Get Charged is a trapped object puzzle made by Bits & Pieces where the object is to remove the spark plug from its wooden cage. Two steel rods prevent the plug from being removed through either side, and the plug itself is just too long to be slid out, despite the hole in the top which might make you believe otherwise. I received my copy from Puzzle Master.
Spurred on by my recent success with the quality of Akio Kamei’s Book Box which is also from Bits and Pieces, I was in high spirits that I'd have another well made puzzle. At first glance, as you can see from the picture above, it does look like a well made puzzle. Measuring 3.75" x 2.25" x 1" and sporting a shiny new spark plug, it looks like a nice puzzle.
It arrived in the usual plain white cardboard box, but when I opened that the puzzle was tightly bubble wrapped, and I was thinking that things were looking good. Sadly when I removed the bubble wrap, I was a little disappointed.
This is what I found when I opened the packaging. Sadly the puzzle was already in the solved state, and before I could play with it by returning it to the starting position, I had to solve it to reset it. I'm actually being a little generous with the photo here, as when I took the puzzle out of the bubble wrap, the second metal bar was stuck inside the bubble wrap and I didn't find it until I re-checked all the packing, having tried to figure out why the spark plug lifted straight out of the frame, and there were two holes which did nothing in either side of the frame. Given that this is a simple puzzle, and I pretty much knew how it was going to work before it arrive it's not that much of a problem, but it was rather a shame.
Unfortunately, that's not my only problem with this puzzle. Unlike the picture on Puzzle Master's page, the joinery here is pretty poor. Rather than the nice half mortice, we have a butt joint, which works but has no strength. Also the puzzle has been badly slathered in a red paint, and not sanded prior to painting, meaning there are lots of burrs on the inside of the frame, and some sloppy excess paint in there too. Ok, it's not an expensive puzzle I hear you cry, but it really doesn't take much more effort or cost to finish the puzzle slightly better.
Also the metal bar which prevents removal of the spark plug has been drilled into the frame badly, meaning that it's squint. It doesn't affect the operation of the puzzle any, however my OCD for things being straight and parallel really screams at this minor thing. You'll also see that the frame has been damaged at some point after being painted. That's just carelessness when the puzzle was being put together.
The puzzle does come with a solution sheet, however I don't think it's a particularly well written solution. I doubt you'll need it though.
So gripes aside, this is a simple puzzle, with a fairly well known mechanism that won't keep an average puzzler stumped for long. If you're trying to introduce someone to the world of puzzles, this is a cheap way to show them this style of mechanism, and the puzzle will take some abuse, without you being too upset if it gets a little scratched up. There are better versions of this puzzle available, but depending on who you're getting it for, this may be an option for you.
The Cerebral Rings puzzle is an interesting plastic puzzle produced by Magnif. My copy came to me from Puzzle Master in the last shipment of puzzles I had arrive from them. This was a puzzle I was interested to play with as it seemed rather different than many I'd played with recently, and I hoped would be a nice change of pace.
The goal of the puzzle is to move the red plungers inside the circular shafts to positions where it will allow the black rings to slide apart in a coordinate motion, separating the three parts which make up the rings. Measuring 4" wide x 1.75" high the puzzle is a good size and the plastics used have been well finished to give a really glossy appearance as you can see in the photographs. All the edges are nicely chamfered and the curves used in the plungers mean that they are comfortable to press when you're playing with the puzzle. The fit of the pieces is good, making it difficult to see the seams where the three frame sections join.
One downside which I have to mention about this puzzle is that the inside of the tubes have been coated fairly heavily with a lubricant. Clearly the idea was to make the pieces move easily inside the tubes. Unfortunately, at least on my copy the amount of grease used was excessive, and then you push the red plungers inside the tubes, your fingers end up covered in grease, making for a fairly unpleasant experience when playing with the puzzle. The first thing I did when I opened the puzzle was to take a rag and clean out all that grease. Sadly even with all the grease in there to start with I found there were times when the plungers would get stuck in the tubes and require significant force to move them past the obstacle which they were stuck on, allowing full travel through the tube.
From the Manif website, the puzzle comes with the following description: "Fabled to have been found among the effects of the renowned astronomer Johannes Kepler, was an early version of the Cerebral Rings. This challenging puzzle baffles astronomers, astrologers and mathematicians alike. It was said that Kepler’s students had to master the expanding layers of the Cerebral Rings and the red plungers within, solving the puzzle in order to progress to apprenticeship. There are hundreds of possible combinations and only 8 solutions."
Personally I think Kepler would be turning in his grave at the idea that the puzzle was used as part of an apprenticeship, as the puzzle really isn't that challenging, however it makes for a good story! It is true that depending on how you count a move, there may be hundreds of combinations, and only eight solutions, but sadly once you've found one, there's really no need to find any others, as there's not enough of a difference to make it worthwhile. That said there are some nice elegant symmetrical solutions if you care to look for them.
Note: The image above does not show a solution. Ed
As you can see once you've found the correct combination, the rings slide apart passing each other in a coordinate motion which means that they do indeed expand as they come apart. The fit of the pieces is very good here, so starting the motion can be quite a challenge. Finding the correct spot to push on the pieces so that they glide past each other is not obvious, and as with many puzzles, placing your fingers so that you're not blocking the motion can be tricky.
Puzzle Master rates the puzzle as level 8/10 (Demanding) and Manif rates it 2/4. I have to say I think it's closer to the lower end of the scale but could certainly provide a good challenge if you're not paying attention. I enjoyed playing with the puzzle even if it did take a very short time for me top solve it the first time, somewhere under 5 minutes. It was a good change of pace to the other puzzles I've been playing with recently and would make a good Christmas present for the younger puzzler.
Once you've solved the puzzle everything comes apart, leaving you with the six plungers, and three black ring sections. The rings are all identical so re-assembly is fairly simple. Overall a fun distraction even though it's not an overly challenging puzzle. It is well made, and the contrasting colours will make it stand out on the puzzle shelf. Definitely one that people will pick up and have a fiddle with.
Wow, doesn't time fly. It's nearly the end of 2012, and I realise that I still haven't sat down and written up the Tetraxis puzzles that I received from Jane Kostick over a year ago. Worse that that, I created the video review back in October (last year)! Not only that but after being at IPP and playing with more of Jane Kostick's excellent puzzles, I've bought more from her and really need to review that too. So with all the procrastination out of the way, I hope you enjoy the review of this fine puzzle set.
Some time before IPP31 I came across Jane and John Kosticks website, and really liked the look of their puzzles. Digging around a little, I found that as well as the mass produced plastic versions of the puzzles, Jane also made some rather unique versions from wood as well. So chancing my arm, I got in touch and asked if she would make me a set.
Jane and I chatted back and forth for a while via email, and eventually agreed on some woods to use from Jane's fairly large stock, and she set about making the puzzle pieces for me. I have to admit that I really enjoyed talking with her about the puzzle itself, how the magnets were attached to the sticks, her experiences with different woods, and many other topics, including IPP. In the year that has passed since then I still talk to Jane via email occasionally and on returning from IPP 32 I threw her another email commenting both on the great puzzles that she had in the Design competition, and also a particular puzzle that John Rausch had given me to play with, but more on that later.
Unbeknown to me, fellow puzzler Allard was also having a set of Jane's sticks made and unlike me he wrote about them in a much more timely fashion.
My copy is a three layer puzzle with a rhombic triacontahedron in the centre, then Jane and John's Six-axis in the middle and a Ten-axis Tetraxis frame on the outside. The inner parts are made from Bubinga, Black Palm and Maple, and the outer Ten-axis is Cherry. They have trademarked the name Tetraxis, and use it to cover all of the puzzles they make including the Tetraxis Star, Tetraxis toy/puzzle, and Tetraxis magnetic sculptures in wood.
The whole structure shows the fantastic geometric relationships that are found in John's stars and really helps you to visualise the geometry in play. So many puzzles are based on the geometry here, and you'll probably recognise the shape of the six-axis Tetraxis as the same shape as Stewart Coffin's Jupiter puzzle (amongst others).
When I originally ordered the puzzle from Jane, things took a little longer than she would have liked due to some dull saw blades, so she ended up sending me one of her husbands Tetraxis stars (4 axis) as a little extra to say sorry for the delay. Now given that this was a custom order I really don't think it took long at all, and the craftsmanship is superb. To my mind there was no delay and really it wasn't an issue at all, so thanks for the little extra Jane, it's beautiful too.
As you can see from the closeup pictures, the fit and finish of the sticks is excellent, and Jane has even signed the pieces which on this scale is no easy task. The overall structure may be fairly large as you can see in the video, measuring 4" however each stick is just 0.25" thick on the outer Ten-axis assembly.
Putting the pieces together isn't overly challenging, and the magnets pull everything into place nicely so in terms of a challenge, this isn't the most difficult puzzle you'll play with, however it is remarkably relaxing to just start putting the pieces together and hear them snap into place. The resulting shape has a sculpture like quality which sits very proudly on my puzzle shelves, and gets a lot of attention from visitors.
It's a beautiful puzzle, and truly a work of art. This year at IPP, Jane and John had a number of new designs entered which I was fortunate enough to play with. Not only that but John Rausch had a one off puzzle Jane had made which he handed me to play with. Having talked to Jane about this puzzle after IPP, I now have a copy of that too, so come back tomorrow to read about her IPP entries and a new design that I fell in love with.