Wednesday, February 22, 2023

? – W.D.I.G.M.I.

This year’s Christmas present from my friends Tanner and Geneva over at What Did I Get Myself Into HQ was, surprise – a W.D.I.G.M.I. puzzle.  In a recent puzzle gathering, everyone who had a copy confessed to not having solved it.  This inspired me to reshuffle my life priorities to get this one checked off.

W.D.I.G.M.I. was designed and made by Tanner in collaboration with Tye Stahly from NothingYet Designs.  The puzzle is a 2D restricted-opening packing puzzle made from acrylic.  The frame is in the shape of the question mark and made with smoky translucent top and bottom and a black middle layer for sides.  There are 3 openings in the frame but only the largest will admit the pieces.  The other 2 are to there to help move the pieces.  

In addition to the frame, there are 7 pieces made from opaque purple acrylic and represent the characters: W, D, I, G, M, I, and ?.  I particularly liked that it was based on a triangular framework, instead of a rectangular one.  Anyone familiar with Tanner should not be surprised that the color purple was chosen for the pieces.  Usually Tanner bends the phrase What Did I Get Myself Into so that it forms a question mark, but thankfully, we only have to pack the first letter of each word along with a question mark into the frame.

Now that I’ve made it seem easy, it’s not.  When I opened it on Christmas, I quickly found how the pieces could fit in the frame, but it was not possible to put them in the frame in that configuration.  And then almost as quickly, I realized that this was not going to be a trivial challenge.  I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but I will say that I spent most of the time determining how the pieces related to each other and how they could be nestled together in different places within the frame.  Once the proper assembly is found, inserting the pieces is straight-forward.

I can neither confirm nor deny if there is a sole solution or whether multiple solutions exist.  However, I can confirm that finding a solution was a challenge.

Tanner and Geneva are on a mission to spread puzzle joy to the world and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Petits Puzzles – Mini Lock

Mini Lock - Christoph Lohe
Sometimes you just need to work on a puzzle because it’s cute and not because it’s an epic challenge.  Mini Lock by Christoph Lohe falls squarely into that category.  It’s not difficult and makes a great introductory challenge for someone just starting on interlocking puzzles.  It also displays very nicely and many experienced puzzlers will acquire copies simply for the cuteness factor.

Mini Lock is a simple interlocking burr in the shape of a padlock consisting of a frame and 3 simple pieces.  Two of the pieces form the body of the lock while the third acts as the shackle.  

Mini Lock Pieces
Since I printed my own copy of this puzzle, it was an assembly challenge.  Even so, I’d recommend doing this puzzle as an assembly challenge since it’s not very complex.  Solving the puzzle follows a nice logical progression of how the pieces are introduced to the body.  The 2 body pieces are similar and it’s not too difficult to determine which is on top and which is on the bottom.  Most of the movements are simple with one standing out as a little more interesting, which for me, represented the best Aha moment of the solve.

Cubicdissection recently released a version of Mini Lock in wood, which was still available at the time of this post if you would like your own copy.  A 3D version is also sometimes available at ARC Puzzles.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

No Scoop 4U – 4 PAC

4 PAC by Hajime Katsumoto

Continuing the trend of designing restricted-opening packing puzzles with 4 simple looking pieces, Hajime Katsumoto has provided us with 4 PAC.  The box has a single slot opening to permit the pieces to be entered and several poke holes for you to insert your fingers for manipulating the pieces.  However, for this packing puzzle, the pieces are round, allowing for new types of rotations within the box.  This novelty helped 4 PAC win a Jury Honorable Mention award in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition in 2021.

This puzzle looks innocuous.  After all, we’ve solved several of these 2x2x3 packing puzzles with simple looking pieces.  This one looks even easier with the pieces made from cylinders, which support rotations around the cylinder’s axis.  When I first saw a photo of this puzzle, my initial reaction was that it could be trivially solved in several ways.  Deep down, I knew this would not be the case and was summarily reengaged by a comment on the Mechanical Puzzle Discord server: The solution doesn't use the scoop move.  The scoop move?  Was this the move that my trivial solutions were based on.  Indeed it was.  After more thought, this move is obviously (I use the term obviously loosely here since it obviously wasn’t obvious on my first pass) impossible.  However, it would have been possible if the top of the box had a thickness of 0 (that’s mm not inches), which the mental construct within my mind indeed had.

Having cleared its reputation of trivialness, I decided to print a copy to solve.  Given the nature of this type of puzzle, it’s easy to deduce how the last piece goes in.  That only leaves figuring out how to add the first 3 pieces.

4 PAC Scoop Move
No Scoop 4U
As with most of these types of puzzles, I take an out-of-the-box approach and attempt to construct the configuration of the pieces inside an imaginary box and envision how they would be removed.  Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t recognize invalid moves like the scoop move.  This one seemed to require more of an in-the-box approach and I thought that I was clever to have a box with a removable lid so that I could experiment without the top.  I use clever as loosely as obviously since it had all the disadvantages of the out-of-the-box approach as well as the frustration of trying to move round pieces in a tight box in orientations that couldn’t be realized with the top in place.  Having exhausted all the poor ways to solve this problem, I was forced to use the better approach.  With the lid ON, I was able to determine how the pieces could be added one-by-one until the box was packed.  What was once a trivial, unwieldy, frustrating fidgety puzzle, became an interesting puzzle with a solid Aha moment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Catch the Wave – Wavelinks

Wavelinks by Rod Bogart

It’s swirly, whirly, wavey, and curly.  It’s Wavelinks designed by Rod Bogart.  In addition to being an excellent puzzle, it also has some appeal as a fidget toy.

Wavelinks Pieces
Wavelinks consists of 4 identical pieces that when assembled form 2 interlocking tori (I refrain from using the term donuts to avoid connotations associated with Cast Donuts).  There are no hidden features and everything needed to solve it is in plain view.

I first encountered Wavelinks in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Competition  room at IPP38.  I wasn’t able to solve it in the limited time that I had but was duly impressed.  Obviously, I wasn’t the only one impressed since it won a Top 10 vote getter award.

The version in the IPP competition was made by Shapeways, which provides online services for SLS manufacturing.  Upload a design and get copies made and sent to your home.  Before everyone had their own FDM printer at home, this was the best way to achieve rapid prototyping for puzzle development using non-cartesian geometries (I refrain from using the term square to avoid connotations associated with Cast Square).  Even now, although more expensive, SLS is still probably better than FDM for puzzles such as Wavelinks.  You can still acquire copies of Wavelinks from Rod’s Shapeways shop.

I had the opportunity to reattack Wavelinks at an RPP (A Decade of Puzzling - RPP 2019) where someone brought a Shapeways copy that they had acquired.  This time, I was able to solve it fairly quickly while still appreciating the movements required to solve it.

Wavelinks Tori
I mentioned to Rod at an NYPP that I thought Wavelinks would make a good Hanayama puzzle.  Turns out that I wasn’t even close to the first person to mention that.  Rod indicated that he had already discussed it with Hanayama and was told that it was not possible for them to manufacture it.  That was disappointing news considering how lovely it would be if made in metal.

Much to my surprise, a kickstarter project was announced in 2022 by Craighill to produce Wavelinks.  Their campaign announcement had beautiful photos and videos of the 4 pieces (I refrain from using the term quartet to avoid connotations associated with Cast Quartet) made in contrasting silver and black.  It was a complete no-brainer to join the kickstarter.

Wavelinks Packaging
After waiting so long, how is it?  It’s amazing!  Even the packaging is well done.  It arrives in a well designed box with the 2 separated tori situated in a bed of foam.  Each piece is nicely machined and although it can feel a bit fiddly, the movements are smooth.  Having only previously played with the plastic version from Shapeways, it was a shock to actually feel how heavy they are.  1.3 pounds doesn’t sound like a lot until you have to manipulate the piece in your hands.  It’s a real workout.

There is a video in the Kickstarter campaign where the pieces fall into the solved interlocked state (I refrain from using the terms spiral, vortex, and twist to avoid connotations associated with Cast Spiral, Cast Vortex, and Cast Twist).  I suggest that you attempt this catch the wave move.  Once everything is lined up, the pieces really do drop like that.  I’m sure some would consider that video a spoiler, but I don’t think it’s really giving too much away and the appeal of the video is obvious.

I’m very happy that this puzzle was finally released in a format that it deserved and should become available in puzzle shops soon.  I’ve incorporated it into my weekly exercise routine but if you prefer a much lighter copy for your workout, the plastic version is still available on Shapeways.