Tower of London – Dr. Volker Latussek

I recently ordered a handful of puzzles from and among them is Tower of London, designed by Volker Latussek. This particular puzzle caught my eye and having recently completed Casino, I wanted to give another one of his designs a try.

To start with, all the puzzles produced by Rombol are fairly inexpensive – especially when compared to Pelikan or Cubic Dissection. So I was curious. Would I enjoy Rombol puzzles as much as the others, or would I be disappointed by the workmanship? It’s great to be able to buy puzzles for around $20 each, but if they fall apart or give me splinters then it’s probably not worth it.

Tower of London is comprised of a Palm wood box with a hole in each side. Inside the box are 6 balls made of Halvea wood. Overall, the appearance is very nice, the Palm wood is a great choice and at first glance, this puzzle seems to be well made. Closer inspection reveals some of the limitations. The box construction is very simple, the finish is a bit rough and just the overall feel tells me that this puzzle was made on a budget.

But the good news is that the puzzle works just fine and at $20, it is about what I expected. So, no real complaints from me.

The object of this puzzle is to remove the balls from the box. It seems very simple, but in fact it is a little tricky. The balls always seem “close” to coming out, but no matter how they are arranged, close isn’t good enough. There is temptation to try to force the balls out, and I do wonder how this puzzle will age over the years. How hard is the wood? Will the balls deform? Will the hole in the wall grow larger as the balls are forced out? Time will tell, but indications so far are positive.

There are 6 balls inside, your mission is to remove them.

For me, this puzzle wasn’t all that difficult. The hardest part is figuring out how to hold onto and manipulate the balls through the port holes. I was able to reach 3 fingers inside to manipulate the balls, but balls being round makes them inherently difficult to manipulate as they tend to spin. There aren’t really that many possible solutions, so it was just a matter of holding one of the balls while I tilted the box and manipulated the rest to make room for extraction. I think most people could solve this in under half an hour and experienced puzzlers should get it in under 15 minutes. But, despite its’ relative ease, this is still a very fun puzzle.

The balls have been removed. Your mission is to put them back in!

In fact, this is the perfect puzzle to hand out to friends, family and kids. There’s nothing to break and it is accessible enough that it shouldn’t frustrate. My 6 year old can’t solve it yet, but nor does he break it or lose pieces. I always like to have these “community” puzzles around so that I don’t feel bad about guarding the more treasured ones. And this is a great Community puzzle.

I need to take a moment to compare this puzzle to Casino. I loved Casino and really enjoyed the steps necessary to reach the solution. There was a very specific set of moves to pack all those chips in the box. Alternatively, Tower of London doesn’t require a specific set of moves – the solution is simpler and it can be solved with luck and determination – The strategy of “just play with it until a piece falls out” would probably work here.

And the final question – if you can get puzzles for $20, why pay $50+? I think this is a valid question and it probably deserves its’ own post, but the quick answer is – you get what you pay for. I think for some puzzles, it is totally worth it to spend the big bucks – you are getting a heirloom quality pieces of art that will be around forever. And for some puzzles, I think the $20 version is just fine. If this particular puzzle were made by Pelikan for $50, I probably wouldn’t buy it as I don’t think a higher quality version would offer anything new. But for puzzles with interlocking pieces, and for designs that require strict tolerances, I’d definitely spend the money.

Along with Tower of London, I picked up a few other puzzles from and with some of them (most notably interlocking puzzles such as Convolution) there is a much, much bigger difference in the puzzling experience.

Final thoughts – serves a purpose. They offer nice puzzles at a budget price. Will I stop buying expensive puzzles and stick with Rombol exclusively? No way. Will I make another purchase from Rombol? Definitely. Sometimes its just worth it to buy a puzzle that I can’t otherwise find. Other times, the type of puzzle dictates that a lesser quality version will work just fine. And lastly, sometimes there is just too much time between puzzle releases and I need something to play with.

Whatever your motivation, I would recommend checking out Shipping takes a while, but you can’t find better budget puzzles anywhere else.

ARACNA – Alfons Eyckmans

Ok, Today I have ARACNA by Alfons Eyckmans. The name makes sense considering what is inside the puzzle, but for some reason, I’ve been saying “Arcana” to myself the last week or so. Ah well, sometimes the eye sees what it wants and not what’s really there.

Anyway, this is a new puzzle from Pelikan and its beautiful. I know, I know – I say that about all the puzzles (especially Pelikan puzzles) – but this one is pretty special. I bought the Ovangkol variant which has stunning wood grains. Fun Fact – If Ovangkol gets wet, it releases a strong unpleasant odor! (I just read that over at While I am tempted to experience the odor, I don’t think I’ll be dunking this puzzle anytime soon.

Onward! Let’s solve this beast. Well, I’ve been playing with this puzzle for about 15 minutes now and it is very fun. It took me a while to locate the first couple moves, but now, 3 moves in I’ve hit a deadend. At this point nothing wants to move – but I’ve got to be very careful because its quite easy to hide moves when you have 12 pieces that can all potentially move in multiple direction.

Well, I had to backtrack a bit and find a new path. I’m now 6 moves in and things are heating up. And by heating up, I mean falling apart. As the puzzle moves towards its’ solution, it will becomes looser and looser (I assume). At this stage, its still locked together quite nicely, but I can sense that in another few moves things will open up.

Pieces starting to move and a tiny peak of what’s inside

I’m not sure how many moves in I am at this point, but I just had a very excellent breakthrough moment where a block of pieces all slid together as one unit. I muttered an audible “What the F!” as two major groups of blocks just moved apart from one another. How cool is that!!?

Well, it may be cool, but it’s also scary. This puzzle feels like its barely holding together so I’ll have to proceed carefully and methodically if I don’t want it to fall apart on me. I feel like I should be able to remove a piece at this point and indeed, there is a piece that is very loose, the problem is that the ends are too big for it to exit the available hole. I’ll have to keep searching.

Oh my. After playing a little longer, I discovered some additional moves that I could make with 2 particular pieces. This little shuffle then released the first piece! Wow, I didn’t expect that piece to release first but there it is. Wow, this puzzle gets really intense at this point. I’ve been feeling like I’m real deep in the weeds here, kind of beyond the point of no return, but still close to familiar ground so retreat may be possible. And the more I manipulate the pieces, the looser the overall structure gets and all these little movements are happening that I can’t keep track of and then wammo, that first piece drops out.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get this back together or not, but lets keep forging ahead. Well, I took the next 2 pieces out in a very un-puzzlelike way. There was no sliding or calculated move, I just grabbed them and pulled them out!

Well with 4 pieces out, I’d expect the puzzle to fall apart. Nope. It’s being stubborn and requiring more effort. But, a few more minutes of tinkering is all it takes and piece number 5 comes out. The puzzle is not done yet, as the next few pieces take some additional moves. After that, it’s all over and the spider is released – It’s Huge!

The spider sits atop his home. Don’t worry spider, I’ll get it back together

Ah, what an excellent puzzle. Its got everything I’m looking for. The difficulty was perfect – it is challenging enough that it takes a good amount of focus, but its not overly difficult. I didn’t feel frustrated at any point – there was always a move to be made – just not always the correct one. There were also a number of great a-ha! moments too. And finally, once the puzzle is solved, you get to see the treasure inside!

Now on to the assembly. I’m not gonna lie here – I took photos of disassembly and I plan to use those to reassemble. I think a blind reassembly is beyond my abilities – especially with 12 pieces! You would think that the enclosed arachnid would make assembly easier, and perhaps it does, but it’s still not easy enough for me to attempt.

Big ole pile of burr sticks. Wood grains are spectacular.

As is, it still took me close to an hour to get this puzzle back together. It was not easy, but it was fun and I felt a nice zing of joy when it finally went back together. The difficulty is getting all the piece in just right before adding the final 3-4 pieces. And those final 3-4 pieces were quite challenging as the puzzle felt like it was going to fall apart at any minute. And even once those final pieces go in, there are still a few tenuous moves before the puzzle “holds together.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle. Manipulating the pieces was very satisfying thanks to the amazing craftsmanship and the final moves were especially fun – both in the assembly and disassembly. The difficulty was spot on as well. I had to work for the solution, but I was never stonewalled for long. The assembly was difficult though. I’d like to revisit it one day and see if I can find a more elegant solution as I felt clumsy and desperate.

Happy Puzzling!

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.

Six Face – Andrew Crowell

This week, I have Six Face – designed by Andrew Crowell and crafted by Brian Menold over at Wood Wonders. I’m very happy to have picked this up as it looks very similar to Six Rings, which was awesome, so I’m hoping this one is just as fun.

First off, this puzzle is an absolute beauty. There were 3 different wood combinations available when these were first listed and I quickly ordered the East Indian Rosewood, Ebarria and Koa variety and I am more than pleased with how it looks in person. Not only does this puzzle look great, but the fit and finish are spot on and it is a joy to manipulate.

The initial move is well hidden and it takes a lot of experimental pushing and pulling on various pieces to find it. When I finally found it, I was a bit shocked. 3 little moves and a big ole chunk of the puzzle comes right out! Usually, there is a lot more manipulating necessary to release that first piece, but not with this design.

The first big chunk has been removed. It gets harder from here.

Also interesting is the fact that soon after that first chunk is removed, I have 3 separate smaller pieces to manipulate. They are seemingly trapped as I can’t remove them, but they do have some limited movement, back and forth, up and down. I play with these movements for a while and soon realize that there must be more going on. So, I try a couple of new things and discover that 2 of these pieces can sort of do-si-so around each other which allows the 3rd piece to move to a new location. All this then allows a big chunk to slide up and one of the smaller pieces can then be removed.

About to remove the first small piece

Its quite a sequence to get this far and these are very cool and clever movements that feel unique and exciting. I’m not sure how Andrew does it, but all his puzzles seem to have this same quality to them.

The next set of moves took me a while to figure out. There are now 2 “free” smaller pieces that can move within the puzzle and there’s the bigger chunk that can still move up and down, but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to unlock any of them. I discovered that one of the pieces could be rotated, but that didn’t seem to help much. Eventually, I had my epiphany and figured out a delightful sequence of 8 moves with one rotation that allowed one of the smaller pieces to be removed. Once again these clever movements had me smiling to myself in astonishment!

With only 3 pieces left it should have been easy at this point, but I was overthinking things and struggled for a bit to remove that final tiny piece. It was actually a lot more straightforward than I was making it out to be and once I took a closer look at the puzzle, I was able to pull that final tiny piece out.

At this point all that was left was two intertwined “bigger” chunks and they come apart easily – though it does involve another rotation and is wonderfully marvelous how they fit together.

All the pieces have been disassembled. Beautiful wood and an excellent design.

This puzzle has the same joy of discovery as 6 rings did. There’s something magical about holding a puzzle for the first time – knowing that it can be unlocked with knowledge – and knowing that with enough persistence, I can gain that knowledge. For me it’s like holding an unread book. There is excitement and anticipation and a crackling of energy in the air and this puzzle did not disapoint.

Some puzzles excite me and some feel tedious. I suppose I like Andrew’s puzzles because I can solve them, yet they provide a good amount of challenge. They are never frustrating and when I finally figure out the moves, I greatly enjoy basking in the dreamy glow of accomplishment. Overall, a great design, fantastic craftsmanship and joyous moves make this one of my favorites.

giganTIC – Andrew Crowell

Today, I visit giganTIC designed by Andrew Crowell and wonderfully crafted by Brian Manold over at Wood Wonders Online. I have bought a number of puzzles from Brian recently, but most of them remain unsolved including Perfect 11, I&i, Jitter Soma and Inelegant Cube. Hopefully, I’ll have time in the next few weeks to get to those. But, in the meantime, I have spent the last couple of nights getting to know giganTIC.

The beautifully crafted giganTIC puzzle designed by Andrew Crowell

This is a fantastic puzzle. Despite it’s name, its a little smaller than a typical 4×4 cube. But perhaps it’s the number of moves required that encouraged its name. At 10.10, this is a moderately difficult puzzle that is extremely fun to explore and understand.

The puzzle itself is incredibly beautiful. The selection of exotic woods really makes this one special. I have spent a lot of time holding the individual pieces are marveling at the wood grains. Two pieces in particular are especially nice – the lacewood section with its very conspicuous flecking and the dark brown wood that contains streaks of light brown (sorry don’t know the name of this wood!).

Solving this puzzle is a joy. As with most of these Crowell design TICs, the first move is fairly well hidden and requires pushing and pulling pieces as you spin the cube around. Eventually, the first move is found and soon thereafter is the first rotation. There are a couple of dead ends possibilities, but the path to the solution is mostly straightforward.

The first piece has moved which starts to unlock the mysteries contained within.

I spent bit of time wandering in circles somewhere around the 7-8th move. I couldn’t quite figure out what was next. It was then that I re-read the description and saw that this was a 10.10 solution puzzle. This narrowed down my options as I knew that the 10th move had to remove a piece.

On a side note – I wonder if puzzles descriptions should include the number of moves required to solve it. Isn’t it a bit of a spoiler to know ahead of time how many moves are required? I often use this information as another clue to help me solve the puzzle, but I wonder if I am robing myself of some of experience by utilizing this knowledge? If I didn’t know that this was a 10.10 puzzle, how would that have changed the experience?

The first piece has been removed from the puzzle, only 10 more moves to go!

Anyway, back to the puzzle – After the first pieces is removed, I was again stuck. I continued to cycle through all the known moves – I would return the puzzle back to the start – minus the one piece, and then would work forward again to the spot where I removed the piece and would hit the dead end. There didn’t seem to be any other options. But then, like any decent puzzler, I forced myself to try other options and soon enough found a new path forward.

The new path quickly revealed the answer and with a final rotation, the puzzle separated into two halves. Wow, this thing is really cool!

Puzzle has been disassembled! The wood used in this puzzle is just beautiful.

Overall, The puzzle is kind of split into two separate sets of movement. The first 10 moves remove a cornerstone piece and then the next 10 moves separates the puzzle into two halves and the rest is trivial from there. The moves are really quite unique though, with a number or rotations mixed in as well as other hidden moves that are exciting to find.

It’s hard to imagine that so many mysteries could be hidden in 64 voxel cube. It seems like there should be a finite amount of interesting puzzling options – and I’m sure there are, but to my mind, there are many more options than would seem possible. Andrew seems to have a knack for designing these really creative puzzles that are full of unique and interesting moves. Each step along the way is delightful and satisfying and I can’t wait for more.

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 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 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


Funzzle – Gamma

Ahh, another Funzzle puzzle. This time, its the Gamma. This one looks fairly complex and difficult. Let’s see if I can get it opened.

The first thing I notice is that this puzzle is pretty loose. It doesn’t fall apart, but it does feel like it might fall apart if you hold it wrong. A number of pieces slide back and forth and it seems like there will be a lot of combinations to work through here.

I took the initial, disassembly phase, really slowly. I know I have to put it back together, so I want to pay close attention to what I’m doing. I didn’t want to just wiggle out pieces, I wanted to get the specific moves memorized and accounted for, so that I could reverse things.

With that disclaimer in place, I’ll admit that getting the first piece out took me a while – maybe close to an hour total. There were a few different sequences I tried, but they were all dead ends, then I finally found a sequence that seemed like it would work. At this point, I worked the sequence forward and back a number of times until I felt that I had it memorized. It takes 6-7 moves to remove the first piece.

This was the first piece to be removed.

Once I had the first piece removed, it was easy – or so I thought… Actually, it took me another 15 minutes to remove the second piece. Again, I felt that I could just rattle the puzzle around and eventually the next piece would fall out, but I wanted to be sure I was being systematic, so I returned the puzzle back to the starting point – minus one piece, and then worked out the moves to remove the second piece.

The second piece being removed

Once the second piece was removed, the rest were relatively easy to remove. Once I got down to the final 3-4 pieces, I again focused in on how they were connected. I wanted the best chance to reassemble this, so was trying to really focus and remember these crucial steps.

The puzzle has been deconstructed.

Once I had it apart, I quickly celebrated and then started reassembly. Thing went pretty smooth. The initial construction – putting the 3 white pieces together was a little trickier than I thought it would be, but once those three were correct, it was fairly simple to add the next 4 brown pieces – and thats where things got tricky.

The second to last piece just didn’t want to go. I had everything lined up correctly, I think, but there didn’t seem to be any room. After a bit of head banging, I shifted some things around and it opened up for me. Adding the final piece was actually easy because I had practiced that move so many times that I had it memorized.

Overall, this was a fun puzzle. It is apparently a knock-off of a Stephane Chomine design – I’d love to check out the original – and in fact, I did find a breakdown of the original design here. Its hard to tell, but I don’t see many (if any) difference between the two which would lead me to thinking this is a straight up copy of Chomine’s work, but I could be wrong on this.

Hanayama Nutcase

I picked up the Hanayama Nutcase last week and finally got a chance to dedicate a little time to it over the weekend. Overall, I liked the puzzle. It felt impossible at first and it’s always satisfying to solve a puzzle that starts off as “impossible”.

The object of the puzzle, like most Hanayama puzzles is to take it apart and then put it back together. The two nuts easily turn, but there is no apparent way to remove them from the bolt.

Closer inspection reveals some interesting details. There is a loose nut that rattles around inside the bolt. I quickly determined that it was unlikely to help in the solution. The inside of the bolt was smooth and there was nothing for that loose bolt to catch onto, nor were there any pockets for it to fit into.

The outside of the bolt, however, held some of the clues needed for the solution. After playing with this puzzle for about an hour, I set it down to go take a shower. It was at that moment that I had an idea of what was going on. The idea just hit me upside the head and I was suddenly sure I had the answer. At that point, I was thinking that I could solve it in 5 minutes.Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Although my solution was correct, it took another hour or so to finally get it right.

This puzzle is a bit loose and tinkery. Even when you have the solution, it isn’t exactly easy to get everything perfect, thus the puzzle isn’t quite as enjoyable as it should be. I have a number of Hanayama puzzles that are of excellent build quality and tolerances, this one just doesn’t measure up.

solved puzzle, no secrets revealed

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster