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Friday, 29 July 2011

Nifty Fifty

Here's a cool little packing puzzle with some pretty interesting piece shapes going on:

It's called Nifty Fifty and as you can probably tell it is another of Jean Claude Constantin's puzzles, and in the usual style of Contantin it is made from precision laser cut wood in simple yet distinctive colours. It consists of four irregularly shaped pieces and an even more irregularly shaped base.
Looking at the puzzle as it is shown in the picture above it can be easy to mistake this for a non-linear design where the pieces don't line up with the base at all, but if you turn the puzzle 45 degrees to the side you will notice that it is only made up of straight edges and single unit pieces.
Despite the fact that the pieces do line up nicely within the base finding an actual solution to getting all of them in at the same time is anything but simple! It actually took me a couple of days of on-and-off puzzling to find the solution. Many puzzlers who I have spoken to have also seemed to have had a hell of a time solving this puzzle too! After my recent experiences I am developing a decent respect for four-piece packing puzzles!

Some time after I managed to solve this puzzle George Bell sent me a file showing the 3D representation of the puzzle solved, and it also showed that although there is a lot of free space in the tray once you're done there is in fact only one solution. And that really adds to the appeal for me.

Nifty Fifty is definitely a cool puzzle, any simple looking packing puzzle that takes ages to solve really is a winner in my book. It's another of those 'here, give it a go' type puzzles where you can hand it over to anyone and they'll be happy to try it out.

Also on my 'travels' I noticed a sort of adaptation of this puzzle which is also designed by Jean Claude Constantin called Aladin.  This adaptation has the same sort of principle but by it's covered design it also really restricts the movement of the pieces. It looks interesting!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Feuerzeug (Roger)

Recently I started chatting with a fellow puzzler from Scotland, and after a couple of back and forth emails he kindly offered to let me borrow a couple of puzzles that I otherwise may not have seen for a long time. Both of them are by the mysterious German puzzle designer 'Roger D', and I'm very glad to be able to review the first one now.

 This puzzle is called 'Feuerzeug', which is German for 'Lighter'. One again in true Roger fashion it is crafted primarily from really nicely finished solid aluminium block. It also has another of Roger's regular features; a stainless steel Allen key bolt.

A really nice feature of this puzzle is the brass 'flame' that extends from the top of the lighter, as I think the colour offsets really well from the aluminium and gives a sort of old and new contrast. And of course it wouldn't be a Roger puzzle if it didn't somewhere contain a signature of his initials, which in this case are beautifully engraved into the main body.

I'd only ever seen this puzzle in pictures before, so I couldn't really judge its size properly, and I was quite surprised by how much larger it was than I expected it to be. It stands at a pretty impressive 10cm tall, but as it is mostly made from aluminium it hardly weighs anything.
The goal (as with all of Roger's other puzzles) isn't given to you, but even from looking at this puzzle it is pretty obvious. Remove the brass flame from the lighter.

When you first pick up this puzzle you won't immediately feel anything that helps deduce a decent solution, but if you pay really close attention to detail you will come across something very interesting that will be vital in the solving process.

Now I have to admit that this puzzle sent me on a pretty brilliant wild goose chase. I deduced the mechanism after an hour or so of puzzling over it, but I just couldn't for the life of me work out a way to implement it. I came to the conclusion that it was physically impossible without the aid of some kind of external tool (a cardinal sin in the puzzling world), although Roger has been known to bend the rules before, so I accepted it as a possibility. But I was surprised and a little disappointed that this was something that Roger would've done intentionally.

Whilst writing up my thoughts in an email to the friend who loaned me this puzzle I had an epiphany, which made me feel like a bit of a fool. Suddenly the mechanism made perfect sense and I realised a way to make it work without anything other than the puzzle itself. I was very relieved!

What a brilliant puzzle! It took me an hour to work out the mechanism, and then several more to actually realise how to work it properly. A huge thank you to my very generous puzzle donor for giving me the opportunity to try this puzzle out. It was one hell of an experience!

Soon I shall hopefully be reviewing the other Roger puzzle on loan to me, which is 'Gartenschlauch' or 'Garden Hose'.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lunatic Lock

After my past reviews of some of the Popplock series (T2T3T4) and the Danlock it may look like collecting puzzle locks is only for puzzlers with a decent amount of spare cash lying around. However I'd like to put forward this puzzle as an example that not only succeeds as a decent puzzle lock but also won't financially cripple anyone who buys one.

This is called the Lunatic Lock, and it was designed by Gary Foshee. The body of the lock is made from aluminium, which has a brushed finish and has the puzzle name engraved into the side and the shackle and bolt are made from stainless steel. I'll mention now; the quality and finish of the metals are not amazing (some of the edges are pretty sharp) but keep in mind that it only costs around $15 as opposed to over $200 as some of it's counterparts.

Holding the lock in your hands you will notice that there is a fair amount of movement between the shackle and the body, and in my opinion this could've been tightened up a bit, but apart from that the only other movement you will notice is that the bolt going straight down into the lock will move out from the body until it makes contact with the shackle which is seemingly holding it in.
The shackle will rattle around but it won't move more than half a millimetre or so in any direction, and the bolt will seem to be able to move freely one minute and then be stuck in place the next.....very curious.

The goal is obvious; open and close the lock, and I managed to do this in around 20 minutes or so. The mechanism is simple, so simple that it actually makes it more difficult for accomplished puzzlers to solve it as they tend to over-think what's going on inside. As a puzzle concept it is very clever, I believe that if the measurements and overall quality were tightened up a bit then the puzzle would not only look nicer but it would also become more difficult as a result.

The Lunatic Lock is well worth the pretty meagre price that it costs, and I seriously recommend adding one to your collection. I plan at some point to make a version for myself out of either wood or plastic with a tighter fit to see how it works out, but I'm sure I'll update about that when I get around to it.

Also check out Brian's opinion of this puzzle.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

And so it begins again...

It's been quite a while since I solved my Revomaze Bronze Extreme, and if you've read that post you'll understand why I needed such a long break before entertaining the notion of trying to solve another puzzle from the Revomaze series. But now the urge has gotten the better of me and I will be embarking on what I can only imagine is another puzzle marathon of 'extreme' proportions.

With the Revomaze Gold Extreme due for release sometime very soon I thought it would be a good time to move up in the series and finally attempt the Silver Extreme.

Luckily a good puzzle friend of mine (and fellow MPP attendee) Chris has very kindly agreed to loan me his Silver Extreme, which is no small thing considering A) How much it costs, and B) How long I am likely to have it for. 

Because going on how long the Bronze took me I estimate that this could take me something ridiculous like 100 hours of puzzling to solve, although I'm hoping for less. Much less. Either way it's going to keep me occupied for a while, so watch this space for updates on how I am (or how I'm not) progressing.

Also check out my past review of the Revomaze Bronze Extreme if you haven't already, it'll give you an idea of what I'm up against if you're not familiar with the Revomaze series.

Also, as a related side note; 

Some of you have mentioned that you can see a Revomaze Red Extreme on my puzzle gallery but I haven't reviewed it yet. For the time being I have no plans to review it, and people who have solved the Red Extreme can imagine why that is *wink*. One day as soon as I can think of a decent write-up for it I will make sure to add it here.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Triadenspass & Quadrospass

Here are a couple of cheap little packing puzzles designed by Ingo Uhl and made by the German company Logika. They are two puzzles that look essentially the same although they do vary quite a bit in difficulty.

This first one is called Triadenspass (or Triadenfun) and it is a simple little three-piece packing puzzle made from plastic that was designed by Ingo Uhl in 1999. The object is to pack all of the three pieces into their plastic tray.

It's kind of hard to tell from the picture but if you look really closely you can see that the edges of the pieces do have a sort of wavy pattern to them, and this corresponds with wavy edges that are also on the plastic tray. You will be surprised how many ways there are to almost solve this puzzle. As several edges have the same or similar patterns it is hard to be certain that a piece is in the correct place until you have placed all three of them. This is why it is not possible to solve this packing puzzle outside of it's case, because although the pieces may fit together perfectly there is a good chance that they won't also fit into their cases.

This four-piece variation called Quadrospass (or Quadrofun) is essentially the same puzzle. It was also designed by Ingo Uhl, except it was two years later in 2001. It's also manufactured from plastic and is exactly the same size as Triadenspass.
It is amazing how much difference it makes to the difficulty by simply splitting one of the rhombic pieces into two triangles.

I would say that neither of these puzzles are particularly difficult, and they won't keep an 'educated' puzzler perplexed for very long, but they are a great little puzzle to hand over for other people to try out. You would have a hard time breaking them, they're nice and flat (portable), and although the solution isn't difficult it also isn't trivial. I'd say that it shouldn't keep most people working at it for longer than 5-6 minutes.

Both of these were sent to me by the guys over at Puzzle Master, and they have do have both of them in stock for a pretty meagre price. I wouldn't recommend paying shipping on just those two, but next time you put an order in I'd definitely consider sticking them in as well.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Alles Roger (Roger)

For the first time since I started this blog I am going to talk about a puzzle that I have not yet solved.

I'm not too proud of the fact that I haven't solved it yet (despite having had it for several months now), but as it's a puzzle by the infamous 'Roger D' I don't feel too bad about being bested for quite so long.

This puzzle is called 'Alles Roger', or 'All Roger' in English. And in true Roger style it is made from machined and very nicely finished aluminium (I think it's sand blasted), and in this case it also has an acrylic cover which is bolted down with two stainless steel bolts. It also has it's name engraved into one of the sides.

In many ways Alles Roger could be considered the twin of Roger's R2D2 puzzle as they look very similar and are the only two dexterity puzzles in the series. However I found R2D2 to be incredibly easy, and as I mentioned I still haven't solved Alles Roger (and it's not as if I haven't tried either!).

As with all puzzles by Roger, this one did not come with any kind of guidance, instructions or even an objective, but in this case I believe the goal is pretty obvious; Get the ball (on the far right in the picture) from one side of the puzzle to the other. And oh how I have tried to do just that. I have attempted several methods many times with no success, and some of these attempts were the kind of bizarre 'you know it's not going to work....but you're you'll try anyway' kind of attempts. They didn't work.

I can quite happily manoeuvre the ball bearing past it's first obstacle, which is the other bearing of the same size that can only move backwards and forward in it's little channel, but then I cannot progress between the two larger bearings to get to (what is most likely) the end. I have given this puzzle to several other (what I would call) accomplished puzzlers, and even they had no success with it. I have an idea as to how this can work, but I cannot find any way to actually physically achieve it.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not writing this in the hopes of someone giving me the solution. But what I would like to know is if anyone has actually solved this puzzle, or indeed seen anyone else solve this puzzle. Replies on a postcard please! Or email me...that's probably a better way to go.

Fingers crossed I'll be able to update this post sometime soon with news of success!

EDIT: I've had quite a few replies with solving suggestions, and all of them were incredibly promising. However none have proven effective yet, so please do keep the ideas coming!

UPDATE: Alles Roger has now been solved! Check it out!

For more about Roger D check out my past posts on some of his other puzzles (R2D2WasserhahnPropeller).

Friday, 1 July 2011

Four Fit

I may have mentioned that a couple of months ago I attended the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham, and this was kind of combined with the Midlands Puzzle Party No.2 (MPP2) as a load of us puzzlers were all going to be in the same place anyway. After the GSL we all met up at a nearby(ish) pub to sit down with a few puzzles over some drinks and have a chat, which is always a welcome thing since we have a common interest that most of us could talk about for hours at a time.

I know...I'm rambling aren't I? I haven't posted in a while so I'm making up for it in my word count.

Anyway; One of the guys that was there (going by the name of Allard) brought along a really nicely made puzzle that he recently acquired from master puzzle creator Tom Lensch, designed by the infamous Stewart Coffin.

And here it is:

It goes by the name of Four Fit, and it is number 217 in Stewart Coffin's numbering system. And at first glance you may think that it is a simple four-piece packing puzzle, and you'd be half definitely has four pieces.

I recently wrote a post about another of Stewart's designs called Cruiser (or Quattro Formaggi in that particular case), and that was also a four-piece packing puzzle. I made the mistake of underestimating that one, and I have to say that I did the same with Four Fit. I sat at that table in the pub garden messing around with this puzzle for probably around 30-45 minutes with no great success, and sadly the time for me to depart came around quicker than I could solve the puzzle.
Four Fit had temporarily bested me, and I didn't like that, so I asked Allard a little while later if he reckoned I could get hold of a copy for myself. He suggested that I get in touch with Tom as he may still have some available. I gave that a go and as luck would have it he did indeed have some in the process of being built, so I put my name down for one.

When Four Fit arrived I sat down with it and managed to solve it in about 10 minutes or so, but coupled with the time I had already spent on it that makes it a pretty hard puzzle in my book. Although I would say that it's not so difficult that it makes you lose hope (like many puzzles have done to me in the past), so it's good to give to anyone to try out.

If you're interested in getting a copy you could try what I did and ask Tom if he has any more available, because his craftsmanship is superb. But failing that keep an eye out on all of those puzzle auctions, because I know that one just sold recently, so they are around.
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