## FastMaze #1 – Dan Fast

FastMaze #1 arrived today and I am beyond excited to give this a try. Ever since pictures were posted on FB, I have been anxious to get my hand dirty on this one. There something about how this one looks – It just screams “play with me!”

FastMaze is an aluminum puzzle designed by Dan Fast and manufactured by Cubicdissection. It is comprised of 3 plates and 4 brass pins. The objective is to move the plates and pins until the puzzle is completely disassembled. It looks straightforward, all parts are visible, so no hidden tricks on this one, but with a 52.24.28.10.9.14 solution, I already know that I’m in for a long haul.

First impression is that this is going to be challenging. A couple minutes of play and it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a lot more going on than I first thought. Each plate moves independently as does each brass pin. thus there are multiple items to track at once. And although I can see all the plates clearly, there are still parts of the middle plate that are obstructed by the top plate. I can see some round holes in the plates that I would assume are the exit points of the pins. So now, all I have to do is position the pins above those holes. Easy enough, right? But, how many dead ends are there? And, how deep do the dead ends go? No idea, but let’s find out!

Straight out of the box, none of the plates will move. However, 3 of the pins will. And with each movement of a pin, I am seemingly unlocking more movements for the plates which in turn opens up more movement options for the pins.

Ok, I’ve been messing around for about 15 minutes and have a few observations. The puzzle is definitely challenging. It’s not easy to keep track of all the moving parts. Often times I’ll feel stuck in a dead end only to realize that if I just move one of the pins slightly, then another pathway opens up. Also, I had a couple of the pins unscrew a bit on me, so now I know to keep them tight and occasionaly check them. Not a big deal.

Ok, I’m about 30 minutes into this beast and I think I’m making some progress. It’s one of those puzzles where I don’t exactly know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I sort of fix a goal in my head to move a pin into a certain spot and then I push and pull in different directions until something moves, then I adjust and keep going. The pins are definitely moving through the maze, but whether or not I’m actually progressing toward the goal – I have no idea.

It’s a fun puzzle to manipulate. The plates are heavy and the sound of metal on metal is pleasing. The pins slide effortlessly and the micro-chamfered edges really do make a difference. There is zero sticking or binding of any of the pieces. It’s smooth sailing the entire time.

Day Two. I’ve made some more progress (I think), but am also stuck. I’ve managed to manipulate one of the brass pins into position above a circular hole in the top plate. I can push the pin down into that hole, but then the whole puzzle becomes locked up. I’ve spent a good hour or so playing with this position, hoping that something will give, but thus far, no further progress. I’m fairly certain that I need to backtrack. And I have no idea if I’m actually any closer to a solution.

So far, most of this solve has been trial and error. I just move some pins, move some plates and see what opens up. Occasionally, I’ll flip the puzzle over and start working from the other side. This seems to open up more possibilities, but at the same time I sort of lose track of my initial goals.

I’m now wondering if the goal should be to align the 3 larger holes in the plates. If these were aligned, then a pin could pass all the way through in one move. This idea seems to make sense to me, so it is now going to be the goal.

Heck Yeah! I got a pin out and boy does it feel good! I had to employ a little rotation, but after re-reading the puzzle description, It is clear that rotations are allowed! So – Boom! Take that, FastMaze!

Ok, now 3 pins left to go. I’m looking at 24 or so moves to get the next one out. Let’s go!

And Boom! Pin #2 is free! This one was definitely easier. The plates were much easier to manipulate with only 3 pins and it seems clear that pins #3 and #4 will be even easier.

#3 was indeed easier and #4 was trivial. The puzzle definitely gets “looser” as pins are removed such that I employed many, many rotations to get pin #3 out, and #4 was trivial to remove.

Wow! What a fun puzzle. It seemed very daunting at first and I had no idea what to do or where to go, but with time and experimentation I began to see progress and develop a goal. The puzzle was a good challenge, but certainly not impossible. 52 moves to free the first pin seemed monumental, but when there are 4 pins and 3 plates to manipulate, you can burn through those moves fairly quickly.

I really enjoyed this puzzle for a few different reasons. I liked the process of figuring it out, and also really like aluminum and brass as they are durable and heavy. I handed the puzzle off to my kids a few times without fear that they would break it or get it “stuck” forever. The fact that you can unscrew the pins and reset the puzzle at any time is also a bonus.

Overall, I would recommend this puzzle to anyone that is interested. There is also a FastMaze 2 and a FastMaze 3 which are both more difficult than this one. All 3 can be found at Cubicdissection.com for \$65 each. They are selling fast, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another run of these produced in the future.

*Full Disclosure – I was sent an advance copy of this puzzle to review for this blog. All opinions are my own and are based on my experience with this puzzle.

## Psycho Disks – Eric Fuller

Psycho Disks is a relatively new puzzle designed and created by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection. It’s composed of aluminum and brass and weighs in at about 1/3 of a pound or 148g. Considering it’s only 1.2″ x 2.4″ in size, it feels heavy in the hand.

When I first saw this one listed for sale, I knew I had to have it. This is exactly the type of intriguing puzzle that I love. It looks simple and gives nothing away. All the tricky bits are nicely hidden inside. It is pleasant to hold and manipulate and doubles as a fidget toy or paperweight.

When I first received the puzzle, I was stumped. According to Eric, the puzzle is inspired by Phil Wigfield’s ‘Spinning Tumblers’ puzzle – and having never seen or played with that particular puzzle, I had no idea what to do. The description calls it a Take-Apart puzzle, so I knew I had to disassemble it somehow, but it was not clear at all how to accomplish said task.

Upon arrival, I took it out and began experimenting. The two ends could freely rotate and so could all the disks sandwiched in between, but that was about all I could discover. There was some sort of small metallic souding piece that rattled inside one of the end pieces too. Other than that there was very little movement. The tolerances were tight and thus there were no gaps between pieces.

For a few days, I was stumped. I didn’t put a ton of time into really thinking about possibilites, rather I just enjoyed holding the puzzle and spinning the disks. I handed it off to my son and let him play with it, but he quickly became bored and moved on. Hmm, no progress yet.

The puzzle sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Then as I was preparing for a cross-country road trip, I decided that I’d bring it along and see if I could get anywhere in the car. That’s when my first breakthrough occured.

I was spinning the disks when I noticed that one of them was stuck. It would no longer spin. I knew this meant something, I just didn’t know what. When puzzling, we are always looking for a change, something different – whether that is a new path to take, a new rotation or just a new idea to work on, these differences are what tells us that we are making progress.

Inspired by this new development I put the puzzle in the car and started driving. Somewhere along the way, my wife took the wheel and I was free to puzzle. At this point I started making some real progress. I began developing some theories about how to solve the puzzle and sure enough things seemed to be headed in the right direction. I progressed through the sequence as I had hoped. I still had no idea what I was doing or how the internal mechanism was working, but still the puzzle was behaving as I had hoped and so I was optimistic.

I felt that I was close to solving it (and I was), but I still couldn’t work out how to get the darn thing open. What was I missing?

The puzzle went back in the glove box and I moved on – stumped again.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, we were driving around and I heard some rattling in the car. What the heck was that? Oh yeah, the puzzle in the glove box was making that noise. Once again I was pulled into puzzle mode. This time determined to figure it out. And this time, I tried something slightly different and behold the puzzle was solved! I was then able to take it apart and see what was going on.

Interestingly, I was still a bit confused by the mechanism. Even with the guts laid bare, I still had some questions. A little more thought and experimenting and it finally dawned on me what was going on. It was at this point that I really began to appreciate the cleverness of this thing. The way the pieces work together to allow the final move is pretty darn cool. It’s simple, but it’s clever.

There are still some of these available at cubicdissection.com and it’s definitely a puzzle that I would recommend. I love that Eric is working with metal now and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.