Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
16Dec/110

Tubular Burr

The Tubular Burr is a 3D printed puzzle, created by a good friend of mine Derek Bosch. The goal of the puzzle is simple. Remove the two black pieces from the cylinder and put them back. Derek kindly gave me this version when I gave him a copy of the Involute puzzle by Stewart Coffin I made recently.

Tubular Burr by Derek Bosch

Tubular Burr by Derek Bosch

Measuring 1.5" tall x 1.75" diameter it's a good sized puzzle, and as you can see from the photos, having the puzzle dyed with different coloured pieces from the cylinder really makes the puzzle pop. The White Strong and Flexible material really stands up well in the puzzle, and despite the model being hollow, there's no worry about anything breaking.

Inside the cylinder are a couple of notches, and both pieces are also notched. These notches all interact with one another inside the cylinder to make for a fairly tricky puzzle. Don't be put off by the fact that this is a 3 piece puzzle. I'll attest to it not being easy to solve. (See my later comments on that!) It total it takes 14 moves to re-assemble the puzzle so it's a good challenge.

Tubular Burr Open

Tubular Burr Open

Tubular Burr IPP Entry

Tubular Burr IPP Entry

Derek originally created this for IPP29 in San Francisco as his design puzzle entry, where it was created from sheets of laser cut acrylic which were glued together. He also used it as his Exchange party puzzle that year too. The puzzles for the IPP were created from a clear blue acrylic, however the first time I was able to play with this puzzle was with Derek's prototype "Darth Vader" version which is made from solid black acrylic. If I'm honest, I love this clear version, and can only imagine that it makes things even more infuriating as you can see everything that's going on inside the cylinder! Truly an excellent puzzle as nothing is hidden.


Darth Vader Prototype

Darth Vader Prototype

Darth Vader Prototype pieces

Darth Vader Prototype pieces


Derek first gave me this puzzle to play with one morning at work, and I took the pieces apart and placed all three pieces back on his desk. He told me that wasn't good enough, put it back to the way it was when he handed it to me. When I first played with the puzzle it took me around 5 minutes to take the pieces out of the cylinder, and less than a minute to put the pieces back in. When I handed it back to Derek less than a minute after he'd told me to put it back, he was astonished. I had put it back together far faster than anyone else had, and generally, he notes that it's much harder to put the pieces back in than it is to remove them.

I can confirm that having played around with the copy Derek gave me, I've not repeated this incredibly fast re-assembly, and in fact the second attempt took me a good 20 minutes to put the pieces back in! (going back to the Involute I gave him, he's still not taken it apart in over 2 months, so I think on average I'm still up - or rather Stewart Coffin is!)

Going back and resolving it several times now, it still takes me on average 5-10 minutes to put it back together, so perhaps my first attempt was beginners luck! I am getting quicker as I remember the solution but I get the feeling that leave this for a few months and come back to it and you'll still find it a challenge every time.

This is a great little puzzle, and is well worth picking up a copy if you weren't lucky enough to be part of the IPP exchange. Visit Derek's Shapeways Shop to pick one up, or one of his Maze Cubes. They're offered both dyed and undyed, and while frustrating me that I didn't solve it as quickly the second time, it proves that it's not a simple puzzle, and well worth owning.



28Oct/114

Way

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series IPP 31

Way by Dr. Volker Latussek is an interesting wooden puzzle which was entered in IPP 31 Design competition in Berlin. Not long after IPP, I was talking with Volker regarding my thoughts on the puzzle, and he offered to send me a copy to play with. Shortly after our discussion a fairly large package arrived in the mail, and there was the copy of Way that he promised me.

Way boxed

Way boxed

The goal of the puzzle is to create free standing circuits which form a single complete loop from start to finish, using the pieces noted on the challenge card. The circuit does not need to be flat on the table, and can be a three dimensional circuit. If fact, thinking upwards is needed to solve many of the challenges presented. One of the unique points of the puzzle is that there are no pegs or magnets which hold the pieces together, and each of the solutions is stable when the correct solution is found.

The first thing that struck me about this puzzle is the size. This is much larger than I was expecting from the photographs I'd seen. You'll get a feel for just how big the pieces are from the video (just excuse my gammy thumb). The pieces are all beautifully made, and perfectly smooth. Each of the oiled beech pieces has a good weight to it, and are all fairly large, even in my hands. The whole puzzle with all eighteen blocks measures 8" x 8" and each piece has a diameter of around 1.33". The puzzle comes in a heavy card box with the puzzle name on a sticker on the outside of the box. One of the challenges is even to fit all 18 pieces into the box in a continuous circuit (as opposed to just thrown in there as they normally are after playing with the puzzle).

The Sticker on the box has the subtext "a puzzle construction set", and it does live up to that claim. It certainly reminds me of the building blocks I used to play with as a child when I was at my grandfathers house, although these are significantly less beat up than those blocks were!

The puzzle comes with a challenge card with 8 different challenges on it, the first four of which are really showing you how to use the blocks, so contain a picture of the solution on the card. My biggest issue therefor is that there's only really 4 challenges provided with the puzzle to start off. For most people it's not going to take that long to work through the challenges. Visiting the website, there are now a total of 29 challenges which should keep you puzzling for quite some time, and it seems that more challenges are being added on a fairly regular basis. The most recent challenge was added on the 27th October (at the time of writing). The challenges are not all just 'build a circuit' challenges either. Some really need you to think about what you're doing by adding restrictions on the type of circuit. For example, the circuit must fit inside a 3x3 cube.

Note: New puzzle challenges are added every Thursday. Thanks to the designer for the update

Some simple solutions

Some simple solutions

As you can see from the image above, showing a few of the simpler challenges, it's possible to construct several of the solutions at the same time, and all of them are stable once complete. One of the issues I had was that the order in which you construct the solution is very important to the stability during creation. While it's true that all the solutions I have found so far are stable once complete, they're not always easy to build due to the nature of the pieces to roll. As you'll see in the video, removing one piece from the completed structure, and the whole assembly in many cases will fall down with a satisfying clunk as the pieces hit the table. While I love the fact that the solutions are all stable when built, I can't quite get past the feeling that having either the tiniest flat spot on the edges would help the puzzle greatly as the building would be less frustrating. That said, Dr. Volker is very proud of the design, and that the pieces are stable with no other aids, and I think he's right to be proud of it. Bottom line is that the way the puzzle is, there's an added dexterity element to the puzzle, which certainly adds to the challenge.

Way shows gravity who's boss

Way shows gravity who's boss

Some of the more challenging puzzles really start to look like they're defying gravity with pieces hanging outside the main mass of the puzzle creating some interesting overhangs!

Overall this is a really good puzzle, and if the challenges keep coming, then there's going to be a good reason to keep going back to it for some time to come. You can get one directly from Dr. Volker via the Way Website.



2Jul/110

Oskar’s Matchboxes

Oskar's Matchboxes is another puzzle designed by Oskar Van Deventer. This seems like a simple enough puzzle, where five matchboxes have their sleeves and drawers attached at interesting angles to create five unique pieces. The goal is to close all five matchboxes. Have a look here for Brian's review.

Oskar's Matchboxes Puzzle by Eric Fuller

Oskar's Matchboxes Puzzle by Eric Fuller

I recently won a copy of Oskar's Matchboxes, made by Eric Fuller in 2010, on the recent Cubic Dissection Marketplace auction. This is a beautifully made version using (as best I can tell) Mahogany and Maple. Overall, the puzzle is approximately 3.5" in size, making for a very compact version.

Matchbox Diagram

Diagram of each of the pieces

The diagram on the right shows how each of the matchboxes should be attached. The dimensions of the boxes are fairly important, they need to be on a 3:2:1 scale in order for the puzzle to work correctly. There have been a number of versions of the puzzle made, including short runs by Trevor Wood, Tom Lensch and Eric Fuller. Each of those has a different appearance as the creator can make the boxes in whatever style they desire, as long as it remains inside the dimensions listed. Recently Philos Games has started creating a mass manufactured version of the puzzle which you can buy directly or at Puzzle Master or Amazon.

When I received this puzzle, Eric's description states that there are two solutions, however I was aware that Trevor Wood claims there are three solutions. I set myself a challenge to find all three solutions or prove that there were only two. When I received the puzzle, it was already in the solved state, so I took it apart, shuffled the pieces and starting trying to put it back together. After about an hour I had the five boxes back together. This is a tough puzzle, and is very easy to get lost trying to solve it. A systematic approach will serve you best when trying to solve this, as randomly lifting pieces is unlikely to be successful.

With one solution found, I started looking for the others. After another 15 minutes, I found a way to change the location of only one piece and still solve the puzzle. Having done this, I had to take photographs of the two solutions to prove to myself that they were indeed different. The two solutions are mirror images of each other, so easy to miss that they are different. (You can click this link to see all solutions)

So two down. Could I find the third? As it happens, I had come across the third solution while trying to solve the puzzle for the first time, however it is not possible to create this third solution with Eric's version of the puzzle. At this point, you might think I'd give up and accept that it wasn't possible to create the third solution. Well, I'm not the sort of person that gives up. I wanted to create a version where all three solutions were possible. As Trevor Wood points out, the dimensions of the puzzle, and exact placement of the drawers is required to be able to create all three solutions.

One thing that made me want to create my own version was this image of the Philos Puzzle in the solved state (thanks to Brian Pletcher for the image). If you look at the image on the Puzzle Master site, you'll see that it is solved in the same way as I have it solved, but here is a completely different solution, this one much flatter than the two possible using Eric's version!

Off to the store I went to buy some matchboxes. (As a side note, you have no idea how difficult it seems to be to buy a standard matchbox in San Jose!) With a pack of 10 matchboxes in my hand I took out my tape, and started joining the sleeves and drawers together to match the diagram above, while creating an ever increasing pile of matches on my workbench.

Homemade version of Oskar's Matchboxes

Homemade version of Oskar's Matchboxes

The result speaks for itself (see the link below as I have not included the solutions by default so you can discover them for yourself!). The third solution which was not possible with the very high quality version from Eric Fuller.

If you want to see all three solutions, click here, and browse the images. Note, these won't appear if you click any of the other images so if you don't want to compare the solutions, you're not going to be exposed to them accidentally.

As an additional challenge, try putting the matches back into the boxes when you solve the puzzle. After all, they are matchboxes, and should still be able to store the matches. I went ahead and did just that, and realised that the puzzle becomes harder. Given the interesting orientation of the drawers, the order in which you close them now becomes even more important, as it;s not possible to put them together in all orders since the matches will fall out (unless you have 4 hands!)

This is a fun project, and fairly simple as long as you get matchboxes with the correct scale. Have a go, and let me know how you get on. Alternatively, pick up a copy of the Philos version and have a go at finding all three solutions yourself.