Wednesday, February 16, 2022

X-tra Protection – T Lock

T Lock by Andrew Crowell
Last week’s blog got me thinking about protection so I thought it might be time to circle back and cover T Lock, the second of Andrew Crowell’s 3D printed burr locks that I recently acquired.  It certainly has secured a well-deserved spot in my collection of enjoyable puzzles.

Like Side Lock (, T lock has a main frame (for all you old programmers out there), a shackle, and 4 T pieces that are packed in the frame.  The pieces are nicely 3D printed in gray, red, and yellow.  Since it doesn’t have the fifth piece running side-to-side like Side Lock, I expected it to be slightly easier.  Of course, it turned out to be slightly harder.  T Lock requires 15 moves to remove the first piece compared to 19 moves for Side Lock, but T Lock requires a rotation, which gives it that boost in difficulty.  Recall that puzzle difficulty = cube root of total voxels * pieces * highest piece moves * log(10 + rotations * 100)  / 100.  {Factors to compensate for things like n-ary inflation have been dropped for simplicity.   Compensating factors for piece surface area have also been removed since they are a pain to compute.  However, for designers that needlessly increase voxel resolution, these factors should be added back in.}

I’d like to describe how easy the original disassembly was, but it was so long ago I can’t remember.  This became all too obvious as I worked to get it back together.  In fact, I forgot that a rotation was required, which really is the crux move of this puzzle.  Needless to say, accomplishing the solve was a challenge.

T Lock Pieces
The frame has 3 impeding cubies attached inside to help you figure out where you can, or more appropriately, where you can’t, put pieces.  These cubies only permit the shackle to be inserted in one orientation, so you can also add the shackle to places where pieces can’t go.  With some work, you can then determine where the 4 T pieces go, although I admit to doubting this configuration many times and re-examining it.  Trying to get those 4 pieces in the frame took some effort.  Once I finally figured out which 2 pieces needed to go in first, I had a devil of a time trying to get them situated in the frame.  

Typical Crowell puzzle scenario – struggling to get 2 small pieces in a big open frame.  Been there many times.  This is where I spent most of the time in the assembly until I finally enjoyed the Aha moment that resulted in not just the first 2 pieces in the frame, but all 4.  

T Lock is difficult and very satisfying as an assembly puzzle.  Having done it several times now, although not as difficult as an assembly puzzle, attacking it as a disassembly puzzle is interesting as well.  You can get copies of T Lock on Andrew’s online store, ARC Puzzles.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Happy VD! – Broken Heart

Broken Heart by Techno Angels and Bozoou

It’s that time of year when love in the air and our thoughts turn to VD.  Yes, it’s time again to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your special loved one on 14 February.  To celebrate this special occasion, I ordered a love themed puzzle to share with my better half – Broken Heart by Techno Angels and Bozoou.

Broken Heart is a 2D packing puzzle from JIGSAWHOLIC, made with laser cut acrylic pieces and a plastic tray.  The puzzle arrives in a plastic bag, which states that the level of difficulty is 6 out of 10 and that the goal is to put all 19 pieces into the frame.  Seventeen of the pieces are black and two of them are red.  The matte finish on the black pieces looks fantastic!   

Broken Heart Surprise Bag
It also comes with a drawstring bag with the warning, “open after you solve the puzzle”, and feels like it contains another piece.  We all know what that means!  Having recently completed all three original Magic Puzzles, a morphing surprise was certainly expected.

In the true Valentine’s spirit, I solved the puzzle with my wife.  We both started putting puzzles pieces in the tray and in less than 5 minutes, we had all 19 pieces in the tray with an obvious piece missing.  Opening the drawstring bag, we took out the final piece and added it to the tray.  What gives?  Where’s the magic?  Where’s the Aha moment?

If you do enough puzzles, you realize that sometimes you just get lucky and stumble upon the solution right away and miss out on the brilliance of the puzzle.  So I spent some time examining the pieces to find what I had missed.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to discover the genius behind this puzzle.  I’m currently under the impression that the Aha moment is to realize that you need the configuration that we discovered at the beginning.  There is a little effort to lead you away from this configuration, but there is an even greater pull to bring you towards it.  To be fair, the website does warn that 30% of the people are not going to experience the “twist”.  In the end, it’s a nicely made jigsaw puzzle that may help you score (some points) on Valentine’s Day.

If all you are looking for is a quickie on Valentine’s Day, a Broken Heart may be just what you deserve.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Wonderizing Puzzles – Benno’s TIC 2.0

Benno's TIC 2.0 by Benno de Grote and Andrew Crowell
As I was enjoying perusing through the myriad of beautiful puzzle photos on the Mechanical Puzzles Discord (MPD) server, I saw a particularly attractive puzzle made from several exotic woods.  Paduak, Redheart, Canarywood, Yellowheart, Maple, and Walnut comprised this intriguing puzzle made by George Syriaque.  The story behind the puzzle was as interesting as the puzzle itself.

George was fascinated by a puzzle designed by Benno de Grote called Favorite.  It is level 7 puzzle and George was interested in knowing if the complexity could be increased.  To scratch that itch, he shipped the design off to Andrew Crowell to pass it through his Magical Puzzle Wonderizer.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Andrew’s Wonderizer, it takes a plain puzzle design as input, breaks it down to its core puzzle DNA, injects complexity steroids, and reconstitutes its components into its new uber form.  So what would happen if you put in a design that was already great to begin with?  Would it strip out the elegance and produce a quotidian block of wood?  As it turns out, the Wonderizer took the level 7 puzzle and produced a level 16 puzzle with some added rotations sprinkled in, which was summarily named Benno's TIC 2.0.

For a long time now, George has been posting enticing photos of the puzzles that he has been making, whetting everyone’s appetite for more wooden puzzles.   Certainly not immune to that allure, as I gazed upon the photos of Benno’s TIC 2.0, I said to myself, “I’d love to give that puzzle a try”.  And then I moved on since they were not being produced.

Benno's TIC 2.0 Pieces
Several weeks later, I received a package.  A package from my good friend George.  A package that contained a single cubic box.  The kind of nondesript white foldup box that puzzles sometimes come in.  Inside this box was, you guessed it – some foam wrapping!  Yes!!! Foam wrapping!   That's such a good sign!  And sure enough, protected by that foam wrapping was Benno’s TIC 2.0 that I saw on the MPD.  WOW!!!

Instead of drooling over pictures on the MPD, I now had one in hand.  TICs are my thing and…I can’t find the first move.  That first piece fits snuggly in the cube and took a couple of minutes to locate.  After a couple more moves, things start to open up and you may find that you are going in circles.   However, once you break out of that circle, pieces start emerging from the cube.

The dance required to separate the last 3 pieces was particularly nice.  Looks like it would be easy, feels like it’s impossible, and is greatly appreciated when you finally successfully traverse the correct path.  Need I say that the path is a bit twisted.

Reassembling the puzzle right after disassembly while all the moves are fresh in mind is easy.  It is much more interesting to leave it unassembled and tackle discovering the moves in reverse.

Since I don’t have a copy of the original Favorite design by Benno, I can’t comment on the differences between the original and the wonderized version.  I can say that the Benno’s TIC 2.0 is a great design and fun to solve.  Thank you George!  Thank you Andrew!  Thank you Benno!