Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Playing With Fire - Oskar’s Matchboxes

Matchbox Puzzle by Oskar Van DeventerWhere do you keep your matches?  If you’re a puzzle collector, you keep them in Oskar’s Matchboxes.  To help you store your matches, every 5 years Eric Fuller releases a run of Oskar’s Matchboxes: 2005, 2010, 2015, and now planned for 2019.  I guess that we have a lot of impatient matchstick holders that can’t wait until next year.

If you couldn’t guess from the title, the Matchbox Puzzle was designed by Oskar van Deventer. With the new batch planned to be released soon at Cubicdissection, I decided to pull my copy out and revisit it.  The hardest part was finding it.  It was in the last box that I looked in (Have you ever really appreciated how useless some statements are?  Of course, it was in the last box I looked in.)  My version is not a work of art, lovingly crafted by the cognoscenti of wood manipulation, but the version made by Philos, which is a decent looking fully functional version.  The main difference is that the drawers of the Philos version are just solid blocks and can’t store matches.  The puzzlewillbeplayed site also illustrates the drawers as blocks with the side representing the open part of the drawer facing up in the images according to the version made by Cubicdissection.

Matchbox Puzzle PiecesThe puzzle is not that difficult and takes 5 to 10 minutes to assemble.  This is definitely an assembly puzzle, so if you receive it assembled, have someone else take it apart.  The orientation of the pieces has a certain property that makes assembly a quicker process.  No, I’m not going to tell you what that is.

The real challenge is to figure out how to put the matches in without spilling them everywhere.  Since the puzzle doesn’t come with matches, try ball bearings instead for a little more fun.  It is definitely possible to accomplish this task.  However, there are 2 solutions: one that allows you to fill the boxes as you are putting them together and one that doesn’t.  Don’t blame me for all those ball bearings rolling around on your floor.

Can you make a matchbox puzzle with more than 5 matchboxes?  I’m glad you asked – Yes.  In fact, in 2015 Eric Fuller released Matchbox Play 6, designed by Olexandre Kapkan, and consisting of 6 matchboxes.  Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to play with this version, but Cubicdissection indicates that there are multiple solutions and that it’s easier than Oskar’s original 5-piece design.  Maybe I’ll glue up some matchboxes and give it a try.

If you miss the opportunity to get a copy of Oskar’s Matchboxes from Cubicdissection, you could always get the inexpensive Philos copy from Puzzle Master.  You can find it here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

5 Is the Magic Number - PenTIC

PenTIC by Andrew CrowellA lot of puzzlers are now finding themselves attached to TICs.  You can blame Andrew Crowell and his TIC incubator.

Andrew is the current grand master of designing Turning Interlocking Cubes and has generated many amazing TICS in the 4x4x4 cubic dissection format.  Many of his designs are a product of a program that he wrote to help produce his designs.  It’s astonishing that a program can produce the types of complex rotations that are found in his puzzles.

PenTIC is a level puzzle designed by Andrew Crowell requiring 5 Rotations.  Andrew places this puzzle in the medium difficulty category for his puzzles and recommends taking this as an assembly challenge, so if you have the opportunity, order it unassembled.

The format of this puzzle is one large frame piece with other four pieces that have to fit within the frame.  Unlike HypnoTIC, reviewed earlier in, Mesmerized by – HypnoTIC, the location of the pieces is not that difficult to determine.  The difficulty is in determining how to get them there.  Of course, the rotational moves required to assemble this puzzle are the highlight of the solving process.  It took me a little bit of time to determine the rotational sequences required and I thoroughly enjoyed working on it.  Not that difficult, but very enjoyable.

PenTIC PiecesWhy did Andrew call it PenTIC?  In his own words: “PenTIC (5 is the Magic Number) requires 5 moves to free the first piece, 5 separate rotations, and is made of 5 pieces with 5 different wood types.”  I also made sure that this was the 5th paragraph to ensure that there were five 5s.  I think that’s enough 5’s to justify the name. 

The version that I have was made by Andrew himself and is a beautiful puzzle made with Maple (the handle), Zebrawood (the cat), Wenge (the twisty T), Yellowheart (the corner), and Tigerwood (the cage) with a teak oil finish.  (Piece names gratis from my wife, who likes to attach identities to pieces and provide an accompanying story for the steps of the solution.)  The pieces are all nicely beveled and the largest piece uses dowels to strengthen a few of the butt joints.  The light dowels contrast nicely with the dark piece.

PenTIC is planned to be released soon at Cubicdissection.  You can also find a lot of Andrew's designs being made by Brian Menold at Wood Wonders

Additional information on Andrew Crowell’s TICs can be found in the prior post, Mesmerized by – HypnoTIC.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Totally Tubular Dude! - Tube It In

Yellowheart, Bubinga, Wenge, Holly, Maple, Canary, Cherry, White Oak, Pau Ferro, Peruvian Walnut, Zebrano, Purpleheart, Ash, and Paduak, Oh My!  These 14 exotic tubes are all packed into a space that is 2" x 1.375" x 1.5" with the outer Paduak tube contrasting nicely with the inner Ash tube when assembled.

Tube It In was designed by Wil Strijbos and it should come as no surprise that it was originally made in metal before Eric Fuller released the wood version in 2016 on Cubicdissection.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve had this puzzle for 3 years now.  Eric just released another batch of these for 2019, prompting me to pull mine back out.  Although, I stored mine in the orange sash that it came in, it was easy to locate by feel due to its diminutive size and shape.

After pulling it out of the bag and marveling at how beautiful the wood looks, there is no effort involved in unpacking the tubes.  Once unpacked, the variety of woods used to make each of the pieces can be appreciated.  You can also appreciate the work that went into making these pieces.  All the outer edges of each tube are beveled and each tube, even the smallest, utilizes shoulder joints to make a solid bond.  Considering that these pieces will undergo zero stress, it is amazing that this effort was made instead of a simple butt joint.  However, I’m assuming that it is easier to align and glue a shoulder joint than a butt joint.

It takes a little more effort to pack the tubes back up, but it’s not that difficult.  My attack plan, as with most packing puzzles, is to start with the biggest pieces first and work my way down to the smallest.  It took me about 5 to 10 minutes from start to finish.

I originally had a description here of my experience packing the first 5 pieces together, but I got the "What!  You're telling them how to put it together?" response from my wife, who convinced me that what may seem obvious to me may not be obvious to others.  This is certainly not a mistake I would want to make right after a new set of puzzlers receive their copy of Tube It In.  Sorry, you're on your own now.

The tubes slide into each other without any binding.  You can see from the end shot the wide tolerances that were used for this puzzle.  This tolerance was used throughout the puzzle, which should be able to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions.

The new version that Cubicdissection recently offered has magnets that hold the two largest pieces together, which is a nice addition, although I think it would have been even nicer if the magnet hadn’t been exposed on the outside when assembled.  I also like that the wood selections for the different tube sizes have been altered so that you can easily identify the vintage of the puzzle.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Off With Her Head! - Guillotine

AAAGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!  Off with her head!  The only puzzle that I left unsolved at RPP that tormented me was Guillotine (aka Harun) designed by Volker Latussek.  Just when I thought that I had left all that stress behind me, a package arrived from the UK.  Allard Walker, somehow sensing that I would be starting to recover from my traumatic experience at RPP, strategically mailed me a copy to arrive just in time to prolong the frustration.  I’m lucky to have such good friends.

It turns out that Guillotine was Allard’s exchange puzzle for the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange at IPP39 this year.  For those not familiar with the exchange, each participant brings up to 100 copies of a new puzzle design that has not been released in the wild yet, to exchange with the other participants.  This year there were just over 70 participants, so each participant left with 70+ new puzzles.  In addition, a copy of each puzzle is donated to the Lily Library at Indiana University, which now houses more than 34,000 puzzles, generously donated by IPP's founder, Jerry Slocum.

As I explained in A Decade of Puzzling – RPP 2019, when I got back from RPP, I had an epiphany on how to finally solve this bugger.  Overjoyed to finally be able to validate my hypothesis, I eagerly unpacked Guillotine and began to arrange the pieces.  Unfortunately, epiphanies are cheap and this one wasn't worth much.  It wasn't even close.

Guillotine consists of 12 pieces that have to be packed into a 5x5x5 box.  There are 6 planks that are 4x2x1 and 6 additional 4x2x1 planks that have 2x1x1 pieces added on each end (or you can think of it as a 4x2x2 burr piece with a 2x2x1 notch taken out of the middle).  The box has a sliding lid that covers half the box.  It only covers half to allow the pieces to stick out in the unsolved state that it comes in.

After giving up on my erroneous hypothesis, I called it a night to get some sleep before attacking it again.  I resumed the effort again in the morning, and after a short time finally managed to find a solution. Very clever puzzle!

Peter Wiltshire mentioned that there were 2 solutions at RPP, a hard one and an easy one.  I assumed that after all the struggling that I did, I finally managed to find the easy solution.  After another 5 minutes, I found the second solution.  Having both solutions, I’m now assuming that I found the harder one first and that’s why I found the second solution so fast after the first one.

The copy that I played with was made by Eric Fuller and went by the name Harun, which I assume is the name that Volker Latussek gave the puzzle.  Allard’s exchange puzzles were made by ROMBOL GmbH, and I’m told that they sometimes change the names of puzzles for marketing reasons.  So Harun became Guillotine.  Either way, this one is a tough one to get your head into, or maybe I should say out of.

Thank you Allard!