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!

Stumbling Blocks – Pit Khaim Goh

Today we have another amazing puzzle from Cubic Dissection. This one is Stumbling Blocks designed by Pit Khaim Goh. It is part of the Artisan Collection, so it is kept in stock and for $39, this piece should be in everyones puzzle collection.

To start with, the puzzle is gorgeous. The box is made from Ash and the blocks are made from Walnut and Sepele which gives a really nice contrast and checker pattern. The puzzle is shipped unassembled, so it is up to me to get the four blocks into the box.

There are a few peculiar details that stick out right away. The first is that the inside of the box has tiny little wooden triangle blocks glued into two of the corners. These blocks fit perfectly with two of the blocks that have notches cut out.

Notice the triangular pieces glued into the box and the corresponding block

The other thing that I noticed is the way the blocks are glued together and the interesting shapes that are sandwiched between the two squares of wood. It seems peculiar to choose the particular shape for the sandwiched pieces. 

The peculiar stair-step shape in between the square slabs

So, with those details noted, I began to play with the puzzle. It seemed obvious that the two particular blocks had to fit into their specific corners – however, this “fact” didn’t seem to help with the solution. It was fairly simple to get any 3 pieces into the box, but there was never any room left to insert the 4th. 

Over and over again, I tried the same thing and failed. I could see no way that the 4 blocks could be inserted sequentially. There had to be another way – not to mention the website mentions an “ah ha!” moment when solving this puzzle. So, I kept at it, searching for the solution.

Eventually, I managed to get all 4 pieces into the box – however, I did not experience any epiphany, so I was pretty sure that I had solved it incorrectly. To solve it, I sort of had to wedge the last piece in – which although it works and takes no force, is clearly not what the designer had in mind, so I pulled the pieces and began again.

This time, I had the breakthrough, or at least part of it. I inadvertently discovered a certain movement while I had 3 of the pieces in place – I knew immediately that I was on the right track – but it still took me a while to figure out how to get that 4th piece inserted. 

Once I uncovered the real solution, a big ole grin came over my face. Now I know why this puzzle came so highly recommended. It truly is a clever and elegant solution. The rush I get from completing puzzles never gets old, but this one was special, this one was definitely memorable.

The completed puzzle