## 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!”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

## Small Box #4 – “Paradox Box” – Eric Fuller

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote one of these blog posts. Life has been busy and I have been negligent. I haven’t stopped puzzling, I’ve just taken a little break from writing about them. Sometimes its nice to be carefree about solving puzzles and not feel obligated to wait for the perfect time where I can write down my thoughts and document the solve. Hopefully I will get back to regular posting in 2020. By the way – Happy New Year to everyone out there in puzzle land.

Another month (or two) has passed and I have another Small Box puzzle from Eric. This time I have Small Box #4 and boy, was this one fun!

The Small Box series has been wonderful. I have always shied away from puzzle boxes. They are usually expensive and once you solve them, they just become decorations on the shelf. I kind of viewed them as a novelty. Well, my admittedly naive opinion has officially changed. The small box series is what really did it for me too. The price point is far more palatable and something about the small size makes them even more approachable. These boxes are also perfect to hand to friends and family during gatherings. There is something irritating about NOT being able to open them which really makes people determined to do so.

Small Box #4 is beautiful. It is slightly larger than the other 3 boxes, clocking in at roughly 3″x2″x1.5″. It is composed of an Ash box and an Bloodwood top. The contrast of colors is eye catching and the construction, as always, is top notch perfection.

Small Box #4 has stumped me for quite some time. The description is perfect “… seems easy at first. Movement here…movement there…what you need to do is immediately apparent, but seems impossible to achieve.” This was exactly my experience. I was caught in an endless loop of the same movements. I just couldn’t figure out any alternative moves or ideas.

Back and forth, back and forth I went. And so, it sat on the shelf for many weeks. Occasionally, I’d pick it up and slide the top back and forth achieving the same nothing over and over. I was truly confounded. What was I missing? Sliding the box top to the left allows the left side to move up. Sliding the box top to the right allows the right side to move up. The problem is, you need both sides to slide up to move the bottom panel.

There had to be something else going on. And, having solved the other 3 small boxes, I knew that somewhere there was a solution. But, that solution kept eluding me. Eventually, I forgot about the puzzle and moved on.

Then, randomly one day, I picked it up again and and was struck with an idea. I tried the idea and failed, but at least I had made some sort of progress – it wasn’t physical progress, it was mental progress. I had broken through the endless loop with a new idea. This gave me motivation to carry forward.

Steadfast in my belief, I tried that same idea again, but in a different place and sure enough – Ah Ha! It worked! I sat back and marveled at yet another Eric Fuller creation. It is such an amazing rush of adrenaline to solve these things. The pain and agony of the endless loop of non-progress is always rewarded in the end when the box is opened. There must be a life-lesson here. Keep pursuing even in the difficult times as you will be rewarded in the end.

What a great feeling and what a clever puzzle. This may be my favorite of the 4 small boxes released thus far. The small box series is currently sold out, but you can find more of Eric’s puzzles Here.

## Tube It In Packing Puzzle – Wil Strijbos

I am very excited about this one! Tube It In is a unique packing puzzle that consists of many different sized rectangular pieces that must all fit together inside the largest rectangle. This is one of those puzzles that really grabbed my eye and I knew right away that I had to have it.

This particular version was created by Eric Fuller over at CubicDissection.com, so I know it will be of superior construction, fit and finish.

When the puzzle arrived, I was a bit shocked to see that it was already assembled – I’m not sure if I forgot to select a “ship unassembled” option, or if this is just the way Eric decided to package this puzzle, but either way, I quickly opened it up and with eyes closed, I quickly disassembled the puzzle working hard not to peek or gain any insight. The other thing I noticed is that the puzzle is rather small. It’s always hard to determine scale from some photos on the internet, but somehow, I expected a larger puzzle. This is not a problem, however, as the smaller it is, the easier it is to hide in the collection and the less likely I will take any heat for ordering “yet another puzzle.”

The puzzle is composed of 14 different pieces and all of them a different variety of wood. It’s beautiful and despite the small pieces, the construction is superb. It must have been tricky cutting and assembling all these tiny little rectangles with perfect precision, but if anyone it up to the task, it is Eric.

Ok, I’m excited to try this out and see how it goes, I’m not particularly talented when it comes to assembling packing puzzles, but for some reason, this one seemed like it would be easier – after all, I know that I have to pack the small pieces into the big ones, so that should make things easier, right?

Let’s have a go.

Well, I’ve spent a good 10 minutes on this puzzle so far, and I thought that I had it solved, but it turns out, I was wrong. I had a very nice false “a ha” moment, where I thought I was being tricky, but this stubborn little puzzle isn’t giving up its secrets so easily. It really is fun to work with though. I am enjoying this 3 dimensional packing challenge.

Another 5 minutes later, and with my kids watching, I figure it out and have it solved! Yay! We all shout! Super fun little puzzle for sure! I think the addition of the magnets its a really smart idea as they hold the puzzle together once it is completed.

It turns out my false “a ha” was actually the correct move – I just had a couple of pieces in the wrong place after that particular move. It’s interesting because even if you know the correct placement of all the pieces, there is still a bit of a sequence required to fit everything in. The tolerances are so tight that if put in out of order, the pieces just don’t fit, which tripped me up for a bit.

This is a great packing puzzle. A logical thought process will yield positive results and the number of possibilities is limited by the fact that they must fit within each other. These two factors combine for a fun puzzle that feels good to solve. Definitely a puzzle that I can hand to friends and relatives – provided they are careful to not lose any of the small pieces.

## Topless Box – Eric Fuller

This puzzle box is quite amazing. The journey that it took me on from initial inspection to solution to understanding and examining the mechanics was nothing short of magical. I generally stay away from puzzle boxes – I spend enough time and money on other types that I have put a self-limitation on what I will buy – but when I saw this one offered by Eric, I just couldn’t resist.

The box itself is quite simple in appearance – and that greatly adds to the elegance of the experience. It’s a simple cube that has a lid on the top and a lid on the bottom. Both lids are secured by magnetic force and can be easily removed. However, removing them does not open the box, it just reveals a solid panel beneath. And… that’s about it. That’s all there is to work with.

With most puzzles that I have solved, there are pieces to utilize – you have to stuff a bunch of pieces into a box, or you have to take apart an existing cube, etc. The main difference here is that there is not much to work with. Thus, I had to really change my approach to solving this. I couldn’t just fiddle with pieces, I couldn’t really use trial and error, there was nothing to map out. It’s just a box with 2 lids. The process then, becomes more of a cerebral exercise. What exactly is going on here and what clues are there. The box itself feels empty. There are no rattling parts, nothing shifts inside, there really are no such obvious clues as to how to progress.

For many weeks, this puzzle sat on my shelf. I’d pick it up every once in a while and pop the lids off while shaking my head in defeat. After a few minutes, I’d return it to the shelf and wonder if I’d ever solve it.

Eventually, with enough prodding, I discovered how the box was put together. This was great, but at the same time I was even more confused. What was holding it together? How do I open it? The usual methods of spinning and banging didn’t yield any results nor did they feel like they should. It almost seemed that there was some magical force holding the box together. I was envisioning all sorts of crazy internal mechanisms holding it together, but nothing I imagined was even close. I tried all sorts of random things with the lids, but again, nothing yielded any results.

The box sat on the shelf for many more weeks and I moved on to other puzzles. Then, last night, I decided to spend some more time with it. Again, I ran through all of my previous failed ideas – and again they failed. I finally just say there and stared at the box and instead of trying random things, I used my brain to really think about things. This lead me to try something that then yielded a very small result and I knew I was on the right track. A few minutes later and I had the box open.

Amazing! The feeling of opening this was like none other! I was so excited, I was shaking and overcome with a flood of adrenaline. I had finally done it!

Well, I knew what I had done, but I still wasn’t sure how it had worked, so I spent the next few minutes examining the insides, the mechanism and the trick to opening it. And I was further amazed – and impressed – and awed. In Neil Hutchinson’s Blog – Puzzling-Parts – He describes it as “elegant” – and I couldn’t agree more. It is so incredibly elegant. It’s so satisfying to finally understand how it works and to see the mechanism in action. I closed and opened the box many times and each subsequent time produced a huge smile, over and over.

Perhaps I should rethink my self-imposed ban on puzzle boxes. I know its a deep rabbit hole to venture down, but man, this thing was incredibly fun and supremely satisfactory to solve. Well done Eric. That was awesome!

## Cranium – Jerry Loo

Yes! I was one of the lucky 8 people to get my hands on this puzzle! I really didn’t know what I was buying, but when Eric Fuller releases a limited run puzzle, I have no choice but to pull the trigger and purchase it. It sounds like he is open to making more in the future, so those that missed out may have another chance to pick up this wonderful and unique puzzle.

To start – I’m super intimidated by this puzzle. There are a ton of pieces, limited pictures and no instruction on assembly, so it’s up to me to get the job done. Hopefully there is a logical sequence to things and enough clues for me to get it together. I’ve never worked on a puzzle like this, so I’m very excited to get started and see what I’m in for.

Holy crap there are a lot of pieces! I haven’t even begun to attempt this thing yet and I’m already feeling like there is no way I’ll get it solved. But hopefully my first impression is off and I can make some progress. Is this a solid puzzle? Or are there gaps in the skull? The 3 images on the cubic dissection site seem to suggest that it is a solid form. Also, I’ve noticed that one of the images holds some clues as to what pieces come out of the “face”. Ok. Here goes.

Ok. I’ve spent the last half hour sorting pieces. I had to see what I was working with and there are over 50 pieces here, so step one seemed to be: Sort. And I think its been helpful. This puzzle is comprised of some very interesting pieces! There are large pieces that look like creatures out of the Space Invaders game and there are some tiny “T” shaped pieces. There are over 10 pairs of duplicate pieces and quite a few pieces that are not symmetrical – though a majority are symmetrical. There are no duplicate symmetrical pieces. What does all this mean? I don’t know… but I do have some theories starting to build. I think I’m going to start with the biggest pieces and see if I can’t get some sort of frame built.

Whelp, that failed horrifically and I’m not really sure what to do here. It’s not difficult to put pieces together, but it seems nearly impossible to know if those pieces are correct or not! I’d really like a better picture so that maybe I could identify where one of the bigger pieces goes. I think if I knew how one or two of the big pieces were placed I’d have a fighting chance. As is – I’m not sure how to proceed. But maybe I’m wrong, maybe I should start with a small cube and try to build larger? I’m really not sure how to approach this one..

And thus began my journey to find a better image to work from. I initially did some google searches which brought me to the Puzzle Will be Played site here. But, that didn’t really help, so I continued to search and ended up on Jerry’s Facebook page. And lo and behold I found a video of the Burr Tools file for Cranium. Yes! Awesome. Now I have something to work with! I watched the video, which showed the solution, though with so many pieces, I certainly wasn’t going to memorize the moves. So I went back to work to see watching that video would help me solve this one.

Nope. No help. I had to resign to the fact that I wasn’t going to solve this one by myself and so I decided to watch the video and follow along. The tricky part, though is that it was a video and not actually a burr tools file I was working with, so I was unable to rotate the puzzle and determining what pieces were going in was a matter of pausing the video at the right time. All this was challenging, but not impossible, so I persisted. But the another problem quickly emerged. The pieces in the video didn’t match the pieces in my puzzle! Some were close, so I made “Best guesses” But, I quickly came to a roadblock because the puzzle in my hands had a bunch extra pieces than the puzzle in the video. Gah! I wasn’t sure I’d ever get this thing together.

That’s when I sent a message to Jerry through Facebook and, Yes, he confirmed that the puzzles were different. Jerry offered to send me the burr tools file and I accepted. Well, that should be the end of the story, but the fact is, This puzzle is quite difficult to assemble even with the burr tools file so I was in for a lot more puzzling.

It probably took me another couple of hours, but I eventually did manage to get this thing together. There was one particularly challenging move, that may frustrate folks. It involved putting two halves of the skull together – which I had to attempt a few times to get it right. One of the halves is pretty secure with only a couple of pieces that can fall out, but the other half must be held, clutched with a tenuous grip, while you try to join the halves without any pieces slipping out of your grasp. I eventually resorted to using little bits of scotch tape in strategic areas to hold certain pieces in place. Be careful with this technique though, because later on those little pieces of tape may prevent critical moves and shifts in the puzzle.

But, overall, the puzzle is doable – It’s kind of like assembling a very difficult lego set – where the pieces don’t always stay together. And I have to say, I’m surprised at how much fun I had following along with the burr tools file. It’s really quite ingenious how the pieces all lock together. And the end result is fantastic. The skull is solid, with a nice weight and a quality feel. this one is going to look great on display.

Thus far in my puzzling career, this has been the first puzzle that I’ve utilized Burr Tools to solve. As such, I expected to feel a bit disappointed in myself, but surprisingly, I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I had a great experience learning more about the Burr Tools program, and still had lots of fun putting this puzzle together. It’s quite a marvel how all these pieces link together into such a solid unit. I can’t wait to put it up on the puzzle shelf as I’m sure it will receive a lot of comments. Overall, great fun, challenging moves and a standout appearance!

## Notes – Tamas Vanyo

This week, I’m working with Notes, designed by Tamas Vanyo and created by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection.com This puzzle is unlike anything else in my collection. It is comprised of a large wooden frame and 8 “U-shaped” pieces or “notes” that interlock with each other and the frame. Its really quite a unique and beautiful puzzle. The 8 “notes” all utilize different wood types with an end result being a wonderful mosaic of wood types.

There are essentially two distinct sides to this puzzle. One side is the “feet” of the 8 pieces. It is comprised on 16 squares that are flush with one another. The other side contains all the “bridges” between the feet. Some of these bridges overlap each other and some do not. When held with the “feet” up, the puzzle is nicely contained and the 16 squares look very interesting and intriguing. However, if the puzzle is then flipped over, the pieces all fall loose and start to shift – some of them are even close to falling out at this point. So, one must handle this puzzle carefully because it is easy to get it all out of sorts without intending to do so.

One of the first challenges is determining how to manipulate this puzzle. Since it is easy to unintentionally move pieces, I’ve decided to work it with the feet facing upward. That way gravity is hopefully not as much of a factor.

Well, the first piece came out very easily and has me wondering if all the puzzles will be that easy to remove or whether there is more of a challenge ahead. We shall see.

And the puzzle is completely apart. Oh my. I should feel happy, but I’m in fact quite scared. You see, I turned the puzzle over and the parts were fairly intricately connected there at the end and I was manipulating things and the puzzle shifted and pieces just started falling out. Now I have to recreate that intricate web in order to get these pieces back together. It’s clear to me that the challenge isn’t disassembly, but rather putting this mess back together.

Well, I’ve been working for only a few minutes aided by the photo of the assembled puzzle and I now have 5/8 pieces put back into the frame and it hasn’t been too difficult. I’ve had to remove and replace a few and swap the order of insertion, but otherwise its been very doable. We shall see if the final 3 pieces present any more challenge.

Whew. I now have 6/8 pieces back in the frame and that last one wasn’t so easy. It wasn’t too difficult in terms of “how” to complete the moves, it was more of a problem of holding all the pieces in place whilst inserting the new piece. It seems the best way to adjust the position of the pieces is to move them up and down – outside of the frame – this makes it hard to keep their orientation to each other. Let’s see if I can get the next piece in.

Gah. The final 2 pieces don’t want to go in. It appears that this is going to take a bit more time and exploration to determine what order the pieces need to go into the puzzle. I’m also trying to determine if they all enter the frame “bridge” first or if some enter “foot” first. I’m gonna keep hammering away to see if I can get this together.

Well, 30 more minutes in and I haven’t managed to get the final pieces in. I believe that I have things out of order and am not sure how to fix it. I guess I have to backtrack and see if I can get these pieces into the puzzle somewhere else in the sequence.

Yes! I finally got it put together. It took me another 20 minutes or so of careful consideration and I also had to backtrack a few moves to find a spot to slide in that troublesome piece. But, in the end, with enough manipulation, the piece finally slid into place and then the last piece was trivial.

The thing is – My solution was very sloppy. The disassembly was sloppy and the assembly was sloppy. None of it consisted of specific moves – it was more of an entanglement puzzle for me. I don’t even know how I could break down what I did into a specific number of moves.

So, I want to do it again. This time, instead of turning it over to release the pieces in an uncoordinated mass, I’m going to see if I can specifically slide and raise/lower the pieces to find a more elegant solution.

In the end, I managed a somewhat more elegant solution, but it still wasn’t really made up of specific logical moves. Instead, I shifted the “notes” around which opened up gaps in which I was able to remove some pieces. Some of the times I twisted a “note” to get it out and that didn’t necessarily feel like a correct move. The problem is, that when the pieces are away from the frame, there is nothing to keep them from rotating, thus it would be very hard to actually do this puzzle while keeping all the pieces on a perfect grid.

Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle because it was very different from anything I’ve worked on before. At the same time I was a bit disappointed because I had a hard time solving this puzzle with what I think is the intended solution. Not because it was difficult, but because the pieces tended to shift and rotate which pushed me towards what felt like sloppy solutions. I think that if the “notes” were somehow held more inline and in a grid – if perhaps they were contained in more of a box, then the intended “dance” of the “notes” would have been more noticeable and enjoyable.

## Casino – Dr. Volker Latussek

Last Friday, I received a shipment from Cubicdissection.com with 6 different puzzles including Casino, Split Maze Burr and Cranium. It was a hard decision which one to write about because I so desperately wanted to play with them all! In the end, I chose Casino. I have never done it before and I’ve heard great things, so off we go!

First off – Wow! This puzzle is supremely gorgeous. It definitely got the Eric Fuller mega-upgrade treatment and it turned out spectacular! I love the inlay – the alternating Walnut and Maple look so clean and stylish and really stand out against the Cherry Box. The chips are equally well-made and the whole experience of handling this puzzle is really just top notch.

The puzzle consists of a box and 6 chips which must be placed inside the box. Its very easy to get 5 chips in, but that 6th one doesn’t fit. The round shapes don’t work very well with packing and the box has a little lip on two sides that frustratingly interferes with everything.

Well I’ve only been playing around for about 15 minutes, but feel like I’m real close to a solution. I can see how all the chips should fit into the box, but one of the pieces is just a few centimeters shy of fitting in the opening. I really thought I had it solved there for a second, but I guess I need a more calculated approach.

And after another 15 minutes, I feel lost. I removed the pieces and I’m not sure that I have things correct anymore. There was a moment were I really could visualize where the pieces should go, but now, I’ve lost the image and I no longer see.

Ok, another few minutes and I’m back to the beginning again. I can see the solution. I can visualize where the chips need to go. I just can’t get them there. There has to be a sequence of moves to accomplish what I want because the old “force it in” trick isn’t doing the job.

..And Done! Yee haw! That was pretty exciting there. I was hot on the trail of the solution from the beginning and pretty quickly was able to determine the position the chips needed to be in. But, there’s definitely a delightful little trick to getting them into position. It seems a lot of packing puzzles have a similar type of trick. There’s always a little adjustment that needs to be made and a sequence that needs to be considered. Sometimes pieces have to be “pre-loaded” before they are utilized in a move.

But what a fun little puzzle this was. I’m a little sad that I’ve solved is so quickly, but it will be a great puzzle on the shelf and a perfect “family-stumper” puzzle that I can pull out and hand off to anyone up for the challenge.

Its such a nice puzzle because it’s so accessible. And in fact, so are all of Latussek’s puzzles that I’ve worked with. I recently picked up Tower of London and Bastille from Rombol.de and both of those share a lot in common with Casino. Latussek just has a way of working with round pieces and creating interesting packing problems that are simple in concept, very approachable but deceptively difficult.

It’s interesting because I think it’s the roundness of the pieces that make these puzzles what they are. At first the round pieces seemed very different to me, as compared to typical square puzzle pieces, and so I didn’t know quite how to approach these puzzles. I was thrown off by the roundness you could say. But in the end, I kind of forced myself to ignore the shape of the pieces and instead focus on the orientation, position and sequence.

Casino is a great puzzle, I can see why it is so popular. If you enjoyed it, then you should check out Tower of London and Bastille over at Rombol.de – maybe if we are lucky, Eric will get permission on those too!

## 2 Rings – Chi-Ren Chen

2 Rings is a puzzle that was made by Eric Fuller and was sold back in October. The October batch of puzzles at cubicdissection was especially strong and it seems to me that this puzzle didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I wanted to make sure I got this writeup in before it got lost in the never-ending wave of new puzzles.

Straight out of the gate, this puzzle is stunning. The wood choices are spot on and the craftsmanship is truly impressive. Eric spliced in these strengthening corner pieces (sorry don’t know the technical term) that add great accents, but also create an extremely strong and rigid frame. This is important with this puzzle because it is very easy to accidentally generate a lot of leverage and force while manipulating the two pieces. I can imagine that this exact puzzle built with lesser standards might snap or break if someone torqued on it enough.

Outside of the beautiful aesthetics, this is also a very fun puzzle to play with. I didn’t find it too difficult, but I really enjoyed that it stretched my thinking. There was something exciting about rotating the pieces in a 3 dimensional space and navigating this 3 dimensional maze. I also really like the fact that the puzzle has open sight lines. So many puzzles hide their movements inside a box, but here you can see everything and freely rotate the puzzle to view from all angles.

The puzzle arrived in a “incorrectly” completed state – that is, the two rings were together, but they were incorrectly oriented and the magnets were resisting each other. The first step was then to separate the rings. This was not too difficult of a challenge, but I wasn’t done yet. I still had to correctly assemble the rings. I made several attempts and several times found myself back at the beginning.

There is an obvious spot where the two rings can connect and disconnect. I found myself connecting them together, manipulating the rings through several moves and rotations to the point where I felt I was going to solve it – and then, suddenly, I’d be back at the connect/disconnect spot. Hmm. How frustrating!

After a few more attempts, I finally found my way to the end of the puzzle and that satisfying “snap” as the magnets came together. I would guess that there are a few separate solutions for this puzzle, and I’m not sure of the exact moves I used. I just kept moving forward and eventually found the solution.

As a kid, I always loved mazes and this puzzle brought me back to those roots. The two pieces have to be manipulated correctly through a sort of 3d maze. Since the magnets are visible, it is fairly obvious what the completed state will look like, so the difficulty lies in the journey to the completed state, which, in my mind, was very similar to solving a maze. Manipulate the pieces until a dead end is reached – backtrack to the previous junction, try the other path and continue on and on until the end.

Solving this puzzle is great – the two rings really “snap” together as the high strength magnets find each other. The magnets also make the first move very tricky to find when disassembling the puzzle. I’ve had this one sitting on the shelf for a few weeks and each time I pick it up, it takes me a few minutes to find the first move. It takes some real force in one specific direction to break them free.

To me this puzzle acts as a proof of concept. I think it is a clever idea with unique manipulations, but I also think that the idea could evolve into something even better. I’d love to see what “3 rings” would look like, or what if the voxels were smaller, or what if the faces were curved to invite unique rotations? I really think there could be many future possibilities using this same concept of open, interlocked rings.

## Okto Cube – Yavuz Demirhan

Today, we have another beauty from Eric over at Cubicdissection.com. This one is called Okto Cube and was designed by Yavuz Demirhan. This particular puzzle immediately caught my eye when it was listed, and I was very excited to work on it. I love the looks of it and it was equally fun to manipulate and discover it’s secrets.

This is a six piece board burr encased in an eight piece cube. The cube pieces are made out of solid wood which gives this puzzle an overall weight that is pleasing and the boards are well made and strong.

Solving this puzzle took a while. I brought it with me on Thanksgiving vacation, hoping that I would have some quiet evenings to work on it. Well, I didn’t have many quiet evenings, but I did get to work on it extensively, which was great.

I had played with this puzzle a handful of times before I made any real progress. I could move a few of the burr pieces, but always hit the same dead end. Eventually, I discovered that it wasn’t a dead end after all. Once in the “dead end” position, I found that the signed burr piece could move freely. I had missed this move because its quite easy for the pieces to bind up a little. I often had to pull on board pieces to make sure they were fully extended before manipulating the next piece. It seems to loosen up after a bit of use, but is something to watch out for.

Once, the signed burr piece moved, I was then able to remove 2 of the cube pieces, which was a very cool (and scary) moment. I was expecting the puzzle to fall apart at this point, but that wasn’t the case at all, in fact, I had a long way to go.

Removing the 2 cube pieces revealed more of the interior and allowed me to see just how complex this puzzle is. There sure are lots of moving parts! I continued to manipulate the puzzle and was able to remove the first board piece. Soon after, I found that 2 more cubes were ready to fall off. Awesome! This thing is really fun.

I continued to manipulate the parts feeling certain that I was close to the end. But no.. the puzzle still held secrets for me to unravel. I persevered and after a bit more manipulation and I removed 2 more cubes! I was now down to the final 2 cubes!

This is where things got really interesting for me. I was working on the puzzle in front of the tv, sitting with family, and I just didn’t have the focus I needed. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to get it back together again! I was hoping that the final 2 cubes would come off easily, but that wasn’t the case. I was having to do more movements than I could keep track of and I made the decision to stop and reassemble. Bah! I always seem to do this. Luckily, I was able to get the puzzle back together, but I was a bit ashamed that I didn’t finish it.

I ended my vacation and flew home defeated. I had come so close to the solution, but didn’t quite get there.

Well, last night, I sat down, determined to redeem myself and finally solve this puzzle. I progressed through all the stages and once again found myself with the final 2 cube pieces attached to 4 burrs. I slowed myself down and analyzed the situation. There were a surprising amount of available moves and positions that I could find and eventually, I tried a combination of positions not previously attempted and voila! The 2 remaining cubes slid right off! Disassembling the final 4 burr pieces was not trivial either, but I got it done.

Whew! That was an awesome puzzle!

But.. it wasn’t over yet. I still had to assemble the puzzle. Interestingly, I didn’t have much trouble on the assembly. I think that my aborted attempt during thanksgiving vacation had given me a better understanding of the moves required, and so assembly felt rather easy. I think the most difficult part was getting it started. For some reason, I seem to have trouble assembling the initial 4 burr pieces. But once that is complete and I had slid on the first two cubes, it was all downhill from there.

I’ve since solved this puzzle a couple of times. I had to take some pictures and also wanted to better understand the mechanics behind it all. It is truly a remarkable puzzle and it is very repeatable once you understand the required positions. This is now one of my favorite puzzles! Check it out if you can!