Neil's Puzzle Building Blog


If you've read some of my previous posts about visits to various Puzzle Parties, you'll remember me talking about puzzles designed by Roger. There are lots of my fellow bloggers have written about some of his other puzzles, and even a few have written about the Propeller puzzle. Rogers puzzles are all highly sought after, as he no longer makes new puzzles, and there's very few people out there know who he really is, but they all have one thing in common. They're tough to figure out, and in most cases the mechanisms are all amazingly straight forward, if not entirely on show.

The Propeller by Roger in its startling locked position

The Propeller by Roger in its startling locked position

I've been trying to get my hands on one of Roger's puzzles for my collection for a while now, but it seems that given their rarity, and the number of collectors looking to add them to their own collections, I've been outbid each time they've come up for auction. In a recent auction however I had a little spare puzzle money and decided it was time to not be outbid. Propeller is the first of the Roger puzzles I've added to my collection, and I think it's a good puzzle to have been able to buy. I've played with a fair few Roger designs and enjoyed most of them. I think one of the reasons that this appeals to me is that it really looks like an aircraft propeller and engine, meaning that the goal is reasonably obvious to anyone picking it up.

Propeller is a great looking puzzle, made from aluminium with a textured surface finish and measuring 3.25" across the propeller, 1.75" high and 1.5" deep it's surprisingly light for its size. There's no instructions provided, as with many of Roger's puzzles, and the only hint is the double ended arrow positioned between Roger's initials to let you know what the goal is.

The Propeller by Roger viewed from the side

The Propeller by Roger viewed from the side

In it's starting state, the propeller is locked in the horizontal position. The goal unsurprisingly is to get the propeller to spin freely. When you pick the puzzle up, you'll find that there's a small amount of play to the propeller, and you'll hear some rattling from somewhere inside the puzzle. Being a fairly deep puzzle, and having various hex screws protruding from the puzzle, the obvious investigation is to try to tilt and rotate the puzzle to try to find out what is blocking the propeller from rotating. There's a lot of space in there and your mind will probably be your worst enemy as you try to figure out what's happening.

As with other puzzlers, Allard and Oli included I too managed to release the mechanism a few times through random turning and shoogling, with no real understanding of what I'd done, and like others would have the mechanism lock up every bit as quickly as I'd released it, again with no idea why.

The Propeller in full spin

The Propeller by Roger in full spin

The real challenge here is being able to repeatedly release the locking mechanism, and allow the propeller to spin freely, and know how to re-lock it. It took quite a bit of time for me to figure out exactly what was happening to the point that I could repeatedly solve the puzzle, and the mechanism is so simple once you understand what's happening that I really have to smile and tip the hat to Roger for a simple yet challenging puzzle.

This is a great example of a simply challenging puzzle that looks great, needs no explanation, and puts a smile on your face when you know how it works. I have no idea whether I'll be able to add more of Rogers puzzles to my collection, but don't pass up the chance to have an attempt at solving this one if you can.