my close, but now deceased friend, Tadao Muroi. The proportions have been changed considerably from the original plan in this new version. With this puzzle being styled after a violin and its strings, the word here is...'string'.

-NOB 2003-"

From the top, it's difficult to see the violin shape which gave the puzzle its name, however this side view shows things much more clearly.

Side view with the puzzle solved

Side view with the puzzle solved

I really love the aged bronzed look of this puzzle. It suits the style perfectly, and as is normal with the Cast series, it's a heavy puzzle in your hands. The pieces are all solid and well made, so there's no fear of anything breaking or bending as you play with the puzzle. It also seems to have a clear coating over the finish to protect it, which seems to be important as I'll mention later.

The body of the violin creates a maze of sorts which the broken loop runs around. The aim of the puzzle being to remove the rectangular piece with the Hanayama logo and puzzle name from the rest of the puzzle. The thinner section in the violin allows the broken loop to either be fully inside the violin or to run around the outside and it should come as no surprise that a combination of both states is required to solve the puzzle.

Have a look at my video review to see the puzzle close up and get an idea for how the puzzle moves.

At first look, the exit point isn't entirely obvious, however with a little amount of playing it should become clear where you need to take the 'string' off. Puzzle master rates this as a level 6 - tricky (scale of 5-10), and Hanayama rates it as a 2 (scale of 1-6). I think it's a fair estimate of the difficulty. I was able to solve this in around 5 minutes, and was able to return the puzzle to its starting state in just a few more.

The alignment of the pieces when taking the puzzle apart and putting it back together is crucial. If you're off by a fraction, getting the pieces apart or back together becomes virtually impossible. Having said that, I've seen the pieces some apart in a number of different ways and I'm not quite sure how I managed all of them as the pieces don't seem to go back the same was I watched them come apart! Get everything just right though, and the pieces slide together seamlessly.

The scratches that have appeared on my puzzle.

The scratches that have appeared on my puzzle.

My only small gripe with the puzzle is that on my copy, the finish has started to become scratched, showing bare metal underneath. From a distance, you'd never know, and it is minor, however it's not something I expected from a Hanayama puzzle. I think the clear coating that I mentioned earlier just didn't make it onto the section of the puzzle, as there's no issues anywhere else!

Overall, this is a nice puzzle. Not tot challenging, and will be able to be solved in a reasonable time by most people who pick it up. If you're still struggling, you can download the solution here. You can't really go wrong with a Hanayama cast puzzle, and this is no different.



5Aug/110

Cast Rattle

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Hanayama Cast Puzzles

Cast Rattle is another excellent puzzle from the Hanayama Cast series of puzzles. This particular puzzle is designed by Bram Cohen. The highly chromed, clinking puzzle challenges you to separate the four joined pieces, then put them back together, before you drive your significant other insane from the rattling. Thanks to Puzzle Master for sending me this puzzle to review.


Cast Rattle by Hanayama

Cast Rattle by Hanayama

As other people have already commented in their reviews, this puzzle really lives up to its name. The four identical pieces rattle and clink with each and every touch of the puzzle, and most attempts to silence it will prove to be futile. The chromed finish is very slick, and there is very little friction between the pieces to keep them in any particular spot. Have a look at Kevin's review and Brian's review to see what they had to say about this puzzle.

If you're familiar with the cast series, then it will come as no surprise to find that the name of the puzzle, and Hanayama's name are laser etched onto one of the pieces. This puzzle is no exception and lives up to the high quality that we are familiar with from the Hanayama series. It's a solid puzzle with a good weight and excellent fit and finish. Despite its small price tag, this is a high quality puzzle.

Cast Rattle closeup

Cast Rattle closeup

At its smallest, the puzzle is around 1.5" square x 1" high. The pieces fit very loosely together which adds to its tendency to rattle, but there's really no unnecessary movement here. Moving the pieces around in relation to one another, you can see everything, making this another 'perfect' puzzle.

You may not realise it, but this puzzle is actually a burr puzzle. Don't let that put you off though. I know that many people are not a fan of burrs but this is a great puzzle and you'd be missing out if you passed it by. The loose connection of the pieces, and the ability to see all parts of the puzzle make this a rather unique burr. Nothing hidden from you and yet something keeps the pieces locked together.

With nothing hidden, it should be easy to see how it should open, right? And this is where the frustration sets in. Idly fiddling with the puzzle in your hands is unlikely to see you opening it any time soon. Tugging and pulling wildly at the pieces in the hope they will pop apart also won't yield particularly impressive results. A more structured approach (and a level surface) help in solving this one. You can see from looking at the pieces and how they connect that all you need to do is line the pieces up, and they should fall apart. The beauty is that the pieces are so accurately made, that the alignment has to be spot on for that to happen.

Cast Rattle pieces

Cast Rattle pieces

I've given this puzzle to a few different people to try to solve, and most have managed. The interesting thing is that each person approaches the puzzle differently, and as such I've witnessed a couple of solutions. The most Neanderthal solution involved holding two pieces and shaking until things fell apart, to the other end of the scale where carefully aligning pieces on a desk and gently repositioning with a pencil until the top two could lift off. Interestingly both were successful!

After I solved this for the first time, and could look closely at the pieces when I was re-assembling the puzzle, I noticed something very interesting. That led to what I consider to be a very elegant solution. Taking a couple of tooth picks and carefully placing them between the pieces, you can precisely align them, and separate the pieces with minimal effort. I wonder if this was intentional when the puzzle was designed or just luck!

The effect of such a precise construction, and low friction surface is that even when you're putting the pieces back together, almost as soon as the pieces touch, they will move out of alignment locking themselves together again.

Hanayama rates the puzzle as a level 4/6 and Puzzle Master a level 8/10 - Demanding. I have to say that these are spot on. It's a challenging puzzle and could keep you rattling away for hours if you don't look carefully at the pieces and their interaction. Even after solving it, and knowing what you have to do, this still provides a challenge every time you come back to it. I highly recommend Cast Rattle for all ages and level of puzzle solving, although I'd suggest not handing it to the baby!