Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Where Do Great Puzzle Designs Come From?

Trifecta by Ken Irvine and made by Tom Lensch
Trifecta made by Tom Lensch
One of my prior design competition entries.
What can inspire metagrobologists around the world to produce new, innovative, and extremely clever delights for the puzzle community?  What about the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition held every year at the International Puzzle Party!

This competition has been held each year since 2001 in honor of Nob Yoshigahara, one of the founding members of IPP, and serves as an incubator that spawns many new puzzle designs each year.  New designs are selected by craftsmen, manufacturers, and shop owners.  This is only natural since the many participants are creating wish lists of puzzles that they would like to acquire copies of.  If you browse through the historical listings of past design competition entries, you will run across many now familiar puzzles that got their start as entries in the yearly competition.  Some of my own designs have been picked up in past competitions to be produced.

The puzzle competition room is organized with many tables, each supporting about a half-dozen puzzles.  Each puzzle is also accompanied by a description sheet identifying the name of the puzzle, some details of the puzzle including a photo, and the solving objective.  The backside of the sheet provides the solution to the puzzle if needed.

Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition RoomThere are always more entries than there is time to solve them all.  Unfortunately, this means that you have to prioritize the puzzles that you dedicate time too.  It also helps to keep an ear out for what other people like.  For instance, last year, Jigsaw Puzzle 29 was pretty low on my list because I didn’t think that I needed to spend any time on a jigsaw puzzle.  After hearing many people rave about the puzzle, I finally sat down, solved it, and discovered what a brilliant puzzle it was.  I could have easily missed out on that one.

Table in Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition RoomAwards are given for the best designs and the Design Competition Trophy is?  You guessed it - A Puzzle!  This year’s trophy was designed by Yavuz Demirhan and made by Tom Lensch, so you know it’s extraordinary.  Pin’s are also awarded for the Puzzlers’ Award, Grand Prize, First Place Prizes, and Honorable Mentions.  All prizes are awarded by a judging committee except for the Puzzlers’s Award, which is voted on by attending IPP members.  Certificates are also given to the top 10 designers that received the most votes.

This year, there are 61 entries in the puzzle design competition.  You can find the official entry list on the 2019 Puzzle Design Competition web page.  Since the design competition rules allow puzzles that have been released in the last 2 years, some of these entries are already available.  After reviewing the competition entries, I tallied 15 of them that I recognized before seeing the competition entries.  They are as follows:

1.    Brass Monkey Two – You can read about this puzzle at Puzzling Times and PuzzleMad.  It is available at Puzzle Master or the TwoBrassMonkeys Etsy shop.

2.    FantasTIC – This puzzle is a level requiring 30 moves to totally disassemble with 6+ Rotations in a 4x4x4 format.  I really love these Turning Interlocking Cubes and I’m looking forward to eventually playing with this one.  The ‘TIC man has been cranking out very high-quality designs at a rapid rate and they are all highly recommended.  My guess is that this puzzle will eventually show up on Wood Wonders.

3.    Hokey Cokey Lock – This puzzle lock, accompanied by a rather intricate and shameless presentation ritual, was a highlight of last year’s IPP puzzle exchange.  You can read about it at Puzzling Times, PuzzleMad, and Boxes and Booze.  You can acquire one from Mr. Puzzle, although it’s just not the same without the presentation.

4.    Jack in the Box – Videos of the creation of this puzzle box include Jack in the Box Part 1, Part 2, and Box Pieces.

5.    Logical Progression – This puzzle was included in the last release from Cubic Dissection.  If you missed out, Eric Fuller is planning on releasing another batch in September.

6.    Mazeburr L – You can read all about this puzzle at PuzzleMad.

7.    Multiball – This puzzle was included in a recent release from Cubic Dissection.   I wouldn’t be surprised if Eric released another batch of this puzzle in the future.

8.    PedanTIC - This puzzle is a level requiring 36 moves to totally disassemble with 10 rotations in a 4x4x4 format.  Wow!  I haven’t had the opportunity to play with this puzzle yet, but it looks like it’s all about removing that 4th piece.  26 moves is a lot of moves for releasing a piece from a 4x4x4 puzzle.  I expect that this one will become available at Wood Wonders in the near future.

9.    Puzzleduck Pastures - You can get some additional information about this sequential discovery puzzle from the Lumberjocks site.

10.    Slammed Car – This puzzle was recently released and still available at Pluredro.  You can find a good description of it on Puzzling Times.

11.    Slider – This is the most recently released puzzle from Hanayama.  You can acquire a copy from Puzzle Master.

12.    Somaa CubeWood Wonders has been releasing several Soma variants recently including the Somaa Cube.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more copies of the Somaa Cube in future releases, especially with it being in the design competition.

13.    Venn Puzzle – This puzzle is the product of a recent kickstarter campaign and is currently available at Puzzle Master.

14.    Wave 5 – This designer has recently released a wave of new puzzles that have become very popular, including Wave 5.  You can try getting a copy at Puzzle Master, but as of the date of this posting, it was still sold out.  If you like this one, there is also a Wave 7, also currently sold out.

15.    Yosegi Pattern Box – You can read about this puzzle on Boxes and Booze.  You can also view a video on the box construction on YouTube.

If you are interested in acquiring a copy of Jigsaw Puzzle 29 from last years competition, it is available at Puzzle Master.


  1. Regarding the Jigsaw and Wave puzzles by Yuu Asaka, I have been keeping tabs on Puzzle Master's site. Yuu has given permission to Puzzle Master to produce more copies -- every few days, a new batch is posted, and they quickly sell out. I have to assume the batches are small. Interested readers should snap them up as they are produced. The customer service at Puzzle Master is outstanding, and they will let you know when the next batch of puzzles is expected. -Tyler.

    1. Thanks for the update Tyler. I can certainly understand the popularity of the puzzles. I agree that Puzzle Master is a well-run family business.