PatheTIC is another wonderful Turning Interlocking Puzzle (TIC) developed by Andrew Crowell. It consists of large cage piece and 6 smaller pieces that fit within the cage. 3 of the pieces are what I call filler pieces and can be taken out in a single move. The other 3 perform the rotational dance that makes these TICs so appealing. The version that I have was 3D printed by Andrew with a yellow cage and green pieces. I didn’t find this puzzle difficult, but the rotations were very satisfying.
However, PatheTIC has a dark side. I really couldn’t remember why this wonderful TIC was named PatheTIC. After all, I received these puzzles last year and have been really good at restraining myself to solving only one a month. I went back and looked at Andrew’s email and there it was: PatheTIC has 2 solutions, a pathetic non-TIC solution which only requires 11 moves... and the PatheTIC solution which requires 20+ moves and several rotations.
I don’t know about you, but when I find a solution, that puzzle is solved - Done! If a puzzle can be assembled in thousands of different ways, I’m not the type of person who has to discover all of them. In this case however, since there was only 1 TIC solution and only 1 non-TIC solution, I figured that someone was bound to call me out if I didn’t find both.
I now had to go back and find the non-TIC alternate solution. Of course, the first question you ask yourself is how different are the 2 solutions. Are all the pieces in different positions or just a subset. Maybe only 2 pieces have to be swapped. It probably took me as much time to find the non-TIC solution as the TIC solution. You can just refer to this as the Muggle solution since it lacks the magic of the TIC solution. Yes, I’m reading HP again. Sorry for that.
If a person unfamiliar with TICs attempted this puzzle, they would most likely find the non-TIC version. For someone like myself, who has done a lot of these TICs, a lot of rational moves are expected and not avoided. Instead of thinking it looks impossible to get this piece at that location, we search for ways to rotate pieces to get them there. It’s a different mindset.
So, is this puzzle a TIC or not? And how many other non-TIC puzzles are out there that have an alternate TIC solution that BurrTools could not find a solution for? For me, I was lucky and discovered the TIC solution first, so this was definitely a TIC for me. For you, it may be different.
This is the 8th post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC). You can find the prior posts of the series here:
- January: Puzzling DNA - GeneTIC
- February: TIC, TIC, TIC - PackTIC II
- March: Green Beer ‘ill Cure What Ails Ya - BioTIC
- April: The Proper Way to Solve a Puzzle - PedanTIC
- May: Will This One Really Be Better Than The Others? - SkepTIC
- June: Space, The Final Frontier - MagellanTIC
- July: Hanging in Suspense - PackTIC V