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.

aMAZEing – QUIZBRIX

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 52.24.28.10.9.14 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?

Grooved 6 Board Burr #3 – Junichi Yananose

Oh boy, this one is going to be tough. I’ve been manipulating it for a casual 15 minutes and can already tell that I’m going to struggle. There are multiple paths to start with and they all seem to get complicated real quick. I’m attempting to map this thing out, but it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to keep track of the moves. It’s not simple board moves, it’s block changing multi-piece moves straight out of the gate and unless I take a photo of each move, or draw it out on paper, I’m not sure my brain can handle it. It takes something like 33 moves to get the first piece out, so I’m going to need all the luck I can get.

Ok. I think I’m making some progress. Out of the 3 beginning options, I think I’ve narrowed it down to only one path. The other 2 has multiple forks, but all came to an end within a handful of moves. That only leaves one option. Time to explore further.

Hmm. Thought I was on the right track, made it about 10 moves in, but then found another dead end, so I must have missed something. Time for bed. I’ll live to fight another day.

Day two. Stuck again after about 14 moves. This thing is tricky!

Day three, Day Four, Day Five. I’m losing a little hope here. I find myself in the familiar position of trying the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. But, as you can imagine, nothing different happens. No progress. What did I miss where is the move?

Day Six and I’ve found a new move that shifts things slightly. It seems to dead end though. The promising new move isn’t so promising after all. But it is something different, so there’s that.

One of the many complicated configurations found in this puzzle

After more tinkering, I found yet another move which allowed piece to be moved to their furtherst extend. But, maddeningly, they would not release! More tinkering and I found a way to remove the first piece! But, it requires a rotation. Juno mentions a shortcut using a rotation to remove the second piece, but I haven’t read anything about the rotation I found. Should I use this rotation or should I continue my search for the correct move. Well, I’d like to do it correctly, so no rotation for me.

OK. Officially frustrated. My careful, controlled approach is failing me. I’ve now resorted to uncontrolled fidgeting and manipulation. I’m now attempting to change the orientation of the puzzle in order to get my brain to think about different moves. I’ve traced the same moves over and over so many times that I’m now conditioned to solving the puzzle wrongly. Hopefully flipping the puzzle over, will allow me to see moves I hadn’t seen before because clearly I’m missing something.

Breakthrough!!!

This is one epic puzzle. My god. This thing is complex. I’ve finally taken the first piece out and it was completely unintentional. I had a breakthrough moment where I found a completely new path that I had never explored. I was certain that I was finally getting close, but again I found a dead end. I decided to retrace the steps to take it back to the beginning and search for a missing path. But somehow, on the path back to the beginning, I apparently found the correct path and though I thought I was going back to the start, pieces just kept moving and moves just kept appearing where they hadn’t before and I just decided to forge ahead, getting completely lost in the process. I was in awe as the puzzle moved further and further apart but still held together. My god, how can a single puzzle have so many paths?

So here I sit, with one piece out and once again, I’m stuck and can’t get any more pieces out. This puzzle is relentless!

Omg. I’m ready to break out the saw or hammer on this puzzle. I’m going to have to come back another day to try to remove the next piece. I’m just frantically moving pieces around hoping and praying that something will release. But NOOOOO. This puzzle has other ideas. Dammit Juno. How the hell did you design this diabolical thing?

I have finally done it. This has to be one of the most difficult puzzles I’ve ever disassembled. This thing is unreal. Taking out the second and even the third piece took me over an hour. It seems you have to backtrack a crazy amount of moves – pretty much back to the beginning to take yet another path to release that 2nd piece. It’s the puzzle that never ends.

It’s done.

In the end, I didn’t feel joy at solving this, I just felt relief.

The pieces don’t look so intimidating, but trust me, this thing is very challenging.

There is absolutely no way I would ever be able to reassemble this thing. I’ll have to resort to the burr file – which will be a first for me. But I just can’t imagine even attempting to put this back together.

In the end, I did contact Pluredro and they quickly sent out the Burr Tools file. I loaded it up and managed to put this thing back together. Even that was not easy. I’m not well versed in Burr Tools and had to spend a good amount of time going through step by step, rotating the puzzle around on the screen to make sure I had everything correct. The process confirmed, once again, that this is a very difficult puzzle.

The thoughts of solving 4,5 and 6 doesn’t sound very appealing at the moment. But, I’ve set out with a goal, so I’m going to give it the best I’ve got. Hopefully the next ones aren’t as ruthless.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #2 – Junichi Yananose

Here we go again! This time with Grooved 6 Board Burr #2

This one is supposed to be much easier than the first. We shall see!

It’s a beaut Clark, a beaut!

Before we begin, I have to talk about the beauty of this thing. It’s incredible. Constructed of Bubinga and European Beech, it is much heavier than the first and in my opinion, is even better looking. The Bubinga has a wonderful wood grain throughout and it is nicely contrasted by the lighter, yellowish Beech. Also of note is the lack of visible grooves and pins. They are still in there, you just can’t see them without moving pieces around. I love this concept – the idea of creating a simple looking puzzle that hides all the intricacies internally that are only revealed through manipulation. There’s no way to plan ahead with this puzzle, you have to start solving in order to learn how to solve it. Very cool.

The description includes “..but we believe that many burr puzzle lovers can assemble the puzzle without any clue.” Challenge accepted! With the previous puzzle, I utilized stickers and photos for reassembly. This time, I’m going to give it a shot without those aids. Wish me luck!

As with the first puzzle in the series, this one is a joy to hold and manipulate. The pieces slide easily and the heavy nature of the wood makes for solid sounding “thunks” and “claps” as the pieces are pushed and pulled. 

Wow. First impressions – I’m stunned. This puzzle isn’t what I expected. There seem to be numerous ‘half-moves’ involved and the puzzle quickly becomes a little loosey goosey and that makes it hard to keep track of what the heck I’m doing. I like to backtrack often in order to keep an idea of where I’m at with a puzzle, but I’m having a hard time doing that here, so I have just pushed forward.

I soon found a move where I thought that pieces would come out, but at the last second, they stopped and I wasn’t able to remove them after all. Super fun and exciting, but slightly intimidating. 

After this, I once again decided to return the puzzle to the original state. The next day, I set about again and could only get about 6 or so moves in. I couldn’t seem to find the move that I completed the previous day. I became rather frustrated as I knew this move was so close, but I just couldn’t unlock it! Gahh!

Well, eventually I found it and it was again thrilling to see the pieces slide all the way to the edge without coming out. What the heck was holding it together? I reworked this move a few times and eventually discovered what I had been doing wrong. Now that I was familiar with these moves, I decided to press on again.

Pieces sliding way out! Close, but no cigar!

This led to more interesting moves – there are a number of times with this puzzle where a series of micro-moves are required. It is great fun, but hard for my brain to comprehend. At last I came to a configuration that once again felt like pieces could fall out and sure enough a piece dropped out the bottom while I was holding it. Had I solved it? Was this the intended solution?

It’s hard to say, by my count, I was only about 19 moves in and Juno’s description says 25 to get the first piece out. Hmm. So, I put the piece back in to check for more moves. Sure enough, I found a couple more of those micro-moves that allowed me to remove the first piece in a much more elegant manner. Ta Da! 

Fun, Fun Fun! What a very cool puzzle. The inner workings of this puzzle are a wonder to behold! And to my surprise, 2 of the pieces were complete rings, with no grooves or pins at all! Juno has done it again!

Look at those amazing boards!

Now, the question remains, Can I reassemble this thing without relying on my notes or photographs? I’m going to come back in a day to let the memory of the positioning and movement fade a bit and see if I can do it!

Ok, let’s see if we can do this. How hard can it be? Looking at the pieces, it is fairly obvious as to how it should go together. There’s only 2 boards that have pins. And there’s also only 2 boards that have grooves. It’s also fairly obvious which pin board goes with which groove board, so now all I have to do is actually assemble the shape.

So far, assembly isn’t going too well. I am quite sure I know which pieces fit where, but at present, they won’t go back together. I’m going to keep at it for an hour or so and see if I can make some progress, but so far, no luck. 

Holy crap I did it! With enough tinkering and guesswork, I finally figured out the arrangement necessary to put it back together. I got some strange looks from my family (and dog) as I was shouting “Yes! YES! YEEESSSS!” but it was certainly worth it. Really, it wasn’t that difficult, I already knew which piece had to go together and I was pretty sure about their orientation, it was just a matter of figuring out how to get them together. In truth, the pins and channels guided the way. I extended the board pairs to their maximum – essentially putting the pins at the end of their grooves and then tried to assemble the thing. Pretty quickly I knew I was on the right track and in fact the assembly went together rather quickly from this point. 

Overall, another fantastic puzzle. Definitely way easier than #1 and I’d say this puzzle is even approachable to folks who are new to puzzles.

Two down, 4 to go!