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.


Bramble Box – Noah Prettyman

Today, I have another stunning puzzle from Cubicdissection.com. This one is called Bramble Box and it was designed by Noah Prettyman and boy is it beautiful.

This puzzle is comprised of a Black Limba box and 4 pieces of different wood types that are stuck inside. The object is to free the pieces and then re-assemble the puzzle. I very much enjoyed playing with this and working it out. The 4 pieces have interesting knobs and protrusions and the box itself has a restricted opening on the top and bottom. Right off the bat, all the pieces are moveable, so there is no need to unlock anything, however, since all pieces are moveable from the start, there are also many possible opening moves. 

Manipulating one of the pieces

I took my time with this puzzle solving it over the period of a few days. I didn’t find it too difficult, but I did find it very enjoyable. Removing the second piece actually took longer than expected, and I discovered a potential short cut if rotations are allowed which makes things easier.

The pieces have been removed! Fun movements and solution.

Reassembly is a bit tricky. It’s not super obvious how the pieces go back together and I was stuck for a while figuring out how to manipulate two pieces in particular around each other. I had to solve the puzzle several more times before I really understood the movements.

Overall, a great puzzle that is all about unlocking that first piece. The build quality is spectacular and I’m very pleased to have this one in my collection.

Stumbling Blocks – Pit Khaim Goh

Today we have another amazing puzzle from Cubic Dissection. This one is Stumbling Blocks designed by Pit Khaim Goh. It is part of the Artisan Collection, so it is kept in stock and for $39, this piece should be in everyones puzzle collection.

To start with, the puzzle is gorgeous. The box is made from Ash and the blocks are made from Walnut and Sepele which gives a really nice contrast and checker pattern. The puzzle is shipped unassembled, so it is up to me to get the four blocks into the box.

There are a few peculiar details that stick out right away. The first is that the inside of the box has tiny little wooden triangle blocks glued into two of the corners. These blocks fit perfectly with two of the blocks that have notches cut out.

Notice the triangular pieces glued into the box and the corresponding block

The other thing that I noticed is the way the blocks are glued together and the interesting shapes that are sandwiched between the two squares of wood. It seems peculiar to choose the particular shape for the sandwiched pieces. 

The peculiar stair-step shape in between the square slabs

So, with those details noted, I began to play with the puzzle. It seemed obvious that the two particular blocks had to fit into their specific corners – however, this “fact” didn’t seem to help with the solution. It was fairly simple to get any 3 pieces into the box, but there was never any room left to insert the 4th. 

Over and over again, I tried the same thing and failed. I could see no way that the 4 blocks could be inserted sequentially. There had to be another way – not to mention the website mentions an “ah ha!” moment when solving this puzzle. So, I kept at it, searching for the solution.

Eventually, I managed to get all 4 pieces into the box – however, I did not experience any epiphany, so I was pretty sure that I had solved it incorrectly. To solve it, I sort of had to wedge the last piece in – which although it works and takes no force, is clearly not what the designer had in mind, so I pulled the pieces and began again.

This time, I had the breakthrough, or at least part of it. I inadvertently discovered a certain movement while I had 3 of the pieces in place – I knew immediately that I was on the right track – but it still took me a while to figure out how to get that 4th piece inserted. 

Once I uncovered the real solution, a big ole grin came over my face. Now I know why this puzzle came so highly recommended. It truly is a clever and elegant solution. The rush I get from completing puzzles never gets old, but this one was special, this one was definitely memorable.

The completed puzzle

Slideways Cube and Cross

Today, I have two different slideways puzzles. These are puzzles that slide together and slide apart and are immensely satisfying to fiddle with. While they are not difficult to get disassemble – they can be a little tricky to assemble as the pieces need to be held in a specific orientation while they are simultaneous moved together.

The first puzzle is the Slideways Cube created by Lee Krasnow. A video of Lee’s cube made its way onto Reddit recently and thus the cube was thrust into the spotlight. 

Thankfully, the cubes are now available in a $15 plastic version at his Etsy website here. The cube is great fun to play with – it feels sort of magical how the pieces go together and come apart. I’ve enjoyed handing the cube to my kids and seeing their reaction as it falls apart in their hands.

I think they are well worth the $15 cost

Overall, not a difficult puzzle to solve by any means, more of a novelty item to keep on the shelf and play with once in a while. I still think its a neat item that would make a nice gift.

Slideways Cube Disassembled

Next up is the Slideways cross from Cubicdissection.com 

This is a really nice piece that is extremely well made. It is a fairly simple puzzle in most respects, but it can be quite tricky if you’ve never manipulated one of these before.

One of the big reasons I love this piece is that the tolerances are so tight that  it can seem impossible to solve. Unless you apply the correct pressure in the correct orientation the pieces won’t move. I have played with this piece for hours and its amazing how little force is actually required to separate the pieces. If you are pushing at all, you are doing it wrong. The pieces have virtually zero friction when moved correctly.

Slideways Cross pieces – such precision

Cubyful 2 – Lucie Pauwels

I purchased this puzzle last week from Cubicdissection.com and let me tell you, its a beauty. The Leopardwood box is georgeous and the puzzle itself is very fun. I particularly enjoy the weight of this puzzle – it feels very heavy in the hand – likely due to the thick walls of the box.

When I first got the puzzle, I gave it a 2 minute inspection (because I couldn’t resist) to get an idea of how it moved/worked. I quickly discovered that the first piece falls right out with no required moves. After the first piece was removed, I could see other pieces below that also were able to move. Clearly, I was going to need some time and focus to work on this puzzle, so I had to plug that piece back in and wait for my window of opportunity.

Last night, that window arrived – the kids were in bed and I had a couple of hours to myself to explore this fine puzzle. I got my space ready, complete with paper and pencil to attempt to map out moves if necessary. The previous couple of days, I had been thinking about Cubyful 2 and how I was going to keep track of the moves – ultimately, I didn’t have any set plan, I just started taking it apart while trying to keep some notes.

This method was an utter failure. I quickly became lost with the movements and the pieces – my notes failed to accurately track what was happening and in the end, I abandoned them and just focused on removing the pieces. It seemed like the pieces were just falling out and I had no clue of their starting position. Down to the last 2 pieces, I had to do an interesting manipulation and then the final piece slid right out.

The locked piece is quite large and takes up 2/3 of the opening

Its a very interesting puzzle in that there is a large fixed piece that cannot be removed and so the box must be packed/unpacked around this piece. This makes for a fun solution that stumped me for a while.

Reassembly was challenging, but ultimately not too difficult once I slowed down and came up with a plan. The hardest part may be getting the first 2 pieces into the box correctly – and I suspect that there are more than one way of loading these first 2 pieces.

Two pieces in the box – how to fit the remaining pieces?

Once the first two are loaded, its a matter of getting the sequence correct and “pre-loading” a couple of the pieces so that they slide into place. The solution now seems fairly straightforward to me, but I did struggle for a while trying to figure out how the heck to pack all these little pieces into the allotted space – over and over again I would end up “one cube” short of the solution.

Finally, I studied the locked piece and thought about the internal space more closely and determined the only available solution and completed the reassembly. Outstanding fun! I really enjoyed this and will definitely purchase more of these packing-type puzzles in the future.

The puzzle is complete!

Wourie – Alfons Eyckmans

I am excited about this one – “Wourie” is a puzzle designed by Alfons Eyckmans and built by Pelikan Puzzles out of the Czech Republic. This piece was part of my first ever order from Pelikan and I have to say, I am extremely impressed with the workmanship of their puzzles. There will be many more posts in the future taking a close look at additional offerings from Pelikan

But today, I’m focused on Wourie. Oh, what an exquisite puzzle it is! The woodwork really is superb. It just feels nice to hold and play with. The puzzle came in two different wood variations – Mahogany or cherry. I chose the Cherry option and I’m very happy with the appearance.

Solving this puzzle takes a bit of work and a bit of time. I decided to take this one slow – I really wanted to enjoy every moment of discovery with this piece and what a fun journey it was!

At first this puzzle seems limited in the possible moves. A piece moves up, a piece moves down, but there doesn’t seem to be any progression. After a few deadends, I discovered a new direction that I hadn’t tried before and sure enough, this led to the solution. I was so excited that I had figured it out that I completely ignored the position of the pieces and the final move – and then it was too late, the pieces were unlocked and scrambled on my desk and I could not remember which order they were in.

A beautiful puzzle disassembled – getting this together again is no easy task!

Well, the description of this puzzle says that “reassembly is a real challenge if you scramble the pieces and leave them a while” and I would have to strongly agree with that assessment. I didn’t leave the pieces a while, but they were scrambled up good so I was left with starting the reassembly from scratch.

Reassembly took me a good 2-3 hours and it is really tricky to figure out. I knew right away which order the pegs go in, after all, I could see the picture on the Pelican site, but I didn’t know what orientation those pegs should go in and I also didn’t know what order or orientation the plates belonged.

So, it was lots of trial and error – many positions could be easily eliminated as possibilities, but there were still lots of potential options available to test out. Fairly early on in the process, I was feeling pretty confident about which pieces belonged where – from that point, it was just a matter of figuring out how to assemble the pieces.

I remembered from solving the puzzle that the natural colored peg came out first, so that gave me some clue as to how to reassemble, but it was still a long while before I finally got it figured out. I kept banging my head on the wall trying the same thing over and over, and of course it didn’t work – over and over. I finally stepped out of my own box and tried something a little different and just like that, it was back together.

Back together again!

Once back together, I slowly solved it again – this time paying attention to the moves – especially the final move (which is devilishly clever if you ask me.) In total, I counted 12 moves necessary to release the first piece and likewise 12 moves to put it back together once pieces are in correct position.

Overall, I love this puzzle. I think its a brilliant design with amazing fit and finish. It kept me highly engaged for many hours. I would highly recommend this puzzle to anyone (if you can get one!) It would look great on a desk or shelf and I can’t wait to share this with friends and family!

Funzzle – Gamma

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

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

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

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

This was the first piece to be removed.

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

The second piece being removed

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

The puzzle has been deconstructed.

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

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

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

Hanayama Infinity

Ok. Gonna do another real time run through with the Hanayama Infinity. I haven’t played with this one before, so this will all be done on the fly. I’ll start on the puzzle and every so often – 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll stop and record my progress and thoughts. Maybe this will reveal something interesting about the process – maybe not. But, its the process of solving these puzzles that I want to capture here. Solving puzzles is about being systematic and exploratory. Lets see if I can get this one solved here tonight.

First off, the puzzle is another beauty. Like most Hanayama puzzles, they are usually bigger and heavier than I anticipate from the picture. This one looks like its made of 3 pieces. 2 circular bearings and an outer casing. One thing that I notice right away is that each bearing has a circular cut-out where the other bearing fits. From the picture, I figures only ONE of the bearings had this cutout, but upon flipping the puzzle, I can see that both have this cutout. 

Ok, lets see if I can discover anything in 5 minutes.

Five minutes in and I haven’t solved it, but I have learned a few things. I’ve been able to manipulate the two bearings a bit and am starting to understand how the puzzle moves. The two bearings are able to rotate around – i haven’t been able to complete a full 360 either. I’ve gotten the stamped bearing to rotate probably 300 degrees, and the blank bearing only about 15 degrees. The bearings also can move up or down and moving them up and down unlocks the turning ability. The sides of the bearings are visible at times and I can see interesting shapes and tracks that are interlocking on each other and preventing or allowing movement.

Solving the puzzle will likely be a matter of knowing the correct position and/or sequence to release the two bearings. I’m not sure if I can take a systematic approach or not. I felt like I was making some progress in the first 5 minutes, lets see what happens next.

Ok, I’m now 15 minutes into this and I feel like I’m getting close. I’m pretty sure I have one of the bearings in the correct location. There is a scallop cutout that is lining up with a protrusion on the case. But, the other bearing isn’t budging and right now it feels a bit stuck. But, I’m hesitant to move the piece that is the correct position. But looks like thats exactly what I’ll have to do if I want to progress.

This puzzle is fun to manipulate, but is a little frustrating because pieces seem to lock up at points. I don’t yet know if this is sequential in any manner or whether I just need to get the pieces into the correct position.

32 minutes and 54 seconds total time, and the puzzle has been solved. I’m not sure if I did things correctly or not. It seemed to me like I could rotate the stamped bearing fairly easily, but the non-stamped one was difficult to move. I ended up moving the stamped bearing around about 300 degrees and then that would allow the non-stamped piece to move about 15 degrees, and I’d move the stamped piece back to the start and that would allow me to move the other piece 15 degrees. I kept at this until the puzzle was solved.

Hanayama Cast Infinity Solved
Sovled! You can see the “scallops” on the inside of the casing

The inside of this one is really cool. Its really amazing to interlock the bearings and move them around and see how they catch on each other and how moving up and down opens up new pathways. Overall, I’m very impressed with the design on this one. It seemed obvious from looking at it how it would work, but its design makes it really challenging. I think I’m going to hold off on putting this back together – I need to understand how the bearings interact better to see if I did things correctly or picked an inefficient solution.

Assembly was pretty straightforward, but still took me a good 10 minutes to complete. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I’ll have to complete it a few more times to see if I can really  get a mastery of it.

Hanayama Cast Infinity
Back together again.

Hanayama Cast Elk

Ok, new format. Tonight, I’m going to document the puzzle solving experience. I have the Hanayama Cast Elk puzzle and I’m going to try to solve it while documenting my thoughts every 15 minutes. Hopefully this will capture the process or evolution of solving one of these things. I’m also hoping that I will perform better due to the greater focus required. Anyway, we’ll see what happens.

Begin: (first impression) – My initial though is – “how hard can it be?” I mean it’s only 2 pieces. Surely there can’t be that many ways to manipulate the two pieces, right? Beyond that, the puzzle is another excellent Hanayama. It has good weight to it, it has a nice shiny finish – similar to vortex. And, overall, its just pleasing to hold. Let’s see what I can figure out.

Only two pieces, but still tricky to solve.

Whelp, I solved it in 11:26, so didn’t need the full 15 I guess. It funny, cuz I had the pieces in the final position a few times, but didn’t “make the move” until later on after I had exhausted a few other possibilities. Really, there weren’t that many positions for the pieces to be in, which was making me a little frustrated after the first 5 minutes.

I initially figured out how to move the pieces through each other and felt good, but then I couldn’t progress any further. The pieces were easy to manipulate and many times, they were very close to passing through each other, so much so that I began to think that perhaps this was one of those lopsided puzzles where one protrusion is slightly smaller on one side than the other. I kept chasing this idea for a while – really examining the puzzle to see if there were any anomalies in size or shape. 

Ultimately, I didn’t find any anomolies, the puzzle looked symmetrical, even upon close inspection. So, I went back to manipulating the pieces. After a while, it seemed like I had exhausted the possibilites, so as per usual, I concentrated on doing things different. I was trying to go against natural instincts and move pieces opposite to what was natural.

This technique is something I use all the time in puzzling. Trying the same thing over and over doesn’t usually yield results, so consciously doing things differently often helps.

Anyway, just like that, I had the pieces back in a familiar positions but this time, tried a slightly different move and viola! They separated. 

The Elks have been separated.

After getting them apart, I quickly put them back together again, feeling confident that I knew the secret… except I was wrong… It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought and in fact, I’m confident that I got lucky the first time. Because this time, I was having a harder time finding the solution. It took me a solid 20 minutes to get the darn thing solved again, and I’m feeling confident now that there are in fact some subtle differences in shape and size in the pieces, arms and slots.

Pretty cool puzzle. I definitely don’t have it mastered, i’ll have to solve it a few more times, but it was fun and I liked it a lot – even if I did get lucky.

Funzzle Epsilon

I’ve had the Funzzle Epsilon sitting in a box for a few weeks and last night I decided to give it a go. I don’t have a ton of experience with Burr puzzles, But, I enjoyed the Funzzle Beta, so lets see how this one goes.

Like the other funzzle puzzles this one is made of bamboo. I don’t mind the bamboo – it feels a little cheap, but having some good inexpensive puzzles available is a good thing – I can always buy a pricier Burr if I want.

Anyway, the first 15 minutes with this puzzle was a bit frustrating. One piece falls out immediately, which inspires confidence, but it is quickly dissolved by the roadblock ahead. I fiddled and fiddled with it and came away with only a few possible moves. I couldn’t seem to find any way to free up any more pieces, everything was locked into place regardless of the combinations I chose. So, I put it down.

Later on I returned with renewed focus – once again, I challenged myself to start trying new things, even if they didn’t seem likely. As per usual, this little challenge helped me get the next move. It seems that a rotation is necessary to free up the next piece. After this rotation, I then had many options for movement. It was at this point that I began to fear putting it back together. It started feeling really complicated as to what pieces were moving – As the puzzle gets looser, it becomes harder to keep track of the movements. So, I put it back together, numbered the pieces, slowed down and started taking notes.

I was able to get back to the earlier position and then very carefully moved pieces and kept track of what I was doing. The goal was to figure out how it worked so that I could put it back together – is this cheating? I don’t know what other people think, but I don’t consider it cheating. I’m speeding up the process at which I figure the puzzle out – it seems efficient, but not rule breaking.

Funzzle Epsilon ready to solve
Ready to start pulling pieces out, notes in the background.

A few moves later and I was able to free up all the pieces. As usual, the feeling of solving a puzzle is fantastic and this was no let down. Once the pieces were removed, I breathed a sigh of relief and then assembled it back together. Assembly was pretty easy due to the fact that I had the pieces numbered, I had notes, and also pictures of the near-final state. Maybe the next challenge will be to erase all marks, put away the notes and camera and see how well I do without any aids…

Funzzle Epsilon Solved
The pieces have been removed. You can see my labels on the puzzle.

Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle and I think I may purchase more burr types in the future because they are pretty fun to work out.