Friday, April 27, 2012

V-Cube Illusion 7

I think I’ll start out with something witty……  Lol.  Yeah right.  So some of you know that I love 80’s arcade games and  I’m starting to really like mechanical puzzles.  Wouldn’t it be nice if I could combine those two hobbies?  In a way, I have with my Illusion 7 by puzzle manufacture Verdes Innovations also called V-Cube.  The man behind the technology for this cube is a Greek engineer named Panagiotis Verdes.  This guy was the first puzzle inventor to successfully create a 6x6x6 and 7x7x7 cube for mass production.  It is my understanding that they hold the patent for the 11x11x11 cube but they have not released their version as of yet.  As the name implies, the Illusion 7 is a 7x7x7 cube.  However, unlike a traditional cube that requires the puzzler to make each side a solid color, the Illusion 7 is in a solved state when each side is in a checkered pattern.  You would think that since it is a 7x7x7 and has an unusual solution requirement that the puzzle would be difficult.  This is not the case.  Please note that I’m not a puzzle cube wizard.  I just solved my first traditional Rubik’s 3x3x3 cube a few weeks ago and in my opinion, this cube is a lot easier.  The Illusion 7 does not require the user to memorize any algorithms.  In other words, you don’t have to memorize any sequential movements to solve it.  You can solve this cube intuitively.  This quality alone would make it an awesome cube but the fun does not stop there.  

As I said in the beginning, I like 80’s arcades.  So how can I combine my interest with arcades and the puzzle you might ask?  Well it’s not like you don’t already know.  The images tell the story.  Through making cool 8-bit art with this cube!  Let’s face it.  If you own this cube, you will find solving this cube to be easy after a short while but why should the fun stop there?  I’m having a blast trying to make all kinds of interesting designs with my Illusion 7.  Where the hell was this cube in the 80’s!  It would have fit right in with Pac-Man lunchboxes and Donkey Kong cereal.  V-Cube if you are watching this I’d really like to see a black and green Illusion 11 so I can make a Space Invaders bad guy.  While I like the cube the price is another matter.  The retail price is a bit high but I got the cube on sale for a significant discount through a seller on Amazon.  I would suggest shopping around to find the best value.  V- Cube has hinted that they were going to be working on releasing other versions of the Illusion series.  I hope that one of those cubes is an Illusion 11!!!  Before we part ways internet traveler, I would like to say that if you ever get abandoned on a remote island and you had to choose a puzzle to be by your side then the Illusion 7 might be the right one for you.  Think about it.  If you become sad, you could give the cube a happy face.  If you wanted to argue with it, you could make it look angry.  However, whatever you do don’t call it Wilson.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Medallion Puzzle

This is a review about the Medallion Puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer and manufactured by the Japanese puzzle company named Hanayama. This version of the puzzle is also exclusively licensed to the Puzzle Master company.  The Objective of this puzzle is to free the puzzle pieces through navigating a series of mazes.  When I started this puzzle, I tried to move the two pegs found in the center of the puzzle.  I won’t go into the solution method but let’s just say that an alternative approach is required.  The puzzle has four mazes.  The two mazes on the gold tone side are different from the two on the silver toned side.  To complicate things further, the mazes on each face are also different.  I think the fun part of solving this puzzle was trying to understand the relationship between the different mazes.  In the end, it did take me a little bit longer to assemble the puzzle than to dissemble it.  

The puzzler might want to take note of how the Puzzle Master emblem is positioned once you take the puzzle apart.  I ended up reassembling the puzzle with the emblem upside down.  Not a big deal, because I had some more fun solving the puzzle again.  Another detail to take note is that there is a washer located inside the puzzle between the gold and silver toned plates.  Some care is required when taking the puzzle pieces apart because the washer is small and can be easily lost.  However, I don’t think this takes away from the puzzle.

Oskar and the Hanayama Company continue to demonstrate that if you want a high quality puzzle for a good price, they are the way to go.  For twenty dollars, I think this is an excellent puzzle because it is challenging, sturdy, looks nice, and a joy to solve.  I received this puzzle from Puzzle Master and if you need the solution then click here

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Love Test Puzzle

Hold on to your boots people.  Here comes the corniest puzzle intro of all time.  Have you ever wanted to see how much someone really loves you?  Well now you can with the Love Test Puzzle!!!  For only…..  Ha!  It had to be done.  Anyway, the puzzle I’m going to talk about is the Love Test Puzzle.  The name is interesting and fits with the theme of the puzzle.  The object of the Love Test Puzzle is to remove the wooden heart and string from the wooden container.  The container measures 3.35 in x 2.56 in x 2.17 and fits comfortably in the hands.  Philos also makes a similar version of the puzzle called the Mouse Trap Puzzle.  Both of these puzzles are available at Puzzle Master.   A Czech Republic puzzle company named Hryahlavolamy made the Love Test and Puzzle Master rates it a 7 out of 10 as far as difficulty.  

Ok so when I received my shipment from Puzzle Master I was super excited about this puzzle because it looks interesting and I’ve never done a string puzzle.  Before starting, I thought I had to figure out how to open the box but the lid opens up very easily.  Twenty minutes into trying to figure it out, my better half asked if she could have a go at it.  I gave her the “Love Test” puzzle and she solved it within five minutes!!!  She then gave it back to me and asked the name of the puzzle.  When I told her the name, she chuckled.  I ended up taking another twenty minutes before I solved it.  What can I say puzzlers, my wife is smarter.  After all, she did pick me ;)  As far as the puzzle, I really enjoyed fiddling with it because of opening and closing the wooden container and messing around with the string.  The puzzle sparks up some fun conversations and isn’t incredibly difficult.  Well it isn't very difficult for some puzzlers :(  If you need the solution, you can find it on the Puzzle Master solution webpage.  Does this puzzle pull on my heartstrings (cheesy but I couldn’t resist)?  Well I don’t know about getting emotional over it but I would highly recommend this puzzle because it is portable and fun.    

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jerry Slocum: The Tao of Tangram

A few years ago a heard a speech about a concept called functional fixation.  Sometimes when we as humans are solving a problem, we get focused on an incorrect method to solving that problem.  In essences, functional fixation is the inability to reach the correct solution because of our extreme focus on the wrong solution method.  I’m not an expert in this topic.  Although, I am an expert at being confused :)  So I wanted to experiment with the idea of functional fixation.  I thought a good method would be through a puzzle and I ended up getting a puzzle and book set.  The puzzle was Tangram and the book was called The Tao of Tangram by Jerry Slocum.  At the time, I didn’t know who he was.
This really isn’t going to be a review about the book or the puzzle but I did want to say a few thing about this great puzzle set and then say a few things about the author.  The puzzle set includes seven wooden pieces and the objective of this puzzle is to arrange all the pieces in the same manner that is presented by a picture.  For example, if the illustration shows a picture of a bird then you need to arrange the pieces to make a bird.  It sounds simple and straightforward but some illustrations can be challenging.  If you would like to know more about Tangram and how to make your own paper Tangram then follow this video link.  The guy gives a good explanation.  There were a few things that I noticed while solving this puzzle.  When I was heavily focused on the puzzle I would get stuck in a mental pattern which lead to poor results (functional fixation).  However, when I would open my mind to what I rationally thought was improbable then I would solve the puzzle a lot quicker.  The puzzle has left quite an impression on how I go about problem solving.  Some hobbies come and go but I know that I’ll be playing with my Tangram set for many years to come.  The book includes a history of Tangram but the majority of the book contains problem illustrations.  In my opinion, the history section alone is worth the price and is a real treat because of the curious bits of information.
Recently I did a little research on Jerry mostly because a fellow puzzler recommended his works.  It was interesting to find out about his passion to promote mechanical puzzles.  He also happens to be a puzzle collector.  The man possessed one of the largest mechanic puzzle collections in the world with over 40,000 pieces!!!  He donated most of his collection to the Lilly Library.  The Library is located on the campus of Indiana University Bloomington.  You can view the collection online as well as download a booklet about the collection.  I think it was very cool of him to donate his collection to the library for people to enjoy.  He also organized the first International Puzzle Party in 1978 which is also called IPP for short.  The party is still held every year and is a place where puzzle enthusiasts can come together and have a bunch of puzzling fun.  For more information on Jerry Slocum, Tangram and other puzzling stuff see the links below.  I have to say that the mechanical puzzle community would not be where it is at today without the help of pioneers like Jerry Slocum.  The Tao of Tangram puzzle set by Jerry Slocum is still available through websites like amazon but you may end up paying a bit more for a new copy because I think the set is no longer being manufactured.   
Jerry Slocum’s Puzzle Collection at the Lilly Library

A World of Puzzles
A booklet about Jerry Slocum’s Puzzle Collection at Lilly Library that you can view and download!!!

The Puzzle Museum
A puzzle museum with over 5500 puzzles!!!  Allard, Oli, and Kevin go to their puzzle parties ever now and then and yes I'm jealous :(

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Well Game Puzzle

Now that I’ve had a chance to try a few puzzles, I wanted to get one that would look nice on my desk and didn’t take up too much space.  I’ve already tried a few but they didn’t quite work out for various reason until I obtained the Well Game Puzzle.  The puzzle is also called Brunnen puzzle or Brunnen Spiel.  Brunnen Spiel is German for Well Game.  This puzzle is designed by Markus Goetz and manufactured by a German game and puzzle company called Philos.  This is my first Philos puzzle and it has left a very good impression because of the challenge and the quality of the build.  The objective of the puzzle is to fit all the round pegs into a wooden container.  Five of the puzzle pieces have three pegs glued together with varying heights and two pieces have two pegs with the same qualities.  This would not be an especially difficult puzzle if you only needed to fill a cylinder area.  The addition of an extra cavity adds to the complexity of the puzzle.  Using a computer program, Markus was able to determine that there are five possible solutions to the Well Game.  I think this adds the value of the puzzle because of replay ability.  As an added bonus, the puzzle is also well built.  

The pegs on the puzzle pieces are held firmly in place and the glue is hardly noticeable.  I appreciate this because it shows that Philos isn’t only concerned with providing a functional puzzle but also one that is pleasing to the eye.  When I picked up the wooden container, I was very surprised at how smooth it felt in my hand.  Overall, the sanding done on this puzzle is exceptional which is good because I was holding it for a while.  This is the first packing puzzle I’ve enjoyed taking an extended amount of time to solve.  The puzzle provides some interesting alternative solutions because I was able to find two different solutions that made the puzzle appear to be in a solved state with six pieces.  When I did find the seven piece solution it was not by chance but through reasoning out the right placement of the pieces.  This made the puzzle very satisfying and worthwhile.  I received this puzzle from PuzzleMaster and if you need the solution, it can be found through their solution webpage. However, I would suggest pressing through and solving this one on your own.  In my opinion, it really is worth figuring out. 

Philos Homepage (might take a while to load since it’s in Germany)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Centrale Puzzle

Throughout my short trip through puzzle land, I’ve noticed a few puzzle designers that stand out.  One of them is Jean-Claude Constantin and in this review, I’m going to talk about one of his puzzles called Centrale.  I took an interest in Jean-Claude’s puzzles because of their contemporary look.  The main reason I like to collect puzzles is the enjoyment of understanding the puzzle mechanics and solving them of course.  However, it helps when the puzzles look great.  Jean-Claude's puzzles comfortably fill all those requirements.  I did a little research and found out that there are two versions of the Centrale puzzle.  There is one that I would consider very difficult.  This one isn’t that version.  

The objective of the puzzle is to remove a coin from inside a wooden box through using a sliding mechanism.  Mine came with a 2004 five cent euro coin.  Which is about 500 dollars over here ;)  In both versions of the puzzle, there are two circle cutouts.  However, in the easier version of the puzzle there is a third rectangular cutout displaying a few ball bearings.  In my opinion, this makes the puzzle a bit easier.  In fact, I was able to solve the puzzle in about 10 minutes.  For the most part, I don’t like the idea of solving a puzzle that quickly.  However, I found myself repeating the puzzle several times because of the interesting puzzle mechanic.  If you want the harder version, then you might want to contact your preferred puzzle store before buying.  I received mine from PuzzleMaster and I'm pretty sure that they would work with you to find the one you wanted.  Although, if you do decide to go with the harder version then be warned that the solution is not very intuitive and requires a specific set of movements.  It is also important to note that forceful movement is not needed to find the solution.  Overall, I like the presentation of this puzzle.  The copper colored coin went well with the dark wood of the puzzle.  It’s also nice when a puzzle congratulates you for solving it.  However, I would say that the presentation of the harder version is a bit more appealing mostly because the wood on the front face is a reddish color.  If you do need the solution, you can find it through the PuzzleMaster Solution webpage.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

3D Crystal Skull Puzzle

Oh yeah people, we have something really cool today!!!  Just as a disclaimer, this is going to be a chessy fanboy review of the puzzle because I love it so much.  You’ve been warned.  This is the 3D Crystal Skull Puzzle made by Bepuzzled.  How much do you think this puzzle costs?  I’ll let you know that info in a little bit.  For now, let’s talk about the puzzle!!!  This is basically a jigsaw puzzle made up of 48 pieces except the puzzle pieces go in layers and you end up with a killer looking skull!  Have a mentioned that I love skulls?  Lol!!!  Tell that to someone on your first date.  

This puzzle looks sooooooo sweet.  I’ve never done a 3D puzzle before so there were some things that I needed to learn.  First off, the puzzle pieces are clear so as the skull started taking shape, I needed to feel out the insertion areas for the next puzzle piece.  I started with the top part of the skull and held it in one hand while placing pieces with the other.  Maybe I had butterfingers that night, but the pieces would occasionally fall out of my hands.  I would recommend doing this puzzle in a carpeted area to lessen the chance of breaking a puzzle piece.  I would also recommend turning on some dark music like KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, or Ministry.  It adds to the mood :) This puzzle took me about two hours to complete.  The main reason was that I kept looking up all my favorite industrial and alternative music.

This puzzle gives you a special treat when you are almost complete.  The thing comes with a clear bolt that you actually screw in to keep all the pieces together!!!  That’s right, you put a bolt through the skull!!!  Furthermore, there is a little hollow area in the center of the skull.  I was thinking about placing a little L.E.D. light in there.  Wouldn’t that be cool!?!?  Do I recommend this puzzle?  Oh hell yeah!!!  In fact, I was seriously considering changing my avatar to one of the pics from the review.  In the end, you get a decent challenge putting it together.  When done, you are left with what I consider a work of art.  Oh and I got this puzzle at my local Barnes and Noble for eleven bones.  Some places sell it for a lot more.  If you do a little shopping around, you can find it for a good price.  The pics speak for themselves.  Well time to go and stare at my crystal skull until I pass out.  My precious………..  


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