Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Testing puzzles-The World's Greatest Treasure Hunt

So last week I had two full days of testing and not nearly enough time this past week to write up about my play things.  Better late than never right? So here goes.

First, a photo:
I brought along a few puzzles to play with but par for the course, didn't get very far into them.  This session was only a 3 hour stint so there weren't that many breaks.  I'd been enjoying The World's Greatest Treasure Hunt and decided to continue with it.

Ok, so what is it?  Well, a book.  Yes, I know you can see that.  But this is a book filled with short stories that are filled with puzzles.  Will I ever solve it?  I seriously doubt it.  But I'll enjoy my time spent with it.  The stories are interesting, the 20 questions at the end of each chapter are entertaining.  Each chapter also includes a poem or other literary work in the form of a puzzle, and there is a 'keyword' that can be found as well.  Once you find that keyword and answer all 20 questions, a map opens up for you to go hunting for a buried silver eagle.  (To date, I have yet to get a map open, but then I haven't spent a good deal of quality time with this one either)  There are a number of different types of puzzles in here.  Some very simple Caesar Shifts, a magic square or two, a bit of Masonic decoding, and for those who want a real challenge, there is one heck of a Sudoku at the end along with a meta puzzle (or maybe I should say series of meta puzzles) that runs along the book.

But even more importantly and more to the point of my purchase, the proceeds from this go to breast cancer research.  I've donated a lot over the years to find this type of research so when I found a puzzle that did so too, I jumped right on it.

When I bought this book in 2010 when it came out, it was a preorder and I was honestly beginning to wonder if I would get it or not.  At the end of the day, it showed up on my doorstep and I've dipped into it every now and again.  I would highly recommend it even if like me, you don't think you'll finish solving it. It's for a cause, and if you are going to buy a puzzle, why not get one that does something with the money other than line the designers pockets.  Mind, there's nothing wrong with that either.  After all, designers need to eat too.

You can find the book over at and while you are at it, you can also check out his facebook page for weekly clues.  So what are you waiting for?  Go make your donation and start puzzling!

Friday, May 18, 2012


Today I bring you not a puzzle, but a thought. Why does anyone need so many puzzles? What causes one to collect and play with puzzles?

I've had this conversation with others in the past. My friend AJ Lu once asked me what caused me to buy some puzzles and not others. We were talking then about handmade puzzles, not the mass produced ones. I tried to explain the "wow factor", but it might have been too much beer or maybe not enough of a mutual language that caused a bit of a breakdown. But thinking on it now, how does one explain the "wow factor". What exactly is it that causes one puzzle to be better than the next?

I joke about a puzzle being pretty, but that is as good an explanation as the next. I had another conversation a couple of years ago with a beautiful man with a lovely personality and a gorgeous white beard (Stan you know who you are) about the oddity of me liking puzzles. I see it as being a strange thing because I don't like math. I hate it. I have the singular distinction of having failed freshman algebra 6 semesters in a row. (Well, it was really 5 only, I got a D- in semester 6, but it was what I needed to graduate and to this day I swear the instructor felt sorry for me.) Stan, bless him, tried to make me feel better by telling me it wasn't math but geometry I liked. (Gee, I'm a tree-yep. Failed that one too.) And when I read Oskar and Tomz's and Carl's posts over on TP I have to admit that I am more often than not lost and confused. And I won't even begin to explain my lack of understanding of Andreas' puzzle family photos....

It takes me ages to solve a puzzle, they have to talk to me for me to understand them. They have to look pretty for me to bring them in the house. Maybe I am just a superficial girl after all.... Or maybe, just maybe I have a plastic fetish. Shoes? Not me. How much so? I am craving a weekend in Guangzhou with the boys. Sadly Miss N. is about to go on holiday so that is out for a while. But not to worry. I've a trip coming up and I will find a way....

Want to hear more of how much so? I'm going on a couple of work related trips. What is the first thing I do after booking the hotels and paying the fees? Ask if there are puzzlers there who want to meet up. Then start searching for puzzle shops in the area.

Even more of this fetish? I applied for a conference in Shantou China. Why? It's the puzzle factory of the world. Imagine my disappointment when all I could find was a couple of 3x3x3 cubes with different logos and the whole Meffert's line up! Not a KO cube to be found! So now what? Well, in June I'm off to Canada. 3 stops, Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. All of which I have found what looks to be places I can get some toys....fingers crossed. August finds me in China again just before IPP and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be toy hunting when I'm not speaking...

And speaking of that...IPP! Heaven! Toys and friends old and new. This year I'm super chuffed! I had the idea for my exchange puzzle and through a lot of help from a friend, it should be good to go. Add to that a young puzzler I adore who is coming for the first time and it will be a fantastic trip.

So have I answered my initial questions? I think not. I think it's a sickness, albeit a good one. I need help. I really do....

I bought the 3x3x3 cubes with the different logos because I simply couldn't go to the puzzle factory of the world and walk away with nothing now could I????

And for those of you that were wondering what the rest of the jigsaw like puzzles look like.....

Nope, no problem here...nope, I'm not going back to an auction site that I can only look at photos on....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wooden Nickel

I remember when I was a young child hearing a much older person advise me to not take any wooden nickels. Now at the time, I had no idea what this meant, and since all money is made of metal, well it just didn't make any sense to me. Many years later, I saw this puzzle on a website somewhere. It's originally made by Oskar (who else)and was at one point made (out of metal) by bits and pieces. I saw Neil wrote up about it over on his blog Go give it a read. As it turns out, this is one wooden nickel I want to take....

I got lucky and won this on a Baxter auction (Thanks Nick!). The price was pretty, but the puzzle was well worth it.
I got the puzzle in and casually mentioned to my daughter that there was a real buffalo nickel inside. Since she had never seen one before, she set right to taking it apart. I thought she would be at it for quite a while, but par for the course, she being a non-puzzler and self proclaimed hater of all things puzzling....opened it in less than 5 minutes and then proceeded to ask if she could keep the nickel!

This one isn't made out of metal like the one in Neil's post. I think it might be some kind of plywood, but I'm not sure. It was George Miller's IPP exchange one year, and yes! It has a real buffalo nickel inside.

The photos below show the front and back with the bits partially removed. I don't want to be chastized for giving the secret away. Overall, I would say it is a fun little thing to play with. If you happen upon one, I would say to go buy it. I hear tell they are pretty rare....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Character puzzles by artbox

I had a day of testing and a bunch of puzzles to make.  See, these all started with a couple of puzzles from 7-11 around 6 months back.  Typical, I got 7 out of the 8 so I am not posting until I find the last one.  But, around the same time I got a Ding Dong of another type.

One of my favorite haunts sells these things in various shapes and the last time I went over I got a bunch.
Today I give them to you fully assembled.

bunches and bunches.

So what are these but glorified jigsaw puzzles? Nothing really. I just thought they looked cute and they are a good waste of 10 minutes time on a Saturday testing session. I would however highly recommend them for the younger puzzler. they are just tricky enough to be a challenge and yet simple enough to be fun. This set has anywhere from 30 pieces to 42. Not too many that it is impossible.

Because they are made of a soft rubber, they also have just enough give to them to be able to smoosh the pieces in. These are typical of the 'big head' puzzles being put out over the last few years in that you need to twist each bit in a different direction to get them in. There is no straight forward push into place here, and that is probably a good thing because if there were, they would fall apart easily. As it is, these take a bit of work to disassemble.

Not bad for the price. And hey, anything to get me through an afternoon of testing....

available from

Thursday, May 10, 2012

You get what you pay for-more ice lollies

A few posts back I wrote about the Hanayama ice lollies.  Nifty puzzles they are. Even though they are easy to solve, I did enjoy playing with them.  I think I wrote that I got these summer of 2010 in Japan.  Well, in January of 2011 I was in the China floor of the HK toys and games fair and saw a couple of these in a distributors booth.  He wouldn't sell them to me, so I hunted my favorite haunts until I found them.

So here they are and remember, you get what you pay for!  (These were HK$14 each)

I wish I could show you the packaging, but if I do, you'll know where to look for these. Suffice it to say they are copies. Although slightly changed, they are still copies. You will notice in that photo that I have changed the covers around. It's because the Vanilla (who ever heard of GREEN vanilla-pistachio maybe, but not vanilla), Strawberry and Blueberry puzzles are all identical. Seriously. The only difference is in the packaging! Ok, we won't count the rounding of the edges, nor the less than perfect fit of the covers, nor the fact that the puzzle pieces can go in in any direction unlike the original.  Hmmm on second thought, maybe they aren't copies.  Maybe they are original designs.  But then if they are, they are poorly done original designs....

You still don't believe me? Well then take a look at the inside....
My overall verdict on these?  A waste of money if you find them at the online sellers and pay the price they are asking....They take all of 2 minutes to take apart and solve as there are only 8 pieces to them and those are mirror images.  I also wouldn't purchase these for children.  The company that makes them....not exactly known for quality assurance.

As for me, I'm off to eat a real ice lolly because yet again the temperature is over 30c and the humidity is still hovering around 90%......