Wednesday, November 27, 2019

This Puzzle’s No Turkey - It’s Chicken

Chicken by Olexandre Kapkan

Sometimes when you’re looking for a brilliant puzzle, you end up with a Turkey.  The Chicken puzzle by Olexandre Kapkan, however, is no turkey.  It was made by Eric Fuller at Cubicdissection in 2015 and released in April, which I guess makes it a spring chicken.

Chicken PiecesChicken is comprised of 2 legs, a neck, a tail, and the breast.  It also has 2 holes drilled for the eyes and Eric also stuck the drill bit up somewhere else that we’ll discuss later.  It’s obvious that special care went into selecting the woods to represent white meat and dark meat.  The white meat was made from Yellowheart and the dark meat was made from Cherry.  Eric also took extra measures in the joinery of the pieces to make very strong bonds.

Chicken is a level 10.2 puzzle with the objective to dismember it and then stuff everything back in.  The puzzle is not difficult but the movements required to get all the pieces intertwined within the body are interesting.  After a couple of moves you can start to see inside the body and work out how the pieces need to be manipulated.  Basically, after you move the tail you can get a good look up the chicken’s … uh, you get the point.  A lot of fun for a relaxing sitting.

Word went out late that the chicken was primed to dump a heap of trouble upon the recipients.  It looks like a normal puzzle butt it was designed so that when you pull the tail, you got an extra little surprise that falls out.  In my case, the “extra bonus” probably went in the trash with the packing peanuts since this was in the pre-orange box/sack days when puzzles were swimming au natural in Styrofoam peanuts when they arrived.  However, just the thought of Eric hunched over shaping individual artisanal turds still elicits a smile.

Chicken Butt

Making burr puzzles in the shapes of animals was obviously a hit with Eric since he hasn’t made one since.  Perhaps too many customers cried fowl.  For craftsman level puzzles, animal shapes seem to be more popular with puzzle boxes and sequential discovery puzzles.  It is also seen more with commercially produced puzzles where the shape is probably more of an enticement than the puzzle aspect.

Happy Thanksgiving and take some time to enjoy a puzzle!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Monkey Business - HepTIC

HepTIC by Andrew Crowell

It’s time to put the monkey back in his cage.  We manage to get him inside but his head is sticking out of the side.  After pushing his head in, we notice that he is not comfortable, so we turn him around.  But now his head is sticking out of the front of the cage.  We rock him back into a seated position and make him sit down.  Good monkey!  We place a banana in his lap, and while he is calming down, start to close the cage.  The door ends up right against the banana so we move it to the side.  The now, not so happy monkey, throws the banana, which proceeds to roll on the floor.  As we were closing the door, we pick up the banana and give it back to the monkey as the door clicks shut.

Spoiler Alert!  The prior paragraph is my wife’s solution to HepTIC designed by Andrew Crowell.  As I mentioned in a prior post (5 Is the Magic Number - PenTIC), my wife likes to create stories to remember the solutions to puzzles.  Each piece becomes a character in a thrilling plot with many twists and turns.  Monkey Business is now the official HepTIC solution.  So if anyone asks you how to solve it, you can send them a copy.

HepTIC PiecesMy version of HepTIC was beautifully made with exotic woods by Andrew himself.  It is definitely more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  It consists of 4 pieces: cage, monkey, banana, and door.  However, I’m not quite sure why Andrew didn’t use the Yellowheart for the banana.

HepTIC is part of Andrew’s Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) series with a rating of 7.1.5 and requiring 3 rotations.  According to my wife, the monkey is a wiggler, which accounts for most of the rotations required to get that monkey off your back and into the cage.  Andrew rates this puzzle as having a medium level of difficulty for assembling.  You should definitely attack this zoologist conundrum as an assembly task and not as a disassembly effort.  Letting the monkey out is a lot easier than getting him back in the cage.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A New Spin on Puzzling - Tetra Spinner

Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu“That’s a novel take on packing tetrominoes”.  That was my initial thought when I saw Tetra Spinner while perusing the IPP39 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition entries.  I was intrigued and looking forward to trying it.

Tetra Spinner was designed by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu and was one of the top ten vote getters in the competition.  I got my chance to try it at the Rochester Puzzle Picnic (A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019).

It’s made from plexiglass and consists of a frame and all 5 tetrominoes (i.e., the free ones and not the extra 2 one-sided ones).  Tetrominoe is just a fancy name for a connected shape made from 4 squares in a plane.  Each of the tetrominoes in Tetra Spinner is a different color making it an eye catcher.  However, it’s the frame that gives this puzzle it’s unique appeal.  The frame is comprised of 3 layers of plexiglass.  The outer 2 layers are clear and bolted together through the center.  There is a spacer in the middle around the bolt to keep the two outer layers apart.  The middle layer has the same dimensions as the outer layer but most of the interior has been removed to make room for the tetrominoes.  The center layer can be moved and rotated around the middle but is restricted by the spacer holding the outer pieces.

The objective is to place the five tetrominoe pieces in the middle layer so that the middle layer is centered within the puzzle.  This requires that you move the white plexiglass frame as far as it will go so that you can add pieces to the empty areas that now hang outside the outer layers.  However, the more pieces that you add, the more difficult it is to move the frame of the middle layer.  This requires determining where the pieces need to go within the frame and the order that they need to be added.  Oh, and while you’re doing that, you need to determine how the pieces and frame need to be moved around to accomplish all that.

I didn’t find this puzzle difficult but it was fun to solve.  I didn’t include the photo of the puzzle in the solved state, since it would give away part of the solving process.  It would certainly give away the first piece that would be removed although this should become obvious rather quickly in the solving process.  Yes, that was a hint, but I’m sure you were already thinking about it.  It’s only cheating if you go back 2 sentences and reread it to understand it.

S,Z,J,and L Tetrominoes
S,Z,J,and L Tetrominoes
Before concluding, I feel compelled to explain the reference to free tetrominoes to save readers the embarrassment of getting caught leaving the puzzle store without paying for tetrominoe related puzzles.  There are 5 tetrominoes if you regard the pieces irrespective of orientation.  These are referred to as free tetrominoes.  There are 7 tetrominoe shapes if you are not allowed to turn them over.  These are referred to as one-sided tetrominoes.  The difference between the free tetrominoes and the one-sided tetrominoes is due to the 2 pieces that can be flipped over to provide a different shape; the S piece becomes the Z piece and the J piece becomes the L piece.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Yanked My Chain - Chain Store

Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam

Sometimes a puzzle just yanks your chain, which is exactly what happened with Chain Store.

One of the joys of attending the International Puzzle Party is spending time playing with the entries in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.  This is a puzzling wonderland full of all sorts of new designs for a wide variety of puzzle types.  There is something for everyone and I try to spend as much time as possible in the design competition room socializing with other puzzlers doing the same.

One entry in the IPP36 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition was Chain store, designed by Goh Pit Khiam.  It was made by master craftsman Tom Lensch and won the Jury Honorable Mention award.

Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam - Chain Partially InsertedI looked at it and said to myself, how difficult could it be to put a 5-link chain in a box?  Apparently, 5 links are plenty sufficient to provide all sorts of awkward positioning to frustrate the packing process.  The links are 4x6 allowing the width of the link to just fit inside another link.  And then what about the box?  Do the links go in orthogonally or do they end up at an angle?  I spent a lot of time hypothesizing how the links would sit within the box and then trying to orient the links in the direction that I needed.  It turns out that turning links made from square material takes more forethought and planning than links made from cylindrical stock.  In the end, it took more of an effort than I could muster in the design competition room.

Now I have a question for you.  Would you rather buy a puzzle that you have already solved or that puzzle that you didn’t quit manage to solve?  Personally, I tend to buy puzzles that I haven’t solved.  Once I’ve solve a puzzle, I’ve basically scratched that itch.  Of course, some puzzles are so brilliant you need to acquire a copy even after solving them to occasionally wonder at and show others.  Case in point is Stumbling Blocks also by Goh Pit Khiam, and a top 10 vote getter in the IPP36 design competition.  I solved Stumbling Blocks very quickly but the movement is so spectacular, I needed to acquire a copy.

Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam - Chain Mostly InsertedWhen I saw Tom Lensch at the following Rochester Puzzle Picnic, I made sure to acquire a copy of Chain Store as well as Stumbling Blocks.  After returning home, I played with Chain Store attempting to get all 5 of those links inside the box without peaking over the lip at the top.  I had heard that an earlier version of the box was slightly bigger and that it allowed an alternate solution.  While I was working on Chain Store, there were several times that I wished that I had the original box.

At some point, the chain was sufficiently yanked to turn the light bulb on and I managed to stuff those stubborn links into that wee little box.  Once I discovered the required orientation for the links, I found that there is an elegant way to crumple up the chain to pack in the box.

I really liked this puzzle and if you are interested in acquiring a copy, Cubicdissection is planning on releasing a run in the near future.

Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam - Tom Lensch Logo