Wednesday, July 28, 2021
After seeing all the abused, mangled, and broken Soma variants that came out, László Molnár came to the conclusion that 90/90 is so 2020. Using his acute sense of puzzle design mastery, he determined that something was wrong with the angles of these variants and decided that they couldn’t be right all the time. Utilizing the rombic tetrahedra grid of BurrTools, he found a cut that was above the rest and created Halfcut Soma - once again proving the adage that you can still appear sharp even if you’re not right.
Like so many unfortunate Soma cube victims before, the design process commenced with picking on the smallest piece of the group. The tri-cube was once again targeted and dissected into 6 pieces. This time however, László cut the 3 cubes at 45 degrees before gluing each triangular half-cube to one of the other 6 pieces. This could have been the end of it, but László obviously decided that this puzzle would be too easily solved by discriminating Soma puzzle enthusiasts who have been crunching through many variants over recent years.
The objective of the puzzle remains to fit the pieces into a 3x3x3 space. Of course, with all those half-cubes thrown out, there are a lot of holes in the resultant cubic space. László also ensured that there was a single solution to maximize your enjoyment.
Solving the Halfcut Soma is a nice challenge! Enough information is provided for you to solve it with a logical approach and a little experimentation. Even so, it takes a while to warp your mind for working with pieces made with triangular segments instead of cubes. Taking a logical approach is not mandatory and you’re welcome to disregard it and enjoy the puzzle for a longer time.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
It’s picnic basket season again and Akaki Kuumeri has a couple of new offerings to enjoy? The new baskets are BBQ Basket and Charcoal Basket. Shortly after being announced on the Mechanical Puzzles Discord, the models were released on Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series) Thingiverse page. I have to say that it’s extremely nice of Akaki to share his designs with the puzzle community as he develops them. It’s also possible that the new picnic baskets may show up in his AkakiKuumeri Etsy shop at some point.
BBQ offers some things that we’ve seen before as well as something new. I discovered a rotation early on that I thought would be part of the solution but it turned out not to be used. In fact, it turned out that this rotation occurs easily (and often) requiring you to unrotate (derotate, antirotate, counterrotate – it’s really just another rotate). Of course, rotating it back is not as easy as the originally unintended rotate. Once the solution has been found it is easily repeatable. Akaki has designated the difficulty of this puzzle as medium.
The other basket offering from Akaki is Charcoal. Prepare to get burned on this one. I found this one to be much harder than any of the previous baskets (A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets, And The After Dinner Mint – Peppermint Basket). I was a bit surprised to see on the Thingiverse page that the level of difficulty is 22.214.171.124. Those are some pretty serious numbers for such a small puzzle. Akaki’s translation of this difficulty level into English is: Unnecessarily Complicated.
This puzzle does a good job of seeming downright impossible. However, once you find a configuration for the briquettes (outside the basket), it’s a simple process to verify that it is correct by checking that you can remove the first piece in 9 moves. Yes, you could consider that a hint being provided by Akaki, but believe me, you will be happy to have received it. Removing the other pieces doesn’t look remotely possible.
One by one, I managed to figure out how to add/remove the final 3 pieces and accomplish the impossible. There are some epic moves within this basket that will amaze you. Little did I realize that I had just completed the easy part. Unfortunately, knowing how the pieces have to move and actually making them move that way are two completely different things altogether. Things have to be moved/rotated in places that are mostly out of reach.
I printed the contents of this basket in the same format as all the previous ones – small and tight. That was a big, Big, BIG mistake! Don’t do it! You’ve been warned. I have fairly thin fingers and really struggled to make the moves. If your mitts are adorned with large sausages, you don’t stand a chance.
Besides getting burned on this one, why is it called charcoal? I believe that it gets its name from the nice sparkly black filament that Akaki had on hand to print the puzzle. I felt compelled to also use a sparkly black filament as well, but since I had already used it for the Salmiakki Basket, I used a Hilbert pattern top layer fill to distinguish the pieces. This gave the briquettes a rougher texture and ironically, a more charcoally look.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
The puzzle arrives in a very recognizable orange box. In this case, the box had a black bag attached to it. This bag contained a black towel, a description of the ResQ backstory and goals, and a Reset Guide.
The towel was a nice touch. Many SD puzzles are susceptible to having small pieces fall out and roll out of sight. Most puzzle gatherings aren’t complete without someone swearing at pieces rolling across the floor and groups of people on their hands and knees looking under the furniture. Oh, how I miss the look of horror on their faces. CD decided to preempt that experience and provide an official towel to work over.
Inside the orange box is another box nicely made from Hawaiian Koa. It has various square, rectangle, and rounded slots cut out of it. Inside the box are pieces made from Canxan, Catalox, Bloodwood, and Chakte Viga. So far, nothing unusual. It looks like a typical packing problem with the pieces already packed in the box.
The first odd thing of note is the face of an alien with a strange sparkling hair bun on the top of the puzzle. Apparently, this is a visitor from another dimension and the goal is to rescue the visitor as well as the components of his spaceship from the void (aka the inside of the box). There is obviously some time/space warping occurring inside the 3x3x3 box since you need to extract a spaceship (made from Paduak and Walnut), two antenna assemblies, a silver fuel disk, a gold reactor orb, and a six-orb navigation AI module. I was tracking it all until the end. How could you possible get a six-orb navigation AI module in there? Well, I was quite surprised when it unexpectedly showed up – on the towel – as if by magic – out of the void – Uh Oh!
It looks like there was at least one design change after the box was made. There is a feature that did not appear to be used and caused me to hunt around for something that I may have missed or lost. I guess that you could just call it a space fish on a long wavelength.
The SD aspects of ResQ are very well done and obviously required a fair amount of experimentation to ensure that everything worked as expected. However, the real challenge is manipulating the vortex to get things where you need them. Once you have that figured out, everything is much easier.
I can’t stress enough, that everything is so well made that it looks innocent when in reality, it packs a lot of puzzling in a small amount of space. The Mechanical Puzzles discord had several messages from puzzlers with difficulty finding out how to unlock the vortex at the beginning since it was so well hidden.
I was initially reluctant to look at the reset instructions to put everything back together, especially since it has a ** SPOILER ** warning, but I’m glad that I took a peak and looked at it. Although it does have some spoiler information that you wouldn’t want to see before salvaging everything from the vortex, it basically provides the initial configuration of the vortex. Of course, you can store the vortex in another configuration, but I’d bet that the initial configuration is probably designed to require the maximum number of moves to solve. Don’t be afraid to use the Reset Guide. In fact, the final goal recommends using the diagram to reset ResQ.
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
ZenPuzzler has reached the end of its second year. I was originally worried that there wouldn’t be anyone reading the blog, but I’ve since received confirmation that, indeed, there are people that have seen the blog. However, I’m not the least bit discouraged by the requests from designers and craftsmen requesting that I don’t blog about their puzzles.
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. Puzzles not included in the photos were either borrowed, gifted, or just plain forgotten on the shelf behind me in plain sight.
28 APR 21 – Board With Puzzles - Trikado
- Trikado by Yavus Dimirhan, made by Wood Wonders
- Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, bungled by ZenPuzzler
- Peppermint Basket by Akaki Kuumeri, printed by ZenPuzzler
- Nachos Basket by William Hu, printed by ZenPuzzler
31 MAR 21 – A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets
- Akaki’s Picnic Baskets by Akaki Kuumeri, printed by ZenPuzzler
10 MAR 21 – Terrific Value in a Small Package - Mini TV
- Mini TV by Stéphane Chomine, printed by ZenPuzzler
10 FEB 21 – Screwed! - Bolt Action
- Bolt Action by Alan Lunsford, made by layerbylayerpuzzles
20 JAN 21 – It's a Feature - Inaccurate Burr
- Inaccurate Burr by Junichi Yananose, made by Cubicdissection
13 JAN 21 – Per Aspera Ad Astra - StarTIC 1-4
- StarTIC 1-4 by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
6 JAN 21 – Mangling Wood With Style - In Brackets
- In Brackets by Sam Cornwell, mangled by ZenPuzzler
|Picnic Basket Goodies|
30 DEC 20 - Ending With a Beginning - CagedTIC 1
- CagedTIC 1 by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
- Cluster by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
- Inelegant Box by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
- ACorn by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
2 DEC 20 - Apparently More Puzzles - ManiAC Shuffle
- ManiAC Shuffle by Andrew Crowell, printed by Andrew Crowell
25 NOV 20 - The Gift That Keeps On Giving - The Ottawa Cube
- The Ottawa Cube by Ken Irvine, made by Wood Wonders
18 NOV 20 - Hiding Money in Puzzles - Unsafe Deposit
- Unsafe Deposit by Alan Lunsford, made by layerbylayerpuzzles
- ThreeTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- TriadTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- TripleTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- NeuroTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- TriumviraTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- Inelegant Fake by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
28 OCT 20 - A Puzzling Tri-Pod - Uri Three Bars
- Uri Three Bars by Dario Uri, made by Cubicdissection
21 OCT 20 - Longer Than Expected - BonBon
- BonBon by Frederic Boucher, made by Cubicdissection
14 OCT 20 - 15 Steps to Success - Stairs Cube
- Stairs Cube by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Wood Wonders
7 OCT 20 - A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - Fantastic
- Fantastic by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
30 SEP 20 - Digging Through Puzzles - Artefacts
- Artefacts - Frederic Boucher, made by Cubicdissection
- Reactor Nuclear Packing Puzzle by CoreMods, made by CoreMods
16 SEP 20 - Happy 16th! - Sweet Sixteen
- Sweet Sixteen by Jack Krijnen, made by Cubicdissection
- Corner Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- Edge Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- Angle Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- MysTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
26 AUG 20 - Don't Give Up - COP OUT 1, 2, 3
- COP OUT 1-3 by Alan Lunsford, made by Layerbylayerpuzzles
- Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, abused by ZenPuzzler
- PatheTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
5 AUG 20 - A Non-Conventional Puzzle - Geneva
- Geneva by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection
29 JUL 20 - Starting With The Seed Of An Idea - Begonia
- Begonia by Yavuz Demirhan, made by Cubicdissection
22 JUL 20 - The Bane of All Cubes - Cubane
- Cubane by Masumi Ohno, made by Cubicdissection
15 JUL 20 - A Pox On You - Pox Box
- Pox Box by Yavuz Demirhan, made by Cubicdissection
8 JUL 20 - Hanging In Suspense - PackTIC V
- PackTIC V by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- RIPley by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
24 JUN 20 - Just Another 6-Piece Burr, Or Is It? - Welded Burr
- Welded Burr by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection
17 JUN 20 - A 10,000 Foot View Of - Cockpit
- Cockpit by Osinori Yamamoto, made by Wood Wonders
10 JUN 20 - A Meaty Challenge - Ribeye
- RIBeye by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
3 JUN 20 - Space, The Final Frontier - MagellanTIC
- MagellanTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
- Accordian by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection
20 MAY 20 - Discretely Exchanging Puzzles - IPP Burr
- IPP Burr by Noah Prettyman, made by Cubicdissection
- SkepTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Every once in a while you need to do something different. This desire drove Brian Menold from Wood Wonders in search of a puzzle to make like Trikado. Brian is a fan of board burrs and when he found Trikado by Yavuz Demirhan, he couldn’t pass it up. It looks like a 9-board puzzle, but 3 pairs are actually combined to provide a 6 piece puzzle.
I like how Brian made the boards with two contrasting woods. Since all the boards have the same 2 toned appearance, nothing of the solution is given away. This particular copy is made with Canarywood & Mahogany.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Like a Dead Skunk in Your Tire Well, Some Things Just Don’t Go Away - Completely Broken Soma, Part 2
The smart thing to do is fling the design deep into the pit of eternal stench. So I bought a 3D printer and attempted to plasticize the design myself. I went with the 3 color version and created the design files to print the required 54 half-cubes. The 48mm (1.9”) cube only took a little over 10 hours to print.
Having suffered a similar fate when creating the wood version, I knew exactly what to do. I shoved the puzzle in a dehydrator and slowly drove the temperature to just over 130 degrees, the low end of the glass transition temperature for PLA. I didn’t want to risk going higher and potentially fusing the pieces together. Shortly after the target temperature was reached, I pulled it out and quickly clamped it for the night. In the morning, I unclamped a reasonably cubic object and disassembled it to ensure that nothing was unintentionally fused together. Having finally exorcising that caustic concept from my system, I quickly put it in a box and sent it away to plague someone else. I really don’t understand why I don’t have friends any more.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Like the prior 13 picnic baskets (A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets), the Peppermint pieces fit within the same picnic basket. However, the first thing that you will notice is that the pieces have diagonally cut half cubes. These cuts allow for some new types of movements/rotations needed to solve the puzzle. The second thing that you will notice is that there are only 3 pieces and that there is a lot of empty space in the assembly.
This puzzle is reminiscent of Andrew Crowell’s Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) puzzles where the difficulty is getting the first 2 pieces situated within a frame against their wishes. I printed the standard version of Peppermint with the tighter tolerances and the rotation required to resolve the positioning of the first 2 pieces is very precise and not easy to discover. There are also several almost possible rotations, but don’t be tempted to force it. One of these almost possible rotations is associated with a false assembly. I’m sure by now that you can tell that I spent a bit of time trying to solve this one. Getting the last piece in is not difficult, but I liked how the movement worked.
If this is the end of the Picnic Basket series, this was a great final puzzle. Akaki did an awesome job designing this final challenge and made good use of the diagonally cut cubes. More final boss puzzles please!
So why did Akaki label Peppermint as Akaki Basket #16 if there were originally 13 picnic basket puzzles? What happened to 14 and 15? If I had to guess, one of those is a prior version of Peppermint that Akaki didn’t release because it had an unintended short cut in the solution. I would guess that the other is:
Puzzle designer extraordinaire, William Hu, took up the challenge to create a picnic basket for the series. Like Peppermint, Nachos uses diagonally cut half cubes. With 4 pieces instead of 3, it was a bit more difficult to find the piece assembly, especially since there is a lot of void space in the final assembly. The empty space and angled cuts also make the puzzle fiddly to play with outside the basket when figuring out the moves required to insert them. The well thought out movements earn this puzzle its difficult rating although I found it quite a bit easier than Peppermint. More please!
Model files for printing your own copies of Peppermint and Nachos are freely available with the other Picnic Baskets on Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series) Thingiverse page.