Saturday, August 25, 2012

Daily Puzzle

Have you ever wanted a puzzle that requires a different solution every freaking day of the year!?  Look no further puzzle maniacs because the Daily Puzzle by Thinkfun will keep you puzzling all year long!  This puzzle was invented by Oskar van Deventer and Wei-Hwa Huang.  So the object of this puzzle is to display the current date with the tiles provided.  There are a total of 10 tiles.  For the month, there are six tiles.  For the day of the month, there are four tiles.  The tiles themselves are double sided so the solution can be challenging sometimes especially when the month changes.  In addition, each correct letter or number is form by stacking two tiles.  The tiles are placed on the provided plastic display tray.  I really like this puzzle because of the challenge it provides ever day of the year.  The display tray is a little flimsy.  I wish the plastic was a little thicker.  However, I still think this puzzle is awesome because of the daily challenge and besides you are not going to be using the tray to hold a giant panda.  Although I would say that, you should try not to move the tray too much or the tiles will fall out.  A little care is required.  I received this free review puzzle directly from Thinkfun.  To see a brief video of the puzzle click here.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gyro Puzzle

Ok so I’m kind of rough on some of my puzzles.  When I do actually find the solution, it happens without a lot force and the method is buttery smooth.  Often I’m like “What the hell just happened?!?”  Well I’m not big on giving hints for puzzle solutions but I will share something with you today.  If you don’t want to know then stop reading because here comes a big hint.  I really enjoyed solving this puzzle because a bit of brute force was warranted.  This puzzle is called Gyro and you can find it at Puzzle Master.  This puzzle took me a while to open because I was trying to be delicate.  When I found the solution, I thought I broke it but to my surprise, I solved the thing!  It is rated an 8 out of 10 in difficulty and I would say that is about right.  So don’t worry too much about applying a little force.  If you want the solution to the puzzle click here.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Titanic Puzzle

The puzzle I’m going to talk about today is called the Titanic puzzle and I received it from Brilliant Puzzles.  This is a kumiki puzzle and if you would like to know more about this type of Japanese puzzle then please read my brief explanation about them here.  Out of the kumiki puzzles that I received from Brillant Puzzle, this was the one I was looking forward to the most.  While I do like the puzzle, I have some notable concerns about it.  Let’s start off with the good stuff.  I liked the puzzle design.  Taking the puzzle apart isn’t very difficult but I like the idea of a puzzle that looks like a boat.  My concern is with the quality of wood.  Some of the pieces were shedding bits of wood, which didn’t seem like it was from a sanding process.  I’ve never seen this before so I didn’t know what to think.  What I don’t understand is that out of the three kumiki puzzles that I received, two had this crumbling wood and the other was quite well manufactured and had good wood.  The quality of wood was disappointing and a little more sanding would have been helpful.  However, if you want an affordable boat puzzle that you are not going to handle that much then this one might be for you.  In my opinion, this is more of a display item than a puzzle.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

UFO Puzzle

Today I wanted to introduce the UFO puzzle.  It is an adaptation of a puzzle by Stephane Chomine.  I’ve been looking at his puzzle designs for a few months because they are awesome and I wanted to try to make one.  I decided to pick the Stick Belted Box because it reminded me of a UFO spacecraft.  The making of this puzzle was a lot of fun.  In fact, I liked making the puzzle more than blogging about puzzles, which I found surprising.

I wanted to take the design and make it my own so I decided to make it a 7 piece puzzle instead of the 6 piece puzzle found of the Stick Belted Box.  The materials include 9/16 inch wooden cubes that I found at hobby lobby, elmer’s wood glue, fine sand paper (320 grit), and a wood conditioner made of mineral oil and bee’s wax.  As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed making this puzzle.  Making the puzzle work correctly was challenging because there wasn’t a lot of room for error but I found that a little sanding was very helpful.  Looking back, I would have done things a little different.  Some calipers would have been helpful.  Although the knowledge gained from making the puzzle is invaluable. 

Once I finished the puzzle and had it in working order, I solved it several times because I was fascinated with the design of the puzzle.  Stephane did an excellent job designing this puzzle because it looks cool and it is a blast to solve.  There is room for improvement on my part but I am happy with this build.  I hope to start making my own designs in the future as well as continue to make mechanical puzzles.  A special thanks goes out to Stephane for designing this puzzle and to Stickman for providing advice that was very helpful. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Krbana Puzzle

After playing with a few puzzles, I started to have an understanding of what to expect.  Right when I think I have it down a puzzle comes along and shakes thing up.  The Krbana puzzle by a puzzle company in the Czech Republic called Vinco is such a puzzle.  This puzzle was in the 27th International Puzzle Party and the objective is not the usual take apart and put back together.  There is also an element within the puzzle separate from the box itself that you can take out.  I won’t ruin the experience by saying what it is.  While this may seem like a plain puzzle, its puzzle mechanics is very unusual and fun to see.  Although, I will say that I wish Vinco would make a larger version of this puzzle.  The reason is that I would like to use the puzzle as a gift box.  I’m not sure what types of wood were used but the box is striking.  This puzzle stands out in my puzzle collection because of its simple design and unusual action.  I received this puzzle from Puzzle Master.  A solution is not provide on the Puzzle Master solutions webpage.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

UnHinged Puzzle

Today I have a treat for you.  The puzzle is called UnHinged and is manufactured by Thinkfun.  The puzzle consists of 10 hexagons connected by hinges.  You also get and instruction booklet with 40 challenges from beginner to expert.  The objective is to look at the illustration and twist and turn the hexagons until it matches the picture.  The beginner challenges are fairly easy but expert may have you puzzling for a while.

I love the fact that this puzzle isn’t a one trick pony.  The 40 challenges are a welcome change in my puzzle collection.  When I first received this puzzle, I was concerned about the hinges themselves.  The hinges are made of plastic and we all know that plastic will break rather easily if bent.  I’m happy to say that none of the hinges have snapped.  Although, I would say that if you muscle the hinges in the wrong direction then I’m pretty sure they will snap.  I was a little rough with my puzzle but as long as you don’t turn the puzzle in a way it shouldn’t go then I think you will be fine.

The inventor of the puzzle is a guy name Steve Moore and he works for an interesting company in the U.K. called fuse.  I guess they are all about making innovative toys and puzzles.  Someone must have liked this puzzle because it won the 2012 New York Toy Fair best puzzle award.  I’m not on any judging panel but I will say that it appears that UnHinged has been influenced by some puzzles that I really like.  For example, it has elements of Tangram in the sense that you have to look at an illustration and then make your puzzle look like the picture.  I also think the inventor may have been inspired from the works of Greg N. Frederickson.  Particular his book called Piano-hinged Dissections: Time to Fold.  In that book, Frederickson demonstrated how to change the shape of polygons into other shapes through the use of hinges.  Another possible inspiration for the puzzle is works from the great mathematician and puzzle designer by the name of Henry Ernest Dudeney

Overall, I love this puzzle because it is quite portable, it has a high replay value, and you can make your own creations.  You can create your own shapes and then make your own illustrations through using your favorite drawing program on your computer or drawing them out on a piece of paper.  Then you can revisit your own illustrations and see if you’ve made something truly diabolical.  I would also suggest putting the puzzle and booklet in a ziploc plastic bag to reduce the chance of losing the booklet.  I received this free review copy directly from Thinkfun.  If you want to see a video demo of the puzzle click here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Revomaze Obsession Blue V2

Start playing the Darth Vader theme music in your head.  I’ll give you a few seconds……….  I have finally acquired a Revomaze!!!!!!!  Am I late to the party?  Hell no!!!  This is the beginning of a new party!  The version I have is the Revomaze Obsession Blue version 2.  Many of you already know about the Revomaze but let’s go over the details a bit. 
The inventor of the Revomaze is a guy named Chris Pitt.  He has been selling these cool puzzles for a few years.  These puzzles are essentially maze puzzles.  The objective of this puzzle is to remove the shaft (white) from the sleeve (black).  Well at least to get to the end point.  After you get to the end, you can remove the shaft if you want to but you don’t have to.  The inner part of the sleeve has a spring loaded pin and you have to keep that pin on the path of the maze.  Sounds simple?  It really isn’t because you can’t see the maze at all and there are dead ends and traps.  When you happen to enter a trap, you will know it because of the clicking sound that you will hear.  Chris cleverly engineered the Revomaze to reset every time you fall into a trap.  Therefore, you have to start all over again.  A twilight zone nightmare?  Maybe.  Let me just say that this puzzle isn’t for the faint of heart.  It took me four days of casual puzzling to open this bad boy and this is the easiest one! 
Revomaze has its own difficulty rating system, which goes from 50 to 100.  100 being the most difficult.  My Revomaze blue has a difficulty rating of 50 and I think it is a lot hard than most level 9 and 10 puzzles that I have encountered.  Revomaze come in two favors (at the moment) the plastic ones and the very attractive metal versions.  The selection for the metal versions has more difficulty levels and is quite a bit more expensive.  However, if you really enjoy a challenge then getting the metal ones might be something to look into.  In fact, they have a puzzle that no one has been able to solve which is the Revomaze Gold.  When you solve most Revomaze puzzles, you will find a rolled up piece of paper with a code in the shaft.  You register this code at the Revomaze forum and get access to a section in their forum where you can talk with other Revomaze maniacs about the particular Revomaze that you opened.  I think that the metal ones allow you to enter some competition but I don’t know if that is still going on.  However, enough of that stuff let’s talk about the puzzle.
While this is the easiest one of the bunch, it was a challenge.  I was working on one particular section for two days!  If you have a blue Revomaze then you know what I mean.  When I did finish the puzzle, I really felt a sense of accomplishment.  I mentally mapped the maze in my head and found that my map was very similar to the maze etched on the core.  One thing I wanted to note was that I had a death grip on the puzzle to make sure my movements were precise.  The result was that my hand became very sore.  Although now I can hold my diet dr.pepper with authority.  Soda bottles be afraid be very afraid.  I received this puzzle from Puzzle Master and a solution is not provided.  You can also find Revomaze puzzles through the company’s official website.   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lion in the Cage Puzzle

Have you ever wanted to free a fierce beast from the confines of its cage by pulling it out with your bare hands?  Well this caged beast doesn’t look that fierce and probably won’t bite but you may feel the bitter sting of frustration as you try to free it.  It helps if you give the lion a name.  I decided to call mine Alcatraz.  There are many variations of this type of puzzle.  For example, a dragon in a cage or an owl in a birdcage.  This puzzle comes from a company in the Czech Republic called Hryahlavolamy.  If you break down the word it is a Slovak phase which mean Games and Puzzles.  This is my second review of one of their puzzles.  The first one was a puzzle called Love Test Puzzle.  I really enjoyed that puzzle and this puzzle is no different.  

This is the first cage puzzle in my collection and I’m impressed with the quality of the build as well as its aesthetic appeal.  The goal is to remove the lion (Alcatraz) from its cage and then return it to solitary confinement when it needs a timeout.  I have to say that I am very fond of this puzzle.  The cage is very sturdy and the lion looks cool.  Without giving away too much, I will say that excessive force is not required.  If you are using excessive force, you are doing something wrong.  I know because I was being a bit too forceful at first but I adapted my method because I was worried that I would break the cage.  I didn’t end up breaking the cage.  I’m glad because I think this is one of my most attractive puzzles.  This puzzle isn’t super hard but it is a nice challenge especially if you have never tried this type of puzzle.  Currently Alcatraz is in his cage taking a nap probably dreaming of puzzles and honey glazed zebras.  I received this puzzle from Puzzle Master but there isn't a solution on their solution webpage.      

Saturday, August 4, 2012

32nd International Puzzle Party

Hello key pressers I have something special for you this time.  It is my understanding that sometime soon there will be a gathering of puzzlers in Washington.  It’s the 32nd annual International Puzzle Party (IPP)!  If you would like to know more about the party and the man who first started this event then please see the post I did about Tangram.  The event also has a puzzle competition where some of the best puzzle designers in the world submit a puzzle to be judged.  Just like any competition, there are a set of rules.  I don’t know the specific rules but I do know that you have to submit  a commercial quality puzzle.  I thought I'd share the link for the puzzle submissions this year.  There are 80 submissions, which I think is awesome!  The puzzle designers did an outstanding job.  Good luck on the competition :) 

Update 08/16/12  2012 Competition Results

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kumiki Puzzles

A few days ago, I received my shipment of wooden puzzles from Brilliant Puzzles.  Thanks guys!  Some of the puzzles that I received are Japanese puzzles called Kumiki puzzles.  Now before I go on I have to say that I’m a big fan of the Japanese culture.  I’m bordering on being a fanboy.  For example, I love the NarutoShippuden series,  Bunraku, and of course Japanese video games!!!  I’ve been wanting to go to the Akihabara district in Tokyo since I was negative 12.  It’s basically a hub for Japanese geek culture.  Anyway, I wanted to find Japanese puzzles that are fun and easy on the wallet.  I think I found that in the Kumiki puzzles.  In the next few months I’m going to review these Kumiki puzzles but I just wanted to share a little history about these interesting puzzles.  The word Kumiki means “to join wood together” in Japanese.  Early documents indicate that these puzzles started appearing in Japan in the 18th century.  The original purpose for Kumiki puzzles has its roots in Japanese carpentry.  Master carpenters who built temples and shrines would teach apprentices how to make Kumiki puzzles so that way they could learn about Japanese joinery.  Traditional Japanese structures were made without any metal fasteners and were made to withstand earthquakes.  It was important for the apprentices to master the method of creating the interlocking puzzle and then applying those techniques to larger structures.  If you would like to learn a bit more about Japanese joinery please follow the link to an exceptional video on traditional Japanese joinery.  One of the earliest known Japanese puzzle designers was a man by the name of Tsunetaro Yamanaka (1874 – 1954).  Some information on him and other Japanese Kimiki puzzle masters can be found on this page.  I would like to thank Jerry Slocum for giving me the link to his fantastic book on Japanese puzzles called Early Japanese Puzzles by Jerry Slocum and Rik van Grol, which can be found below.  A bit of the historical information provided in this post was found through the material in that book.  Needless to say, it is a great resource if you are interested in the history of Japanese puzzles.  


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