Monday, November 28, 2011


Oh I can tell already this is going to read like an advertisement and it's honestly not intended to be that way.

I started off these twisty posts (not because that's what I like best...or was it?) with a tribute if you will indulge me to my friend Frank. Well, as long as I'm thinking of friends, I may as well write about one of my 'oldest' puzzle friends. So there you have it folks, I'm not writing about SmaZ because I like his puzzles or he's a great builder, I'm writing about him because he's OLD!

I'm sure I've written somewhere before about how long I've known Michael Li aka SmaZ. I'll bore you with a reminder anyway. I guess we met around 1998-1999 when he had a little shop in a shopping mall way out in the middle of nowhere. As with puzzling and puzzlers and such over the years we lost touch and got reacquainted later. That was great news for both of us I think....or at least I hope. We've become good friends since then and have more than just puzzles in common (we both like beer and to 'let our hair down' in Guangzhou with the boys) ok. I'll be serious.

I'm not sure when I first asked Michael to make me a puzzle. NO, that's not true. I do remember. He was in TinHau and I wanted a card suit Sudoku type puzzle he made. He wouldn't sell it to me because he couldn't solve it. Well after a lot of pestering I finally got my puzzle and a few more. He sold me more than one 'rare' puzzle he picked up lord knows where. So at first I was just buying premade mass produced puzzles from him.

Then one day I saw him cutting away at something. A rather large 3x3x3 if I remember. And that started it all!

I asked for a axis cube, and for a Fisher's cube, and we got onto a discussion about jelly cubes and then we went on and on and on. I'm pretty pleased to say that I (think) own all but 2 of Smaz's puzzles. I don't have his square 1 pyramid, or the Luxor cube. The rest...THEY ARE ALL MINE! (ok, bragging done)

Today when I was in my office I decided to take some photos of SmaZ's puzzles (I found myself with nothing to do and none of my co-workers would play with me). They all rest comfortably amongst my books over at the office. Puzzles, not co-workers. Co-workers just steal the books. The puzzles aren't the greatest security guards.

What we have here are just a number of 3x3 variations. (SmaZ's puzzles are all over my office, on my shelves, in my cabinets, under the bed...) three worth noting are the 3x3x5 that he made for me last year. I ordered this one almost a year before that, and SmaZ did make them...just not for me. I've come to expect a lot from custom puzzles over the years and he never disappoints me. The puzzles that I have from him in my collection have gotten better and better as time goes by. When he first started making them, they had holes on the inside cuts, then they were capped, but not smoothed...and now we have butter! Ok, so that 3x3x5 sorry got sidetracked. It's fully functional, and the entire thing is done by hand. The puzzle is unlubricated and turns just beautifully. But as you can see, it is unsolved. With this one, I was doing great just to get it back into its original shape. I don't have OCD so I really don't care that it is mucked up.

There's a madness cube in there that was a birthday present from 2 or 3 years back that sits perfectly solved. I mucked it up once and it simply took ages to get back to normal. That one is cool because as you can see from the photo (the green top) the puzzle doesn't have one center. It has an offset center along one section.

The diamond was made because I wanted one and my husband wouldn't give it to me....Others are puzzles I saw and wanted for my collection. Michael was starting to build and I was willing to pay him to give it a go. This has worked out beautifully for us over the years. As I said, I have all but 2 of his creations. The Castle cube is a piece of art. A puzzle and a building. Great stickers to boot. The CityU cube was a gift after I attempted to help him get a deal with the University-and I still don't know what happened with that...

Those are square 1 variations. It's a real shame that the blue star-like one in the center was never made, or the 2-layer square one over on the right. These are all hand-made for me like Michael's other puzzles shown here. Unlike the rest of them, Michael was going to mass produce these. He has a few copies of them somewhere in that mess he calls a workbench, but like many puzzles of late, the KO companies got to them before he could put it on the market. Oh well, that didn't keep a good man down, and he made those dino's I talked about a few days earlier. Dino barrels were before that, and if you pay attention to Mf8 forum or Twisty Puzzles, you probably know his time machine is in the works....(I'll write about those one day if you'd like)

Ok, last set for this evening (although I reserve the right to revisit SmaZ at a later date) here we have a variety of 2x2x2's. The card suit is the one that started it all. It's just an East Sheen with a sticker variation on it. And yes, it's not that easy. Michael was right. The one that has the "PRO" logo on it...well that is VINTAGE Michael. He started out with that logo not SmaZ. That particular cube is an East Sheen 2x2x2 but with springs inside. Yes folks, I'm telling you Michael was the first to do it. Not some fat kid from HK, not Witeden, not Lan Lan or any other company. SmaZ, Michael. End of story. I got this one many years ago from him. The PRO logo? He was using that before (I hope I've got the company right) PuzzlePro became a puzzle shop. But when they came out with that name....well SmaZ became a brand.

The last puzzle in here is an odd one. It is very easy to make from 2 pyrmorphinx puzzle, but wouldn't you know, I had a burst of madness and sold off a bunch of my Meffert's originals and with it went my pyrmorphinx...I was feeling bad about that one day and asked Michael if he could make me one. Sure enough, he went back to his East Sheen preference and cut and capped that star for me. And par for the course, it was mass produced by Uwe a few years later. But you know, I don't care. I have a fantastic puzzle by a fantastic builder (with a lifetime guarantee on quality and for repairs-although I'm pretty sure that is part of the special "Rox package")

With all the shapeways puzzles coming out in recent years, it is getting easier and easier to make puzzles. While I have great respect for the builders of those types of puzzles, for me there is nothing like the puzzles that have the Lurve (Thanks Dr. Panda-you got me writing it now) in them. If I can't have a cast puzzle, I want a cut and cap. As a last resort, I'll take Shapeways. If you are fortunate enough to own a SmaZ puzzle, I don't need to tell you about his craftsmanship. If not.....well what are you waiting for?

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