TwisTIC – Andrew Crowell

It’s been a while since I worked a TIC puzzle and I managed to grab a copy of this puzzle from Wood Wonders before they sold out. I’m super excited for this one, let’s see what’s in the box!

I’ve read that this puzzle has tons of rotations and is quite difficult. I can’t wait to check it out.

Well, I’ve managed to get it out of the packaging and I’ve separated the pieces. It took an embarrassingly long time to just get it disassembled from how it came packaged! This one is gonna be challenging..

Jeez, this puzzle is something else! There are two particular pieces that I’m playing with and I can sort of “sneak” them together. I don’t know if it’s part of the solution, but it’s really fun to play with – just have to be careful I don’t break anything!

uhh, yeah, that’s supposed to be a cube, just need to re-arrange a piece or two.

Ok wow. I think I just made a major breakthrough. I kept exploring the above move, when the 2 pieces locked tougher into a promising configuration. I then picked up the remaining pieces to see if any would fit – and it looked like they would! The problem was, I was going to have to interlink these 3 pieces somehow and then navigate them to the proper positions.

And, boom! with my daughter in my lap, I manage to get those 3 pieces together and in the right place. It took several tries as there’s not a lot of room to maneuver, but I eventually found the configuration that allowed me to move the pieces into place and then the final 2 pieces popped right in!

Yet another TIC to add to the collection. This was one of the more unique ones I’ve seen.

Ah, I love the TIC puzzles. There’s something about them that makes me happy. Most likely because I seem to be able to solve them fairly easily. This one went together way quicker than expected, but I’m still super happy to own it and add it to my growing TIC collection.

It’s definitely a unique TIC. I haven’t seen rotations and movements quite like this before. There is a very tricky sequence to get the pieces oriented and in the right position.

Part II

Well, I sure was feeling a bit smug after finding the solution so quickly. And I could have ended this blog post at that – but the story didn’t end there.

I wanted to take the puzzle apart to get some photos, so I began to disassemble. The first two piece are trivial to remove, but then things get difficult. So difficult, in fact, that I failed to disassemble the puzzle! I literally tried for over an hour just to take things apart and instead, all I managed was to create a tangled mess where I had lost track of what pieces were where and couldn’t progress forward, nor could I move back to the solution.

I’ve created a mess of things and can’t seem to move forward or backward.

I grew a bit aggravated by this failure. After all, I had solved it so easily, and furthermore, I knew exactly what I needed to do! How was it possible that I couldn’t take these pieces apart?

Eventually I found my way back to the correct (solved) position. I felt lucky to have finally made it back. I was scared and intimidated to try again. And although I hate to leave it at that, I need some recovery time before I can go in for a second attempt at disassembly. Suffice is to say that I’ve been humbled by this puzzle, which in turn makes it a highly recommended puzzle. It’s quite an exciting puzzle and unlike any TIC I have seen before.

Sloot 3 – Alfons Eyckmans

Ah, Sloot 3, a November 2019 release from Cubicdissection.com that didn’t seem to garner much attention. Perhaps this puzzle was overshadowed by many of the other amazing puzzles released last November – Split Maze Burr, Escalating Box, Small Box #3 & #4 come to mind.

I’m guilty of overlooking this one as well. Sometimes I order too many puzzles, can’t get to them all and so they end up in my “box of unsolved” puzzles. This one suffered such a fate. While my attention was on the small box series, this one collected dust and went forgotten. But, today is a new day and I’m feeling motivated to knock it out.

Look at that Purdy, Purdy puzzle.

Sloot 3 is a very cool puzzle. It looks like a typical 6 piece board burr puzzle, but closer inspection reveals hidden complexities. The edges of the burr pieces have these outer slots into which tabs on the inner side of the boards fit. This restricts movement and adds an extra element that must be considered when disassembling this puzzle.

Maybe the coolest part of all this is that these outer slots are NOT simply routed into the wood. Eric has crafted these channels out of solid wood. It’s a subtle detail, but a very impressive one that really makes this puzzle stand out. It’s exactly these types of details that separates Cubic Dissection puzzles from the pack. The extra attention surely cost more time and material, but the result is worth it and why I choose to spend the extra money.

Attempt at a detail shot of the tabs and slots

So, I’ve been playing with this puzzle for the past couple of days. I think I am close to getting the first piece out, but I am currently stuck at a dead end. It’s a fun puzzle to manipulate. The channels and tabs prevent obvious movements thus a more calculated approach is required. The channels also keep this puzzle locked in tight. There’s no wiggle room.

A typical configuration during the solve. I was stuck in this area for many hours before I found “the move”

After several hours, I eventually escaped the repeating dead-end maze-loop and found an excellent hidden move. Bah! how did I miss that! What a cool puzzle! This little move opened up a whole bunch of other options and now I know that I’m getting close.

After a bit more manipulation I see how I can remove the first piece. Yes! fantastic! I remove the first piece and it’s not over yet. The puzzle doesn’t just fall apart. There’s still some calculated moves required to get out piece #2. But, it’s not too difficult and soon enough I have the whole puzzle apart! Awesomeness. Man it feels good to solve a puzzle!

Puzzle Solved! Yay that was fun!

Ok, the assembly. Truth be told, I took some photos of the final moves, so I used those as a guide to put things back together. I don’t know if I have the ability to do the assembly without help. It certainly would have taken a long, long time, and, well, I have more puzzles to do, so there it is.

Another shot of the disassembled puzzle. Look at all those tabs!

Overall a very fun puzzle that I found to be rather approachable despite it’s difficulty rating (16.6.4) Highly recommended if you can find a copy.

Pinned Framed Burr S – Junichi Yananose

Woot! Another Juno puzzle from Pluredro.com! I don’t buy a lot of puzzles from Pluredro, but this one looked unique, so I couldn’t resist.

This is yet another puzzle that I’ve been ignoring for too long. Released back in February 2020, I purchased this puzzle, along with the “L” version. Both have been sitting in a box in the basement awaiting my attention. Well, I’ve been on a puzzling binge lately, so let’s get started!

The construction of this puzzle is very nice. The framed box is super solid and the burr sticks feel substantial. If anything, this puzzle has a rather plain appearance. It doesn’t scream “pick me up!” like other puzzles do. But looks can be deceiving and the real allure of this puzzle is hidden away, out of sight.

There is a nice audible click and clack as I play with the puzzle which is super pleasing. It’s a borderline fidget toy as you can just sit there and watch tv while pleasantly click and clacking away. Every once in a while you find a new move and the piece push further into the frame which is very satisfying and encourages continued exploration.

The objective of this puzzle is to remove the 4 burr sticks. The burr sticks move by pushing on them, but hidden within the puzzle are an unknown number of pins and channels which must be negotiated in order to remove the pieces. The fact that these elements are hidden really adds to the fun and difficulty of this puzzle.

Pieces move in, pieces move out. Am I making progress? I don’t know.

I didn’t know how to approach this puzzle, so I just played with it. I thought about trying to map out the path that the pins follow, but the problem with that is that I can’t see the pins, don’t know how many there are or where they are located. So, mapping seems out of the question.

In the end, I didn’t even try to keep track of things, I just set my mind to removing the burr sticks and proceeded with a semi-reckless determination to just make it happen. And after many hours, I succeeded!

I was sitting on the couch pushing the burr pieces around (most of the time, I didn’t even focus on what I was doing) and suddenly a piece landed in my lap! Whelp, guess I did it!

Pieces removed. Very interesting arrangement of pins and channels for this puzzle!

Removing the rest of the pieces was a little challenging as it turns out some of the pins are offset, so they can only be removed after the first piece comes out. There’s definitely some hidden trickery happening here and it’s very, very interesting to handle these burr sticks and see how they interact with each other inside the frame.

After taking some photos and admiring the craftsmanship, I set to put it back together. Oh boy! I was expecting things to go relatively smoothly, but turns out re-assembly is quite difficult indeed! My first attempt failed. I think I put things together wrong in a way that would never be able to be solved. Some of the pieces moved around and I thought I was putting it back together, but there was one piece that didn’t seem to “engage” the other pieces, so I eventually had to back track, remove the pieces again and start assembly over.

I think I went through this process 3-4 times, spending hours trying to reassemble the puzzle with piece in the wrong place. Eventually, I got fed up with things, pulled all the pieces out and decided I needed to be more systematic. I examined the pieces, how they interact and tried to really understand things to help me better assemble.

I discovered that there were a couple of different ways to insert the burr stick that fell out first. One of the ways lead to dead ends, the other lead to the solution. It was true, I had been doing it wrong, so I tried the second option and things started to go together better. It still took me a couple of hours to get the puzzle back together though!

Wow! what a challenge. I really thought this would be more straightforward and easy, but it proved to be a worthy adversary. I’m quite scared to try the “L” version, as it looks way more complicated, which is scary indeed. Thanks Juno! I enjoyed this one.

PUMPKIN 1 – Osanori Yamamoto

Ya know, when Covid first hit I was kind of excited because I thought I would get to puzzle all the time. I figured that I’d be home a lot more and would have lots of down time and that I’d be knocking out puzzles and blog posts like a machine. Oh how wrong I was.

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one stuck in the house. My wife and kids were along for the ride as well which meant we have all been crammed into this house for a better part of 7 months. The result is that I’ve had very little personal time and thus very little puzzling time. I’m still buying them at an alarming rate, but haven’t been solving that many.

The other day, I said “enough is enough, I need to solve some of these things before I’m buried in them.”

So, I picked up Pumpkin 1, designed by Osanori Yamamoto and determined that I was going to solve it no matter what.

This particular puzzle was crafted by Pelikan Puzzles and is nicely built and a pleasure to play with. It’s made of Pear / Bubingo wood and there is a very nice contrast between the orange pieces and the tan box. It seems like Pelikan has been focusing more on these “more affordable” puzzles lately and I’m that’s fine by me. Though I hope that they continue to release new “premium” puzzles as well.

This puzzle starts off simple enough. There are 3 pieces and one box and all you have to do is get those pieces into the box so that the entryway is completely filled up. It sounds easy and looks easy, but I’ve worked on these Yamamoto packing puzzles before, so I know that I’m in for a struggle.

Only 3 pieces. It should be easy right?

My first attempts involved randomly sticking pieces into the box to see if I could “get lucky” and find a solution randomly. This method lasted a few hours over the course of an afternoon and not only did I fail to make progress, but I was having trouble remembering what configuration I had tried and what I had not, so inevitably, I repeated the same failed assembly over and over.

I eventually gave up on that idea and opted for a more systematic approach. I’d start by assembling the pieces outside the box in a 3×3 cube. Then I’d search that cube for any 2×2 feature that would “fill the gap” of the box. Once I had a 3×3 structure built that satisfied my requirements, I’d then try to find a sequence to get those pieces into the box in that same configuration.

3×3 overall cube with a 2×2 section. Next step is to see if this will fit into the box.

Over and over I tried again and again and each time I failed. There are actually a whole lot of configurations that would theoretically “work” if only they’d fit into that box. But, the more I worked with the puzzle, the more I came to understand the limitations of the box. That angled top, the bottom lip, the inability for pieces to rotate inside the box – all these things existed to thwart my attempts.

Another day passed and I became even more systematic. The problem I was having is that I would come up with a 3×3 cube that I liked and whilst trying to then insert the pieces, I would lose track of the initial setup. This was frustrating as it is possible that I had the right solution, but got lost along the way and would eventually “reset” before trying all the options.

I began taking pictures to better keep track of the different configuration and I also began employing temporary stickers to keep track of the pieces. This helped, but did not result in a solution.

Another 3×3 cube, this time I’m using stickers to keep track of the pieces. Red, Blue and Yellow should be visible when it’s inside the case.

I then abandoned this method and started really thinking logically about this puzzle. Which piece goes in last? What is the likely configuration of these other pieces? How can I use the shape of the pieces and the shape of the box together? Instead of trying every option I could come up with, I decided to try to narrow things down and focus on what makes the most sense.

And just like that, I found the solution.

Solved! Yay!!! I did it!

The genius in this design is the fact that the packed 3×3 cube has lots of missing voxels. This allows for unique pieces that can be fit together in countless arrangements. Had the pieces made a perfect 3×3 cube, there would be no mystery, there would be only 1 obvious arrangement and that would be no fun.

Overall, an excellent packing puzzle that provided the right amount of challenge. I stayed interested and determined and was rewarded within a few days time with the solution. Highly recommended if you enjoy this type of puzzle!

Surround – Kohno Ichiro

I’m back in the puzzling groove and this week, I’ve got Surround designed by Kohno Ichiro and masterfully crafted by Eric Fuller over at Cubicdissection.

There have been a number of Ichiro puzzles released by CD recently, including Three Cubes, Four Cubes, and most recently Five Cubes and Surround. I’ve really enjoyed these puzzles. They are relatively easy, but also deceptively tricky. They are great puzzles for all skill levels and very satisfying to complete. The use of small, strong magnets really adds to the experience.

Ok, I’m excited to work on this one, so let’s get started. There are apparently 3 solutions to this puzzle – 2 that use the magnets and one that does not. The completed structure needs to be self-supporting.

There are 6 pieces and a cube. 3 of the pieces are mirrored which would lead be to believe that this is going to be a symmetrical solution, but I’ve been wrong many times before on things like this, so let’s see what happens.

Another beautiful puzzle from Cubicdissection!

Ok, well my first attempt was a total failure. I figured, I’d start with the cube and just add the pieces to the perimeter to surround it, but that did not work at all. The magnets didn’t cooperate that the resulting shape certainly did not surround the cube. Ok cool, I didn’t want this to be easy. Let’s give it another 15 minutes and see what’s up.

Ok, interesting. I believe that I have found one of the solutions – one that utilizes the magnets. It seems that my initial interpretation of “surrounding” the cube was incorrectly understood as “completely cover” the cube. And thus, I was searching for a solution that didn’t exist. Once I let go of that idea, and simply tried to surround the cube, I found a solution quite quickly. The cube is indeed surrounded and contained and the puzzle is self-supporting. Yay! Solution #1 is in the bank! And it is quite a cool looking construct that has formed. The Padauk and Tamerindo make for a beautiful contrast on the completed piece.

Warning: Spoiler Image Solution #1

Now, onward to see if I can find solution #2.

Well, it too me another 30 minutes or so, but I’ve successfully found solution 2. Interestingly, it is very similar to the first solution, if I hadn’t taken a picture of the first solution, I’m not sure that I would have know that the configuration was different. But, sure enough, it is different. The center cube is a little less covered with this solution, but it is still very pleasing to handle and display.

Warning: Spoiler Image Solution #2

Overall, a very fun and pleasing puzzle to work on and solve.

After sitting on this puzzle for another day, I decided to try to find the third solution. This one required covering the cube completely, but didn’t use the magnets. After about 10 minutes of fiddling, I was able to find the solution – it didn’t look pretty, but the cube was entirely covered.

So there you have it. 3 solution to one puzzle. I really enjoyed it and am happy to have it in my collection. The only question that remains is: Will we see another incarnation of this puzzle? A 7 or 8 piece configuration? I’m not sure that there is much left – and in fact, since I own, the 3,4,5 piece and surround, I could play with combining those to see if anything interesting happens.

Spheres – Stephan Baumegger

spheres

Spheres arrive yesterday and I’m just now sitting down to play with it. My first impression is – “Wow!” This puzzle is beautiful. The box is exquisite, the lid fits nice and tight, the pieces are really nice looking and I especially like the choice of “spheres” used. I’m so glad Stephan chose to go with these natural stone spheres instead of silver ball bearings. They add a nice contrast, yet still fit perfectly into the overall color scheme. This puzzle is definitely a show stopper.

Witness the beautiful woodwork on this puzzle.

The object of the puzzle is to cram everything inside and shut the lid. I suppose there will be little cramming and mostly planning, arranging and sliding, but either way, it’s all gotta fit.

Well, enough gibber gabber, I’m ready to start solving this thing.

A few minutes pass and I’ve gotten a little more familiar with the pieces. There are 3 sets of 2 pieces that mirror each other and 3 balls. The thing that is throwing me off is the smaller ball. It would seem that this puzzle will require a symmetrical pack, but then, where does that leave the 3rd ball? I’ll have to try some non-symmetrical arrangements as well to see if that’s the key.

Cram everything in and you win!

About 15 minutes later and I’m not any closer to the solution. The pieces are fun to play with and there seem to be an endless amount of arrangements. I can easily get the 6 sticks into the box with 1 large ball, but that’s as close as I’ve come.

Ok, another few minutes and I’m starting to realize that this is not going to be sloppy pack. I don’t know why it would be, but there’s something about including these “spheres” that makes me feel at liberty to let them roll around a bit, thus resulting in a sloppy pack. My new strategy is to pack tightly. Let there be no unfilled negative space inside the cube. If there is space, then it is wrong. Let’s see how this approach goes.

Hmm. well, for a few minutes there, I thought I was on to something – I had a nice tight pack going with 3 pieces, but then things fell apart and did not progress from there. Back to the drawing board!

Not the correct way to pack them in.

Failure again!

Bah! I thought I had it, but then looked down and saw one more stick! I got 5 sticks and 3 balls in… Does that count for anything? No? Well, ok then. Let’s have another try.

Whelp it looks like I’m going to remained stumped for this session. In total, I worked for about 45 minutes. And I have to say, so far it’s been delightful. I keen thinking that I’m on the right track only to find out that I’m not – which is great for a puzzle. This thing gives the impression that you are making progress, which keeps motivating me to try one more combination, and another and another. But, I’ve now burned my allocated time for puzzling today and must return later for another attempt.

Ok. I’m back again on another day to see what I can see. I’m quite drawn to this particular puzzle. I think its the combination of elements (sticks and spheres) that makes it interesting.

Annnnnd, I’m back in the same cycle of failure. I really thought I had it, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be any room left in this darn box for that final piece. Once again, I face the realization that I can’t leave any empty space anywhere.

Zing! I did it!

The lid closes (and the pieces are inside!)

Very, very cool and enjoyable puzzle! I was on the right track the whole time, I knew what had to be done, it was just a matter of time until I found the correct arrangement that allowed all the pieces to fit. And there is definitely something unique involved when it comes to packing spheres. Had those spheres simply been squares of wood instead, I don’t think the puzzle would have been nearly as enjoyable and I’d wager that it would have been easier to solve as well. Again there is something about those spheres that tricks the mind (my mind at least) into believing that a “sloppy pack” is going to work.

Overall, a fantastic puzzle. The box is beautiful, the pieces are fun to play with and the puzzle as a whole has a nice hefty weight to it. This may be the first puzzle I’ve ordered from Stephan, but it certainly won’t be the last!

Small Box #4 – “Paradox Box” – Eric Fuller

Small Box Four

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote one of these blog posts. Life has been busy and I have been negligent. I haven’t stopped puzzling, I’ve just taken a little break from writing about them. Sometimes its nice to be carefree about solving puzzles and not feel obligated to wait for the perfect time where I can write down my thoughts and document the solve. Hopefully I will get back to regular posting in 2020. By the way – Happy New Year to everyone out there in puzzle land.

Another month (or two) has passed and I have another Small Box puzzle from Eric. This time I have Small Box #4 and boy, was this one fun!

The Small Box series has been wonderful. I have always shied away from puzzle boxes. They are usually expensive and once you solve them, they just become decorations on the shelf. I kind of viewed them as a novelty. Well, my admittedly naive opinion has officially changed. The small box series is what really did it for me too. The price point is far more palatable and something about the small size makes them even more approachable. These boxes are also perfect to hand to friends and family during gatherings. There is something irritating about NOT being able to open them which really makes people determined to do so.

Small Box #4 is beautiful. It is slightly larger than the other 3 boxes, clocking in at roughly 3″x2″x1.5″. It is composed of an Ash box and an Bloodwood top. The contrast of colors is eye catching and the construction, as always, is top notch perfection.

Small Box #4 has stumped me for quite some time. The description is perfect “… seems easy at first. Movement here…movement there…what you need to do is immediately apparent, but seems impossible to achieve.” This was exactly my experience. I was caught in an endless loop of the same movements. I just couldn’t figure out any alternative moves or ideas.

Back and forth, back and forth I went. And so, it sat on the shelf for many weeks. Occasionally, I’d pick it up and slide the top back and forth achieving the same nothing over and over. I was truly confounded. What was I missing? Sliding the box top to the left allows the left side to move up. Sliding the box top to the right allows the right side to move up. The problem is, you need both sides to slide up to move the bottom panel.

There had to be something else going on. And, having solved the other 3 small boxes, I knew that somewhere there was a solution. But, that solution kept eluding me. Eventually, I forgot about the puzzle and moved on.

Then, randomly one day, I picked it up again and and was struck with an idea. I tried the idea and failed, but at least I had made some sort of progress – it wasn’t physical progress, it was mental progress. I had broken through the endless loop with a new idea. This gave me motivation to carry forward.

Steadfast in my belief, I tried that same idea again, but in a different place and sure enough – Ah Ha! It worked! I sat back and marveled at yet another Eric Fuller creation. It is such an amazing rush of adrenaline to solve these things. The pain and agony of the endless loop of non-progress is always rewarded in the end when the box is opened. There must be a life-lesson here. Keep pursuing even in the difficult times as you will be rewarded in the end.

Puzzle Solved! What a rush!

What a great feeling and what a clever puzzle. This may be my favorite of the 4 small boxes released thus far. The small box series is currently sold out, but you can find more of Eric’s puzzles Here.

Small Box One – “Window Box” – Eric Fuller

Eric decided to do a series of small puzzle boxes, and I for one, am super happy with that plan. I like the size and the price point of these.

Another beautiful creation from Cubic Dissection. Can you open the box and reveal the treasure inside?

In Small Box One, we have what looks to be a sliding drawer type puzzle, where the solution will allow the drawer to slide out. For now, it is stuck in place, though there is a small amount of play, as I can squeeze it shut just a hair and when I release, it pops back out. Clearly there are some magnets, or springs involved here.

The outside of the box is interesting, on the top, there is a circular window cut out that reveals the top of the drawer, which has a notch cut into its length. There is a magnet on the top as well. On either side, we find two more magnets centered on each side. That’s it for the outside clues, but I can also hear an object bouncing around inside the box that sounds like a small ball bearing. Ok, what does this tell us and how does this open? The description says “careful observation and experimenting is necessary to reveal its secrets.” Ok then, lets begin.

Another looks at this Wonderful puzzle.

Ok, a few minutes in and it’s clear to me that there is more going on inside than just a ball bearing bouncing around inside a box. The ball bearing seems to be restricted in it’s movements and there is also another metallic sound that I can hear on occasion – perhaps some pins holding things in place? I can’t make any sense of what I’m hearing, but it is definitely more complex than I originally thought.

Ok, I’ve discovered something, which has led me down a new path of experimentation. I haven’t figured out the purpose of this something, but it does give me new things to try. External clues took me down this path, now lets see where it leads.

Ok, well I’ve not progressed any further, so more observation is needed. Why are there magnets on the side of the box? And what does the ball bearing on the inside do? I haven’t answered those questions yet, and I imagine they are key to figuring this thing out. I’m having a great time working on this though! I’m so excited to have affordable puzzle boxes to work on!

Wow! Holy Crap! I got it open and found the treasure – but I’m not sure what I did, or how I did it and I’m further confused by the internals that I’ve found. Oh my! And, of course, I quickly closed the box again instead of studying the mechanism, so now I’m back at the beginning trying to open the darn thing. I think that I have an idea of what I need to do but it’s not happening… hmmm.

The puzzle has been solved and the gem has been retrieved! What fun!

A solid 20 minutes later and I have it back open again. I tried repeating the same procedure, but the box wouldn’t open. Then, things clicked into place and whamm-o it was open again. Yes! This time, I’m not closing it. This time, I’m going to study the interior and figure out exactly what is going on.

After a thorough examination, I’ve figured it out and am extremely impressed. There’s a surprising amount of elements working in perfect harmony. Precision woodwork, magnets, micro-magnets, an equal balance of deception and clues make this thing a masterpiece.

Overall, a fantastic introduction to the Small Box series. I have solved 3 out of the 4 at the time of this writing, and think this one may be the trickiest so far. I highly recommend this puzzle and everything else available at www.cubicdissection.com – just remember to keep these puzzle boxes in a climate controlled environment. The tolerances are very tight and changes in humidity can render these puzzles “stuck!”

Harun Packing Puzzle – Dr. Volker Latussek

Harun Packing Puzzle

I try to be inspired before writing a blog post. I find that I write a much better, much more engaging post when I’m really enthralled with a puzzle. And this can lead to an interesting dilemma. I feel like I should write a post at least once every two weeks. And sometimes that deadline approaches and I just don’t feel that inspired to write about any of the puzzle I’ve worked on. And sometimes, I haven’t worked on anything at all for two weeks – I need brain breaks. The whole puzzle blogging thing can be quite a double edged sword. When I’m inspired, it comes easy and takes very little time, when I’m not, it becomes a chore. And as the deadline comes and goes, I start to feel guilty that I haven’t created any content. Which then forces me to work on a puzzle and write it up a lackluster post.

This week, however, I have the Harun Packing puzzle and I’m feeling motivated. As I’m typing this, I haven’t solved it, but I’ve put in a good number of hours over the last few weeks and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process. As I’ve gotten to know the puzzle, I’ve grown to appreciate it’s devilish trickery. And I’ve also been completely enamored with the wood, the shapes and it’s construction. For some reason, it reminds me of candy. Perhaps the rectangular pieces are similar in size to those two piece starburst that the kids bring home on halloween. Whatever it is, this thing has me locked in to the point where I kind of don’t want to solve it, because I want it to last.

Packing this puzzle if super fun!

Tonight, I’m feeling inspired – and hoping that I can figure it out and thus record my thoughts and reactions when that magic moment comes.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made some important discoveries about this particular puzzle. I don’t want to give anything away, but if one were to count up the voxels of the pieces and the voxels available in the container, I believe there would be a discrepancy of exactly 5 voxels. This is obviously important as the completed puzzle will contain voids. I spent way too long trying to figure out a solution that didn’t contain voids and was pulling my hair out.

Let me gush again about Eric’s work. These puzzles really are special to play with and experience. Part of it is the masterful design, but a very big part is also the exquisite construction – The beautiful wood grains, the absolute precision of the pieces make it pure joy to manipulate. It is clear that these are works of art and a labor of love and I can unequivocally state that I would not get near the enjoyment out of these puzzles were they made by an inferior craftsman. Hats off to Eric and his masterful creations.

Spectacular wood grain and precision construction make this a pleasure to handle.

You might ask yourself – “Self – how many times can I pack this puzzle incorrectly?” And the answer would be “Infinite!” Yes, I’ve packed this box so many times, my head is spinning. I’ve failed over and over. I’ve tried every clever combination that I can possible think of. I’ve thought out of the box, in the box and around the box. Yet, this puzzle remains stubbornly unsolved. I still feel that I can do it, however. I don’t know why, But I remain confident that the solution lies just around the corner, if only I can persevere..

For 4 more weeks, I struggled with this puzzle. I kept it available and every time I had a few minutes, I’d work on it. My kids would occasionally help with ideas and sometimes, they’d even come up with new things that I hadn’t thought of. I began to get very demoralized, though. I’d read online about other people solving this puzzle, not just with one combination, but Two! And, I’d think to myself, what the heck am I doing wrong?

This is a typical result to a solving attempt. That last piece doesn’t fit!

The puzzle began to mock me – sitting there, oh so pretty and harmless looking. No obstructions, no complex pieces, just a simple box with 12 simple pieces. What was my problem? Why was I struggling so? This felt like the hardest puzzle I’ve ever worked on at times.

And then, this morning, while awaiting the school bus, I had 5 minutes to kill and so I sat down again to work on this very familiar puzzle. This time though, I found a different arrangement of the U-shaped pieces and so explored this new possibility and was incredibly shocked when I slid in the last rectangular piece and IT FIT! My god, I was so used to the last piece extending above the rim, that I didn’t even anticipate solving it, but there it was – solved. I was stunned!

The feeling of relief is tremendous. I can finally have my life back! Yay!

I believe I found the second solution, since the first is described as symmetrical and the one I found is not. Maybe I should feel better about myself for finding the more difficult solution? – Do I dare continue to work on this to find the symmetrical solution?

I can say without a doubt that this one has to be in my top 5 puzzles of all time. Maybe it’s just me and my personal struggles with it, but I’ve been through a war with this puzzle and the scars will forever remain. And although it was torturous at times, I can now transform those memories into fond recollections.

By the way, Pelikan recently released a copy of this puzzle and it’s still available here. It goes without saying that this one is highly recommended.

Bouquet – Christoph Lohe

I’ve been working on this puzzle on and off for a few weeks now and it sure is proving to be a stubborn one. I’ve found a path forward and am now about 19 moves in, but the puzzle just hits a dead end. In fact this puzzle has many, many dead ends. I know that once I get that first piece out, it will be trivial from that point forward, but I just can’t figure out where to go from here. I’ve been mapping out my progress, testing every path forward, diagramming every dead end, backtracking, trying new paths and still, no luck.

Stuck in an endless loop of moves, I can’t seem to find the path forward.

I’m at the point where I may have to backtrack 10 or so moves to find a different path forward, but the logical side of my brain says that there’s no way this puzzle has such an elaborate and misleading path forward. Surely, there can’t be a 19 move trick solution leading only to a dead end… right?

Welcome to Bouquet designed by Christoph Lohe and expertly crafted by Brian Menold over at Wood Wonders. This gorgeous puzzle has been a thorn in my side since I purchased it last month. Despite the rigors, this puzzle is great. The moves have been fun and the burr sticks are of a very unique and misleading shape. The ends of the burr sticks are offset, which has been wreaking havoc on my ability to visualize what is happening. The puzzle is beautiful and aptly named as it does look like a Bouquet. I chose the Wenge Frame with Maple and Paduak pieces and am very happy with it. There are still some available here – so if it sounds enticing to you, go ahead and pick one up before they are gone.

It’s a beautiful puzzle. Both the form and the choice of wood make for a striking display.

Round and round I go in an endless loop. I’ve got the moves and positions memorized and I’m desperately hoping that there is just one little hidden move that will open up a new path forward. But, my hopes are dimmed because I’ve already spent too long in this cycle. I need to bite the bullet and backtrack, or maybe even start over. It’s funny how this is the obvious way forward, and still, I’m consciously avoiding it.

Ok, so I worked my way back to the beginning again and then forward again, searching for any hidden paths along the way. And unfortunately, I didn’t find any. I ended up right back where I was before. About 12 moves in there is a many pronged fork in the road. And it is here that I’ve been stuck doing the endless loop. The furtherst path forward was about 7 more moves, but then hit another dead end. So I started to explore and document every possible combination.

But this time something different happened. One of those paths forward looked and felt like I was simply backtracking, but I noticed that this wasn’t quite the case. It was close to backtracking, but there was a slight variation along the way that made all the difference. I soon found a new configuration and new I was on the right track and to my delight, the first Burr stick was released! Wow! What a feeling! This is one tricky puzzle!

So, now I have one piece out, let’s see how it goes from here. As expected, the remaining pieces were relatively easy to remove. Piece number 2 came right out and then there was some manipulation required to release the 3rd. After that, they all came out easily.

A wonderful feeling of accomplishment after many hours of struggle!

Woo Hoo! I’m super happy about this one. What a clever little puzzle this was! I think the biggest roadblock for me was that I had my mind made up as to which piece was going to be released first and thus kept trying to work moves that would accomplish that when in reality, I was misleading myself. Also, add in the tricky spot that felt like backtracking, but really wasn’t and this puzzle is definitely a fun and challenging one.

One more shot of the glory. Those offset burr pieces make this very challenging.

The shape of the frame and the unique burr sticks all add up to make this an unforgettable experience for me. It’s been a while since I’ve really focused all my energy on solving a tricky puzzle and today was a great day because that determination finally paid off! What a cool puzzle! I took some pictures on disassembly and will surely be needing them to put this one back together again!