Notes from Puzzle Palace

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"?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mf8 stars

Yes I know that's not the official name for these puzzles but it fits the overall shape nicely. Well, the shape of the center bits anyway.

I've been blessed to meet the owner of Mf8 back in the summer of 2009. (Incidentally, that first puzzle was the crazy 4x4)  Since that first meeting, I've had the pleasure and privilege of meeting up with him quite a few times a year since then.  Dinner, drinks, a bit of peaking into the dark corners and parts bags in his warehouse.....He's trusted me with secret puzzle releases for quite some time now and has allowed me to play with many puzzles, take photos of many more and every now and again take one home.  And each and every time someone beats me to the information release over on TP.  But hey, I'd rather know and play than brag and tell.  Add to that his making my exchange puzzle for me this year as well as helping SmaZ with the manufacture of a few puzzles and you have one great guy on your hands!

It dawned on me today while I was reading Kevin's blog about his set of DaYan gems that I have not blogged about these so I'll make it up to you now.  Or should I say I'll make Kevin go spend more now.  :)

First up is the corner turning star.  I know I've not got the names right, but they are one thing on TP and something else on Mf8 and something else everywhere else you look so I'll just call them stars!  My toys, my choice of names!  This one came out in 2010, but didn't hit the market until 2011.  A nice one to play with, and not too difficult to solve.  It messes up nicely, but doesn't jumble so there is no 'real difficulty' in solving it.  Other than the obvious solving issues one has with puzzles.  I also have this one in ice-blue plastic, but since it is effectively the same, there is no point in showing another photo.

 Next we have the edge turning version of the star. This one does jumble, but in my photo I had a bugger of a time just turning the edges.  This one is very stiff. The screws are tightened down and as with all the puzzles in my collection, there is no lubrication. The corners on this one don't turn unlike the first star puzzle shown above.  This one is really pretty to me.  It reminds me quite a bit of TomZ's Curvycopter.  I think the first person to make one of these might have named it something along those lines.

Eat your heart out Kevin!  This one turns across the middle and that squiggle you see on there?  It's a signature.  We had a lucky draw at one of the Guangzhou meet-ups and I won this one as my prize.  Otis was there and was nice enough  to sticker it for me. I made Mr. Fok sign it before we left.  This has got to be a rarity.  He's such a humble man that it took me 2 years to get a signature out of him.  I don't know of anyone else who has one, but if there is someone out there, do let me know. I'd love to change my posting here.

Finally we have the last of the stars.  The Bauhinia.  That name hasn't been taken yet, and is absolutely perfect for this puzzle. IT looks just exactly like the Hong Kong flower!  It's so commonly found here, it's even on our coins!  This puzzle is just beautiful!  I first saw this one in 2010 as well, but at the time it had so many problems that it simply couldn't be made.  If you think back, Mf8 has made at least 20 puzzles either by himself, or in conjunction with DaYan and others since that time.  He did me a HUGE favor by making my puzzle, so the time from conception to production isn't that long afterall.  He did say he had a lot of projects in the works and no time to make this one...last January when I asked after it again.  I managed to steal this one after the HK Asian Championships of the WCA Cube competition kind.  We had an exhibition and Mf8 sent this new one along for display.  As we were packing up, I stole it!  But I'm an honest thief, when I see him next I'll give him the cash for it.  There's a video of it on my YouTube channel, but as usual it's mostly me blabbering on.  Watch at your own risk, I've been told I'm in need of a new camera. I'm really wondering if I'm in need of a new set of eyes because the videos look fine to me....

So there you go Kevin.  Enjoy!  And then go buy.  It's only around US$160 for the lot of them.  You can afford it you know you can, and Mrs. S....Well, a girl can never have too many shoes can they????  And for the record Kevin, I know.....

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mini Zoraida

Still on my hunt for the Berrocal minis.  This time I managed to get a copy of Mini-Zoraida!  She too was a steal. In my hunting, I know I could go to a certain seller in the UK and probably get the rest of the set that I am missing, but the fun for me is in the hunt. And no, I don't mean just going to eBay and winning an online auction.  Have you seen the prices over there?  They are insane!  The puzzle here is now on sale for $3000!   Good luck to the seller, And to the buyer....I'll sell you mine for that price.  
 Ok, enough being snarky. On to the puzzle.  Unlike Michelle, Zoraida came into my home boxed and beautiful!  I had no cleaning up to do.  The previous owner loved and cared for her as dearly as I will.  

You will notice there are two stands with her as well.  One raises the sculpture 1 1/2" above the table, the other raises her a foot.  I think we'll stick with the shorter one.  This copy came with a book as well. I'm a bit suspect though because there is no edition number written in this book.  Not a problem I guess in the greater scheme of things.  The puzzle has 25 pieces to it and as with all the other Berrocal minis, it's slightly risque.  Zoraida is a woman who has her arms wrapped around her bust.  She has no head and I'm sure you can find a joke in there somewhere. As usual, there is also a ring inside, and this time, it makes up her breasts.  I'm taking a guess here, but I think the rock inside is 2 moonstones.  

To unlock her is just a treat.  Her topmost shoe is a key!  Seriously.  Slide it down and pull it out and the puzzle will come to pieces.    As you can see from the photo below, I haven't gotten far in the disassembly.  I brought it out of the box for a few photographs, brought her to yet another newspaper interview, and then put her back on the shelf.  Time is the real issue for me, not lack of desire.  Although, she is in such pristine condition I'm almost afraid to handle her.  Which reminds me....I need to go get some more plastic boxes for these things.  The weather.....

My only complaint about this puzzle is that it was sold as number 399.  When I opened it up and took off the base I discovered she is 3996!  I took it up with the seller who claimed ignorance.  Well there is a huge difference!  399 would have been a silver edition.  Instead I got the nickle and brass one.  I did manage a price difference rebate though.  I mean I didn't get what I paid for.  I'm still happy with her all the same though.  Like Michelle, she's beautiful and she looks good on my shelf too!

Again, I would recommend taking a look at John's webpage for more information.  I also found some nice drooling e-books here, here, and here.  If you want hard copies of these, they are available at various places, but start at around US$50 and go upwards of 200.  Real coffee table books these are!

*Even if I didn't love the look of these puzzles, I'd love them just because he's toking away in almost every photo in his workshop.  Nothing wrong with a good cigar while puzzling!