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!

Inelegant Cube – Haym Hirsh

Today, I have the Inelegant Cube designed by Haym Hirsh and beautifully crafted by Brian Menold at Woodwondersonline. This particular version of the puzzle was crafted using Red Louro, Yellowheart and Wenge pieces. It was $5 more than the other version, but I thought the extra pop from the yellowheart was really worth it. Once assembled, this puzzle displays beautifully on the shelf thanks to the included stand. The stand was also very helpful in the assembly process.

The puzzle is comprised of 9 “L shaped” pieces which are each made from 3 identically shaped blocks. However, those 3 blocks are glued together in many different configurations so each of the 9 pieces is unique.

All you have to do is combine these 9 pieces into a cube. Not an easy task.

This was a very challenging puzzle for me. I haven’t worked on a puzzle like this before, so I didn’t have much strategy going into it. A typical session would involve me randomly placing pieces onto the stand in hopes that I would magically arrive at the solution. This strategy didn’t work well and I would often give up after only a few minutes of effort. I didn’t seem to be making any progress and furthermore, I wasn’t eliminating any possibilities either.

At one point, while I was working on a solution, I put two pieces together and they just seemed correct. Finally, I had something to work with and had a tiny bit of hope. This hope soon fizzled out when I fumbled the puzzle and lost track of those two pieces that seemed to fit together so well. Once again, I gave up and shelved the puzzle.

I then decided to bring the puzzle to work and in between work tasks, I was able to spend a bit of time working on things. After what seemed like an eternity, I slowly started to work out a strategy.

There were a few key factors that started to help me push towards a solution. The first was that all the sides had to be level. This seems obvious now, but for some reason it took me a while to realize this. Accordingly, if the sides had to be level, then any configuration where sides aren’t level can be thrown out. The second factor is that the wood types do not have to alternate. For a long time I assumed that two pieces of the same wood type couldn’t sit next to each other, but eventually I determined that this was false. The third factor was using the base as a guide to how much overhang the pieces required. The puzzle doesn’t fit perfectly on the base, rather it has a slight overhang, thus if any configurations produced a larger or smaller overhang, I knew they were not correct.

A nearly completed cube. By keeping the sides level or flush with each other, I was able to build the solution through trial and error.

Armed with these realizations, I began a more methodical process of trial and error. I soon had one side of the cube completed in what I thought was the correct configuration. With one side complete, it was just a matter of time to correctly place the remaining blocks. However, as it turns out, I did not have the first side correct and so my trial and error process eventually ended with no solution and no remaining combinations to try. Failure again!

Back to the drawing board I went. I re-examined my “correct side” and discovered that there were a couple of pieces that I could swap out which then led to additional combinations to attempt.

Finally, after many days of work, I slid that last piece in and the puzzle was correctly assembled. Wow. What a fun puzzle to complete!

It’s so satisfying to finally solve this puzzle!

This puzzle was a major challenge for me. I didn’t have much experience to draw from and thus didn’t have much of a strategy to start. I felt rather helpless in my first handful of attempts and it wasn’t until those first 2 pieces fit together that I felt a glimmer of hope. In the end, it was the process of elimination that allowed me to find the solution.

I really enjoyed this puzzle and despite its’ name, I found it to be quite elegant.

Wing Hangar – Osanori Yamamoto

Today, I have the fabulous “Wing Hangar” from Osanori Yamamoto. This is another piece produced recently by Jakub over at Pelikan Puzzles. It’s a wonderful puzzle with only 3 pieces, but don’t be deceived, it’s a bit tricky. As with all Pelikan puzzles, this piece is a work of art and it is a joy to play with.

The puzzle consists of Mahogany outer box and two (in my case) Wenge Burr pieces, But Tthe puzzle also came in a Mahogany/Purpleheart variation. I’m a sucker for Wenge, and thus am very happy with the variant that I chose.

My thoughts while initially playing with the puzzler were as follows: 

“Ok, so I’ve been playing with this puzzle for about an hour and I haven’t gotten anywhere. I thought this one was going to be easy. There’s only 2 pieces, there can’t possibly be that many options, yet here I sit, unable to get the 2 pieces into the box.”

Burr piece slots nicely into the roof of the box but there just isn’t enough room!

This puzzle gave me some trouble to begin with.

“I think they made a good call sending this one out unassembled – it is proving to be a good challenge. The difficulty lies in not knowing the orientation of the pieces – and the pictures on the Pelikan website don’t help.  If I don’t have the orientation correct, then I’m spending time working on an impossible solution. Up to this point I haven’t gotten systematic with it yet either.”

This puzzle took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to put together. I didn’t clock it, but I definitely worked on this for numerous hours over numerous days. And once I solved it, I put it on the shelf and moved on to another. It was many days later that I finally returned to Wing Hangar.

When I finally did return, I found that now, I couldn’t disassemble it. What the heck? I had put it together, surely I could now remove the pieces. I tried over and over and just when I thought I was making progress, I’d realize that I just completed a loop and was back where I started. Frustrated, I put the puzzle back on the shelf for another day.

Today, I had a little time and a little more focus and decided once and for all to conquer this puzzle. And sure enough, not 20 minutes later, I had the pieces out and not only that, I had an understanding of how it works. I took some pictures and then was able to quickly assemble the puzzle again. Now I’m left wondering why the heck this one took me so long to solve and understand.

The pieces are out! This is how this puzzle is shipped.

It’s interesting to me because I’ve experienced varying degrees of success when solving puzzles and I largely attribute my performance to my mental state at the time. Sometimes, I’m just in the zone and all my focus is on the puzzle and I seem to do well in those moments, but other times, I just can’t seem to get anywhere. Clearly I need time and space to perform my best because if there are distractions, or a looming obligation, then I don’t seem to have the required focus.

Also, solving puzzles can be mentally exhausting and I don’t always feel like putting myself through the mental anguish. A lot of nights, I do have the time, but I don’t have the focus. Either way, I’m going to continue to solve puzzles when “the time is right” and try not to force anything. I don’t want this hobby to become a job.