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!

Okto Cube – Yavuz Demirhan

Today, we have another beauty from Eric over at Cubicdissection.com. This one is called Okto Cube and was designed by Yavuz Demirhan. This particular puzzle immediately caught my eye when it was listed, and I was very excited to work on it. I love the looks of it and it was equally fun to manipulate and discover it’s secrets.

This is a six piece board burr encased in an eight piece cube. The cube pieces are made out of solid wood which gives this puzzle an overall weight that is pleasing and the boards are well made and strong.

Solving this puzzle took a while. I brought it with me on Thanksgiving vacation, hoping that I would have some quiet evenings to work on it. Well, I didn’t have many quiet evenings, but I did get to work on it extensively, which was great.

I had played with this puzzle a handful of times before I made any real progress. I could move a few of the burr pieces, but always hit the same dead end. Eventually, I discovered that it wasn’t a dead end after all. Once in the “dead end” position, I found that the signed burr piece could move freely. I had missed this move because its quite easy for the pieces to bind up a little. I often had to pull on board pieces to make sure they were fully extended before manipulating the next piece. It seems to loosen up after a bit of use, but is something to watch out for.

Once, the signed burr piece moved, I was then able to remove 2 of the cube pieces, which was a very cool (and scary) moment. I was expecting the puzzle to fall apart at this point, but that wasn’t the case at all, in fact, I had a long way to go.

The Signed board makes an appearance and one cube is removed.

Removing the 2 cube pieces revealed more of the interior and allowed me to see just how complex this puzzle is. There sure are lots of moving parts! I continued to manipulate the puzzle and was able to remove the first board piece. Soon after, I found that 2 more cubes were ready to fall off. Awesome! This thing is really fun.

4 cubes and a board removed. This puzzle is fun!

I continued to manipulate the parts feeling certain that I was close to the end. But no.. the puzzle still held secrets for me to unravel. I persevered and after a bit more manipulation and I removed 2 more cubes! I was now down to the final 2 cubes!

This is where things got really interesting for me. I was working on the puzzle in front of the tv, sitting with family, and I just didn’t have the focus I needed. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get it back together again! I was hoping that the final 2 cubes would come off easily, but that wasn’t the case. I was having to do more movements than I could keep track of and I made the decision to stop and reassemble. Bah! I always seem to do this. Luckily, I was able to get the puzzle back together, but I was a bit ashamed that I didn’t finish it.

I ended my vacation and flew home defeated. I had come so close to the solution, but didn’t quite get there. 

Well, last night, I sat down, determined to redeem myself and finally solve this puzzle. I progressed through all the stages and once again found myself with the final 2 cube pieces attached to 4 burrs. I slowed myself down and analyzed the situation. There were a surprising amount of available moves and positions that I could find and eventually, I tried a combination of positions not previously attempted and voila! The 2 remaining cubes slid right off! Disassembling the final 4 burr pieces was not trivial either, but I got it done.

Okto Cube Disassembled

Whew! That was an awesome puzzle! 

But.. it wasn’t over yet. I still had to assemble the puzzle. Interestingly, I didn’t have much trouble on the assembly. I think that my aborted attempt during thanksgiving vacation had given me a better understanding of the moves required, and so assembly felt rather easy. I think the most difficult part was getting it started. For some reason, I seem to have trouble assembling the initial 4 burr pieces. But once that is complete and I had slid on the first two cubes, it was all downhill from there. 

I’ve since solved this puzzle a couple of times. I had to take some pictures and also wanted to better understand the mechanics behind it all. It is truly a remarkable puzzle and it is very repeatable once you understand the required positions. This is now one of my favorite puzzles! Check it out if you can!

Okto Cube looking all dramatic in the light

Two Face 3 – Alfons Eyckmans

This week, I have another fantastic burr puzzle created by Eric Fuller and designed by Alfons Eyckmans. This one is called Two Face 3 and is one special puzzle – I’m still reeling from having just completed it.

To begin with, this puzzle is a beautiful work of art. Its visual appearance is stunning – the construction is superb and the choice of woods really elevates the whole design. It’s a 6 piece burr, but unique in that there are two outer cages that can move independently of each other. The inner cage has a few strategically placed cubes and cutouts that combine to make this not only a difficult puzzle, but also a very clever one. The construction of the cages is incredibly sturdy and they fit together very tightly making for a very solid feeling puzzle.

Beautiful construction and and high difficulty make this puzzle shine

The overall design is very clever. The use of two cages is not just for looks either, it factors into the solution. 

This was another intimidating puzzle for me. It sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks before I started to tinker with it, and then it was another week until I really decided to put some effort into it. Whether it’s intimidation or a desire to relish the puzzle as long as possible, I find that sometimes, I’m just content to let it sit. Maybe I don’t want the experience to be over, so I procrastinate a bit, I let the puzzle breath like a fine wine, until that perfect moment arrives and then I sit down with a job to do.

And so, I finally sat down with this one last week and began to seriously work on it. I began exploring different moves and discovered some typical burr-type moves, but didn’t make any real progress. I kept going in circles, with no real progress made.

Going in circles moving pieces around

I spent a number of sessions doing this. Moving pieces, feeling like progress was made only to find myself back at the beginning. Early sessions like this are enjoyable to me – I don’t really want to solve it quickly, I just want to enjoy the experience for a while and Two Face 3 really delivered the goods. But, that said, after a certain number of sessions, i start to feel like I need to make some more progress – so, I increase my focus and start trying abnormal moves.

This yielded some success for me as I discovered an interesting placement for one of the pieces. Surely I was on to something here! But, even with this new discovery, I couldn’t make any progress. I was able to revert back to the beginning position and then repeat the move, but it still didn’t yield any solution. 

After a few more sessions, I discovered a similar move at another location and then knew I was making progress. But, to my dismay, the solution still wasn’t there. Man, this puzzle really takes some work! I spent another day working various moves but couldn’t make progress. I had to be on the right track didn’t I?

Well, one morning, I took the half-solved puzzle to work with me and sat there fiddling with the pieces when suddenly, one fell out! Holy crap! I didn’t expect that, but apparently I had done the right thing and was rewarded. I spent the next 15 minutes carefully removing the remaining pieces and then bathed in glory as I examined all the pieces and marveled at the craftsmanship.

Then, fear set in. I went from joyful elation to fear. I was so happy to have solved the puzzle that I forgot to pay attention to the orientation and position of the 2 cages and the burr pieces. I didn’t really think about the fact that the 2 cages could be put together in 8 different ways… and if they weren’t put together correctly, then there’s no way the burr pieces would fit… How on earth was I going to get this thing back together…?

All the pieces have been removed! Halfway there!

Well, the good news was I had taken various photos while tinkering with the puzzle. So, I went back and took a look at those photos and was able to deduce the orientation and placement of the 2 cages – phew – crisis averted. Although, that would have made one heck of a challenge – to start with this puzzle completely disassembled and go from there. Maybe one day..

Anyway, even though I had the orientation of the cages documented, I still didn’t know how to reassemble this thing. I did keep track of the order in which I removed the burr pieces, and that would prove helpful, but it wouldn’t move the puzzle for me.

In the end it took me at least another 3 hours to put it back together. It’s a tricky puzzle and requires a very specific sequence to solve it. Interestingly, I employed a rotation to put it back together – I’m not convinced that it was entirely necessary, but at a certain point, rotating the burr piece allowed another piece to move where I wanted it and then I rotated the original piece back. Again, not sure if it was necessary, but I remember playing with a rotation when disassembling too, so perhaps it is required.

This may be the most difficult burr puzzle I’ve ever solved and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not eager to solve it again anytime soon, but I do think I will revisit it one day and see if I can get a better handle on how it works. Highly recommended if you enjoy this type of puzzle – and there are even some left at cubicdissection.com

Six Rings #2 – Andrew Crowell

Today, I’m looking at a puzzle designed by Andrew Crowell and built by Brian Manold at Woodwonders. This is my first purchase from Brian, but it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, I’m having a hard time not pulling the trigger on the Perfect 11 and Evolution II puzzles still available on his site. Where does one draw the line when it comes to purchasing puzzles?

I was attracted to the description of this puzzle – “I learned that Andrew had written his own program to design his puzzles. He was able to come up with some very creative rotations in this way.” Creative rotations sound fun and a custom program to design puzzles? Color me intrigued!

Anyway, the puzzle arrived quickly along with a couple of other ones I had ordered, and Brian even threw in a free gift puzzle since I was a first time customer. Awesome! (I’m still working on the gift puzzle..) And my first impression of these puzzles – They smell great! No, seriously, these puzzles have a unique smell and I can’t get enough. There must be a light stain or oil on the wood, and as weird as it may sound, I was delighted to rip open the shrink wrap and awaken my olfactory senses. In my mind, I was transported to the workshop and could feel the fine craftsmanship oozing from the mix of woods.

Ok, ok, enough of how the puzzles smell. How do they solve? Well, this is one interesting puzzle. It really has some fun moves and the shapes are so unusual that it presents a nice challenge.

I spent the first 5 minutes just trying to get something to move. The puzzle felt solid and tight and no matter how I tried to pull, push and twist, I couldn’t get anything to budge. This made me happy, clearly there was something going on that I hadn’t figured out yet. The puzzle required me to focus, to concentrate, this wasn’t going to be an easy stroll through the park.

Where to begin? Push and Pull as I might, the cube didn’t budge.

After a few more minutes of play, I found the opening move and shortly after that I discovered the first rotation. Wow, this is a really fun move that I had to repeat over and over because it was just so well executed.

Finally, I was ready to move on and solve this thing. But alas, I was stuck. Surely I had the opening moves correct, but I wasn’t sure about the 5th move. There was a small “trapped” piece on the inside of the cube and I spent a good amount of time manipulating that piece. It could rotate a few different ways and there were several pockets it could be moved into. However, none of these options seemed to release any pieces.

It only takes a few moves to turn this symmetrical cube into a lopsided monstrosity.

I re-assembled the puzzle and started again. I wasn’t in a hurry to solve it because the opening moves were fun to execute, but eventually, I had to move on, so I tried something different and finally discovered how to unlock the first piece. The trapped piece came out next and I was left with only 3 pieces.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way these 3 larger pieces interlock is really quite beautiful. It isn’t particularly difficult to get them apart – In fact the pieces are so unique that there aren’t that many options for them to move, but it is very satisfying and even a little surprising how they interact.

What happened to the cube!

The first time I re-assembled the puzzle I was a little intimidated. I didn’t spend much time memorizing positions or anything, I just figured I could get it back together – and I was right, it’s not too difficult, a little perseverance will do the trick. But, it sure was fun.

This is a very enjoyable puzzle that had enough surprises to keep me interested and was difficult enough to keep me engaged. There is one rotation in particular that is very enjoyable and made me feel like Indiana Jones pulling the lever on some ancient treasure. I think the tolerances, build quality and design all work together to really make this puzzle shine. I look forward to purchasing many more puzzles from Andrew and Brian both.

The Puzzle is disassembled. Take a look at those funky pieces!