Friday, 23 June 2017

Toulouzas’ Triple Rhombic Pyramid

Q: What do you get when an incredibly talented craftsman takes three pyramids with rhombic bases and mashes them together?

A: An object of sheer beauty…

…and when the craftsman concerned is Mike Toulouzas, a rather tricky puzzle as well.

Mike’s website has a list of the puzzles he’s produced with glorious photographs of all of them – and a little background about each design. Those photographs can produce a great deal of puzzle lust if you happen to be prone to such things – you’ve been warned! Unfortunately, I am prone to such feelings and as a result I generally find myself keeping an eye out for Mike’s stuff on auctions and in private conversations about puzzles potentially for sale… and a little while back someone rather generously offered to sell me a copy of the Triple Rhombic Pyramid puzzle – I didn’t need to spend very long in thought… and it’s duly been road-tested by a number of MPP-irregulars – all of whom have pronounced it a great puzzle. 

Mike has made a number of puzzling variations on what I’d describe as a central Coffin core – the internal geometries of a number of the puzzles are quite similar – and non-orthogonal so they screw with your head! However, Mike manages to thoroughly disguise them so that you’re almost always surprised by how these things come apart… and then when they do, then tend to do so rather quickly, which often results in a plaintive looking puzzler with slightly more pieces in his hands than he was hoping for looking up at me and saying “I think I’ve done a silly thing” … [Anyone care to 'fess up? :-) ]

Now Mike’s notes on this one point out that using different woods for the three pyramids should help a puzzler – and they probably do, but in my experience, they generally provide a really good confirmation that you’re doing the right thing, but they definitely don’t lead you toward the right thing initially! 

The angles on the pyramids, and those pesky internals do a right good job of not narrowing down the potential places for various bits to go – just working out how to make the three pyramids on their own is a challenge – remember there are bits missing where they intersect and it’s not always clear where you want the holes to be… then trying to work out how they should combine isn’t too much of a bother, but the final step of working out how to get the right bits together in the right order, provides a classic Coffin-esque puzzle.

It’s not only a good puzzle, but a stunningly beautiful object… another Toulouzas triumph. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Wandering Cubes

This was one of my favourite puzzles from Eric’s February batch of goodies.

Designed by Peter Gal, it’s one of those delightfully simple little packing puzzles… there are three pieces to put inside a little box which has a simple little constraint. I love packing puzzles like that, especially ones that have just a few pieces – Caramel Box, Four L’s, you know the sort…

This one has three pieces to be placed in a 3*3*2 box that has a single cubie semi-fixed inside it. That single cubie can move between three positions depending on what’s inside there and how they’re positioned…

The pieces between them take up 15 cubies, plus the one attached to the box, which leaves a practically cavernous 2 cubie space left after you’re finished… should be simple! 

Eh, naw… as it turns out it’s a tricky little number that requires the puzzlists to first find an assembly that should work, then exhaust all the possible ways of getting it into that little constrained box… and of course that little constraint is massively limiting. You might for instance find that there were only two possible assemblies, and then discover that the moving cubie in the box reduced that to a single solution, requiring a little bit of manoeuvring to achieve the proper solution. 

The pieces are simple enough to make it seem really accessible and draw you in… and having done that, it then makes you work pretty hard to find a wonderfully satisfying solution…

I likes it. A lot. :-)

Sunday, 11 June 2017


I’d really enjoyed Kawashima-san’s Pod puzzle box, so when they announced Pyramid as a variant of Pod, I piled in... my copy arrived just ahead of MPP XXV and I remarked that few folks had fun playing with it – Louis in particular made reasonably short work of it but said it was nice… which usually means thoroughly awesome in my little puzzling world.

Following MPP XXV and the general upheaval of the cave, I hadn’t had much chance to play with some of the recent arrivals and it was only relatively recently that I actually got to play with Pyramid properly – and found out just how nice it is…

In simple terms, Kawashima-san has built up each of the faces of the Pod cube until they formed six pentagons on an offset axis – except that the panels still overlap and slide as per the original cube… so far so simple… one little details though becomes quite important: Pod has some wonderfully clear visual clues to the orientation of the panels – Pyramid dispenses with that entirely: every side / panel looks like every other… and for those of you who know your Pods, that creates a bit of an issue – especially is someone has helpfully scrambled the puzzle for you, either intentionally or unintentionally…

So it was that I came to sit down and play with this little beastie in the solitude of the cave and really got to know it… there are some subtle clues to what’s going on and you can sort of work out where you’re heading but you need a cool head and fine attention to the details to spot when you’re making any progress whatsoever… this is not the sort of puzzle where you can randomly move panels and hope to progress – this one will only open when you spot several little clues and then find a way of suing all of them together, in the right order to finally open the box… 

Very satisfying Karakuri box that makes you work hard for the solution – I think I like this one even more than Pod, even though Pod is prettier! (and we all know what a magpie I am…) 

Addendum: Checker Secret

Billed as an introduction to Karakuri boxes, this box is meant to serve as an accessible puzzle for beginners and it certainly won’t keep seasoned puzzlists out for long, but I think it deserves some attention because of how it does that…

For starters, it is beautifully finished and really looks every bit the beautifully made Karakuri puzzle – the main locking mechanism is nicely disguised and yet definitely discoverable by a newbie, with enough of the mechanism visible inside once the box is opened to explain to enquiring minds just how that all worked. 

… but wait, there’s more!

There’s another secret waiting patiently for the observant neophyte – just a subtle hint of more to come… and that's what makes this a neat little introduction for me: there’s the obvious starter which might well be more than sufficient for most non-puzzlers, but there’s more for the curious to discover – and that makes it worthy of a mention here, IMHO, just in case puzzlists dismiss it as being “too simple”.