Ziggy Demonticon – Radek Micopulos

I saw this puzzle pop up on nothingyetdesigns.com a while back and was instantly intrigued. I didn’t know anything about it and the description didn’t really say what type of puzzle it was or how difficult. But, when certain puzzles catch my interest, I usually just pull the trigger and hope for the best.

Ziggy is the first in a series of demonticons designed and built by Rademic Puzzles. Demonticons are a family of puzzles where each is shaped the same but incorporate very different internal designs and mechanisms. The goal is to open the Demonticon to see what is inside the “head” of each character.

Ziggy is described as follows “A lot of love and care has gone into making Ziggy but he still seems confused. He needs your help! Can you figure out what’s going on inside his head and make him happy?”

Ziggy looks confused. With a demented smile and unbalanced eyes, he looks out of sorts. It’s a whimsical design and the backstory really adds another dimension to the puzzle. It also makes me want to own the entire family of demonticons (I already have 4 of them!)

Each demonticon comes with a stand. A nice touch to make them stand out on the shelf.

I solved this puzzle many months ago, so when I just picked it up again, I had forgotten the solution. It took me a good 20 minutes to remember what to do and in the process I was reminded how fun this little puzzle is. It’s actually pretty brilliant. Even after solving, it took me a minute to understand how it works. It was definitely frustrating seeing the puzzle solved while not really understanding exactly what was going on.

But, after a bit of tinkering, I finally figured it out. It’s very simple, but also very elegant. It’s almost comical how simple the mechanism is, but without understanding it, it is very confusing. At least I was confused (kind of like Ziggy).

Ziggy has been solved! I wish I could show more!

Overall, it’s a fun solve and a great start to what looks to be a long series of puzzles. It is pricey, but also high quality and built like a tank. Just a warning though, if you buy one of them, you may get addicted and have to complete the set!

Jammed Gem – Frederic Boucher & Eric Fuller

I can’t even begin to describe how impressed I am with this puzzle – and I haven’t even really touched it yet. The unboxing process was that intense.

It’s the first puzzle I’ve bought that came enclosed in a moisture barrier bag. I’m nervous to touch it. I’ve never spent this much on a puzzle – it’s like buying a lamborghini and then being scared to drive it. The puzzle is impressive all right. Hats off to cubicdissection for their detailed packaging. it seems they spend as much time focusing on packaging their puzzles as they do with the puzzles themselves. I mean that in a good way.

The presentation is superb, the craftsmanship is superb, how the F do you spell that word btw???

It’s heavy for it’s size and it has a strong aroma that’s got me captivated. I don’t know if i should even touch it.

This is likely the most impressive item I’ve even purchased. I’m enthralled by it.

The corners pieces are ridiculous. whatever wood it is, it’s incredible. using it at the corners gives us full exposure of the length of the grain and also the cross cut. my knowledge of woodworking is small and wood species even smaller, but despite my clumsy descriptions, this puzzle is flat out impressive to behold.

I want to savor it, and slowly uncover the secrets. SD puzzles can be wonderful experiences to solve. I think all serious puzzlers know this. A truly great SD puzzle can be a once in a lifetime experience of frustration, excitement, deep thought, incredible A-Ha moments and more. Is this puzzle one that will take me on an exquisite journey? I certainly hope so. It’s why I spend so much on these puzzles – I want the crazy rush of figuring shit out and overcoming these mechanical (and mental) challenges.

This puzzle looks like a packing puzzle. And, in some respects, it might be. It consists of a rectangular box with 4 restricted openings. Inside the box are a few different pieces. All of that is consistent with a packing puzzle. But, when I look a little closer I see some unique features.

I can see some metal rods in a notch in one of the openings. These sort of rods look familiar to me as I’ve dealt with such things in previous puzzles. Having dealt with these before, I know what to do, and sure enough it works! But what is this thing I’m looking at and what do I do now? Hmm, it doesn’t seem like this particular move goes anywhere, so let’s see what else I can find.

Well, I’ve been searching for a while and all I can find is one internal block moving back and forth. Back and forth, back and forth. I keep moving it back and forth and nothing continues to happen. Sometimes these SD puzzles just sit there, or maybe it’s me that just sits there. Maybe I should move that block back and forth some more..

I eventually wrapped this puzzle back up in the moisture barrier bag and placed it in my humidity controlled container and moved on to others. Little did I know that I wouldn’t pick it up again for an entire year.

Fast forward a year and I’m finally back at it. This thing cost way too much to just sit hidden away. Let’s see if fresh eyes can make some more progress.

Photo courtesy of Cubicdissection.com

A-ha! Hell yeah. I’ve made progress! I guess the fresh eye thing worked because I tried something new based on a very subtle clue and by god, it worked! Progress has been made! This is what SD is all about. Long moments of zero progress followed by euphoric a-ha moments that are motivators to keep going.

Ok. Let’s move on. I now have some more variables to work with and I can see a potential path to the next step. But, as we all know, it’s just not that simple. I suppose that’s one of the many wonders of mechanical puzzles. The solver can see what needs to happen, but is unable to make it happen. This is the barrier we must overcome and when we do, we are rewarded with a-ha endorphins. But, enough of that, I have a puzzle to solve.

Deep Breaths. Heart racing. Shaking hands. I’ve found the next step and boy was it unexpected. For the last 30 minutes or so I’ve been stuck with no results. Nothing. The thing that I thought I should be doing wasn’t yielding anything. I kept trying alternative approaches and kept exploring the puzzle, searching for any clues. I didn’t find any clues, but I did, magically find the next step.

With that discovery, I now had something to work with. Let’s see what happens.

Things are starting to happen, though it did take a bit more thinking and fiddling. But, another step forward and a piece removed makes me feel like victory is within reach. So far, this is pretty damn exciting puzzling action going on over here. I’m in too deep to quit now.

Oh my god. It’s happened again. This move is pretty damn incredible. I’m in awe at the moment, just savoring the rush. Heart racing again. This shit is amazing. I can’t even believe how well hidden this step is – all of them really, but this one is extra crazy. It’s simply incredible. The worksmanship on this thing, the devioius mind that though this up, the design and execution. I can’t say enough. My head just exploded.

It’s safe to say that anything can happen at this point. The puzzle has taught me a lesson and that is not to trust anything. There is nothing that Eric (Rest in Peace) cannot do. God damn this shit is clever.

But with all that, I don’t really know how to proceed. I seem to have several items at my disposal, but nothing is jumping out at me. Time to experiment.

And again, I’ve found more pieces and clues. I had a feeling about this one, but didn’t know where it might happen or when, but it just did. I know, I’m talking gibberish, but how do you write about a puzzle when you can’t describe the puzzle? The move here added another mysterious piece to my growing collection of items. I had no idea this puzzle contained so many things.

The path continued for a bit and I finally figured out how to utilize a certain feature and from then on it was a matter of manipulating pieces, getting lost and turned around and second guessing whether I should be doing what I was doing. But there didn’t seem to be alternatives, so I continued in the confusing direction and suddenly found that I had added another piece to the collection.

Down to the final moves, I felt honed in. I knew it was fast approaching if I could just figure out the sequence that I knew I knew. Well, it may have been a bit of luck, but I eventually removed the piece and found the Gem.

Hot damn that was exciting as hell and was just a great overall experience. I’m just shaking my head because I don’t have the words to describe this all. I’m imagining the whole life cycle of this puzzle, not just me solving it, but the whole creative process behind creating this work of art. It goes so much deeper than just making this puzzle (although that in itself is an incredible work of precision) It’s all the puzzles that lead up to this one, all the trailblazers in the puzzle world, with their ideas and designs, and then the next generation of puzzle makers that push the boundaries of the previoius generation. There’s god knows how many hours of effort Eric put into CD. It all culminates in this puzzle. It’s incredible. Positively the greatest puzzle I’ve ever solved.

HoKey CoKey Lock – Steve Nicholls & Ali Morris

I’ve never done a puzzle lock before. Not sure why, but I just never pulled the trigger when I saw them for sale. Maybe I was too addicted to wood in years past. But today, I have my hands on the HoKey CoKey Lock. I’m not sure what to expect, but let’s take a look.

Looks like a lock, acts like a lock. But, keys don’t work. What to do?

Since this puzzle has been available for many years, I’d assume that most serious puzzlers have probably already solved it. Maybe it’s to the point where all the people who solved it are now forgetting the solution (or not), so perhaps this will be a trip down memory lane. But for me, this is brand new, I know nothing about this lock.

My first impression is that this sure looks like a normal lock. I don’t see any indication that this is a puzzle. The only strange thing that I notice is that the 2 provided keys do not match. Also, the teeth on the keys themselves look very small. I have done a bit of lockpicking as a hobby, so have a general understanding of lock mechanisms and how keys work, etc. Maybe that knowledge will help here? But for now, I have a normal lock and 2 mismatched keys. Let’s continue.

The shackle has a bit of movement, but nothing out of the ordinary. At this point, all I can do is try the keys.

Ok. Both keys go into the keyway with no problem. But, as one might guess, I can’t turn either key. (It wouldn’t be much of a puzzle if the keys worked) Right. Ok. Now what? I have a couple of ideas. let’s see if either of them are fruitful.

You do the HoKey CoKey and you turn yourself around.

Nope. neither idea worked. Nothing happened. Still sitting here with a normal lock and 2 mismatched keys.

Time to do some thinking.

Well, the lock sat unsolved for 3 weeks. Occasionally I’d pick it up and tinker a bit, but really, there was nothing to tinker with. I’d insert the key and unsurprisingly, it wouldn’t work. I’d insert the other key and again, nothing would happen. WTF. Is this a trick? Is the thing broken. I’d run out of options and had no clues or ideas left.

That is until last night. I was deep in a conversation and blindly fiddling with the lock. I looked down and was very surprised to see something that had escaped my observation. Miraculously, there had been a change. It seems that all my fiddling had in fact accomplished something.

From this point, the solution was obvious, but it was still a very exciting moment. I had solved my very first puzzle lock. It felt great and I marveled at the design and workmanship. The design is classic. Keep the solver in an endless loop. Convince them that they are almost there. Keep them focused on the clear solution. Meanwhile, hide the real solution somewhere else.

Puzzle is solved! Shackle has been removed!

For years, I’ve been on the fence about puzzle locks. They are usually pretty pricey and I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d enjoy them or not. Wood puzzles are still preferable to me, but this opens the door to more puzzle locks. I’m not quite up for spending the money on a popplock, but there are still a ton of classic locks out there that are in the $100-$200 dollar range. Looks like I have some shopping to do.

A Bolt from the Blue – Ali Morris

A Bolt from the Blue, is a very sturdy bolt puzzle offered by Two Brass Monkeys. I’ve never owned or worked on a bolt puzzle, but for some reason, this one spoke to me and beckoned for me to purchase it. When it arrived, I was bit shocked at how big the bolt was. This thing is very sturdy with some real heft.

Having never worked on a bolt puzzle, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it’s a bolt, how much “puzzle” can there be? It is really a puzzle or more of a magic trick?

The bolt comes enclosed in a plastic tube/case thingy. It seemed a bit strange to me, but upon more reflection, I can see why this is a good thing. First, it allows one to display the puzzle on the shelf. Second, it has the name of the puzzle on it, so the collector’s like me don’t get confused or forget which puzzle is which. And lastly, well, crap, I forgot the last point. oh well.

Once the bolt is removed from the case, it can be worked on. Again, my initial impression is, man, this is a big beefy bolt. The bolt has a fixed nut, a brass washer and a locking nut. The goal is to remove the washer. It would seem that the only way to accomplish this would be to remove the locking nut. Ok, with that obvious observation out of the way, let’s proceed.

Remove the Washer and you will be victorious.

For a long time, I examined the puzzle. And, I kept examining the puzzle. Unfortunately, there is not much to examine; there is not much to do. It’s a bolt with a washer and a nut. No matter how many times I rotated it and studied the details, it remained a bolt with a washer and a nut. What was I supposed to do? It felt like a SD puzzle where I was just staring at it hoping something would come to me, yet making zero progress. It’s a bit demoralizing. I like to push parts back and forth and follow mazes of moves and do trial and error experiments, but with this, there were no moves to be had, no dead ends, no mazes and no trial and error. It was just a bolt with a washer and a nut.

I wasn’t stumped forever though and I eventually discovered a clue. I really can’t say any more without giving it away but needless to say, I found a path forward and that quickly lead to the solution which had me smiling and shaking my head.

The washer has been removed! No spoilers here.

With my first bolt puzzle solved, I have to admit that I’m ready for another one. It was really fun solving this. It was a great moment when that wall of impossibility was knocked down. I can’t wait to show this one to others at a party or event. I imagine that it will be really fun to watch someone struggle with this, all the while knowing that the solution is SO CLOSE!

Once again, I am reminded of why I puzzle. It’s to overcome obstacles. It’s to persevere in the face of doubt and despair. It’s to experience the glory and rush of endorphins when the solution is finally revealed. It’s the feeling of tangible accomplishment. Solving puzzles is fun and all, but it’s also a life skill. The same methodology and mindset can be applied to any of life’s problems. Learning to puzzle is learning to live.

Well, the puzzle is solved and I come away enlightened. I can’t compare this to other bolt type puzzles, but on its own merit, it’s a fun puzzle that has now earned its rightful place on my display shelf. It’s definitely a dinner party puzzle, or something to toss to the guys on gameday and see how they fare.

Kudos to the Two Brass Monkeys crew for providing entertainment and an opportunity for glory and self-reflection.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #5 – Junichi Yananose

It was about 2 years ago (holy crap where does the time go?) When I decided to work through all the Grooved 6 Board Burr puzzles available at pluredro.com

Well, I got through 4 of them in a short amount of time and then, well, I stopped working on them and got lazy with the blog. In the ensuing 2 years, I only completed 3-4 blog posts. Life got in the way and writing blog posts wasn’t high on the list of priorities. I continued to purchase and solve dozens of puzzles, but I didn’t write a thing. Sometimes it’s nice to just do a puzzle and not worry about recording my thoughts. Whatever, I’m here today and I’ve just solved the Board Burr #5.

Somewhere along the way to solving the puzzle.

Like the previous 4 Grooved 6 Board Burrs, this one has 6 boards and utilizes grooves and pegs to make unique moves and positions. The grooves make it difficult, but they also provide clues about how to solve it. One of the things that I’ve learned is that many times, getting the peg out of the groove is the trick to progressing the puzzle.

The last post got me motivated and so I dug deep into my stash of puzzles to locate #5, determined to solve it, or at least make a dent. There was a football game on the tv and all family members were occupied with their own activity, so I sat down and got to work.

The puzzle started with 2 possible entries. One of them quickly hit a dead end, so I was left with only 1 option. I methodically worked the puzzle, stopping after each move to test all the available possibilities. I tried to work through every fork in the road to determine the correct path. Often I’d feel like I was making progress only to end up with the same shape I had 6 moves ago. This thing was tricky.

I set it down a couple of times to rest, but quickly picked it back up again and reworked through the sequence again. At about a dozen or so moves in was where I found the cycle of moves that just kept looping.

One of the configurations I found along the way. This was a dozen or more moves in. And yes I’m wearing Snoopy Christmas pajama pants.

Eventually, I discovered a secret little move that changed everything. I worked through it back and forth a couple of times, but didn’t quite understand what was happening, so I decided to push on. A lot of times when solving these puzzles, I create little bookmarks in my mind. For example, about 12 moves in, I memorized the shape of the puzzle and called this A1. I’d do a bunch of moves but would return to A1. At this point I could start with the unsolved puzzle and take it to shape A1. So then, I start looking for the next bookmark, or A2. These are just things I make up, but they help me keep track of my progress.

The A2 position was tricky and I fooled around with available moves from that position for a while. Suddenly, one of the pieces was free and it nearly fell into my lap. Once again, I worked that move back and forth for a while. I’m not sure if I memorized anything, but eventually I’d had enough and wanted to move forward.

Soon thereafter, I was able to remove the 2nd piece – though it did seem to take another 10 moves. The remaining pieces were fairly trivial and just like that, I had the puzzle separated. Whew, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I remember working on this puzzle 2 years ago and got frustrated and quit. Maybe I was just burned out from the previous 4. But this time, it seemed relatively easy. I don’t know where this ranks on the list of Grooved 6 board burrs, but to me, it seemed easier that the previous 4.

These pieces are so well made. I love how clean the grooves are.

Reassembly was straightforward. I took a couple of photos for the final 3 pieces, so was able to reference those to start the assembly. Call it cheating if you want, but when puzzles get complex, I like to use photos to help with the reassembly. After getting the first 3-4 pieces together correctly, the rest felt like familiar territory. I was able to get the final piece in and the puzzle reassembled surprisingly quick.

Overall, it’s another fantastic puzzle. I’m so happy to own all these puzzles as I really do think they will hold up over time as some of the most forward thinking grooved burrs out there.

In my opinion #5 is the easiest one so far.

I still have #6 to solve and recently purchased #7 as well. I don’t know how many of these Juno will make, but I’ll keep buying them to make sure I have the complete collection. As of this writing, there are still qty:25 board burr #7s available here. While I haven’t yet start fiddling with #7, if the previous ones are any indication, #7 will be the most challenging of them all. And I stand ready to take on the challenge.

SOMA-FLOP – Dr. Volker Latussek

I love me some DVL puzzles. Some of the best moments I’ve had puzzling were because of the wonderful mind of Latussek. It’s hard to pin down what exactly makes his puzzles different, but I suspect it has something to do with how he uses unique shapes and restricted openings and the pieces sort of dance their way into the box.

When I saw some of the “Flop” series puzzles available at Pelikan, I had to jump on the opportunity. I purchased Soma, Fritz and Tetra Flops without knowing anything about them. Why are they all called Flop? I didn’t know at the time, but after spending some quality time with these puzzles, its become clear that they all share a similar “move” or “flop” that is part of the solution.

Today, I’m going to focus on Soma-Flop.

Simply put these pieces into the box. How hard can it be?

This was a wonderful puzzle that took me a fair bit of time to figure out, but what I like most is that it is solvable with logic and some trial and error. The solution is within reach if you remain persistent and use really think about the possibilities.

As with many packing puzzles, I started out making a cube outside the box and then tried to see if I could then fit the cube inside. This strategy, as usual, failed. There are many ways to assemble a cube and I quickly lost track of what cubes I had tried, what rotations I had tried and I found myself re-doing moves that had already failed. I needed a better strategy.

Another common approach to packing puzzles is to figure out what piece goes in last and then work from there. Using this idea, I was able to narrow it down to 3 pieces. Only 3 of the pieces could physically go in last. So, I then tried to assemble the cube using that information. It seemed to work better, but I still couldn’t find a solution.

One of the many incorrect ways to assemble this puzzle.

I then really started focusing on logic and movement. If I can make a cube where piece A slides right out the top, then I know that it could be the final piece. But If A slides out, what next? Are the rest of the pieces still locked in to a cube, or can piece B then slide out and be removed? And if so, then is there a piece C that can be removed?

I eventually found an arrangement where the pieces could be removed (and thus inserted) in a sequential fashion that would work. This has to be the solution right? Well, theory and practice are 2 different things and even though the solution should work, it didn’t. There were some very stubborn pieces that I could not figure out how to maneuver into place. I backed up a few steps, but kept coming back to what I believed was the solution, but again it wouldn’t work.

And then. The magic happened. The flop revealed itself. And dammit, DVL did it again. These are such amazing moments in puzzling. I hope he knows the joy he brings to so many. Finally, I had figured it out and with some clever moves and rotations, the full cube was now inside the box. Mission accomplished.

The completed Puzzle. This is the same image as shown on the Pelikan site, so I don’t think there are spoilers here.

This puzzle was just the right difficulty for me. It took a fair bit of time and reasoning, but I was able to solve it with a few hours of experimenting. Although I put it down at times and solved it over a period of days, I never felt defeated. It always seemed like the solution was just out of reach. Thus I stayed interested and avoided adding it to what Kevin Sadler calls, his “Hall of Shame” – I definitely have a embarrasing amount of puzzles in my hall of shame. But alas, this one shall instead go into my hall of triumph.


For years, I’ve been seeing LEGO puzzles pop up here and there. I’ve never solved one, but recently I saw the aMAZEing puzzle for sale and had to pull the trigger. I puchased this particular puzzle from NothingYetDesigns. I’ve purchased quite a few puzzles from them recently and they’ve all been high quality and the shipping is quick as well.

aMAZEing is the first puzzle created by a new company called QUIZBRIX. I can’t find much info about QUIZBRIX or who the designer is, but I’d like to welcome them to the puzzle family and I hope they find success and continue to make puzzles.

When the puzzle arrived, I was immediately intrigued. The black and white legos create a striking contrast and right off the bat I could see many slots and holes that lead me to believe that the claimed “30 steps to discover” was going to be quite the challenge.

The puzzle itself is rectangular in shape and about 4″x3″x2″ in size. It looks to be made of standard legos, big and small and feels mostly solid. There are many slots and holes on the four faces, but none on the top or bottom. The top, however is cleverly branded with a Q and B. It also appears that there are several drawers that may open, but for now, they are all locked shut.

On to the solve. This puzzle was a lot of fun to play with. It took me a couple of months to finally solve it, but I only worked on it sporadically – about 10 minutes at a time. It’s a clever design that had me stumped at couple of different points, but the clues were always there to guide me through the next step.

It’s definitely worthy of the “sequential discovery” title, there are a few tools to utilize and and a bunch of steps to complete in order to get to the final moves. These were especially tricky and I was stumped for a while until my son Parker (who is 10) figured it out. There was a certain tool that I couldn’t figure out how to use, But Parker found a way forward which then unlocked the rest of the puzzle. Using that same technique a couple of more times finally unlocked the last drawer which contained the Golden Bar. Also in the drawer was a lego with a QR code that points to a congratulations page and instructions on how to reset the puzzle – which is a great touch.

Overall, this puzzle wasn’t super hard, but then again I didn’t know what to expect from a LEGO puzzle. The website lists it as a Level 7 and I’d say thats fairly accurate.

I will defnitely buy the next puzzle offered by QUIZBRIX and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one to a friend. It’s also gotten me curious enough about LEGO puzzles that I’ll likely purchase more from other designers as well.

FastMaze #1 – Dan Fast

FastMaze #1 arrived today and I am beyond excited to give this a try. Ever since pictures were posted on FB, I have been anxious to get my hand dirty on this one. There something about how this one looks – It just screams “play with me!”

It’s an amazing looking puzzle that is even more fun to manipulate

FastMaze is an aluminum puzzle designed by Dan Fast and manufactured by Cubicdissection. It is comprised of 3 plates and 4 brass pins. The objective is to move the plates and pins until the puzzle is completely disassembled. It looks straightforward, all parts are visible, so no hidden tricks on this one, but with a solution, I already know that I’m in for a long haul.

The puzzle comes with assembly instructions – which is great in case you get stuck

First impression is that this is going to be challenging. A couple minutes of play and it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a lot more going on than I first thought. Each plate moves independently as does each brass pin. thus there are multiple items to track at once. And although I can see all the plates clearly, there are still parts of the middle plate that are obstructed by the top plate. I can see some round holes in the plates that I would assume are the exit points of the pins. So now, all I have to do is position the pins above those holes. Easy enough, right? But, how many dead ends are there? And, how deep do the dead ends go? No idea, but let’s find out!

Straight out of the box, none of the plates will move. However, 3 of the pins will. And with each movement of a pin, I am seemingly unlocking more movements for the plates which in turn opens up more movement options for the pins.

Ok, I’ve been messing around for about 15 minutes and have a few observations. The puzzle is definitely challenging. It’s not easy to keep track of all the moving parts. Often times I’ll feel stuck in a dead end only to realize that if I just move one of the pins slightly, then another pathway opens up. Also, I had a couple of the pins unscrew a bit on me, so now I know to keep them tight and occasionaly check them. Not a big deal.

Early on in the process. Each pin movement opens up further plate movements

Ok, I’m about 30 minutes into this beast and I think I’m making some progress. It’s one of those puzzles where I don’t exactly know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I sort of fix a goal in my head to move a pin into a certain spot and then I push and pull in different directions until something moves, then I adjust and keep going. The pins are definitely moving through the maze, but whether or not I’m actually progressing toward the goal – I have no idea.

It’s a fun puzzle to manipulate. The plates are heavy and the sound of metal on metal is pleasing. The pins slide effortlessly and the micro-chamfered edges really do make a difference. There is zero sticking or binding of any of the pieces. It’s smooth sailing the entire time.

Day Two. I’ve made some more progress (I think), but am also stuck. I’ve managed to manipulate one of the brass pins into position above a circular hole in the top plate. I can push the pin down into that hole, but then the whole puzzle becomes locked up. I’ve spent a good hour or so playing with this position, hoping that something will give, but thus far, no further progress. I’m fairly certain that I need to backtrack. And I have no idea if I’m actually any closer to a solution.

Lost along the way. Am I making progress or losing progress?

So far, most of this solve has been trial and error. I just move some pins, move some plates and see what opens up. Occasionally, I’ll flip the puzzle over and start working from the other side. This seems to open up more possibilities, but at the same time I sort of lose track of my initial goals.

I’m now wondering if the goal should be to align the 3 larger holes in the plates. If these were aligned, then a pin could pass all the way through in one move. This idea seems to make sense to me, so it is now going to be the goal.

Heck Yeah! I got a pin out and boy does it feel good! I had to employ a little rotation, but after re-reading the puzzle description, It is clear that rotations are allowed! So – Boom! Take that, FastMaze!

Ok, now 3 pins left to go. I’m looking at 24 or so moves to get the next one out. Let’s go!

And Boom! Pin #2 is free! This one was definitely easier. The plates were much easier to manipulate with only 3 pins and it seems clear that pins #3 and #4 will be even easier.

#3 was indeed easier and #4 was trivial. The puzzle definitely gets “looser” as pins are removed such that I employed many, many rotations to get pin #3 out, and #4 was trivial to remove.

Solved and Happy!

Wow! What a fun puzzle. It seemed very daunting at first and I had no idea what to do or where to go, but with time and experimentation I began to see progress and develop a goal. The puzzle was a good challenge, but certainly not impossible. 52 moves to free the first pin seemed monumental, but when there are 4 pins and 3 plates to manipulate, you can burn through those moves fairly quickly.

I really enjoyed this puzzle for a few different reasons. I liked the process of figuring it out, and also really like aluminum and brass as they are durable and heavy. I handed the puzzle off to my kids a few times without fear that they would break it or get it “stuck” forever. The fact that you can unscrew the pins and reset the puzzle at any time is also a bonus.

Overall, I would recommend this puzzle to anyone that is interested. There is also a FastMaze 2 and a FastMaze 3 which are both more difficult than this one. All 3 can be found at Cubicdissection.com for $65 each. They are selling fast, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another run of these produced in the future.

*Full Disclosure – I was sent an advance copy of this puzzle to review for this blog. All opinions are my own and are based on my experience with this puzzle.

Psycho Disks – Eric Fuller

Psycho Disks is a relatively new puzzle designed and created by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection. It’s composed of aluminum and brass and weighs in at about 1/3 of a pound or 148g. Considering it’s only 1.2″ x 2.4″ in size, it feels heavy in the hand.

When I first saw this one listed for sale, I knew I had to have it. This is exactly the type of intriguing puzzle that I love. It looks simple and gives nothing away. All the tricky bits are nicely hidden inside. It is pleasant to hold and manipulate and doubles as a fidget toy or paperweight.

The puzzle is attractive and fun to manipulate

When I first received the puzzle, I was stumped. According to Eric, the puzzle is inspired by Phil Wigfield’s ‘Spinning Tumblers’ puzzle – and having never seen or played with that particular puzzle, I had no idea what to do. The description calls it a Take-Apart puzzle, so I knew I had to disassemble it somehow, but it was not clear at all how to accomplish said task.

Upon arrival, I took it out and began experimenting. The two ends could freely rotate and so could all the disks sandwiched in between, but that was about all I could discover. There was some sort of small metallic souding piece that rattled inside one of the end pieces too. Other than that there was very little movement. The tolerances were tight and thus there were no gaps between pieces.

For a few days, I was stumped. I didn’t put a ton of time into really thinking about possibilites, rather I just enjoyed holding the puzzle and spinning the disks. I handed it off to my son and let him play with it, but he quickly became bored and moved on. Hmm, no progress yet.

The puzzle sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Then as I was preparing for a cross-country road trip, I decided that I’d bring it along and see if I could get anywhere in the car. That’s when my first breakthrough occured.

I was spinning the disks when I noticed that one of them was stuck. It would no longer spin. I knew this meant something, I just didn’t know what. When puzzling, we are always looking for a change, something different – whether that is a new path to take, a new rotation or just a new idea to work on, these differences are what tells us that we are making progress.

Inspired by this new development I put the puzzle in the car and started driving. Somewhere along the way, my wife took the wheel and I was free to puzzle. At this point I started making some real progress. I began developing some theories about how to solve the puzzle and sure enough things seemed to be headed in the right direction. I progressed through the sequence as I had hoped. I still had no idea what I was doing or how the internal mechanism was working, but still the puzzle was behaving as I had hoped and so I was optimistic.

I felt that I was close to solving it (and I was), but I still couldn’t work out how to get the darn thing open. What was I missing?

The puzzle went back in the glove box and I moved on – stumped again.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, we were driving around and I heard some rattling in the car. What the heck was that? Oh yeah, the puzzle in the glove box was making that noise. Once again I was pulled into puzzle mode. This time determined to figure it out. And this time, I tried something slightly different and behold the puzzle was solved! I was then able to take it apart and see what was going on.

A challenging puzzle to photograph without giving anything away!

Interestingly, I was still a bit confused by the mechanism. Even with the guts laid bare, I still had some questions. A little more thought and experimenting and it finally dawned on me what was going on. It was at this point that I really began to appreciate the cleverness of this thing. The way the pieces work together to allow the final move is pretty darn cool. It’s simple, but it’s clever.

There are still some of these available at cubicdissection.com and it’s definitely a puzzle that I would recommend. I love that Eric is working with metal now and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #4 – Junichi Yananose

Yay! I’m back with another board burr – This time, it’s number 4 of the 6 burr series. Thank God it’s not number 3!

An excellent Board Burr Puzzle!

This is another beautiful puzzle that utilizes Hickory and Rose Alder with pins of Bamboo. The two wood varieties achieve a nice contrast and while not exotic looking, this puzzle has a subtle beauty that is very pleasing.

This puzzle was a joy to play with. The moves are fun and satisfying. It was a bit tricky at first, although the start is very limited, the puzzle soon hits a dead end and it’s a bit difficult to figure out.

The key with this puzzle, in my opinion, is to really try to accomplish specific moves and positions. With the previous 3 board burr puzzles, I would mostly just explore every possibility with no other intention in mind. It felt impossible to actually try to solve the puzzle. Instead I was left wandering around, moving back and forth until something new opened up. With #4, I was able to determine which piece needed to come out first and was then able to strategically figure out moves to make that happen. This made it more rewarding to solve. There were even a couple of a-ha moments that really stood out.

There is one pin and groove in particular that was hidden the entire puzzle. This made things challenging, yet fun. I kept wondering why the heck certain pieces wouldn’t move as expected – turns out they were held in place by this hidden pin and groove.

I found myself a bit stuck toward the end of this puzzle – I had in fact solved it, and all I had to do was slide the piece free, but I kept searching for more. When I finally slid the piece off, I felt silly for not trying it sooner. After removing the first piece, there is still a challenge left to remove the remaining pieces.

Some interesting channels, notches and two types of pins make for some fun moves.

To me, this is a classic board burr puzzle. It’s approachable and would likely take a novice a long time to solve, but the solution isn’t terribly difficult – just keep at it and you’ll get there. Where #3 had endless pathways, dead ends and was difficult to keep track of, #4 was far more straightforward. There were some hidden moves, and a few tricks to unlock a certain piece, but overall this was a great puzzle that has given me motivation to continue with the series.

Bring on #5!

Final thought – This series is criminally underrated. There are only a few reviews online and further, a couple example have sold on the Cubicdissection marketplace for ~$60-$80 each. Perhaps board burrs are not that desirable to collectors, but these 6 Burrs stand at the top of my collection. I’ve gotten dozens of hours of very challenging puzzling out of them and they are large, heavy and well-made. What’s not to love?