Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019

RPP 2019, photo by John Rausch

Every year, shortly after IPP, several puzzlers converge on upstate New York to have a picnic.  This year’s Rochester Puzzle Picnic was held on 17 Aug 19.  Since some attendees travel 6 or more hours to attend RPP, people usually start to arrive on Friday and depart on Sunday in order to dedicate the entire day on Saturday to puzzling.  That’s a lot of picnicking!

At some point during the course of the weekend, we realized that this was the 10th annual RPP.  Our gracious host for 10 years in a row has been Jeff Aurand, who allows a motley crew of puzzlers bringing large quantities of puzzles into his lovely home for this grand puzzle extravaganza.  Vast quantities of food, vast quantities of drinks, and vast quantities of puzzles.  What could be better!



Friday is always a lot of fun catching up with friends, some of which we haven’t seen in a while, and setting out puzzles for everyone to enjoy.  This year, a table was set up with some of the puzzles that were in the IPP Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.  Competition puzzles that were at RPP include:

Cast Slider by Vesa TimonenCast Slider by Vesa Timonen – Normally we see some of the design competition entries become Hanayama puzzles.  This is a case of a Hanayama puzzle becoming a design competition entry and it was a top 10 vote getter in the competition.  The object is to slide the two main pieces off the central holding piece.  However, they seem to get caught at the end.  Although this puzzle is rated by Hanayama as 3 out of 6 stars, it provided a challenge for several people that tried it.

Cover Up by George SichermanCover Up by George Sicherman – Four pentacubes required to completely cover a tetracube.  The version put out to play with was made by myself for others to play with.  I didn’t find out till later that Brian Menold had much nicer versions on hand for sale that we could have put out instead.

Outstandin' by Haym Hirsh – Haym has been putting out a flurry of packing problems for acrylic boxes.  This one is a ball packing puzzle with 3D printed pieces.

Hat Trick by Laszlo MolnarHat Trick by Laszlo Molnar – 6 L’s packed in a constrained opening box.  This puzzle was a top 10 vote getter at IPP39 and Brian had several very nice copies on hand to sell in different types of wood.

Multiball by Eric Fuller – Eric has recently stated that he will be developing many new puzzle boxes for the puzzle community.  Multiball is the most recent of these and someone was kind enough to bring theirs for others to play with.  This also sparked some conversations on the “official solution” vs another solution found by others.

Triagonal Pyramid by Kohno IchiroTriagonal Pyramid by Kohno Ichiro – 4 pieces with 2 half cubes each that make a triagonal pyramid.  Of course, this sparked a debate of what a triagonal pyramid was.  I brought a homemade copy of Triagonal Pyramid for others to play with, but it lacked the magnets that help hold it together.  I justified not adding the magnets since I didn’t know the polarity orientations used for the design.  However, if you acquire a copy of your own, make sure it has magnets.

Petit Ring by Osanori YamamotoPetit Ring by Osanori Yamamoto – Osanori has been making many interesting restricted opening packing puzzles and this was also one of the top 10 vote getters at IPP39.  You only have to pack 3 pieces in a restricted opening box, and has TWO openings!

Standing Egg by Osanori Yamamoto – The goal of this puzzle is to make a cube with one missing corner that can stand upright on the three points that result from the missing corner.   The one at RPP was beautifully made by Tom Lensch.

Rules of Attraction by Laszlo Molnar
Rules of Attraction by Laszlo Molnar – This is a beautifully made puzzle by Brian.  I was amazed at the amount of work that went into making these.  Each one of the cubes that comprise the pieces has an internal rare earth magnet embedded in it and each piece has a different set of orientations.  As painful as it was to make, I did enjoy listening to Brian’s stories of how all the pieces would move around the table and attack each other as he was trying to make them.

Somaa Cube by Hyam HirshSomaa Cube by Haym Hirsh – Haym has been designing a lot of Soma varients and Somaa is one based on using non-cubic rectangular parallelepipeds (or in English – cubes stretched/compressed by different amounts in each direction) to make the Soma-like pieces.  I believe that the X, Y, and Z dimensions of each of the blocks used to make the pieces are 1 of 3 values.  Since 3^3 is 27, I would guess that there is one block for every possible combination of measurements.   The Somaa Cube was made by Brian in a variety of exotic woods resulting in beautiful pieces and an even more beautiful cube once it was all put together.

TD345 by Chico Banan, photo by Nick BaxterTD345 by Chico Banan – This puzzle was described in the prior post, Chico Strikes Again.  Somehow Jeff managed to score one of the 2 copies that were made for the IPP design competition and, as expected, it was highlight of RPP 2019!  Enough said.

Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and MINE – This is a clever constrained packing puzzle with 2D tetra pieces sandwiched between 2 plates of plexiglass.  Each piece is a different color to help easily identify the individual pieces as you insert them in and move them around in the frame.

Puzzles in Play

In addition to these puzzle design competition entries, there was a large assortment of other puzzles brought by everyone, strewn upon the horizontal surfaces of Jeff’s living room, to entertain everyone.  Puzzles that I managed to solve that first night include:

Hat Trick – As previously mentioned, this puzzle, designed by Laszlo Molnar, was a top 10 vote getter in the IPP39 design competition.  After the competition entries were released before IPP started, I studied the entry online and worked out in my head how the solve would go.  Presented with the actual puzzle, I was able to verify my approach and quickly determine that I had accurately imagined it.  However, the actual puzzle was much more beautiful than my intangible copy.  Brian did a fantastic job making these and I took one home with me!

Cluster by Andrew Crowell
Cluster - Brian has been making several of Andrew Crowell’s puzzles and this is the first one of Andrew’s designs that I’ve played with in a while.  When I found it, it was disassembled.  The first thing that I noticed was that it didn’t appear to make a cube and it was quickly apparent that it was in the shape of a crystal.  The only reason that this puzzle doesn’t have TIC at the end of the name is that it’s not a cube.  It still has plenty of rotational moves for those that have come to expect that from Andrew’s designs.

Petit Ring – If the IPP wasn’t tired of giving Osanori Yamamoto awards, this one would have probably received one.  Only 3 simple pieces that have to be inserted within the frame such that each opening in the frame was completely filed.  I really enjoyed working on this one.  Not too difficult but a nice challenge.  Tom made this beautiful copy.

Somaa – You used to be able to refer to someone’s Soma variant by saying the designer’s name and Soma Cube.  Haym has ruined that approach by recently releasing several Soma Cube variants plucked from the Somaverse.   I didn’t find this puzzle overly difficult.  I convinced myself that I was following a reasonable procedure for deriving the solution that was a combination of identifying the best size block faces to match along with some backtracking.  Of course, I could have just been lucky.  Brian made the beautiful copy that was at RPP and I’m guessing that they will be available again at Wood Wonders in the near future.

Mushkila by Yavuz DemirhanMushkila – I’ve seen several references to Yavuz Demirhan’s Mushkila puzzle on Facebook and was looking forward to trying this one.  5 elbows and 1 straight piece packed in a constrained opening box.  This one is not that difficult and a good puzzle for new puzzlers.  The version at RPP was beautifully made but I don’t know who made it.

Wavelinks by Rod BogartWavelinks - Rod Bogart entered Wavelinks in last year’s IPP design competition and was a Top 10 vote getter.  When I saw it in the competition room, I thought that the design was brilliant.  I successfully took it apart but the room was closed before I could get it back together.  Now a year later, I had some more time to focus on it.  As with last time, I was able to quickly separate the red and blue rings and marvel at the motion required for separating them.  It was also easy to make separate red and blue rings that weren’t intertwined.  When I thought I had it all figured out and set the assembly into motion, I discovered that I had 2 red and blue intertwined rings.  A little tweaking, and I was back to a red and a blue ring that were intertwined.  The motion is so mesmerizing that I played with it some more and determined that there is more than 1 way to start the assembly process, with some easier than others.  A year later, I still think this is a brilliant puzzle and I hope that Hanayama will carry it sometime in the future.  It would look fantastic in 2 contrasting metal finishes.

Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and MINETetra Spinner – After seeing this in the list of IPP39 design competition entries, I was looking forward to playing with it at some point.  It looked like an innovative approach to a restricted 2D packing problem and the IPP39 participants agreed, making it one of the top 10 vote getters in the competition.  I enjoyed working on this one.  It is fairly straight forward and doesn’t really require a lot of convoluted moves.

All In by Hyam Hirsh
All In – Haym brought several restricted opening packing puzzles with acrylic boxes and 3D printed pieces and this was the only one that I had the time to tackle.  Reminiscent of the very popular Casino puzzle by Volker Latussek, which won last year’s puzzle of the year award in the IPP design competition, this puzzle requires you to pack 6 octagons in a box through a small opening.  Since this was a prototype, the pieces were 3D printed.  I enjoyed working on this one and liked it more than I did Casino.  Haym’s only disappointment with this puzzle, named by his son, is that his young son could so quickly throw out poker references.  However, it is an awesome name for the puzzle.

In between all that puzzling and talking, eating was also another popular activity.  Jeff grilled up some vegetarian and chicken shish kebobs that he and Sue skewered up.  It was accompanied by an excellent rice dish.  Jeff is an awesome chef and you could easily go there just for the food.

In addition to all the puzzles, a big thank you goes to Brian for bringing Wood Wonders T-shirts for everyone.


Unlock! Exotic Adventures – Scheherazade’s Last Tale

The main day had arrived and we started it with some fresh bagels and cream cheese that Jeff went out and procured.  After caffeinating up, it was on to puzzling and other related activities.

Every year, there are some breakout sessions involving multi-person games.  This year’s game, Unlock! Exotic Adventures – Scheherazade’s Last Tale, involved lots of team puzzle solving.  The game incorporated a cell phone app that contributed a background theme song to accompany the cards being used.  Its always fun listening to banter that accompanies the games progression.

Puzzling Happening HereAnother of the RPP highlights every year is the Peter Wiltshire magic show.  This year’s performance featured a beautiful box with 3 die, made by Peter.  He’d show the 3 die in the box, put the cover on, and shake it so you tell that they were all in there.  Then he could pull one out and then shake the box to verify that one was missing.  Then magically, the dice would appear or disappear from the box as Peter showed it to the spellbound crowd accompanied by gasps of “I can’t believe it”.

The HostFor lunch, Jeff barbecued some hamburgers, sausages, and chicken, Tom made a salad, and I made some guacamole.  That along with some other salads kept us going for the rest of the day.  Of course, most people brought some type of dessert, so there was plenty of that as well.

Another tradition of the RPP is the John Rausch give-away auction, where John brings puzzles that need to move on to someone else that can use them.  The collection of puzzles are displayed on a table and everyone picks a number from the hat.  People then take turns selecting a puzzle from the collection based on the number picked.  Since there were more puzzles than puzzlers this year, there were multiple rounds of selections.  I ended up with some very nice puzzles this year and applaud John for his generosity and the fun that it provides.

The Ladies
While all this puzzle madness was going on, the ladies slipped out to enjoy a peaceful lunch and do some shopping.  They didn’t come back with any puzzles, so I didn’t quite see the purpose in going.  Oh well.

XTic by Andrew CrowellDuring the day, I was able to tackle and solve several puzzles including:

XTic – Andrew Crowell part 2.  This was the second of Andrew’s puzzles, beautifully crafted by Brian, that he brought along.  This one was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the rotations and how the pieces traveled through the cube.  Andrew may be fairly new to the puzzle community but he has quickly dominated the Turning Interlocking Cube category.  I’m always looking forward to new designs that he has coming out.

Cluster Buster by Rex DwyerCluster Buster – Brian brought a prototype of Cluster Buster designed by Rex Dwyer that he made in Catalpa .  This puzzle is a Coffinesque geometric shape consisting of 6 pieces that is so intimidating that Brian brought a solid example of the final shape for reference.  Some of the deep triangular pockets are displayed on the outside while others get filled by points from other pieces.  I managed to solve this one, using experience from solving Coffin puzzles and a bit of luck.  It’s a very nice design and I’m assuming that Brian will be providing these in the near future.

Half Lid Box by Hajime KatsumotoHalf Lid Box – This beautiful puzzle, designed by Hajime Katsumoto, was made by Made by Eric Fuller and sold on Cubicdissection a year ago.  Although, I found this puzzle fairly simple, others had a more difficult time.  Sometimes you just get lucky!

Rectilinear – Tom brought a prototype of Goh Pit Khiam’s Rectalinear puzzle to get some feedback.  He brought a copy of the 4x4 board and a description of the puzzle including what the pieces looked like.  He apologized for not bringing any pieces, but that didn’t stop us from making some from cardboard.  The goal is to make a complete circuit between an identified source and destination using all the pieces with all the lines part of a single circuit.  It reminded me of Tom Cutrofello’s Lab Mice puzzles.  I could easily see this type of puzzle expanded and picked up by a company like Thinkfun.  For so few pieces, I found the challenges more difficult than I expected.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide any photos that would not give away the puzzle design.

Pack 3 by Osanori YamamotoPack 3 – This my favorite of Osanori Yamamoto’s packing puzzles made by Tom that I played with during RPP.  For only 3 pieces, I ended up spending quite a bit of time finding the solution to this.  It required an interested sequence of movements to get those 3 pieces in position and I liked it a lot.  If you could only get one of Osanori’s packing puzzles, I’d recommend this one.

Cribbage Dance by Tyler SomerCribbage Dance – Puzzle gatherings like RPP are a great opportunity to get feedback on new puzzles and Tyler Somer took advantage of this by sending 2 copies of his Cribbage Dance puzzle for people to try.  Tyler also pointed out certain issues that he was not happy with, and was soliciting potential solutions to what he considered a problem.  Needless to say, several puzzlers reviewed the puzzle and provided feedback, not all of it happy/glad/good job tidings.  The puzzle consists of a frame with 3 sliding plates and 2 burr pieces running through the plates.  On first glance, it looks like it would be extremely difficult.  When I see these types of puzzles, I assume that the difficulty goes up exponentially with the number of plates and the number of burr pieces.  3 plates is a warning for me and I usually don’t buy these types of puzzles with more than 2 plates.  However, in this case, all the plates are the same and their orientation is obvious, taking that out of the equation and putting this puzzle in the easy category as opposed to the hard category on my personal scale.  The puzzles were nicely crafted by Greg Davis.

Pack 012 by Osanori Yamamoto
Pack 012 – This was the easiest of Osanori Yamamoto’s packing puzzles that Tom brought.  Of course it was the last of the 3 that I worked on and maybe the mind was lubed to process these types of puzzles.  This was a top 10 vote getter in last years IPP design competition.  However, someone had to explain to me how it got its name - Duh!

Die Welle Jean Claude ConstantinDie Welle – Rich scored this Jean Claude Constantin N-ary puzzle from John’s auction.  I decided to go through the motions of moving the balls from the starting point to the ending point.  Not difficult, but a nice fidget type puzzle.  I though the best part of the puzzle was the design of the holes at the beginning.  The plexiglass is cut so that there is a springing movement to it, allowing you to push the balls in, but keeping them from popping back out.  Very clever!

Kawashima W Box
Kawashima W Box – You would think that from the puzzle descriptions, that RPP is a burr/packing puzzle party.  Au contraire, there are serious puzzle box aficionados in attendance at RPP including the host himself.  The only box that I tackled was the W box by Kawashima.  Not very difficult, but the craftsmanship was very good.

I wound up Saturday night by trying to solve the Harun Packing Puzzle by Dr. Volker Latussek.  This puzzle was made with Black Limba and Zebrano by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection.  It consists of 6 identical 2x2x4 notched pieces and 6 identical 1x2x4 boards.  The object is to pack a 5x5x5 box with no internal obstructions and I was told that it has not 1 but 2 solutions, one supposedly hard and the other easier.  It looks quite simple but I was unable to obtain either of the solutions, unless one of the solutions is to leave a piece out.  I packed it in, myself not the puzzle, at 1am to get a few hours of sleep before attacking it again.

Haym's Table


Mortising MachineSunday morning, the topic of drilling square holes came up and Jeff took us out to his workshop to give an impromptu mortising demonstration.  I always like to go out and spend time in the shop even if it is only to look since Jeff has a very nice setup.  While walking around the shop, Jeff ran across some rejects of his Reversal of Fortune Box for the Apothecary Chest.  Of course, the term reject is relative and what Jeff considers a reject is leagues beyond what I can make on an exceptionally good day.

After some collaborative brainstorming, Jeff gave some of these non-operational copies a quick pass on the table saw to transform them into functional puzzle boxes at the cost of a slightly shortened top.  A few people were more than happy to take home a slightly modified and unfinished version to enjoy the wonderful mechanism of this unique and extremely limited puzzle box.

While sitting around chatting with the other puzzlers, I started to play with a copy of Bouquet by Christoph Lohe and made by Brian.  I didn’t have enough time to get too far into this one, but at 23 moves to remove the first piece, I’d have to dedicate some time to focus on this one.

I also spent quite a bit more time trying to find the solution to Harun without success.  After returning home, I had an epiphany and think that I know what is required to solve it.  Of course, epiphanies are cheap and I’ll have to wait for another opportunity to test my theory.

I brought a new puzzle that I designed after IPP called Broken Soma.  Several people tried it and 1 person was able to solve it.  Brian will be offering copies on Wood Wonders in the near future.

You may be thinking that this gathering is all about puzzles, but in reality, it’s all about the people.  That’s what makes it all worthwhile.  So find some people near you and have your own puzzle party!

Lots of Puzzling


  1. Apparently and unfortunately, Wavelinks is not castable in its current form. Rod showed it at this years IPP and I was duly impressed with the movements (again :-).

    1. That's unfortunate. It would have been spectacular.

  2. So sorry I missed the Tenth Anniversary, but I am glad that Peter could bring along the Cribbage Dance puzzles. The name is derived from 15-2 (the phrase heard most often during the game of cribbage) and the 15-move-2-move "dance" that the two burr pieces should go through at the end of the disassembly. The puzzle was crafted by Greg Davis, a local musician colleague who also crafts tables and turns bowls. I am looking forward to receiving the feedback for improving the puzzle's design. Thanks to all! -Tyler.

    1. Thank's for sending the Cribbage Dance puzzles to play with. Greg did a very nice job making the copies that we played with. Some feedback was provided, but it really deserves a more detailed analysis to address the concerns that you had with the design.

  3. Very sad to have missed everyone this year. Thank you so much for the photos and write up, it’s the next best thing!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing that, Ken - almost as good as being there... sorry we missed out this year!

  5. I always enjoy experiencing MPP, and this year IPP, through Puzzling Times. My goal is to someday do as good a job as Allard.