Turm von Hanoi

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Jean Claude Constantin is best known for his original designs and concepts, having made hundreds of different puzzles, but he can also take on a classic and give it his personal touch. That's exactly what he did to one of the best known binary puzzles of all time, the Tower of Hanoi or Turm von Hanoi in German.

The Tower of Hanoi originated over 130 years ago by the hand of Édouard Lucas and since then there have been so many variations it's almost impossible to count them all. I've always been fascinated by the sheer brilliance of this puzzle, so whenever I see a cool version I have this urge to add it to my collection. The Constantin version is now my third.

(Click to Enlarge) - The 3 Versions I Currently Own
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, it's very simple: You have a base with three rods and a specific number of disks (the number of disks varies and with it so its difficulty); The starting position can be any of the three rods. The goal is to move all disks to one of the other two rods by obeying a simple set of rules: You may only move one disk at a time; You can't place a disk on top of a smaller one. The concept is straightforward and very easy to solve if you start with just a few disks, but for each additional disk the difficulty level rises exponentially. To calculate the number of moves you just have to apply a simple formula - 2n - 1, where n is the number of disks. Since this Constantin version has 8 disks, the minimum number of moves is 255, which is already quite challenging but still not the hardest one around.

What made me get this particular version was the colorful appearance of the puzzle itself. Constantin always excels at this with his puzzles, using many different wood tones creating a beautiful palette. The Turm von Hanoi has four different colors alternating in two groups. Also, each disk is carefully cut in the shape of an octagon - It's an eight-themed puzzle. The top of the pyramid is decorated with an hexagon to keep the disks in place. The size is average, measuring about 22cm x 7cm (8.7" x 2.8").

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From the three versions I have, one has seven disks and the other two eight, including this one. Applying the above formula for the first it gives a total number of 127 moves. I'd say its difficulty level is about 6/10. The Turm von Hanoi, on the other hand, has twice the moves to be solved. While I don't consider this an extreme challenge, as classified by PuzzleMaster (level 10/10), It's still not a walk in the park. I'd put it at a level 8/10. With nine disks I might agree with a level 10.

The key to solve it is pure concentration. The solving process is the same whether you're solving a three-disk tower or an eight-disk one. You just need much more concentration so you don't lose your train of thought, which I did for a couple of times. Solving time was about 15 minutes, but with training you should be able to cut it down by half or even less. It's a very fun puzzle to solve anytime.

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Closing Comments:

Liking a particular puzzle is dangerous, especially when you own a large collection. If you stick to unique concepts you'll be fine, but if you're like me, every time you see a cool new version of a puzzle you'll understand the feeling of "I must have it!". The Turm von Hanoi by Constantin is definitely a must-have.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Turm von Hanoi at PuzzleMaster for $26 CAD. For other puzzles from Constantin, click here.

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The Glasses

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String/Wire puzzles, or as I like to call them 'Torture' puzzles, are a rare kind of puzzles that I usually tend to stay away from but can't seem to resist for long. It's like a siren song. I know it'll end badly but still I want to believe that it's going to be different and easier this time around... It didn't, at least not with The Glasses.

Since I've been reviewing these string puzzles from Sloyd - I reckon they were eight - I was saving this one for last due to its obvious higher difficulty and I wasn't mistaken. It's one hell of a challenge, which is odd because at first sight the design doesn't seem too much complex, even the wire frame is not very intimidating. Since you all know the concept of 'appearances can be deceiving', you get a pretty good idea of what I went through over the past few weeks.

So, as I mentioned above, the design is very simple. The frame is made in the shape of a pair of glasses, without temples, and attached is a string - a lengthy one I might add - with two beads at both ends. The beads can't go through the two big openings in the metal frame, so a different approach is needed to solve this fiendish puzzle. Yes, it involves knots, and knowing my history with them I always end up creating one too many. The design also reminds of The Rack, another wire puzzle. I don't own it though, so I'm not able to compare them and see how similar they actually are.

Sloyd classifies The Glasses as a level 5/5, and I couldn't agree more. There's no way around it, this is a very challenging puzzle and one of the few hard ones I was fortunate enough to solve, albeit only after a few weeks of on and off puzzling. How did I do it, you ask? I wouldn't know where to start. This is one thing that always surprises me when solving string puzzles. When attempting to untie an undesired knot I sometimes seem to make progress just by accident. It was a little bit like this with The Glasses. When I finally saw the string hanging from the bottom of one of the big openings, the puzzle was all but solved. That was a marvelous feeling, but now, how would I put it back? Long story short, I didn't... Well almost, the string is looking a little funny compared to the original position, but it's close enough. No way am I going through that again in the near future. I consider it 90% done...

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Closing Comments:

The Glasses are definitely not for beginners, unless you want to end up with an unsolvable puzzle. It you like extreme challenges this is a perfect choice, but don't expect to solve it in a heartbeat. It's something to enjoy step by step, that is, if you like this type of 'Torture' puzzles.

Availability: The Glasses are available at Sloyd for just €6.05.


Digits

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Digits is a cleverly designed slide puzzle from Siebenstein-Spiele that actually doesn't resemble anything they usually produce. Siebenstein puzzles generally have a predominance of wood in their appearance, even though some wood boards are used in the Digits puzzle. Does this make it less appealing? No way, on the contrary, as it's one of my favorite puzzles from them. The Digits, like 99% of Siebenstein's puzzles, was designed by the prolific puzzle designer Jürgen Reiche.

The design is made to look like an electronic panel of some sort. There are two colors that I know of used for the frame's edges, yellow and red. I went for the yellow, but you should confirm which colors are available when you place your order. The tiles and frame's cover are made from transparent acrylic and two wooden boards are placed between the acrylic panels for extra width. Moving the tiles is not so easy due to the acrylic grid on the top, especially if you have sausage fingers. The puzzle is not too big, measuring 12.6 x 8.6cm (about 5" x 3.4"). 

The concept, to be honest, is a little too similar to Grabarchuk's Puzzle Impossible, but since that's another one of my favorites, I don't mind... Much. Okay, on the surface the Digits puzzle looks like any other ordinary 3x3 slide puzzle, but when you start to move the tiles you're in for a surprise. The digits will begin to change every time you move them. The shape you see for each number is a combination between the segments on the tiles and the surface of the puzzle. When a combination doesn't match you'll see a different number that doesn't belong there.

One of the differences between Grabarchuk's and Reiche's puzzles is that on the Digits you'll see a random number most of the times no matter what moves you make, give or take the occasional oddness (see picture below), but nothing like the Puzzle Impossible. This can be either good or bad, since you could lose track of your progress if you lose your focus for a moment, but at the same time you don't see those wacky shapes that can be quite confusing. In my opinion, Digits is way easier than the Puzzle Impossible.

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The challenge on the Digits puzzle is also much more straightforward than its cousin. It comes with the numbers in sequential order from 9 to 1, starting on the top, and your task is to shift the numbers in the opposite pattern, starting from 1 until 9 from the top. I didn't check all the numbers, but I got the impression that the exact same tiles can be used for the same numbers in both patterns. For example, the tile that forms the number 1 on the bottom right is the same for the 1 on the top left, and so on. You could mark the tiles with post-it notes to make it easier, but to make it more interesting try to solve it "blind" using only your concentration as a tool. This is rated as a difficulty level 9/10 (6/7 on the manufacturer's scale), but after solving it within five minutes I reckon it's more like a 7/10 at best (or 4/7). The mechanism is the same as a common slide puzzle, it's just the appearance that makes it harder.

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Closing Comments:

Digits may be a little different from what you're used to see by Siebenstein-Spiele, but knowing their style it's actually a great departure from their wooden haven and a bold design approach by Jürgen. I'll be eager to see more creations like these from them. In the meantime, if you're a slide puzzle fan, this one shouldn't be missed.

Availability: You can find the Digits puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $25 CAD. You can also browse dozens of other designs by Siebenstein-Spiele.


Anaconda

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2D Packing Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes and the design possibilities for these flat brainteasers are almost endless. SmartGames, a Belgium company, makes great puzzle games, and quite colorful I might game. One their best Packing Puzzles comes from the mind of Raf Peeters, who's behind most of their new ideas. From the depths of the Amazon, meet Anaconda, the logic game that offers you 100 fun and challenging puzzles to solve, from beginner to expert.

The design of the puzzle matches very well with its theme with a pale lime-green color. The black used for contrast highlights the color even more so that the contours of the Anaconda can be well distinguished. There are eight pieces, seven of them featuring parts of the Anaconda. All tiles are double sided, but only a few of them have parts of the snake on both sides. The eighth tile is more like a reference, showing a different letter depending on where it's placed, and you use it on all challenges but you may never change its position.

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To start playing, simply select a challenge from one of the five different difficulty levels and place the first pieces on the board as shown. Your task is to make a complete snake with a head and a tail, no matter its size, with the remaining tiles. You must use all pieces even if they aren't used to make the body of the snake. Just place them with their black-only sides facing up.

The first challenges are quite easy with up to four starting pieces plus the single tile, but good to make you acquainted with the puzzle's mechanics. As you progress to harder levels the number of starting pieces diminishes until you get to the 'Wizard' level, where only the single tile is used as a starting point. In this level there are no more references as to how the snake should look like. The goal is just to make a snake with all the remaining seven pieces without moving the starter tile.

The good thing is that all challenges in the final level have multiple solutions, whereas on the other ones only one solution is possible. Still, having no visual references is what makes these last challenges so difficult. A lot of patience and persistence are needed to complete all 100 challenges, which is something I'm still working on...

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Closing Comments:

Anaconda is one of my favorite puzzles from SmartGames. The idea and concept behind it is so original and refreshing that it makes you keep coming back for more. Also, its 100 challenges ensure that you'll have plenty of fun for a while. It's highly addictive and a must-have for Packing Puzzle enthusiasts.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Anaconda puzzle at PuzzlesdeIngenio.com, in Spain. For more SmartGames click here.


Blumenlaby 6

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Just yesterday I was talking about how Jean Claude Constantin gets his inspiration to design puzzles and how most of the times it's a complete mystery. And like yesterday's review, where we might have caught a glimpse of how his mind works, today's puzzle lifts the veil a little more. Blumenlaby 6, a stunning work of art and craftsmanship is among his best works yet, and his inspiration came certainly from the beautiful geometric Arabic patterns.

The name, even though I'm uncertain, suggests there might be more versions of the puzzle out there. Indeed, I know of at least another version, the Blumenlaby 8, but I've only seen these two and they're not widely available. At first sight, the two versions look identical, so I'd have to see the two side by side to make a comparison. The only noticeable difference is that the Blumenlaby 6 is a little bit smaller compared to the Blumenlaby 8 (both 13cm and 17.5cm in diameter respectively). Even though the Blumenlaby 6 is smaller you won't find it much difficult to see where you should go at all times. If feels quite comfortable to handle and maneuver.

(Click to Enlarge) - Backside View
The puzzle consists of two seemingly identical mazes in appearance but they're actually different in the way the paths are cut in the wooden walls. Between the two mazes is an acrylic plate full of holes where the ball can go from one maze to the other. Starting in one side, the goal is to navigate the ball to the exit on the opposite side. You'll be jumping constantly from one maze to the other by just falling into the holes in the acrylic, but be careful with dead-ends. Some backtracking might be needed.

I can describe this concept as an easier and less complex version of the Xmatrix Quadrus. The pattern, however, is much more impressive in the Blumenlaby, despite its smaller size. Solving the puzzle was actually a bit disappointing knowing it has a difficulty level of 4/5. It took me about two or three minutes to free the ball from the maze. Even though it needs a bit of dexterity to move the ball around, I was expecting a more challenging task. Suspecting this might've been just a fluke, I tried to solve it again and it took about the same time. The third time was even shorter...

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Closing Comments:

The Blumenlaby 6 is a gorgeous design and one that should not be missed, despite being easier than it looks. Nevertheless, it's a wonderful puzzle to play with and looks great anywhere you put it. It's perfect to convince a non-puzzler of how awesome puzzles are.

Availability: My copy of the Blumenlaby 6 came from Brilliant Puzzles but, unfortunately, it's out of stock at the moment. You can check back the site often or, in the meantime, browse other puzzles from Constantin that are currently available.

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Blume Orange

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Usually, it's a mystery where Jean Claude Constantin gets his inspiration from to design most of his puzzles. However, judging from the puzzle I have here today, I reckon he even gets inspiration from his breakfast. Meet the Blume Orange, a nice little puzzle in the shape of an orange cross section.

The concept of the Blume Orange is a bit similar to another puzzle by Constantin that I already reviewed a while ago, the Marguerite. It also reminds me of the Transposer Puzzles. It consists of four layers, each with twelve segments - curiously enough a typical orange has ten segments - of which nine are hollow and the other three are covered. By rotating the four layers in any direction you'll need to cover all hollow segments so you can't see through the puzzle.

The puzzle is quite small, with a diameter of 6.7cm (2.6"), which is actually slightly smaller than an average orange at about 7.5cm (3") - Yes, I do research these numbers so you don't have to... The material used is not high quality wood - looks like plywood - but it gets the job done and the rotation of all four layers works really well. The chosen color for the puzzle is pretty good though, with a pale orange tone, apparently with a glaze finish applied.

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Solving the puzzle was actually a pleasant surprise, having found it a bit harder than I was expecting. At first sight, it doesn't look much tough given the fact that you only see four layers and there seems to be not enough to pose a real challenge. Wrong! In fact, although both the Blume Orange and the Marguerite are classified as a difficulty level 8, I reckon the Marguerite is more like a level 7 and the Blume Orange a deserved 8.

It took me about 20 minutes to solve this thing. I'm not sure of the exact number total positions but it gets mixed up pretty quickly as opposed to solving it. Also, I believe there's only one solution, seeing as there are four layers, each with a different arrangement of hollow/covered segments, and there are three covered segments for every nine hollow ones.

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Closing Comments:

The Blume Orange is a typical Constantin puzzle: An original shape combined with an interesting concept that looks so simple and yet quite challenging to solve. The goal is so straightforward that anyone can pick it up and try his luck. Some may quit in frustration, but I'm sure everyone who tries it will love it.

Availability: At the time of writing the Blume Orange is out of stock at PuzzleMaster, but be sure to check it out often and you might get lucky. In alternative, you can browse many other great designs by Constantin.



400th Post - Top 10 From Last 100

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And yet another milestone is reached. Three and a half years later, I'm writing my 400th post on a blog that I never thought would be this popular. Fast approaching 300.000 page views, I reckon it's safe to assume someone must read this thing. With the added responsibility of writing something worth reading, my choice of puzzles to review becomes a little harder, but I'm rewarded with the occasional treasure. These treasures are what I like to call my top 10 from the last 100, a small list of puzzles I consider must-haves in any respectable collection. Read on, as I start the countdown from number 10. You can also click on their names for the full review and where to buy them.


I start with my favorite puzzle designer, Jean Claude Constantin. With over 50 reviews on my blog so far, it's hard not to include at least one or two in the top. Die Welle has a very elegant design, it's a sequential movement puzzle, more specifically a quinary or 5-ary, and the goal is to move all three balls from the right to the left. Concentration and patience are required as you try and solve one of the best-looking sequential puzzles out there with an unconventional curved design over the more traditional right angled puzzles.





Dubbed the round Rainbow Cube, the Twistball concept was designed by Josip Matijek in 1989, even though it was only launched a couple of years ago. The puzzle is well built and the movement is smooth, but the painted tiles aren't perfect, leaving  sometimes a smudgy patch of paint. With 13 different Twistballs commercially available, ranging from easy to extreme difficulty, and a promise of more to come it's easy to understand why this Twisty puzzle has been so popular.





Oskar's contribution to SmartGames portfolio is one of the best designs in puzzle games since Rush Hour. Probably not a coincidence, Anti-Virus has a somewhat similar concept to its older cousin. With nine colored pieces and two blockers (static tokens), your task is to get rid of the virus, the red piece, by sliding pieces along the board until you free a path to the exit point. I found the Anti-Virus a little harder than Rush Hour, mainly because the movement of the pieces is done diagonally which is less intuitive. A very colorful puzzle game with 60 challenges that will sure put your skills to the test.




When Jerry Loo, a fellow puzzle blogger, launched his first ever puzzle design I was quite excited about it. After all, we bloggers weren't on the other side of the fence anymore. His concept? A very clever hidden mechanism inside an aluminum cylinder, simply called Ball in Cylinder No.1, where the objective is to remove a metal sphere. The puzzle was so well designed I couldn't ever thought it was coming from a newbie. Judging by the great craftsmanship that went into the building of Cylinder No.1, I can only expect great things from its successor.




Every year at the International Puzzle Party, Robrecht Louage  presents us with yet another great design. Over the last few years his contributions consisted of a very simple concept: a maze, a coin and some other features that it's best not to divulge. The goal is always the same, remove the coin, but what strikes me is that each year he comes up with a design seemingly better than its predecessor. This year's puzzle was the Escape from Alcatraz, and the design alone is very original, but no matter how many of his puzzles you solve, he always has some way of surprising you and this one is no different.




Splinter Spierenburgh is another talented puzzle designer that surprised me last year with his first design, the MazeRoll, also featured in the last IPP. I loved that puzzle so much that I had high hopes for its successor. Fortunately, Splinter delivered yet another piece of genius, the Burgh Lock. This is among the best Trick Locks I've tried so far and knowing that it's the first time Splinter has tried to build one of these it makes it even more special. It's also the first Trick Lock made from 3D printing I've ever come across with.





Over the past year I've been quite obsessed with Siebenstein-Spiele for their magnificent craftsmanship and gorgeous puzzle designs. Similar in style to what you know from Jean Claude Constantin it's easy to fall in love with their puzzles too. The best-looking one I currently have in my collection is the Safe, a superbly designed puzzle by Jürgen Reiche reminiscent of a measure instrument from centuries past. The puzzle features a double maze with rotating discs and a trapped coin. The object is to simply remove the coin, but the puzzle itself is very challenging. An excellent puzzle for the more experienced puzzler.




Designed by a Russian duo, Dmitry Pevnitskiy and Kirill Grebnev, the Cast Harmony is one of the most beautiful puzzles ever released by Hanayama. The puzzle was first introduced in the 30th IPP and even won two awards that year, the Puzzlers' Award and the Jury First Prize. The goal is to separate both pieces and that's not even hard to accomplish, but the design speaks for itself. Puzzle design is an art and the Cast Harmony proves it.






I'm a sucker for puzzles that offer you plenty of challenges and different ways to play with them. The Roundominoes, designed by Kate Jones and produced by Puzumi Puzzles, is a perfect example of best value for money, as it comes with a 15-page booklet full of challenges for you to solve, including a few 2-player games. Made from 28 laser-cut acrylic pieces and seven vibrant colors it's very easy to get absorbed into this mesmerizing design and its addicting challenges. A true puzzler's dream.





Despite being my favorite puzzle designer, it's actually the first time one of Constantin's designs made it into number 1 in my top 10's. It just shows you how unique this puzzle is. I guess you could say it was love at first sight, since I was instantly drawn to it when I first saw it. All those gears and the different wood colors combine in a perfect way to make it one of the most stunning puzzles I currently own in my collection. The goal is to have all touching colors in the four main gears match. Once mixed up, it's actually a very tough puzzle to solve, but it's pure fun and joy to play with it. Absolutely recommended for anyone slightly interested in puzzles.



Closing Comments:

There you have it. 10 perfect gift ideas for the coming holidays. As always, for me, it's great to look back and see another 100 posts published, see the blog growing in numbers, see the comments in the reviews and getting feedback from you. Here's to another 100, and next time it's gonna be special with my 500th post. Stay tuned for more and thank you for reading.


Minotaurus

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A Minotaurus has always been an intimidating mythological creature, but since they're not real there's nothing to worry about, right? Well, Siebenstein-Spiele's Minotaurus puzzle is very real and quite intimidating as well, so be prepared for an herculean fight with this beast. It was invented by Jürgen Reiche, who designs all wooden puzzles manufactured by Siebenstein.

Minotaurus is a sequential movement puzzle with two distinct mazes, and you navigate with two screws through them from one position to another. The puzzle is superbly built with two wood colors, mostly just to distinguish them apart, and has a sliding mechanism that moves left and right. The size of the puzzle is satisfying enough for a comfortable play, measuring 14.8cm x 8.7cm. You have to be constantly moving the two screws around to prevent your moves from being blocked.

You start with the two screws in the bottom right part of the mazes. The starting positions are also marked in the top maze, so it's very easy to get started. As you try to move one screw around you'll notice that many of the movements will be blocked by the other. The trick is to alternate between them and make one movement at a time, always trying to anticipate where each screw needs to go in order for the other one to get where you want it.

The design reminds me a lot of Jean Claude Constantin's Two Keys puzzle. The difference is that the Two Keys had just one screw and the two mazes were smaller, but the concept and mechanism is very similar. I see the Minotaurus as an advanced version of Two Keys, for more experienced puzzlers.

There are lots of dead ends and you'll feel a bit lost sometimes, but try to focus on the bottom maze and plan your route as best as you can. Treat those two screws as a team working for the same objective: reach position B, on the left end of both mazes.

The difficulty of the Minotaurus puzzle is as tough as you'd expect a sequential puzzle to be. It's rated as a level 6/7 on the manufacturer scale and, to be honest, I wouldn't be so surprised if this one was actually a level 7/7. On my first attempt it took me about 15/20 minutes to solve it, with lots of backtracking. I was able to cut it short to a little over 5 minutes on subsequent tries, but it wasn't easy, since there are a lot of movements and knowing them by heart is a monumental task. I still haven't learned all the exact movements, but I know have a better idea on where to place the screws at key moments and the route is less random as the first times.

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Closing Comments:

The Minotaurus is certainly an intimidating puzzle and it's not for everyone. If you feel courageous and capable of tackling the most challenging puzzles, then this is the right one for you. On the other hand, if you're easily frustrated by an extremely difficult puzzle, I'd recommend you try something a little less complex. Note that Siebenstein-Spiele also has much easier puzzles on their catalog.

Availability: The Minotaurus puzzle is available at Sloyd.fi for €17.50. You can also buy the larger version, with balls instead of screws, for €25.80.


Cook's Cupboard

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Picture Frame Puzzles are always a joy to play with. These are some of my favorite packing puzzles and I'm proud to own several different designs in my collection. Dave Janelle, from Creative Crafthouse, makes some of the best puzzles in this category with such varied themes as animals or music instruments. The Cook's Cupboard, unsurprisingly, is a superbly designed puzzle with gastronomy as its main theme.

All the pieces in the puzzle are essential objects a cook must have in his cupboard, from the cleaver to the whisk. There are 11 unique objects with different sizes and shapes, all made from precision cut high-quality hardwood. All puzzles from Creative Crafthouse are quite big in comparison with other packing puzzles, measuring 17.8cm (7"). Holding and packing bigger pieces feels much nicer and more pleasant than tiny ones.

A word of advice for when you unpack your puzzle: do it upside down or ask someone to remove the pieces from the frame for you, because it comes packaged in its solved state. Since there's only one possible solution, excluding rotations, it would be a bummer if you were to see the puzzle already solved. When you have all pieces nicely scattered try to put them all back in the frame. Note that you should only use the side of the pieces that's marked or engraved.

The key to solve any Picture Frame Puzzle, as I've been saying in previous reviews, is to look out for possible matches between some of the pieces' edges. You should always try to pack them as tightly as possible so you don't waste too much space. There will always be some empty spaces between the pieces, but you'll see that once it's solved it has the most optimal arrangement for all the pieces.

These Picture Frame Puzzles are among the hardest in the packing puzzles family. Since there is no clear visual aids as to how each piece should be placed, solving them can fast become a arduous task of trial and error. The Cook's Cupboard is classified as a difficulty level 9/10, and I mostly agree with it. It actually took me less time than I was expecting - about 30 minutes - but I believe it's only because I'm more experienced in these now that I've solved several of them. I still think it's still among the hardest I've tried from Creative Crafthouse, but it's just not as frustratingly difficult as it once was...



Closing Comments:

The Cook's Cupboard may be a difficult puzzle, but it's one of the best works by Dave Janelle. There are still so many that I don't have in my collection, but if I had to recommend a couple of them this would certainly be a great choice. It's a perfect gift for a cook or gastronome.

Availability: The Cook's Cupboard puzzle is available from PuzzleMaster for $24 CAD. Check out other designs by Dave Janelle.


Nur 8 (8-Puzzle)

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What happens when you combine one of your favorite puzzle types with your favorite designer? Nur 8 (literally translated as "Only 8", a.k.a. 8-Puzzle) happens... Designed by Jean Claude Constantin, Nur 8 has a very interesting sliding mechanism like no other puzzle I've ever seen.

So, as the name suggests, the puzzle consists of eight numbered pegs that slide in any of the four main directions, but with some restrictions. There are these slots running across the length of a sliding platform that have different paths, like a maze of some sorts. The idea is to move all eight numbers to the bottom part of the puzzle with the correct order. As any good maze is proof, doing that won't be a walk in the park. A little planning and good strategy should more than enough to solve it without a hitch.

The design is simple but elegant. The usual contrasting wood colors are present, with a dark tone for the frame and a lighter color for the sliding platform and pegs. The numbers on the pegs are engraved, so you don't need to worry about them fading away with time. It measures 15.5cm by 7cm (6.1" x 2.8"), which is big enough for comfortable play.

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The puzzle comes with the numbers in the correct order, but in the upper part. As you try to move the numbers to the bottom you'll see that it's not possible to arrange them from 1 to 8 straight away. You'll need a bit of a controlled chaos. In other words, you shouldn't worry on how to get the number 1 in its correct position on your first moves. For the platform to move freely from left to right and vice versa you need to make room for other slots to become free, since there's only a gap between the upper and bottom parts large enough for one peg to go through at a time.

The solving process can be described as sequential movement, but not n-ary. There's no right or wrong sequence per se, just a sequence that can take more or less movements, depending on your skills. As far as difficulty goes, I didn't find it much difficult. It took me about 10 minutes to solve it. From a scale of 1 to 10 I'd say this one's about a 6. Much easier than it looks, actually.

(Click to Enlarge) - Solved
Closing Comments:

Nur 8 by Constantin is yet another gem when it comes to original concepts. Being a sliding puzzle fan as I am, this is the icing on the cake. A simple looking puzzle and yet so fun to play with, despite not being very challenging. A must-have for any Constantin fan.

Availability: You can buy the Nur 8 (8-Puzzle) at Sloyd for €18.15. 

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Bon Voyage Puzzles - Day Trip

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Day Trip is a rope puzzle from Eureka's latest series, the Bon Voyage puzzles. This is a collection of nine puzzles, all rope, with travelling as the main theme. Even their names are holiday-related. These also vary in terms of difficulty, from 1 to 3 stars. Day Trip is rated as 3 stars, so this won't be a picnic. The original version, the Tricky Dicky, was designed by Rick Eason - Thanks for the info, George!

The design of these puzzles is very colorful and vibrant. This is actually where Eureka excels at, presentation. They're also small compared to other puzzles of the same type, which could be great to take them with you on your travels. Day Trip's design actually looks quite simple, but looks can be deceiving and, in this case, very true.

The puzzle consists of two different sized sticks attached together by two pieces of rope. At the end of the larger stick there's a lengthier rope with two rings attached, a colored one at the other end and a metal one that can move up and down along the rope's length. Your task, as you might have guessed by now, is to free the metal ring from the puzzle and put it back to its original position. Be prepared, because this one could take a whole trip to figure out.

To solve the Day Trip it actually took me more than a day, about two hours total. Most of that time, however, was spent untying knots that I involuntarily did while attempting to solve it. The small rope loop found between the two sticks was mostly responsible for the knots, since it becomes very easy to "collect" a few knots with just a couple of moves around the puzzle. My advice here is to never make a move without first studying how to reverse it. If you lose your train of thought for a moment it will be very hard to reset the puzzle and start again.

So, after much frustration, I was eventually able to solve it, but not without its problems. Putting the ring back was just as challenging as removing it. Yes, you just have to reverse all the steps until you finally do it, but when you try to solve a puzzle countless times, by the time you eventually succeed you already forgot how you did half the moves. If you've solved any wire/rope puzzle before, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about...

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Closing Comments:

Day Trip is a terrific challenge and, despite all the frustration, a very rewarding one. I have another puzzle from this series in my collection to try, the Summer Holiday, and so far I'm impressed by their quality. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the next one.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Day Trip puzzle at Puzzles de Ingenio, in Spain. Worldwide shipping available.


Tee-Pause

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Tee-Pause is a great example of how presentation in puzzle designing makes a big difference to distinguish great puzzles from average ones. The puzzle itself is a fancier version of an older packing puzzle, The Four T. There are quite a few versions of this puzzle out there, and I happen to own two of them besides the one you see here, a plastic one and a wooden one. My favorite so far is the Siebenstein-Spiele's version, designed by Jürgen Reiche, the Tee-Pause.

This packing puzzle is very simple. It consists of only four identical T-shaped pieces that need to be all neatly packed inside the tray. There's a major difference between Siebenstein's version and the original, and that's the actual packing area, which is round. Well, not perfectly round, since the bottom is flat, making things a little more interesting.

As expected, Siebenstein's presentation is flawless. Each of the four pieces has a different color, including the frame itself. Built from laser-cut wood, both pieces and frame have perfect shapes and when solved, all pieces fit tightly within the tray area. The size is a bit small, the diameter measures only 8.9cm (about 3.5"), but since you're manipulating only four pieces it's not an issue.

When I saw the puzzle for the first time I suspected the solution was very similar to The Four T, but what really sold me was the look of the puzzle. Since I already knew how to solve the original version it didn't take me long to solve it. The small detail on the bottom actually makes it slightly harder, as the area is truncated and you have to pack the pieces with the exact orientation. Nevertheless, it's still basically the same solution and if you already solved the original version there's not much challenge left. This is classified as a level 8/10, but even knowing the solution I don't think it's more than a 7.

Solution: Click below to check both solutions, the original and Siebenstein's.



Closing Comments:

If you love Siebenstein's puzzles you can't go wrong with Tee-Pause. Yes, it's not a new puzzle per se, but the overall presentation makes for it and it's a must have in any collection.

Availability: You can get a copy of Tee-Pause at PuzzleMaster for just $11 CAD. If you'd like, you can also browse other designs by Siebenstein-Spiele.


Modern Times

Posted on by Gabriel | 7 comments
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This is a long overdue review I've been wanting to write for months, ever since I got this puzzle back in June, but time and other puzzles kept me from doing it... Until now. Modern Times has got to be one of the most strikingly beautiful puzzles from Jean Claude Constantin I've seen so far. The concept isn't new, although it does add a couple of new elements, but when I look at its visual appearance I don't really care if it's revolutionary or not. It's Gorgeous!

The first thing that surprised me about Modern Times was its size, which is bigger than I was expecting. This actually happens to me a lot when I'm browsing for puzzles, since their size is the last thing I check. I basically take a look the photo and its description. I sometimes get surprised too, but on the bad side. Not this time though, as the puzzle measures a good 14cm x 14cm (about 5.5").

The puzzle is made by a combination of laser-cut woods in various colors, with each wheel having eight different colors. The top of the puzzle is protected by acrylic and to complement the design a sheet of reflective paper, resembling brass, is also used. The aspect of the puzzle reminds me of some sort of a clock mechanism from centuries past, where you'd have to manually wind it.

Playing with this puzzle is a pleasure and the movement is really smooth. Note that in order for that to happen the wheels' teeth need to be properly aligned. You don't touch the actual four main wheels though. The movement is done by turning the smaller wheels that are placed at three different positions and you can only move two of the bigger wheels directly, at the top right and bottom left. Another interesting design feature of the puzzle is that the wheels' teeth don't cover all their perimeter. Some of those areas are flat and will keep the wheel from moving relative to the others. This particular fact makes the puzzle quite complex to solve, but that's also what makes it so fascinating.

Modern Times can be classified as an Edge-Matching puzzle. Each wheel has two adjacent neighbors and the colors that are touching each other have to match. Sounds simple, but when you combine this simple concept with a complex mechanism you're in for a rather challenging puzzle. Just a few moves are enough to completely mess up the arrangement of the wheels, but remaking the original pattern is anything but easy. 

Anticipating the movement of the wheels and predicting where each color might end up is also a complex matter, due to the gaps in the wheels' teeth, which vary from wheel to wheel. A closer look at the puzzle reveals that one of the wheels actually has all its teeth so it will always move when you turn its connected smaller wheel. Playing with all these constraints and variables is fun but also a little frustrating, especially when you have almost all the colors in place and need to move a correctly placed wheel, just to make a mess out of it in the next steps.

Solving time is hard to measure, because it depends on how well you understand the movement of each wheel. My solving time is nothing to be proud of, since it took me a couple of weeks to finally solve it. I have made an effort since then to solve it a second time, but I have yet to find patience to completely solve it. I actually find it more fun just to fiddle with it without any particular goal.

(Click to Enlarge) - Mixed Up
Closing Comments:

Constantin has so many great puzzles that it's hard to pick just one to be your favorite. If I had to choose, however, I reckon Modern Times would be a perfect candidate. I keep it proudly on my collection as one of the top 10 puzzles among over 1000 so far.  This is why I collect puzzles.

Availability: I got the Modern Times from a German Store, IQ-Shop.de, but as of the writing of this review it's out of stock. You can also find in this store other unique Constantin designs. PuzzleMaster currently has it in stock, here.

Links:




Flabber Floovers - Owl

Posted on by Gabriel | 7 comments
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The Owl is my third puzzle from the Flabber Floovers collection. Released by Family Games America, this collection of 12 unique puzzles, mostly rope ones, brings enjoyment to all puzzle fans with four difficulty levels, whether you're an experienced puzzler or just a beginner.

Today, I bring you a more challenging design, a level 4/4, or at least they say. I actually found it a bit easier than I was expecting, but I'll explain in more detail below. The puzzle itself is quite intimidating at first sight, with a large rope length, enough to scary away the most courageous of puzzlers.

No wonder it looks so complicated... With four wooden blocks plus a bead and finally a ring to free, you have many things to worry about and too many parts that can make the puzzle a real mess with knots. Two of the wooden blocks look very similar in shape, but one of them is slightly wider, enough to block the ring from passing over it. There's a couple of knots between these two blocks that need to be untied before doing anything with the ring. Only after that you're going to include the ring in subsequent steps.

As I mentioned above, the puzzle turned out to be much easier than I'd thought. I was clear that those knots between the slotted bars needed to be taken care of before doing anything else, and while they looked complex at first, it was actually pretty intuitive to untie them. When you finally clear the space for the ring to get between the two bars, it immediately reminded me of the classic Horseshoe puzzle. And it wasn't any coincidence, as I was able to perform the same exact steps to free the ring as you do with the Horseshoe puzzle. I was very surprised to solve the puzzle quickly, but even more surprised to see a different and more advanced version of a well known classic. Since the solving process was rather easy to do, putting the ring back to its original position was even easier. I wish more puzzles were like this one, easier than you expected.

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Closing Comments:

The Owl is now my favorite puzzle from the Flabber Floovers collection. Not because it was easy to solve, but because it takes a simple design like the Horseshoe puzzle and adds its own elements to create one of the best variations I've seen in a while. Definitely recommended, and even if you're a beginner go for it, because it might surprise you by how simple it really is.

Availability: You can find the Owl and all the others in the Flabber Floovers collection at Puzzles de Ingenio, in Spain. Worldwide shipping available.


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