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!

Blocage – Stéphane Chomine

Wooo yeah. I’m still buzzing from having just completed Blocage, design by Stephane Chomine and handmade by Pelikan Puzzles. This is one super fun puzzle! Oh my!

Beautiful and Sturdy, this puzzle will last forever

First off, this puzzle is beautifully crafted. I chose the Ipe/Maple variation and I’m very pleased with it. Ipe is a a very heavy and strong Brazilian Walnut that makes for perfect burr sticks. The Ipe pieces feel heavy and they slide in and out of place with an audible ‘thunk’ which is very pleasing when manipulating this puzzle. The dark color also contrasts very nicely with the maple frame. This is a striking puzzle that stands out on my shelf.

This one really connected with me. The process of solving this type of puzzle seems to click with my brain. It’s quite simple really, you just try all the combinations available at every step and explore every path to the end. But despite being simple in concept, it’s somehow delightful when you finally discover an overlooked move (which is inevitable). Is it the flawed human brain that makes these puzzles fun ? Perhaps.

The opening moves are great. There are a few different paths to go down, but you know you are on the right track when you hear the audible ‘thunk’ of a particular burr piece succumbing to gravity. The next sequence of moves yields a second audible ‘thunk’ as a second piece falls into position. The end is not too far away from this point, but there are a few clever moves one has to navigate in order to reach the solution.

Blocage after the opening moves. Keep pushing forward for the solution.

There are really just a ton of clever moves packed into this puzzle – down to the final two pieces which need to perform a bit of a dance to be released. Once all the pieces have been removed, it is time to put them back.

All the pieces have been removed. Yay! Now to put it back together :/

Re-assembly is simple – it’s just the reverse of dis-assembly. That is, assuming you memorized the moves or wrote them down. However, if you want to squeeze the most life out of this puzzle, it is recommended to assemble from scratch with no help. I’ve yet to take on this challenge, but have added this puzzle to the “to be continued” pile.

Overall, this puzzle is super solid and very fun. It feels sturdy, like a piece of furniture, and the craftsmanship is, as always, top notch. It has enough clever moves to feel challenging, but it doesn’t stump for long (at least with dis-assembly). With some perseverance, I think just about anyone could solve this one eventually and experience the rush of hard fought success.

YyYy – Osanori Yamamoto

YyYy – All right. Here we go. Time to go on a journey with YyYy designed by Osanori Yamamoto and brilliantly crafted by Jakub at Pelikan Puzzles. This one has me intrigued. I haven’t played with it hardly at all. I’ve spent maybe 2 minutes playing with this thing and in that 2 minutes, I was able to get the cube more scrambled than anticipated. The first little move took a few seconds, but then everything started moving and, oh my god, it was getting all mixed up and , holy crap, I have to pay attention and get it back to the start..

Well the time is right and I’m ready to focus my energy and really see what this here puzzle has got going for it. I’ve got some nice tunes on the turntable and a drink in my glass, the kids are asleep and I’ve got the evening ahead of me. I’m ready to get lost in this thing.

Oh man. 5 minutes in and i’m so confused and intrigued. I can’t quite figure out what the pieces are shaped like. They seem to hook on each other, but also slide into each other when positioned correctly. I’d also like to state for the record – this puzzle is gorgeous. It really is. Its got a good weight to it and somehow Pelikan puzzles are always so smooth. They are not only beautiful, but the pieces glide against each other and within the frame, and there is never a hint of binding. Ok, it’s calling me, so I gotta go back for more.

Well Damn. color me stumped. What seemed like a dangerous never-ending pit turned out to be only about 4 moves deep in 2 directions. Neither direction yielded any further development. What was initially scary unknown terrain soon became very familiar ruts from one dead end to another. There has to be another path hidden in the movements. I don’t know if I’ll find it tonight.

One of the dead ends that I discovered early on. There didn’t seem to be any possible moves from here.

And I didn’t. I was stumped and set the puzzle back on the shelf to try again another day. Several days went by and occasionally I’d pick the puzzle up and tinker with it, but I never got any further than the original dead end. I was practically carving grooves in the wood from tracing the same path over and over. There just didn’t seem to be any other options available.

Finally, one day, I had the puzzle in my lap and of course, like any other puzzle solving story, I tried a move that I hadn’t tried before(duh). And what do ya know? It worked. With just one additional little move that I hadn’t seen, I was now able to make a second move, and a third, and a forth and just like that, a piece was free. Wow, that was pretty cool. That hidden move was staring me in the face the whole time and I never tried it.

After the first piece is removed, the rest come out easily and the puzzle is solved. And I have to say, I’m amazed. I’m amazed because the puzzle is so simple. Holding the pieces in my hand reveals all the shapes and I really appreciate this puzzle because of its simplicity. The cage is completely straightforward, there are no hidden cubes or protrusions, its a simple, basic cage (albeit totally gorgeous). The pieces are also very straightforward, they do fit nicely together, but I’m just amazed that something made of such simple components can harbor such interesting moves.

Looks pretty simple, but the solution is mighty clever.

Overall, this puzzle is great. Its hard enough to call challenging and its pretty enough to call beautiful. I choose the Wenge/Ovangkol variant, and I absolutely love the tone and grain of the Ovangkol. I think it really pairs nicely with the Wenge burr pieces. As always, the craftsmanship is perfect. Everything sits perfectly flush and it is a delight to handle.

Well that wraps up another blog post and another completed puzzle. I’ve got a shelf full of unsolved puzzles and more arriving in the mail this week. Upcoming are new puzzles from Rombol, Pelikan and Pluredro, so please stay tuned and check back in. I’m working on adding a subscribe button to the blog, but in the meantime, you can stay up to date by following this page on facebook!

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

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!

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!