FanaTIC – Andrew Crowell

FanaTIC Complete

Wow! I am sure excited for this one. I have FanaTIC designed by Andrew Crowell and crafted by Brian Menold over at wood wonders.

Now, I have to say that acquiring this cube was no easy feat. Brian offered up 7 new puzzles and 4 remakes for his May 5th release and Holy Crap did these things sell out quick! I’m usually pretty good about getting in right at the release and picking up everything I want, but this time, I struck out on a few items that I really wanted. GalacTIC was at the top of my list, but there were only a few copies available for this release, so they went quicker than I could grab one and I foolishly opted not to reserve one for $1 – and then that too sold out! I also missed out on PackTIC #5 which seemed to sell quicker than the others (or there was less stock).

But, it is okay because there will always be more puzzles to buy in the future and in the end I did manage to secure 4/7 New puzzles and 3/4 of the Remakes. RIP my wallet.

FanaTIC. Yes! I can’t wait. Let’s go!

It’s been a little while since I ordered from WoodWonders (I skipped the last release) but I’m always very happy with their packaging. I think packaging for puzzles has to be a bit difficult for the puzzle maker. Some puzzles come assembled, some disassembled. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Should packaging have a name? A Label? Clues on the solution? Should a solution be included? Everyone seems to do it a little different, but I like Brian’s boxes, labels and shrink-wrapping. I like how the shrink-wrap captures the smell of the workshop and I like that the label has a picture. After one’s collection grows into the hundreds, it starts to become difficult to remember every puzzle, every name, every solution. So this gives me a little backup insurance if, down the line, I forget some info. At the same time it also means that I am collecting cardboard boxes (evidence) as well as puzzles.

Ok, lets get started. First off, I really like the size of this puzzle. It’s definitely smaller than the last TICs I bought from Brian and somehow that feels right. The smaller size creates a tighter feel and all the pieces feel really solid.

pieces of the puzzle
6 pieces to assemble. One solution. 5 rotations. Here we go!

This puzzle has 5 pieces and comes disassembled so my objective here is to put it together and form a cube. From the description, I know that there are 5 rotations and that it “assembles a little differently than any of the others” whatever that may mean.

I’ve got an hour to work on this so lets see if I can get it done.

Ok, there are actually 6 pieces to this puzzle! Turns out there was a little 5 voxel T-shaped piece hiding out inside another piece. Ok, pretty sure that’s it. Here we go.

I’m about 10 minutes in and I’ve had my first little breakthrough.

See, at first, it felt pretty hopeless. These Crowell designed TICs always seem to be composed of strange shapes, yet there always seems to be a bit of a pattern. There’s usually 1-2 larger “cage” pieces, followed by 3-4 “filler” pieces and lastly there are always 1-2 “keys”. The keys are usually small 5-6 voxels pieces that are called on to rotate into place and lock the structure together. Understanding how to use these keys is fundamental to understanding these TIC puzzles.

Back to my breakthrough – I managed to get 2 filler pieces into a cage piece in what can only be the correct position. That leaves 3 more pieces to fit in. Another thing about these designs. It’s usually not difficult to figure out where the pieces go – what is difficult is figuring out the sequence required to get the pieces into place.

Well, I was wrong about my little breakthrough. I still think that I have a couple of the pieces put together correctly, but that third piece that I was feeling pretty sure about turned out to be false.

After another 15 minutes, I’ve definitely gotten 3 pieces in correctly (for reeeaal this time!) Now there are 3 more to go and then I’m going to have to figure out how the heck to get them all together.

At this point, I know where all the pieces go. But I am still a long way away from solving this. These TICs are terribly difficult to reverse-engineer. There’s always one little cube that prevents the piece from sliding home. I’m not sure how this goes together, but I’m determined to get there and I can’t wait to slowly disassemble this to really get to understand the mechanics.

After about 45 minutes. I took a break, packed the puzzle into my bag and headed home (yes, I do puzzles at work!) Later that evening, I took the puzzle out again and began to work. Within another 30 minutes I was basking in the glow of victory! These puzzles feel so good to complete, and for me, they are at a very pleasant difficulty level. I get to enjoy the process, but not stress out about remembering placements and such.

It takes quite a bit of movement to get that 4th piece into place!

In the end, it was just a matter of trial and error – well that and one really unique twisting and turning move. Because once you know the position of all the pieces all that is left is figuring out what order they go in and how. I was stumped for a while with figuring out how to get the 1st 3-4 pieces together. It just doesn’t seem possible. Its easy to get 3 out of 4 in place, but that 4th piece is always blocked by the first 3. It was quite maddening for a while – that is until I discovered “The Move” Yes, that 4th piece requires 7 moves and 3 rotations and is super fun to execute. Figuring this all out in reverse (assembly) order made this puzzle 10x more fun than if it had come assembled. Kudos for that decision.

The other great thing about this puzzle? Once I had it completed, it took me 15-20 minutes to figure out the first disassembly move! The craftsmanship is so good and the pieces are so tight that even though I had just done the puzzle, I really had no idea how to open it up again – and the puzzle offered no clues. I eventually go there, of course, but it sure baffled me for a while there.

how to get the next piece in
2 more pieces to go!

I’d also like to praise the addition of pins into these TICs. More than other puzzles, I find these TICs to be easy to overly stress the pieces. Rotating pieces can add a ton of unintentional force and I’ve actually snapped off a piece on another puzzle while trying to find the correct rotation. So, I am very happy to see strategically placed pins to offer more structural support for these types of puzzles. Though I have to say that I did factor in the placement of the pin into my solution. It doesn’t make sense to reinforce a piece that is not subjected to rotation, therefore I new from the beginning which piece would be doing the major rotation.

FanaTIC Complete
The completed puzzle. What a ride! Note the brass pin to add strength at a critical point.

Overall, an awesome puzzle to add to my growing collection of TICs. Speaking of which – does anyone know how many of these there are? Is it possible to collect them all? I don’t know but I’m going to try.

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!

Blocage – Stéphane Chomine

Wooo yeah. I’m still buzzing from having just completed Blocage, design by Stephane Chomine and handmade by Pelikan Puzzles. This is one super fun puzzle! Oh my!

Beautiful and Sturdy, this puzzle will last forever

First off, this puzzle is beautifully crafted. I chose the Ipe/Maple variation and I’m very pleased with it. Ipe is a a very heavy and strong Brazilian Walnut that makes for perfect burr sticks. The Ipe pieces feel heavy and they slide in and out of place with an audible ‘thunk’ which is very pleasing when manipulating this puzzle. The dark color also contrasts very nicely with the maple frame. This is a striking puzzle that stands out on my shelf.

This one really connected with me. The process of solving this type of puzzle seems to click with my brain. It’s quite simple really, you just try all the combinations available at every step and explore every path to the end. But despite being simple in concept, it’s somehow delightful when you finally discover an overlooked move (which is inevitable). Is it the flawed human brain that makes these puzzles fun ? Perhaps.

The opening moves are great. There are a few different paths to go down, but you know you are on the right track when you hear the audible ‘thunk’ of a particular burr piece succumbing to gravity. The next sequence of moves yields a second audible ‘thunk’ as a second piece falls into position. The end is not too far away from this point, but there are a few clever moves one has to navigate in order to reach the solution.

Blocage after the opening moves. Keep pushing forward for the solution.

There are really just a ton of clever moves packed into this puzzle – down to the final two pieces which need to perform a bit of a dance to be released. Once all the pieces have been removed, it is time to put them back.

All the pieces have been removed. Yay! Now to put it back together :/

Re-assembly is simple – it’s just the reverse of dis-assembly. That is, assuming you memorized the moves or wrote them down. However, if you want to squeeze the most life out of this puzzle, it is recommended to assemble from scratch with no help. I’ve yet to take on this challenge, but have added this puzzle to the “to be continued” pile.

Overall, this puzzle is super solid and very fun. It feels sturdy, like a piece of furniture, and the craftsmanship is, as always, top notch. It has enough clever moves to feel challenging, but it doesn’t stump for long (at least with dis-assembly). With some perseverance, I think just about anyone could solve this one eventually and experience the rush of hard fought success.

YyYy – Osanori Yamamoto

YyYy – All right. Here we go. Time to go on a journey with YyYy designed by Osanori Yamamoto and brilliantly crafted by Jakub at Pelikan Puzzles. This one has me intrigued. I haven’t played with it hardly at all. I’ve spent maybe 2 minutes playing with this thing and in that 2 minutes, I was able to get the cube more scrambled than anticipated. The first little move took a few seconds, but then everything started moving and, oh my god, it was getting all mixed up and , holy crap, I have to pay attention and get it back to the start..

Well the time is right and I’m ready to focus my energy and really see what this here puzzle has got going for it. I’ve got some nice tunes on the turntable and a drink in my glass, the kids are asleep and I’ve got the evening ahead of me. I’m ready to get lost in this thing.

Oh man. 5 minutes in and i’m so confused and intrigued. I can’t quite figure out what the pieces are shaped like. They seem to hook on each other, but also slide into each other when positioned correctly. I’d also like to state for the record – this puzzle is gorgeous. It really is. Its got a good weight to it and somehow Pelikan puzzles are always so smooth. They are not only beautiful, but the pieces glide against each other and within the frame, and there is never a hint of binding. Ok, it’s calling me, so I gotta go back for more.

Well Damn. color me stumped. What seemed like a dangerous never-ending pit turned out to be only about 4 moves deep in 2 directions. Neither direction yielded any further development. What was initially scary unknown terrain soon became very familiar ruts from one dead end to another. There has to be another path hidden in the movements. I don’t know if I’ll find it tonight.

One of the dead ends that I discovered early on. There didn’t seem to be any possible moves from here.

And I didn’t. I was stumped and set the puzzle back on the shelf to try again another day. Several days went by and occasionally I’d pick the puzzle up and tinker with it, but I never got any further than the original dead end. I was practically carving grooves in the wood from tracing the same path over and over. There just didn’t seem to be any other options available.

Finally, one day, I had the puzzle in my lap and of course, like any other puzzle solving story, I tried a move that I hadn’t tried before(duh). And what do ya know? It worked. With just one additional little move that I hadn’t seen, I was now able to make a second move, and a third, and a forth and just like that, a piece was free. Wow, that was pretty cool. That hidden move was staring me in the face the whole time and I never tried it.

After the first piece is removed, the rest come out easily and the puzzle is solved. And I have to say, I’m amazed. I’m amazed because the puzzle is so simple. Holding the pieces in my hand reveals all the shapes and I really appreciate this puzzle because of its simplicity. The cage is completely straightforward, there are no hidden cubes or protrusions, its a simple, basic cage (albeit totally gorgeous). The pieces are also very straightforward, they do fit nicely together, but I’m just amazed that something made of such simple components can harbor such interesting moves.

Looks pretty simple, but the solution is mighty clever.

Overall, this puzzle is great. Its hard enough to call challenging and its pretty enough to call beautiful. I choose the Wenge/Ovangkol variant, and I absolutely love the tone and grain of the Ovangkol. I think it really pairs nicely with the Wenge burr pieces. As always, the craftsmanship is perfect. Everything sits perfectly flush and it is a delight to handle.

Well that wraps up another blog post and another completed puzzle. I’ve got a shelf full of unsolved puzzles and more arriving in the mail this week. Upcoming are new puzzles from Rombol, Pelikan and Pluredro, so please stay tuned and check back in. I’m working on adding a subscribe button to the blog, but in the meantime, you can stay up to date by following this page on facebook!

2 Rings – Chi-Ren Chen

2 Rings is a puzzle that was made by Eric Fuller and was sold back in October. The October batch of puzzles at cubicdissection was especially strong and it seems to me that this puzzle didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I wanted to make sure I got this writeup in before it got lost in the never-ending wave of new puzzles.

Straight out of the gate, this puzzle is stunning. The wood choices are spot on and the craftsmanship is truly impressive. Eric spliced in these strengthening corner pieces (sorry don’t know the technical term) that add great accents, but also create an extremely strong and rigid frame. This is important with this puzzle because it is very easy to accidentally generate a lot of leverage and force while manipulating the two pieces. I can imagine that this exact puzzle built with lesser standards might snap or break if someone torqued on it enough.

Wonderful construction. Beautiful. Strong. Functional.

Outside of the beautiful aesthetics, this is also a very fun puzzle to play with. I didn’t find it too difficult, but I really enjoyed that it stretched my thinking. There was something exciting about rotating the pieces in a 3 dimensional space and navigating this 3 dimensional maze. I also really like the fact that the puzzle has open sight lines. So many puzzles hide their movements inside a box, but here you can see everything and freely rotate the puzzle to view from all angles.

The puzzle arrived in a “incorrectly” completed state – that is, the two rings were together, but they were incorrectly oriented and the magnets were resisting each other. The first step was then to separate the rings. This was not too difficult of a challenge, but I wasn’t done yet. I still had to correctly assemble the rings. I made several attempts and several times found myself back at the beginning.

There is an obvious spot where the two rings can connect and disconnect. I found myself connecting them together, manipulating the rings through several moves and rotations to the point where I felt I was going to solve it – and then, suddenly, I’d be back at the connect/disconnect spot. Hmm. How frustrating!

After a few more attempts, I finally found my way to the end of the puzzle and that satisfying “snap” as the magnets came together. I would guess that there are a few separate solutions for this puzzle, and I’m not sure of the exact moves I used. I just kept moving forward and eventually found the solution.

As a kid, I always loved mazes and this puzzle brought me back to those roots. The two pieces have to be manipulated correctly through a sort of 3d maze. Since the magnets are visible, it is fairly obvious what the completed state will look like, so the difficulty lies in the journey to the completed state, which, in my mind, was very similar to solving a maze. Manipulate the pieces until a dead end is reached – backtrack to the previous junction, try the other path and continue on and on until the end.

Fun movements as the two rings rotate and interact with each other

Solving this puzzle is great – the two rings really “snap” together as the high strength magnets find each other. The magnets also make the first move very tricky to find when disassembling the puzzle. I’ve had this one sitting on the shelf for a few weeks and each time I pick it up, it takes me a few minutes to find the first move. It takes some real force in one specific direction to break them free.

To me this puzzle acts as a proof of concept. I think it is a clever idea with unique manipulations, but I also think that the idea could evolve into something even better. I’d love to see what “3 rings” would look like, or what if the voxels were smaller, or what if the faces were curved to invite unique rotations? I really think there could be many future possibilities using this same concept of open, interlocked rings.

The two rings – separated. Magnets are visible on the exposed ends

Inelegant Cube – Haym Hirsh

Today, I have the Inelegant Cube designed by Haym Hirsh and beautifully crafted by Brian Menold at Woodwondersonline. This particular version of the puzzle was crafted using Red Louro, Yellowheart and Wenge pieces. It was $5 more than the other version, but I thought the extra pop from the yellowheart was really worth it. Once assembled, this puzzle displays beautifully on the shelf thanks to the included stand. The stand was also very helpful in the assembly process.

The puzzle is comprised of 9 “L shaped” pieces which are each made from 3 identically shaped blocks. However, those 3 blocks are glued together in many different configurations so each of the 9 pieces is unique.

All you have to do is combine these 9 pieces into a cube. Not an easy task.

This was a very challenging puzzle for me. I haven’t worked on a puzzle like this before, so I didn’t have much strategy going into it. A typical session would involve me randomly placing pieces onto the stand in hopes that I would magically arrive at the solution. This strategy didn’t work well and I would often give up after only a few minutes of effort. I didn’t seem to be making any progress and furthermore, I wasn’t eliminating any possibilities either.

At one point, while I was working on a solution, I put two pieces together and they just seemed correct. Finally, I had something to work with and had a tiny bit of hope. This hope soon fizzled out when I fumbled the puzzle and lost track of those two pieces that seemed to fit together so well. Once again, I gave up and shelved the puzzle.

I then decided to bring the puzzle to work and in between work tasks, I was able to spend a bit of time working on things. After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly started to work out a strategy.

There were a few key factors that started to help me push towards a solution. The first was that all the sides had to be level. This seems obvious now, but for some reason it took me a while to realize this. Accordingly, if the sides had to be level, then any configuration where sides aren’t level can be thrown out. The second factor is that the wood types do not have to alternate. For a long time I assumed that two pieces of the same wood type couldn’t sit next to each other, but eventually I determined that this was false. The third factor was using the base as a guide to how much overhang the pieces required. The puzzle doesn’t fit perfectly on the base, rather it has a slight overhang, thus if any configurations produced a larger or smaller overhang, I knew they were not correct.

A nearly completed cube. By keeping the sides level or flush with each other, I was able to build the solution through trial and error.

Armed with these realizations, I began a more methodical process of trial and error. I soon had one side of the cube completed in what I thought was the correct configuration. With one side complete, it was just a matter of time to correctly place the remaining blocks. However, as it turns out, I did not have the first side correct and so my trial and error process eventually ended with no solution and no remaining combinations to try. Failure again!

Back to the drawing board I went. I re-examined my “correct side” and discovered that there were a couple of pieces that I could swap out which then led to additional combinations to attempt.

Finally, after many days of work, I slid that last piece in and the puzzle was correctly assembled. Wow. What a fun puzzle to complete!

It’s so satisfying to finally solve this puzzle!

This puzzle was a major challenge for me. I didn’t have much experience to draw from and thus didn’t have much of a strategy to start. I felt rather helpless in my first handful of attempts and it wasn’t until those first 2 pieces fit together that I felt a glimmer of hope. In the end, it was the process of elimination that allowed me to find the solution.

I really enjoyed this puzzle and despite its’ name, I found it to be quite elegant.

Wing Hangar – Osanori Yamamoto

Today, I have the fabulous “Wing Hangar” from Osanori Yamamoto. This is another piece produced recently by Jakub over at Pelikan Puzzles. It’s a wonderful puzzle with only 3 pieces, but don’t be deceived, it’s a bit tricky. As with all Pelikan puzzles, this piece is a work of art and it is a joy to play with.

The puzzle consists of Mahogany outer box and two (in my case) Wenge Burr pieces, But Tthe puzzle also came in a Mahogany/Purpleheart variation. I’m a sucker for Wenge, and thus am very happy with the variant that I chose.

My thoughts while initially playing with the puzzler were as follows: 

“Ok, so I’ve been playing with this puzzle for about an hour and I haven’t gotten anywhere. I thought this one was going to be easy. There’s only 2 pieces, there can’t possibly be that many options, yet here I sit, unable to get the 2 pieces into the box.”

Burr piece slots nicely into the roof of the box but there just isn’t enough room!

This puzzle gave me some trouble to begin with.

“I think they made a good call sending this one out unassembled – it is proving to be a good challenge. The difficulty lies in not knowing the orientation of the pieces – and the pictures on the Pelikan website don’t help.  If I don’t have the orientation correct, then I’m spending time working on an impossible solution. Up to this point I haven’t gotten systematic with it yet either.”

This puzzle took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to put together. I didn’t clock it, but I definitely worked on this for numerous hours over numerous days. And once I solved it, I put it on the shelf and moved on to another. It was many days later that I finally returned to Wing Hangar.

When I finally did return, I found that now, I couldn’t disassemble it. What the heck? I had put it together, surely I could now remove the pieces. I tried over and over and just when I thought I was making progress, I’d realize that I just completed a loop and was back where I started. Frustrated, I put the puzzle back on the shelf for another day.

Today, I had a little time and a little more focus and decided once and for all to conquer this puzzle. And sure enough, not 20 minutes later, I had the pieces out and not only that, I had an understanding of how it works. I took some pictures and then was able to quickly assemble the puzzle again. Now I’m left wondering why the heck this one took me so long to solve and understand.

The pieces are out! This is how this puzzle is shipped.

It’s interesting to me because I’ve experienced varying degrees of success when solving puzzles and I largely attribute my performance to my mental state at the time. Sometimes, I’m just in the zone and all my focus is on the puzzle and I seem to do well in those moments, but other times, I just can’t seem to get anywhere. Clearly I need time and space to perform my best because if there are distractions, or a looming obligation, then I don’t seem to have the required focus.

Also, solving puzzles can be mentally exhausting and I don’t always feel like putting myself through the mental anguish. A lot of nights, I do have the time, but I don’t have the focus. Either way, I’m going to continue to solve puzzles when “the time is right” and try not to force anything. I don’t want this hobby to become a job.

TRIAD – Osanori Yamamoto

This week, I have Triad, designed by Osanori Yamamoto and built by Jakub Dvorak of Pelikan Puzzles. I purchased all the recent Pelikan puzzles – minus Excalibur – and will be writing my thoughts on all of them over the next couple of months.

This was the first of six puzzles that I opened and immediately I am made aware of how beautiful Pelikan Puzzles are. They are so well made, the tolerances are so small and the wood choices are impeccable. The difference between these and other puzzles is immediate. These puzzles are absolute works of art.

This particular puzzle contains 3 burr-type pieces enclosed in an open framed box. The pieces appear to be identical in shape, though Jakub has wisely chosen 3 different types of wood. This puzzle is smaller than the others, but that’s ok because I’m running out of room on my puzzle shelf!

It’s beautiful and amazingly precise

This puzzle seems fairly straightforward. The three pieces can each slide independently of each other and there are no internal stoppers or notches in the framed box. It seems that it is just a matter of finding the proper sequence to remove the first piece. I would expect that the second and third piece fall out once the first is gone.

After playing around with this thing for a few minutes, I have a couple of observations. First, the pieces are not identical, there is a definite difference – though they all seem to share a similar forked end, there are seemingly some variations between the pieces. The second thing I noticed, is that this puzzle is a little trickier than I had initially thought.

The pieces move in and out and conveniently shift to make room

After about 20 more minutes of work, I have the puzzle disassembled. The moves are not too difficult to figure out and I don’t remember any dead ends, so it seems like a fairly linear path to resolution. Despite my initial prediction, once I had the first piece out, the remaining two pieces DID NOT just fall out. In fact, the final two pieces were pretty tricky. I had several “incredulous head shakes” at my own expense while trying to remove those final 2 pieces. There is definitely a particular sequence, even though it feels like it should be easy.

The pieces have been removed, now time to assemble

I’m a bit nervous about re-assembly though – I’ve made the decision to scramble the pieces and not reference any photos to attempt the re-assembly – wish me luck..

But before I re-assemble. Let me take a moment to once again point out how beautiful and well-made these puzzles are. I’ve examined the pieces thoroughly and am truly impressed by the workmanship. Everything is just perfect and precise. In fact, I’m out of adjectives to describe it. There’s just something incredibly satisfying about holding perfectly accurate wood structures…. Ok. back to it..

Well assembly is not easy. I’m still working on it, but I’ve noticed something very obvious that I had overlooked… The framed box isn’t square. Yeah, I know, super obvious, but for some reason, it didn’t really register. But since the 3 internal pieces are not all the same length, it is now clear which pieces are horizontal pieces and which one goes in a vertical orientation…

Yes! I’ve re-assembled the puzzle and it was super fun. This is a great little puzzle. It’s one of those puzzles with a perfect balance of difficulty and intrigue. It seems almost impossible at times, but there are enough clues available to sort of funnel you into the correct solution. Since the box is open, you can see inside and see all the movements. Thus, using a little logic, you can determine what pieces need to go where – they simply wouldn’t fit in a different orientation. So, armed with a little knowledge and determination, I think this puzzle is very doable for even a novice puzzler.

Solved puzzle was fun, picture is a little crooked.

Theres one or two clever little moves that allow this puzzle to work and I’m excited to run through this one a few times to see if I can really master what is happening. 

The other thing to mention is that this puzzle requires zero rotations. There were a few times where the pieces “wanted” to rotate and I thought that maybe I could remove one with rotations, but I resisted the urge and you should too. Thanks to the incredibly precise nature of this puzzle, it was obvious that rotations were not correct, but if this puzzle were looser – it would be easy to accidentally rotate a piece.

Buy your copy here

Sequential Discovery Burred Box – Junichi Yananose

Oh man, I’m so excited. I just received a package in the mail from Pluredro.com and I am now the proud owner of the Sequential Discovery Burred Box! This particular box was announced on social media (as far as I know) and sold out super quick (In 5 days!). I was on vacation at the time, but managed to sneak an order in when inventory was down to only 3 or 4. Well, I’m glad I put in the order, because this puzzle sure looks like fun.

A Quick Warning! – I’ve tried hard not to include any spoilers in my write-up, BUT, if you own this puzzle and haven’t yet solved it, I would avoid reading any further. You have been warned!

The only spoiler-free image I can show! Many secrets hidden inside this puzzle.

I’m going to do a running commentary for this blog post – I’ll write down my thoughts as they come and try to share in the discovery of solving this puzzle (hopefully!) I want to be careful not to post any spoilers, but also want to share the process – the successes, the failures, the frustrations and ultimately, the triumph! Let’s get started.

This puzzle is super unique. It is a sequential puzzle, that also has a small cavity inside. Is it a puzzle box? Is it a burr? Is it sequential? Yes, yes and yes!

My initial impression is that it is pretty big. It is bigger than my hand, and yet despite that, it is surprisingly light. It is hard to believe that there is a sequential puzzle box incorporated into this common 6-burr shape – but we shall see.

My initial inspection doesn’t reveal much. There are no loose pieces rattling around inside and there is not obvious initial move. It feels solid with very little play between the burr pieces. Closer inspection reveals that there aren’t 6 separate burr pieces either – some of them are fused together or made from a single piece of wood. Ok, enough of the examining, its time to start working on it and see what happens!

Wow! Very quickly, I’ve made my first discovery – and it is pretty exciting. That quick rush of adrenaline that spiked up and down my spine is exactly why I love puzzles. Without revealing any spoilers, I can say that this first discovery has revealed some of the puzzle’s interior and also given me access to a “tool” of sorts. I’ll see if I can put that to use…

But before I use the “tool” I’ve discovered that there are now some movements possible that weren’t possible before. And it’s even more exciting because this new movement now opens up some more areas and also unlocks an additional piece. This is really cool stuff and despite my skepticism this puzzle does indeed hide more secrets than seemed possible.

I’ve managed to use the tool and one of the pieces to make another move and now I am stuck. Is the puzzle solved or is there more to it? I fiddle some more and am feeling pretty certain that there is more to do here. There is still another area that I haven’t touched and then I discover there is also another tool to use! I can use the first tool to free the second! I’m having so much fun here!

There aren’t a lot of options left at this point but I still have to try out a couple of alternatives to see what works. Finally, I notice an area that I had not yet utilized and it just so happened to be the exact size to fit one of the other pieces… But I didn’t have things oriented correctly, so had to give it a second try and YES! I’ve done it! One last little trick and I’ve discovered the small cavity and the “Juno” brand! Wow. That was so cool!

One more shot of puzzle. Very clever indeed.

I’m just amazed at how much was packed into this puzzle. True, it’s not a small puzzle, but my first impression was that it would be pretty simple, and in fact it turned out to have many more moves and sequences than I thought it would have. Lesson learned – don’t judge a puzzle my its’ weight!

Overall, this puzzle was delightful. I really, really enjoyed it and hope that Juno makes many more of these types of puzzles – in fact, I may have to purchase one of his puzzle boxes because I enjoyed this so much. While this particular puzzle is no longer available,  its popularity and quick-selling performance makes me confident that there will be more of this type coming in the next year – and I can’t wait!