Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Space, The Final Frontier - MagellanTIC

MagellanTIC by Andrew Crowell

What happens when you increase the design space for new puzzles requiring a lot of rotations.  You find something suitable to name it after like the MagellanTIC spiral galaxies. 

My buddy, Andrew Crowell, is taking his goal to stump me very seriously.  He has graduated from 4x4x4 Turning Interlocking Cubes (TICs) to a 5x5x5 format to provide more opportunities to frustrate hopeful puzzle solvers.  The first in this new format is MagellanTIC.

Andrew Crowell DebossmentI recently acquired a 3D printed copy of MagellanTIC from Andrew to enjoy.  It is comprised of 6 pieces: A frame, 3 square rings, and 2 burr sticks.  One of the rings is really a partial ring, but I’ll simply refer to it as ring anyway.  The pieces were nicely printed in 2 different colors: speckled gray for the frame and one of the burr sticks and brilliant white for the other pieces.  As with most of his 3D printed puzzles, Andrew has the name of the puzzle embedded on the frame.  However, he liked this puzzle enough to embed his name as the designer on the inside of the frame as well.

The larger size of this puzzle required a larger effort to solve it.  Let’s break the solving process down into steps. 

1) Determining where all the pieces go in the frame - Easy.  In fact, When MagellanTIC arrived, it was already assembled except for one last piece that needed to be inserted.  Not one to trust a partially assembled puzzle, I took it completely apart and left the pieces to sit overnight.  Sometimes puzzler designers can be sneaky buggers and if there is a right way and a wrong way to put those pieces in, you can bet that it would arrive the wrong way.  My apologies to Andrew, who did send them packed in the correct orientation.  Of course, without that one critical piece, it is trivial to take apart and is a great way to ship the puzzle. 

2) Determining the order that the pieces have to be added to the puzzle - Easy.  Although I did have the last 2 pieces to be inserted in the wrong order.

3) Accomplishing all the rotations and translations to get it all together - Anything but easy.  In fact, it required a lot of effort and I spent several hours putting it together followed by a couple more hours analyzing the moves. 

4) Taking it back apart - Tough.  I took my first picture of MagellanTIC when it was originally assembled.  As I was basking in the glory of a triumphant assembly, my wife casually mentioned that I should take it apart and take a picture of the pieces before the lighting changed.  Easier said than done.  It is not a trivial disassembly.

5) Keep repeating steps 3 and 4 - Interesting.  The movements required by this puzzle are not easy to remember and even after putting it together and taking it apart several times, it still required concentrating on the moves to successfully execute them.

MagellanTIC PiecesMy best estimate at the level of difficulty for MagellanTIC is  With all the complex rotations involved, these numbers might be significantly different from your own assessment.  Of course, when assembling the puzzle, you’re working the level of difficulty from right to left.  The first time around, the number of moves was easily in the hundreds as I was rotating pieces unsuccessfully trying to get them in position. 

When focusing on assembling a puzzle, you sometimes miss out on the how nice the movements are.  It is not until you have it assembled that you can focus on the moves to accomplish the desired solution.  Let’s look at each piece in the disassembly process:

15)  The first piece takes 15 moves to remove it from the puzzle.  The rotation required to move this piece is nicely designed and much more obvious when taking it apart than putting it together.  I completely missed out on how nice it was when assembling the puzzle for the first time.

4) This one took me a bit of work to figure out how to start the insertion into the puzzle.  Note that at this point of the assembly, there were already 3 other pieces in the frame.  When I was disassembling the puzzle, this piece just fell out when I wasn’t looking.  What originally was a tricky task during assembly, turned out to be relatively simple as demonstrated during the disassembly.

13)  This is really the crux of the puzzle.  I spent most of my time working through this part.  It’s a little rotating nightmare.  The first time that I thought that I had solved this section, I had it in upside-down.  I didn’t even realize it was upside-down until I tried to add the next piece and discovered that it couldn’t reach its final resting place because of the incorrect orientation.  Unfortunately, that meant that I wasn’t even close.  It was much more difficult to put it in correctly.  Imagine that.  Personally, I found this stage a bit of a brain warping experience, and even though I can manage it quite well now, I found it difficult to count the moves with all the rotations.  Unfortunately, I started working on this puzzle late at night and had to put it down until the next day while in the middle of this part.  When I came back to it later the next day, I had a difficult time getting the pieces back out for another attempt.

9) Once you spend time analyzing the puzzle during the disassembly process, you discover that this part of the solution doesn’t really take hundreds of moves to accomplish.  In fact, at 9 moves including rotations for only 2 pieces in the frame, it is fairly short and sweet.  However, short and sweet does not mean easy and I still have to pay close attention during this part.  It is nearly impossible to figure out how to accomplish this when assembling the puzzle for the first time.

3) How difficult can it be put a single piece in the frame in 3 moves.  Well, during the disassembly, it’s trivial to take it out.  However, during the assembly, you have no idea where it is required to be and this needs to be discovered simultaneously with the next piece.  And yes, it does need to be in a very specific location.

At this point, I’ve taken the puzzle apart and reassembled it many times.  Although I can perform the moves fairly proficiently, it requires a good memory and a deft touch to keep all those rotations at a minimum.

So what does the larger design space get you?  Both the high number of moves to release the first piece and the complex rotations we’ve come to love in the TICs.  There are also no visible voids in the assembled puzzle.  If TICs are your thing, you don’t want to miss this one.  I highly recommend it.  If you’re adventurous, don’t forget to get it unassembled.

This is the sixth post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC).  You can find the prior posts of the series here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Instrumental Techniques in Puzzle Design - Accordian

Accordian by William Hu
Digging through my treasure chest of unsolved puzzles, I came across Accordian by William Hu.  This puzzle was released by Cubicdissection back in 2014 and has been patiently waiting for some attention.

The puzzle looks like 4 rings surrounding a central bar and is aptly named.  You can grab the ends and pull them apart and then push them back together again.  The rings are made of White Oak and the bar is made of Chakte Viga.  The level 9 solution requires a rotation (did you expect something else with all those rings?) and the tolerances are spot on to accomplish the rotation without any slack in the movement. 

Accordian - Assembled
Accordian is all about the rotational sequence required to disassemble the puzzle.  Although the trapped rings move freely along the central bar, you quickly run out of things to do before you start looking for the rotation.  Accordian to the Cubicdissection description, the rotation is very tricky, but I did not find it to be very difficult.  The puzzle really wants to do it and will even start the process for you if you don’t keep a firm hold on the pieces.

Let’s take a moment and hypothesize about what was going through William’s head when he designed this puzzle.  What was his original concept?  Was it form or function?  Did he set out to create something that looks like a cubist’s hotdog or was the original idea based on the accordianesque expanding and collapsing movement? 

Accordian - PiecesMost of the puzzles that I’ve created were designed around a central idea that popped into my head and the rest of the puzzle was built around it to support that idea.  Maybe William came up with the squeezebox movement and built the rest of the puzzle around that.  While we’re fabricating this genesis story, I’d also guess that William started with a 4x4x4 cube and found that he needed to extend the centers outward to support the movement.

From examining the pieces, it looks like one of the end rings attached to the bar could have actually been separated to have 3 freely moving rings.  All it needed was filling in one of the internal voids to keep it from slipping off the end.  This comment comes with 2 big caveats: 1) until you prototype it, it may look like it would work, but there may be some unforeseen issue that would keep it from working; 2) It may not improve the puzzle and could potentially devalue it.  For instance, in this case, you would lose the symmetry of the pieces if only one side had a piece of ring attached.  The decision to minimize the number of pieces that accomplished the desired rotational movement and keep the piece symmetry was probably the correct choice.

Although everything fits very nicely on my copy, the 2 pieces that form one of the ends don’t quite line up.  I’m assuming that this is part of the puzzle aging process and that the puzzle didn’t originally come this way. Luckily, it doesn’t affect the operation of the puzzle.
Accordian - Misalignment

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Discretely Exchanging Puzzles - IPP Burr

IPP Burr by Noah PrettymanOnce a year, hardcore puzzle collectors from around the world extract themselves from their daily lives and converge on an unpublicized location to collectively participate in multiple puzzle related activities.  This event serves as an incubator for the puzzle cognoscenti to spawn new puzzle design ideas into the world.  One of these incubating activities is the esteemed historic puzzle exchange, which I’ll simply refer to as the E.H. Puzzle Exchange.

The E.H. Puzzle Exchange provides the opportunity for participants to bring multiple copies of a unique puzzle that will be traded with the other participants for one of their puzzles.  The rules for the exchange are as follows:
  • Exchangers become eligible to participate in their second year. Ideally, they have participated in a prior E.H. Puzzle Exchange at least once as an assistant to learn how the process works.
  • The entry must be a new puzzle. This requirement eliminates the possibility of receiving a puzzle that may already be in a collection. It also spawns new puzzle designs into the world to be enjoyed by metagrobologists everywhere.
  • All exchange puzzles must pass a routine design review.
  • Each exchanger must be prepared to have up to 100 copies to exchange with other participants. Many exchangers bring additional copies to sell to people not participating in the E.H. Puzzle Exchange.
  • Each participant is allowed one assistant to help with exchanging all those puzzles. With up to 100 puzzles to exchange in a single day, an assistant is much appreciated. Participating in the E.H. Puzzle Exchange is a great experience and assistant positions fill up quickly.
The E.H. Puzzle Exchange is conducted in a single large room where each exchanger must locate every other exchanger to complete the exchange.  Some exchanges are very simple, while others can be rather complex rituals.  Exchanges sometimes entail detailed choreography consisting of themes, costumes (both additive and subtractive), props, dancing, singing, and outright buffoonery.  When volunteering as an exchange assistant, it is always a good idea to know something about the exchanger to have an idea what you are getting yourself into.

For each puzzle exchanged, there are 3 main components: the designer, the maker, and the exchanger.  Sometimes the same person fulfills all three components and other times each component may be supported by a different person.  The 2018 E.H. Puzzle Exchange included a puzzle that was made and exchanged by the same person but designed by someone else.  The puzzle was IPP Burr, designed by Noah Prettyman, made by Eric Fuller’s company Cubicdissection, and exchanged by Eric himself.

IPP Burr PiecesAfter the puzzle event, the IPP Burr was released to the general public on Cubicdissection.  The puzzle looks like your typical 6-piece burr, but in addition to the normal 6 pieces, there are 3 encapsulated smaller pieces, each like a little pip nestled in a piece of fruit.  The 6 outer pieces are made from Ash and Wenge and form a checkered pattern on the ends.  The 3 small pieces are made from Spalted Tamerand and spell out IPP, giving the burr its name.  The puzzle was delivered unassembled to maximize the solving pleasure.

This version of the classic burr is quite challenging and Noah has done an excellent job of coming up with something new.  In order to make room inside for the 3 pips, the 6 larger pieces are relatively open (i.e., they have fewer voxels/cubies) and can be put together in multiple ways.  The trick is to discover the configuration that permits the 3 pips to be oriented inside in such a way that the puzzle can be assembled/disassembled. 

My solving process was broken down into several smaller steps.  The first step was to figure out how the outer 6 pieces can be configured to make a space that will hold the 3 pips.  The checkered pattern is useful here for identifying how the pieces could be paired.  There are multiple ways to create the outer shell and it takes some experimentation to discover the correct one.  Yes, there is only 1 solution.  This experimentation was done by using 4 of the 6 outer pieces to make an open shell that could be used to test how the smaller pieces would be inserted.  Once the correct configuration was determined, all that was left was to disassemble the cube while mentally envisioning the last 2 outer pieces included in the puzzle and then assembling it again with the last 2 pieces actually there.  Sounds easy, but it took awhile to discover all the correct orientations.  Some of the moves also require shifting the internal pieces, which is why the puzzle is a little on the loose side.  If it ever became tight, that would be a real problem.

With only a level 5 solution, you would think that this burr would be easy, but the packing component of the solve makes it more difficult than you would expect.  What I did expect was to enjoy this puzzle and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Will This One Really Be Better Than The Others? - SkepTIC

As I was meandering down the TIC path, my good buddy, let’s call him Andrew, advised me to take a different turn this time.  Recent puzzles reviewed from the ACROSTIC series had pieces that could be taken out in 1 move.  Andrew suggested that I quit my whining and just pick a puzzle requiring several moves to free the first piece.  With that in mind, I decided to have a go at SkepTIC, requiring 10 moves before something can be removed.

Would it be possible to like this puzzle more than the previous ones?  Would the larger number of moves required to remove something from the puzzle up front make it more interesting?  Would the lack of space fillers compromise the remainder of the design?   These are questions that a puzzle with a name like SkepTIC begs to be answered.

When I attended by First IPP, I handed out a business card with my contact information, and on the back, I had a single line at the bottom: | | ?  The purpose of this query was to spark a discussion on what type of puzzle people preferred with respect to where the number of moves is allocated across the disassembly: 1 - The puzzle where all the moves are required to get the first piece out followed by a trivial disassembly of the rest of the pieces, 2 - The puzzle with moves more evenly spaced across the pieces (although you can still see my bias of favoring earlier pieces), 3 - The delayed gratification puzzle where the first piece (or several pieces) can be trivially removed, opening space for a piece requiring a greater number of moves later on.  I always considered myself somewhere between 1 and 2 until I came across Andrew’s TICs in the third category.  Although they have pieces that can be trivially removed at the beginning, the extraordinary sequence of moves to solve the remaining few pieces makes it all worthwhile.

SkepTIC is a 4x4x4 cubic dissection puzzle developed by the TIC master Andrew Crowell.  Of course, it requires many rotations to solve the puzzle.  From my own observations, the level of difficulty for this puzzle is  I need to mention that this is different from Andrew’s documented level of due to differences in how the moves are computed.  The cause for the 10.3 vs 12.1 difference was the catalyst for the EnigmaTIC puzzle design described in the prior post: Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC.  I don’t specifically mention what it is here, since it provides a minor clue about the solution.  As for the removal of the final piece where I have 6 moves and Andrew has 5, well, this piece requires 4 rotations and I suspect that one of my non-rotational moves was included in one of Andrew’s rotational moves.  Things get tricky when rotations are involved and they are not as easy to track as rectilinear moves.  It’s also possible that Andrew’s program translates and rotates pieces simultaneously thus treating this as one move.

So how is SkepTIC as a puzzle?   I found the assembly to follow a logical sequence of steps and was surprised how quickly the puzzle came together.  With only 5 pieces, it was fairly easy to determine where all the pieces needed to be.  Getting them there is all the fun and I didn’t find this one to be that difficult.  Even with the piece requiring 4 rotations to get in place, I was able to quickly envision the steps required and execute it without issue.  I suspect that some of this may be from quite a bit of TIC experience at this point.  The final 10 moves to get everything packed into a cube was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable.

SkepTIC is great puzzle with a solid design and a lot of appeal.  However, I found it quite a bit easier than the recent type 3 puzzles that I’ve been reviewing and I missed struggling with the pieces to get them together.  Having said all that, I really liked the 10-move sequence before something separates from the puzzle and have run through that process many times.  It is a must-have for a burr guy like myself.

This is the fifth post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC).  You can find the prior posts of the series here:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Happy Anniversary! - A Year's Worth of ZenPuzzler

This post marks the first-year anniversary of ZenPuzzler.  For the horde (I use the term horde loosely; couple = 2, few = 3, horde > 3) of regular readers, I hope that the ZenPuzzler blog provides some entertainment during your week. It has been an interesting journey and my goal is to keep it going for as long as there is interest.  After doing this for a year, I have even more respect for the puzzle bloggers that have been generating quality posts for many years.  I still have a lot to learn from them.

To wrap up the year, I have created a list of the weekly posts and the puzzles that are mentioned in each.  The name of each post is linked to the entry so that you can easily jump to it by clicking on the name.

29 APR 20 - Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC
  •     Enigmatic by Andrew Crowell, made by Ken Irvine
22 APR 20 - Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years - Globe Ball
  •     Globe Ball by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
15 APR 20 - The Proper Way to Solve a Puzzle - PedanTIC
  •     Pedantic by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
8 APR 20 - Here Comes Peter Cottontail - Kimiki Bunny
  •     Kimiki Bunny
1 APR 20 - The First of April - Fool’s Cube
  •     Fool’s Cube by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
25 MAR 20 - Supporting Social Distancing - Burr Lock “E”
18 MAR 20 - Inspiration from Grandchildren - Little Kenny and Wooden Puzzles
  •     Little Kenny by Ken Irvine, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Wooden Puzzles (book) by Brian Menold
11 MAR 20 - Green Beer ‘ill Cure What Ails Ya - BioTIC
  •     BioTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
Puzzles Made by Wood Wonders
Puzzles Made by Wood Wonders

4 MAR 20 - Foreign Fame - 4 In Frame
  •     4 In Frame by Stéphane Chomine, made by Wood Wonders
26 FEB 20 - A Nice Clean Look - Dirty Dozen
  •     Dirty Dozen by Jerry Loo, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Slideways by Ray Stanton, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Lattice by Jerry Loo, made by Puzzle Master
19 FEB 20 - A Puzzle Party in the Big Apple - NYPP 2020
  •     MagnaCube by Ron Duban
  •     Logical Progression by Rick Eason, made by Cubicdissection and Rick Eason
  •     Cover Up by Col. George Sicherman, made by Wood Wonders
  •     MultiTarget by Glen Iba, made by Glen Iba
  •     Licorice +-x by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
12 FEB 20 - I Heart You, Whatever Your Name Is - In Inima
  •     In Inima by Kirill Grebnev
5 FEB 20 - TIC, TIC, TIC - PackTIC II
  •     PackTIC II by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
29 JAN 20 - Food for Thought - Bitten Biscuits
  •     Bitten Biscuits by JinHoo Ahn
22 JAN 20 - Finding Your Way Through the Labyrinth - Daedalus
  •     Daedalus by Gregory Benedetti, made by Maurice Vigouroux
15 JAN 20 - Puzzling DNA - GeneTIC
  •     Genetic by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
8 JAN 20 - An Impediment to Rolling Along - Wheel Lock
  •     Wheel Lock by Tzy Hun Chein, made by Wood Wonders
1 JAN 19 - Happy New Year!
  •     Happy New Year by Johan van de Konijnenberg, made by Cubicdissection
Puzzles Made by Cubicdissection
Puzzles Made by Cubicdissection

25 DEC 19 - A Christmas Present For You - Ultimate Penultimate Burr Box Set Challenge

  •     Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
18 DEC 19 - The Marriage of a Great Design with Great Craftsmanship - Bouquet
  •     Christoph Lohe by Christoph Lohe, made by Wood Wonders
11 DEC 19 - Half A Dozen Rhombic Dodecahedrons - Cluster Buster
  •     Cluster Buster by Stewart Coffin, made by Pacific Puzzleworks
4 DEC 19 - How I Learned to Hate Myself - Licorice +-x
  •     Licorice +-x by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
27 NOV 19 - This Puzzle’s No Turkey - Chicken
  •     Chicken by Olexandre Kapkan, made by Cubicdissection
20 NOV 19 - Monkey Business - HepTIC
  •     HepTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
13 NOV 19 - A New Spin on Puzzling - Tetra Spinner
  •     Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu
6 NOV 19 - Yanked My Chain - Chain Store
  •     Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam, made by Tom Lensch
30 OCT 19 - Off With Her Head! Part 2 - Skull
  •     Skull, made by BePuzzles
23 OCT 19 - Molnar Scores Again! - Hat Trick
  •     Hat Trick by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
16 OCT 19 - Uns@lv*bl# F!&#ing O$j@ct - Cast UFO
  •     Cast UFO by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
9 OCT 19 - Just Plain Mean - Split Cube 2
  •     Split Cube 2 by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
2 OCT 19 - Providing Solutions, A Slippery Slope - Cast Slider (Redacted)
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
25 SEP 19 - Playing With Fire - Oscar's Matchboxes
  •     Oscar's Matchboxes by Oskar van Deventer, made by Philos
18 SEP 19 - 5 Is the Magic Number - PenTIC
  •     PenTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
11 SEP 19 - Totally Tubular Dude! - Tube It In
  •     Tube It In by Wil Strijbos, made by Cubicdissection
4 SEP 19 - Off With Her Head!- Guillotine
  •     Guillotine by Volker Latussek, made by made by ROMBOL GmbH
Puzzles Made by Andrew Crowell
Puzzles Made by Andrew Crowell

28 AUG 19 - Is it Love? - Cast Arrows
  •     Cast Arrows by Andrei Ivanov, made by Hanayama
21 AUG 19 - A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
  •     Cover Up by Col. George Sicherman, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Outstandin' by Haym Hirsh, made by Haym Hirsh
  •     Hat Trick by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Multiball by Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Triagonal Pyramid by Kohno Ichiro, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Petit Ring by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Rules of Attraction by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Somaa Cube by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
  •     TD345 by Chico Banan
  •     Custer by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Mushkila by Yavuz Demirhan
  •     Wavelinks by Rod Bogart
  •     Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu
  •     All In by Haym Hirsh, made by Haym Hirsh
  •     Xtic by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Cluster Buster by Rex Dwyer, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Half Lid Box by Hajime Katsumoto, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Rectilinear by Goh Pit Khiam, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Pack 3 by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Cribbage Dance by Tyler Somer, made by Greg Davis
  •     Pack 012 by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Die Welle, made by Jean Claude Constantin
  •     Kawashima W Box by Kawashima
  •     Harun by Volker Latussek, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Reversal of Fortune Box by Jeff Aurand, made by Jeff Aurand
  •     Bouquet by Christoph Lohe, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
14 AUG 19 - I've Been Framed - Quadripole
  •     Quadripole by Stéphane Chomine, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Beta Funzzle by Mr. Y Gong, made by Puzzle Master
7 AUG 19 - Chico Strikes Again - TD345
  •     TD345 by Chico Banan
31 JUL 19 - Puzzle-A-Month Challenge
  •     Two Keys, made by Jean Claude Constantine
  •     Symmetrick by Vesa Timonen, made by Sloyd
  •     Heartbreaker, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Handcuffs, made by Puzzle Master
  •     “A” puzzle, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Perseus by Steward Coffin, made by Philos
  •     Six-T-Puzzle by Dr. Volker Latussek, made by Rombol
  •     Spring Time Box
  •     Dynacube 1 by Gabriel Songel and Gianni Sarcone, made by Recent Toys
24 JUL 19 - Where Do Great Puzzles Designs Come From?
  •     Trifecta by Ken Irvine, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Brass Monkey Two by Steve Nicholls and Ali Morris, made by Tow Brass Monkeys
  •     FantasTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
  •     Hokey Cokey Lock by Steve Nicholls and Ali Morris, made by Two Brass Monkeys
  •     Jack in the Box by Jesse Born, made by Jesse Born
  •     Logical Progression by Rick Eason, made by Cubicdissection and Rick Eason
  •     Mazeburr L by Diniar Namdarian, made by Diniar Namdarian
  •     Multiball by Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
  •     PedanTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
  •     Puzzleduck Pastures by Kel Snache, made by Kel Snache
  •     Slammed Car by Junichi Yananose, made by Pluredro
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayam
  •     Somaa Cube by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Venn Puzzle, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Wave 5 by Yuu Asaka, made by Yuu Asaka
  •     Yosegi Patter Box by Jesse Born, made by Jesse Born
17 JUL 19 - To Bevel or Not to Bevel, That is the Question
  •     Cereal by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Exolution Cubes I - IV by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
10 JUL 19 - The Sting of Five Fantastic Scorpions
  •     Scorpion’s Sting, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Fantastic Five, made by Puzzle Master
3 JUL 19 - Puzzle Complexity
  •     The Nagging Wife by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
  •     H&H by JinHoo Ahn, made by Hanayama
  •     Delight by Stéphane Chomine, made by Pelikan
  •     Spin Out by William Keister
  •     Wookey Hole by Stewart Coffin
  •     Man-O-War, made by Puzzle Master
  •     NOS 5 Crenel by Gregory Benedetti, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Soma by Piet Hein, made by Creative Crafthouse
  •     Half Hour by Stewart Coffin, made by Ken Irvine
Puzzles Made by Ken Irvine
Puzzles Made by Ken Irvine

26 JUN 19 - The Nagging Wife
  •     The Nagging Wife by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
19 JUN 19 - A Puzzle with No Name - Yukuri's Cube
  •     Yukari’s Cube by Junichi Yananose
12 JUN 19 - Mesmerized by - HypnoTIC
  •     HypnoTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
5 JUN 19 - A Second Chance - Puzzle Auctions
  •     Wausau ’82 by Bill Cutler, made by Mr. Puzzle
  •     Wausau ’83 by Bill Cutler, made by Mr. Puzzle
  •     Jupiter by Stewart Coffin, made by Steward Coffin
29 MAY 19 - Penultimate Burr Box Set
  •     Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
22 MAY 19 - You Only Have to - Pack 6
  •     Pack 6 by Eric Fuller, made by Ken Irvine
15 MAY 19 - Identity I A
  •     Identity I A by Andrey Ustjuzhanin
7 MAY 19 - In The Beginning - The Kimiki Cube
  •     Kimiki Cube

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC

EnigmaTIC by Andrew CrowellBreaking News - Is Metagrobological Science Broken?  Recent events have questioned the very foundation of the Metragrobology community, leaving many puzzled.  An EnigmaTIC challenge is perplexing the experts.  Assessing the complexity of this conundrum is the conundrum.

Way back, a long, long, time ago, when I was a wee tad, my granddaddy put me on his knee and said “Son” (I don’t know why, but for some reason granddaddies always say son to their grandsons.  I guess it’s one of those economy of expression things even though my granddaddy wasn’t a C programmer).  “Son”, he said, “There are many important things in life you need to know and some are more important than others.  However, the one thing that you mustn’t forget is that if a quantity of cubes forming a completely filled PxQxR rectangular parallelepiped is divided into sets comprised of cubes that form a single contiguous entity, there is a way to divide the sets into 2 non-empty groups such that one group can be separated from the other along a single Cartesian coordinate system vector, if and only if it is possible to separate the pieces from each other”.  I always knew that no matter what else was happening in the world, I would always be comforted by this knowledge.

Now imagine my shock, when a good friend and highly respected metagrobologist declared that “I've found a space filling (all 64 voxels) design that requires more than one move to free the first piece. In fact, it requires several moves.”  Wow! That just shatters the metagrobological foundation that underlies all my puzzle knowledge.  I've come up with ways to do it with non-cubic dissections but not a straight-forward 4x4x4 cubic dissection.

So how did this whole kerfuffle get started?  On several of my Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) posts, I explained that if there were no voids within the puzzle, the first piece can be pulled out in one move.  Andrew Crowell, the TIC master, thought that this sounded a bit fishy and set out to demonstrate that a cubic dissection puzzle with no voids could be developed requiring multiple moves to free the first piece.

I was saying to myself, “No Way!”, even though this announcement was debuted as a comment on my post where I declared, in a rather PedanTIC manner, that I had learned my lesson and that the correct way to approach a puzzle is with an open mind (see The Correct Way to Solve a Puzzle - PedanTIC).  How could it possibly be done?  I finally decided that it had to use the 4th dimension.  I always have problems envisioning how things look with that 1 additional dimension.

EnigmaTIC PiecesWhen the pieces were released, I immediately created a set and solved it very quickly.  There are 6 pieces and I used maple to make them.  The puzzle is not difficult to assemble, but the required rotations make it interesting.  When I solved it, it reminded me of Stuart Coffin’s classic, Wookey Hole, although that puzzle is a 5x5x5 cube and has conspicuous voids in the final assembly.

In honor of the ensuing controversy, Andrew named the puzzle EnigmaTIC.  So where did things fall apart and what did Andrew create?  In a prior post, I explained how the complexity of a puzzle is sometimes defined by how many moves it takes to remove the pieces (Puzzle Complexity).  Both BurrTools and Puzzle Will Be Played (PWBP) provide this information for a solution. 

The problem was incubated in my lazy description of both puzzle complexity and how it relates to puzzles without voids.  I’m sure that I would be severely reprimanded by my granddaddy if he were still around to set me straight.  I still hide the rulers in the house.  What I should have said was that the complexity was a description of how many moves it takes to remove something from the puzzle, where that something could be a piece or a subset of pieces.  This is the convention used by both BurrTools and PWBP.  There are many instances of puzzles where more than 1 interlocking piece comes out in 1 move like Wookey Hole.  In fact, my very first interlocking puzzle, the Kimiki Cube (In The Beginning – The Kimiki Cube) has 2 pieces that come out together in one move.

My apologies for the carelessness that started this kerfuffle, but we did get a new cool TIC puzzle out of it, so I don’t feel so bad.  Have I mentioned that I didn’t think it is possible to create a really cool 5x5x5 cubic dissection with a minimum 10 pieces that takes at least 25 moves to remove the first piece, or set of pieces, and each piece requires a rotational move to extract.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years - Globe Ball

Globe Ball by Vesa TimonenThousands of casualties in the animal world resulted from the 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Earth day was established the following year on April 22nd to raise awareness for environmental reform.  Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth day, which is now celebrated around the world.

In honor of the 50th anniversary, I searched for a puzzle that would have a global appeal.  The obvious choice was Hanayama’s Globe Ball puzzle.  Unlike most Hanayama puzzles, this one is plastic and twice the normal size.  However, similar to several of the Hanayama puzzles, this one was designed by Vesa Timonen. 

Vesa’s original design was called Tangerine and entered in the 2008 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition, where it won a First Prize award.  Like a tangerine, the internal pieces consisted of wedges that make a complete sphere and there are 4 of them.  The peel of the tangerine wraps around the wedges and is divided into 2 pieces, reminiscent of the outer skin of a baseball.  The skin covers all the segments except for a small hole where you can use the tips of your fingers to rotate the segments within the tangerine.  Once the segments are in the proper position, the tangerine can be opened to free the segments.  However, this is not as easy as it sounds since you can’t see through the peel to see if the pieces are in the correct position.  All you can see are the edges of the segments as they rotate past the access hole.  This requires you to look at the edges and then rotate them while mentally trying to track where they are after they leave the opening.  Of course, all this assumes that you have determined how the segments need to be oriented to open the tangerine.

Globe Ball PiecesThe original version of Tangerine was 3D printed using orange for the peel pieces and white for the segments.  For the Hanayama version, an additional layer was added to the puzzle and renamed Globe Ball using the Earth as the new theme.  The molten core has 4 red segments surrounded by 2 blue oceanic pieces.  The 2 new outer shell pieces are a transparent light blue with opaque white regions depicting the continents.  Now instead of having a single outer shell, there are 2, and the inner shell needs to be manipulated into position with respect to the outer shell.  This has to be accomplished while still manipulating the internal core segments through the hole that is now in both shells.  Another nice feature is the addition of a 3rd outer shell piece that screws into the hole making the globe a complete sphere.

Globe Ball PackagingThe packaging for Globe Ball deserves some recognition.  The box is a simple transparent box showcasing the puzzle and all the inserts.  Everything is very neatly packaged and the Ball is cradled between 2 clear plastic inserts.  The plastic insert on the bottom covers the official base to display the puzzle.  Another nice feature is that the box not only provides the puzzle designer’s name but has his photo as well.

After solving Globe Ball or the original Tangerine, you can see where the inspiration for Vesa’s newer puzzle, Cast UFO (Uns@lv*bl# F!&#ing O$j@ct - Cast UFO), came from.  You can almost hear him say, I want to do something similar but totally different.  And he did.

Globe Ball is difficult to come by and I’m glad I was able to acquire a copy.  It is not a very difficult puzzle but it is very clever and displays well.

Globe Ball Insert