Back in 2012 I was fortunate enough to attend IPP, and during the Puzzle Party day where you can buy and sell puzzles, I was able to purchase myself a copy of George Bell's exchange puzzle "Lomino Cube 4". George is a regular reader, and often comments on my posts, so I'm waiting with interest to see what he thinks of this review!
So what is a Lomino? Well the puzzle pieces used are all "L" shaped, and were named "Lominoes" by Alan Schoen, or so George tells me in the introduction to the puzzle. Lomino cube 4 is a set of 13 polycubes which have to be packed into various 2D and 3D shapes. A complete set of lominoes of order n consists of all lominoes that fit inside an n x n square. This puzzle consists of two complete sets of order n=4 plus one extra L tetromino (of volume 4). In the accompanying booklet, George sets out ten puzzling tasks which he lists in roughly increasing order of difficulty.
The image above shows the state the puzzle is deliver in, with the two complete sets packed into the "accordion" grid with 4 gaps remaining. As I'm sure you can guess already, one of the challenges will be to put that last Lomino into the accordion along with all the other pieces. But that's not the first challenge!
The puzzle is made from laser cut parts which are all a good size. Each cubie is 3/8" and the pieces are cut from clear acrylic. As you will see in the photos, the clear pieces make for some amazing finished objects, and I'm sure if I had more time, you could create some really nice effects with the right lighting. The tray itself is cut from three 1/8" thick sheets of acrylic, and are joined together to give the striking sandwich appearance with the solution shape showing through in bright orange, against the royal blue of the rest of the tray. Of course it didn't need to be 3 layers thick, but George added a second solution shape on the back of the tray, adding to the challenges. And that's not all, there's a third solution tray shape on the back of the booklet. There's a lot of puzzling in these ten challenges!
The first challenge is to create an 8x8 square, using all the pieces. Given that there are several tens of thousands of solutions (814,732 in all), I don't really have a problem showing just one of them here. I have no doubt that any puzzler with a little time can find a way to fit the pieces into an 8x8 square. From there, the next challenge is a little more difficult. Create a 4x4x4 Cube.
Now, I may have exaggerated. There's over 3 million ways (3,391,045 to be exact) to construct a 4x4x4 cube, so again it shouldn't be too much of a challenge. This time it's a 3D solution shape and given the reasonably small size of the pieces, and their slick finish, you may find yourself knocking the pieces over as you work toward a solution. That may just have been me and my fat fingers though.
Another of the challenges is to fit all the pieces into the "quilt block" shape in the reverse side of the tray. Again there are hundreds of solutions (406 in total) so giving away just one isn't that much of a help. You'll have no real problems in finding a solution yourself. There are a few other challenges involving packing the pieces in various ways, the last of which is to create a 3D shape which looks like the Dome on the Capitol Building. George doing his part to help make the puzzle themed to the IPP destination that year.
Once you've solved all of those, there's a set of 4 additional challenges to really test you. I'll not spoil them, but it's fair to say that they will make you think, and really add to the challenges. One of the more interesting from my perspective is to pack all the pieces into various solution shapes, where no two identical pieces have touching faces.
Overall, given that I have found a liking for packing puzzles, the Lomino Cube is a very approachable puzzle, with many solutions to each of the challenges (mostly) so that you don't feel frustrated by not being able to solve one, and can easily lose many hours to the puzzle. It's also well designed that all the pieces can be fairly readily self-contained, and that makes it a good puzzle for traveling. If you don't have a copy, head over to George's website, and see if he has a copy available, you'll not be disappointed.
I wasn't fortunate enough to be able to buy one of Junichi Yananose Tornado Burr's when it was offered by either Eric Fuller however I am lucky enough to have a puzzle friend who was kind enough to let me borrow his copy to have a play.
When Brian Young made copies of this puzzle, there were only 30 copies made way back in December 2008. And when you see how it's made you'll understand why. Each piece is made from a single stick, and while it may not be apparent at first look why that's such an issue, I think it will become apparent as you read on.
The first thing that hits you about this puzzle is the scale. At 6" x 6" x 6" this is a very large burr. Brian has taken a great deal of care when finishing the ends of the burr pieces, and each is beautifully detailed, with a fit and finish that you'd expect from a master craftsman such as himself. The fact that this was part of his Craftsman line is really no surprise. The only other person I know of to have attempted this puzzle is Eric Fuller, and having seen his copy, while much smaller, it's every bit as well made!
With a modest 12 pieces in the puzzle, while it would normally be considered a significant challenge, the Tornado is a challenge in an entirely different way. This is no conventional burr puzzle. As I soon found out, no amount of pushing, pulling or tugging on any of the pieces will help you to find the 'first move' that you normally need to get a burr puzzle started. So with that done, what's left? I don't recommend blowing on it, or spinning it as you'll quickly end up dizzy and out of breath. The clue to the puzzle is in the name.
"This ingenious burr was designed by Junichi in May 2007 with "head and hands; no computer". Junichi had the idea for a multiple rotational movement but did not get to finally apply it to a puzzle until he came up with the Tornado Burr. People often ask puzzle designers "What was going on in your head to design this puzzle?" What was going on in Junichi's head when he designed the Tornado Burr? Visualising things going up and down and back and forth at the same time is one thing, but things going up and down, back and forth and around as well is quite another! Junichi says the Tornado Burr "has very eccentric movements" and challenges puzzlers to "Try your luck, and stop this fierce tornado."
Needless to say this puzzle is not solvable in any computer program that we know of.
Eccentric movements indeed! As you can see above, this puzzle has rotations, although not like any you'd have thought about before playing with this puzzle. How Junichi came up with this is beyond me. It's an insane puzzle mechanism, that simply imagining the interactions and movements entirely in your head takes a special type of mind.
Coming back to my comments about the pieces all being solid and the significance of that fact becomes apparent. For the puzzle to work, it needs dowels rather than notches in the pieces. Each of these rods was hand turned on the lathe and has to be very accurately made. Not only that but it is turned on an off centre axis, making things just a little bit scarier! Having done a lot of work on the lathe recently myself, I can truly appreciate the work that goes into making each and every one of these pieces.
At IPP27 in Australia, this puzzle received an Honourable mention. Having had the opportunity to play with one, I can see why. Despite not being a burr fan, I'd not hesitate to add one of these to my collection if it became available. The chances of that happening though may be fairly slim.
During IPP 32 last year, Dave Rossetti presented another Stewart Coffin tray packing puzzle as his exchange puzzle. Numbered #255 in Stewart's numbering scheme, this was isn't made by Stewart himself, but by the woodworking master Tom Lensch. Given that I have a number of puzzles made by Tom, and I thought I was getting better at these packing puzzles, it seemed like a good idea to pick up a copy of this one.
As you can see this is another simple four piece packing puzzle. The additional challenge here is that the tray is two sided, meaning twice the puzzling fun ... or frustration. Tom has crafted this using four different woods for the pieces, Zebrawood, Marblewood, Canarywood and Bubinga (I'm guessing on the Bubinga) with a Walnut framed tray. Measuring in at 5.5" x 5" and nearly 1" thick, it's a good puzzle to work on, and not too big that it can't be slipped into a bag and taken with you.
Given that I picked this up in August, you may ask why it's taken so long to write about. Well as it happens, I solved the first side fairly quickly. It took me several hours over a month or so as I'd pick it up and fiddle, then put it back down. I was fairly happy with that and feeling quite confident so moved on to the second side, and promptly failed to make much progress.
I was a little disheartened when a good puzzling friend sent out an email asking for people to send him all the solutions they'd found for this puzzle. The suggestion was that there were a couple of false solutions that could be made. Well I got back to it and kept puzzling. After another couple of months, and several emails back and forth with my friend, I'd sent him 4 invalid solutions to the second side, but seemed to be no closer to the actual solution.
After another month of puzzling on this one I have to be honest and let you know I admitted defeat and asked for help. I dropped an email to fellow blogger Allard who had already solved and written about Lean 2 and asked for his help. I wasn't looking for the solution, I'm not that much of a defeatist, but he kindly took pity on me and sent me a location for one of the pieces. I should note that I'd been sending Allard my 'solutions' and none of those I'd found worked on his copy of the puzzle, so he knew that I had given this one a fair shot.
With the hint in hand, I had the second side solved in about 2 minutes. Overall, this is a great puzzle, and kept me busy for many months. If you enjoy packing puzzles, then definitely pick this one up, it's well worth the money and will keep you busy for quite some time.
Back in August last year at IPP, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Sandfield and talking to him about his puzzles, as well as picking up a copy of his Banded Dovetails, and ReBanded Dovetails puzzles.
First up is his Banded Dovetail puzzlebox. Designed by Perry McDaniel, and crafted by the very talented Kathleen Malcolmson. Crafted from Mahogany, Alder and Prima Vera, I think you'll agree that this is a great looking puzzle box. As is the Sandfield brothers trademark, there's dovetails in there, with what looks like two bands which have been pinned to the outside of the box, creating an impossible joint. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a puzzle if it were impossible, but the impression is very convincing. The puzzle measures 3.2" x 2.25" x 1.5" so its small however I think the size really adds to the charm of the puzzle.
The goal is simply to open the box, but when is it ever simple when someone hands you something telling you it's simple? When you pick up the box you'll quickly find that shaking it will reveal something rattling around in there. Whether that's useful or not it's hard to tell, but any clue with a locked box is useful right?
This one took me a good hour or more to figure out. All the things I had thought of were entirely unhelpful and didn't get me any closer to solving the puzzle. Really the thanks for that go to Kathleen who's made this so well that there's no clues at all as to what's going on. I think it's made even more impressive when you realise how many moves are required to open the puzzle.
As well as being a great puzzle, there's also a bit of a story behind the puzzle too. If you have a look at Brian's review of the puzzle, you'll see he lists it as IPP 28 (Prague) from 2008. Allard's review lists it as IPP 29 (San Francisco) from 2009, and my bag has IPP 30 (Japan) 2010 listed and a different name for the puzzle! So what was really going on? Sadly I can't tell you, but it was an IPP 29 exchange puzzle. Both Allard's bag, and my info sheet which came with the puzzle list IPP 29, and have IPP 28 crossed out. Whatever happened, I'm glad that this one made it out as it was worth the wait.
This is a real gem, and if you can get your hands on one, don't hesitate!
During the Exchange, Robert's puzzle this year was the ReBanded Dovetails. When he exchanged this puzzle box, he mentioned that he'd had Kathleen remake the boxes as apparently some people had managed to open the Banded Dovetail, so this was to resolve that issue. A fun little story, and a nice way to present the new puzzle.
As you can see, the appearance is very similar to the Banded Dovetails puzzle. Made by Kathleen, and designed by both Robert Sandfield and Kathleen Malcolmson you know that there's going to be something clever going on. This one is made from Baltic Birch plywood, Walnut and Lacewood. Plywood isn't the sort of material that you'd expect to find in a puzzle box, but given the striking striped appearance and great finish, I really like the look of it. The wonderful snake skin like appearance of the lacewood really sets the box off nicely. Measuring 3.2" x 2.5" x 1.5" it's slightly larger than the Banded Dovetails, but only slightly. Of course the outer appearance is where any similarity ends.
Again when you pick it up, there's a rattling from inside, and if you've already solved the Banded Dovetails, you might think that this gives you a clue. Well, prepare to be disappointed! Requiring a few more moves than the previous puzzle this one is every but as well crafted. I managed to open this one far faster than the first, taking less than 5 minutes, but I enjoyed it every bit as much.
This is a clever and well made box, with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve and the mechanism is very well hidden. Hat's off to Kathleen again there.
Both of these are great puzzles, and I'd say don't hesitate to add them to your collection if you get a chance.
We've made it into 2013, and I find myself wondering where the year went. Seems like I achieved a lot when I look back on it, and even though I didn't write about as many puzzles as I may have wanted to it seems like I got though a fair few. My collection continued to grow, thanks to some great designers and craftsmen out there, and I was invited to my first International Puzzle Party.
I met many of the people I've spoken to over the internet and made many new friends while I was there. One of those was Dor Tietz, who I was introduced to on the first night when a group of us went out for dinner. As we talked, I mentioned that I'd been to Israel a few times and given my day job, I'd probably be back again. He told me to let him know if I was going to be in Israel at any point as he'd organise a get together. So when I was traveling in October, I sent Dor an email, and he arranged my Second IPP for 2012. The Israel Puzzle Party! Before I leave 2012 behind I really need to write about this IPP as it was a very special meeting for me, and I had a lot of fun. It would be a shame not to write about it.
Dor very kindly picked me up from the Office at the end of my work day, and we drove the twenty minutes back to his house. While on the way Dor's phone rings and there's a short conversation partly in Hebrew and partly in English, as Dor confirms that we're on our way.
Getting off the phone, Dor tells me that the call was from Dan Feldman who was on his way. Dor had arranged for a small, select group of local puzzlers to come along while I was 'in town', and had hand picked people to join us. Quite an honor, and as Dor pointed out, made sure that it wouldn't be overwhelming for me.
The small group included Dor, Yael Meron, Dan Feldman, David Goodman, and Abraham Jacob. Dor and I arrived a little ahead of the rest of the group, so I was given the tour of Dor's collection. Sadly I didn't take photos, but it's fair to say he has a great collection. Various Hanayama's and Puzzle boxes are on shelves in the living room, and there's a dedicated puzzle room with one wall filled with bookcases of puzzle books and several cabinets with drawers filled with puzzles, all organised by type.
I didn't have much time to rummage, as the rest of the guests started arriving, so I was introduced to the rest of the Israel team. Having met Yael on the first night at IPP, it was good to see her again and be able to catch up. Not to mention that another familiar face always makes things easier. Although I didn't realise it initially, I'd also met Abraham before as well.
When I was helping out in the Puzzle Exchange at IPP, I had spoken with Abraham as Diniar and I exchanged with him. His wire puzzle 'Encircling the "X"' looked very interesting, and his explanation of how it was made really intrigued me, however I didn't manage to pick up a copy at IPP, and given that I had no money with me still don't have a copy ... I'll remedy that the next time we meet!
David Goodman is a puzzle collector and designer who I'd not met before. He designs some great 'simple' puzzles. You know the sort that you look at and wonder where the challenge could be, and then spend weeks trying to figure out. I'll get back to that though!
Finally we have Dan Feldman, the designer of the DanLock. Having seen my review of the Danlock, Dor thought it would be good for me to meet Dan, and be able to chat with him. As it turns out Dan reads my blog, and had read my review, so it turned out that I wasn't the only one who had questions!
Given that I didn't know whether I'd be able to meet up with Dor given my work schedules, I didn't bring any of my work with me except a copy of Stewart Coffin's Cube-16 that I'd made a small batch of thanks to a recommendation from John Devost. I gave that as a host gift to Dor. Everyone else had also brought puzzles with them so there was plenty to talk about and play with.
As we sat around Dor's table and talked people delved into bags and boxes they'd brought with them, and started handing me puzzles to play with as we talked. It seemed that my ability to solve (or not solve) a puzzle just let to more and more challenging puzzles being presented. And by that you should read simpler puzzles being presented. Seems that not only twisty puzzles can stump me, but those with just a couple of pieces too.
Dor asked me whether I'd managed to get a copy of his IPP31 exchange puzzle "Double Loop" which I hadn't. He promptly unboxed a copy, and made sure it was in the unsolved state by scrambling it for me. His theory is that if you get it solved you'll probably never play with it, so this means that I would at least be able to enjoy playing with it once. The puzzle is an extension of the well known "Snake Cube", but as the name suggests, rather than just one string of linked cubes, the Double Loop has two interlinked loops, making solving a lot more challenging and adding a whole other level to the puzzle. As you can see Dor, I did manage to solve it, and had fun playing!
He also gave me a copy of his IPP32 Exchange the "9 parts packing problem" as well. This one is designed by David, so it was great to be able to meet the designer. The challenge here is simple. Just pack all nine parts into the large container, and shut the lid. What could be difficult about that? Well it's another challenging little packing puzzle, that kept me busy for a few hours. I'm getting a lot better with packing puzzles, but I'm still not quick with them!
Shortly after arriving, David went into one of the boxes he had with him and puzzled out a copy of "Damn Sadam". This six piece puzzle is 'taken apart' by throwing it on the floor. A fair bit of force is required, and I wasn't sure whether he was joking when he told me to throw it, so I handed it back to him and watched as he took three attempts throwing it harder each time before the pieces flew apart. Of course when they did, they were handed back to me to put back together. Fortunately I had seen a similar puzzle before and was able to put it back together pretty quickly. This ended up being a gift from David, so went into the pile of puzzles I was accumulating to take home with me.
David then handed me a copy of "Triangular Pyramid" which was a previous exchange from David at IPP. It turns out that when David gave the puzzle to Dan, he found something of a useless machine when it was in its solved state, so that became a second challenge for the puzzle. Once you've combined the puzzle into its pyramid shape, you can move pieces in and out in a piston like motion which will continue indefinitely, making for a great distraction. I wasn't able to solve it while I was sitting at the table, and although David offered to show me the solution I declined as I prefer to be able to work these things out myself. Besides with only 5 pieces it seemed so simple! David gave me the copy I'd been playing with so that I could finish solving it. I have to say it's a great puzzle, for such simple pieces, and I highly recommend it. If you're thinking about making your own puzzles, this would be a good one to try given it's simplicity, and the challenging solution.
Another simple yet challenging puzzle David gave me was his "Ring a Nail" puzzle. Similar to the Nine Nails puzzle, this takes a slightly different approach, with a similar goal. The idea being to balance the five rings on the point of the nail. Yet another puzzle which seems so simple but really makes you think.
While sitting talking Dan asks me what I thought about the Danlock, given that he had read my review. It was very interesting talking to him about the puzzle and how it's made. Dan explained a number of the possible ideas he had for the lock, including another mechanism which would prevent the broken key from turning in the lock if the lock was not oriented in a certain direction. Seems like the puzzle could have been a lot more devious, given all the ideas floating around in Dan's head. His view is that the puzzle should be challenging, but not so difficult that you can't see a way to proceed, or that you need to do something where there would be no reason for that action, such as hitting or tapping the puzzle. Another idea such as requiring to tap the puzzle to release an internal lock as an example, which Dan felt didn't belong in the puzzle.
For anyone wondering why Dan doesn't make more of the lock more frequently, given its success and high demand, the reason is quite simple. Dan doesn't have his own workshop, so has to sub-contract various parts of the process. Getting someone to take on the small numbers he creates is a real problem, and often he finds that someone who he used in the past is no longer in business to help again.
It was fantastic to meet Dan in person, and to be able to spend time talking to him and getting to understand the designs he's come up with was a fantastic opportunity.
Not to be outdone, Abraham had a few of his puzzles with him, including a very interesting paper puzzle from a previous IPP Exchange called J-Cubes. The puzzle consists of a number of laminated sheets with a number of images on them. The goal being to fold these into cubes, made from several of the pieces joined together, and meet a couple of challenges based on the images on the faces of the cubes. This is made harder by their being a number of different ways to fold the sheets, and joining them into cubes isn't trivial either. Now given that I have found a love for impossible folded objects, this puzzle is right up my street. For something which seems so simple, it may have been passed up by many puzzlers. I have to say though, having played with them myself, if you have a set of these, do yourself a favor and go find them and play with them. They offer a good amount of puzzling, and will certainly make you think. the first challenge to get all the faces with the same image is not too tough, but the second challenge to make sure all the images are in the same orientation and you only use 6 out of the 7 sheets, finding the 'odd one out'.
Abraham asked me to play with the J-Cubes and let him know what I thought of them as he felt many puzzlers may have overlooked them given that they are 'just a paper puzzle'. Well I can happily say I have played with them, and I think they're well worth the hours I spent fiddling with them. They're well thought out and certainly have a lot of puzzling in them. If you'd like a set, let me know and I'll pass on Abraham's details as I'm sure he'd be delighted to send you some.
As well as the J-Cubes, he had a number of his wire and string puzzles with him. Initially I was handed a copy of Trio F+L Puzzle (left above) which was fairly straight forward and I solved in under a minute. With my confidence restored, he handed me Quartet F&L Puzzle (above right) which is much more challenging, and I manged to do little more than tie it in a knot. That said, it's not a problem with one of Abraham's puzzles as the string can be split and rejoined thanks to his thoughtfully placed clasp.
In a bizarre coincidence, as we were leaving Abraham commented that it had been his birthday two days prior. That's also my birthday. Turns out it really is a small world. Ok, so Abraham has a few years experience on me but it was fun to find that we shared out birthdays.
One of the puzzles I was handed by Dor on the night was this incredibly simple looking 'pub game' puzzle. The idea being to use one of the long sticks to create a tripod with the v shaped stick, and then use the second long stick to pick up the tripod from the table. Sounds simple right? Well I spent 40 minutes just looking at the puzzle. This did amuse Dor as I didn't attempt to pick them up since I felt it should be possible to solve the puzzle by thinking about it, which is exactly what I did. Everyone decided that I would solve it in 5 minutes when I didn't have four sets of eyes watching me. I wasn't that quick I'm sorry to say, but I did solve it since Dor told me to take that away too so I could solve it. It may have taken me 2 months thinking about how to solve it, but I did solve it on my first attempt. Have a think and see if you can figure it out ... or make yourself a copy and try it. Let me know how you get on as I'd love to know.
Strange as it was this reminded me of a couple of 'pub puzzles' which I'd not shown anyone in over 20 years. I promptly set them up to give David and Abraham a shot at solving them, which turned out to be a great idea. I never really thought about it but these puzzles are so simple, but may have been lost to many for a long time. Seems like I need to try to bring them back to people if I can.
The first is the coin under the glass (left). The idea is to get the coin out from under the glass without touching the glass or the coins it is resting on. (You'll need to set this up on a tablecloth). Do you know how to do it?
The second is to balance the coin on the brim of the glass, and get the coin over the glass (right). You can't touch the glass or the coin. The coin should not end up on the side of the glass nearest you, or inside the glass. (Try doing this in the pub with a half full pint!)
All in all I had a great night with the Israel puzzlers, and have to say a huge Thank You to Dor for arranging everything. There was a lot more that we talked about over the night, and a good few more puzzles played with too, but I think I've covered enough for this trip. I'll be sure to let Dor know the next time I'm traveling.