The Buffalo Nickel is based on a puzzle design by Oskar van Deventer and was made by George Miller for IPP 20 in Los Angeles is a large burr style puzzle where the object is to fit the two burr pieces into the main body of the coin to complete the border of the coin. It takes 9.5 moves to put the three pieces together into the solved state. I’m not quite sure where the half move comes from, but I’ll take George’s word for it (more on that later).
This puzzle was brought to me by a friend after they visited my house recently and I showed them a few of the puzzles in my puzzle cabinets. Her daughter who was with her mentioned that they had this big coin puzzle where you had to put the two pieces into the coin and it was really hard. She had spotted it in a garage sale, and bought it as she thought it looked pretty neat. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been able to solve it, and nor had her mum so it was sitting in its three pieces. Before I could say much my fiancée announces that I’ll solve it for them if they bring it to me. Well, not much I can really say at this point other than, “Sure, I’ll give it a go”. After all how can you disappoint an 11-year-old when she’s been drooling over the puzzles in the cabinets.
The puzzle promptly appears over the weekend and an excited 11-year-old hands me the puzzle and says there you go.
As you can see the two pieces are simple burr pieces which both interact with each other inside the puzzle and with ledges and holes inside the body of the coin. It’s a big puzzle, measuring around 4″ diameter, and being metal has a good weight to it.
I should point out that when I was handed this puzzle, I was at my Son’s football game (American Football, not Soccer for all those back home in the UK), where I was in charge of the grill. I had just sat down to eat some lunch, so had a burger in my hand when I was given the puzzle. With an excited 11-year-old in front of me I thanked her, and said I’d try once I finished eating.
So finishing my burger, I take a look inside the body to see how much I can see, and look at how the two pieces interact. It seemed fairly straight forward, so I insert both pieces, and play around with how they interact inside the puzzle. I’m able to get the right hand piece in place fairly quickly, but it’s blocking the left hand piece from falling into the correct spot. Taking the pieces out, I play around with just the left hand piece to see how it fits, and it becomes pretty clear that it has to be very carefully aligned to drop into place. The tab on the left has to fit very precisely into the body, and any small angle in the piece prevents it from being inserted.
With that knowledge, I put both pieces back into the puzzle, and have it solved a minute or so after that. All in all it took less than five minutes for me to solve.
Getting up from my seat, I take the solved puzzle to my friend and I’m greeted with “What, What, how, you ….”. I just laughed and said that it was a very nice puzzle, did she mind if I took a few photos to allow me to put up a review of it.
Given that this was an IPP puzzle, the card which accompanied the puzzle for IPP 20, has the following information about the puzzle. The copy that my friend has doesn’t have the card with the puzzle, or its original box.
“The Buffalo Nickel Puzzle is based on the Nine-and-a-half-Moves puzzle by M. Oskar van Deventer. It is composed of just three pieces that fit together in such a way to hide a secret compartment. Although the three pieces are flat and lie in a single plane, it takes a remarkable 9 1/2 moves to solve.”
There is a very interesting article from Oskar about the puzzle, that does contain the solution (you’ve been warned) which you can read here if you’re interested. I know I mentioned at the top that I didn’t know where the half move came from, however in Oskar’s article, he describes the slide and rotate which is required in the solution as a move and a half. So that explains where the half came from!
I’m very happy to have been given this puzzle to try, and it was a fun little puzzle to play with. Thanks to my friend to lending it to me. Now she has to go solve it herself as she knows it’s possible now!
I think Bits and Pieces used to sell this puzzle but now it is rather hard to find. I never realized it is same puzzle as the one in article you mention at the end.
Hi George, You’re right, Bits and Pieces used to sell this puzzle, but now no longer list it. I found the article really interesting, especially as Oskar mentions putting it between two boards to hide the mechanism.
The round hole is supposed to contain a wooden nickel. (Actually wood-colored plastic in the Bits & Pieces version.) Is it missing?
Luckily it’s exactly the right size to hold an ordinary US 5¢ coin. Although it doesn’t add hugely to the puzzle, I suggest you try to assemble it with a coin in the hole. Somehow it just helps make the metaphor complete!
Sadly, the wooden nickel is missing (or any sort of coin style insert for that matter). I’ll see about adding a coin to it, as you say, just for completeness.
the link no longer works
Thanks, I’ve contacted Oskar, and he has agreed to allow me to host the article here. I’ve updated the link so you should be able to read the article now.