## Hanayama Infinity

Ok. Gonna do another real time run through with the Hanayama Infinity. I haven’t played with this one before, so this will all be done on the fly. I’ll start on the puzzle and every so often – 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll stop and record my progress and thoughts. Maybe this will reveal something interesting about the process – maybe not. But, its the process of solving these puzzles that I want to capture here. Solving puzzles is about being systematic and exploratory. Lets see if I can get this one solved here tonight.

First off, the puzzle is another beauty. Like most Hanayama puzzles, they are usually bigger and heavier than I anticipate from the picture. This one looks like its made of 3 pieces. 2 circular bearings and an outer casing. One thing that I notice right away is that each bearing has a circular cut-out where the other bearing fits. From the picture, I figures only ONE of the bearings had this cutout, but upon flipping the puzzle, I can see that both have this cutout.

Ok, lets see if I can discover anything in 5 minutes.

Five minutes in and I haven’t solved it, but I have learned a few things. I’ve been able to manipulate the two bearings a bit and am starting to understand how the puzzle moves. The two bearings are able to rotate around – i haven’t been able to complete a full 360 either. I’ve gotten the stamped bearing to rotate probably 300 degrees, and the blank bearing only about 15 degrees. The bearings also can move up or down and moving them up and down unlocks the turning ability. The sides of the bearings are visible at times and I can see interesting shapes and tracks that are interlocking on each other and preventing or allowing movement.

Solving the puzzle will likely be a matter of knowing the correct position and/or sequence to release the two bearings. I’m not sure if I can take a systematic approach or not. I felt like I was making some progress in the first 5 minutes, lets see what happens next.

Ok, I’m now 15 minutes into this and I feel like I’m getting close. I’m pretty sure I have one of the bearings in the correct location. There is a scallop cutout that is lining up with a protrusion on the case. But, the other bearing isn’t budging and right now it feels a bit stuck. But, I’m hesitant to move the piece that is the correct position. But looks like thats exactly what I’ll have to do if I want to progress.

This puzzle is fun to manipulate, but is a little frustrating because pieces seem to lock up at points. I don’t yet know if this is sequential in any manner or whether I just need to get the pieces into the correct position.

32 minutes and 54 seconds total time, and the puzzle has been solved. I’m not sure if I did things correctly or not. It seemed to me like I could rotate the stamped bearing fairly easily, but the non-stamped one was difficult to move. I ended up moving the stamped bearing around about 300 degrees and then that would allow the non-stamped piece to move about 15 degrees, and I’d move the stamped piece back to the start and that would allow me to move the other piece 15 degrees. I kept at this until the puzzle was solved.

The inside of this one is really cool. Its really amazing to interlock the bearings and move them around and see how they catch on each other and how moving up and down opens up new pathways. Overall, I’m very impressed with the design on this one. It seemed obvious from looking at it how it would work, but its design makes it really challenging. I think I’m going to hold off on putting this back together – I need to understand how the bearings interact better to see if I did things correctly or picked an inefficient solution.

Assembly was pretty straightforward, but still took me a good 10 minutes to complete. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I’ll have to complete it a few more times to see if I can really  get a mastery of it.

## Hanayama Cast Elk

Ok, new format. Tonight, I’m going to document the puzzle solving experience. I have the Hanayama Cast Elk puzzle and I’m going to try to solve it while documenting my thoughts every 15 minutes. Hopefully this will capture the process or evolution of solving one of these things. I’m also hoping that I will perform better due to the greater focus required. Anyway, we’ll see what happens.

Begin: (first impression) – My initial though is – “how hard can it be?” I mean it’s only 2 pieces. Surely there can’t be that many ways to manipulate the two pieces, right? Beyond that, the puzzle is another excellent Hanayama. It has good weight to it, it has a nice shiny finish – similar to vortex. And, overall, its just pleasing to hold. Let’s see what I can figure out.

Whelp, I solved it in 11:26, so didn’t need the full 15 I guess. It funny, cuz I had the pieces in the final position a few times, but didn’t “make the move” until later on after I had exhausted a few other possibilities. Really, there weren’t that many positions for the pieces to be in, which was making me a little frustrated after the first 5 minutes.

I initially figured out how to move the pieces through each other and felt good, but then I couldn’t progress any further. The pieces were easy to manipulate and many times, they were very close to passing through each other, so much so that I began to think that perhaps this was one of those lopsided puzzles where one protrusion is slightly smaller on one side than the other. I kept chasing this idea for a while – really examining the puzzle to see if there were any anomalies in size or shape.

Ultimately, I didn’t find any anomolies, the puzzle looked symmetrical, even upon close inspection. So, I went back to manipulating the pieces. After a while, it seemed like I had exhausted the possibilites, so as per usual, I concentrated on doing things different. I was trying to go against natural instincts and move pieces opposite to what was natural.

This technique is something I use all the time in puzzling. Trying the same thing over and over doesn’t usually yield results, so consciously doing things differently often helps.

Anyway, just like that, I had the pieces back in a familiar positions but this time, tried a slightly different move and viola! They separated.

After getting them apart, I quickly put them back together again, feeling confident that I knew the secret… except I was wrong… It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought and in fact, I’m confident that I got lucky the first time. Because this time, I was having a harder time finding the solution. It took me a solid 20 minutes to get the darn thing solved again, and I’m feeling confident now that there are in fact some subtle differences in shape and size in the pieces, arms and slots.

Pretty cool puzzle. I definitely don’t have it mastered, i’ll have to solve it a few more times, but it was fun and I liked it a lot – even if I did get lucky.

## Hanayama Cast Dial

Another fun puzzle from Hanayama! I love these puzzles that seem so impossible at the beginning, but slowly reveal the solution over time. This one was wonderful to solve and is very cleverly built.

At first, it just seems that there is no way to make any progress. There is a triangular frame that is made up of 2 pieces and an internal, rotating “dial” that is also made of two pieces. The only thing that stands out is that the 2 dial pieces have different thicknesses. But otherwise, there isn’t much to go on.

The 2 dial pieces can rotate independently, but it doesn’t seem to affect anything. Its a confounding situation to have a puzzle that seemingly has no entry points. Its also a bit frustrating, because there’s not much manipulation to be had here. A lot of Hanayama puzzles consist of 3 intertwined pieces, so you can at least fiddle with them and change positions – but with Dial, there just isn’t much to play with. You can flip the dial and turn the 2 half, but nothing else.

The first time I picked this up, I didn’t get anywhere. It just didn’t seem like there was anything to manipulate. But, as I resisted this puzzle later on, it came to me that I just had to work with what I got.

I noticed some subtle variations when spinning the dial – sometimes, the triangular frame seemed to loosen up a little bit. So, I played around with this for a while. The hard part here, is that it is difficult to grab the frame. I had a good idea on how it would open, but it was hard to apply  pressure in the right place. Eventually, I achieved the first move. It was glorious to feel this thing open a bit after a few hours of tinkering.

But, it wasn’t over yet. As I tried to open it further, I accidentally closed it again and had to start over. It was a bit of a bummer, but ultimately helped because the second time around, I was more aware of how it was working.

Eventually, I got the thing open and the internal secrets were revealed. Now, all the turning made sense to me as I could see how things worked mechanically.

Reassembly was a bit tricky, but it also revealed to me more of how things work. Once everything was positioned just right, I was able to close the dial back up.

Overall, a very fun puzzle that was quite challenging to me.

## Hanayama Vortex

What a beast! This puzzle sure looks nice and pretty, but don’t be fooled, its a demon. It took me about a week to get this puzzle separated into its 3 pieces, and I briefly tried to put it back together, but ultimately resorted to a youtube video.

And although I was mighty happy to open this up last night, It wasn’t my favorite puzzle. I think, perhaps, this type of entanglement puzzle just isn’t my cup of tea.

To find the solution, I mostly played with it for hours. Sometimes it would bind up, sometimes it would feel looser. Sometimes, I would move a piece through another piece and things would “feel” like they were moving in the right direction. Sometimes, I’d execute a seemingly complex move only to result in no perceivable change.

The big thing that makes this puzzle so frustrating is the actual shape of the pieces. They seem simple, almost like a nice “C” shape, but really, they are more shaped like a closed “6” This makes manipulating them very difficult as the smaller circle is alway blocking the way and getting caught on things.

Ultimately, it just came down to determination. I was starting to loathe this puzzle and getting back to work on it was not a fun thought. So, I decided to bite the bullet and just get it done. I was at the points where the 3 tails were connected, but just couldn’t move forward.

Finally, something happened and I was able to unlock one of the tails, thus creating a chain of rings, which was easily disassembled. The relief was great – that is until I realized that I had no idea how to put it back together.

It funny, I’ve been noticing lately that for every hour of puzzling that I do, I’m actually focused and engaged for only a small portion of that. Seems that my mental state and focus level has everything to do with how quickly I can solve these puzzles. It’s easy to half-ass it and accomplish nothing. Its hard to stay focused, determined and push forward. But ultimately, that’s the only way to get it done.

## Hanayama Cast Chain

Oh, the cast chain. You were fun to solve.

I really liked this particular puzzle. It was simple enough that I could wrap my head around all the interactions, but solving it took some persistence. This was one of those puzzles where the solution was pretty obvious from the beginning, but manipulating the pieces to the correct position proved to be the challenge.

When I first picked this puzzle up, I didn’t get anywhere. It just didn’t seem like there were any options. I fiddled with it for 15 minutes, half-distracted, and then put it down for later.

Later in the day, when I had the time, I decided to dedicate 30 focused minutes on the puzzle and see if I could make any progress. It was somewhere during this 30 minutes that I discovered how to connect the chain ends and switch the order of the links. This was a cool discovery, and it gave me some hope. Unfortunately, I had to put it down again to take care of some things.

Later on in the evening, I picked the puzzle up and focused another 45 minutes and found the solution. I think I would have solved it quicker, but I was somehow convinced there was a “3rd state” for the links to be in. It turns, out there is not “3rd state”, I simply had to get the links in the correct order and orientation.

Once solved, it was easy to put back together and restore to the original state.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this one. It kind of reminds me of vortex, in that it is 3 interconnected pieces, but I was able to keep track of everything much easier – vortex gets confusing to me (and I still haven’t solved it).  Built quality is great as is the fit and finish.

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster

## Hanayama Nutcase

I picked up the Hanayama Nutcase last week and finally got a chance to dedicate a little time to it over the weekend. Overall, I liked the puzzle. It felt impossible at first and it’s always satisfying to solve a puzzle that starts off as “impossible”.

Closer inspection reveals some interesting details. There is a loose nut that rattles around inside the bolt. I quickly determined that it was unlikely to help in the solution. The inside of the bolt was smooth and there was nothing for that loose bolt to catch onto, nor were there any pockets for it to fit into.

The outside of the bolt, however, held some of the clues needed for the solution. After playing with this puzzle for about an hour, I set it down to go take a shower. It was at that moment that I had an idea of what was going on. The idea just hit me upside the head and I was suddenly sure I had the answer. At that point, I was thinking that I could solve it in 5 minutes.Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Although my solution was correct, it took another hour or so to finally get it right.

This puzzle is a bit loose and tinkery. Even when you have the solution, it isn’t exactly easy to get everything perfect, thus the puzzle isn’t quite as enjoyable as it should be. I have a number of Hanayama puzzles that are of excellent build quality and tolerances, this one just doesn’t measure up.

Puzzle Available at PuzzleMaster