I have known puzzle collector and designer Rex Rossano Perez from the Philippines for the last several years. Like most others who use social media, I got to know him via Facebook and within the puzzling community. Rex started with mainly twisties but eventually the dark side took over and he got into the “real” stuff. He also started designing puzzles and had a number of his designs uploaded to PWBP. Like me, he frequently used the triangular/hex format and came up with a number of unique and interesting designs.
I am very grateful to Rex for all his help in providing me with Corel, DWG and DXF files. These files enabled me to bring to life and manufacture a large number of my own designs. These include a number of 2D packing puzzles and interlocking ones such as Dirty Dozen, L(8)-tice, Berro(skull) and Partitions (by Goh Pit Khiam).
From Left, Rizal, Barasoain, Aquinaldo & Kusing 25
Most recently, I obtained from Rex four of his latest coin puzzle designs. He had started off with Rizal as the first. Then he added features to the next three designs, Aguinaldo, Barasoain and Kusing 25 . They turned them from the usual “free-the-coin” puzzles into sequential discovery puzzles.
Sequential Discovery puzzles are a class of puzzles where you have to use certain “tool(s)” that come incorporated within the puzzle to solve the puzzle. Apart from these tools, no other external tools or implements are allowed. All four are produced from sheet acylic and each of them bear different colours. The layers are screwed together at the four corners. They are all pretty compact in size. For example the smallest, Aquinaldo measures about 5.7cm x 5.7cm x 2cm (excluding the protrusions). Construction, fit and finish is excellent. On all my four copies and everything is precision cut and moving parts all slide smoothly. Each of the puzzles carry a coin of different denomination, and the names of the puzzles reflect some famous person featured on the coin. All four puzzles have different mechanisms and methods of solving.
With my new four puzzles in hand, I was wondering which one to start with. So I asked Rex to rank the puzzles in order of difficulty from the easiest to hardest. He indicated them as Rizal was the easiest and Kusing 25 the hardest. The other two were somewhere in between. I decided to try out both the easiest and hardest and leave the middle two for another day. So I got to work on Rizal. Being the easiest of the four, I quite quickly managed to extract the coin from the case. It was not difficult. But had a certain level of trickiness and a rather simple but elegant mechanism with minimal moving parts. It was fun to solve and easy to lock the coin back in place. I took approximately about 5-6 minutes with Rizal.
Happy with my success with Rizal, I moved on to Kusing 25, the hardest of the lot. Now this one was a different beast altogether. Knowing that it was a sequential discovery type puzzle, I set about searching for the necessary tools. It din’t take me long to find it. But it was recessed in the puzzle in such a way that it took me more than a several moments to remove the “tool”.
It was obvious that the tool was needed to solve the next step. Difficult to describe more here without giving away any spoilers. So I will just say the tool, in conjunction with some other moves including a sliding plate, enabled me to free the coin. But this one took a much longer time than Rizal. I can only guess at the mechanism hidden inside the layers of the box but have no clue how the parts were interacting with each other.
I had a lot of difficulty returning the coin and the puzzle back to their original states. In fact, at the time of this writing, I still have not succeeded in getting the coin back into the box properly. I shot Rex a note to let him know that I had some difficulty locking the coin back in place and he replied …”then that is the puzzle”. Now I know why its difficult. I am sure the design genius of Rex is somewhere inside just waiting to be solved!
Sorry folks, but you must forgive me for my infrequent postings these days. I have taken on a couple of work commitments and my personal life is also going on!
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last puzzle blog post, and I thought this weekend, I will write about a puzzle that captured my intrigue.
Of Mice & Mazes is a rather interesting looking puzzle box. Its an all wooden At first glance, it I thought it even looked like a Karakuri type box from the Japanese master craftsmen. Measuring 13cm x 9cm x 5.3cm, the box is constructed out of glued strips/layers of wood and the outer surface is some sort of light coloured veneer. It has a round ball knob at one end
There are many good puzzle designers out there and the puzzle community knows who these folks are. But many of them focus on just one or two particular categories, most typically interlocking burrs, dissection and packing puzzles, just to name a few. Well, Frederic is a bit of a Jack of several trades; which is good, because I never know what I will receive from him. Its usually a surprise!Frederic’s new design sent to me is his “Anti-Gravity Box”. With a name like that, you will imagine that gravity will feature somehow in the solving. And yes, for this puzzle, gravity does play a role. It’s the obstacle here!
The puzzle consist of an ordinary square box with an acrylic cover (which can be removed). The pieces are all identical rectangular shaped sticks. All contain either one or two magnets embedded within except for one piece. The size is about 5.5cm x 5.5cm x 3.6cm. Quality of construction, fit and finish is very good. The pieces fit nicely into the box with just enough tolerance.
Anti-Gravity Box is a 3D packing puzzle. The goal is to place the box on a flat surface and fit all 6 pieces into the box through the two holes on the side. Really nothing to it it seems. Except there are certain restrictions which make this a much more challenging puzzle than it looks. Firstly, you can’t move the box like shake or tilt it etc to get the sticks to move inside. Secondly, you can only use your fingers and the sticks to aid in moving the other sticks. You also cannot turn the box upside down. The lid must remain on top except for reset and storage.
With all these rules in place, the difficulty quotient goes up many notches. Oh, there are those magnets there as well. They are either there to help or hinder, depending on how you want to look at it. When you start playing, they’re both, as I discovered.
GREAT DESIGN AND GREAT FUN
To solve the Anti-Gravity Box, a bit of thinking (in fact quite a lot, for me at least) of thinking outside the box is required (no pun intended). I don’t want to place any spoilers here but there is a sequence to follow, just like how an interlocking burr works. Pull or push the wrong piece or in the wrong direction and you are stuck.
I had to reset (dump out the pieces inside) the puzzle well over half a dozen times and plan (and re-plan) the moves before I finally got the last piece into the box as intended. Any one who has studied some basic science would know that magnets attract and repel and this had to be taken into consideration as well. Very challenging to say the least and a fair amount of dexterity is also required. I checked my solution against Frederic’s and yes, mine and his were about the same. It take approximately 18 moves to fully pack in the 6 pieces.
Overall, a rather unique and I would say, a very clever design. I enjoyed the thinking process and the fun factor was great. Challenging but not to the extent you would want to tear your hair out. Just need to ponder the moves ahead to save you all the trial and error. A must have for packing puzzle enthusiasts.
The GyroTwisty is another Diniar Namdarian-designed puzzle that I played with over the weekend. It also happens to be the Exchange Puzzle of Hendrik Haak at IPP38 in San Diego this past August.
The GyroTwisty comprises an ABS plastic (the stuff for 3D printing) circular shell frame l which holds an inner ball. The object of the puzzle is to take apart the pieces and put them back together again. As with the previous Namdarian puzzle Sewing Box, the quality of the 3D printing and finishing here is very good. Tolerances are just right allowing the inner ball to rotate smoothly inside the outer circular frame. My copy of the puzzle looks really cute with a contrasting yellow and blue colour. Physically the puzzle is a nice size for the hands at around 8cm in diameter and about 6.5cm tall. Mine also came in a pinkish drawstring cloth pouch with leopard print.
This puzzle reminds me of Hanayama’s Cast Marble (which I don’t own nor have I played with) and also Peppermintdesigned by Scott Elliot. While the three puzzles share similar design cues, the solves have their own characteristics. Unlike Sewing Box and Peppermint which I struggled with it, I managed GyroTwisty pretty well. I took apart the puzzle in under 10 minutes and got all four pieces back together in a lesser time. Or maybe I just got lucky. I won’t say its very difficult but its certainly not an easy puzzle either. But I suppose with some persistence, it will pay off in the end as you fiddle the pieces.
There is a technique to the solve. Once I managed to line up the outer shell with the inner ball, which itself splits into two, the puzzle came apart quite easily. Really no force whatsoever is required.
For anyone interested to get a copy, you can email Diniar via the IPP38 Puzzle Design Competition webpage. Yes, the GyroTwisty was also an entry to the competition. The puzzle costs a very reasonable 15 Euros plus S&H.
Now this is a very interesting and rather unique Exchange Puzzle. I received the Double Vision from Allan Slocum at this year’s IPP38 in San Diego. Is it even a mechanical puzzle? Well I suppose it is. After all, there is a pretty neat trick to the solution too.
The goal of Double Vision “is to see an undistorted single image of the IPP38 Logo through the “glass” rhombohedron enclosed”. Now what is a rhombohedron you might ask?. Well, it looks like the object below, a sort of slanted cube. The meaning is here.
Double Vision comes in a cardboard packaging which contains a wooden box with sliding lid. Inside is a block of glass rhombohedron and instructions. The wooden box is well constructed with the IPP38 logo printed on a card sitting nicely at the bottom of the box. The block of glass itself looked like it was something extracted from mother earth. It was rough at the edges and not completely clear and see through. In fact it was a bit cloudy on the inside. But still clear enough to see the distorted IPP38 logo. Dimensionally the puzzle is 8.5cm x 8.5cm x 5cm.
Notice the double image through the glass?
Bottom of the cardboard box has a clear plastic see-through window (not obvious in the photo) I wonder what that is for?
Following the instructions, I looked through the Rhombohedron and indeed saw a double image of the IPP38 Logo. I have no idea what is the scientific explanation for this phenomenon. But I needed to see a single image so I turned and flipped the glass on each of its six sides and held the glass in all sorts of ways. But all I saw was still the “distorted double image”.
Well, like I mentioned in the beginning, there is a trick to this puzzle and of course being the dense one here, it eluded me. I looked at the solution supplied and yes, now I could quite clearly see undistorted single image of the IPP38 Logo through the glass. What a neat and cool puzzle!
Aloha Kākou puzzlers,
I return to JL Puzzles for a quick follow-up to last month’s Flight Case post. As it turns out, I actually own two Smetsers items. When I purchased Flight Case, I couldn’t resist getting Leo Smetsers’ other trick “box” called The Vault. It is worthy of the name, I assure you. But before we get to that I need to provide a little snippet of information on Flight Case that I forgot to mention last time. Although produced and sold by Leo Smetsers, the Flight Case mechanism (or loading principle, as they say in the trade) was developed by fellow magician Gijs Benneheij who hails from Limburg, Netherlands. Credit where credit is due.
Now back to The Vault. I should start off by stating up front, in no uncertain terms, that The Vault is NOT a puzzle box. Unlike Flight Case, it is quit impossible to open this box from the outside once locked. So don’t rush out and buy this expecting a cool, refreshing solving challenge. Why am I reviewing it on a puzzle blog, you ask? Well, simply put, because bloggers like Jerry and my day-job boss Kevin let me get away with it. It’s as simple as that. But there is actually a puzzle element to The Vault which I will divulge at the end of the post, so read on.
The Vault dis-articulated. No spoilers here. (Philippines 5 piso coin for scale.)
The Vault is a very high quality machined aluminum box composed of four basic elements: a box frame, a half-cylinder lid, a stainless steel rod to bind them, and a diminutive padlock that secures the whole affair. The box frame is fashioned from separate front, rear, side, and bottom panels. The front and rear are anodized black while the sides and bottom are polished to a mirror finish. Four screws secure the front and rear panels. The semi-cylindrical lid is especially beautiful. It supplies the box with a cross-section appropriate to its moniker. The interior floor and walls are carpeted in velvet to prevent unwanted noise when an item is magically deposited. In the buttoned-up state it is quite hefty, considering its size, and feels very solid in the hand. It could surely be scuffed and dinged if abused, but it is not likely to ever break. All said, it is a very fine piece of work. All this beauty and craftsmanship however, does come at a price. The Vault retails for US$150.
Print advert for “Lippincott’s Quarter Go”
Now, if it is not a puzzle box (i.e., not solvable) what exactly is it? In today’s parlance, it is known as a Lippincott box. This is a handy shorthand used by the magic crowd for a whole family of boxes, most of which employ similar mechanisms. The name comes from Mal Lippincott’s Quarter Go, which hit the market in 1949. Although Mal was quite successful with his product, the box and mechanism actually date back quite a bit further. From what I gather, the earliest published version of such a box is in Professor Hoffman’s 1876 Modern Magic. This audience is surely familiar with Professor Hoffman (pen name of Angelo Lewis) from his 1893 Puzzles Old and New, the bible for collectors of older puzzles. Much as we puzzlers would like to think that Hoffman was a fellow puzzle guy, it appears that magic was his first and best love. He wrote four books on magic between 1876 and 1918. Professor Hoffman can, in a certain sense, be considered the original spoiler for magic. Prior to his publications, magic was a highly secretive, well-guarded art form. That is still true today, to some extent, but after Hoffman the cat was out of the bag (excuse me, the rabbit was out of the hat). It was bound to happen at some point, of course. Today you could fill a library with books on magic.
In Modern Magic we find a nice puzzle box in the form of the Watch Box (pp. 219-220), which can be solved from the outside. As you know, Hoffman’s books are simply compendia of tricks and puzzles known at the time, so the actual “invention” of the mechanism must date even earlier, perhaps very much earlier. It seems that the Lippincott mechanism is a variation on the Watch Box, made smaller for a coin and, critically important, not openable from the outside. Although a “Lippincott” box should probably only refer to such unsolvable boxes, it seems that the term is now widely used for either internally or externally open-able boxes.
The Vault In hand
It would be the very definition of bad taste to reveal the secret of the Lippincott mechanism here, so of course I won’t. But the interested read can find plans, explanations, and how-to’s all over the interweb. For the solver, it will likely be the solvable versions that are of most interest. The renaissance puzzler, however, with an abiding interest in all puzzle-adjacent phenomena, may find it unobjectionable to own an impossible box like The Vault. As a bonus, that routine you’ve been working on with Flight Case can be used equally well with The Vault.
The major components
Close-up of lid. Milling marks have a certain beauty.
I promised to provide a puzzle aspect for The Vault, so here it is, simple though it be. In order to have a problem to solve, you first need to resist the urge to research The Vault, Lippincott, or anything related. Simply order The Vault and 1) figure out the mechanism (not hard for a true puzzler), and 2) figure out to vanish and reappear items. How do you do magic with a box you can’t get into? You can check your answer against the video provided by Smesters (it comes with the box). You don’t have to be a magician to figure it out, just work deductively. As for convincingly performing the vanish/reappear? That, my friends, requires practice.
OK, that concludes my short but sweet second JL Puzzles guest blog post. A warm mahalo nui loa to Jerry for once again giving me space here. I promise to review a proper puzzle next time around!
The latest issue of Metagobologist is out. Started in 2015 by Dave Holt from the UK, the fifth issue hard copy magazine is available for pre-order and will only go to print if there are 100 orders or more. Click on the link below for more info.
Diniar Namdarian from Germany has always been very well known for his many 2D sliding block puzzle designs. In fact I have quite a number of puzzles he has produced over the years. These have mainly been fabricated out of laser cut acrylic in the past. Of late, he has started producing puzzles using 3D printing. Of course 3D printing has now allowed him to extend his design capabilities quite significantly. I had the good fortune of getting one of his 3D printed puzzles, the Sewing Box during the IPP38 Puzzle Exchange in San Diego this past August.
The Sewing Box consists of an ABS plastic (the stuff for 3D printing) circular frame which holds six different coloured rods in place. Each of the rods consists of two parts split at varying lengths. The object of the Sewing Box is to remove the rods from the frame. Quality of the 3D printing and finishing is very good. The puzzle looks really nice with all that colour around the sides.
I think everyone would agree that the puzzle is very intriguing and enticing looking and begs to be played with. But the solving is a whole different ball game. I struggled with it for quite some time and got nowhere. The rods can rotate on their own axis and all six rods can also rotate around the frame. Eventually I asked Diniar for a clue. All he told me was that the rods are split at different heights (something which I already knew). Anyway, I persevered on. And through a rather painful process of trial and error, continuous sliding and twisting, I finally manage to dislodge the rods. I say dislodge because it seemed that several of the rods all came apart almost at the same instant. It was only then that I saw the “internal mechanism” of the Sewing Box. I like to think I got the rods out more by chance than systematic skill.
I took a fairly long time to solve, like nearly maybe an hour. Diniar mentioned that three other puzzlers, Jim Strayer, Kevin Sadler and Goetz Schwandtner all had taken apart the thing in only 15 minutes or so. Hey, these guys are experts…what do you expect?! Overall, I would say that the Sewing Box has quite a clever and rather unique design concept, well executed via 3D printing production. Very challenging no less and certainly quite a handful to be juggling so many pieces. For anyone interested to get a copy (15 Euros plus S&H) and I would highly recommend the Sewing Box, you can email Diniar via the IPP38 Puzzle Design Competition webpage. Yes, the Sewing Box was also an entry to the competition, and the most colourful one!
Unlike the Adam & Eve entanglement puzzle which I was able to solve on my own, I had little luck with Jean-Claude Constantin’s U-Sockel. Socke in German means “base” in English.
The U-Sockel came to me courtesy of fellow puzzle collector/designer Goh Pit Khiam. He had dropped by my place last Sunday to take a look the 77 new puzzles I had brought home from the IPP38 Puzzle Exchange in San Diego, USA this past August.
The U-Sockel consists of a wooden stick affixed to a base and a ball permanently attached somewhere towards the top. Two U-shaped thick wire rods “interlock”t themselves around the wooden stick. The object is to get the u-shaped wire rods off the wooden rod.
It looks simple enough, unfortunately is anything but! Pit Khiam had told me that he also couldn’t solve and had to resort to a YouTube video solution (which incidentally was uploaded by Nick Baxter). There is one or two others non YouTube as well. I told Pit Khiam I will try to solve it without the help. But I struggled for a whole Sunday afternoon and night but got nowhere as well. Finally I threw in the towel and watched the video. Anyway, I couldn’t have solved it without the solution.
The U-Sockel is really a tough one. But I am really in not much of a position to comment. I generally don’t fancy entanglement or wire type puzzles and hardy play with any. There is a sequence to follow. Once you memorise the steps, its quite easily re-solvable. As I followed the instructions on the video, I also found myself having to use a tad bit of force to move the u-shaped wire rods the way they were supposed to move. I thought for puzzles of this nature, no force was necessary. Apparently not in this case.
I am not a fan of twisty puzzles nor good at solving them. Not at all. With the exception of some twisties which I bought (because I liked their physical appearance), I own very few. Less than a dozen perhaps, mainly gifted from generous puzzle friends.
But during IPP38 in San Diego this past August, I received one of the coolest (and most high tech) Exchange Puzzles around! This was the Super Cube from George Miller.
A quick demonstration during the Puzzle Exchange by Roxanne Miller showed me that this puzzle is in the realms of the tech/digital sphere. Nothing like your typical twisty or Rubik’s Cube. It completely blew me away. Having said that, I am aware that there were in the past, electronic versions of the Rubik’s Cube such as the TouchCube and some other variations.
Is this cool or what?!!
The Super Cube comes packaged with not just the cube itself. But you also have to download the Super Cube app onto your smart phone or tablet to enjoy the Super Cube experience. You can just play with the Super Cube in the usual fashion. But the app also provides a number of challenges and “games”.
From a construction stand point, the build quality and finish is excellent. Even for a non-twisty puzzler like me, I can tell that the Super Cube turns with quiet buttery smoothness, almost like a competition cube.
How it works is that Super Cube is connected via Bluetooth to your smart phone or tablet and the cube will work with the app as intended. Obviously there are electrical components inside the cube. That’s why it comes with a charging cable that connects to the Super Cube via a pair of connectors shaped like miniature headphones.
I wasn’t interested in the other challenges. You can see from my iphone screenshots below what sort of extra challenges are available. And I am sure they are fun and many twisty enthusiasts would love them. What I was particularly drawn to was the Quick Solve function! As the name implies, this function allow you to solve a scrambled cube using the app. Once paired, the app is able to detect the scrambled state of the cube, no matter how you may scramble it. It will direct the puzzler to orientate the cube in the correct manner in order to start following the solving directions given by the app.
Once you have got the faces of the cube in the right orientation, you simply follow the on-screen twists and turns. The app will make the first twist and you follow. It will only show the next move after you have made yours. It won’t “run ahead” of you such that you are unable to keep up with the turns. Great for twisty novices and puzzlers like me who have little (or no) experience…haha! I had good fun with it. I posted about the Super Cube on Facebook and it has drawn mixed reactions with some puzzlers saying that a cube is not solved like this. Well, like any new (tech) product, including puzzles, there will be detractors and supporters alike.
Click on the YouTube video link HERE at the which shows how the Quick Solve function works with the Super Cube.
The Super Cube is available from a number of online retailers for around US$40.00. Google Giiker Super Cube and you will be able to sell who sells them.
Before I go any further, yes, you are at the correct blog! This is JL Puzzles, not a certain other highly esteemed blog I frequent. I have not turned colors, just indulging in a bit of moonlighting between Puzzlemad assignments. Jerry has very graciously offered me space here to write and I thought it best to take full advantage. What I post here at JL Puzzles will be a little different from my current fare. The intent is to put out shorter, quicker posts on individual puzzles. Something easier and faster that won’t take up my whole weekend, but which will still be of interest to the solver/collector/designer community. It remains to be seen if I can actually pull that off. It’s hard to sit down and write, but once I do things seem to get away from me.
So today let’s look at a puzzle which wasn’t even intended as a puzzle, per se, the Flight Case. You may recall a blog article a couple years back concerning a pair of de facto puzzle boxes produced by Joe Porper? Flight case is along these lines. Precisely along these lines. It is a “gimmicked” box employed by magicians to convincingly, and impossibly, disappear and reappear items. Although primarily useful for magical routines, it is also very interesting as a puzzle box.
Flight Case was designed and produced by working magician Leo Smetsers from Holland. As such, it comes complete with a routine which, with a little practice, even I could pull off. But that was not my intent in purchasing it. I wanted to solve the box.
Upon arrival of my Flight Case, I duly locked it with the miniscule brass padlock provided and then proceeded to explore. Within about 10 minutes, trying this and that, I managed to get it open. The mechanism is actually very simple, but also well hidden. Quite invisible, in fact. Examination of the exterior provides no clue to the mechanism, although there is plenty of room for speculation. In terms of difficultly, I would say it is moderate to low for the experienced puzzler. It is much easier than Strong Box 2.0 and perhaps equivalent to Strong Box original. It could be handed out for examination during a routine, but not for too long!
Flight Case open. Dimensions: 78mm tall; 61mm squareHow does it fly?
Although Flight Case is not difficult from a solving perspective, I think it would be of interest to serious puzzle box aficionados. Difficulty is not necessarily the defining quality in a puzzle box. Craftsmanship, beauty, and design ingenuity all play their part. Certainly within the very narrow subcategory of trick magic boxes, Flight Case stands out as a very high quality item on all counts. It functions flawlessly with perfect fit between moving parts.
Construction-wise, with its faux-wood panels and riveted aluminum and steel frame, it stands apart from everything else I have seen. I’m not a puzzle box guy by any means, but I do keep my eye on them (often lustfully). Like the best puzzle boxes, Flight Case is a hand-crafted item made in small numbers, usually to order. The price reflects this, running north of 200 USD. Though not in the stratospheric range like some boxes, it is a serious purchase.
I wouldn’t recommend Flight Case to anyone who is principally interested in the solving aspect. It probably won’t provide sufficient value based on that criterion alone. But if you take the broader view, this box may be something to consider. There are a very small number of high quality trick boxes produced by the magic folks. Joe Porper’s Strong Boxes are probably the premier example, but Leo Smetsers’ Flight Case is in the same class and is a necessary item for the committed collector. And hey, once you have it, why not put it to use? The routine can be mastered by anyone willing to put in practice time. It would be great for friends and family entertainment. And on the practical side, it’s the only way to get full value for your money.
That concludes my short but sweet maiden JL Puzzles blog post. Thanks so much Jerry for this opportunity! Back over to you….
Flight Case close upHow it appears in the hand. On the large side for close up magic, but about right for a puzzle box