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!

Pack 3 – Osanori Yamamoto

This week, I tackle the Pack 3 designed by Osanori Yamamoto and crafted by Eric over at Cubic Dissection. This one had me tearing out my hair, screaming into the night and storming around the house. My family was concerned for my well being and I attribute last night’s nightmares to this diabolical puzzle.

I’m clearly not very good at packing puzzles – in fact a majority of my unsolved puzzles on the shelf are of the packing variety. I’m not sure why they don’t click with my brain, but they are always a struggle – and Pack 3 was one of the worst (or best?) that I’ve worked on.

This particular puzzle is so deceptively simple and that may be what lead to my frustration. It consists of a beautifully crafted box with a unique opening along with 3 simple looking pieces. All you have to do is stick those pieces into the box. It should be simple, but it is not. The description says “The level 8.2.2 solution is satisfying without being too frustrating.” Well, I’d agree with the satisfying part, but for me, this was extremely frustrating, I dubbed it “the box from hell” along with other more colorful, non-family appropriate names.

This puzzle arrived along with 6 others the other day and I naively started work on it thinking – “I’ll start with the easiest of the bunch!” So, I casually began tinkering with the pieces, trying to insert them into the box. I spent 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there trying haphazardly to cram them all in. But, it didn’t work – furthermore, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that it required 8 moves with the first piece. How could that be? 8 moves seemed like way too many for the options I was faced with.

All you have to do is stick those 3 pieces into that box!

Within about an hour, I had a solution – only my solution was 2.1.3 and it left a visible gap. The solution didn’t feel right or satisfying and clearly didn’t match up with the description so I fired an email off to cubic dissection to see if I had done it correctly. The reply came back shortly after “You are close but that is not the correct solution.” Ugh, well on one hand I was happy to continue working on it, but on the other, I had hoped that it was correct. Back to the drawing board.

For two days, I worked on this thing. I was obsessed, I was driven, I was thinking about it in my sleep. I focused all my energy, I used all my logic and I failed over and over again. I decided to get systematic and try every possible combination of inserting the pieces, whether they were logical or not, I had to cross off all the non-working ideas and focus on what was left, but again, I failed. I cried, I cursed, I put it back on the shelf, but I couldn’t just walk away. I had to solve it.

One of the many ways to incorrectly pack the puzzle together.

And then, after setting it down and picking it up over and over, I finally saw the light. I was so in tune with the geometry of the pieces and the box that I literally solved it in my head while staring at it. Finally, I smiled and pronounced “I’ve got it!” And sure enough, just like that, I put the pieces in and solve this wicked and cruel little puzzle. The feeling was tremendous and the 2 days worth of built up tension was finally released. Ahhhhh. 

What a wonderful little puzzle! Yes, I wanted to burn it with fire and smash it with a hammer but now that I have solved it, I feel nothing but pure joy. It’s truly astonishing how many possible variations there are to work through. It is, without doubt, the most frustrating and rewarding 3 piece puzzle I’ve every worked on. I can’t wait to spring this on an unsuspecting friend. I will giggle with delight as they struggle with every possible combination they can think of. Awesome puzzle. Now… on to the next!

The completed puzzle. Beautifully constructed.

TRAP-R2 – Osanori Yamamoto

Today, I have an very interesting puzzle called TRAP-R2 designed by Osanori Yamamoto and crafted by Pelikan Puzzles. It’s only a 4 move puzzle, but those 4 moves aren’t as easy or straightforward as it may seem.

The puzzle itself is beautiful. It reminds me of a double decker coaster, but I won’t be setting my beer on it anytime soon. The two coasters are separated by 4 corner posts and in between is a circle of wood that can be spun around. Spinning the circle reveals something unseen – some sort of impediment that prevents it from moving smoothly around. The thing is, you can’t see what is happening, so you have to work out what to do by feel.

It doesn’t take long before pieces begin to move, but the first available movement isn’t necessarily the correct one. What makes this puzzle really work is the fact that the tolerances are so tight. The pieces have to be in the exact correct position in order to solve it. This can be a little frustrating because if you are just a millimeter off, it won’t budge.

Super Tight pieces make this a challenge.

The first time I solved it was a complete fluke, I was just playing with it and manipulating the pieces, when viola!, it came apart. I studied the internal pieces a bit and thought “hmm, that’s not so difficult” and managed to put it back together. Confident that I knew how to solve it, I tried to repeat the process, but this time, I couldn’t open it! How can that be? I had solved it and seen its’ secrets. But nevertheless, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to solve it again.

Challenging for me to wrap my head around, even when solved.

This time, I was more determined to figure out what was going on. I don’t know if my tiny brain was just misfiring, but it was surprisingly tricky for me to figure out. There are really only 2 internal pieces and the circle so it can’t be that hard, I thought, but sure enough, it was still a bit perplexing. The way the two internal pieces fit together is rather clever and figuring out how to free that circle took me a while.

I did some mock assemblies, where I really tried to get a grasp of the exact movements required to solve it and finally was able to understand exactly what needed to happen. But despite this knowledge, it is still challenging for me to solve it – mostly because of the tolerances and the fact that there are no significant markings available to use for orientation. 

Seems like it should be straightforward, but it’s not.

Overall, I really like this puzzle and am happy to have it in my collection – however, I would only recommend it for hard-core collectors. I think its probably a bit too expensive for the average puzzler. There are still some available at Puzzle Master, but I think, for the money, you could get something with a bit more repeatability to it. Still, if you’re like me and just can’t resist spending all your money on beautifully crafted puzzles, this one may be worth it, and if you know someone who owns this puzzle, definitely give it a shot!

Prison Burr – Stephane Chomine

Ah, the Prison Burr, another fine creation constructed by the fine folks at Cubicdissection. Did I mention that I really, really like the puzzles from Cubicdissection? Pretty much everything I have bought from them is heirloom quality, challenging and fun!

Today, I writing about the Prison Burr. This intimidating puzzle is sort of like a standard 6 piece burr, however, there is no access to the bottom of the puzzle and all the pieces are contained in a cage – which makes it very challenging indeed. This one sat on the shelf for a number of weeks as I solved other puzzles and made excuses as to why I didn’t have the time or focus to work on it. Well, I knew that eventually, I’d have to give it a go, so a couple weeks ago I sat down with the intention of solving it.

Look at that beauty!

The thing is, this is one complex puzzle and as stated earlier, I was intimidated. I was able to remove the first piece easily enough, but the second piece involved lots of maneuvering and every time I felt that I was making progress, I chickened out and returned it to the start. My main fear was that I’d never be able to get it back together again, and by the time I started making progress, I was too deep for my brain to remember the moves. Maybe I should just “go for it” and deal with the consequences later, but that’s not how I like to do puzzles. I prefer to keep track of the movements the first time I solve it. Later on subsequent efforts, I am more inclined to let myself get lost.

Well, the day finally came, where I had enough time to really work on this thing. I was determined to move forward at all costs and get this thing solved once and for all. 

I have to say, I really, really enjoyed this puzzle. The movements are great, there are multiple dead ends and the puzzle stays challenging to the final piece.

The first piece is rather trivial to remove, but it doesn’t help much. Removing the first piece does allow for a view of the interior, which is helpful, but the second piece is far trickier to remove. I went down many paths and found a few dead ends, but eventually felt that I was getting closer to the correct moves. After many trials, I was brave enough to pull out the second piece. Here we go! No turning back now!

Removal of the 3rd piece is even trickier. Even now, I know the order of removal, but it is still awfully difficult to get that 3rd piece out. I’ve now solved this puzzle multiple times, but its always that 3rd piece that causes me grief. And to make matters worse, once the 3rd piece is removed, it is still difficult to remove the 4th. In fact, this puzzle just doesn’t get any easier. Usually, the 2nd piece is the corner stone and it all comes apart easily afterwards, but not with the Prison Burr. This thing brings it until the end. You would think that with only 3 pieces left, it would be easy, but it’s not. The final 2 pieces are definitely easier to remove, but they still take a some specific moves.

The photos don’t do it any justice. This thing is built like a tank and super difficult.

And then, there is the reassembly. It’s not easy. Not at all. Getting the first 3 pieces back in correctly is quite difficult – I can’t imagine solving this one without knowing the order of the pieces. Even armed with that knowledge, this thing is very challenging.

Well, I’ve talked about how difficult this puzzle is, but I also was to talk about how rewarding it is. I’m really very happy with this puzzle. In fact, I have solved it several times now and while I’m getting more familiar with the necessary moves, It still gives me great joy to complete it.

Part of that joy comes from the wonderful construction. At $75, this is an expensive puzzle, but if you have even the most basic knowledge of carpentry, it is easy to justify the cost. The construction of this is spectacular. Its not flashy with exotic wood choices, but the cage is a marvel of perfectly mitered pieces and where burr puzzles can be “sticky” and hard to manipulate, the movements here are smooth and precise.

Overall, I am so happy to have this in my collection. This is definitely a test-piece for the savvy puzzler. I would highly recommend it if you want a challenge!

Aquarius+ – Stephane Chomine

Ok. tonight I have the Aquarius+ designed by Stephane Chomine and crafted by Cubic Dissection. This puzzle is smaller than I envisioned, but it is far more beautiful than expected. The striped wenge grain on the two burr pieces is just georgeous and the inclusion of a smaller slider piece is fascinating. I received 3 puzzles in this shipment and I was drawn to this one first. I can’t wait to get started.

Well 5 minutes in and I very well may be screwed. I was trying to keep track of the movements and manipulations but I quickly lost track of what was happening and that cute little slider piece is now pretty loose inside this thing and I think I can prolly just shake it out, but I’m not exactly sure how it got to where it is now, so I’m contemplating whether to push forward and solve the puzzle or whether to try to backtrack a step in order to not lose track of the movements… 

At 10 minutes in, I’ve now reset the puzzle. Whew. I’m not sure how close I was to the solution, but I realized that I never really looked very hard at the starting position, so I’m glad to have gotten it back to where I can now start a little more methodical in my approach. Back at it.

At 15:56 I got the little slider piece out. There is actually a surprising amount of room in this puzzle to move the burr pieces around. I’m not exactly sure what the sequence of moves were to free the slider, but hopefully, I’ll be able to re-insert it during assembly and sort of nudge it back into place similar to how I got it out… Lets see how easy the burr pieces are to remove..

Turns out removing the burr pieces is trivial once the slider is out. And so there it is, solved and laid bare for me to examine. The scary part is… Its not exactly clear how this puzzle should be reassembled – that is – even though I studied the starting position a bit, I’m not entirely sure which orientation the pieces need to be.. which makes the prospects of re-assembly… scary.

All pieces removed. 

Well, I was able to put the puzzle back together after a bit of work – at least I think I got it back to the starting position – unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any photos online of what this puzzle looks like in the completed state, so if there are multiple possible configurations, I may not have it done correctly.

Which leads to my next thought – Does this puzzle really require a 17.9.3 solution? I do not believe that it took 17 moves to take out the first piece. It was more like 6-7 moves and then a bit of jostling to free the slider. Maybe I am completely off with my solution and analysis, but I didn’t find it nearly as difficult as the rating would suggest.

My other criticism lies in the manipulation of the small slider. It is not easy to manipulate and in the end, I used a toothpick to reach into the cage and help position the slider. Perhaps there is a solution that involves moving the burr pieces around to shift the position of the slider?

Overall, this really is a beautiful puzzle – and I like the idea of using a smaller scale piece in the puzzle – in fact, I’d like to see more puzzles use different sized pieces. But I do think this puzzle falls a little short when compared to the other offerings at cubic dissection. The build quality is not quite as good (burr pieces have grooves and saw marks). And having to manipulate and rotate the slider within the cage didn’t feel like solving a puzzle, it felt more like chance.

If anyone else has worked on this puzzle, please let me know of your experience. I’d like to know if I missed something or not.