Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Petite Passel of Puzzles – 2D Packers

Petite Passel of 2D Packing Puzzles

I recently received a passel of 2D packing puzzles from a very generous member on the Mechanical Puzzles Discord (MPD).  These puzzles make great fidget toys when on the phone.  On a recent call, I found that I went through 5 of them in rapid succession.  To be completely honest, I was pulling the ones that looked easiest while on the phone.  The days of deluding myself by thinking that I can focus on 2 things at the same time have passed.

The puzzles of the petite passel of 2D Packers described here have several things in common.  The goal is to place a set of pieces that lay flat within a frame with a restricted opening top.  They are made from layers of laser-cut acrylic and the frames are held together in the corners by metal hardware.  Each puzzle has its own unique set of identical pieces.  


Doheny by Haym Hirsh
Doheny was designed by Haym Hirsh and made by NothingYetDesigns.  Of the petite passel, this one had the best construction with 2 layers of extra thick green acrylic topped with a thinner piece of clear acrylic.  The layers of acrylic are held together by hex socket bolts with capped hex nuts on the bottom to provide a nice set of legs that won’t scratch furniture.  Small washers are included both on top and bottom.  A slightly thicker washer is included between the clear and green acrylic layers to ensure that the pieces can move freely under the acrylic top once they are inserted.  The 6 pieces to be inserted were made with thick white acrylic to provide a nice contrast with the green frame.  I really like that the name, designer, and shop logo are engraved on the bottom of the clear acrylic.  I don’t know the genesis of the puzzle’s name, but I’m sure that there is a reason for it.  If you know or have a guess, you can include it in a comment.

At first glance, this puzzle looked like it would be the most difficult of the group and in fact it was, but none of these puzzles provided a difficult challenge.  Pretty soon after looking at the pieces and the space that they needed to occupy, I came up with a way to lay them out.  It was a simple matter to then insert the pieces.


C-It by Haym Hirsh
C-It was designed by Haym Hirsh and made by NothingYetDesigns.  The construction is similar to Doheny except that the hardware is black instead of silver and the only washers used were the 4 for the layer spacing.  The top screws also have a lower profile.  C-It was made with a blue frame and black pieces with very little contrast between them.  The name for this puzzle is a bit more obvious than Doheny.  If you can’t see it, look at the pieces and the frame again.  The solve is straight-forward and due to the symmetry of the pieces you don’t even have to worry about putting them in upside-down.  This puzzle is still available at NothingYetDesigns for you to seize it.


Eloquint by Haym Hirsh
Eloquint was designed by Haym Hirsh and made by NothingYetDesigns.  Unlike the prior 2 NothingYetDesigns puzzles, all 3 layers of the frame use thin red acrylic and the hex nuts on the bottom were open and not capped.  The pieces were in light blue.  The name of the puzzle and designer are engraved on the bottom without the NothingYetDesigns logo.

I solved this one and thought the solution was trivial.  So I did what any experienced puzzler would do and doubted that I solved it correctly.  Working at it a bit longer, I found a more complex solution (not to be confused with a complex solution) that I suspect is the intended solution.  The trivial solution resulted from the extra space introduced by the spacers, which allowed for unintended piece movements.  

My favorite part of this puzzle is the name and I find it a shame when I see descriptions of this puzzle referring to the 5 V pentominoe pieces.

Skinny and Fat Lightning?

Skinny and Fat Lightning?
Unfortunately, I received these puzzles second-hand and have no information on them including names, designers, creators, and shops.  How embarrassing!  My guess is that the information is the same for both since the construction looks similar.  The major difference between them is that one has a green frame with brown pieces and the other has a brown frame with blue pieces.  All of the frame layers use the same thin acrylic.  The tolerances on both were well done to allow the movements required to solve the puzzle.  The hardware used to fasten the frame layers used simple phillips head screws and hex nuts.  Unfortunately, some of the screws stick out on the bottom and have sharp edges that will scratch furniture if you’re not careful.  Unlike the NothingYetDesigns puzzles, spacer washers are placed between the 2 colored layers of acrylic instead of between the clear and colored layers of acrylic.  I noticed that this had the benefit of keeping dust and other particles from getting between the clear and colored layers.

It’s obvious that I took great liberties in providing names for this description.  My apologies to all parties concerned.  If you have any information on these puzzles, please post it in the comments.

Neither of these puzzles will stump you for long and they both provide a similar experience.  Lightning only strikes once and after you solve one, the other will lack the same impact.  If you get both, I would recommend avoiding solving them at the same time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Happy Anniversary! – Yet Another Year of ZenPuzzler

Puzzles From ZenPuzzler Year 3

ZenPuzzler has reached the end of its third year.  Readership has increased by 25% thanks to the arrival of my brother’s first baby.  After discovering that it immediately puts the baby to sleep when my brother reads the blog out loud, he finally relented and subscribed to the blog.  The subscriber base is now holding at a steady 5.  Hopefully, next year will see another increase of 25% as I promote the blog as a cure for insomnia.

To wrap up the year, I have created a list of the posts and the puzzles that are mentioned in each.  This year included puzzles made from exotic woods and colorful plastics (printed and cut) as usual, but also saw the addition of a book this year.  Hopefully, there will be more books forthcoming in the future.  The name of each post is linked to the entry so that you can easily jump to it by clicking on the name.  

20 APR 22 – Solve Before Midnight - Pumpkin 1

  •     Pumpkin 1 by Osanori Yamamoto

6 APR 22 – Are You Worthy - Enter If You Can

  •     Enter If You Can, The art of puzzle boxes by Peter Hajek

Enter If You Can, The art of puzzle boxes by Peter Hajek
Puzzle Knowledge

30 MAR 22 – A Particlely Nice Puzzle - XI

  •     XI by Haym Hirsh

23 MAR 22 – Going Postal – Letter Box

  •     Letter Box by Pit Khiam Goh

16 MAR 22 – Puzzling Preparation Purgatory – Helical Bits and Pieces

  • HeLLical Burr by Derek Bosch
  • Oliver Twist by Derek Bosch
  • Twiddle Dee by Derek Bosch
  • Twiddle Dum by Derek Bosch
  • Dodekastar (improved) by Yavuz Demirhan, tweaked by the Two Brass Monkeys

 9 MAR 22 – Puzzle Of A Year! – 20-22

  •     20-21 by Stéphane Chomine

ZenPuzzler Year 3 Plastic Puzzles
Puzzles in Plastic

16 FEB 22 – X-tra Protection – T Lock

  •     T Lock by Andrew Crowell

9 FEB 22 – Happy VD! – Broken Heart

  •     Broken Heart by Techno Angels and Bozoou

2 FEB 22 – Wonderizing Puzzles – Benno’s TIC 2.0

  •     Benno’s TIC 2.0 by Benno de Grote and Andrew Crowell

26 JAN 22 – Where Does That F’n Piece Go! – Melting F

  •     Melting F by George Bell

19 JAN 22 – Put It To The – Side Lock

  •     Side Lock by Andrew Crowell

12 JAN 22 – Say Hello To – Goodbye

  •     Goodbye by Tomas Vanyo

5 JAN 22 – Not a Box For Tea, A – T-Box

  •     T-Box by Haym Hirsh

ZenPuzzler Year 3 Wood Puzzles
Puzzles in Wood

27 OCT 21 – Shhhh! She Just Turned – 6T

  •     6T by Ken Irvine

8 SEP 21 – A Puzzle to Save the Day - Mighty Pin

  •     Mighty Pin by Alan Lunsford

4 AUG 21 – Tooling Around With Puzzles - Sequential Discovery Cubic Box

  •     Sequential Discovery Cubic Box by Junichi Yananose

28 JUL 21 – An Acute Case of Soma Mangling - Halfcut Soma

  •     Halfcut Soma by László Molnár

15 JUN 21 – BBQ With Charcoal

  •     BBQ Basket by Akaki Kuumeri
  •     Charcoal Basket by Akaki Kuumeri

26 MAY 21 – Need An SD Fix? CD With The - ResQ

  •     ResQ by Frederic Boucher and Eric Fuller

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Solve Before Midnight - Pumpkin 1

Pumpkin 1 by Osanori Yamamoto
I recently received a Pumpkin that was already cut open with its guts spilled out.  At first glance, I looked at its big carved mouth and 3 simple guts and thought – this is going to be easy.  It wasn’t.  It was surprisingly engaging and entertained me for a considerable amount of time.  I didn’t solve it by midnight and it turned into a puzzle.

Pumpkin 1 was designed by Osanori Yamamoto and made by Pelikan Puzzles with a Pear box and Bubinga pieces.  It is an apparent cube packing puzzle (i.e., the opening of the box is completely filled and any empty space is hidden within the box).

There are a few ways to address the solving process for these types of puzzles.  The first is to find an assembly for the pieces and then test the assembly against the disassembly that is constrained by the opening of the box.  This works best when there are a small number of assemblies.  They usually have a smaller number of pieces as well as a smaller number of voids in the solved cube.  Pumpkin 1’s 3 pieces certainly meet the small number of pieces criteria, but there are 9 voids within the solved puzzle.  Playing with the pieces, there seemed to be a surprisingly large number of ways to assemble them within a 3x3x3 space.  After solving it, I checked with PuzzleWillBePlayed (PWBP) where it indicated that there are 54 assemblies with only 1 of the assemblies provides a working solution.

Another way to tackle the problem is to determine how the pieces can be inserted within the frame through the restricted opening.  However, with Pumpkin 1’s wide open corner, there isn’t much that isn’t allowed.  And yet, it’s not easy to get all the pieces in there as an apparent cube.

At one point, I was hoping that I was correct in assuming that it really was an apparent cube puzzle since I had found at least one solution where all the pieces went in, but there was a visible void.  While we’re talking about making assumptions, I wasn’t aware of the puzzle’s level while solving and was assuming that it took more than 1 move to remove the first piece, which is true for most puzzles of this type.

I finally decided to tackle this particular puzzle by working it from the other end and testing how pieces may move in sequence to release them from the box.  For the first move, does the piece start to come out or does it go further in?  Does 1, 2 or all 3 pieces move together at the same time?  How would that movement allow another piece to move?  Rinse and repeat.

The pieces do allow for some interesting movement.  At one point, I discovered an interesting sequence of moves that seemed to have promise.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the solution I was looking for.  I kept searching for other sequences but couldn’t find anything else even close.  I kept going back to that sequence of moves and tried to find ways to tweak it into submission.  Sadly I couldn’t find anything else.  Even sadder, it was the real solution but I failed to recognize it.  As it turned out, I could have solved it before midnight if I had paid better attention.  That’s the danger of working outside the box.  Sometimes there’s a difference between the virtual world and the real world.

I also learned on PWBP that there are 2 other Pumpkin designs by Osanori – strategically named Pumpkin 2 and Pumpkin 3.  After looking at the other 2 designs, I couldn’t find a similar feature that relates them.  However, Osinori generates so many designs, I can’t blame him for genericizing the naming process.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Are You Worthy? – Enter If You Can

And now for something completely different and yet somehow refreshingly exactly the same.  In a slight departure from the normal blog fare here at ZenPuzzler, instead of presenting a puzzle, I have the pleasure of presenting a newly released book about puzzles, or more specifically, puzzle boxes.

Enter If You Can, The art of puzzle boxes is a new book by puzzle box collector and designer, Peter Hajek (ISBN 978-1-5272-8215-5).  After many decades of research on addiction, Peter finally decided to write a book about his own.  Within, Peter shares a wealth of puzzle box knowledge gained from his experience as a longtime collector and his frequent puzzle box hunting expeditions around the world.  The book provides a brief history of puzzle boxes, a survey of different puzzle box styles and their tricks, and a cross section of puzzle box designers from around the world.  I should warn you that the solutions to several of the puzzle boxes included are revealed and discussed.

The book is well-written, informative, and full of beautiful photos of a large variety of puzzle boxes.  Its greatest failure (or strength) is that the reader is left wanting more.  In fact, I would have enjoyed an entire encyclopedia on the subject matter with each chapter becoming a book of its own.  Of course, this is a characteristic of a well-written book and I’m certainly looking forward to the next one.  

The book is available in 2 formats – book only and book with lock.  The locked version ensures that the petitioning reader is worthy of receiving the knowledge within and incorporates a strap attached to the back cover that connects to a lock attached to the front cover.  Of course it is a puzzle lock that has to be solved to open the book.  The lock was designed and made by Master Locksmith, Shane Hales of Halespuzzles.  

As of this writing, the book without the lock is available at Cubicdissection and the locked version is available at Puzzle MasterPelikan Puzzles offers both versions of the book together as a set in case you want the locked copy but also require an easy access version if you feel you may not be worthy.  Both versions are also individually available from Grand Illusions.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Particlely Nice Puzzle - XI

XI by Haym Hirsh
How many XI particles can occupy a small planer space?  Well, that all depends on the spin and orientation of each XI particle.

XI is a restricted opening 2D packing puzzle designed by Haym Hirsh and made by NothingYetDesigns.  The 2 openings in the top permit the XI and anti-XI particles to be injected within the frame.   The anti-XI particles are simply XI particles with a 180 degree spin.  Although the 2 openings conspire to suggest that both XI and anti-XI particles should be injected, it is not obvious how many of each is required or even if both types are needed.  Even if each anti-XI particle cancels out a XI particle as they bounce around and collide with each other, the odd number of particles suggests that the solution will eventually end up as a XI or anti-XI puzzle.  I leave it up to you to find out which.

Needless to say, the particles need to be added in a specific order and potentially rotated as they are entangled.  It’s nice that the top is clear so that you can see what you are doing.  Of course, you have to perform all those particle movements and rotations using the 2 openings.  Fiddly, but not that difficult.  However, if you regularly refer to your digits as sausages, you may find the physics of manipulating small particles more of a challenge.

XI is made with laser cut acrylic and has a nice heft to it.  The use of washers to elevate the clear top ensures that the 5 particles move nicely within the frame.  The puzzle information engraved on the top is also well done and useful for distinguishing the puzzle from other restricted opening 2D packing puzzles by Haym from NothingYetDesigns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Going Postal - Letter Box

Letter Box by Pit Khiam Goh
Your task - to stuff a Letter Box with letters until it is completely full.  Oh! - and there are 2664 assemblies.  And you can’t just shove them in, some have to be rotated while they are in the box.  You may even find yourself stuck and frustrated if you’re not careful.

All the letters that you will be stuffing in Letter Box are copies of the L tromino - 9 of them.  They all have to be inserted through the small slot.  When solved, the 9 L trominos will completely fill the Letter Box.

Letter Box, designed by Pit Khiam Goh, was made by Cubicdissection and released in December 2020.  The box is made from Walnut and each of the L trominos is made from a different exotic wood: Wenge, Canxan, Jatoba, Zebra, Bloodwood, Purple Heart, Katalox, Chakte Viga, and Ash.  It’s especially nice that each of the L tromino pieces is made from a single piece of wood.  In addition to the slot that permits the L trominos to pass, there are 2 additional holes that can be used to view and manipulate the pieces within the box.

Letter Box Pieces
There are many ways to tackle a puzzle.  Since this puzzle has 2664 assemblies, I wouldn’t recommend an exhaustive approach to try each one until you find one that works.  Even if you found a working assembly, it may not be obvious since the solution requires rotating pieces within the box.  For this puzzle, a better approach would be to start at the other end and envision how the pieces would be removed from the box.  How would the first piece come out?  Then with the first piece out, how would the second piece come out?  Using this approach, I was able to find a workable assembly and determine the rotations needed to solve Letter Box.  Not overly difficult but a very nice challenge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Puzzling Preparation Purgatory – Helical Bits and Pieces

Helical Bits and Pieces
I recently had the opportunity to acquire some nice helical puzzles from one of the Two Brass Monkeys.  I’ve been eyeing these types of puzzles for years and finally acquired some when a set became available on Puzzle Paradise.  Included in the set were: HeLLical Burr, Oliver Twist, Twiddle Dee, Twiddle Dum, and Dodekastar (improved).  The first 4 were designed by Derek Bosch and are from his line of helical burrs, which he has been expanding over many years.  Although Dodekastar is not a helical burr, it is a great puzzle designed by Yavuz Demirhan and tweaked by the Two Brass Monkeys to be more difficult.  A nice little additional fidget puzzle was also included, which was the only puzzle to arrive already disassembled.

Puzzles arriving in their solved state is a sin and need to be disassembled into purgatory before being redeemed into a solved state.  Although a sinful puzzle and one that has been redeemed share the same outward appearance, deep down, you know the difference.  Every serious puzzle collector is able to scan their collection and weigh their sins against redemption.

Having received this batch of sinful puzzles, I quickly (or not so quickly) banished the puzzles to purgatory (a nice looking decorative bowl) for all eternity (the average amount of time it takes me to get around to solving puzzles).  Most were straight-forward, but one of the Twiddle twins (I really don’t know which is which), was a bit of a challenge.  I was also surprised to find out that Dodekastar was a challenge to take apart as well.  A lot of movement, but no obvious exit point.

Stay tuned for further updates on these puzzles as they are redeemed and take on their divine forms.