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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Like a Dead Skunk in Your Tire Well, Some Things Just Don’t Go Away - Completely Broken Soma, Part 2

Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine
Last summer, I described a wondrous puzzle design dubbed the Completely Broken Soma (A Whole New Level of Puzzle Abuse - Completely Broken Soma).  I ended the post with a request for information on who would be interested in acquiring a copy if it was made available.  With the collection of comments from the post, I approached the cognoscenti of puzzle craftsmanshipdom to prioritize a queue of craftsman interested in the honor of creating this puzzle.  However, not a one indicated the least bit of interest in creating a puzzle that garnered 0 comments in its unveiling post.  I attempted to argue that the lack of response was due to the fact that nobody reads my blog instead of lack of interest in owning a completely broken puzzle.  Unfortunately, I was not unable to convince any of those venerable craftsmen to put their reputation and resources at risk.  On the bright side, there are no readers to be upset by this news.

The smart thing to do is fling the design deep into the pit of eternal stench.  So I bought a 3D printer and attempted to plasticize the design myself.  I went with the 3 color version and created the design files to print the required 54 half-cubes.  The 48mm (1.9”) cube only took a little over 10 hours to print.

Completely Broken Soma Piece Removed
I soon found out that there’s a special place in hell where people can assemble the pieces of the Completely Broken Soma.  The diminutive 8x16x16 mm half-cubes have tiny pimples that need to be popped into the recesses of other half-cubes to connect them.  Forcing these pieces together is a challenge that gets ever more interesting as you add the third and fourth half-cubes while the prior ones get in the way.  However, when you have completed assembling the pieces and then the cube, you are rewarded with a beautiful lumpy cube where the pieces just don’t fit nicely together.  Since the connectors are so small they have a tendency to flex and nice 90 degree joints are not guaranteed (or even likely).

Having suffered a similar fate when creating the wood version, I knew exactly what to do.  I shoved the puzzle in a dehydrator and slowly drove the temperature to just over 130 degrees, the low end of the glass transition temperature for PLA.  I didn’t want to risk going higher and potentially fusing the pieces together.  Shortly after the target temperature was reached, I pulled it out and quickly clamped it for the night.  In the morning, I unclamped a reasonably cubic object and disassembled it to ensure that nothing was unintentionally fused together.  Having finally exorcising that caustic concept from my system, I quickly put it in a box and sent it away to plague someone else.  I really don’t understand why I don’t have friends any more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

And The After Dinner Mint – Peppermint Basket

Peppermint Basket by Akaki Kuumeri
After completing all those Picnic Baskets that Akaki Kuumeri made, what’s left.  The after dinner mint of course.  Akaki decided to top off the Picnic Basket series with what he called a Final Boss Puzzle.  For those of you who didn’t grow up playing video games like Mario Brothers, the boss character is usually the big bad character that you need to defeat at the end of a level.  The final boss is the toughest, meanest, and most difficult to defeat character at the end of the game.  And Akaki succeeded in developing his final boss picnic basket – Peppermint Basket.

Like the prior 13 picnic baskets (A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets), the Peppermint pieces fit within the same picnic basket.  However, the first thing that you will notice is that the pieces have diagonally cut half cubes.  These cuts allow for some new types of movements/rotations needed to solve the puzzle.  The second thing that you will notice is that there are only 3 pieces and that there is a lot of empty space in the assembly.

This puzzle is reminiscent of Andrew Crowell’s Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) puzzles where the difficulty is getting the first 2 pieces situated within a frame against their wishes.  I printed the standard version of Peppermint with the tighter tolerances and the rotation required to resolve the positioning of the first 2 pieces is very precise and not easy to discover.  There are also several almost possible rotations, but don’t be tempted to force it.  One of these almost possible rotations is associated with a false assembly.  I’m sure by now that you can tell that I spent a bit of time trying to solve this one.  Getting the last piece in is not difficult, but I liked how the movement worked.

If this is the end of the Picnic Basket series, this was a great final puzzle.  Akaki did an awesome job designing this final challenge and made good use of the diagonally cut cubes.  More final boss puzzles please!

So why did Akaki label Peppermint as Akaki Basket #16 if there were originally 13 picnic basket puzzles?  What happened to 14 and 15?  If I had to guess, one of those is a prior version of Peppermint that Akaki didn’t release because it had an unintended short cut in the solution.  I would guess that the other is:

Nachos Basket by William Hu
Nachos Basket by William Hu.


Puzzle designer extraordinaire, William Hu, took up the challenge to create a picnic basket for the series.  Like Peppermint, Nachos uses diagonally cut half cubes.  With 4 pieces instead of 3, it was a bit more difficult to find the piece assembly, especially since there is a lot of void space in the final assembly.  The empty space and angled cuts also make the puzzle fiddly to play with outside the basket when figuring out the moves required to insert them.  The well thought out movements earn this puzzle its difficult rating although I found it quite a bit easier than Peppermint.  More please!

Model files for printing your own copies of Peppermint and Nachos are freely available with the other Picnic Baskets on Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series) Thingiverse page.