TEETOTUM – Alfons Eyckmans

Ok, here we go. We have Teetotum designed Alfons Eyckmans and wonderfully crafted by Pelikan Puzzles. This one has been taunting me from the shelf for several months now and I’ve had enough. This puzzle shall taunt me no longer for I shall step into the ring and conquer it.

Truth be told, I’m a little intimidated by this puzzle. I’ve played with it for a few minutes here and there, but it seemed like there were an enormous amount of moves and possibilities right out of the gate, so I wanted to be sure that I had the time to work on it properly. Now is that time!

What a beauty! There are many, many paths forward, but only one will solve this beast.

But before we begin, I need to comment on the construction of the puzzle. It’s beautiful. The dark splines not only reinforce the corners, but also make a wonderful contrast. And they match the dark wood of the burr sticks. Overall, a very balanced and inviting puzzle that I can’t wait to begin.

Well, It’s now several days later, I haven’t solved the puzzle and I’m way overdue on a blog post. You see, it turns out that this puzzle is rather difficult and in my ignorance, I decided that it would be fun to map out every single possible move available in this puzzle. I thought that I could systematically attack this puzzle, crawl down every path, keep careful notes and alas I would emerge victorious. However, I may have underestimated this undertaking because I’ve now spent many hours on this puzzle and filled many pages of cryptic notes and thus far, I’ve not solved it. But as any man possessed would say “I can’t stop now!”

Oh man. Despite my best efforts, I’ve gotten lost in the puzzle and am currently stuck. I’m not sure whether I’m trying to get back to the beginning or solve the puzzle at this point – I’m just trying to make progress in some direction. But nothing is happening. The pieces are all jumbled up and I can’t seem to find the key move.

And then, an “oh sh!t” moment occurs. I guess I was trying to get back to the start, since when I accidentally released a piece, my reaction wasn’t “yay I did it”, it was “oh sh!t”.

Whew. That was a tense few minutes there, but I did manage to get the puzzle back to the start. I believe that I was getting close to removing the first piece, but I majorly chickened out when I realized that I had no idea how to reverse the position. I have the first 15 or so moves written down and tracked out, but the puzzle gets a little weird at that point. It doesn’t fall apart, but it gets looser so its really easy to make unintentional moves and thus loose track of what’s happening.

Deep into the process, trying to map out all the moves. This method was eventually abandoned because there were just too many paths/options.

I’m anticipating that this one will come apart in a similar manner as “Wourie” did – and that is, a single piece is not release, rather the puzzle gets to a point where it can be separated into two parts. We shall see.

Well, I’ve fiddled and I’ve floundered. I’m no closer to the solution than I was before – and that makes me happy. I need a good challenge and this appears to be it. I had one of those great puzzling moments where I was deep into the sequence, I was focused, I was nearing the finish line – and suddenly a move opened up and as I was preparing for my A-Ha moment – and then – my bubble was burst and I realized that I was right back at the start. Dammit!

Ok, After the last paragraph, I spent another 30-40 minutes and have gotten back to what I think is “close to the end”. It’s quite amazing how many different configurations these 6 pieces can move through. I’ve got the puzzle to a point where one of the burr sticks is almost completely removed, it is only entangled in one remaining plate. I believe that I am close to the end and I’m excited to finally get this puzzle done!

Bah!!! Once again, in an effort to solve this beast, I unintentionally circled back around to the start! This is one tough puzzle!

It looks like a piece is close to being removed – Don’t be fooled! I spent days trying to figure out where to go from here.

Ok. It’s now a couple of days later and I’ve FINALLY solved this puzzle. It is definitely not easy and took a determined effort, but I’ve done it. For the longest time, I was stuck in one particular spot where one of the burr pieces had cleared 2 of the plates. This configuration felt like it was close to the end, but no matter how I manipulated the pieces, I just couldn’t find a path forward. I was pretty certain that I was on the right path, but was filled with self-doubt since nothing was working. I contemplated starting over as I wondered if this was just an elaborate dead-end, but sure enough, there was a way forward. I’m not sure if this is the intended solution, but my solution required rotating the plates to a different orientation. I was trying to solve this without rotating the plates, but in the end this was the only way I could solve it.

Finally Solved! Oh my that was difficult!

Now, let’s see if I can get it back together – hopefully some of the 8,000 pictures I took will reveal enough clues for me to put it back together. Here goes….

And done. It took about 15 minutes to get this back together WITH the aid of pictures – I can’t even imagine putting this thing together blind – It’s certainly beyond my ability to do so. I’m just happy that I got it apart and back together!

Whelp. That concludes this puzzle write-up. Teetotum was quite difficult, but what an amazing journey! I’m fairly certain that those plate rotation are required, but would be interested to know if others had the same experience as me. I didn’t have quite the desired A-ha moment, it was more like a “Finally!” moment after all those hours of searching, but in the end, this one feels good. I can now proudly place this back on the shelf and check off yet another one of my unsolved puzzles. Until next time – Puzzle On!

ARACNA – Alfons Eyckmans

Ok, Today I have ARACNA by Alfons Eyckmans. The name makes sense considering what is inside the puzzle, but for some reason, I’ve been saying “Arcana” to myself the last week or so. Ah well, sometimes the eye sees what it wants and not what’s really there.

Anyway, this is a new puzzle from Pelikan and its beautiful. I know, I know – I say that about all the puzzles (especially Pelikan puzzles) – but this one is pretty special. I bought the Ovangkol variant which has stunning wood grains. Fun Fact – If Ovangkol gets wet, it releases a strong unpleasant odor! (I just read that over at www.wood-database.com) While I am tempted to experience the odor, I don’t think I’ll be dunking this puzzle anytime soon.

Onward! Let’s solve this beast. Well, I’ve been playing with this puzzle for about 15 minutes now and it is very fun. It took me a while to locate the first couple moves, but now, 3 moves in I’ve hit a deadend. At this point nothing wants to move – but I’ve got to be very careful because its quite easy to hide moves when you have 12 pieces that can all potentially move in multiple direction.

Well, I had to backtrack a bit and find a new path. I’m now 6 moves in and things are heating up. And by heating up, I mean falling apart. As the puzzle moves towards its’ solution, it will becomes looser and looser (I assume). At this stage, its still locked together quite nicely, but I can sense that in another few moves things will open up.

Pieces starting to move and a tiny peak of what’s inside

I’m not sure how many moves in I am at this point, but I just had a very excellent breakthrough moment where a block of pieces all slid together as one unit. I muttered an audible “What the F!” as two major groups of blocks just moved apart from one another. How cool is that!!?

Well, it may be cool, but it’s also scary. This puzzle feels like its barely holding together so I’ll have to proceed carefully and methodically if I don’t want it to fall apart on me. I feel like I should be able to remove a piece at this point and indeed, there is a piece that is very loose, the problem is that the ends are too big for it to exit the available hole. I’ll have to keep searching.

Oh my. After playing a little longer, I discovered some additional moves that I could make with 2 particular pieces. This little shuffle then released the first piece! Wow, I didn’t expect that piece to release first but there it is. Wow, this puzzle gets really intense at this point. I’ve been feeling like I’m real deep in the weeds here, kind of beyond the point of no return, but still close to familiar ground so retreat may be possible. And the more I manipulate the pieces, the looser the overall structure gets and all these little movements are happening that I can’t keep track of and then wammo, that first piece drops out.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get this back together or not, but lets keep forging ahead. Well, I took the next 2 pieces out in a very un-puzzlelike way. There was no sliding or calculated move, I just grabbed them and pulled them out!

Well with 4 pieces out, I’d expect the puzzle to fall apart. Nope. It’s being stubborn and requiring more effort. But, a few more minutes of tinkering is all it takes and piece number 5 comes out. The puzzle is not done yet, as the next few pieces take some additional moves. After that, it’s all over and the spider is released – It’s Huge!

The spider sits atop his home. Don’t worry spider, I’ll get it back together

Ah, what an excellent puzzle. Its got everything I’m looking for. The difficulty was perfect – it is challenging enough that it takes a good amount of focus, but its not overly difficult. I didn’t feel frustrated at any point – there was always a move to be made – just not always the correct one. There were also a number of great a-ha! moments too. And finally, once the puzzle is solved, you get to see the treasure inside!

Now on to the assembly. I’m not gonna lie here – I took photos of disassembly and I plan to use those to reassemble. I think a blind reassembly is beyond my abilities – especially with 12 pieces! You would think that the enclosed arachnid would make assembly easier, and perhaps it does, but it’s still not easy enough for me to attempt.

Big ole pile of burr sticks. Wood grains are spectacular.

As is, it still took me close to an hour to get this puzzle back together. It was not easy, but it was fun and I felt a nice zing of joy when it finally went back together. The difficulty is getting all the piece in just right before adding the final 3-4 pieces. And those final 3-4 pieces were quite challenging as the puzzle felt like it was going to fall apart at any minute. And even once those final pieces go in, there are still a few tenuous moves before the puzzle “holds together.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle. Manipulating the pieces was very satisfying thanks to the amazing craftsmanship and the final moves were especially fun – both in the assembly and disassembly. The difficulty was spot on as well. I had to work for the solution, but I was never stonewalled for long. The assembly was difficult though. I’d like to revisit it one day and see if I can find a more elegant solution as I felt clumsy and desperate.

Happy Puzzling!

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

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!