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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cube Vinco

Here is another of Vinco's puzzle designs that was kindly sent to me by Oy Sloyd Ab in Finland:

This little beauty is called 'Cube Vinco'. It is a 5cm square cube made of two contrasting types of wood and is composed of four pieces. Unlike many of Vinco's other puzzles this is not a coordinate motion puzzle, it is an interlocking puzzle.

It can be a little tricky to work out how to take the cube apart as you have to have your fingers in just the right places, but it isn't a very difficult puzzle overall.
This is one of Vinco's smaller (and cheaper) puzzle designs, in fact as I found out recently you can actually find a Cube Vinco as a centre piece inside another of Vinco's puzzles called 'MaTRIOshka', which I thought was really cool!

It may not be very difficult but I actually really like the simple fun of this puzzle. And as with all of Vinco's puzzles the fit and finish is perfect, even though it's not one of his expensive designs. This is another of those puzzles that's great to give to people new to the world of puzzling.

Like I said I got this puzzle from the lovely people at Oy Sloyd Ab, and you will be able to pick up one of these (along with a load more of Vinco's designs) for a great price.


Thank you to everyone who sent me their get well wishes during my time in hospital, it was really appreciated! I have now been discharged and can continue my recovery in my own home, where I am likely to be for the next two weeks or so. I can't do any heavy lifting, so I'll partake in some light puzzling instead!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Temporarily Out Of Action

Hey fellow puzzlers!

I'm sorry that this isn't entirely puzzle related but I felt that I had to share.

After a very long day which I have spent mostly in agony I have been told that I have appendicitis. I should be having surgery within the next few hours, and then I've been told that it'll be a few days (or weeks) before I'm back to my normal self again.

I will make sure to reply to all of your emails and comments as soon as I can, but please do bear with me.

Happy puzzling, and wish me luck!


Saturday, 26 March 2011

Makishi Puzzle Boxes

I went through a bit of an ordeal to get hold of these puzzle boxes, but I'm glad I did as they have turned out to be some of my absolute favourites. A huge thanks to Brian who played a major role in making sure that I could get hold of these great boxes!

These are a pair of wooden puzzle boxes made by Makishi in the USA. The smaller box will take you 30 moves to open, whereas the larger one will take 50 moves. I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure how to count the moves though, I've opened and closed both boxes many times and I always seem to get a different number every time I count. The boxes have four moving panels (left, right, top & bottom) and two keys on either side panel.

The main thing that you are likely to notice about these boxes is how plain they look compared with Japanese Puzzle Boxes that tend to be covered in a bright coloured pattern of some sort. Not only does this make the production cost of these boxes a lot cheaper than their Japanese counterparts but I also happen to prefer the look of natural wood. And Makishi's signature brand in the corner really finishes the look off very nicely.

Now you may look at the above pictures and think that they are just Japanese puzzle boxes with a single key at either end, and what's so difficult about that? But these boxes do not behave as you might expect. The real trickery lies in how the key ways interact with the four sliding panels, and it really makes these boxes special. I won't go into too much detail as I think it's so much fun to discover those sorts of things for yourself. I know I was surprised!

When I attended the Midlands Puzzle Party (MPP) in February I opened several great Japanese puzzle boxes, but most of them I did with very little difficulty. Makishi's boxes on the other hand took me significantly longer to work out. I decided to start with the 30 move box, and  managed to have it open within 15-20 minutes or so. Then I went on to the 50 move box expecting it to be the same mechanism as the 30 move but with more permutations, but I was a little wrong. I could get to about 30 moves in, but then I kept hitting a dead end. Then I'd turn myself around in circles and end up closing the box again! It took me a good few hours and many attempts to open and completely understand the 50 move box, and I think that it is a brilliant bit of puzzle workmanship! I am very likely going to end up buying the rest of Makishi's puzzle boxes as he also makes 8, 13 & 18 move puzzle boxes.

Edit: So here is the whole Makishi Puzzle Box Family. I expected all of the sizes to be different, but the 8, 13 & 18 move boxes are all the same size with only the movements to tell them apart. All of the boxes have sliding keys apart from the 8 move.

The prices of these puzzles have to be seen to be believed! I won't post them here as they may change over time, but you can contact Makishi for an up to date price list and order form.

I bought these boxes directly from Makishi in the USA, and although he doesn't have an active internet presence you should be able to place any orders at this email address:

Also take a look at Brian's review of his Makishi puzzle boxes, as it was his review that convinced me that I needed these in my collection.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

R2D2 (Roger)

Here is another puzzle from the mysterious German puzzle designer known only as 'Roger D':

This puzzle is called R2D2. The 'R' and 'D' I imagine stand for Roger's initials, but I have no idea of the relevance of the '2's. Maybe Roger is a Star Wars fan.

I true Roger fashion this puzzle is also perfectly machined from solid aluminium and given a beautiful finish. The front plate is made of acrylic and that is bolted to the aluminium body using two Allan key bolts. The puzzle contains three ball bearings; two large and one small. The small bearing will roll up to the two larger bearings, but no further. And the large bearings will roll around a few millimetres within their confined spaces.

Once again this puzzle also does not come with instructions, but in this case I think that it's safe to say that the objective is pretty obvious; You must find a way to navigate the small ball bearing to the other end of the puzzle past the two larger bearings, and then return it to the starting position. This is one of two dexterity type puzzles by Roger, the other being 'Alles Roger' which I will also be reviewing soon.

I guessed the solution to this puzzle from looking at pictures of it on the internet, and I'm guessing that quite a few of you reading this have done the same. It is not a difficult puzzle, I bought it more for the fact that it is beautifully made and highly collectible.

Just like I mentioned in previous reviews of my other puzzles by Roger, you are only really likely to find his puzzles in online auctions such as Puzzle Paradise or Cubic Dissection. Although every now and again one or two may pop up in a puzzle shop, and if you see one I recommend that you don't hesitate in buying it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Twisted Gem

Here is another puzzle sent to me by Puzzle Master, so thank you again to them for making this review possible!

I took this puzzle straight out of it's box expecting to put it straight back after a couple of seconds. Oh how I was wrong.

This packing puzzle is called Twisted Gem. It is one of Puzzle Master's own puzzle creations, and it really does look extremely simple. The puzzle itself is made up of seven wooden pieces which are stained in four different colours, and rather than the usual box to pack them in this is supplied with a wood and metal wire stand. I quite like the stand as I think it is great that it displays the full puzzle rather than a box which would display only the top pieces.

Now when I saw the Twisted Gem on the Puzzle Master site I couldn't help but be surprised. The puzzle looked so easy and yet it was being displayed as a level 9 puzzle out of a difficulty rating of 10. I wasn't convinced about the difficulty rating, I opened up the box and tipped the pieces out from the stand, mixed them up and set about putting them back in again. Five minutes pass and the puzzle is still in pieces. Ten minutes pass......still going. By this point I'm pretty surprised, I expected to have it done by now. In the end I think it took me a good 20-25 minutes to solve it, and if I scrambled it up again now it would probably still take me ages to put it back. Because the angles on the pieces are all the same there are many ways to feel like you are on the right track when you are in fact not right at all.

All in all a pretty good puzzle! Definitely a good one to have on the table when you have people over, just don't let them leave till they've put it back together again.

The Twisted Gem is available directly from Puzzle Master for the very reasonable price of around $12.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Kel-Tec Bullet Burr

Now this isn't one of the hardest puzzles that I own, but I do think that it is definitely one of the best looking:

As you can see from the photo on the right, this is a simple six-piece burr which was made by the US weapons manufacturer Kel-Tec to celebrate their 15 year anniversary. The pieces are beautifully machined from solid brass to resemble bullets, and the key piece is engraved with the company name and '15 YRS' to show the occasion.

The brass isn't coated in any way so it will dull with age, but I think it is the best way that it could've been made considering the fact that it is meant to resemble regular ammunition, and I think it does that very well. I was actually a little worried about it coming through customs from the US considering what it looks like, but either they could obviously tell that they weren't real, or they didn't have their morning coffee, but they made it through just fine.

As a puzzle it isn't very difficult, as I know this kind of puzzle pretty well I could put it together and take it apart immediately. However if you give it to someone who isn't used to burrs then they may have a harder time trying to do it. I think this should be judged to be more of an aesthetic piece as opposed to a great puzzle.

As far as I'm aware the only way you can get this puzzle is through Kel-Tec themselves. They aren't expensive at all, and you can find them in their online store here: Kel-Tec Bullet Burr.

Many thanks to the great people at Kel-Tec for making this review possible!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Here is a really brilliant little puzzle loaned to me by Ali (a fellow puzzler), and oh how simple it looks:

This puzzle goes by several different names, but I believe the original name for it when it was designed was 'Blockhead', and that's what I'm going to go with. Blockhead was designed by Bill Cutler, and it really does look like a really easy puzzle.

I really like the contrast in wood colours, it really makes the pieces stand out nicely without making the puzzle look either too bland or tacky.

As you can see from the above photos, you have to fit all four of the wooden (almost) cubes into their square wooden packing tray. I say 'almost' cube because as you can see in the photo on the right the blocks aren't perfect cubes, and as you can imagine this makes the puzzle somewhat more difficult.

The puzzle itself isn't particularly difficult, but it seems that certain people tend to work it out quicker than others. Ali managed to put them all back into their tray straight away, but it took me a good 10 minutes or so.

I think this is a really brilliant puzzle, it is such a good puzzle to give to people to try out. As it looks so easy it really winds you up if you're not able to do it immediately. You have to have at least one packing puzzle in any puzzle collection, and I definitely recommend that you consider this one.

Like I mentioned; I borrowed this puzzle from a fellow puzzler, but I know that he picked it up from Village Games in Camden at a pretty inexpensive price. I'm sure that if you did a quick search you would also be able to find one for sale elsewhere, even if it were to be under a different name (Stark Raving Cubes, Sneaky Squares etc.). For example I believe that 'Square Fit' by ThinkFun is the same puzzle going by a different name and manufactured in plastic, but do correct me if I'm wrong.


I liked this puzzle so much that not only did I buy my own copy, but I also bought a copy of the plastic version by the name of 'Sneaky Squares' made by Ishi Press. It is a great copy of the wooden original, and it's even better for handing around because there is no way for the plastic pieces to be forced into any unintended solutions.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Capital H

Here is another really clever wooden puzzle that was very kindly sent to me by Oy Sloyd Ab in Finland, and it is called Capital H:

Capital H (and several other of Sloyd's designs) was thought up by Vesa Timonen, a brilliant puzzle designer who has come up with many great puzzles, including one of my favourites; the Cast Loop by Hanayama, but it is actually made by Sloyd themselves.

It is comprised of seven wooden pieces. Just like the Raketti that I reviewed last week it is also made from birch wood, which I find has a really nice feel to it.

The goal of this puzzle is to make a capital letter 'H' using all of the seven pieces provided that you can see in the above photo. I won't lie, I found this to be quite a hard puzzle, it took me several days of on-and-off puzzling to solve it, and I did have to smile when I did eventually find the solution, it is very clever. Sloyd rate this puzzle as a level 5 out of 5, and I think that's a pretty reasonable rating. As always though I don't want to go into too much detail and spoil it for any of you, but trust me when I say that considering the price is so cheap (about €7) you really do get your money's worth here!

Once again this puzzle was very kindly sent to me by the lovely people at Oy Sloyd Ab in Finland, and you can order this puzzle (and many many others) directly from them. And honestly I cannot praise them enough, they are a pleasure to deal with!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Cast Marble

As you can probably tell by now this is another puzzle from the Cast series by Hanayama, but as of now it also happens to be my favourite of the series so far out of the ones that I have had the pleasure of trying out:

This really good looking little puzzle is the Cast Marble, which has been very kindly sent to me by Puzzle Master in Canada!

Just like the Cast Equa the pictures don't really do the puzzle any justice. The puzzle is made up of four pieces which you can see in the picture on the right. The two larger pieces which make up the main body of the puzzle are dark chromed (just like the Equa), and the two smaller pieces which make up the central 'marble' are light chromed. The contrast between the two different parts of the puzzle really give it a good quality look and it makes it stand out.

One thing that I couldn't tell from looking at pictures of the Marble is the size of it. It is actually only 3.5cm long, and I think it tends to look larger in pictures. But considering it's size it does weigh quite a bit, but this isn't really surprising because in true Hanayama fashion the whole thing is cast from solid metal.

Right, enough about the aesthetics. As a puzzle I found the Marble to be nothing short of brilliant! The solution was difficult enough to keep me thinking for a while, and it was also pretty unexpected! Reassembling the puzzle also took a little effort because I didn't really understand how it came apart to begin with, but now I've done it many times it is very quick to repeat and it is also a very clever solution.

Hanayama rate this as a level 4 out of 6 on it's difficulty scale, and I tend to think that 4 is a pretty accurate grading for it. It took me about 15 minutes to disassemble it, and then another 5-10 minutes or so to put it back together, although I have heard of several people having real trouble trying to put it back together again.

It's hard enough to make most puzzlers puzzled to some degree, and the solution is really satisfactory. All things considered it is easily my favourite puzzle from the Cast series thus far, and it is also actually quite high up on my list of puzzles in general! For the price I really recommend that you add one of these to your collection, you won't be disappointed.

The Cast Marble is available from Puzzle Master, along with every other puzzle in the Cast series so far (including the brand new Cast Coil).

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Baby Box Ball

Here is a beautiful puzzle ball that I came across on the German puzzle site Puzzlewood:

This is called the Baby Box Ball which is designed by Michael Cysouw, and is actually an adaptation of a cube puzzle! And being honest it is more of a 'puzzle sculpture' rather than a puzzle in itself.

Contrary to how complex it seems to be, the Baby Box Ball is actually only actually comprised of two pieces. Because of this it isn't a very difficult puzzle, but it is perfect for beginners and really is amazingly well made! Also it is actually quite big with a 9cm diameter.

Although it is only made up of two pieces each of those pieces is comprised of many smaller contrasting light and dark wood sections that have been perfectly glued, sanded and (I believe) waxed until the finish looks as good as it does in the above picture. The finish is so good in fact that you cannot see exactly where the two pieces join together!

It also comes with it's own little wooden stand, which I guarantee you will want because this is a puzzle you will love to put on display in your home.

This puzzle was kindly sent to be by Bernhard Schweitzer of Puzzlewood. He's a really nice guy, so do get in touch with him via his site if you see anything on there that you like.
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