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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Discretely Exchanging Puzzles - IPP Burr


IPP Burr by Noah PrettymanOnce a year, hardcore puzzle collectors from around the world extract themselves from their daily lives and converge on an unpublicized location to collectively participate in multiple puzzle related activities.  This event serves as an incubator for the puzzle cognoscenti to spawn new puzzle design ideas into the world.  One of these incubating activities is the esteemed historic puzzle exchange, which I’ll simply refer to as the E.H. Puzzle Exchange.

The E.H. Puzzle Exchange provides the opportunity for participants to bring multiple copies of a unique puzzle that will be traded with the other participants for one of their puzzles.  The rules for the exchange are as follows:
  • Exchangers become eligible to participate in their second year. Ideally, they have participated in a prior E.H. Puzzle Exchange at least once as an assistant to learn how the process works.
  • The entry must be a new puzzle. This requirement eliminates the possibility of receiving a puzzle that may already be in a collection. It also spawns new puzzle designs into the world to be enjoyed by metagrobologists everywhere.
  • All exchange puzzles must pass a routine design review.
  • Each exchanger must be prepared to have up to 100 copies to exchange with other participants. Many exchangers bring additional copies to sell to people not participating in the E.H. Puzzle Exchange.
  • Each participant is allowed one assistant to help with exchanging all those puzzles. With up to 100 puzzles to exchange in a single day, an assistant is much appreciated. Participating in the E.H. Puzzle Exchange is a great experience and assistant positions fill up quickly.
The E.H. Puzzle Exchange is conducted in a single large room where each exchanger must locate every other exchanger to complete the exchange.  Some exchanges are very simple, while others can be rather complex rituals.  Exchanges sometimes entail detailed choreography consisting of themes, costumes (both additive and subtractive), props, dancing, singing, and outright buffoonery.  When volunteering as an exchange assistant, it is always a good idea to know something about the exchanger to have an idea what you are getting yourself into.

For each puzzle exchanged, there are 3 main components: the designer, the maker, and the exchanger.  Sometimes the same person fulfills all three components and other times each component may be supported by a different person.  The 2018 E.H. Puzzle Exchange included a puzzle that was made and exchanged by the same person but designed by someone else.  The puzzle was IPP Burr, designed by Noah Prettyman, made by Eric Fuller’s company Cubicdissection, and exchanged by Eric himself.

IPP Burr PiecesAfter the puzzle event, the IPP Burr was released to the general public on Cubicdissection.  The puzzle looks like your typical 6-piece burr, but in addition to the normal 6 pieces, there are 3 encapsulated smaller pieces, each like a little pip nestled in a piece of fruit.  The 6 outer pieces are made from Ash and Wenge and form a checkered pattern on the ends.  The 3 small pieces are made from Spalted Tamerand and spell out IPP, giving the burr its name.  The puzzle was delivered unassembled to maximize the solving pleasure.

This version of the classic burr is quite challenging and Noah has done an excellent job of coming up with something new.  In order to make room inside for the 3 pips, the 6 larger pieces are relatively open (i.e., they have fewer voxels/cubies) and can be put together in multiple ways.  The trick is to discover the configuration that permits the 3 pips to be oriented inside in such a way that the puzzle can be assembled/disassembled. 

My solving process was broken down into several smaller steps.  The first step was to figure out how the outer 6 pieces can be configured to make a space that will hold the 3 pips.  The checkered pattern is useful here for identifying how the pieces could be paired.  There are multiple ways to create the outer shell and it takes some experimentation to discover the correct one.  Yes, there is only 1 solution.  This experimentation was done by using 4 of the 6 outer pieces to make an open shell that could be used to test how the smaller pieces would be inserted.  Once the correct configuration was determined, all that was left was to disassemble the cube while mentally envisioning the last 2 outer pieces included in the puzzle and then assembling it again with the last 2 pieces actually there.  Sounds easy, but it took awhile to discover all the correct orientations.  Some of the moves also require shifting the internal pieces, which is why the puzzle is a little on the loose side.  If it ever became tight, that would be a real problem.

With only a level 5 solution, you would think that this burr would be easy, but the packing component of the solve makes it more difficult than you would expect.  What I did expect was to enjoy this puzzle and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Will This One Really Be Better Than The Others? - SkepTIC



As I was meandering down the TIC path, my good buddy, let’s call him Andrew, advised me to take a different turn this time.  Recent puzzles reviewed from the ACROSTIC series had pieces that could be taken out in 1 move.  Andrew suggested that I quit my whining and just pick a puzzle requiring several moves to free the first piece.  With that in mind, I decided to have a go at SkepTIC, requiring 10 moves before something can be removed.

Would it be possible to like this puzzle more than the previous ones?  Would the larger number of moves required to remove something from the puzzle up front make it more interesting?  Would the lack of space fillers compromise the remainder of the design?   These are questions that a puzzle with a name like SkepTIC begs to be answered.

When I attended by First IPP, I handed out a business card with my contact information, and on the back, I had a single line at the bottom: 10.1.1.1 | 8.3.2.1 | 1.12.2.1 ?  The purpose of this query was to spark a discussion on what type of puzzle people preferred with respect to where the number of moves is allocated across the disassembly: 1 - The puzzle where all the moves are required to get the first piece out followed by a trivial disassembly of the rest of the pieces, 2 - The puzzle with moves more evenly spaced across the pieces (although you can still see my bias of favoring earlier pieces), 3 - The delayed gratification puzzle where the first piece (or several pieces) can be trivially removed, opening space for a piece requiring a greater number of moves later on.  I always considered myself somewhere between 1 and 2 until I came across Andrew’s TICs in the third category.  Although they have pieces that can be trivially removed at the beginning, the extraordinary sequence of moves to solve the remaining few pieces makes it all worthwhile.

SkepTIC is a 4x4x4 cubic dissection puzzle developed by the TIC master Andrew Crowell.  Of course, it requires many rotations to solve the puzzle.  From my own observations, the level of difficulty for this puzzle is 10.3.3.6.  I need to mention that this is different from Andrew’s documented level of 12.1.3.5 due to differences in how the moves are computed.  The cause for the 10.3 vs 12.1 difference was the catalyst for the EnigmaTIC puzzle design described in the prior post: Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC.  I don’t specifically mention what it is here, since it provides a minor clue about the solution.  As for the removal of the final piece where I have 6 moves and Andrew has 5, well, this piece requires 4 rotations and I suspect that one of my non-rotational moves was included in one of Andrew’s rotational moves.  Things get tricky when rotations are involved and they are not as easy to track as rectilinear moves.  It’s also possible that Andrew’s program translates and rotates pieces simultaneously thus treating this as one move.

So how is SkepTIC as a puzzle?   I found the assembly to follow a logical sequence of steps and was surprised how quickly the puzzle came together.  With only 5 pieces, it was fairly easy to determine where all the pieces needed to be.  Getting them there is all the fun and I didn’t find this one to be that difficult.  Even with the piece requiring 4 rotations to get in place, I was able to quickly envision the steps required and execute it without issue.  I suspect that some of this may be from quite a bit of TIC experience at this point.  The final 10 moves to get everything packed into a cube was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable.

SkepTIC is great puzzle with a solid design and a lot of appeal.  However, I found it quite a bit easier than the recent type 3 puzzles that I’ve been reviewing and I missed struggling with the pieces to get them together.  Having said all that, I really liked the 10-move sequence before something separates from the puzzle and have run through that process many times.  It is a must-have for a burr guy like myself.

This is the fifth post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC).  You can find the prior posts of the series here:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Happy Anniversary! - A Year's Worth of ZenPuzzler


This post marks the first-year anniversary of ZenPuzzler.  For the horde (I use the term horde loosely; couple = 2, few = 3, horde > 3) of regular readers, I hope that the ZenPuzzler blog provides some entertainment during your week. It has been an interesting journey and my goal is to keep it going for as long as there is interest.  After doing this for a year, I have even more respect for the puzzle bloggers that have been generating quality posts for many years.  I still have a lot to learn from them.

To wrap up the year, I have created a list of the weekly posts and the puzzles that are mentioned in each.  The name of each post is linked to the entry so that you can easily jump to it by clicking on the name.

29 APR 20 - Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC
  •     Enigmatic by Andrew Crowell, made by Ken Irvine
22 APR 20 - Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years - Globe Ball
  •     Globe Ball by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
15 APR 20 - The Proper Way to Solve a Puzzle - PedanTIC
  •     Pedantic by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
8 APR 20 - Here Comes Peter Cottontail - Kimiki Bunny
  •     Kimiki Bunny
1 APR 20 - The First of April - Fool’s Cube
  •     Fool’s Cube by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
25 MAR 20 - Supporting Social Distancing - Burr Lock “E”
18 MAR 20 - Inspiration from Grandchildren - Little Kenny and Wooden Puzzles
  •     Little Kenny by Ken Irvine, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Wooden Puzzles (book) by Brian Menold
11 MAR 20 - Green Beer ‘ill Cure What Ails Ya - BioTIC
  •     BioTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
Puzzles Made by Wood Wonders
Puzzles Made by Wood Wonders

4 MAR 20 - Foreign Fame - 4 In Frame
  •     4 In Frame by Stéphane Chomine, made by Wood Wonders
26 FEB 20 - A Nice Clean Look - Dirty Dozen
  •     Dirty Dozen by Jerry Loo, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Slideways by Ray Stanton, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Lattice by Jerry Loo, made by Puzzle Master
19 FEB 20 - A Puzzle Party in the Big Apple - NYPP 2020
  •     MagnaCube by Ron Duban
  •     Logical Progression by Rick Eason, made by Cubicdissection and Rick Eason
  •     Cover Up by Col. George Sicherman, made by Wood Wonders
  •     MultiTarget by Glen Iba, made by Glen Iba
  •     Licorice +-x by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
12 FEB 20 - I Heart You, Whatever Your Name Is - In Inima
  •     In Inima by Kirill Grebnev
5 FEB 20 - TIC, TIC, TIC - PackTIC II
  •     PackTIC II by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
29 JAN 20 - Food for Thought - Bitten Biscuits
  •     Bitten Biscuits by JinHoo Ahn
22 JAN 20 - Finding Your Way Through the Labyrinth - Daedalus
  •     Daedalus by Gregory Benedetti, made by Maurice Vigouroux
15 JAN 20 - Puzzling DNA - GeneTIC
  •     Genetic by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
8 JAN 20 - An Impediment to Rolling Along - Wheel Lock
  •     Wheel Lock by Tzy Hun Chein, made by Wood Wonders
1 JAN 19 - Happy New Year!
  •     Happy New Year by Johan van de Konijnenberg, made by Cubicdissection
Puzzles Made by Cubicdissection
Puzzles Made by Cubicdissection




25 DEC 19 - A Christmas Present For You - Ultimate Penultimate Burr Box Set Challenge

  •     Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
18 DEC 19 - The Marriage of a Great Design with Great Craftsmanship - Bouquet
  •     Christoph Lohe by Christoph Lohe, made by Wood Wonders
11 DEC 19 - Half A Dozen Rhombic Dodecahedrons - Cluster Buster
  •     Cluster Buster by Stewart Coffin, made by Pacific Puzzleworks
4 DEC 19 - How I Learned to Hate Myself - Licorice +-x
  •     Licorice +-x by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
27 NOV 19 - This Puzzle’s No Turkey - Chicken
  •     Chicken by Olexandre Kapkan, made by Cubicdissection
20 NOV 19 - Monkey Business - HepTIC
  •     HepTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
13 NOV 19 - A New Spin on Puzzling - Tetra Spinner
  •     Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu
6 NOV 19 - Yanked My Chain - Chain Store
  •     Chain Store by Goh Pit Khiam, made by Tom Lensch
30 OCT 19 - Off With Her Head! Part 2 - Skull
  •     Skull, made by BePuzzles
23 OCT 19 - Molnar Scores Again! - Hat Trick
  •     Hat Trick by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
16 OCT 19 - Uns@lv*bl# F!&#ing O$j@ct - Cast UFO
  •     Cast UFO by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
9 OCT 19 - Just Plain Mean - Split Cube 2
  •     Split Cube 2 by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
2 OCT 19 - Providing Solutions, A Slippery Slope - Cast Slider (Redacted)
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
25 SEP 19 - Playing With Fire - Oscar's Matchboxes
  •     Oscar's Matchboxes by Oskar van Deventer, made by Philos
18 SEP 19 - 5 Is the Magic Number - PenTIC
  •     PenTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
11 SEP 19 - Totally Tubular Dude! - Tube It In
  •     Tube It In by Wil Strijbos, made by Cubicdissection
4 SEP 19 - Off With Her Head!- Guillotine
  •     Guillotine by Volker Latussek, made by made by ROMBOL GmbH
Puzzles Made by Andrew Crowell
Puzzles Made by Andrew Crowell

28 AUG 19 - Is it Love? - Cast Arrows
  •     Cast Arrows by Andrei Ivanov, made by Hanayama
21 AUG 19 - A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayama
  •     Cover Up by Col. George Sicherman, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Outstandin' by Haym Hirsh, made by Haym Hirsh
  •     Hat Trick by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Multiball by Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Triagonal Pyramid by Kohno Ichiro, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Petit Ring by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Rules of Attraction by Laszlo Molnar, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Somaa Cube by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
  •     TD345 by Chico Banan
  •     Custer by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Mushkila by Yavuz Demirhan
  •     Wavelinks by Rod Bogart
  •     Tetra Spinner by Yasuhiro Hashimoto and Mineyuki Uyematsu
  •     All In by Haym Hirsh, made by Haym Hirsh
  •     Xtic by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Cluster Buster by Rex Dwyer, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Half Lid Box by Hajime Katsumoto, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Rectilinear by Goh Pit Khiam, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Pack 3 by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Cribbage Dance by Tyler Somer, made by Greg Davis
  •     Pack 012 by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Die Welle, made by Jean Claude Constantin
  •     Kawashima W Box by Kawashima
  •     Harun by Volker Latussek, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Reversal of Fortune Box by Jeff Aurand, made by Jeff Aurand
  •     Bouquet by Christoph Lohe, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
14 AUG 19 - I've Been Framed - Quadripole
  •     Quadripole by Stéphane Chomine, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Beta Funzzle by Mr. Y Gong, made by Puzzle Master
7 AUG 19 - Chico Strikes Again - TD345
  •     TD345 by Chico Banan
31 JUL 19 - Puzzle-A-Month Challenge
  •     Two Keys, made by Jean Claude Constantine
  •     Symmetrick by Vesa Timonen, made by Sloyd
  •     Heartbreaker, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Handcuffs, made by Puzzle Master
  •     “A” puzzle, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Perseus by Steward Coffin, made by Philos
  •     Six-T-Puzzle by Dr. Volker Latussek, made by Rombol
  •     Spring Time Box
  •     Dynacube 1 by Gabriel Songel and Gianni Sarcone, made by Recent Toys
24 JUL 19 - Where Do Great Puzzles Designs Come From?
  •     Trifecta by Ken Irvine, made by Tom Lensch
  •     Brass Monkey Two by Steve Nicholls and Ali Morris, made by Tow Brass Monkeys
  •     FantasTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
  •     Hokey Cokey Lock by Steve Nicholls and Ali Morris, made by Two Brass Monkeys
  •     Jack in the Box by Jesse Born, made by Jesse Born
  •     Logical Progression by Rick Eason, made by Cubicdissection and Rick Eason
  •     Mazeburr L by Diniar Namdarian, made by Diniar Namdarian
  •     Multiball by Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
  •     PedanTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
  •     Puzzleduck Pastures by Kel Snache, made by Kel Snache
  •     Slammed Car by Junichi Yananose, made by Pluredro
  •     Cast Slider by Vesa Timonen, made by Hanayam
  •     Somaa Cube by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Venn Puzzle, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Wave 5 by Yuu Asaka, made by Yuu Asaka
  •     Yosegi Patter Box by Jesse Born, made by Jesse Born
17 JUL 19 - To Bevel or Not to Bevel, That is the Question
  •     Cereal by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
  •     Exolution Cubes I - IV by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
10 JUL 19 - The Sting of Five Fantastic Scorpions
  •     Scorpion’s Sting, made by Puzzle Master
  •     Fantastic Five, made by Puzzle Master
3 JUL 19 - Puzzle Complexity
  •     The Nagging Wife by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
  •     H&H by JinHoo Ahn, made by Hanayama
  •     Delight by Stéphane Chomine, made by Pelikan
  •     Spin Out by William Keister
  •     Wookey Hole by Stewart Coffin
  •     Man-O-War, made by Puzzle Master
  •     NOS 5 Crenel by Gregory Benedetti, made by Cubicdissection
  •     Soma by Piet Hein, made by Creative Crafthouse
  •     Half Hour by Stewart Coffin, made by Ken Irvine
Puzzles Made by Ken Irvine
Puzzles Made by Ken Irvine

26 JUN 19 - The Nagging Wife
  •     The Nagging Wife by Ken Irvine, made by Ken Irvine
19 JUN 19 - A Puzzle with No Name - Yukuri's Cube
  •     Yukari’s Cube by Junichi Yananose
12 JUN 19 - Mesmerized by - HypnoTIC
  •     HypnoTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by Andrew Crowell
5 JUN 19 - A Second Chance - Puzzle Auctions
  •     Wausau ’82 by Bill Cutler, made by Mr. Puzzle
  •     Wausau ’83 by Bill Cutler, made by Mr. Puzzle
  •     Jupiter by Stewart Coffin, made by Steward Coffin
29 MAY 19 - Penultimate Burr Box Set
  •     Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection
22 MAY 19 - You Only Have to - Pack 6
  •     Pack 6 by Eric Fuller, made by Ken Irvine
15 MAY 19 - Identity I A
  •     Identity I A by Andrey Ustjuzhanin
7 MAY 19 - In The Beginning - The Kimiki Cube
  •     Kimiki Cube