giganTIC – Andrew Crowell

Today, I visit giganTIC designed by Andrew Crowell and wonderfully crafted by Brian Manold over at Wood Wonders Online. I have bought a number of puzzles from Brian recently, but most of them remain unsolved including Perfect 11, I&i, Jitter Soma and Inelegant Cube. Hopefully, I’ll have time in the next few weeks to get to those. But, in the meantime, I have spent the last couple of nights getting to know giganTIC.

The beautifully crafted giganTIC puzzle designed by Andrew Crowell

This is a fantastic puzzle. Despite it’s name, its a little smaller than a typical 4×4 cube. But perhaps it’s the number of moves required that encouraged its name. At 10.10, this is a moderately difficult puzzle that is extremely fun to explore and understand.

The puzzle itself is incredibly beautiful. The selection of exotic woods really makes this one special. I have spent a lot of time holding the individual pieces are marveling at the wood grains. Two pieces in particular are especially nice – the lacewood section with its very conspicuous flecking and the dark brown wood that contains streaks of light brown (sorry don’t know the name of this wood!).

Solving this puzzle is a joy. As with most of these Crowell design TICs, the first move is fairly well hidden and requires pushing and pulling pieces as you spin the cube around. Eventually, the first move is found and soon thereafter is the first rotation. There are a couple of dead ends possibilities, but the path to the solution is mostly straightforward.

The first piece has moved which starts to unlock the mysteries contained within.

I spent bit of time wandering in circles somewhere around the 7-8th move. I couldn’t quite figure out what was next. It was then that I re-read the description and saw that this was a 10.10 solution puzzle. This narrowed down my options as I knew that the 10th move had to remove a piece.

On a side note – I wonder if puzzles descriptions should include the number of moves required to solve it. Isn’t it a bit of a spoiler to know ahead of time how many moves are required? I often use this information as another clue to help me solve the puzzle, but I wonder if I am robing myself of some of experience by utilizing this knowledge? If I didn’t know that this was a 10.10 puzzle, how would that have changed the experience?

The first piece has been removed from the puzzle, only 10 more moves to go!

Anyway, back to the puzzle – After the first pieces is removed, I was again stuck. I continued to cycle through all the known moves – I would return the puzzle back to the start – minus the one piece, and then would work forward again to the spot where I removed the piece and would hit the dead end. There didn’t seem to be any other options. But then, like any decent puzzler, I forced myself to try other options and soon enough found a new path forward.

The new path quickly revealed the answer and with a final rotation, the puzzle separated into two halves. Wow, this thing is really cool!

Puzzle has been disassembled! The wood used in this puzzle is just beautiful.

Overall, The puzzle is kind of split into two separate sets of movement. The first 10 moves remove a cornerstone piece and then the next 10 moves separates the puzzle into two halves and the rest is trivial from there. The moves are really quite unique though, with a number or rotations mixed in as well as other hidden moves that are exciting to find.

It’s hard to imagine that so many mysteries could be hidden in 64 voxel cube. It seems like there should be a finite amount of interesting puzzling options – and I’m sure there are, but to my mind, there are many more options than would seem possible. Andrew seems to have a knack for designing these really creative puzzles that are full of unique and interesting moves. Each step along the way is delightful and satisfying and I can’t wait for more.


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!