Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Per Aspera Ad Astra - StarTIC 1-4

StarTICs 1-4 by Andrew Crowell

Although it has taken several decades, I finally found something tangible that explains my college motto: Per Aspera Ad Astra - through adversity to the stars.  This something comes from the fiendish mind of that Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) master Andrew Crowell, who knows that the only thing better than a puzzle is a cluster of puzzles.  With that in mind, he embarked on creating a series of StarTICs.  Of course, he attempted to pack as much adversity as possible within each to entertain us along the journey.

StarTIC 2 PIeces
The StarTIC cluster consists of 4 heavenly bodies.  Each has its name debossed on the outside and Andrew’s name debossed on the inside.  Each has its position in the series at the end of the name except for the first, the original StarTIC.

The StarTICs occupy a 5x5x5 cubic dissection space.  Each consists of a gray shell surrounding an inner 3x3x3 core with a unique color for that StarTIC.  Although the core appears solid, each is comprised of several pieces.  The objective is to have the core go critical and eject its mass from the center of the shell.  Bits of the shell may remain stuck to the pieces while some bits of the core may be left behind on the empty shell.


StarTIC  by Andrew Crowell
Starting the cluster is StarTIC with its red hot core.  When assembling StarTIC, it’s easy to determine where the pieces go within the shell.  The largest piece contains a large section of the shell and can only go in one place.   Once that piece is in place, the remaining 4 pieces can be divided into 2 that add 2 cubes to the shell and 2 that add 1 cube to the shell.

After careful examination, you can determine that 3 of the 4 shell vacancies look like they can be satisfied by 2 of the core pieces.  The fourth can only be completed by one of the core pieces but it can go in that spot in 2 different ways.  However, it is immediately obvious that only one of them makes sense.  Once that piece is in place, it is obvious where the other 3 core pieces have to go.  The only thing left is to determine the order and movements required to get them in place.  Of course, some rotations will be required, but they are minimal.  

My favorite rotation involves the “T” piece that gets translated halfway through the rotation.  I designed a puzzle around this type of move about a decade ago called Interrupted.  It was the only thing that this puzzle had to offer.  One of the reasons that I like Andrew’s puzzles so much is that they have so much more to offer than just a single interesting move.

StarTIC 2

StarTIC 2  by Andrew Crowell
StarTIC 2 has a cold dark blue core.  Unlike StarTIC, the StarTIC 2 frame is only missing 3 small pieces, which can be found connected to 3 of the 5 pieces that comprise the core.

If you are tackling this as a disassembly challenge, you appear to be presented with a catch 22 situation.  It looks like a 2 block chunk of the shell connected to one of the core pieces needs to be removed to get the core pieces out.  However, it also looks like this piece can only be pushed into the core and not pulled out.  It appears that the main challenge is to figure out how to remove this plug from such an obvious exit portal.  Or is it?  You’ll have to see for yourself.

As an assembly challenge, you need to discover the very specific order of adding and rotating the pieces to the frame including plugging that 2 block gap in the shell.  Of course, when adding the first few pieces, a lot of movement and rotations are possible.  Even fully assembled, quite a bit of movement is allowed.

StarTIC 3

StarTIC 3  by Andrew Crowell
StarTIC 3 sports a cheery orange core, which is comprised of only 4 pieces.  One of these pieces also has a significant portion of the shell attached.  You would think that this puzzle would be easy with the shell separating into such large chunks.  You wouldn’t be wrong either.  I found StartTIC 3 to be the easiest of the StarTICs in the cluster.

With either the disassembly or assembly, it is not difficult to figure out what is going on within this StarTIC.  Rotations and movements are straightforward and shouldn’t prove to be difficult for most users.  If find yourself intimidated by this cluster, start with StarTIC 3.

StarTIC 4

StarTIC 4  by Andrew Crowell
The fourth StarTIC has a cool green core.  As with the other StarTICs, for the disassembly, you will be tempted to remove the piece with the largest piece of the shell attached.  Although there doesn’t appear to be much holding it in place, it refuses to come out.  It takes a lot of experimentation to determine the convoluted dance required of the core pieces, including numerous rotations, to release the first piece.  Once you have accomplished that, it’s all over. The other pieces can simply be plucked out one by one.  If you yank them out quickly without paying too much attention, you can also enjoy the following assembly process.

The assembly process is a lot of fun with StarTIC 4.  All the core pieces have a piece of the shell attached and aren’t difficult to place.  However, finding the right order to add, move, and rotate them will be challenging, especially considering the lengthy sequence of movements and rotations to get all the core pieces in place once the last one has been added to the shell.  

The StarTIC cluster is a worthy addition to Andrew’s TICs.  Not a single loser in the bunch -  they’re all stars!  

Per Aspera Ad Astra

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Mangling Wood With Style - In Brackets

It’s 2021!  A brand new year!  And just like how everyone who wants to forget the prior year, I’d like to leave behind my initial puzzle making attempts.  Then along came Cubicdissection’s announcement that In Brackets by Sam Cornwell (released in 2009) may be rereleased in January 2021.  

Back in 2012, when I saw In Brackets on Cubicdissection’s website, Eric Fuller was mostly releasing new puzzle designs and there was no indication that he would change his approach and rerelease prior puzzles.  I also didn’t see any indication that In Brackets was going to be made by anyone else.  So I did what any other wood mangler would do and headed to the garage.

In addition to the nice photos of In Brackets on Cubicdissection’s website, Eric Fuller included the following details in his description (
Crafted from fine peruvian walnut and zebrawood, this puzzle has a very nice fit and feel.  The cube is precise but not tight, and the brackets have a good feel with a generous .012 offset from the cube. Brackets are constructed with finger joints at the edges to insure strength and long life.
As a new woodworker, I loosely translated this into my own frame of reference and ended up with the following build process:
Cobbled together with Red Oak and Cherry so it won’t fall apart in your hands.  There’s enough slop in there to ensure that the cube doesn’t get wedged in the brackets.  Butt joints are used on the brackets to expedite the build process.
Armed with a solid plan, I marched into the garage and mangled some wood into something that could be reminiscent of In Brackets if you squint at it just right.  This puzzle was one of the first victims of my newly purchased miter saw many years ago and is now part of my eyesore puzzle collection.  However, it is a fully functional puzzle and served to satisfy that particular puzzle itch.  

Before, I describe the puzzle, please keep in mind that these comments are based on my homemade copy and a professionally made version may give you a whole other, potentially sublime, experience.

The puzzle consists of 3 pieces that make a 3x3x3 cube with 3 voids and 3 brackets that hold the cube together.  As a puzzle, this one is pretty easy.  Taking it apart is trivial, but to be fair, if the puzzle were tight or incorporated a magnet, it would provide more of a challenge to find the first move.  Of course, since I had made the pieces, it started out as an assembly challenge.

Assembling In Brackets is not difficult and would make a good challenge for new puzzler.  It’s easy to create a cube from the 3 internal pieces.  Once you have the cube, it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to determine how to add the brackets.  Since any 2 brackets can be trivially added to the cube, you only have to determine where those 2 brackets have to go to allow the cube pieces to move into a configuration that permits the insertion of the final bracket.

If you are looking for a challenging puzzle and have been enjoying the wave of Turning Interlocking Cubes (TICs), this one is not for you.  However, if you want an attractive, very approachable puzzle with a novel approach, you will enjoy In Brackets.  Cubicdissection’s 2009 version of In Brackets looks fantastic and I’m sure that if it’s rereleased, it will look even better.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Ending With a Beginning - CagedTIC 1

CagedTIC 1 by Andrew Crowell
This is the 12th and final post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC).  A year ago, I decided to do a post every month during 2020 of one of Andrew’s TIC puzzles after buying a large batch of them.  Of course, I acquired many more of them during the year and the later posts are of more recent acquisitions.  You can tell from the newer acquisitions that Andrew has the 3D printing process figured out and the quality of his puzzles has become excellent.  

CagedTIC 1 is a perfect puzzle to end this series on.  It looks great, it’s difficult, and the “1” seems to indicate that there will be more to follow!  Did I mention that it’s difficult?  Even though I almost always recommend that you receive these puzzles disassembled, you can get this one assembled if you want.  It’s a challenge to even get all the pieces out of the frame.

So let’s get into it.  The puzzle fits within a 5x5x5 cubic area.  The simple frame comprises all of the cubes edges and is made from a marble PLA with the name of the puzzle debossed on one edge.  The 7 pieces that get packed into the frame are made from a light blue PLA and Andrew’s name is debossed on one of them.  The packed pieces leave the center of each of the 6 cubic faces unoccupied to make a pleasant design.  The pieces fall into 3 categories.  

Pieces 1-3

The first 3 are filler pieces that serve as spackle to construct that attractive final shape and each can simply be pulled from the puzzle in a single move.  However, the filler pieces do serve an important function for the puzzler.  They help identify how the other pieces need to be oriented within the frame.

Piece 4

The fourth piece is not difficult to remove but can’t be pulled out in a single move.  It also requires a rotation to extract it from the cage.  

Pieces 5-7

The final 3 pieces are the real challenge.  With only 3 pieces left to remove, you would think that it would be easy to just shake them out.  However it is far from easy and, needless to say, requires several rotations to accomplish.  It’s not even easy to determine which of those pieces need to come out first.  I wasn’t certain which one it was until I managed to free it.  Removing the remaining 2 pieces is not that difficult.

CagedTIC 1 Pieces
I had originally taken the puzzle apart when I first received it and didn’t tackle the reassembly until months later, leaving me with a good challenge.  Of course, I easily got 6 pieces in without one of the difficult trio and them spent quite a bit of time trying to get the trio established within the frame.  Of course, I had to take it apart again for the blog photos and struggled again to get the trio back out.  I know how those 3 pieces have to go within the frame but it’s a struggle every time.  Brilliant puzzle!

Although this is the last of the monthly series of TICs from Andrew Crowell, never fear.  I’m a fan of Andrew’s puzzles and I’ll certainly be including more of them in next year’s posts.  I’d like to thank Andrew for his awesome and prolific output of TICs and other puzzles over the last couple of years and look forward to seeing what the future brings.  I hope these TIC posts have inspired some of you to try and enjoy Andrew’s puzzles.  He usually has some available on his Etsy shop, arcWoodPuzzles, if you are looking for them.

You can find the prior posts of the series here:

January: Puzzling DNA - GeneTIC

February: TIC, TIC, TIC - PackTIC II

March: Green Beer ‘ill Cure What Ails Ya - BioTIC

April: The Proper Way to Solve a Puzzle - PedanTIC

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

June: Space, The Final Frontier - MagellanTIC

July: Hanging in Suspense - PackTIC V

August: Fantastic 20+ Move TIC with an 11 Move Non-TIC Alternate Solution - PatheTIC

September: I Had This Feeling That I Was Going To Like This Puzzle - MystTIC

October: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - Fantastic

November: Puzzle Candy - ThreeTIC, TriadTIC, TripleTIC, NeuroTIC, TriumviraTIC

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Christmas Present For You 2! – Penultimate Burr Box Set 7-Piece Burr Challenges

Penultimate Burr Box Set 7-Piece Burr Challenge Gift

I know that by now, most of you have completed all 898 Penultimate Burr Box Set challenges including last year’s Christmas Challenge and were wondering what to do with that old dusty box.  In the event that you haven’t sold, traded, or regifted your stick collection, there is now an entirely new set of challenges for you.

6-Piece burrs have been all the rage with everyone amassing large quantities of this venerable puzzle and all its variants.  However, the 6-piece burr is so 2020!  As we leave 2020 behind us, a new set of challenges is needed for 2021.  Enter the 7-piece burr, 6’s lesser known brother.

7-Piece Burr Puzzle
Of course, there are multiple ways to construct a shape with 7 burr pieces.  With the construction that I chose, BurrTools indicated there are 3,232,523 assemblies and 184,687 solutions.  In English, this means that there are 3,232,523 ways that 7 of the burr pieces from the set can make the 7-piece burr shape, but only 184,687 of these assemblies can be taken apart.  Further analysis indicates that 471 of the solutions are unique.  A unique solution is one where the 7 pieces cannot be rearranged to make the 7-piece burr another way.  Of the 471 unique solutions, 38 are level 2 and the remaining 433 are level 1, where the level is the number of moves required to remove the first piece or set of pieces from the puzzle.

I haven’t completed all 471 solutions yet.  OK, I’ve only done the first one so far.  I didn’t find it that difficult but it does require some different thinking.  In the 6-piece burr, all the pieces basically perform the same function, however in the 7-piece burr, 2 of the pieces now function differently.  This can be leveraged during the solution process.

Burr PIeces
First Attempt: During my first attempt, I managed to assemble 6 of the pieces into an assembly that would have accommodated the final piece, but there was no way to add that piece.  Some extra thinking was required to find an assembly that can be constructed.  

Second Attempt: My second attempt was close, but the parity of the last piece was wrong for the assembly that I was constructing.  (sheesh, what does he mean by parity? – Basically, the assembly had a hole on the left and the piece had a cube on the right).  

Final Attempt: Assuming that the final piece was correct, I rebuilt the assembly with a parity to match the piece and it finally went together.

Some of the puzzles will be very similar to each other and you may want to cherry pick ones that look interesting.  Then again, 2 puzzles may only differ by 1 piece yet be entirely different. If you would like to give these a try yourself, the pieces required for the unique solutions are below.  Hopefully, these challenges will keep your set from joining the yuletide log.

Penultimate Burr Box Set

Level 2 Unique Solution Piece Sets:

6,7,9,10,15,17,19 6,7,9,10,15,17,20 5,6,7,12,17,22,24 5,6,7,10,21,22,24
5,6,7,12,15,20,22 5,6,7,15,17,23,24 3,5,6,7,8,22,24 6,7,9,10,11,17,24
5,6,7,9,16,19,24 5,7,10,12,15,18,24 5,6,7,9,19,24,25 5,6,7,10,15,23,24
5,7,10,12,17,22,24 5,6,7,9,17,24,26 4,5,6,7,8,22,24 4,5,6,7,11,15,24
5,6,7,15,17,18,24 5,6,7,12,15,17,22 5,6,7,15,17,20,22 6,7,9,10,14,15,19
6,7,9,10,14,15,20 5,6,7,10,20,22,24 5,6,7,10,19,22,24 5,6,7,12,15,23,24
5,7,10,15,17,18,24 6,7,10,11,12,15,17 5,7,10,12,15,17,22 5,7,10,12,15,17,24
5,6,7,10,15,22,26 5,6,7,10,15,24,26 6,7,10,12,14,15,17 5,6,7,17,20,22,24
5,6,7,9,17,23,24 3,5,6,7,11,15,24 5,6,7,12,20,22,24 4,5,6,7,10,15,24
5,6,7,12,15,18,24 6,7,10,13,14,15,17

Level 1 Unique Solution Piece Sets:

5,7,9,10,18,21,24 5,7,9,10,15,18,23 5,7,9,10,15,18,26 5,7,10,11,15,16,19
5,7,10,11,15,16,22 5,7,10,11,15,16,24 1,5,7,8,10,18,22 4,6,7,8,9,10,22
4,6,7,8,9,10,24 1,3,5,6,9,10,15 5,6,7,15,17,21,23 5,6,7,15,17,21,26
5,7,9,10,13,16,19 4,5,7,9,10,15,22 4,5,7,9,10,15,24 5,7,9,10,13,16,20
6,7,9,10,13,15,23 6,7,9,10,13,15,26 1,5,7,9,10,12,19 1,5,7,9,10,12,20
5,6,10,13,17,24,25 5,6,7,11,13,24,26 5,7,10,11,15,18,19 1,5,6,9,10,21,24
5,7,10,14,15,17,18 5,7,9,10,14,19,22 5,7,9,10,14,19,24 5,7,9,10,14,19,25
5,7,10,14,15,17,21 5,6,10,14,15,16,17 1,5,6,10,15,16,17 1,4,5,6,9,10,15
5,7,9,10,16,21,24 5,7,9,10,13,18,19 5,7,9,10,13,18,20 1,5,6,10,14,15,18
1,5,6,10,14,15,19 1,5,7,9,10,14,19 5,7,10,11,13,16,24 1,5,7,9,10,14,20
5,6,10,11,15,19,22 5,6,10,11,15,19,24 5,7,10,11,12,15,21 5,7,10,14,15,19,22
5,7,10,14,15,19,24 5,7,10,14,15,19,25 5,7,9,10,11,16,19 5,7,9,10,11,16,20
5,6,10,14,15,18,22 5,6,10,14,15,18,24 5,7,10,11,17,22,24 3,5,6,7,8,24,25
1,5,7,10,15,16,17 6,7,9,10,11,15,23 6,7,9,10,11,15,26 5,6,7,13,15,18,23
5,6,7,13,15,18,26 5,6,9,10,21,22,24 5,7,10,11,13,18,24 5,7,9,10,15,22,23
5,7,9,10,15,22,26 4,5,6,7,9,17,19 1,5,7,10,14,15,18 1,5,7,10,14,15,19
1,5,7,9,10,16,22 1,5,6,10,11,12,22 4,5,6,7,9,17,20 5,7,9,10,12,19,24
5,6,9,10,17,19,22 5,6,9,10,17,19,24 5,6,9,10,17,19,25 5,7,9,10,14,21,24
1,5,7,8,10,22,25 5,7,9,10,11,18,19 5,7,9,10,11,18,20 4,5,6,7,8,16,24
6,7,8,9,10,22,23 6,7,8,9,10,22,26 5,6,9,10,16,18,24 5,6,7,9,21,23,24
1,5,6,10,12,15,16 1,5,6,10,12,15,19 1,5,6,10,12,15,21 5,7,9,10,13,20,25
5,6,9,10,18,20,24 4,6,7,8,10,14,15 5,7,10,12,15,16,21 5,7,10,12,15,16,22
5,7,10,12,15,16,24 5,6,7,9,20,22,23 5,6,7,9,20,22,26 1,5,6,7,9,13,23
5,6,7,13,17,22,23 1,5,6,7,9,13,26 5,6,7,13,17,22,26 5,7,9,10,15,24,26
1,5,7,9,10,18,24 1,5,6,10,11,14,24 1,5,7,10,11,12,22 5,7,10,11,15,22,25
5,7,10,12,14,15,21 5,7,10,15,17,19,22 5,7,10,15,17,19,24 5,6,10,15,17,18,19
1,5,6,8,10,16,24 1,5,7,8,10,24,25 6,7,8,9,10,24,26 1,4,5,6,7,9,12
5,6,10,15,16,17,18 5,6,10,15,16,17,19 1,5,7,10,12,15,16 1,5,7,10,12,15,19
5,6,10,15,16,17,22 5,6,10,15,16,17,24 5,6,10,15,16,17,25 5,6,9,10,18,22,24
1,5,7,10,12,15,21 5,7,10,12,15,18,21 3,5,6,7,9,12,19 3,6,7,8,10,15,17
3,5,6,7,9,12,20 1,5,7,10,11,14,24 5,7,10,11,15,24,25 4,5,6,7,15,17,19
1,5,6,8,10,18,22 1,5,6,7,8,14,23 1,5,6,7,8,14,26 5,6,10,12,14,16,24
3,5,6,7,15,16,17 5,7,9,10,11,20,25 5,6,9,10,16,20,24 4,5,6,9,10,15,16
4,5,6,9,10,15,17 4,5,6,9,10,15,18 4,5,6,9,10,15,22 4,5,6,9,10,15,24
4,5,6,9,10,15,25 3,5,6,9,10,14,15 5,6,10,11,14,22,24 5,6,9,10,18,24,25
5,6,9,10,12,16,19 1,5,6,9,10,12,19 5,6,10,12,15,19,22 5,6,10,12,15,19,24
5,7,10,11,13,22,24 5,6,7,9,14,19,23 5,6,9,10,12,16,20 5,6,10,12,15,19,25
5,6,7,9,14,19,26 1,5,6,9,10,12,20 1,5,7,9,10,20,22 1,5,7,9,10,20,24
5,6,7,11,15,19,23 5,6,7,11,15,19,26 5,7,10,15,17,21,22 5,7,10,15,17,21,24
5,7,10,15,17,21,25 5,6,7,14,15,18,23 5,6,7,14,15,18,26 5,6,10,12,14,18,24
4,5,6,7,12,14,24 5,6,9,10,16,22,24 4,6,7,9,10,12,15 5,6,9,10,13,19,22
3,6,7,9,10,11,15 5,7,10,13,17,18,22 5,6,9,10,12,18,19 1,5,6,9,10,14,19
5,6,9,10,12,18,20 5,7,10,11,13,24,25 1,5,6,9,10,14,20 4,5,6,7,13,17,24
5,7,10,13,16,17,22 5,7,10,13,15,16,18 5,7,10,13,15,16,19 3,5,6,7,12,15,16
3,5,6,7,12,15,19 3,6,7,9,10,13,15 5,6,9,10,15,23,24 3,5,6,7,9,18,24
1,5,6,9,10,16,22 5,6,10,12,15,21,22 5,6,10,12,15,21,24 5,6,9,10,11,19,22
5,6,9,10,11,19,24 1,5,6,8,10,22,25 5,6,7,9,13,20,23 5,6,7,9,13,20,26
4,5,6,7,8,24,25 5,7,10,13,15,18,19 5,7,10,13,15,18,22 5,7,10,13,15,18,24
5,7,10,13,15,18,25 5,7,9,10,21,22,24 4,5,6,7,11,17,24 1,5,6,9,10,18,24
5,6,9,10,12,20,25 5,7,9,10,17,19,22 5,7,9,10,17,19,24 6,7,8,10,14,15,23
6,7,8,10,14,15,26 5,6,7,11,15,23,25 3,5,6,7,10,15,24 1,5,6,8,10,24,25
5,6,7,8,22,23,25 5,7,9,10,16,18,22 1,3,5,6,7,9,12 5,6,10,13,15,19,22
5,6,10,13,15,19,24 5,7,9,10,18,20,22 5,7,9,10,21,24,25 5,7,9,10,15,17,23
5,7,9,10,15,17,26 5,7,10,13,17,22,25 3,5,6,7,9,20,24 5,7,9,10,14,16,19
5,6,7,9,11,20,23 5,6,7,9,11,20,26 5,7,9,10,14,16,20 5,6,7,11,15,25,26
5,6,7,8,22,25,26 5,6,10,12,14,24,25 5,6,10,11,17,18,24 5,6,7,11,14,24,26
5,7,9,10,18,22,24 5,6,10,11,16,17,24 1,5,7,9,10,11,19 4,5,6,7,9,12,19
1,5,7,9,10,11,20 4,5,6,7,9,12,20 5,6,7,11,13,23,24 1,5,6,9,10,20,22
1,5,6,9,10,20,24 5,7,10,11,15,17,21 5,7,9,10,14,18,19 5,7,10,14,15,16,18
5,7,10,14,15,16,19 5,7,9,10,14,18,20 5,6,10,11,15,16,22 5,6,10,11,15,16,24
5,6,7,11,12,22,23 5,6,7,11,12,22,26 5,6,7,10,15,16,20 5,7,10,11,14,16,24
5,7,9,10,16,20,22 3,5,7,9,10,15,22 3,5,7,9,10,15,24 5,6,7,8,18,22,23
5,6,7,8,18,22,26 1,5,7,9,10,13,19 1,5,7,9,10,13,20 5,6,7,12,15,21,23
5,6,7,12,15,21,26 5,7,10,11,15,19,22 5,7,10,11,15,19,24 5,7,10,11,15,19,25
6,7,9,10,12,15,23 6,7,9,10,12,15,26 5,7,10,14,15,18,19 5,7,10,14,15,18,22
5,7,10,14,15,18,24 5,7,10,14,15,18,25 1,5,6,10,15,17,19 1,5,6,10,15,17,21
5,6,7,10,15,18,20 5,7,10,11,14,18,24 5,7,9,10,16,22,24 5,7,9,10,16,22,25
5,7,9,10,13,19,22 5,7,9,10,13,19,25 1,5,7,9,10,15,23 1,5,7,9,10,15,26
5,6,9,10,17,18,19 5,6,9,10,17,18,20 1,5,6,10,13,15,18 1,5,6,10,13,15,19
5,7,10,11,12,16,22 5,7,9,10,14,20,25 5,6,7,12,14,22,23 5,6,7,12,14,22,26
5,6,9,10,16,17,19 5,6,10,14,15,19,22 5,6,10,14,15,19,24 5,6,9,10,16,17,20
5,6,10,11,17,22,24 1,5,7,10,15,17,19 1,5,6,10,12,14,22 1,5,6,10,12,14,24
5,6,7,13,15,19,23 5,6,7,13,15,19,26 1,5,7,10,15,17,21 1,3,5,7,9,10,15
1,5,7,9,10,17,19 5,7,9,10,15,23,24 5,7,9,10,15,23,25 1,5,7,9,10,17,20
1,5,6,10,11,13,24 4,5,6,7,9,18,24 1,5,6,10,13,17,22 5,7,10,15,17,18,21
1,5,6,10,13,17,24 5,7,10,11,12,18,22 1,5,6,7,8,11,23 1,5,6,7,8,11,26
1,5,7,10,13,15,18 1,5,7,10,13,15,19 5,7,9,10,11,19,22 5,7,9,10,11,19,24
5,7,9,10,11,19,25 6,7,8,9,10,23,24 1,4,5,6,7,8,17 5,6,7,9,21,24,26
5,6,10,11,17,24,25 5,7,10,15,16,17,21 5,7,10,15,16,17,22 5,7,10,15,16,17,24
5,7,9,10,13,21,24 1,5,7,10,12,14,22 1,5,7,10,12,14,24 4,6,7,8,10,15,17
5,6,10,12,15,16,18 5,6,10,12,15,16,19 1,5,6,10,11,15,16 1,5,6,10,11,15,19
3,6,7,8,10,14,15 5,7,9,10,15,25,26 5,6,10,12,15,16,22 5,6,10,12,15,16,24
5,6,10,12,15,16,25 1,4,5,7,9,10,15 1,5,6,10,11,15,25 5,6,9,10,17,20,25
5,6,9,10,20,24,25 1,5,7,10,11,13,24 5,6,7,11,15,16,23 5,6,7,11,15,16,26
5,7,10,12,14,16,22 4,5,6,7,15,16,17 3,6,7,8,9,10,22 3,6,7,8,9,10,24
5,6,10,11,15,22,25 5,6,10,15,17,19,22 5,6,10,15,17,19,24 5,6,10,15,17,19,25
1,5,7,10,13,17,22 1,5,7,10,13,17,24 5,6,7,10,15,22,23 4,5,6,9,10,14,15
5,7,10,11,14,22,24 5,7,10,12,13,15,21 5,7,10,12,15,19,22 5,7,10,12,15,19,24
5,6,10,12,15,18,19 1,5,6,9,10,11,19 1,5,6,9,10,11,20 1,5,6,10,11,17,24
4,5,6,7,9,20,24 1,5,7,10,11,15,16 1,5,7,10,11,15,19 1,5,7,10,11,15,25
5,6,9,10,14,19,22 5,6,9,10,14,19,24 5,7,10,12,14,18,22 5,6,10,11,15,24,25
3,5,6,7,15,17,19 5,7,9,10,11,21,24 4,6,7,9,10,11,15 5,7,10,11,14,24,25
3,5,6,9,10,15,16 3,5,6,9,10,15,17 3,5,6,9,10,15,18 3,5,6,9,10,15,22
3,5,6,9,10,15,24 3,5,6,9,10,15,25 1,5,6,9,10,13,19 1,5,6,9,10,13,20
1,5,7,9,10,21,24 5,6,10,11,13,22,24 1,5,7,10,11,17,24 5,6,7,9,16,22,23
5,6,7,9,16,22,26 5,6,7,14,15,19,23 5,6,7,14,15,19,26 5,6,7,9,13,19,23
5,7,10,11,12,22,25 5,6,7,9,13,19,26 4,5,6,7,12,15,16 4,5,6,7,12,15,19
5,6,10,15,17,21,22 5,6,10,15,17,21,24 4,6,7,9,10,13,15 3,5,6,7,12,14,24
3,6,7,9,10,12,15 5,6,9,10,15,22,23 5,6,9,10,15,22,26 5,7,10,12,15,21,22
3,5,6,7,9,17,19 5,6,10,13,17,18,24 5,7,10,12,15,21,24 5,7,10,12,15,21,25
3,5,6,7,9,17,20 5,6,9,10,12,19,24 5,6,9,10,12,19,25 1,5,6,9,10,15,23
1,5,6,9,10,15,26 5,6,7,9,14,20,23 5,6,7,9,14,20,26 3,5,6,7,13,17,24
5,6,10,13,16,17,24 3,5,6,7,8,16,24 5,7,10,13,15,17,21 5,6,9,10,15,24,26
1,5,6,9,10,17,19 1,5,6,9,10,17,20 5,6,7,9,11,19,23 5,6,7,9,11,19,26
5,7,10,12,14,22,25 1,3,5,6,7,8,17 5,7,10,13,15,19,22 5,7,10,13,15,19,24
5,7,10,13,15,19,25 5,6,10,13,15,18,22 5,6,10,13,15,18,24 5,7,9,10,15,16,23
5,7,9,10,15,16,26 6,7,8,10,15,17,23 6,7,8,10,15,17,26 3,5,6,7,11,17,24
5,7,9,10,20,22,25 5,7,9,10,14,15,23 5,7,9,10,14,15,26 1,5,7,8,10,16,24

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Puzzle Purchasing Pandemonium – Cluster & Inelegant Box

Cluster by Andrew Crowell & Inelegant Box by Haym Hirsh

Puzzle madness has gripped the world!  A once humble community of puzzle enthusiasts has morphed into an insatiable world-wide puzzle-gobbling beast.  Reports of shopping cart thefts and shop crashing are now commonplace on puzzle messaging sites.

Puzzle demand now far outweighs the supply generated by a few key craftspersons around the world.  The entire internet can be felt sagging as puzzlers around the world refresh their screens multiple times per second in the anticipation of newly released puzzles.  Mom & Pop puzzle shops are collapsing under these loads forcing a migration to more sophisticated ecommerce website providers.

For the holiday season, Brian Menold at Wood Wonders decided to embrace this madness and held a special 24 hour “Snatch the Puzzle” event on Black Friday, 27 November 2020.  During the event, puzzles were randomly made available at deeply discounted prices as a way of saying thank you and providing some holiday fun for the puzzling community.  It consisted of puzzles from recent and future releases as well as some other goodies like puzzle stands.

However, Brian took pity on everyone.  To avoid having everyone repeatedly hit the refresh key for 24 hours (please don’t take this to mean that I don’t think there aren’t people up to such a challenge), he periodically posted clues via Facebook on 25 and 26 November 2020, providing hints at the times that he would be releasing puzzles:

  • Will you be looking for puzzles in prime time, or when you're having a piece of pumpkin pie?
  • I wonder if a label might come in handy?
  • Let's start early. Same time forward or backwards.
  • Is it a time or an airplane?
  • There may be an emergency or two tomorrow!
  • Why are those guys all sitting cross-legged on the floor on such a windy day?
  • Another time, same backwards and forwards, and upside down.
  • Police - Location (US)
  • And finally, should I repeat myself?

Who couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that!  Like everyone else around the globe, I continually mashed the refresh key at what I hoped were the release times in an attempt to grab a puzzle.  Most of the time, I managed to get a puzzle in the cart, only to have it disappear before checking out.  The event was almost over before I managed to successfully acquire a puzzle.  When my wife asked me what I bought, I sheepishly looked at her and said “I have no idea.  If you have to look at it before you buy it, it will be gone.”  Of course, all of Brian’s works are wonderful and you really can’t go wrong.  Shortly after the event, I received a box from Wood Wonders with 2 puzzles.


Cluster by Andrew Crowell
I initially had the opportunity to solve a copy of Cluster prototype that Brian brought to RPP last year (A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019) and was glad to finally acquire a copy.  The version that I received was made from Cambodian Ormosia.  It has an awesome grain looking like black bolts of lightning running through the wood.  It also has an interesting distinctive scent that reminded my wife of Sandalwood.  Cluster was designed by Andrew Crowell and it should come as no surprise that rotations are required to solve this puzzle.  In fact, all the pieces require rotations.  One of the pieces makes a rotational circuit through the puzzle, which I consider the highlight of the puzzle.  The puzzle is not very difficult, but the crystal shape requires some out-of-the-box-shape thinking.

Inelegant Box

Inelegant Box by Haym Hirsh
Inelegant Box is my second acquisition from the Inelegant Puzzle series by Haym Hirsh made by Wood Wonders.  My first was Inelegant Fake (Not Your Elegant Hoffman Packing Puzzle - Inelegant Fake).  Like Fake, Box is made from 4x5x6 unit blocks that have been joined into 6 "L" shaped pieces consisting of 4 blocks each.  Since this consists of only 24 blocks, the completed cube is missing 3 blocks.  One of those blocks is the center of the cube making it hollow – aka a box.  This puzzle is not that difficult, but you do have to keep in mind that that there are missing blocks and you may have a difficult time solving this puzzle without that in mind.  The version I received from Brian was made with Canarywood and has a beautiful reddish grain to it.  It also came with a Curly Maple frame that shimmers as you tilt it.

Puzzle Stand by Brian Menold

Brian enjoyed providing this event to the puzzle community and is considering making this an annual event.  I’ve already started a finger training route in anticipation of next year’s event.  Thank you Brian for a fantastic time (12:21, 2:33,  3:14, 3:35, 4:06, 7:47,  9:11, 10:20, 11:11, AM/PM)!

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

They’re Everywhere! But This One Is Special! - ACorn

ACorn by Andrew Crowell
This time of year, there is nothing but acorns everywhere you look.  They cover the yard, they cover the sidewalk, they cover the street, and you can hear them raining down on the cars.  You have to be especially careful when you are out walking to avoid having them roll your feet out from under you.  You also learn pretty quickly to cover your head anytime there is a slight  breeze.  Even as we near the end of this year's acorn barrage, I was still happy when one particular ACorn hit my house.

This new ACorn is one of Andrew Crowell's new Apparent cube puzzles. It’s 3D printed with a light brown frame with the name debossed on the side.  Like ManiAC, which was the subject of last week's post (Apparently Another Crazy Puzzle - ManiAC Shuffle), it has 2 separate challenges.  Each challenge involves taking a set of pieces and packing them into the seemingly wide-open frame so that it appears to contain a squat 3x3x2 cube.

The first challenge uses a set of 3 marble pieces debossed with the number 1 on them.  This challenge is a warm-up and much easier than the second challenge.  The rotations required were fairly simple and didn’t require any dexterity to accomplish.  If you’re new to these types of puzzles, this is the one to start with!

On the other hand, the second challenge consisting of 4 black pieces debossed with the number 2 was a real challenge.  Although there is a rotation, this one is not about rotations.  There are only so many ways to insert the largest piece and I found myself going around and around and doing the same things over and over.  I finally gave up and started to think about the problem.  The key thought that led me to the solution was a[sigjfi[j giegr[erjoier gjerg [eji9g[e9jge[ 9rjgeg ijergad fgjldjgioe wrkj gioekr kgjdgj;ek gjrkiejg  - Sorry, nodded off and my forehead took over the typing.  Where was I?  Oh, yes - this second challenge is what makes this puzzle a must-have and the first challenge is simply an added bonus.  

ACorn is a great puzzle with both an easy and difficult challenge.  Something for everybody!

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Apparently Another Crazy Puzzle - ManiAC Shuffle

ManiAC Shuffle by Andrew Crowell
That maniacal puzzle designer, Andrew Crowell, has been at it again.  Back in September, I reviewed Andrew’s initial foray into developing what is being referred to as apparent cube puzzles (Apparently Packing Puzzles - Corner Cube, Edge Cube, Angle Cube).  The objective of these puzzles is to pack some reluctant puzzle pieces into a box with one or more restricted openings such that the box appears completely full.  I say reluctant, because it can be difficult to cajole those pieces into their proper positions with multiple twists and turns.

Andrew’s new apparent cube puzzles come with two sets of pieces for twice the frustration.  The first one that I tried was ManiAC Shuffle.  Please note that Andrew highlighted his initials in ManiAC - or does that stand for Apparent Cube?

As with the prior apparent cubes, ManiAC shuffle is 3D printed and consists of a gray frame and a set of 4 bronze pieces debossed with the number 2 and the another set of 3 blue pieces debossed with the number 3.  Andrew had help with naming the puzzle and number 1 got lost in the shuffle.  Apparently, the honor of naming the puzzle went to the first person to solve it on the Mechanical Puzzles discord group.  The blue and bronze pieces are made with the shiny PLA and look awesome!

One good hint for solving this type of puzzle is the realization that it takes several moves to take the first piece out when it is assembled.  If you are contemplating a configuration of pieces where the last little piece just gets shoved in a hole in one move, you’re on the wrong path.  Another little hint for you is that the debossed numbers on the pieces are not visible when the puzzle is solved.  Before you all start jumping up and down crying that I’ve just ruined your solving enjoyment, Andrew placed all the numbers on inside faces of the pieces.  You didn’t really think that I would give you any kind of useful clue, did you?

I initially solved both ManiAC challenges a couple of weeks ago and then solved then again to refreshed myself on the solutions for this post.  The first time that I solved ManiAC, I started with the blue pieces that were numbered 3 and I did the same when I solved it this time.  I just assume that fewer pieces equates to easier and I always like to start with the easy one.  Well, I can tell you that after sitting around for a couple of weeks, it wasn’t any easier the second time around.  Tough little bugger for only three pieces.  One piece is 3x3x1 so it can only go in the 3x3x2 frame laying flat and there only seems to be one way that it can be inserted.  With one piece down, you would think that it would be close to being solved.  Not quite.  It took some effort to figure out how to add the other 2 pieces.  Of course, every piece has to be rotated and one of the rotations is a real dexterity challenge!

The bronze set seemed easier than the blue set, but to be honest, when you’re working on a few of these at a time, your brain gets a little warped as you work through them and you can start to see around the corners more easily.  Unlike the blue set, not all the pieces have to be rotated.  However, you will start to recognize the common theme of having to insert a piece in an orientation that does not seem possible.  It’s also amazing how many moves such a small number of pieces require to make an apparent cube in the frame.  A lot of these moves are accomplished by tilting the box in various directions to get the pieces to slide where they need to go.  Yes, you’ll look like a maniac.  Be sure to do it with your tongue hanging out!