Labynary

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We all know that Constantin likes to make extremely challenging puzzles, but his latest design, the Labynary, takes the cake as one of the most confusing and challenging puzzles I've ever seen from him...Or anybody else!

Labynary is very well built from plywood slabs and acrylic on the top and bottom of the puzzle. I like the name of the puzzle, because it cleverly uses the term "n-ary", which these sequential movement puzzles are popularly known for. The puzzle has a circular shape, but the labyrinth inside is laid out in a 4x4 square grid. Scattered throughout the area of the puzzle are sliding pins that will lock or unlock the movement of any of the six sliding wood strips (four horizontal and two vertical). The goal is to free the metal sphere from the puzzle.

The movement of the strips will allow a small metal sphere to navigate through the labyrinth and eventually be freed from one of the three exit holes. These three holes positioned at the edges of the puzzle indicate the presence of three different paths, which means three mazes, or three different solutions. Sounds complicated? It should, because this is one hell of a challenge.

What makes this puzzle so complex is the number of sliding pins. With so many different things to manipulate and move, it becomes quite confusing to know which move you should make next. The puzzle has a binary concept, which means that it has two different states (1 or 0 - on or off - left or right). It seems simple, but understanding how the mechanism of the puzzle works in this binary environment will be the hardest part in your attempt at solving it. I would classify this as a difficulty level 10/10, or more likely 11/10. I don't remember ever seeing such a complex and difficult puzzle...

Closing Comments:

The Labynary will be the ultimate puzzle to test your patience levels and of course, your solving skills. Even the most experienced fans will have a hard time with this one. As a collector, it doesn't matter if it's difficult, because it's a very attractive puzzle to add to your collection.

Availability: You can find the Labynary puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for $44.95 USD. Check out other interesting puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin as well.


Anti-Virus Mutation

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In this day and age we live in such a fast and changing world, it's hard to take some time and get away from all the technology surrounding us. Amidst all this frenetic pace, it's quite refreshing to see a company like SmartGames delivering new games every year that don't require anything else beside your gray matter.

It's often said that if something isn't broken, don't fix it. However, fortunately for us lovers of logic games, that doesn't seem to be the case with the new Anti-Virus Mutation, based on the classic game Anti-Virus by Oskar van Deventer. Instead, what you'll find is a carefully designed game by Raf Peeters, a bit more accessible for beginners, that simply took the best ideas from an already amazing game and mutated it into a very interesting alternative...or a complement, if you're like me and already own the original version.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenged 12 (Starting and Solved Positions)

There are two major differences between the two games that makes the new version really worth considering your time and money. The first is that the board is a little smaller, ideal for travelling. Also, smaller means less pieces (6 instead of 11 found in the original), and less pieces means easier to solve. That's good if you like casual games and you're easily frustrated by difficult puzzles, but troublesome for someone looking for a tough challenge. In this case, I recommend going directly to the Wizard challenges, which could take between 10 and 20 minutes each to solve. To make it a little more challenging, there are three blockers that are placed in the board to block the movement of some pieces, so you need to get around them. They are considered part of the game board, so you can't move them.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenged 20 (Starting and Solved Positions)

The other major difference between the original and the new version, and most importantly, is the way it's played. The layout of the board this time consists of vertical and horizontal movements instead of diagonal. Since the pieces are moving differently, you can expect a whole new experience, which in itself is enough to justify adding this great game to your collection. 

Differences aside, the core gameplay is essentially the same. You need to free the red virus from the board by sliding the other colored pieces out of the way. If you've played any sliding games before, you'll feel right at home with this game as well. I breezed through most of the challenges, although I'm a sucker for sliding games and I'm better at them than other types of games. What I can say is that if you like sliding puzzles and games, I can't see any reason not to get the Anti-Virus Mutation. It's more from what you love, so it's a no-brainer.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenged 34 (Starting and Solved Positions)

Closing Comments:

I really liked the new take on the original Anti-Virus, one of my favorites from SmartGames. The game is made with high quality materials and the colorful design makes it for a rather pleasant experience. I also liked the new packaging - It's more practical, it's sleek and easier to take with you anywhere. Can't recommend it enough.

Availability: You can find the Anti-Virus Mutation on Amazon or any other major puzzle game store.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenged 45 (Starting and Solved Positions)




Newton's Gravity

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Professor Puzzle, the company that produces Newton's Gravity, has many clever designs in which a creative mind is needed to solve the problems they propose. Most of these can't really be called puzzles, as they usually require a simple trick or other clever movements to be solved. Nevertheless, like any other traditional puzzle, this one will make you think...

This puzzle couldn't be simpler. Two small wooden pieces, a cup and a bullet, work together to create a basic physics principle. However, you don't need to be a physicist to discover the solution to Newton's puzzle, but a resourceful mind will help. The puzzle is quite small and fits in the palm of your hand, measuring about 4.5cm (about 1.8") in diameter.

Newton's Gravity's goal, like its presentation, is as simple as it gets: you have to put the bullet inside the cup and then find a way to remove the bullet without moving the cup. This looks like an impossible task, since at first, your only idea to accomplish this is to tilt the cup upside down, but that's exactly what you're not supposed to do. How is this done then?

Ok, I must confess, this puzzle had me baffled for a while and I couldn't resist looking up its solution. I just couldn't figure out how to remove the bullet without moving the cup. It seemed to defy logic and rational thinking. I suspected there should be a trick involved, as some kind of illusion. Well, as it turns out, the solution is indeed some sort of trick, and knowing now how it's done, I reckon it would be a while before I could come up with such a creative solution. It's not an obvious or intuitive solution, that much I can tell you.

Without revealing much of the solution, I can say that the puzzle doesn't need to be exclusively on a flat surface. You can be holding it in your hands while performing the solution. Also, the solution involves some sort of propulsion, but that's about as much information I can give you without completely revealing the solution. It is very clever and simple, but can be quite difficult to discover it. I have to disagree with the 2/5 difficulty rating, though. I believe this is much more difficult than the designers made it out to be, even for experienced puzzlers. You won't find too many people out there that will be able to solve this in a timely manner. This is a level 4/5 at least, in my opinion.

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Closing Comments:

Newton's Gravity is a perfect puzzle for a party, with lots of friends and family. Challenging people and observing how they try to solve it is probably more entertaining than many other collective activities.

Availability: You can find the Newton's Gravity at Brilliant Puzzles for just $5.99 USD.


Uhrwerk

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Uhrwerk (German for clockwork) is yet another great puzzle from the family of sequential movement, which is a type of puzzles usually made by Jean Claude Constantin, and very well made, I might add. This beautiful contraption is sure to capture the attention of anyone because of its eccentric and unusual design.

One of the things that pops right out of this incredible design is its size. It measures about 21cm diagonally and features four big cogs placed at each corner. The material used is laser-cut wood, which is easier to work with, especially due to the small dents of the cogs. The movement of the puzzle is smooth and works flawlessly.

The design of the puzzle, which by the way, doesn't look like a real puzzle at all, but something from the mind of Leonardo da Vinci, is in itself a masterpiece of craftsmanship. The four wheels, or cogs, or discs, whatever you want to call them, work simultaneously if you rotate just one of them. Carved in the face of the wheels is a winding path that's being navigated by four small metal spheres. Your goal, however, is to free just one of these spheres (there's a larger hole in the frame), since the other three are there just to make your task a bit more difficult by blocking some of the movements.

This puzzle is quite difficult to solve, because it has a large number of movements required to free the sphere. The level of difficulty is 9/10, so this is a big challenge for the more experienced fans. The movement of the puzzle is classified as 3-ary (ternary, because of its three states). Solving it requires utmost concentration, as you need to pay attention to how the wheels turn and to keep the spheres in the correct path. It takes a while to get used to the movement of the puzzle and to find the correct sequence, but once you do it's easier to solve.

Closing Comments:

Uhrwerk by Constantin is a magnificent puzzle. You can play with it without even trying to solve it, just playing with the movement. To solve it, however, you should be an experienced fan, otherwise it can be extremely frustrating.

Availability: You can find the Uhrwerk puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for $34.95 USD. There are also many other interesting designs from Jean Claude Constantin.


Confusion

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As a sliding puzzle fan, every new design that uses an original idea is always welcome, even it it has already been done, which is the case of Siebenstein-Spiele's Confusion, designed by Jürgen Reiche (the company's founder). A very challenging puzzle that will surely frustrate even the most patient fans.

The concept featured in this puzzle was firstly used, to my knowledge, by Hanayama with their Puzzle Impossible. Siebenstein-Spiele has also made a similar version before, which I have played and really liked called Digits - both identical in difficulty.

The puzzle is very well made from a combination of acrylic pieces and a wooden frame. It measures 13.4cm in diameter, which is nice to handle in your hands. The pieces can't be removed from the puzzle, so the only way to solve it is by sliding the pieces (or to dismantle the puzzle, but that would be cheating...). The difficulty level is a 6/7 by the manufacturer or a 9/10 by an alternative scale.

The idea behind the puzzle is brilliant and consists of using numbers like the ones you see in digital clocks and wristwatches and then changing the way they look by moving some of their segments. You do this by sliding the pieces, in two layers. The combination of the segments in both layers, when correctly displayed, will show a number, but as soon as you move one or more pieces from their space you'll see strange and odd characters, as if your watch is out of whack. The goal is to mix the pieces and then rearrange the numbers in the correct order from 1 to 9.

The bottom layer of the puzzle has nine pieces, but the top has only eight. This empty space will be how you move the pieces around the frame. You can even use a piece from the top layer in the bottom and vice versa. The number of possible combinations is staggering and because of this the puzzle is extremely difficult. You need to study the appearance of each digit and know really well which segments compose each number to understand how you can move your pieces and not become frustrated by so much confusion - hence the name of the puzzle.

Closing Comments:

Confusion by Siebenstein-Spiele is a great puzzle and one that shouldn't be missed if you like very difficult puzzles. Its design is also very attractive and will look beautiful on any shelf or coffee-table. I wouldn't recommend this one for beginners.

Availability: You can find a copy of the Confusion puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for $30.95 USD. There are also many other puzzles by Siebenstein-Spiele.


Maischloß

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MaischloßAnother scary sequential movement puzzle from Jean Claude Constantin that will surely keep you busy for a long time. Can you open this extremely difficult Puzzle Lock?

As you can see from the photo, this is quite a big puzzle, considering that other puzzle locks are usually smaller. It measures 18cm x 11.5cm, which is rather satisfying for a puzzle that looks so stunning and intriguing at the same time. This lock consists of 20 pins - five groups of four - and each group of pins moves left or right. The pins don't move independently from each other, instead they move simultaneously within each group.

The design of the puzzle is what's most striking about it. It's made to look so complex that it will certainly intimidate even the most experienced puzzler. There are four different rectangular mazes in the form of sliding platforms that the groups of pins need to navigate. When you want to make a move you need to make sure all pins aren't blocking your movements. The two middle platforms are the most important since they're the ones that will be first removed. Only when they're out of the puzzle will you finally be able to remove the last two platforms, which are connected to the shackle. The platforms move vertically, which is perpendicular to the movement of the pins.

This is an extremely difficult puzzle to solve, a level 10/10, so only if you feel confident you can solve it should you attempt to do it. A beginner will most certainly feel frustrated in no time. This looks like one of those n-ary puzzles Constantin also makes very well (a binary puzzle for example), but this is not one of those. In fact, I believe that because it's not a n-ary puzzle it's even more difficult, because its sequence is not linear. It's more chaotic and it doesn't follow any specific rules. You will need to solve it step by step by always figuring out the next move, not by a predetermined sequence but by a random set of movements - like a maze! We all know that mazes aren't logic, so just keep trying until you can open the lock.

Closing Comments:

If you like difficult puzzles, Constantin has so many great ones for you that it will be difficult to choose just one. The Maischloß is a great choice if you're looking for a good challenge and a different concept. It has all the ingredients an experienced puzzler wants.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Maischloß puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for $38.95. For more Constantin puzzles check out their other offerings.


PLD Box

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Fans of labyrinths and puzzle boxes have a reason to love Jean Claude Constantin's new puzzle, the PLD Box (also known as Laby Box), since it combines these two distinct concepts perfectly into a brilliant and unique puzzle.

As you know, a puzzle box has a hidden mechanism or some other locking device that needs to be deciphered in order to open it. However, this box is a little different, because the locking mechanism can be seen. It's a labyrinth, but don't think it's easier than any other puzzle box. In order to open this box you have to solve the labyrinth and remove its acrylic cover.

I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and overall design of this puzzle. It is quite big and sturdy, measuring 12.5cm x 9.7cm x 6.5cm. The body of the box is made of this lighter shade of wood, almost the same color as bamboo, but I'm not sure exactly what type of wood it is. The top of the box is decorated with a geometric maze consisting of two sliding plates that move in opposite directions. The goal is to navigate the two mazes by moving the six pins up and down while pulling on the plates back and forth. Only one of the plates can be removed, as you can see by carefully analyzing the mazes. Only one of the mazes is actually linked as one continuous path. The other maze is separated into three different path that are not linked together.

The pins can't move independently from each other. They move in pairs vertically, so you have to solve both mazes simultaneously, always planning your moves strategically. With each move you'll have to move some pins up, others down, or you won't be able to slide the plate out of the box.

The difficulty level of this puzzle is very high, because of the high number of moves involved in the solution. To remove the cover you have to repeat many of the movements, as if you were following a logic sequence. Once you understand the logic behind the maze, you'll solve the puzzle in no time.

Closing Comments:

The PLD Box by Constantin is one of his best puzzle box designs. The combination of two different concepts works flawlessly and solving one will be a great accomplishment accompanied by a rewarding feeling.

Availability: The PLD Box is available at Brilliant Puzzles for $39.95 USD. There are also many other interesting Constantin's designs.


Black Jack

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Black Jack is yet another interesting design by Jean Claude Constantin that uses multiple mazes to really challenge our minds. Are you ready to conquer another difficult labyrinth by Constantin or are you going to get lost in the winding path?

The Black Jack - curiously one of the very few Constantin puzzles that don't have a German word for its name - is actually a four maze puzzle disguised as a double maze. It consists of two wooden platforms that slide back and forth, each one having two different mazes, one for each metal sphere to navigate around. Between the two platforms is another wooden sheet with a vertical path that lets the spheres go up or down. The only way to move the spheres is by sliding the platforms so there's always a path for them to move up or down. You solve the puzzle when you finally manage to guide the spheres all the way up the vertical path and remove them through the exit hole.

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This is quite a challenging puzzle because of the four mazes. For each sphere you have to maneuver two mazes simultaneously by flipping the puzzle and check your next move. When you pull on a platform both spheres need to have a clear path ahead or behind them, otherwise your move will be blocked.

The puzzle is classified as a level 9/10, and I mostly agree with it. Its mazes aren't all that difficult individually, but by combining them into two sets of two mazes it becomes a highly difficult challenge, one that will sure put your attention skills and patience to the test. I was able to solve this one within 20 minutes, after many failed attempts. There's no easy way to reset the puzzle to its starting position, so you'll have to do it all again backwards if you want to put it back again.

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Closing Comments:

The Black Jack by Constantin is an ambitious design with a rather complex concept. It's amazing how the designer could come up with this incredible puzzle. If you are a fan of mazes, I highly recommend this one.

Availability: The Black Jack puzzle is available at Brilliant Puzzles for $24.95 USD. You can also find many other great designs by Jean Claude Constantin.


Misery

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Siebenstein-Spiele is one of my favorite puzzle manufacturers, because their puzzles closely resemble the ones by Jean Claude Constantin, which are made with many types of wood and other quality materials. Both companies produce very original designs and the Misery puzzle by Jürgen Reiche (founder of Siebenstein-Spiele) is quite an interesting puzzle, indeed.

With a curious circular shape and two hinges attached at both ends, the Misery puzzle is definitely an intriguing design, where the goal is to free the rope and bead from the frame. Made from laser-cut wood, the puzzle looks a bit intimidating at first, but you shouldn't fear it, since it's actually easier to solve than you'd think.

When you start the rope is attached at one end of the frame. There's a small path inside the circle from where the rope can move through, but for that you need to move the hinges back and forth, because they might be blocking your path. The movement of the hinges is limited, but it's enough to make the rope pass beneath them. One thing you should take into consideration, which is common among string puzzles, is that the rope is quite long and easily entangled. You should plan your moves carefully and strategically to avoid making any unnecessary knots.

The difficulty of the puzzle varies from your experience with this type of puzzles. I didn't find it very challenging and was able to solve it within 10 minutes, but it can be very challenging for beginners. I believe a correct classification of its difficulty would be a level 7/10. Putting the string back to its original state is straightforward, since you just need to reverse your previous steps and follow the curves of the puzzle from outside to inside.

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Closing Comments:

Fortunately, solving the Misery puzzle by Siebenstein-Spiele won't make you miserable. On the contrary, it's challenging enough without being frustrating, and provides a rewarding and satisfying feeling after solving it.

Availability: You can find the Misery puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for just $15.95 USD. There's also a wide variety of Siebenstein-Spiele puzzles on offer there.


Torbogen

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Torbögen, by Jean Claude Constantin, is a rather interesting packing puzzle with a very clever geometry. Made with 16 pieces, this deceptively easy puzzle is the perfect companion for someone who likes to play with patterns and geometrical shapes.

Torbogen may sound like a strange name for many of you, but if you know Constantin you know he likes to name his puzzles with German words - he's a German designer after all. The word means "archway", which the shape of the puzzle indicates if you view it vertically. Honestly, I see first an arrow, maybe because I first looked at it horizontally.

Like many of his puzzles, Torbögen is made from laser-cut wood. It's not the best of materials, but it's quite versatile and it gives a nice polished finish, while keeping the puzzle affordable for everyone. It also makes the puzzle lighter, which is good when you're buying lots of puzzles and you save on shipping costs, which in turn means more money for puzzles...

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The shape of the pieces is what makes this puzzle really shine. Not sure if there's a name for this particular shape, but I've seen it many times featured in other puzzles alongside other shapes. However, I've never seen it presented like this, since every one of the 16 pieces has the same shape, albeit in four different sizes.

Now, because the pieces are proportionally sized, you can actually build the shape of a bigger piece with other smaller pieces and therefore change the appearance of the solved puzzle, thus creating many different solutions in the process. I had a lot of fun altering the position of the pieces and playing with different configurations.

(Click to Enlarge) - Two of the many possible solutions

Closing Comments:

For better or worse, this is quite an easy puzzle to solve, since it's solvable within the first couple of minutes of your first try (it also depends on your skill level with packing puzzles), but on the bright side it gives you more time to find other solutions. It has a high replay value, which to me is always a plus when it comes to puzzles. You really get your money's worth with this one.

Availability: The Torbögen puzzle is available at Brilliant Puzzles for $25.95 USD. If you like this one, check out other interesting puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin.


Brain Dice

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I haven't reviewed a puzzle from Recent Toys in a while, so I was very curious to try their new puzzle Brain Dice, designed by Andrea Mainini. In short, this is probably the best puzzle I've seen in the last year - Very original design and extremely addicting. But, since this is a review, I'll elaborate some more on my thoughts about this one.

One thing that I always liked about Recent Toys is their ability to find new and original ideas, and transform them into superb puzzles. I have many puzzles from their extensive catalog, but finding a favorite would be a tremendously difficult task. As for the Brain Dice, I reckon it's one of the best from their entire catalog. That says a lot about it, no?

The first thing that captures your attention when you first look at the Brain Dice is its six dice, one in each side. The puzzle uses actual dice that you can see in any board game. Each side is surrounded by four arms, each with a rotating knob that shows three circles (each of the three circles can be either blank or black). You will only count the circles that are shown in black.

The goal of the puzzle is to first remove the dice from the frame and scramble them. Next, place the dice again, one by one, in the frame with the side that's facing you on the top. Finally, you need to rotate the four knobs in each side of the puzzle so that the sum of the black circles is equal to the number on the dice. It's simple to understand, challenging to solve and, most importantly, very addictive. And the best part? Whichever dice combination you have on the puzzle, there's always a solution, so you just need to keep trying until you solve it.

The difficulty of the puzzle is rated by the manufacturer as a level 4/5, and I completely agree. It's not frustratingly hard, but still challenging enough to keep you hooked and always coming for more. This is what makes the puzzle addicting, and of course, it's quite fun to play with.

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Closing Comments:

The Brain Dice is a superb puzzle and one that should not be missed by anyone remotely interested in puzzles. It's one of the best by Recent Toys in years. If you like a good challenge, this one is definitely for you.

Availability: You can find the Brain Dice on many puzzle stores. Brilliant Puzzles and Amazon are just two examples.


Peanuts

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In the world of packing puzzles, peanuts are a tough nut to crack (fun fact: they're actually legumes and not nuts), especially because of their irregular shape. Not surprisingly then, puzzles with the peanut theme are very challenging for a good reason.

Besides the Peanuts puzzle, featured in this review, I know of only another puzzle with peanuts - the Glass Puzzle Peanuts by Beverly Enterprises. Both are very challenging, although I only had the pleasure of playing with the version you see here, designed and built by Jean Claude Constantin.

The good thing about Constantin's Peanuts is that it's a flat 2D puzzle, unlike Beverly's 3D one. Nevertheless, don't be fooled. This is still quite a challenge to solve, so don't underestimate it. I know from experience that 2D puzzles can be just as difficult as their 3D counterparts, if not more in some cases.

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The Peanuts puzzle features 10 unique peanut-shaped pieces, although some of them are unusually irregular, even for a peanut...but that's what makes it so interesting. The pieces are laser-cut, so they fit perfectly inside the hexagonal frame. Another interesting aspect of this puzzle is that each individual peanut piece has its own shell that can be separate from its kernel. This doesn't exactly make the puzzle that much more difficult, since you can easily tell which shell belongs to what kernel and vice-versa, but it's nonetheless a neat feature of the puzzle. For example, you can solve the puzzle first with the shells only and then pack the other pieces at the end.

As hinted before, this is a very difficult puzzle to solve due to the irregular shape of the pieces. Notwithstanding, you can actually take advantage of the inner shape of the frame to tell which pieces fit or don't fit in a particular part of the frame. This makes the puzzle a little less frustrating, but just barely... Be prepared for a real challenge.

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Closing Comments:

Constantin's Peanuts puzzle is a real treat for puzzle lovers. It's quirky and has all the right ingredients for anyone looking for a tough but rewarding puzzle. I can't recommend enough this one. Give it a go, and I promise you won't go nuts.

Availability: Brilliant Puzzles is the place to find the Peanuts puzzle. You can also get other great puzzles by Jean Claude Constantin.


Circles

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Here's a type of puzzle that I really like, Packing Puzzles. Easy to understand, but a real challenge to solve them. Some require more trial and error than others, but the best ones are those that need planning, to think what to do before placing any piece on the frame - not mindless random packing.

Siebenstein-Spiele's Circles is a puzzle that puts an emphasis on planning, as you try to pack all 16 circles (or parts of a circle) inside the square frame. The pieces fit neatly and tight on a 4x4 grid, giving the impression that many circles are overlapping others. Only three of the sixteen pieces are actual complete circles, while the remaining are different configurations of circle cross-sections, either concave or straight or a mixture of both.

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The puzzle is quite small, measuring only 8cm x 8cm (3.15"). I would prefer a bigger puzzle, so the pieces don't feel so small in your hands, but it's still manageable. The wood used is just laser-cut wood, so to couple with its small size you have a very light puzzle. Two contrasting wood shades are used, which is always nice in a packing puzzle - or any other puzzle, for that matter.

The concept of this puzzle is not new, however. Jürgen Reiche, the designer and founder of the company, already has a similar puzzle named Euro Krisis. The difference here is that the Circles puzzle is not so chaotic, because the pieces are arranged in a regular shape, whereas the Euro Krisis had a circle frame, which meant the solution was more unpredictable...and harder.

The Circles puzzle has a difficulty level of 4/7 (as rated by the manufacturer), and I completely agree. It's challenging, and sometimes frustrating, especially when you are down to the last couple of pieces and none of them fit. But nevertheless, it's not as difficult as other packing puzzles from Siebenstein. I take it for its difficulty level that it must have other possible solutions, otherwise it would be much harder to solve.

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Closing Comments:

I would highly recommend the Circles puzzle if you can't get enough of packing puzzles, and Siebenstein-Spiele. This is a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle and, given its size, the positive thing is that you can take it with you anywhere. Definitely worth a try.

Availability: You can find the Circles puzzle at Brilliant Puzzles for just $15.95 USD. Check out some other great puzzles from Siebenstein-Spiele.


Diamant Cube

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This is a clever and new type of puzzle made by Jean Claude Constantin, called the Diamant Cube. Yet another proof that he can pretty much do any type of puzzle and still make it a great design.

The wood used in this puzzle is quite different from the usual plywood Constantin uses in his widely popular laser-cut puzzles. This is hardwood with a finish of an almost reddish hue, which gives it this gorgeous and shiny appearance. The handles on each side remind me of classic drawer pulls - They will prove quite useful when you're trying to solve the puzzle...

At first sight, this is quite an intriguing design, because you can't clearly see its internal mechanism. The cube is made by three pairs of pieces, each attached to the other by an elastic cord at opposing sides. The cord doesn't stretch much, which is a challenge since you have to take the cube apart. You need to work out, as much as you can from what you can actually see, which pieces you need to pull apart and rotate in order to remove the three pairs of pieces. Mind you, taking it apart is only part of the challenge, and the easier one for that matter. Putting it back together is much more difficult.

Each of the six pieces looks identical on the outside, but the inside is very different for each one. Several cylindrical-shaped pieces (3 or 4 depending on the configuration) are glued to the inner side of each of the six main pieces. When solved, all 20 cylindrical pieces occupy the entire area of the inside of the cube. This requires a unique solution where all the cylindrical pieces fit perfectly with the empty spaces left by the others, and so on.

As I said, this is a rather challenging puzzle, mainly because of the elastic cord, which barely stretches to a significant length so you can work comfortably with it. Many times I was afraid I was going to break it, but fortunately it seems the cord is pretty strong. You will find it even more stressful when you try to put it back to its cubic shape. It's as difficult to put the pieces in their position as it is to find the correct configuration to finally put it in a perfect cube.

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Closing Comments:

Despite it being a little confusing at first and a bit frustrating, especially the second part of the challenge, the Diamant Cube by Constantin is a fantastic puzzle and a refreshing idea that uses an unusual concept, although it's not new to use elastics in puzzles (the Brainstring is one that immediately pops into my mind). I can easily recommend this one if you're looking for something different that makes you think outside of the box (the cube, in this case).

Availability: You can get a copy of the Diamant Cube at Brilliant Puzzles for $34.95 USD. You can also check out other interesting puzzles by Constantin.


Schloß Dick (Voidlock)

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Jean Claude Constantin always excels at what he does. His puzzles are some of the most amazing concepts you'll ever find out there and a lot of them are as challenging as they come. Puzzle Locks and n-ary puzzles are a perfect combination and here, with the Schloß Dick, Constantin delivers a great looking and interesting puzzle.

This is a rather small puzzle, measuring only 10.5cm x 6.8cm (4.13" x 2.68"). I would've liked a slightly bigger puzzle, since it can be more difficult to manipulate those small sliding platforms. Nevertheless, the movement of the puzzle is still good, despite it being made from laser-cut wood (plywood).

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The Schloß Dick is essentially a n-ary sequential movement puzzle, more specifically a 5-ary (quinary). It sounds intimidating, but in all honesty this feels like a binary puzzle (2-ary if you want to be specific), and therefore it's not as difficult as it looks. The puzzle consists of four sliding platforms that move vertically, while you slide a pin horizontally to match the path of each platform. The puzzle will only be open when all four pieces are slid to the bottom.

This is rated as a level 4/5, but if you're used to sequential movement puzzles, this is easily a level 3/5 or a 7 in a scale of 10. I managed to solve it within 5 minutes, and it took me even less time to put it back together. The four platforms are all different (each has ever larger paths than the previous), but once you know the sequence it's just "rinse and repeat" until you open the lock - It's recursive mathematics, so you should be OK, even if mathematics aren't your forte.

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Closing Comments:

I really liked the Schloß Dick by Constantin. It's not a frustrating puzzle, and by solving it in such a short amount of time, you can solve it anytime you want a quick puzzle fix. The only fault, really, is its short size. Definitely worth a try.

Availability: You can buy a copy of the Schloß Dick at Brilliant Puzzles for $25.95 USD. For other Constantin designs click here.

Links:



Cast Hexagon (巡)

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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The Cast Hexagon is the latest Hanayama puzzle in the popular series. First created in 1983, the series has seen about 70 puzzles now, give or take a couple. Many puzzle designers have contributed with their creations, and Mine Uyematsu from Japan is now adding his second design to the series, after having designed the Cast Quartet. The theme for the Cast Hexagon is "Go Around".

The Hexagon has quite an interesting design, and contrary to many other Cast Puzzles, its goal is pretty clear right from the start (remove the three pieces from the frame). However, just because its mechanism isn't ambiguous it doesn't mean that it's not a difficult puzzle. Classified as a level 4/6, you can be sure that this isn't a puzzle you'll be solving in just a couple of minutes.

When seen in its initial state, all three pieces form a shape that resembles three hexagons put together. Moreover, even before you've made your first move, the pieces look like they have the same overall shape. That's not the case, as you'll soon verify after the first two moves - all three pieces have a different configuration.

Solving the Cast Hexagon requires creative thinking and finding the correct sequence. It requires a total of 24 moves to remove all three pieces, but I reckon you'll need a few more on your first time, as it also happened to me. The pieces slide quite easily around the frame, although they're locked inside the small area until you remove them. The empty space is very small, so you'll have to keep those pieces moving and rotating them quite a bit to make room for the next move. It may sometimes be a little frustrating finding that there's no space for a move you wanted to make, but just keep trying until you remove the first piece. After that it's a piece of cake to remove the remaining two.

Putting the puzzle back together can be even more difficult if you don't have a guide. Be sure to know the order the pieces were removed and you'll eventually will be able to put it in its original state.

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Closing Comments:

Hanayama never disappoints when it comes to their flagship series, and the Cast Hexagon is no different. I was a bit skeptical at first, because of its unusual design, but after playing with it, I have nothing negative to say about it, and I can recommend it to anyone who likes Cast Puzzles.

Availability: I got the Cast Hexagon from the Spanish store PuzzlesdeIngenio.com. Others in the series can also be bought here.

Links:

New Hanayama Website (in English)

Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.

Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)


Cat Lovers

Posted on by Gabriel | 2 comments
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If you're a cat lover, like myself, you're in for a treat, as Creative Crafthouse's new Picture Frame Puzzle designed by Dave Janelle, the Cat Lovers, promises to deliver a good dose of fun and feline puzzling. Ten different breeds of cats are represented in this puzzle in various sizes and poses, and one unlucky little mouse, which found himself trapped among this clowder. Your task is to find a way for all of these little pranksters to get along inside the tight space of the frame. There's only one way to do this, so get creative...

Made from at least four different types of hardwood, which results in several different colors, the puzzle is a beautiful showcase of the craftsmanship achieved at Creative Crafthouse's shop in Florida. Each cat is a close representation of its living counterpart, made with spots and stripes by delicately carving the wood with subtle lines. Their Picture Frame Puzzles are also quite big and look great on display, measuring about 19.3cm (7.6") in diameter. The puzzle also comes with its own lid so you won't run the risk of losing any piece - it will only close when completely solved.

The Cat Lovers puzzle features a total of 10 different cat breeds, some of them quite exotic and rare, which I even didn't know existed. These are: Maine Coon, Korat, Kao Manee, California Spangled, Nebelung, Bengal, British Shorthair, Aegean, Persian, Peterbald. The rest are kittens, and of course there's the lonely mouse for a total of 12 pieces.

As expected from this type of puzzle the level of difficulty is very high, so you can be sure to be challenged to the limit of your skills and then some... The cats, and mouse, won't occupy the entirety of the frame's area, but the empty spaces between them will be very small. The trick here is to maximize the waste of space by finding parts of pieces that can be joined together as much as possible, as if you were solving a jigsaw puzzle. Leave the mouse for last, since it won't have any real impact in the solving process and can be fitted in one the remaining empty spaces.



Closing Comments:

Picture Frame Puzzles can be easily picked up by anybody, since the concept is very easy to understand. However, few will be able to solve one of these, as their high level of difficulty can bring along some frustration. If you happen to solve one, then you'll experience a great rewarding feeling. The Cat Lovers puzzle is the ultimate gift for all cat lovers out there.

Availability: I got the Cat Lovers puzzle from PuzzlesdeIngenio.com, in Spain.


Lock and Key

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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Trick Locks have always been a favorite of mine. I love to discover their secret combinations, finding out what mechanisms keep it locked. It's always a mystery when you're trying to solve one, you never know how much time it will take you until you finally open it. Today's Trick Lock is certainly one of those that's still keeping me from uncovering its secret - but that's a good thing, it means it's a good one.

The Lock and Key puzzle is one of four Trick Locks from the IQ Locker series by Mi-Toys. These puzzles are made from laser-cut wood, to keep the final cost affordable, but they function pretty well, considering their price. The Lock and Key comes with a key (as its name suggests) and your goal is to open the lock - Simple, no? Well, not quite... This one is actually the most difficult of the series to solve, and so far I have no clue how to open it.

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At the bottom of the puzzle you'll find a keyhole, but soon you'll find out that it's not as straightforward as putting the key inside and turn. If you do shake the puzzle you'll hear something jiggling inside, letting you know that there's more to it. The description of the puzzle mentions a maze, but even knowing that it still doesn't help you that much. The key seems to push something inside with an elastic, but it doesn't look like it produces any visible results.

Compared to the other puzzles in the series, this one is by far the most challenging. The others, I had no problem solving them, mostly because their mechanism was easier to figure out. This one gives you very few hints, so you'll need some creative thinking to unlock it.

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Closing Comments:

The IQ Locker series was a pleasant surprise, because at that price I wasn't expecting much. Turns out these are very interesting puzzles, with intriguing and original designs that you can purchase for about $10.

Availability: The Lock and Key puzzle, as well as the other puzzles in the IQ Locker series, is available at Brilliant Puzzles.


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