Notes from Puzzle Palace

Friday, March 23, 2012

winning moves game/puzzles

Has it been over a week since I posted?  With all good intentions, the time allowed for puzzling seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  Oh how I wish we had daylight savings time like you lovely lot back home.  I could have an extra hour for a few months.  Maybe then I could do all I wanted on top of all I need.....wishful thinking I know.  So here goes today's late review.                     Every time I have a testing day I bring puzzles along to play with.  I've been on this kick of playing with those I haven't touched before.  One condition I've made for myself  after my disappointment with that packing v's puzzle is that it has to 'look solvable' by someone with a simple brain such as myself within the 4 or 8 hour testing session. That has been good because it is limiting my more insane purchases from jumping in my bag, but not because I find myself with 3 puzzles very similar to each other in the bag.  Like this past weekend.  I have a set of puzzles here from Winning Moves.  
First up is a game called Puzz-Ominos.  This is a one or two player game depending on how you want to play it and whether you have a body with a brain handy.  When I'm engaged in testing oral proficiency of secondary students who are attempting to go study overseas because their academic scores don't qualify them to study in Hong Kong indicates that there is no second brain engageable.  Ok, so I can't play while testing anyway so I'll be nice.  
So there are 14 tiles in red and blue that have 5 squares each. The two player game is to place a tile adjacent to another of your color while attempting to block in your opponents colors.  Sounds interesting, and with all games like this, the rules are rather confusing.  So I flipped over the page and went to the puzzle aspect of this one.  Nice.  There are a few different challenges.  One is to make a 6x10 grid, a 8x8 grid and another that I can't remember off hand.  Easier said than done for the non-mathematical person that I am, but I got there in the end.  The two free space tiles (3 squares and 4 squares) need to be removed before play begins.   In the end, the 6x10 grid took around 25 minutes of trial and error.  That's pretty typical for me.  As I've said, I'm not the brightest spark when it comes to these.

Next up was a puzzle called square deal and as you can see it is a 5x5 grid.  There are probably many more solutions than the one I came up with, but to be honest, I found it to be a walk in the park.  I did that one within the amount of time it took me to turn the tiles over. Way to easy I thought. Or maybe I'm just a very visual person.  (My students just love the way I mark up their papers with 20+ colors of highlighter....ANAL :-) I'm sure.)

After that dud, I opened the box for the last puzzle-Pyramid Power, read the instructions having something to do with adding up numbers and promptly put it right back into the box.  Puzzling while working is one thing.  Puzzling and adding while working is quite another, and that is one I'm just not prepared to do.  Next week maybe.....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two puzzles for the price of one-Jumping frog jumble and Hive

The first puzzle up today is one manufactured by DaMert company.  This one is called jumping frog jumble.  It is a packing puzzle with a twist. Literally!  The object of the puzzle is two fold-make a square, or make a triangle.  Since it's a flat puzzle, it's not as hard as many others I've tried recently. 
This puzle consists of 7 pieces that can be rotated through eachother to place them into the desired forms.  And that is where the twist comes in. The 'arms' that seperate the squares are either raised or recessed so there are a number of different combinations that can be attempted based on the level of those little arms.  I got this puzzle quite a few years back, and while attempting to find some information on it online (i.e. the solution for the triangle) I found that the company website as listed on the packaging is no longer active.  It's a shame really because DaMert made some really great puzzles in the 1990's.  A bit more hunting lead me to a new link so you can see they are still in business with some great stuff over there.  Sadly the solutions pages no longer exist.  This and other jumble puzzles can be found on  At that price, it's worth the purchase.  A nice fun simple puzzle to make even the dumbest of us feel smart again!
This one!  Hive!  That's all I know about it. It is made up of bacelite tiles and comes in a nice bag.  I have discovered on the internet that it is a game with a lot of conveluted rules and such.  Kind of reminds me of Tantrix but with the ability to stack up the pieces.  I purchased this one years ago as well.  New as a matter of fact, but have discovered that I've no instruction booklet to go with it.  A shame really because now the game is incomplete.  So if it's not a puzzle why put it up?  To let you all know that every now and again even I get suckered into stupid purchases. Thiswas one of them.  It looked like a puzzle from the blerb on Amazon so I hit the purchase button. Be warned, when things look good, they aren't always.  Some investigation may be in order.  And this one?  A total waste of money.  The only time it has been out of the box since that initial purchase was to take this photo. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I've long been a fan of Binary Arts company, and when they changed the name to Think Fun, that didn't change anything....can anyone tell me why that happened???

Today I was in a local bookstore and came across a puzzlecalled Pathwords.  I've seen it before, but passed it up for one reason or another. Today, it was calling my name "Roxanne, Roxanne.  Buy me, buy me!"  So I did. I can't leave a puzzle crying out for me now can I?  That would just be cruel!

This puzzle is billed as "Word Search Meets Tetris and Gets Extreme!"  It was put out in 2010 and designed by Derrick Niederman. Boy am I late in getting this.  Typical though.  HK is always pretty slow when it comes to puzzle sales.  Well, if you don't count twisties that is.  :)

As always with this company, the design is fantastic. It's a storage container and puzzle all in one.  I really like that bit.  My house is tiny (700+/-ft.sq) so I don't have a lot of room to store boxes.  The Binary Arts (After what? 10 years?  I still don't think of them as Think Fun.  Why the block I wonder?) puzzles/games are great for saving me storage space because I can save a few precious inches by ditching the boxes.  That and the humidity here simply doesn't like cardboard.  I mean, have you ever seen walls sweat!  Mine do all the time in the spring and fall, and that is just terrible for boxes...come to think of it, it's not very good for wooden puzzles either.  I divert....

So I can pack this thing up and take it into work with me if I choose.  Or on one of those long testing days or....Well you get the idea.

How does it play?  The first few levels are pretty easy.  As with all of these, they get progressively more difficult as you go along.  The trick is to first find words that are real, then to see if any of the pieces will fit over the top of them.  The above photo is of the first challenge, and there are a couple of other real words in there, but they don't work with the pieces provided so starting over was in order.  This puzzle has 40 challenges in the book so it will keep me busy for a short while I would think...Or I can just add it to the stack on top of the wardrobes....

The first puzzle I didn't like

Well, I finally met a puzzle I didn't like.  Now I'm sure I'll offend the chap who had these for the exchange, but to be perfectly honest, I hate this thing. I'm not dumb, I've got an ok sense of solving, but this one....I'm doing good to get it down to only one piece to put back into the packaging.  There it is folks, my best attempt.  I brought this on a Sunday test session and wasted half the day on it.  By the 2:00 afternoon start I'd had enough and put it back into the plastic bag but this time with 2 pieces needing adding to the case.  Now by this time I'm feeling seriously like an idiot and decided to look through that green leaf that came with it.  the main problem it tells us is to put all 26V + P and one pentomino into the square 12x12.  ok.  that is add the bits and leave the IPP-31 uncovered.  I think to myself, if I can't pack the darned things in, how in heavens name can I do that????  Well then I turned that green bit over and read that "The solution of the main problem is unique (with a precision to rotations) and very difficult to be found without a computer, and the maximum number is not an even number!"  Whatever that means because I'm really not sure, but I did understand the bit about having to find the solution with a computer.  As I was feeling let down by this one and frustrated at the same time, I began to think about why I didn't like it.  True, I didn't attempt any but that first puzzle, but to read that the first one only had a solution that could be found with a computer-that just doesn't seem fair to me.  It isn't the kind of challenge I want in a puzzle.  I want to think a bit, but I don't want to know that I will never solve the thing.  It's bad enough that I have a death-bed book (Moby Dick for those that are really interested-"please God, I've really tried to get past the first chapter of this book and haven't made it, just let me live long enough to finish)  I don't want a death-bed puzzle.)  My fellow puzzle blogger Allard wrote up a nice little piece that I just found this morning on what makes a good puzzle (honest, I've been so busy I haven't even been reading Twisty Puzzles until yesterday)  Do go take a look, it is worth the read.

So now why is this little thing here?  Well the frustration of the above caused me to want something simple and mechanical to boost my ego once again.  This puzzle is from Nestle company, the back side has some cereal on it.  I picked it up on my favorite wholesale street for something like US$0.10.  Can't go wrong with a ten cent puzzle now can you?  And after that last one, I needed something like this!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Today I have for you yet another packing puzzle I picked up at Ipp31.  This one  is made up of 5 different shaped pieces.  Now this puzzle I fiddled with for at least 10 break periods.  It was a tough bugger to say the least.  I can't show a solved state because, quite frankly I couldn't find one.  

I was able to fit in 4 pieces in 5 different configurations, but I never quite managed to get the fifth piece into place.  I'll not even show any of the groups of 4 that I found because that might help others solve what I couldn't and I'm just mean that way.

Was it fun?  Well, it was frustrating.  I'll be heading back to it on another testing day I'm sure, but not in the immediate future.  There are too many others I haven't gotten to yet.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Long over due

Well this thing called life got in the way.  I had every intention of putting up 4 posts after last weekend but work and other stuffs managed to take up all my time.  Well, better late than never.  So here goes the next puzzle report....More to follow.

Every other weekend or so I do this examining thing and there is a lot of down time. On days when I am on for the full day there are 3 long breaks in there as well.  Since I examine in hotel rooms, there are just so many things one can do during those breaks:  I don't watch tv so that is out; Um the obvious hotel room stuff is unacceptable, and a girl can only take a bath for so long.  That all leaves me with puzzling.  And that is what I do.  I bring them along and I puzzle away.

The first in my line up is called the Round dozen.  It was this years exchange puzzle from James Dalgety.  A nice little packing puzzle that comes with a free coaster!  And not just any, it't the kind that lets the water drip through to your table.  (I really hate the kind where the condensation stays inside)  So what is the puzzle?  12 circle chips need to be placed in one circle.  Easy enough I would think.  But it is a bit tricky. I think this one took about 6 candidates worth of downtime to solve. (the breaks between candidates are between 5-8 minutes.  And don't forget to add in the brain recovery/getting back on track time)  There was a lot of trail and error for me with this one but I got there in the end.

I want to add that James very nicely put the numbers on there for  a second puzzle.  The first is just to fit them in.  The second is to fit them in with the number being the number of circle chips touching the piece in question.  Puzzle number two took the next 5 candidates down time and my lunch break.  That one is just a bit trickier.  On the packaging it also says there is yet another puzzle available if we contact the designer....I may just have to do that.

The photo of a solved puzzle here, is not solved!  I smashed those bits in there and you can see the shadows all over.  They are not flush with the table, but rather "bumped up".