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.

Pyrigan #360

Last week, I received a package of puzzling goodness from the fine folks at Sloyd.fi The package took a little while to arrive, but it was worth it!

Inside was the Pyrigan #360 – an intriguing nickel-plated aluminum puzzle with an entrapped turquoise ball. This puzzle is wonderfully crafted and has tons of appeal.

It’s a beautiful puzzle.

8/17 I’m in love with this puzzle. It’s gorgeous, intriguing, and compelling. In my world, this in the pinnacle of puzzling. It’s like holding an alien relic, its full of intrigue and mystique. It’s very well made, it feels heavy and solid and even though I know it comes apart, it is held tight with precision tolerances. It’s begging to be opened. The turquoise ball sits there waiting. You can even touch it – but you can’t have it… yet. I feel like a treasure hunter holding this thing.


I’m going to put in 15 minutes and see if I can discover anything.
Ten minutes in and I am still in love with this puzzle. It is so pleasing to hold and manipulate. Its the perfect size and weight. I’m no further along in solving it, but I do have a few ideas and I have learned a couple of things. I spent a bit of time with my ear pressed up agains each side of the puzzle as I tilted it around trying to decipher what was inside. It sounds to me like there is one very small metal ball along with 2-4 metal rods. Subtle tilts in the 360 will make the small ball roll back and forth, but it takes a bigger angle to make the metal rods shift position.


The other thing I noticed is that if I keep moving it around and pulling and twisting, there are times, were there is slightly more movement/play between the pieces. This leads me to believe that there are several metal rods that are holding this thing together and that rotating/tilting the 360 causes the rods to move. I believe that if the 360 is rotated/tilted/spun in the proper manner, it will open up. There’s not really any other option to open it. I don’t think the blue marble has anything to do with the solution and I don’t believe that I can simply push/pull in an area to open it. There have to be pins on the inside and some manner of moving the 360 will put the pins in the open position.

A close-up look at the seams. Everything is very tight.


8/18 Ok. I have 15 minutes to work. let’s go!….And its solved. 07:29 into the 15 minutes and blammo, she’s a done deal. It happened waaaay quicker than I thought it would. That was pretty damn exhilarating though.. I don’t want to give away the solution, but needless to say, I was manipulating the 360 a bit and it seemed like it loosened up some. I didn’t know if my mind was playing tricks on me, but I could have sworn it was held together very tightly when I first looked at it – now it was a little wiggly. Hmm.. This was encouraging, so I continued the same sort of manipulation and it loosened up even more! At this point I became suspicious that my mind was tricking me, so I stopped what I was doing and tried to reset the puzzle – sure enough, it tightened back up. Clearly I was on to something.


I went back to the original plan and tried again. It eventually loosened up again a bit. So I kept at it and sure enough I could now twist the pieces and create a 1mm gap between them. And then, it was solved. In fact, I think I may have solved it earlier, I just didn’t pull on it correctly.


Inside the secret was revealed, and I have to say – Its really impressive. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s a really clever twist on a classic. My initial prediction of one small ball and 2-4 metal rods wasn’t that far off. And it’s all engineered with such precision – I’m so happy to have this puzzle in my collection and I can’t wait to see what John (the inventor of the puzzle) comes up with for his next puzzle.

The Turoise Ball has been released!

Hanayama Cast Dial

Another fun puzzle from Hanayama! I love these puzzles that seem so impossible at the beginning, but slowly reveal the solution over time. This one was wonderful to solve and is very cleverly built.

At first, it just seems that there is no way to make any progress. There is a triangular frame that is made up of 2 pieces and an internal, rotating “dial” that is also made of two pieces. The only thing that stands out is that the 2 dial pieces have different thicknesses. But otherwise, there isn’t much to go on.

The 2 dial pieces can rotate independently, but it doesn’t seem to affect anything. Its a confounding situation to have a puzzle that seemingly has no entry points. Its also a bit frustrating, because there’s not much manipulation to be had here. A lot of Hanayama puzzles consist of 3 intertwined pieces, so you can at least fiddle with them and change positions – but with Dial, there just isn’t much to play with. You can flip the dial and turn the 2 half, but nothing else.

The first time I picked this up, I didn’t get anywhere. It just didn’t seem like there was anything to manipulate. But, as I resisted this puzzle later on, it came to me that I just had to work with what I got.

I noticed some subtle variations when spinning the dial – sometimes, the triangular frame seemed to loosen up a little bit. So, I played around with this for a while. The hard part here, is that it is difficult to grab the frame. I had a good idea on how it would open, but it was hard to apply  pressure in the right place. Eventually, I achieved the first move. It was glorious to feel this thing open a bit after a few hours of tinkering.

But, it wasn’t over yet. As I tried to open it further, I accidentally closed it again and had to start over. It was a bit of a bummer, but ultimately helped because the second time around, I was more aware of how it was working.

Eventually, I got the thing open and the internal secrets were revealed. Now, all the turning made sense to me as I could see how things worked mechanically.

The Dial has been opened. The backside of the dials hold the secret.

Reassembly was a bit tricky, but it also revealed to me more of how things work. Once everything was positioned just right, I was able to close the dial back up.

Overall, a very fun puzzle that was quite challenging to me.

Hanayama Vortex

What a beast! This puzzle sure looks nice and pretty, but don’t be fooled, its a demon. It took me about a week to get this puzzle separated into its 3 pieces, and I briefly tried to put it back together, but ultimately resorted to a youtube video.

And although I was mighty happy to open this up last night, It wasn’t my favorite puzzle. I think, perhaps, this type of entanglement puzzle just isn’t my cup of tea. 

To find the solution, I mostly played with it for hours. Sometimes it would bind up, sometimes it would feel looser. Sometimes, I would move a piece through another piece and things would “feel” like they were moving in the right direction. Sometimes, I’d execute a seemingly complex move only to result in no perceivable change. 

The big thing that makes this puzzle so frustrating is the actual shape of the pieces. They seem simple, almost like a nice “C” shape, but really, they are more shaped like a closed “6” This makes manipulating them very difficult as the smaller circle is alway blocking the way and getting caught on things.

Ultimately, it just came down to determination. I was starting to loathe this puzzle and getting back to work on it was not a fun thought. So, I decided to bite the bullet and just get it done. I was at the points where the 3 tails were connected, but just couldn’t move forward. 

Finally, something happened and I was able to unlock one of the tails, thus creating a chain of rings, which was easily disassembled. The relief was great – that is until I realized that I had no idea how to put it back together.

Finally got ‘er done.

It funny, I’ve been noticing lately that for every hour of puzzling that I do, I’m actually focused and engaged for only a small portion of that. Seems that my mental state and focus level has everything to do with how quickly I can solve these puzzles. It’s easy to half-ass it and accomplish nothing. Its hard to stay focused, determined and push forward. But ultimately, that’s the only way to get it done.

Funzzle Beta

That was brutal and I’m glad I don’t have to do it again. After about 3-4 hours of focused work, I finally got the Funzzle Beta puzzle taken apart and put back together. 

This is the start position. I wish they had used a darker wood to better differentiate the pattern.

When I first started this puzzle, I couldn’t get anywhere. It would constantly lock up on me and I found it difficult to manipulate the pieces. Even when there was an obvious move, sometimes it was difficult to actually move the piece because the bamboo binds up so easily.

To make it even more difficult, it is hard to determine the exact shape of the pieces and there are also strategic wooden blocks glued in various spots on the interior that constantly catch the pieces as you move them.

After a good 45 minute session, I hadn’t accomplished much and gave up, ready to focus again later. Luckily this would pay off for me.

After getting the kids to bed, I put on a record and refocused all my energy on this thing. I quickly realized the ability to raise and lower pieces as I manipulated them. This opened up some more options for me as I was able to stack 3 pieces in a tight area and then could better rotate and manipulate the 4th. I didn’t have a real goal in mind, I just kept focusing on moving pieces and trying new things.

Eventually, I came to a place where a certain piece felt very loose, so I began to explore options centered around this particular piece. I then got that same piece completely freed except for a one block corner. I had to backtrack a few steps, but eventually rotated the piece, thus freeing it from the block. It felt damn good to finally get those pieces out. 

You can see the final steps below.

Unfortunately, the puzzle wasn’t complete yet – I was dreading putting this thing back together. But, I put on another record and got to work. 45 minutes later and I wasn’t even close. I put it down for the evening and went to bed.

Today, I woke up determined to finish this thing. I spent another 30 minutes working on it only to discover that I had worked my way back to the solution again and the pieces came out. I broke down and did a google search for the solution. My only option was to request one from Puzzlemaster. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so once again sat down to focus on this thing. Somehow, I got it done.

I dunno. This puzzle could have been excellent. It really had some cool moves and was seriously difficult to complete. But it was overly hard to manipulate – not in a challenging way – but in a frustrating way.

Completed. Phew.

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster

Hanayama Cast Chain

Oh, the cast chain. You were fun to solve.

I really liked this particular puzzle. It was simple enough that I could wrap my head around all the interactions, but solving it took some persistence. This was one of those puzzles where the solution was pretty obvious from the beginning, but manipulating the pieces to the correct position proved to be the challenge.

When I first picked this puzzle up, I didn’t get anywhere. It just didn’t seem like there were any options. I fiddled with it for 15 minutes, half-distracted, and then put it down for later.

Looks easy right? Think again. There’s not much room to manipulate the pieces.

Later in the day, when I had the time, I decided to dedicate 30 focused minutes on the puzzle and see if I could make any progress. It was somewhere during this 30 minutes that I discovered how to connect the chain ends and switch the order of the links. This was a cool discovery, and it gave me some hope. Unfortunately, I had to put it down again to take care of some things.

Later on in the evening, I picked the puzzle up and focused another 45 minutes and found the solution. I think I would have solved it quicker, but I was somehow convinced there was a “3rd state” for the links to be in. It turns, out there is not “3rd state”, I simply had to get the links in the correct order and orientation.

After the first link is removed, the second is trivial.

Once solved, it was easy to put back together and restore to the original state. 

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this one. It kind of reminds me of vortex, in that it is 3 interconnected pieces, but I was able to keep track of everything much easier – vortex gets confusing to me (and I still haven’t solved it).  Built quality is great as is the fit and finish.

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster

Hanayama Nutcase

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

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

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

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

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

solved puzzle, no secrets revealed

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster