Notes from Puzzle Palace

Monday, December 31, 2012

On the 7th day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
7 Eric Fuller's
6 Tony Fisher's
5 Richard Hess'
4 Mr. Fok's
3 Da Yans
2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

Eric Fuller is the brains (and the brawn) behind cubic dissection.  If you haven't been over there, now's the time to go look.  Eric is a builder extraordinaire and another all around great guy!  What's not to love about this guy, he's big, he's brawny, he's an amazing builder, he loves a good cigar, and he's ex-service.  What a dude!

I have passed the bull with Eric for a while now, but it wasn't until this past IPP that I finally got to meet him. I must say, I completely enjoyed the time I spent with him and look forward to doing it again.

Over the past few years I've gotten a few puzzles made by Eric and I haven't been disappointed by any of them.  They truly are lovely pieces of wood that just so happen to form a puzzle.  I've blogged about one or two in passing and am sure once I open the others I've bought from him I'll blog about them as well.  :)  Head over to cubic dissection to see what he has to offer, then snap one up.  You won't be sorry!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On the 6th day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
6 Tony Fisher's
5 Richard Hess'
4 Mr. Fok's
3 Da Yans
2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

The one puzzler that is allowed into my collection of men that I have yet to meet....Such a sad thing for me.
I've known Tony via the internet for many years now and simply love his dry humor.  I look forward to meeting him one of these years and keep looking for an excuse to get to the UK so I can do just that.

I've known about this Mr. Fisher for many many years and can vaguely remember getting excited when he first got an account on TP back in 2005!  Imagine, the king of handmade puzzle transformations himself wanted to join our little forum!

Ok, enough cheekiness Tony really is a fantastic builder.  He's had a number of his designs mass produced by Meffert's and can be seen over on PuzzleMaster as well.  He even has his own webpage for you to drool over.

I've no photos of Tony because I've not met him.  (that makes sense right???)  I'll link you to my nesting cubes though.  Over the years I've been lucky enough to get his sliding pucks as well as a miniature golden cube.  There are a few more in my pile, but typical Rox can't remember any of them.

His creations are a bit costly, but they are worth every twisting moment.

Sorry Tony, no photo, but I'm so loooking forward to the day I meet you for real and up close and personal!  Until then, I'll stick to the silly messages and droll posts. :)

Mine is the one in the middle (Photo courtesy of Tony Fisher)

As a non-puzzle related note, Happy New Year All!  If you go out tonight, stay safe.  Hand over your car keys and don't even think about drinking and driving.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On the 5th day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
5 Richard Hess'
4 Mr. Fok's
3 Da Yan's
2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dick in Japan 3 years back and have spent many a pleasant moment in conversation with him.  He has a great way with kids as well.  Katherine loved playing math games with him over a beer in Berlin.  He had her (and me) stumped on more than one occasion.

Dick is a long time puzzle collector.  But more importantly for this series of posts, he's also a long time designer of puzzles.  Reading back in time he's designed many different kinds of puzzles but I would have to guess that he's best known for his wire puzzles.  I've no idea how many puzzles Dick has designed, but I'm sure it is many many.  I seem to run into his name at many different puzzle shops.  For starters, Dick has a number of them on Puzzlemaster.  The prices range from $10 to $12.

Dick wrote a "Compendium of Wire Puzzles" and I've heard tell it has over 10,000 different wire puzzles in it.  That in itself is a feat.  I can only imagine the amount of research that went into writing that book.  Mind, a lot of the puzzles in it are his own designs.  I can't wait to see what he has in store for us in the future.  I'm sure there will be many more to come.  Kevin wrote up about a few of them over on his blog.  Go take a look and enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

On the 4th day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
4 Mr. Fok's
3 Da Yan's
2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

I met Mr. Fok way way way back in 2009. Ok, not so far back in terms of real years, but in puzzle years it's an awful lot.  My very first time to meet him Smaz, Luckystar, and I went on a factory trip.  I never said, but I think enough time has gone past now that I can say the visit was with Mr. Fok (Mf8) and that the puzzle was the crazy 4x4x4.  Wow do I feel better now that that secret is off my chest.

Mr. Fok is another of those gentle quiet men that I like so much.  He's incredibly bright and very hard working.  He'll join us for dinner and a short puzzling time, but  then he's right back to the warehouse designing and building and doing what ever else it is he does.  I'd love to show you a photo of him, but we have all sworn upon the threat of never getting another puzzle again that we will never show his face.

Instead, I'll give you two of the early puzzles that he is responsible for designing.  See, there was a time when Mf8 didn't exist...and Ultraman did!  Fun little puzzles that are a 2x2x2.  If you can find one, I would say grab it just for a piece of Mf8 history.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On the 3rd day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
3 Da Yan's
2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

Da Yan as the world knows him
Anyone who has followed this blog or my posts over on Twisty Puzzles knows I rank Da Yan up there as one of the best puzzle makers around.  I also am pleased to count him as a good friend.  I first met Da Yan in 2010 and I've adored him since day one.

Da Yan as I know and love him
I have many of his puzzles on my shelves.  Not all, because that would just be greedy.  The ones I do have are mostly signed and have been gifts from him since the very beginning.  I've bought a complete set of his 3x3x3's over the years but to be honest, I can't tell them apart (no one tell on me please!)  The Gems I absolutely love.  They are a puzzle that I can solve without much confusion.  I would have to guess that these are the ones that started me liking Da Yan so much.  A naive little puzzler offered to have Uwe look at them...

He's been around making puzzles for quite some time now, but it seems that the west only learned of him around 2009.  In that (in)famous photo of his (top left) you can see a corn puzzle.  He made that from a kids toy. It now resides in Kowloon Bay in a puzzle shop I also greatly enjoy going to.  If I remember right (and I'm sure I don't) he made that around 2006 or 2007...

When out hunting for a photo of Da Yan, I came across his website.  It seems to be very recently opened.  here's hoping he keeps it up.

If you haven't heard of him, or haven't got one of his twisties in your collection, go climb out from under your rock and get one!
A few of my signed gifts

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the 2nd day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me,

2 Brian Young's
And Stickman in a pine tree.

Day Two.  Brian Young, aka Mr. Puzzle has brought-or should I say sent-me more puzzles than I care to admit to.  A few years back when the Aussie dollar was at a lower rate, he was my puzzle shop of choice.  Even though the exchange rate is higher and the shipping is a bit, Brian sells some pretty unique puzzles you won't find any where else.  It's still worth the extra little bit to shop from there.
Brian builds some pretty amazing puzzles.  Three of his that are reasonably priced that I have are The Washington Monument, A Plugged Well, and Houdini's Torture Cell. All of these have been exchange puzzles, but are still available (for a price) on his webpage and in other places.  If you can get your hands on one, jump!  Neil wrote about the Monument, Allard  and Jeff  discuss A Plugged Well, and Oli and Jerry wrote about Houdini.

Brian also built the Cricket bat that everyone raves about.  He's entered numerous design competitions and even Won!  He's always got a smile on his face and you can hear his laughter a mile away.  Brian makes puzzling fun, and to make a business out of it....My dream!

Too bad Sue is such a great lady, I'd sneak in and give him a hug and kiss just for being so great...or maybe I should give it to her!  She's one of those puzzling wives that carries around a Rubik's cube bag!  It doesn't get any better than that does it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On the 1st day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A Stickman in a pine tree.

Stickman.  What a builder!  I can't say anything other than that.  Robert Yarger is such an amazing puzzle box builder that you need to have at least one of his puzzles in your collection.  I'm so impressed by his work that he just had to be my number one puzzler this Christmas!

I first became aware of Stickman puzzles quite a while back.  I saw this chess set that tickled my fancy.  Then I saw the price it sold for at auction and decided it could keep on tickling me I would never be able to afford a Stickman.  Looking back, I see they have gone for anywhere between $1100 and $1750.  Over the years the price has remained pretty constant.  Better than most puzzles which don't seem to hold their value until you get a crazy collector who just has to have it.  Allard has blogged about it here.

I met Robert (aka Stickman) this past year at IPP.  He is an amazing bloke!  Very quiet, very humble, but oh so talented!  Some of the puzzles he makes are truly astounding. Over a cigar I managed to sweet talk him into selling me a "Little Game Hunter" I really love this puzzle and am so glad I convinced him I had to have it.

I have managed to find a small list of some of his boxes at the bottom of this page. Over on the wiki there is a more filled out listing of his collection but there are still a few missing.

If you are simply interested in his work, there is a puzzle book that he's put together.  You can get a copy of it over at cubic dissection.  Eye candy to an extreme!

If you happen to come across a stickman at auction that fits within your price range, JUMP ON IT! If you don't, you'll regret it.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 new toys from Mefferts

Today I'm bringing you the 3 newest puzzles from Mefferts: Jade Chopsticks, Gear Ball and Nautilus.

Each of these puzzles has just been released and are being shipped out these past two weeks.  If you ordered one, you should be able to get it soon if you haven't already.  Ok, enough of the messages from Uwe.

The first is the Jade Chopstics.  I had the joy of playing with this puzzle at least 2 years ago.  Ola has mentioned that it's been in the works for over 3 years, and to be honest, I wondered if it would ever be produced.  Hanayama picked it up a few years back, but to be perfectly honest, they didn't do as good a job as Meffert's did and that's not because we are friends.  There are a few differences, first the Hanayama is a 1x2x5 where as the Meffert's version is a 1x2x9.  Meffert's has curved edges, and it's got some lovely designs running around the outside.  He got the 'jade club' words along the outside designed by John Langdon, and the puzzle was named by yours truly.  I just wish Uwe would have had it done in the painted plastic as he did for the first of the Jade puzzles.  (Bug showed me a new program for taking photos so since it's christmas, I'm playing!)

The second puzzle is the Nautilus.  This one first came out on TP way back in 2009.  Tim Selkirk was the designer and sometime during that year Geert Hellings got his hands on one and showed it to Uwe...or told Uwe about it.  Mid-2010 Uwe started asking for the address or email of Tim.  I couldn't help because he'd been off line for a while and I sadly didn't have a nautilus.  Eventually the two got in touch and we now have a new puzzle.  I said it before, and I'll say it again, it's a great puzzle to add to your collection.  I love the look of it. The rainbow is fantastic!  The color is just the best!  it's such a girly puzzle.  There are 7 colored bits on it and each of the seven segments of the outer layer move.  It's a bandaged puzzle.  The inner layer though has only one place that can turn.  It's like a square one, but it doesn't change positions of the pieces as much as the square 1 does.  It also reminds me of morph.  It's actually a harder puzzle to mess up than to solve.  When you do manage to mess it up, it doesn't take a lot to solve it.  It can be done by intuition.

Last up tonight is the gear ball.  Uwe gives credit to Oskar for the design of it, but Oskar says he only made the gear concept.  :)  funny arguement to have.  "I DIDN'T make it"  usually it's the otherway around.  The gear ball is a dream to turn.  It just spins in your fingers.  Basically it's the gear cube with rounded edges and some little bumps added to help you turn it. I've really nothing much to say about this puzzle except the puzzle in video link has no lube inside it. It's all puzzle!

All of the puzzles above can be purchased on Meffert's.
Enjoy, Thanks for tollerating my Christmasy type photos this week, and don't forget to come back on the 26th for the 12 days of Christmas, Roxanne style.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A mini puzzle meet up

Last weekend I was in Guangzhou for a conference and you know me and GZ. You also know me and conferences. I have to meet up with some puzzlers!
Well, what a trip that was! I was with three other ladies on the team and we had a blast! The conference was really hard work. Honest it was. I'm not used to THAT Chinese accent so I had to work to understand. Since there weren't that many westerners there....the keynote, a workshop presenter and myself, I did everyone a favor and left before dinner.

One of our team attended the same university we were speaking at so she had friends there we met up with. We girls did a bit of shopping in a place called Redtory. (I refrained from buying the RMB 4500 painting I really liked-but did pick up a bit of jewelry).  While there, I called Ming to arrange a dinner.  AJ was to meet us. By the time AJ called, we were already over at the North gate and he was at the South.  Now this was a hoot!  We were less than 2k away and AJ just thought it was too far!  He just finished the GZ marathon in November!  Lazy!

Didn't matter.  We met up later in the CBD and then headed over to meet Mr. Fok for dinner.  When I met the boys my team was shocked!  Hugs and kisses around as always.  Those girls just aren't used to Rox.

Well after a bit of a mess, we finally got to say Hi to Mr. Fok and the teacher.  Aj stayed behind to play with toys and off I went with Ming for dinner and a bit of puzzling.  Ming gave me a few chocolate puzzles and I gave him the newest Hanayama.  It was a good trade I think.  We only spent a few hours together, but it was heavenly as always!  Thank you Ming and AJ and Mr. Fok.

Now  my friends all think I'm a real geek with my puzzles and I don't mind that, but Look what I got them to do!  Solve puzzles.  Winnie and Tiffany went together to solve the ABC puzzle.  My RA Gwen managed it all on her own.  Michelle made an attempt, but she didn't quite make it.  (She later solved the keys I gave her the following week along with the double s)  I'm so proud of them all.  All in all, it was a great little meet up!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Toys, testing, and trial and error.

Toy: a material object for children or others to play with (often an imitation of some familiar object); a plaything; also, something contrived for amusement rather than for practical use.
-the Oxford English Dictionary
Well, today's puzzles certainly fit that bill. Imitations of other items, and something designed for amusement.
I've got two from Vesa, one from Puzzle Master and one from Derek Bosch.

Shapeways had their annual sales recently and once again I took advantage of them. I really don't like the feel of these things, but over the years they have gotten less gritty so I thought what the heck and put in an order. Now I frequent a number of forums, and thought what the heck, I'll get them in white, buy some dye and color them myself....famous last words....

I'm not at the level of Cantonese where I can just go out into a shop and ask for dye. After many trials with this, I gave up and went for a different tactic. I tried food coloring! That I have plenty of. The results were mixes to say the least! My yellow was orange, my green was yellow, my blue was pink(!) and my red was, well, red. So maybe food coloring isn't the best of puzzle dyes. But someone had to try it!

So on to the puzzles. First, I got two from Vesa: a breakfast egg and an onion. I've looked at these two for years now but always just passed them by. Well this time around I hit the purchase button and I'm glad I did. The egg is four pieces and the object is of course to put them together. It's a nifty little thing, but it is easy to spot the solution for it just by looking. To solve it I had to assemble it without the yolk (or orange?) just to loosen up the pieces a bit. A one minute puzzle but fun none the less. The onion is made of six pieces and a tad bit harder to solve but not very much harder. This one was a two minute puzzle I'd guess. These two I didn't purchase for the puzzling factor, but rather for their appearance. Vesa has designed an orange as well which Hanayama has mass produced under the name of Globe Ball. It's hard to come by now, but if you can find one its a great little puzzle as well.

On to the torpedoes. Now this one I have many different versions of. After quite a long discussion about this the other day, I decided to buy yet another version. I'm sure I got it from Bits and Pieces during their last sale. 25% off AND free shipping! I'm in. I'll have to check the packaging again, but I'm pretty sure it's a Puzzle Master product. At any rate, it's listed as an 8/10 and that about sums it up. It's not as easy as the hedgehog and not as difficult as trying to get one of those birds out.

My last puzzle today is Derek's tubular burr. What a hoot that one is. I've sat here grinding away at it for the past three hours off and on and have managed to get. Nowhere yet. I see what it needs to do, I just can't get it to do it without looking. It's not a "by feel" puzzle. Well, at least it hasn't been for me. It's only a three piece puzzle and the object as always is simple, put the pieces in and take them back out again. What could be easier? (A lot of things, believe me!) This one would be a fantastic puzzle for the magpie in me! I'd love to see it made of silver and gold. Shiny smooth metal bits would make it even better fun!

This one is a bit odd. When I colored it, it got a bit 'squishy' I'm not sure if it is meant to be that way, but I can tell the area between the walls of the barrel bit are hollow. It still plays, but I'm afraid ill deform it if I squeeze too hard.

So back to my start. Toy: a material object for children or others to play with (often an imitation of some familiar object); a plaything; also, something contrived for amusement rather than for practical use. I think that definition holds. And today, we've had all three. Although I'd argue that helping me maintain my sanity through 5 hours of low level speakers is a very very practical use for a toy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Before I start this blog I want to thank the owner of ARTELUDES and Kevin for helping me get her shipped to Hong Kong.  

Ok, I know that's a bit instead I'll say you invest in another Berrocal.  
Much like Michelle, Maria has been unloved.  The previous owner cared so little for her that he lost the locking piece.  Her left leg.  Poor Maria is an amputee.  What a disastrous thing to have happen!  (If anyone out there reading this would like to make me an impression of your locking mechanism, I'd be forever grateful, or if you know of how I can request a replacement piece...)  He also loved it so much he tossed the book that comes with her.  Now I ask you, does a person like that deserve such a thing?

When I pulled her out of the box, the first thing I noticed was that the chrome was pitted in spots.  She is well and truly scratched up and dirty!  She definitely needs a bit of TLC.   

Maria consists of 23 pieces and has a chrome covering.  Her number is 1992/10000.  Not too bad a year really.  I was well and truly in love with my husband by then.  So I think I'll keep her around for a tad bit longer, just as I did him.  

I've been sitting here trying to work out what the first piece is to remove and I finally got it. Her buttocks!  They are so caked with dirt though that I'll need to use a rubber spatula type thing to get it apart.  Looks like a job for a testing day.  No way!  I'm crazy, but not that much so.  Instead, I'll spend the evening disassembling and cleaning her as I did with Michelle. 

Once I got that bit out, I noticed that her 'testicles' are rusted.  Now this is rather peculiar as I didn't think chrome could rust.  But then I'm not well versed on this sort of thing so it is highly possible.    After I removed that first piece, she's an easy one to disassemble.  To be honest, it wasn't disassembly as much as it was falling apart.  There is a back covering that needs to be taken off, and then that's it.  She just fell into 20 some pieces.  

As with Michelle, I brought her into the bathroom and used one of the many soft toothbrushes I collect for just this purpose to get the grit out.   She cleaned up rather nicely, and I was rather pleased with my purchase.  

Reassembly was a bit of a pain, not difficulty, but I needed a bit more dexterity than I had this evening.  But now she's clean and dry and looking lovely on the shelf with Maria and Zoraida.  It's a nice trio I have there. Now to find the last 3!

I leave you with one last shot of my Berrocal pieces to date.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mickey Mouse

Today I decided that I'm going to post about a set of puzzles no one else has talked about yet. I also got to thinking of my friends and decided I'd tempt Kevin a bit your heart out my friend.

Next to puzzles, Disney has got to be my next favorite thing. I know I've said it before, but it is so true, and when I can combine Disney and puzzling together, I'm one happy camper!

Another thing that makes me happy is finding an old puzzle and playing with it again. It's like Christmas when I open my bed, or a drawer or a cabinet I haven't opened in a while. This morning was Christmas. Last night Uwe asked me to measure some puzzles for him (yes, I have man tools and now know how to use them.) and I rediscovered a set of puzzles I haven't seen in a while.

This set was made by Kawada in Japan. I managed to pick them up quite a few years back now, and while they are no real challenge, they are Mickey Mouse and you can't go wrong when the two are combined.

There are four different puzzles here and each is really just an old puzzle with a Mickey Mouse theme. Mickey set to music. Kind of reminds me of the philharmagic, or fantasia. I wonder if that is where the inspiration came from.

Solving wise, these puzzles took less than a minute each if that. They are such an old puzzle as the base. These are the ones my grandfather gave me so many years ago. Not the Mickey bit-the puzzle.

If you can get ahold of these, they are worth it for the characters. My only complaint? The keychain bits rusted through and had to be tossed away. I don't like rusty fingers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Christmas wish list 2012

Last year I published my Christmas wish list and thought I'd do the same this year.  It's getting close to the time for Santa to start reading these things and I want to make sure my list is up!

I asked for a bigger house, and unlike Miracle on 34th Street Santa didn't bring me a new house. But much like the boy from the Polar Express, "Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe." So I write out my wish list yet again this year.

My sights have changed some from last year.  I'm not wishing for many new twisties, or Hanayama's or boxes.  I want only 4 small puzzles.  I'm desperate for the rest of the Berrocal collection, but it has to be in my price range.  I'm on the hunt now for Mini David, Mini Cariatide, and Cristina. I found the other three over the past year and will find these three this year.  The photo above is taken from Wiki commons and the three in the back I already have.  I've got David in the micro version and wear him often.  I know I can find these on ebay for around $1500+ each, or write to a few sellers that still have them, but as I've said before the fun is in the hunt.  

The other Berrocal that I'm hunting down is Many More Horses.  I have lusted after this one for around 3 years now and just never seem to find them available.  I hope one day to find a copy of this.  In the mean time I add it to my Christmas wish list.  The one that sold just recently went for over US$3000.  Many more dollars than I'm willing to pay.  Shame really, it would have looked good on me.

If I were completely truthful, I would like to get La Totoche to nicely round out the collection, but I really don't see that happening anytime soon.  So I'll stick with a necklace and three mini's.  I'll be happy with that.

Or will I?  The answer of course is no.  I have a few other things I'd like this Christmas.  To see some of my puzzling friends again before IPP...I know I'll see some in January and others in February, but I'm greedy.  I want to see them now.  I have another few cyber friends who I want to meet before 2014.  I doubt it will happen, but I can dream can't I?

I've a wonderful friend who has been ill lately and in and out of hospital.  I want him to be given a clean bill of health.  I want my bug to finally decide she enjoys puzzling as much as I do....

I want a lot don't I?  Ah well, wish me luck finding those puzzles.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Broken Heart

This puzzle comes from Puzzle Master, and I just had to have it because it looked so cute.  Who can't resist a heart....and one that's locked is even better.  Locks were made to be opened.  Curiosity of man has always made it so.  This puzzle is no different. When I saw it on the website, I just knew I had to have it.

The puzzle is made of brass and has a nice heft to it. You know you're holding  something with this one.  There are two keys attached and the string is plenty long enough for you to open the puzzle without taking it off.  A nice little extra with this one I discovered by accident.  Well, not by accident, but by mucking about with a bunch of puzzle locks at one time and some old keys I had laying around the house (doesn't everyone have a bunch of keys laying around?) Skeleton keys with a hole in the shaft will work to open this one!  After I solved it while doing my normal weekend testing, I got to thinking about it and realized I have a few keys that have a hollow shaft and a not so long bit section.  When I got home I tried them out and sure enough, they opened the puzzle!  That's good news because if I ever loose those keys....

Puzzle Master rates it as easy, and they weren't kidding!  This one is a walk in the park.  Insert key, turn.  that's what you do with a lock isn't it?  No, that's not quite the solution, I wouldn't be that nasty.  Over all, I think it took me less than a minute to solve. I'm very serious.  I tried the obvious and that didn't work so I tried something that worked on one of my old Chinese locks and sure enough, that was the solution.

While this one is super easy, it did stump Mr. Man for a while and bug had problems with it.  It's not a puzzlers puzzle, but it's a lark to pass around to those smartypants type people.  $15 Canadian isn't a bad price either.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bulgarian barrel

I don't know the name of this puzzle in English so ill just give it a descriptive name. I first saw this one on twisty puzzles back in September of 2012. A guy was offering it up for trade, but before I got the chance to make an offer, it was gone. I gave up hope of finding this one, but then one day my friend Otis and I were chatting and this one came up. He had managed to get one through the Beijing Collectors Club and was kind enough to tell me how to go about getting my own. Thank you Otis!

A little background first. The puzzle was invented in Bulgaria by an engineer named Petyo Petkov in 2011. If you thought it was older, you're as mistaken as I was. Hopefully you didn't get suckered into buying the "vintage" ones off our least favorite auction site. There is a company in Bulgaria that sells them, but sadly they don't ship out of country. To get this, you'll need to go through a middleman.

So what does this puzzle do? It has eight different colored sections which are cut in half.  Each half is identical save for the pips on one side.  You can tell if you have it correct because one side has a pip on each piece.  If It's still have pips and no pips mixed up.  We don't want that now do we?

Around the middle there is a ring.  It is divided in half-part black and part white.  This doesn't do much except to lock the pieces into position if you will.  It's there I guess as a hand grip.

As for the solving experience, well, it solves like a cheese with an extra couple of quadrants.  That's the easy one to use for explanation as it's been remade now in China.  The cheese I mean. Or, if you prefer, it solves like a UFO.  Not as easy to get a hold of, but still as much fun to play with.

My overall impression is it's a nice pretty one to look at.  I love the way the colors of the plastic have a glittery effect.  Very pretty and shiny too!  My photos don't really do it justice.  As for solving experience, as I said in the paragraph above, it's like others out there with the exception of those locking rings.  Because they are so hard to get, I'd stick with the cheese.  Same puzzle, simpler to obtain.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

E24 puzzle

When is a puzzle not a puzzle? When it's a building toy. But then is it still a puzzle?

In this case I would say a definite yes!

I picked up the E24 at IPP32 in D.C. Last August along with a few others made by Douglas A. Engel (which I may get around to posting about later). This one intrigued me. I figured it was just another twisted burr but the pretty colors hooked me so I bought it anyway.

This one has six pieces with some interesting twists to it. As you can see those are some sharp angles and they don't fit together as 'regular' as you might think.

This puzzle has a lot of sharp corners that you need to work your way around. It's also quite nifty in that there is a "rounded" edge in one piece on every section. This helps to both lock in the puzzle and to help determine which piece needs to be removed first. There is a nice little snap when the puzzle locks in. When I disassembled it for the first time, it took me by surprise. I pulled and pulled at various sections of the puzzle, but nothing was working. And then suddenly, I got the right piece and bam! Two pieces. From there further disassembly is very easy.

Reading the box and the website, I see that further sets are available to purchase separately my hey can be added to the puzzle to make a variety of different shapes. I'm sure there is some mathematical genius behind this, but for me, it's nice to see what sorts of shapes I can make.

The puzzle is available from Puzzle Atomic

Monday, November 19, 2012

Big Knot puzzle

I was off testing again this past weekend, and when I do that my first stop is a toy store on a street I know that sometimes has puzzles. Saturday was no exception. I found this little wooden gem that Jose later told me was made by Oskar. A more prolific puzzle designer I have never seen. That man has his hand in EVERYTHING!

On testing days I never expect to solve anything, but when I do it's a real hoot. I usually bring along 3-5 puzzles in the hopes of just working out what they do and maybe to decide whether to play with them again later or banish them to live with the dust bunnies.

The big knot (thanks for the name and origin Jose) was one I couldn't pass up when I saw it. First it was expensive. A whopping US$3.62. And second, I don't have it in my collection. What more incentive to purchase than that do I need?

It came unbowed and simply wrapped in some really dusty plastic film. I unwrapped it and found a bit of wriggle room in it and proceeded to pull at pieces under the table while I was supposed to be paying attention to other things. Nothing happened.i figured this would be one of those banished puzzles I would never get around to solving (I hope I still have half a brain when I retire-I've a lot of toys to regress with)

When the break came along, I pulled it back out and discovered the 'key' big mistake! Once that was pulled out there was no going back. It just fell apart in two bits. Slid apart would be a better description. As with other puzzles from Oskar, this one is brilliant. Deceptively difficult looking to begin with, but then super easy to take apart...and you guessed it, a royal pain to put together again.

Yep, this one is sitting on my desk with one loose piece. I really must get back to it and I will, just as soon as I finish the lit review I'm working on. It really does bother me to have this kind of puzzle unsolved. It's just too easy to loose the bits.

If you can find one I would recommend purchasing it. It's good puzzling value.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


You know, one puzzle I don't have is a Turkey.  I guess I will have to rectify that problem.  Maybe I can go get a puzzle and glue some feathers and a waddle to it.  Now there's an idea, DIY turkey.  Come to think of it, I don't have a cornucopia or any of the other Thanksgiving fixings.

But I do have A LOT to be thankful for this year.  I still have Mr. Man and he's still putting up with my collecting obsession.  Bug is still not into puzzles, but always helps with the crystal puzzle assembly.

I've got some amazing friends who I adore. I get to see SmaZ and his new creations on a regular basis, I meet Uwe for dinner once a fortnight at least.

I get to go on around 5 or 6 puzzle trips a year.  I love IPP and the Guangzhou parties are just a blast.

I get to travel quite a bit for work and I usually manage to make a few puzzle purchases and a side trip to meet a fellow puzzler or two.

I accomplished a dream by mass producing my own puzzle.  (and if my luck holds, it will be at a local attraction in the spring.)

I get to read Allard's and Kevin's and Gabriel's and Jerry's and Brian's  and Neil's and Oli's blogs.  That keeps me looking for puzzles to purchase, and others to drool over.  All of them write so much better than I do, so if you haven't read their posts yet, go do so today!

Oh yes, and I got a few new puzzles this year....a few hundred that is!

Yep.  Life is good.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  I hope you take the time to sit back and think over your puzzle blessings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Arch burr, candy, and cold fusion

Ok, these are little beasts! Enough said. Post over.

No not me. I could never be that short in any thing I say or write.

The candy twist one I bought from George Miller a year or so ago and put it in a box. It was. From an IPP lot so that's understandable. Cold fusion was Oskar's exchange puzzle last year and the Arch Burr came from B&P this week. It was metal and I've taken a liking to those lately. I thought as long as it just came in I'd dig out the others and compare them all at once so today it's a three-in-one post.

I started off by taking the usual photos of a completed puzzle so I could look back at what the final state needs to be. Logical right? Then as each piece came out I photographed that as well. Again, logical. And that's where it ends.

After the third piece came out of the Arch Burr it just fell apart. There was no photographing the last disassembly procedures. But hey, I'm half clever so I know I can put it back together.

Well, I thought so anyway. After an hour into my Cougar Town marathon I still didn't have it. When Mr. Man came home I resorted to pulling out the instructions. How unhelpful we're they. An hour later I was ready to throw them across the room. It didn't help by being bitten by the puzzle either. This one has lots of sharp edges in it and I swear I caught every one of them. It is yet again a prime example of a great puzzle made rather shoddily. When will I ever learn? Odds are never.

The Arch Burr is made of aluminum and looks pretty cool in black and silver. Sadly though the craftsmanship is lacking a bit on this one as well. The outside is nice and smooth but the internal parts-especially those around the cut out bits are rough cut to say the least. There was no rounding off of those parts and yes, I really did get cut by them. Mr. Man offered to sand them down for me but I passed. I really don't think I'll go playing with it again.

On to the candy twist! This one is made by shape ways and I'd hazard to guess its Oskar's design as well. I'd twisted burr bits to wiggle around. It's been nicely died with six different colors. I did the photo shots with this one as well. Luckily by the time I unraveled this one I had experience with the Arch Burr. With the exception of the twist they are pretty close to the same. Ok maybe not but they were close enough that it didn't take two hours to reassemble. A nice little puzzle if it weren't for the 'scratchiness' that is inherent in shape ways puzzles. It would be a fantastic puzzle.

The Cold Fusion should be renamed a Cold Day. It's a real pain. Disassembly and reassembly. I played with this one through an entire episode to take it apart. And another FOUR to put it back together. If you want a challenge, this is the one out of the three to buy. And you are in luck. It's available from

All in all it was an entertaining evening for me...stupid television and puzzles! Oh and I had a glass of Cloudy Bay so I was truly in seventh heaven.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Iso Crate

Today's puzzle is one designed by Robert Rose. It was sold to me by at IPP32 in my mass buying spree to rid myself of the left over Canadian dollars I had from my conference in Ottawa the month before.

This puzzle is made of anodized aluminum and consists of eight pieces. Each piece has three magnets embedded in it. The object if it is to take the pieces apart and return it to the original cubic shape.

This puzzle came in the PuzzleMaster packaging,but I have a feeling it was manufactured originally for Bits and pieces. The puzzle itself is quite fun but the construction leaves a lot to be desired.

This puzzle comes packaged with a clear cube inside the crate to help it keep its shape during shipping. When I pulled the puzzle out of the box, it just sort of fell apart on me. Maybe it was put together wrong or maybe it was a couple of weak magnets, I'm not sure. Either way there was no cheating with this puzzle. I had to sort it out to solve it.  I would have to guess it took me around 20 minutes of faffing about with this and other things.

Unlike some magnetic puzzles, this one doesn't have that 'strong push/pull' to it. That would have made the puzzle real fun. Nothing like flying pieces!  It does snap together rather nicely when you get the magnets lined up, but the repelling force could be stronger.  Another drawback of this puzzle is just cosmetic, but the magnets aren't seated properly in some places so they are jutted out in places.  There isn't the tight fit I wish it had.  Maybe one day if it sits on my shelf long enough and bothers me long enough, I'll dig the magnets out and reglue them.  The finish when it came in was scratched in places, and you can see the glue overspill in others.  A nice puzzle that could have used a bit of quality control.

One corner has a groove taken out of it that can be used to stand the puzzle on its edge.  Surprisingly, it does balance that way.  Overall, it's a fun little puzzle.  I'm not thrilled by it, but I'm not disappointed either.  You can find it at Puzzle Master for around CAD23.  Not a bad price for a bit of fun.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elections and voting

We take time out of our regularly scheduled puzzle posts to bring you a special posting today. Elections! Votes! The right to complain (or not)

This post could be one of those preachy things or maybe not. I haven't decided which way I want to go with it yet, so we will just see where my ramblings take me.

All who know me realize I'm a fairly laid back soul who just goes with the flow...unless it is something in passionate about. My family, my job, my students, justice. The normal things we all care for.

When I care about something Stevenson's protagonist has nothing on me. I've been known to go ballistic at times when I'm crossed (but am equally forgiving). Elections bring out the best and the worst in me. I'm fiercely patriotic and believe it to be a duty, nay, an obligation to vote.

I registered when I turned 18 and haven't missed a presidential election since then. When I got residency in HK it was high on my list of things to do. When elections come around here I vote. An obligation. See, unlike many I know (my husband for one) I love that I have the right to be heard. The inconvenience of jury duty aside, I can't imagine not voting.

Many years ago when I worked for Uncle Sam a few of my brothers in arms tried to convince me it was not good to vote for my boss. It didn't work and my ballot was sent in. For me it's the ability to be able to say I don't like something that is happening and being able to have the power of my vote behind my big mouth. I realize I'm only one person and that I'm a small one at that, but if I say nothing I've no right to voice my opposition to decisions made by those in power.

I'll not lecture you blog readers as I did my father last night or my husband last month. Instead I'll ramble a bit more.

Presidential elections and legislative elections are not the only time we vote in our lives. We do it regularly. I vote at work on referendums, I vote for best papers written by my students, I vote for a puzzle I like.

And you thought this would only be about the recent US elections.

At IPP each year there is a ballot we get to fill out to vote for our favorite puzzles in the competition. Of course there is a group of judges and they give out prizes as well, but to my simple mind the puzzlers choice is a great indicator of what makes a good puzzle. This years winner was no exception.  Made by Iwahiro (Hirokazu Iwasawa).

'Square in the Bag' is so simple looking. It has mass appeal. Everyone I saw in the judging room picked it up and tried to solve it. While I was there, no one did. Upon returning home I read a number of posts on FaceBook mostly, about how great (or how naff) it was.

A couple of people replicated the puzzle and were kind enough to give me an equation to work out the dimensions. Now I'm no mathematician, but I managed to do just that. It really is a cool little puzzle.

My first copy I gave to my friend Da Yan when he was here in October. I didn't see him solve it and haven't had the opportunity to find out if he did. I've had to make myself another. It's a nice little thing and when you get to a certain point there's that great AHA! That always feels wonderful. I like that kind of a puzzle. One I agonize over for days and then's solved!

If you can't manage to get a copy of the puzzle, it's easy enough to make. (can I say that?) but you see, that is the kind of VOTE any one would want.


This puzzle is a play on the name of an old video game those of my generation knew and loved. Other than having one Pac and four ghosts, there is no other resemblance to the 80's game. I would have to say though that it is just as much fun.

This was made by Chris Enright of acrylic and ABS plastic. It's a packing puzzle that is anything but easy. I've been defeated by a childhood memory!

When I saw this puzzle at IPP I fell in love with the idea. Or rather with the memory of hamburger joints and one of the first games I got to play at home. I tried it in D.C. But made no progress. To be honest I completely forgot about it until fellow blogger Jerry wrote about it. When I read his blog, I went right now and wrote an email. Within a few weeks I received my puzzle and tossed it in my bag for future puzzling.

Last weekend I finally went back to testing and Pack-Man was the first to come out. Honestly, I was so frustrated by it that it was the only one to come out. Needless to say, I didn't manage to solve it by the end of my testing session. This one saw me with almost two hours on my hands but it simply wasn't enough time. So Pack-Man is back in my bag for next weekend.

I would definitely get this one if you can. The price isn't prohibitive and it's a lot of fun. Besides, how many puzzles can you play with and mumble over and over to yourself "waka-waka-waka"?