Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, August 30, 2020

It's a bit Rocky

In case you haven't noticed yet, this blog has shifted in focus from discussing boys and toys to showcasing the collection of puzzles here at Puzzle Palace. Today's post is no different.  This time I give you our small collection of Rocky Chiaro puzzles.  

We don't have all of his puzzles, but do have quite a few. 

I obtained my first Rocky puzzle at IPP32 in Washington D.C.  He was there selling a few bolts and I bought 4 of them.  When I returned to HK, I gave 2 away!  Had I only known then what I know now.  

These puzzles are milled out of brass and have a great heft to them.  They are ones that I'm not too afraid to hand to non-puzzlers.  They can't hurt the puzzle, and there are relatively few pieces.  The bolts are good head scratchers.  

I decided to add to our collection recently and contacted Rocky to pick up the missing pieces.  Sadly, he doesn't have stock of all his puzzles or I would have purchased them I'm sure.  I have this thing for completeness.  

There have been a few of his puzzles up for sale recently on various auction sites and this renewed my  interest in them.  I mistakingly purchased one puzzle that was listed as genuine, but turned out to be the B&P version of it.  Buyer be ware.  I seem to get caught on this rather frequently lately.  Can you tell from the photo above which one that was?

Rocky still has many puzzles for sale and is a lovely gent to do business with.  Go check out his page: You won't regret viewing it.  And if you want the book, it's available on Amazon

Monday, August 17, 2020

Rebus Puzzles

This past month I have found a few puzzle plates that caught my fancy.  I bought one set made in Japan and another made in France.  

I've attempted to do some research into these plates, but other than learning that they were popular in the late 1800's, early 1900's predominantly in France, I've come up short.  I do know they were used as dessert plates and can only imagine the fun had as diners tried to decipher the rebus on each plate.  One can only imagine that it was a contest to see who could finish first.  

I first saw plates like these at James Dalgety's home in England.  They looked interesting to me, but at the time I was living in Hong Kong and had no room for this type of item.  According to his page, the set I have from Gien was produced around 1970.  A nice little bringing back of history.  The set from Japan seems to be made around the 1960's.  Each of the plates measure 7 1/2 inches.

While these plates are a fun solve, even more accessible to most people are the Narragansett Beer coasters. This Rhode Island brewery has been in business since 1890.  They even have an online shop that sells these little gems, but be warned, they sell out quickly.   Most are easy to solve within a few minutes, unless of course you've had one too many.  

The final set of Rebus puzzles I have is from Falstaff Beer in Oklahoma. This set is printed on the inside of the bottle caps. I was lucky enough to get an unused set.  Thank goodness for eBay because I couldn't drink that much beer if I tried. Sadly, the company went out of business in 1997 so there will be no more of these on offer. 

How many of these rebuses can you solve?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

IPP Puzzles, the good, the bad, and the ugly

I've been attending IPP for the past 9 years.  George has been attending for 19 years.  We have all but a few puzzles from IPP19 onwards and have started to finish off our collection from the earlier IPP's.  Currently we have 1936 puzzles in this collection.  It should be fairly obvious that we haven't had time to play with all of the puzzles, but we have played with a fair few.  The post today will not discuss any specific puzzles, but rather the packaging and displaying of them.  

I'm going to start with the worst of the packaging and work my way to the best.  I believe I am 'qualified' to comment on this as I have opened every one of those 1936 puzzles, removed them from their packaging, and placed them on our IPP wall.  You may not agree with my opinion, and I will take no offense to opinions that differ from mine.  

The absolute worst form of packaging is shrink-wrap that has been sealed and needs cutting open.  This cannot be reclosed after it has been opened.  If the puzzle has a lot of small pieces, they can easily be lost. One is stuck trying to scrounge a bag to repackage the puzzle in.  There is now a rule in place because of my dear lover.  He started using this rubbish and when he was producing puzzles for many, he used it exclusively.  Thank goodness that rule has been added!  But the wrap is good for those giant fractal puzzles that I don't want touched. They hold up nicely for display.

Next up is cling wrap.  Come on people. The only thing cling wrap sticks to the second time around is itself.  It simply doesn't hold up to rewrapping.  So again if the puzzle is played with at IPP...It is another mad hunt for packaging to bring it home.

Rubberbands.  Don't use them.  They simply don't hold up to the test of time.  They get brittle and break if you are lucky.  If not, they stick to the puzzle.  Many of them that have color to them discolor the puzzles we are so eager to get.  Going back through our puzzle collection, I've realized that rubber bands begin to deteriorate after three years.  And don't even get me started on having rubber bands as a part of the puzzle.  

Form fitting cardboard boxes.  Yuck!  They look nice, but are almost impossible to get the puzzle out of the packaging without tearing the box.  

Cardboard boxes with an open round window are better.  But sometimes the pieces fall out that window.  Especially if the puzzle is one of those packing things.  

Cardboard boxes with cellophane windows are a step up.  But be warned, not all gluing is the same. Some of it falls off rather easily.  

The best type of cardboard box is one that has a removable lid or is solid on all sides without any viewing windows.  If a cardboard box is to be used, please err on the side of too large. Put your instruction sheet inside as additional packaging to fill out the space.  I'd rather the puzzle slide around a bit than have to destroy the box to get to the puzzle.  

Next up bags.  Lots of puzzles are placed into a bag of some sort to help keep the puzzles together. As with others, some are good, some are just plain ugly.  

One form of bad packaging is paper envelopes or bags.  We've had a few of these. OK. One was a joke.  A nice wooden box was put into a paper bag because packaging was necessary. Taped paper tears, sealed envelopes can never be closed again. And really, How much protection does an envelope have anyway?

This brings me to ziplock bags.  Great. Easy to open if you use the kind with sliders.  The 'normal' zips?  Not so good.  I'm one of the younger ones, and I find I have problems resealing these things.  How would that work with 80 year old gnarled hands?  And while I'm on the subject of ziplock bags, please quit making them form fitting to the puzzle.  Again, err on the large side.  A form fitting bag has to be torn apart, or if you can get the puzzle out of the bag, it's never going in again.  

There are three other types of bags that have been used to hold IPP puzzles: thin mesh bags, linen/canvas bags, flocked bags.  All three have drawstrings and are easy to open and close.  The worst of the bunch is the thin mesh bags. These often disintegrate in about three to four years.  The linen/canvas bags seem to last forever, but get hard over time.  The flocked bags are great because they are easy to print on, but the flocking comes off after around five years.  Linen/canvas bags and flocked bags are not see through so that becomes a disadvantage to me. 

The 'best' packaging? Plastic boxes.  I kid you not.  More expensive, but well worth the cost.  First we have the clear malleable 'clamshell' packaging.  These can be custom ordered for the size of your puzzle for a few cents each.  Then there are the stronger thicker plastic boxes.  These are often made of HDPE (High density polyethylene). Nice for holding puzzles, terrible for display.  

CD cases are great.  If you have a flat packing puzzle, why not give them a try.  The puzzle stays in the box, and it's perfect for display. 

My last thought on packaging is tape.  DO NOT USE IT.  All tape is not the same.  Scotch brand tape is restickable, but only if you peel it off carefully. Duck tape.  Forgetaboutit.  

Now on to the puzzles themselves.  No, I'm not going to tell you what a good puzzle is, but I will talk about the 'bad' ones.  

1) A puzzle that has been laser cut and the exchanger/producer is too lazy to take off the backing tape.  I don't want to do your job.  Do it yourself. This one infuriates me.  I just got a kickstarter puzzle set in and darned if all four puzzles have to have the backing tape removed.  

2) A puzzle that can only be solved by a computer.  How am I ever to have a chance to solve it?  

3) A puzzle with a piece that must be destroyed to complete the puzzle.  An example would be a puzzle that needs a ballon to be broken in order to solve the puzzle.

4) Magnets inside the puzzle.  Just my opinion.

5) Puzzles that are too tight. If the last piece has to be forced into place, it's not a good one for me.

6) Just another piece....Meaning a puzzle is exchanged, and yet one more piece is sold at the puzzle party the next day and adds another few puzzle challenges to the original.  

7) Puzzles that are too easy.  If I can sit down and solve it within a minute...

8) Puzzles that are without logic. They don't have to be mathematical or the traditional logic type puzzle, they just have to have some sort of order about them.  Not a randomness.  In other words, a puzzle with over 1000 solutions is not a good puzzle. 

9) Jigsaws

These are my thoughts, they stem from opening, unboxing, un-bagging, de-rubber banding or un-taping and displaying 1936 IPP exchange puzzles.  Please share your thoughts with me.  Tell me I'm not completely bonkers.  

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Crystal puzzles

When I was in Hong Kong, I used to attend the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair every year.  While there, I got to know the HK representatives of Jeruel (Beverly).  Through them, I acquired many different puzzles.    They made Kinato puzzles to begin with, and although these didn't sell well, I did get a few variations of them to be posted on at a later date.  For this blog post though, I will only be discussing their Crystal Puzzles.

Jeruel (Beverly) is not the only company to make Crystal Puzzles.  Artbox also makes Crystal Puzzles, as  does Bandai, Disney, Hanayama,  Happywell, Huaxinda, Junghwan, Ling Zhi Crystal Blocks, Magnif, Megahouse, Mini (cooper), Takara Tony, Yanoman, and Yong Jun Toys.  The two most prolific designers are of coarse Jeruel and Hanayama.

A bit of trivia regarding these two companies is the gentleman's agreement on what types of puzzles they make.  Hanayama makes Disney, Jeruel makes all the rest.  Sounds like a fair deal to me.  Yanoman made small keychain sized puzzles, Disney of course makes Disney characters-thus far only BB8 and R2D2.  Bandai makes Gundam and Hello Kitty Crystal puzzle type characters.  Happywell makes Marvel comics, Miffy, and a variety of vehicles.  Yong Jun Toys makes a lot of copies, but they have begun to branch out and make a new range of puzzles that have not been seen before.  

Our collection to date has 309 puzzles with another 16 on order and 12 more that I am hunting down.  As I am typing this, two more puzzles came in to assemble.

These puzzles are not for the average puzzler. They are more of a 3D jigsaw puzzle.  I started on them when my daughter was young as a way to get her involved in puzzling.  Since then I've managed to collect all that have been designed by the major companies and am now in a state of simply adding more as they come out.  For the longest time I would assemble 2-4 puzzles over lunch.  When this pandemic hit and we decided to stay at home, I realized this would be a good time to complete the rest of the puzzles that were not finished.  The majority of them took around 30 minutes to assemble. Some of the larger puzzles took the better part of the day.  

These puzzles range in size from 9 to 104 pieces.  I would have to say Zodiac puzzles were the poorest quality.  There are two that I had to purchase again because the pieces didn't fit and broke the first time.  The worst to assemble was the guitar, the easiest I suppose is the heart or diamond as they are mirror image sides.  The Beverley 'horses' on the top shelf look very pretty, but are rather poor quality in my opinion. The wings are fiddly to attach and don't really stay on well.  The Yanoman keychains are quite difficult as the pieces are so tiny. 

The earliest puzzles to come out were the Magnif puzzles in 1977.  They produced the apple (red and white versions), an egg, and the 'love heart' which was a heart inside a cube.  These can still be found on eBay or other sites.  Jeruel began producing crystal puzzles in 2004 and Hanayama began in 2010.  Almost immediately the Chinese companies began to make copies of these. 

And if anyone knows where to get the Hello Kitty keychain, I'd love one.  

The display case we have these in is backlit with Hue light strips plus.  There is one base pack and 8 extensions in the cabinet.  I love that I can change the color of them with my mood.  White light dimmed to 50% works best though.  The cabinet came mirrored to begin with as did the rest of the house.  This particular cabinet is above the bedroom wet bar.  We decided it would be better to have the crystal puzzles here than bar glasses.  Just a warning, the rest of this post is very photo heavy.  Enjoy.