Cranium – Jerry Loo

Yes! I was one of the lucky 8 people to get my hands on this puzzle! I really didn’t know what I was buying, but when Eric Fuller releases a limited run puzzle, I have no choice but to pull the trigger and purchase it. It sounds like he is open to making more in the future, so those that missed out may have another chance to pick up this wonderful and unique puzzle.

To start – I’m super intimidated by this puzzle. There are a ton of pieces, limited pictures and no instruction on assembly, so it’s up to me to get the job done. Hopefully there is a logical sequence to things and enough clues for me to get it together. I’ve never worked on a puzzle like this, so I’m very excited to get started and see what I’m in for.

Holy crap there are a lot of pieces! I haven’t even begun to attempt this thing yet and I’m already feeling like there is no way I’ll get it solved. But hopefully my first impression is off and I can make some progress. Is this a solid puzzle? Or are there gaps in the skull? The 3 images on the cubic dissection site seem to suggest that it is a solid form. Also, I’ve noticed that one of the images holds some clues as to what pieces come out of the “face”. Ok. Here goes.

Lots and lots of pieces. Where do I even start?

Ok. I’ve spent the last half hour sorting pieces. I had to see what I was working with and there are over 50 pieces here, so step one seemed to be: Sort. And I think its been helpful. This puzzle is comprised of some very interesting pieces! There are large pieces that look like creatures out of the Space Invaders game and there are some tiny “T” shaped pieces. There are over 10 pairs of duplicate pieces and quite a few pieces that are not symmetrical – though a majority are symmetrical. There are no duplicate symmetrical pieces. What does all this mean? I don’t know… but I do have some theories starting to build. I think I’m going to start with the biggest pieces and see if I can’t get some sort of frame built.

Whelp, that failed horrifically and I’m not really sure what to do here. It’s not difficult to put pieces together, but it seems nearly impossible to know if those pieces are correct or not! I’d really like a better picture so that maybe I could identify where one of the bigger pieces goes. I think if I knew how one or two of the big pieces were placed I’d have a fighting chance. As is – I’m not sure how to proceed. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe I should start with a small cube and try to build larger? I’m really not sure how to approach this one..

And thus began my journey to find a better image to work from. I initially did some google searches which brought me to the Puzzle Will be Played site here. But, that didn’t really help, so I continued to search and ended up on Jerry’s Facebook page. And lo and behold I found a video of the Burr Tools file for Cranium. Yes! Awesome. Now I have something to work with! I watched the video, which showed the solution, though with so many pieces, I certainly wasn’t going to memorize the moves. So I went back to work to see watching that video would help me solve this one.

Nope. No help. I had to resign to the fact that I wasn’t going to solve this one by myself and so I decided to watch the video and follow along. The tricky part, though is that it was a video and not actually a burr tools file I was working with, so I was unable to rotate the puzzle and determining what pieces were going in was a matter of pausing the video at the right time. All this was challenging, but not impossible, so I persisted. But the another problem quickly emerged. The pieces in the video didn’t match the pieces in my puzzle! Some were close, so I made “Best guesses” But, I quickly came to a roadblock because the puzzle in my hands had a bunch extra pieces than the puzzle in the video. Gah! I wasn’t sure I’d ever get this thing together.

That’s when I sent a message to Jerry through Facebook and, Yes, he confirmed that the puzzles were different. Jerry offered to send me the burr tools file and I accepted. Well, that should be the end of the story, but the fact is, This puzzle is quite difficult to assemble even with the burr tools file so I was in for a lot more puzzling.

It probably took me another couple of hours, but I eventually did manage to get this thing together. There was one particularly challenging move, that may frustrate folks. It involved putting two halves of the skull together – which I had to attempt a few times to get it right. One of the halves is pretty secure with only a couple of pieces that can fall out, but the other half must be held, clutched with a tenuous grip, while you try to join the halves without any pieces slipping out of your grasp. I eventually resorted to using little bits of scotch tape in strategic areas to hold certain pieces in place. Be careful with this technique though, because later on those little pieces of tape may prevent critical moves and shifts in the puzzle.

It’s not only hard to put together, it’s hard to photograph!

But, overall, the puzzle is doable – It’s kind of like assembling a very difficult lego set – where the pieces don’t always stay together. And I have to say, I’m surprised at how much fun I had following along with the burr tools file. It’s really quite ingenious how the pieces all lock together. And the end result is fantastic. The skull is solid, with a nice weight and a quality feel. this one is going to look great on display.

Thus far in my puzzling career, this has been the first puzzle that I’ve utilized Burr Tools to solve. As such, I expected to feel a bit disappointed in myself, but surprisingly, I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I had a great experience learning more about the Burr Tools program, and still had lots of fun putting this puzzle together. It’s quite a marvel how all these pieces link together into such a solid unit. I can’t wait to put it up on the puzzle shelf as I’m sure it will receive a lot of comments. Overall, great fun, challenging moves and a standout appearance!

TEETOTUM – Alfons Eyckmans

Ok, here we go. We have Teetotum designed Alfons Eyckmans and wonderfully crafted by Pelikan Puzzles. This one has been taunting me from the shelf for several months now and I’ve had enough. This puzzle shall taunt me no longer for I shall step into the ring and conquer it.

Truth be told, I’m a little intimidated by this puzzle. I’ve played with it for a few minutes here and there, but it seemed like there were an enormous amount of moves and possibilities right out of the gate, so I wanted to be sure that I had the time to work on it properly. Now is that time!

What a beauty! There are many, many paths forward, but only one will solve this beast.

But before we begin, I need to comment on the construction of the puzzle. It’s beautiful. The dark splines not only reinforce the corners, but also make a wonderful contrast. And they match the dark wood of the burr sticks. Overall, a very balanced and inviting puzzle that I can’t wait to begin.

Well, It’s now several days later, I haven’t solved the puzzle and I’m way overdue on a blog post. You see, it turns out that this puzzle is rather difficult and in my ignorance, I decided that it would be fun to map out every single possible move available in this puzzle. I thought that I could systematically attack this puzzle, crawl down every path, keep careful notes and alas I would emerge victorious. However, I may have underestimated this undertaking because I’ve now spent many hours on this puzzle and filled many pages of cryptic notes and thus far, I’ve not solved it. But as any man possessed would say “I can’t stop now!”

Oh man. Despite my best efforts, I’ve gotten lost in the puzzle and am currently stuck. I’m not sure whether I’m trying to get back to the beginning or solve the puzzle at this point – I’m just trying to make progress in some direction. But nothing is happening. The pieces are all jumbled up and I can’t seem to find the key move.

And then, an “oh sh!t” moment occurs. I guess I was trying to get back to the start, since when I accidentally released a piece, my reaction wasn’t “yay I did it”, it was “oh sh!t”.

Whew. That was a tense few minutes there, but I did manage to get the puzzle back to the start. I believe that I was getting close to removing the first piece, but I majorly chickened out when I realized that I had no idea how to reverse the position. I have the first 15 or so moves written down and tracked out, but the puzzle gets a little weird at that point. It doesn’t fall apart, but it gets looser so its really easy to make unintentional moves and thus loose track of what’s happening.

Deep into the process, trying to map out all the moves. This method was eventually abandoned because there were just too many paths/options.

I’m anticipating that this one will come apart in a similar manner as “Wourie” did – and that is, a single piece is not release, rather the puzzle gets to a point where it can be separated into two parts. We shall see.

Well, I’ve fiddled and I’ve floundered. I’m no closer to the solution than I was before – and that makes me happy. I need a good challenge and this appears to be it. I had one of those great puzzling moments where I was deep into the sequence, I was focused, I was nearing the finish line – and suddenly a move opened up and as I was preparing for my A-Ha moment – and then – my bubble was burst and I realized that I was right back at the start. Dammit!

Ok, After the last paragraph, I spent another 30-40 minutes and have gotten back to what I think is “close to the end”. It’s quite amazing how many different configurations these 6 pieces can move through. I’ve got the puzzle to a point where one of the burr sticks is almost completely removed, it is only entangled in one remaining plate. I believe that I am close to the end and I’m excited to finally get this puzzle done!

Bah!!! Once again, in an effort to solve this beast, I unintentionally circled back around to the start! This is one tough puzzle!

It looks like a piece is close to being removed – Don’t be fooled! I spent days trying to figure out where to go from here.

Ok. It’s now a couple of days later and I’ve FINALLY solved this puzzle. It is definitely not easy and took a determined effort, but I’ve done it. For the longest time, I was stuck in one particular spot where one of the burr pieces had cleared 2 of the plates. This configuration felt like it was close to the end, but no matter how I manipulated the pieces, I just couldn’t find a path forward. I was pretty certain that I was on the right path, but was filled with self-doubt since nothing was working. I contemplated starting over as I wondered if this was just an elaborate dead-end, but sure enough, there was a way forward. I’m not sure if this is the intended solution, but my solution required rotating the plates to a different orientation. I was trying to solve this without rotating the plates, but in the end this was the only way I could solve it.

Finally Solved! Oh my that was difficult!

Now, let’s see if I can get it back together – hopefully some of the 8,000 pictures I took will reveal enough clues for me to put it back together. Here goes….

And done. It took about 15 minutes to get this back together WITH the aid of pictures – I can’t even imagine putting this thing together blind – It’s certainly beyond my ability to do so. I’m just happy that I got it apart and back together!

Whelp. That concludes this puzzle write-up. Teetotum was quite difficult, but what an amazing journey! I’m fairly certain that those plate rotation are required, but would be interested to know if others had the same experience as me. I didn’t have quite the desired A-ha moment, it was more like a “Finally!” moment after all those hours of searching, but in the end, this one feels good. I can now proudly place this back on the shelf and check off yet another one of my unsolved puzzles. Until next time – Puzzle On!