FastMaze #1 – Dan Fast

FastMaze #1 arrived today and I am beyond excited to give this a try. Ever since pictures were posted on FB, I have been anxious to get my hand dirty on this one. There something about how this one looks – It just screams “play with me!”

It’s an amazing looking puzzle that is even more fun to manipulate

FastMaze is an aluminum puzzle designed by Dan Fast and manufactured by Cubicdissection. It is comprised of 3 plates and 4 brass pins. The objective is to move the plates and pins until the puzzle is completely disassembled. It looks straightforward, all parts are visible, so no hidden tricks on this one, but with a 52.24.28.10.9.14 solution, I already know that I’m in for a long haul.

The puzzle comes with assembly instructions – which is great in case you get stuck

First impression is that this is going to be challenging. A couple minutes of play and it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a lot more going on than I first thought. Each plate moves independently as does each brass pin. thus there are multiple items to track at once. And although I can see all the plates clearly, there are still parts of the middle plate that are obstructed by the top plate. I can see some round holes in the plates that I would assume are the exit points of the pins. So now, all I have to do is position the pins above those holes. Easy enough, right? But, how many dead ends are there? And, how deep do the dead ends go? No idea, but let’s find out!

Straight out of the box, none of the plates will move. However, 3 of the pins will. And with each movement of a pin, I am seemingly unlocking more movements for the plates which in turn opens up more movement options for the pins.

Ok, I’ve been messing around for about 15 minutes and have a few observations. The puzzle is definitely challenging. It’s not easy to keep track of all the moving parts. Often times I’ll feel stuck in a dead end only to realize that if I just move one of the pins slightly, then another pathway opens up. Also, I had a couple of the pins unscrew a bit on me, so now I know to keep them tight and occasionaly check them. Not a big deal.

Early on in the process. Each pin movement opens up further plate movements

Ok, I’m about 30 minutes into this beast and I think I’m making some progress. It’s one of those puzzles where I don’t exactly know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I sort of fix a goal in my head to move a pin into a certain spot and then I push and pull in different directions until something moves, then I adjust and keep going. The pins are definitely moving through the maze, but whether or not I’m actually progressing toward the goal – I have no idea.

It’s a fun puzzle to manipulate. The plates are heavy and the sound of metal on metal is pleasing. The pins slide effortlessly and the micro-chamfered edges really do make a difference. There is zero sticking or binding of any of the pieces. It’s smooth sailing the entire time.

Day Two. I’ve made some more progress (I think), but am also stuck. I’ve managed to manipulate one of the brass pins into position above a circular hole in the top plate. I can push the pin down into that hole, but then the whole puzzle becomes locked up. I’ve spent a good hour or so playing with this position, hoping that something will give, but thus far, no further progress. I’m fairly certain that I need to backtrack. And I have no idea if I’m actually any closer to a solution.

Lost along the way. Am I making progress or losing progress?

So far, most of this solve has been trial and error. I just move some pins, move some plates and see what opens up. Occasionally, I’ll flip the puzzle over and start working from the other side. This seems to open up more possibilities, but at the same time I sort of lose track of my initial goals.

I’m now wondering if the goal should be to align the 3 larger holes in the plates. If these were aligned, then a pin could pass all the way through in one move. This idea seems to make sense to me, so it is now going to be the goal.

Heck Yeah! I got a pin out and boy does it feel good! I had to employ a little rotation, but after re-reading the puzzle description, It is clear that rotations are allowed! So – Boom! Take that, FastMaze!

Ok, now 3 pins left to go. I’m looking at 24 or so moves to get the next one out. Let’s go!

And Boom! Pin #2 is free! This one was definitely easier. The plates were much easier to manipulate with only 3 pins and it seems clear that pins #3 and #4 will be even easier.

#3 was indeed easier and #4 was trivial. The puzzle definitely gets “looser” as pins are removed such that I employed many, many rotations to get pin #3 out, and #4 was trivial to remove.

Solved and Happy!

Wow! What a fun puzzle. It seemed very daunting at first and I had no idea what to do or where to go, but with time and experimentation I began to see progress and develop a goal. The puzzle was a good challenge, but certainly not impossible. 52 moves to free the first pin seemed monumental, but when there are 4 pins and 3 plates to manipulate, you can burn through those moves fairly quickly.

I really enjoyed this puzzle for a few different reasons. I liked the process of figuring it out, and also really like aluminum and brass as they are durable and heavy. I handed the puzzle off to my kids a few times without fear that they would break it or get it “stuck” forever. The fact that you can unscrew the pins and reset the puzzle at any time is also a bonus.

Overall, I would recommend this puzzle to anyone that is interested. There is also a FastMaze 2 and a FastMaze 3 which are both more difficult than this one. All 3 can be found at Cubicdissection.com for $65 each. They are selling fast, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another run of these produced in the future.

*Full Disclosure – I was sent an advance copy of this puzzle to review for this blog. All opinions are my own and are based on my experience with this puzzle.

Psycho Disks – Eric Fuller

Psycho Disks is a relatively new puzzle designed and created by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection. It’s composed of aluminum and brass and weighs in at about 1/3 of a pound or 148g. Considering it’s only 1.2″ x 2.4″ in size, it feels heavy in the hand.

When I first saw this one listed for sale, I knew I had to have it. This is exactly the type of intriguing puzzle that I love. It looks simple and gives nothing away. All the tricky bits are nicely hidden inside. It is pleasant to hold and manipulate and doubles as a fidget toy or paperweight.

The puzzle is attractive and fun to manipulate

When I first received the puzzle, I was stumped. According to Eric, the puzzle is inspired by Phil Wigfield’s ‘Spinning Tumblers’ puzzle – and having never seen or played with that particular puzzle, I had no idea what to do. The description calls it a Take-Apart puzzle, so I knew I had to disassemble it somehow, but it was not clear at all how to accomplish said task.

Upon arrival, I took it out and began experimenting. The two ends could freely rotate and so could all the disks sandwiched in between, but that was about all I could discover. There was some sort of small metallic souding piece that rattled inside one of the end pieces too. Other than that there was very little movement. The tolerances were tight and thus there were no gaps between pieces.

For a few days, I was stumped. I didn’t put a ton of time into really thinking about possibilites, rather I just enjoyed holding the puzzle and spinning the disks. I handed it off to my son and let him play with it, but he quickly became bored and moved on. Hmm, no progress yet.

The puzzle sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Then as I was preparing for a cross-country road trip, I decided that I’d bring it along and see if I could get anywhere in the car. That’s when my first breakthrough occured.

I was spinning the disks when I noticed that one of them was stuck. It would no longer spin. I knew this meant something, I just didn’t know what. When puzzling, we are always looking for a change, something different – whether that is a new path to take, a new rotation or just a new idea to work on, these differences are what tells us that we are making progress.

Inspired by this new development I put the puzzle in the car and started driving. Somewhere along the way, my wife took the wheel and I was free to puzzle. At this point I started making some real progress. I began developing some theories about how to solve the puzzle and sure enough things seemed to be headed in the right direction. I progressed through the sequence as I had hoped. I still had no idea what I was doing or how the internal mechanism was working, but still the puzzle was behaving as I had hoped and so I was optimistic.

I felt that I was close to solving it (and I was), but I still couldn’t work out how to get the darn thing open. What was I missing?

The puzzle went back in the glove box and I moved on – stumped again.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, we were driving around and I heard some rattling in the car. What the heck was that? Oh yeah, the puzzle in the glove box was making that noise. Once again I was pulled into puzzle mode. This time determined to figure it out. And this time, I tried something slightly different and behold the puzzle was solved! I was then able to take it apart and see what was going on.

A challenging puzzle to photograph without giving anything away!

Interestingly, I was still a bit confused by the mechanism. Even with the guts laid bare, I still had some questions. A little more thought and experimenting and it finally dawned on me what was going on. It was at this point that I really began to appreciate the cleverness of this thing. The way the pieces work together to allow the final move is pretty darn cool. It’s simple, but it’s clever.

There are still some of these available at cubicdissection.com and it’s definitely a puzzle that I would recommend. I love that Eric is working with metal now and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #4 – Junichi Yananose

Yay! I’m back with another board burr – This time, it’s number 4 of the 6 burr series. Thank God it’s not number 3!

An excellent Board Burr Puzzle!

This is another beautiful puzzle that utilizes Hickory and Rose Alder with pins of Bamboo. The two wood varieties achieve a nice contrast and while not exotic looking, this puzzle has a subtle beauty that is very pleasing.

This puzzle was a joy to play with. The moves are fun and satisfying. It was a bit tricky at first, although the start is very limited, the puzzle soon hits a dead end and it’s a bit difficult to figure out.

The key with this puzzle, in my opinion, is to really try to accomplish specific moves and positions. With the previous 3 board burr puzzles, I would mostly just explore every possibility with no other intention in mind. It felt impossible to actually try to solve the puzzle. Instead I was left wandering around, moving back and forth until something new opened up. With #4, I was able to determine which piece needed to come out first and was then able to strategically figure out moves to make that happen. This made it more rewarding to solve. There were even a couple of a-ha moments that really stood out.

There is one pin and groove in particular that was hidden the entire puzzle. This made things challenging, yet fun. I kept wondering why the heck certain pieces wouldn’t move as expected – turns out they were held in place by this hidden pin and groove.

I found myself a bit stuck toward the end of this puzzle – I had in fact solved it, and all I had to do was slide the piece free, but I kept searching for more. When I finally slid the piece off, I felt silly for not trying it sooner. After removing the first piece, there is still a challenge left to remove the remaining pieces.

Some interesting channels, notches and two types of pins make for some fun moves.

To me, this is a classic board burr puzzle. It’s approachable and would likely take a novice a long time to solve, but the solution isn’t terribly difficult – just keep at it and you’ll get there. Where #3 had endless pathways, dead ends and was difficult to keep track of, #4 was far more straightforward. There were some hidden moves, and a few tricks to unlock a certain piece, but overall this was a great puzzle that has given me motivation to continue with the series.

Bring on #5!

Final thought – This series is criminally underrated. There are only a few reviews online and further, a couple example have sold on the Cubicdissection marketplace for ~$60-$80 each. Perhaps board burrs are not that desirable to collectors, but these 6 Burrs stand at the top of my collection. I’ve gotten dozens of hours of very challenging puzzling out of them and they are large, heavy and well-made. What’s not to love?

Grooved 6 Board Burr #3 – Junichi Yananose

Oh boy, this one is going to be tough. I’ve been manipulating it for a casual 15 minutes and can already tell that I’m going to struggle. There are multiple paths to start with and they all seem to get complicated real quick. I’m attempting to map this thing out, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to keep track of the moves. It’s not simple board moves, it’s block changing multi-piece moves straight out of the gate and unless I take a photo of each move, or draw it out on paper, I’m not sure my brain can handle it. It takes something like 33 moves to get the first piece out, so I’m going to need all the luck I can get.

Ok. I think I’m making some progress. Out of the 3 beginning options, I think I’ve narrowed it down to only one path. The other 2 has multiple forks, but all came to an end within a handful of moves. That only leaves one option. Time to explore further.

Hmm. Thought I was on the right track, made it about 10 moves in, but then found another dead end, so I must have missed something. Time for bed. I’ll live to fight another day.

Day two. Stuck again after about 14 moves. This thing is tricky!

Day three, Day Four, Day Five. I’m losing a little hope here. I find myself in the familiar position of trying the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. But, as you can imagine, nothing different happens. No progress. What did I miss where is the move?

Day Six and I’ve found a new move that shifts things slightly. It seems to dead end though. The promising new move isn’t so promising after all. But it is something different, so there’s that.

One of the many complicated configurations found in this puzzle

After more tinkering, I found yet another move which allowed piece to be moved to their furtherst extend. But, maddeningly, they would not release! More tinkering and I found a way to remove the first piece! But, it requires a rotation. Juno mentions a shortcut using a rotation to remove the second piece, but I haven’t read anything about the rotation I found. Should I use this rotation or should I continue my search for the correct move. Well, I’d like to do it correctly, so no rotation for me.

OK. Officially frustrated. My careful, controlled approach is failing me. I’ve now resorted to uncontrolled fidgeting and manipulation. I’m now attempting to change the orientation of the puzzle in order to get my brain to think about different moves. I’ve traced the same moves over and over so many times that I’m now conditioned to solving the puzzle wrongly. Hopefully flipping the puzzle over, will allow me to see moves I hadn’t seen before because clearly I’m missing something.

Breakthrough!!!

This is one epic puzzle. My god. This thing is complex. I’ve finally taken the first piece out and it was completely unintentional. I had a breakthrough moment where I found a completely new path that I had never explored. I was certain that I was finally getting close, but again I found a dead end. I decided to retrace the steps to take it back to the beginning and search for a missing path. But somehow, on the path back to the beginning, I apparently found the correct path and though I thought I was going back to the start, pieces just kept moving and moves just kept appearing where they hadn’t before and I just decided to forge ahead, getting completely lost in the process. I was in awe as the puzzle moved further and further apart but still held together. My god, how can a single puzzle have so many paths?

So here I sit, with one piece out and once again, I’m stuck and can’t get any more pieces out. This puzzle is relentless!

Omg. I’m ready to break out the saw or hammer on this puzzle. I’m going to have to come back another day to try to remove the next piece. I’m just frantically moving pieces around hoping and praying that something will release. But NOOOOO. This puzzle has other ideas. Dammit Juno. How the hell did you design this diabolical thing?

I have finally done it. This has to be one of the most difficult puzzles I’ve ever disassembled. This thing is unreal. Taking out the second and even the third piece took me over an hour. It seems you have to backtrack a crazy amount of moves – pretty much back to the beginning to take yet another path to release that 2nd piece. It’s the puzzle that never ends.

It’s done.

In the end, I didn’t feel joy at solving this, I just felt relief.

The pieces don’t look so intimidating, but trust me, this thing is very challenging.

There is absolutely no way I would ever be able to reassemble this thing. I’ll have to resort to the burr file – which will be a first for me. But I just can’t imagine even attempting to put this back together.

In the end, I did contact Pluredro and they quickly sent out the Burr Tools file. I loaded it up and managed to put this thing back together. Even that was not easy. I’m not well versed in Burr Tools and had to spend a good amount of time going through step by step, rotating the puzzle around on the screen to make sure I had everything correct. The process confirmed, once again, that this is a very difficult puzzle.

The thoughts of solving 4,5 and 6 doesn’t sound very appealing at the moment. But, I’ve set out with a goal, so I’m going to give it the best I’ve got. Hopefully the next ones aren’t as ruthless.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #2 – Junichi Yananose

Here we go again! This time with Grooved 6 Board Burr #2

This one is supposed to be much easier than the first. We shall see!

It’s a beaut Clark, a beaut!

Before we begin, I have to talk about the beauty of this thing. It’s incredible. Constructed of Bubinga and European Beech, it is much heavier than the first and in my opinion, is even better looking. The Bubinga has a wonderful wood grain throughout and it is nicely contrasted by the lighter, yellowish Beech. Also of note is the lack of visible grooves and pins. They are still in there, you just can’t see them without moving pieces around. I love this concept – the idea of creating a simple looking puzzle that hides all the intricacies internally that are only revealed through manipulation. There’s no way to plan ahead with this puzzle, you have to start solving in order to learn how to solve it. Very cool.

The description includes “..but we believe that many burr puzzle lovers can assemble the puzzle without any clue.” Challenge accepted! With the previous puzzle, I utilized stickers and photos for reassembly. This time, I’m going to give it a shot without those aids. Wish me luck!

As with the first puzzle in the series, this one is a joy to hold and manipulate. The pieces slide easily and the heavy nature of the wood makes for solid sounding “thunks” and “claps” as the pieces are pushed and pulled. 

Wow. First impressions – I’m stunned. This puzzle isn’t what I expected. There seem to be numerous ‘half-moves’ involved and the puzzle quickly becomes a little loosey goosey and that makes it hard to keep track of what the heck I’m doing. I like to backtrack often in order to keep an idea of where I’m at with a puzzle, but I’m having a hard time doing that here, so I have just pushed forward.

I soon found a move where I thought that pieces would come out, but at the last second, they stopped and I wasn’t able to remove them after all. Super fun and exciting, but slightly intimidating. 

After this, I once again decided to return the puzzle to the original state. The next day, I set about again and could only get about 6 or so moves in. I couldn’t seem to find the move that I completed the previous day. I became rather frustrated as I knew this move was so close, but I just couldn’t unlock it! Gahh!

Well, eventually I found it and it was again thrilling to see the pieces slide all the way to the edge without coming out. What the heck was holding it together? I reworked this move a few times and eventually discovered what I had been doing wrong. Now that I was familiar with these moves, I decided to press on again.

Pieces sliding way out! Close, but no cigar!

This led to more interesting moves – there are a number of times with this puzzle where a series of micro-moves are required. It is great fun, but hard for my brain to comprehend. At last I came to a configuration that once again felt like pieces could fall out and sure enough a piece dropped out the bottom while I was holding it. Had I solved it? Was this the intended solution?

It’s hard to say, by my count, I was only about 19 moves in and Juno’s description says 25 to get the first piece out. Hmm. So, I put the piece back in to check for more moves. Sure enough, I found a couple more of those micro-moves that allowed me to remove the first piece in a much more elegant manner. Ta Da! 

Fun, Fun Fun! What a very cool puzzle. The inner workings of this puzzle are a wonder to behold! And to my surprise, 2 of the pieces were complete rings, with no grooves or pins at all! Juno has done it again!

Look at those amazing boards!

Now, the question remains, Can I reassemble this thing without relying on my notes or photographs? I’m going to come back in a day to let the memory of the positioning and movement fade a bit and see if I can do it!

Ok, let’s see if we can do this. How hard can it be? Looking at the pieces, it is fairly obvious as to how it should go together. There’s only 2 boards that have pins. And there’s also only 2 boards that have grooves. It’s also fairly obvious which pin board goes with which groove board, so now all I have to do is actually assemble the shape.

So far, assembly isn’t going too well. I am quite sure I know which pieces fit where, but at present, they won’t go back together. I’m going to keep at it for an hour or so and see if I can make some progress, but so far, no luck. 

Holy crap I did it! With enough tinkering and guesswork, I finally figured out the arrangement necessary to put it back together. I got some strange looks from my family (and dog) as I was shouting “Yes! YES! YEEESSSS!” but it was certainly worth it. Really, it wasn’t that difficult, I already knew which piece had to go together and I was pretty sure about their orientation, it was just a matter of figuring out how to get them together. In truth, the pins and channels guided the way. I extended the board pairs to their maximum – essentially putting the pins at the end of their grooves and then tried to assemble the thing. Pretty quickly I knew I was on the right track and in fact the assembly went together rather quickly from this point. 

Overall, another fantastic puzzle. Definitely way easier than #1 and I’d say this puzzle is even approachable to folks who are new to puzzles.

Two down, 4 to go!

Grooved 6 Board Burr #1 – Junichi Yananose

The time is here, the mission’s clear. Today I will attempt to solve Juno’s amazing Grooved 6 Board Burr #1.

I purchased this particular puzzle way back in 2018 and have yet to solve it. I’ve toyed with it a few times, but never really put in a good effort. As Juno has continued to release more Grooved 6 Board Burr’s (6 released so far) I thought it was time to finally tackle this one. Assuming things go well, I’m going to move on and try to solve them all (yes, I’ve continued to buy them as they are released) and they’ve all remained on the shelf taunting me. Well, no more! 

Burr #1 is a gorgeous piece of work. It’s made from American Cherry wood with reinforced corners made of Jarrah. The action is smooth, it’s enjoyable to hold and it’s really a wonder to behold – as are all of Juno’s puzzles.

It’s hard to imagine that this simple looking board burr contains so many possible configurations

The description of this one is intimidating. 22 moves to take out the first piece and 4246 assembly options. The big difficulty lies in the grooves and pins. There are grooves routed into many of the boards and correlating pins that travel along the grooves while moving the pieces. This groove and pin system greatly restricts the movement and adds extreme difficulty – especially in assembly. I’m not even going to attempt a blind assembly, my plan is to track all the movements and map things out so that I can reassemble after I’m done.

Let’s get started. 

The puzzle is quite fun to play with. There are two moveable boards to start with, but one of these options quickly hits a dead end. The second option quickly forks to more options and once again one path leads to dead ends, while the other seems to open up more opportunities. Things really get interesting here as the boards slide around and different moves open up even further paths and though it seems like a piece might come out at any minute, I know better than to get too optimistic. These darn grooves and pins prevent the boards from sliding all the way out. 

Seven moves in and I’m stuck. I felt like I was on the correct path, but this feels like a dead end. I must have missed a move somewhere. Time to backup.

Ok, now twelve moves in and stuck again. This is getting quite hard to keep track of. Instead of just one board moving at a time, it is now groups of 2 or three that seem to want to move at the same time. It’s difficult to tell whether these are individual moves or not. Sometimes I think I found a new path only to discover that all I’m doing is reversing the previous move. Things are getting tricky, but I must press on.

Jeez. 15 moves in and I’m sort of back at the beginning – except I’m not. There’s one piece that is now out of place. I’m not sure if this is the correct path or if I’m just circling round and round doing the same moves.

It has just dawned on me that I have no idea what I’m doing. There are pins and grooves and I can see exit points in the grooves, but I’m not really trying to put a specific piece in a specific place, rather, I’m just blindly going down every path possible, hoping that I’ll eventually find the solution. I really don’t know any other way to solve this beast. But I’m currently about 18 moves in and so the end should be near. However, I could be way off on the 18 move thing. Doubt is creeping in as I hit another dead end and have to back up a couple of moves and try a different path.

Not easy to keep track of the moves at this point. Am I progressing forward or just circling around and around?

Aaaand. I need a break. By my count, I’ve completed 32 moves and haven’t removed a piece, so clearly I’m repeating moves and circling around. I’m having a hard time keeping track of what moves take me forward and what moves return me to a previous state. This thing is not easy. There seem to be countless dead ends and the pieces have to be positioned perfectly before moving forward. The puzzle allows you to move forward, but if the pins aren’t in the correct position it just leads to a dead end. This is very tricky indeed and after a solid hour of concentrated focus, I’m going to rest on it and give it another go tomorrow.

Next day and I’m back at it. I’ve taken the puzzle back to the start and am working my way back through the sequence very slowly and carefully, looking for every possible path forward. I’ve clearly missed something along the way and I intend to find it. I also re-read Kevin’s blog post about this puzzle where he specifically says “The true pathway was quite an early divergence from that initial path.” This helpful hint also influenced me to start over and look more carefully.

Ouch. This puzzle has spanked me again! Another fruitless half hour gone as I get more confused. I really thought I’d be able to solve this a little quicker, but I guess not.

And after another hour or so of tinkering, I finally found the move! Wow. I’ve done it. The puzzle has been disassembled. Whew, that was amazing! This truly is a devilish puzzle. I’m amazed at how many deep dead ends there are. Most puzzles that I’ve worked on have much shallower dead ends – it quickly becomes obvious that you are down the wrong path. But, not this puzzle. There are still multiple forks available within the dead end that causes you to keep tinkering, to keep believing that you are right, when in reality, you are dead wrong and the only way to find the real solution is to backtrack 10 moves almost all the way to the beginning. Wow. Just wow.

Yay! I’ve disassembled the puzzle. What an amazing feeling!

I don’t know if I stand any chance of putting this back together. I took dozens of photographs to attempt to keep track of those final moves, but I’m feeling doubtful. Even after the first piece was removed, it still took me a good amount of time to figure out the next piece and it still didn’t get much easier. The final few pieces were stubbornly difficult to remove as well.

In the end, I managed to get it back together without using burr tools. To me, that’s a success. I may have used photos and my written notes, but ultimately, it went back together. It was tricky as there were some moves that I hadn’t tracked very well, but ultimately, I had enough clues to make it work. Whew. I’m exhausted! The bolt of adrenaline from solving the puzzle coupled with the extreme focus required to hold everything together and the mental gymnastics to decipher my notes has left me ready for a nap. 

Notes on the page, colored stickers and coffee are essential ingredients for a difficult solve.
Colored stickers make it easier to identify moves and keep track of what’s what.

Overall, I’m beyond thrilled with this puzzle. It may have taken me 3 years to get it done, but it was well worth it and I will display this one proudly on the shelf. This is truly a masterpiece. Now the only question that remains: Will the other 5 grooved board burrs live up to this one?

RAYA BOX No. 1 – Yavuz Demirhan

Today, I have a wonderful packing puzzle from Yavuz Demirhan. It’s the first puzzle I’ve worked on from Yavuz, but it certainly won’t be the last. (EDIT: I’m wrong – one of my favorites, Octo Cube was designed by Yavuz – you can read that post here) Raya Box No. 1 is the first in a series of 7 Raya packing puzzles available at his Etsy Store HERE.

These puzzles come from Turkey, so be prepared to wait a while if you order from his store. I placed an order on February 1 and just received the box yesterday – so it took a little over a month to arrive. It’s worth the wait though. These puzzles are inexpensive, but still well made and very fun to solve. I also ordered No. 2 and No. 7, though I have yet to even unbox those.

Pack it up, pack it in.

This packing puzzle consists of a rectangular box with restricted openings. There are 6 pieces that must be placed inside the box – 3 “L” shaped pieces and 3 square pieces. The puzzle also comes with a storage bag. I really like that the bag and the box both have the puzzle name on them. This greatly helps my organization. As my collection grows, it becomes difficult to remember the names of the puzzles and the designers – I usually end up searching my emails for receipts or the archives of various puzzle websites to re-discover the name and/or objective of puzzles that I have neglected or forgotten about.

It took me about an hour to solve this one, and I usually struggle with packing puzzles, but for some reason, this one felt very approachable.

I began by trying to assemble the pieces into the required shape outside the box. Most times, with these packing puzzles, I can flip the box over and assemble on the bottom. The edges of the box keep the pieces constrained to the correct dimensions and I find this easier than assembling on a table.

After a bit of struggle, I managed to find a configuration that was the right size and shape. Yay, I thought. Now, I just had to put the pieces into the box. I tried a few times, but it quickly became apparent that the pieces would not fit in this configuration. That darn restricted plexiglass opening wouldn’t allow the pieces to go in as I wanted. I tried flipping the whole shape over to see if they would go in that way. No luck. I persisted for a while, but eventually, I had to give up and go to bed.

One of the many configurations available.

The next day, I tried again. This time, I decided to see if there were any more ways to make the required shape. Ah ha! I found another way to make the cube and once again tried to fit the pieces into the box. And once again I failed. But, I felt I was on to something. The restricted opening makes it clear that the square piece will have to go in last – there just isn’t room for the final piece to be an “L” shaped block.

Back to the drawing board, I took the last configuration and altered it slightly. I could envision how it was going to work if I could just get the first few pieces in correctly. Sure enough I found a way and YES, it worked! That was pretty cool.

No spoilers here. Blurred for your safety.

I’d call this one a moderately difficult packing puzzle. It’s not easy by any means, but it isn’t super tricky either. I think a novice puzzler with enough time would be able to figure it out and an experienced packer could get it done in under an hour – maybe quicker if they really thought about it instead of just trial and error.

If you haven’t already, please check out Yavuz’s Etsy page. As I type this, there are still a number of puzzles available.

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.