Ya know, when Covid first hit I was kind of excited because I thought I would get to puzzle all the time. I figured that I’d be home a lot more and would have lots of down time and that I’d be knocking out puzzles and blog posts like a machine. Oh how wrong I was.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one stuck in the house. My wife and kids were along for the ride as well which meant we have all been crammed into this house for a better part of 7 months. The result is that I’ve had very little personal time and thus very little puzzling time. I’m still buying them at an alarming rate, but haven’t been solving that many.
The other day, I said “enough is enough, I need to solve some of these things before I’m buried in them.”
So, I picked up Pumpkin 1, designed by Osanori Yamamoto and determined that I was going to solve it no matter what.
This particular puzzle was crafted by Pelikan Puzzles and is nicely built and a pleasure to play with. It’s made of Pear / Bubingo wood and there is a very nice contrast between the orange pieces and the tan box. It seems like Pelikan has been focusing more on these “more affordable” puzzles lately and I’m that’s fine by me. Though I hope that they continue to release new “premium” puzzles as well.
This puzzle starts off simple enough. There are 3 pieces and one box and all you have to do is get those pieces into the box so that the entryway is completely filled up. It sounds easy and looks easy, but I’ve worked on these Yamamoto packing puzzles before, so I know that I’m in for a struggle.
My first attempts involved randomly sticking pieces into the box to see if I could “get lucky” and find a solution randomly. This method lasted a few hours over the course of an afternoon and not only did I fail to make progress, but I was having trouble remembering what configuration I had tried and what I had not, so inevitably, I repeated the same failed assembly over and over.
I eventually gave up on that idea and opted for a more systematic approach. I’d start by assembling the pieces outside the box in a 3×3 cube. Then I’d search that cube for any 2×2 feature that would “fill the gap” of the box. Once I had a 3×3 structure built that satisfied my requirements, I’d then try to find a sequence to get those pieces into the box in that same configuration.
Over and over I tried again and again and each time I failed. There are actually a whole lot of configurations that would theoretically “work” if only they’d fit into that box. But, the more I worked with the puzzle, the more I came to understand the limitations of the box. That angled top, the bottom lip, the inability for pieces to rotate inside the box – all these things existed to thwart my attempts.
Another day passed and I became even more systematic. The problem I was having is that I would come up with a 3×3 cube that I liked and whilst trying to then insert the pieces, I would lose track of the initial setup. This was frustrating as it is possible that I had the right solution, but got lost along the way and would eventually “reset” before trying all the options.
I began taking pictures to better keep track of the different configuration and I also began employing temporary stickers to keep track of the pieces. This helped, but did not result in a solution.
I then abandoned this method and started really thinking logically about this puzzle. Which piece goes in last? What is the likely configuration of these other pieces? How can I use the shape of the pieces and the shape of the box together? Instead of trying every option I could come up with, I decided to try to narrow things down and focus on what makes the most sense.
And just like that, I found the solution.
The genius in this design is the fact that the packed 3×3 cube has lots of missing voxels. This allows for unique pieces that can be fit together in countless arrangements. Had the pieces made a perfect 3×3 cube, there would be no mystery, there would be only 1 obvious arrangement and that would be no fun.
Overall, an excellent packing puzzle that provided the right amount of challenge. I stayed interested and determined and was rewarded within a few days time with the solution. Highly recommended if you enjoy this type of puzzle!