Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Entwining Pieces – Collator

Collator by Alexander Magyarics
Where other people say, please make it easier to put things in the box, puzzlers dare to say, please make the box opening smaller with malcontent contents that don’t like to work together.  Entwining pieces within a box with odd little openings is alluring.  Divining the correct sequence to bit-by-bit, slowly transfer objects that coalesce totally intertwined within the box - puzzle nirvana.

Collator was designed by Alexander Magyarics and made by Brian Menold at Wood Wonders.  It was made with a Flame Birch Box and the 3 pieces that need to be crammed in the box are made from Bolivian Rosewood (one of my favorites) with some very nice heartwood accents.

Putting the pieces in the box is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – or I should say 1.2.3.  However, that is not the true solution.  There are 10 possible ways to assemble the 3 pieces into a 3x3x3 cubic space.  Of those 10, 3 of them can be packed in the box.  However, only 1 of the 3 looks like a solid cube when it is inside the box.  It is this apparent cube configuration that is the objective and it has a difficulty level of 10.4.2.  The other non-apparent cube solution has a difficulty of 5.1.3.

I really don’t need to tell you that this is a good puzzle.  Designed by Alexander, made by Brian, 10.4.2 restricted opening apparent cube packing puzzle – you know it’s going to be good without even seeing it.  And it’s even better when you get your hands on it.  With a box at 3 cubic inches and pieces with a voxel size of 3/4 inches, it’s bigger than most apparent cube packing puzzles making it a pleasure to handle.  The beautiful Bolivian Rosewood pieces also have a nice heft to them.  And no, I wasn’t disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed the sequence of moves required to solve the puzzle.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Uniquely Sneaky Snakey Packer – Snake Pack

Snake Pack by Haym Hirsh
I recently wrote about Snake Pack 2, and now it’s time to talk about its Slytherin twin: Snake Pack.  They look similar but the snakes are the mirror image of each other.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to reverse the box and they are identical.  And therein lies the problem.  These new snakes just don’t feel like they belong with the same box.

Like Snake Pack 2, Snake Pack was designed by Haym Hirsh and made by Brian Menold at Wood Wonders.  The box that the snakes are packed into has an opening in the corner and 2 poke holes inviting your fingers to enter and manipulate the snakes.  Snake Pack 2 had 3 poke holes – I don’t know why one has 2 and the other 3.  It’s possible that one of the holes fell off during shipping since I did find a hole in the package.

The box is made from Moabi and the 5 identical “A” tetracube snakes that need to be coaxed into the box are made of Lacewood.  It’s still not Snakewood but it’s more snakey than the Snake Pack 2 pieces.  It also has a unique solution whereas Snake Pack 2 has 3.

For some reason, using the Snake Pack pieces feels more awkward than the Snake Pack 2 pieces.  Like Snake Pack 2, the Snake Pack pieces can enter the box in 2 different ways, which of course are different than the 2 orientations used by Snake Pack 2.  

The time required to solve Snake Pack was about the same as Snake Pack 2.  However, Snake Pack feels sneakier and the more difficult of the two.  Although the solution to each puzzle is completely different, I felt that the time spent solving Snake Pack 2 amped my snake packing factor to give me an additional boost.

As a last note, I’ve successfully packed all the snakes in the box but it didn’t make an apparent cube.  This was not stated as a requirement in the description and I assume that my solution is the goal, but if you know differently, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Well Played – The aMAZEing Puzzle Box

I was amazed when contacted to do a review of the aMAZEing puzzle box.  Someone wanted me to review a puzzle that they had developed AND BLOG ABOUT IT!  This was a first.  Normally when people send me puzzles, they specifically request that I NOT blog about them.  I’m perfectly fine with this arrangement BTW.

Unless you’re new to the puzzle community, you’ve seen the recent trend of producing puzzles using LEGO ® bricks.  As a designer of puzzles, I perfectly understand the appeal of the LEGO media.  It provides easy access to expressing puzzling genius creativity with quick turn-around times and can produce attractive products without investing in a lot of tools and manufacturing knowledge.  And who doesn’t really like LEGO?

Having said that, you still can’t just throw a bunch of LEGO bricks together and expect a winning product.  There is an art to it and a well-designed LEGO puzzle should be robust as well as intriguing.  I have to admit I was a little intimidated by receiving this puzzle.  I was more than a bit concerned about breaking it.  And by breaking, I mean separating pieces that shouldn’t be separated.  And by concerned, I mean putting myself in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to figure out how it goes back together.

aMAZEing Card
The aMAZEing puzzle box is QUIZBRIX’s debut Sequential Discovery (SD) puzzle constructed from LEGO bricks (the use of the term bricks here does not necessarily mean rectangular).  It either comes in black with white highlights or white with black highlights.  The QUIZBRIX website indicates that the black color is a little more difficult due to lighting differences.  After working with the black one, I can see how it may be easier to peer within a lighter colored version, but it doesn’t really impact the solving process.  There is also one lonely round gray highlight on the side.  

The cryptic highlights promise future knowledge for the worthy.  There are also many openings of various shapes and sizes that look like they would accommodate the insertion of a some type of tool if one could be found (hint: many puzzlers support the requirement of tools that are found and utilized in solving a puzzle if it is to be called a sequential discovery puzzle).  Lastly, there are a few windows where you can peer into the puzzle for visual feedback.  My favorite is the one I refer to as the teaser window.  You can see what has to be done; you have an idea of what needs to happen; but you just don’t know yet how to make it happen.  It was my favorite part of the puzzle.

aMAZEing Instructions
The puzzle arrives with a business card identifying the puzzle and providing guidance for starting. The advice included on the card indicates that you should Pay close attention to what you do.  This is the type of advice usually scoffed at - Duh!  However, it is good advice and I would have included it here even had it not been included on the card.  The puzzle provides many clues on how to proceed.  There are some things that you can just muddle through or you can do it with style.  If you find that you have completed a section without knowing exactly how, it is worthwhile to take a moment and figure out the clues that were to be followed.  There was one section I didn’t fully appreciate until the second time through.

Golden Bar
Having read the warnings on the card, the journey was on.  The objective: find the Golden Bar.  The website promised 30+ steps to completion and all I had to do was find the first one to get started.  The 3 step opening sequence was well-hidden and well-implemented.  Aside from being rewarded after the first few moves, I learned something about LEGO brick movements that I could look for and exploit in other places. I was now completely engaged and on my way to becoming an official LEGO SD explorer.

For the solving process, I view the puzzle as consisting of 3 main sections, with each bringing something new to the experience and the final section culminating in the release of the Golden Bar.  The puzzle box is very well-thought-out, architected, and constructed.  Use of friction was very well implemented.  There are a couple of steps where you just have to trust the designer and go for it.  As for the construction, I needn’t have worried.  LEGO bricks are well-designed and meant to hold together – especially when they are new and haven’t been worn in with repeated assemblies and disassemblies.  LEGO even has a special tool to help separate the bricks.

aMAZEing Reverse Side
Resetting is simple and straightforward and does not require backtracking through all the steps.  However, it is possible to get the puzzle in a state that looks completely reset but would bypass a couple of the steps.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that the next person would be moving in the wrong direction and be resetting instead of solving the puzzle.  Most importantly, it doesn’t appear that you can brick this puzzle with an improper reset.

I had originally thought that the QR code for the reset link would be inside the puzzle box, but was surprised that it was included on the card that came with the puzzle.  In retrospect, it makes sense to add the information on the card to provide the ability to reset at any time prior to completing the solve.  The card also has a QR code for the solution as well.  And yes, you get the reset QR code with the Golden Bar as well in case you need it and can’t locate the card.

QUIZBRIX has done an aMAZEing job with their first LEGO puzzle box.  It’s clever and fun but not difficult.  I believe that the stated 7/10 level of difficulty is a fair assessment.  I’m looking forward to seeing what types of features get added in future QUIZBRIX puzzle boxes.

Was I worthy?  Not entirely.  There was one aspect of the puzzle I wasn’t able to decrypt.  It didn’t impact the solve at all but left me wondering.  I won’t mention it here to avoid taking anything away from your own experience.  -  Yes, I’m worthy!  As I was finishing up this post I finally decrypted that final piece.  I’m still not going to mention what it was.  You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.

The aMAZEing puzzle box is currently available directly on the QUIZBRIX website as well as from NothingYet Designs.

Leg Godt - Play Well!

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

An Attractive Puzzle – MagneTeam

MagneTeam by Alexander Magyarics
You either like or don’t like apparent cube packing puzzles and MagneTeam is certainly a polarizing puzzle.  This puzzle doubles down on apparent cube packingness, giving you that much more to love or hate.

MagneTeam was designed by Alexander Magyarics and made by Cubicdissection.  The box is made from Ash with a - shaped opening on one side and a + shaped opening on the other.  The Cubicdissection team thoughtfully beveled the 4 inner corners of the + opening for when you poke your fingers inside.  The 4 pieces to be packed are made from Granadillo and Morado.  Why 2 different types of wood for the pieces you ask?  Because there are 2 objectives.  The first objective is to pack the 3 Granadillo pieces into the box making an apparent cube (as a quick reminder, an apparent cube is a shape that looks like a cube but may not completely be or be completely a cube.  It just fills all the openings of the box and looks like one.  You can think of it as a cube wannabe/impostor/impersonator – you get the idea).  Once you have apparent( cubic)ly solved the first challenge, the second challenge is to add the Morado piece and pack all 4 within the box to make another apparent cube.  Since the first challenge was already an apparent cube, chances are that you can’t just simply add the additional piece for a quick win but I’m pretty sure that you guessed that already.

So what do you need to know to solve this puzzle.  On the negative side, it may be daunting if you’re not used to apparent cube packing puzzles and unaware of how to utilize small openings to solve the puzzle.  On the positive side, this puzzle has a big opening that easily permits pieces to enter the box.  Both challenges are fun and can be solved like most apparent cube packing puzzles.  No rotations are required but each has a nice difficulty level: and 7.6.6.  

The biggest challenge for the 3 piece apparent cube was quite unexpected.  The Granadillo looks nice and the Morado looks just as nice, so much so, I couldn’t really tell them apart.  You say Granadillo, I say Morado, let’s call the whole thing indistinguishable.  Maybe it was a third challenge, maybe it was Eric Fuller’s sense of humor, but I spent some time trying to convince myself that one of the pieces was made from a different type of wood.  Of course I wouldn’t deprive you of figuring out which piece it is by mentioning it here.  Although if you are curious, you can check it on the puzzle will be played site.  For the record, I would have been perfectly fine if all the pieces had been made from the same type of wood with the challenge being to find which 3 pieces that still made an apparent cube.  

Two very nice challenges for the price of one.  Well done Alexander!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Charming Snakes Into a Box – Snake Pack 2

Snake Pack 2 by Haym Hirsh
I was fortunate to acquire Snake Pack and Snake Pack 2 from a generous soul on the Mechanical Puzzle Discord (thank you Mark).  To be honest, I approached these puzzles with a bit of trepidation.  I had heard that they were difficult and I was prepared to be assaulted by a variety of coordinate motion dexterity moves worthy of a modern dance performance.  There were even comments from frustrated puzzlers with pieces stuck in the box.  I decided to start with Snake Pack 2 since it was supposed to be the easier of the two (although Haym said that he found it more difficult).

Snake Pack 2 is a charming puzzle designed by Haym Hirsh and made by Brian Menold at Wood Wonders.  The box that the snakes are packed into has an opening in the corner and 3 poke holes inviting your fingers to enter and manipulate the snakes.  The box is made from Canarywood and is absolutely gorgeous!  The varying colors throughout the wood look fantastic!  The 5 identical “B” tetracube snakes that need to be charmed into the box are made of Moabi.  The Moabi looks great, but the poet in me cries for Snakewood – just because.

So what would I expect from a packing puzzle with 5 identical pieces.  The first couple of pieces have lots of room to rotate and could be put in any orientation needed.  The last piece will drop right in.  The next to last piece may require some shifting of the prior 3 to get in place and maybe even a rotation or two.  The third piece will be a pain – enough room to expect rotations and not enough room to accomplish them easily.

I worked with the snakes outside of the box to discover a workable assembly that could be inserted.  A little bit of experimentation shows that there are 2 ways that the snakes can be inserted through the box opening.  The major thought during this process was coming up with an assembly where the first snake could easily be removed from the box followed by a second.  To be honest, at one point I was stuck in a rut and turned the whole thing upside down so that the opening was on the bottom.  This helped me find what I was missing and led me to the solution.

In the end, I thought that the rotations were well behaved and I really enjoyed the puzzle.  And yes, determining what the third piece was and how to get it into place was the crux of the solution.  Once you figure it out, it’s not hard to do.

It turned out that this was an apparent cube puzzle as well.  However, there are supposedly other solutions and I don’t know whether this is the only apparent cube solution or one of many.