Hanayama Cast Elk

Ok, new format. Tonight, I’m going to document the puzzle solving experience. I have the Hanayama Cast Elk puzzle and I’m going to try to solve it while documenting my thoughts every 15 minutes. Hopefully this will capture the process or evolution of solving one of these things. I’m also hoping that I will perform better due to the greater focus required. Anyway, we’ll see what happens.

Begin: (first impression) – My initial though is – “how hard can it be?” I mean it’s only 2 pieces. Surely there can’t be that many ways to manipulate the two pieces, right? Beyond that, the puzzle is another excellent Hanayama. It has good weight to it, it has a nice shiny finish – similar to vortex. And, overall, its just pleasing to hold. Let’s see what I can figure out.

Only two pieces, but still tricky to solve.

Whelp, I solved it in 11:26, so didn’t need the full 15 I guess. It funny, cuz I had the pieces in the final position a few times, but didn’t “make the move” until later on after I had exhausted a few other possibilities. Really, there weren’t that many positions for the pieces to be in, which was making me a little frustrated after the first 5 minutes.

I initially figured out how to move the pieces through each other and felt good, but then I couldn’t progress any further. The pieces were easy to manipulate and many times, they were very close to passing through each other, so much so that I began to think that perhaps this was one of those lopsided puzzles where one protrusion is slightly smaller on one side than the other. I kept chasing this idea for a while – really examining the puzzle to see if there were any anomalies in size or shape. 

Ultimately, I didn’t find any anomolies, the puzzle looked symmetrical, even upon close inspection. So, I went back to manipulating the pieces. After a while, it seemed like I had exhausted the possibilites, so as per usual, I concentrated on doing things different. I was trying to go against natural instincts and move pieces opposite to what was natural.

This technique is something I use all the time in puzzling. Trying the same thing over and over doesn’t usually yield results, so consciously doing things differently often helps.

Anyway, just like that, I had the pieces back in a familiar positions but this time, tried a slightly different move and viola! They separated. 

The Elks have been separated.

After getting them apart, I quickly put them back together again, feeling confident that I knew the secret… except I was wrong… It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought and in fact, I’m confident that I got lucky the first time. Because this time, I was having a harder time finding the solution. It took me a solid 20 minutes to get the darn thing solved again, and I’m feeling confident now that there are in fact some subtle differences in shape and size in the pieces, arms and slots.

Pretty cool puzzle. I definitely don’t have it mastered, i’ll have to solve it a few more times, but it was fun and I liked it a lot – even if I did get lucky.

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