Wednesday, May 11, 2022
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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
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 Master. Pelikan 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
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
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.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
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.