Casino – Dr. Volker Latussek

Last Friday, I received a shipment from Cubicdissection.com with 6 different puzzles including Casino, Split Maze Burr and Cranium. It was a hard decision which one to write about because I so desperately wanted to play with them all! In the end, I chose Casino. I have never done it before and I’ve heard great things, so off we go!

First off – Wow! This puzzle is supremely gorgeous. It definitely got the Eric Fuller mega-upgrade treatment and it turned out spectacular! I love the inlay – the alternating Walnut and Maple look so clean and stylish and really stand out against the Cherry Box. The chips are equally well-made and the whole experience of handling this puzzle is really just top notch.

The puzzle consists of a box and 6 chips which must be placed inside the box. Its very easy to get 5 chips in, but that 6th one doesn’t fit. The round shapes don’t work very well with packing and the box has a little lip on two sides that frustratingly interferes with everything.

Place the 6 coins into the box. What a gorgeous puzzle. Wow!

Well I’ve only been playing around for about 15 minutes, but feel like I’m real close to a solution. I can see how all the chips should fit into the box, but one of the pieces is just a few centimeters shy of fitting in the opening. I really thought I had it solved there for a second, but I guess I need a more calculated approach.

And after another 15 minutes, I feel lost. I removed the pieces and I’m not sure that I have things correct anymore. There was a moment were I really could visualize where the pieces should go, but now, I’ve lost the image and I no longer see.

Its easy to get 5 pieces in, but that 6th one just doesn’t want to fit!

Ok, another few minutes and I’m back to the beginning again. I can see the solution. I can visualize where the chips need to go. I just can’t get them there. There has to be a sequence of moves to accomplish what I want because the old “force it in” trick isn’t doing the job.

..And Done! Yee haw! That was pretty exciting there. I was hot on the trail of the solution from the beginning and pretty quickly was able to determine the position the chips needed to be in. But, there’s definitely a delightful little trick to getting them into position. It seems a lot of packing puzzles have a similar type of trick. There’s always a little adjustment that needs to be made and a sequence that needs to be considered. Sometimes pieces have to be “pre-loaded” before they are utilized in a move.

Solved. I tried to get a low angle shot so as not to spoil the solution.

But what a fun little puzzle this was. I’m a little sad that I’ve solved is so quickly, but it will be a great puzzle on the shelf and a perfect “family-stumper” puzzle that I can pull out and hand off to anyone up for the challenge.

Its such a nice puzzle because it’s so accessible. And in fact, so are all of Latussek’s puzzles that I’ve worked with. I recently picked up Tower of London and Bastille from Rombol.de and both of those share a lot in common with Casino. Latussek just has a way of working with round pieces and creating interesting packing problems that are simple in concept, very approachable but deceptively difficult.

It’s interesting because I think it’s the roundness of the pieces that make these puzzles what they are. At first the round pieces seemed very different to me, as compared to typical square puzzle pieces, and so I didn’t know quite how to approach these puzzles. I was thrown off by the roundness you could say. But in the end, I kind of forced myself to ignore the shape of the pieces and instead focus on the orientation, position and sequence.

Casino is a great puzzle, I can see why it is so popular. If you enjoyed it, then you should check out Tower of London and Bastille over at Rombol.de – maybe if we are lucky, Eric will get permission on those too!

Wave Puzzle 7 – Yuu Asaka

I am super excited for this one! I’ve been eyeing these acrylic puzzles designed by Yuu Asaka for quite some time now. They are very intriguing to me for a few different reasons and I can’t wait to get started.

I’ve done a ton of jigsaw puzzles in my day and so these seem in the same vein. They are 2D and essentially comprised of puzzle pieces, however, Asaka’s puzzles must fit into a tray, so they are also packing puzzles. I really haven’t done any 2D puzzles of this sort, so I’m really excited to see how it goes.

I love the initial presentation. 6 pieces already fill the tray, there’s no room for any more!

My first impression is great. I love that this puzzle has COLOR! Most of my collection is wooden or metal, so its nice to see the vibrant orange acrylic pieces. I also love the presentation. Although nothing new, I like these framed puzzles that appear to be full of pieces and then off to the side is an extra piece. To me, that set-up in itself is a kind of challenge that I feel compelled to accept.

The shapes themselves are very interesting. All are tall and narrow with fairly minor variations. It would seem that they should be able to nest together in such a way as to complete the puzzle, but I suspect that there is more going on here than that.

After about 15 minutes I have some thoughts.

7 orange acrylic pieces must fit into the tray, but is there room?

Well my first assumption was that this would be fairly easy to solve. Ha! I should have known better. I’ve even read a few description here and there where this puzzle was described as very difficult, still, I was feeling cocky and merely by looking at it I though, “Meh, I bet I can solve that one quick!”

There are many configurations, but only one solution

Well 15 minutes into my solving attempt and I’ve been schooled. I had assumed that with only 7 pieces, there couldn’t be that many configurations. After all, I thought, a single piece could only be oriented 4 different ways… right? Wrong. It just so happens that there are other configurations that I ha not forseen. Oh my, suddenly there are exponentially more potential solutions. Looks like I’ve severely underestimated the difficulty here.

But, on a bright note, I do feel that I am on to something. I quickly abandoned the “all vertical” strategy and have started playing with a mixture of orientations. This is yielding better results and I feel that I am moving on the right track. At the same time, there are 2 acrylic pieces that have me questioning everything. They have very small indents and there’s no real way to fill them except by perhaps the corner of one of the other pieces – but I just don’t see any way to have pieces at angles – as would be required to put the corner of one piece into the small indent. Maybe those two small indents are decoys and have no practical use. So much to ponder…

After another 20 minutes, I’ve started to feel a little helpless. There just seem to be so many combinations and the shapes are so similar that its kind of hard to keep track of things and its hard to get any pieces to “feel right” when I put them in place. I continue to work trying endless variations, flipping pieces over, re-orienting them, swapping positions, etc. There’s no methodology here, its just trial and error, keep pushing forward. Likely I’m repeating moves, but at this point, I don’t care, I just keep trying things.

At some point, I start to get close to the solution. I can feel it. All the pieces are going in except the last one is just slightly overlapping. I’ve changed the layout a few times and finally feel like I have the correct arrangement – its just a matter of getting the pieces in the right position. A few times I get down to that last piece and its just slightly overlapping another, so I swap pieces out and try again.

And then, as I’m saying “come on! come on!” I get it right and that final piece slides in!! Hell Yeah!! That was awesome!! What a cool puzzle! What a great solution and what a nice and deceptive initial set-up! I may have lucked into the solution a bit, but I really do think I was following a process of elimination sort of path and just kept pushing forward and happened upon the solution. In all honesty, I was getting pretty close to taking a break and fears were starting to creep in that this might be “one of those puzzles” that sits on the shelf unsolved.

But, this story ends differently because I managed to get the solution. Looking at the solved puzzle really reveals how clever it is. I can imagine these pieces cut out of a single block and its deceptively clever. I will definitely be adding more Asaka puzzles to my collection because this one was just plain fun and excitement.

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 www.wood-database.com) 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!

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.

Doable 12 – Junichi Yananose

Wooooo boy. This week, I have Doable 12 created by Juno over at Pluredro. This is my Third puzzle from Pluredro and I anticipate that I will be ordering many more over the coming months and years.

Doable 12 is a 12-piece burr that is labeled as “very difficult” – but as the name implies – “Doable” The 12 pieces are constructed of Juno-created plywood comprised of Black Walnut and European Beech. The plywood is then shaped with a CNC router. This results is a beautiful looking puzzle that is incredibly sturdy and pleasing to hold.

My first impression is that the puzzle is quite large. It easily fills two hands. It’s also easy to manipulate. The fitting of the puzzle is intentionally a little loose to prevent grabbing when you manipulate the pieces and I have to say, I think this was a wise choice. There is zero binding or other issues when playing with this puzzle where I think if the tolerances were tighter, it would be very difficult to manipulate.

12 separate pieces of Black Walnut and European Beech make up this wonderful puzzle.

Onward, we go past the descriptions and into the solving process.

This is a puzzle that wants to move! While some puzzles have a tricky opener, this one has multiple moves available straight out of the gate. In fact, I found myself quickly getting lost in the early stages of exploration. There were a few different paths I could go down and each path had further branches and all of them felt like they could keep going. So, for the first half hour, I would cautiously venture down a path and a branch until I was a few moves in and then would back out. I was trying to explore all the options to get my head wrapped around the possibilities.

Eventually, I found a move that seemed to significantly progress things. Once I had the puzzle in this new state, I had a few new options available and the puzzle began to significantly loosen up. I knew I was on the right track, but as things began to loosen up, I began to get nervous. What if I lost my place and couldn’t figure out how to get back to the start? Maybe I’m too conservative when solving puzzles, but I’ve been burned in the past by moving too quickly and then getting lost.

So, back and forth I went. I’d move 9-10 moves in and play around a little bit and then back out again. I’d set the puzzle down, then pick it up and once again progress 9-10 moves in, this time, I’d find an 11th move and then back out. This was my process, but the problem was, I had no idea how many moves it would take to release the first piece. Maybe I was only one move away? But maybe, I was 10 moves away. It felt close, but you never know, so I continued with this solving method.

And then, it happened. The first piece came out! Wow, I was so close for so long, but those nervous thoughts had me backing out over and over. Well, this time, I got it done. One piece removed. I wonder whether this is the beginning or the end…

Ok, well with one piece out, the puzzle is now very loose. I’m trying to delicately move the pieces around to see if anything else is ready to be removed and sure enough, another piece comes out with ease. It seems that the first piece was indeed the lynchpin – once removed, the rest come out with few or no additional moves.

The 12 pieces laid out in a dramatic light

Whew! So now I sit with a pile of pieces and a decision to make. I’m fairly certain that I could put the puzzle back together by retracing my steps (and utilizing a couple of photos I took with my cellphone) However, this puzzle is called doable for a reason. It’s supposed to be doable. That means, I should be able to get it back together without computer or camera aid. So, that’s what I’m going to attempt.

See, the 12 pieces are actually comprised of 6 pairs. The 6 pairs are joined by unique “puzzle-piece” type cuts that make them unique and thus finding the 6 pairs is easy enough. Had these pairs been joined with straight edge cuts, then there would be no possible way to tell what goes together (outside of tedious trial and error) So, at least I have that going for me. The next step is going to be to try to determine how these 6 joined pairs fit together. If I can figure that out, then all that remains is the sequence of events.

The 12 pieces arranged into 6 pairs. Without these unique joining-cuts this puzzle would be infinitely more difficult.

After another couple of hours of work, I’ve had some success and some failure. Through lots of trial and error, I eventually figured out the position of the 6 pairs. The hardest part for me was keeping track of what I had tried and what I hadn’t tried. And attempting to fit together these pieces without the puzzle exploding in my hands or knocking over was challenging. Many times, I’d feel like I was getting close to the solution only to have some pieces slip in my hands which would cause a catastrophic failure. I’d then have to spend a lot of time reconstructing the pieces back to where they were.

Eventually, though, I was sure that I had things correct. I could get 9-10 of the pieces together and could see that the remaining 2-3 pieces would surely fit. However, getting them in place was another story. I tried many times but ultimately failed to put this puzzle together from scratch and gave up.

Defeated in that endeavor, I pulled up some of the photos on my phone and used those as a reference. I eventually got the puzzle back together though the steps were a bit challenging. There are just so many interlocking pieces that it was a difficult to get everything sewn up just right. It almost felt like a coordinated motion puzzle for me in that I wish I had another hand or two to hold things steady. I would guess that if I knew the correct method that things would have done together better.

The completed puzzle. Back together, but not mastered… not yet.

In the end, this is a really fun puzzle. I feel slightly defeated because I didn’t get it together from scratch, but I feel like if I put in enough effort, I could have done it. This one will have to go in the “must revisit” pile for a rainy day.


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.

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.