Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Edge matching puzzles

You have any number of small edge matching tile puzzles.  What do you do with them?  If you are like me, they are chucked in a drawer and forgotten.  Left alone and unloved, they simply cease to exist as a puzzle.  And yet, some of them are rather beautiful  Most are very colorful, all are worthy of a second look.  

We have this motto of "Display and Play", and this category of puzzle has been problematic for me.  What do we do with them.  If they stay in the drawer, unless I label it in neon paint, they will never see the light of day again.  Last week after a conversation with Rob of Rob's puzzle page, we have a solution.  Wall space in the corridor to the gym! We use part of this to hang magic puzzles and another part to hang sliding tile puzzles.  You know the kind: those that every collector has but never really touches. Well, the edge matching tile puzzles are the same.  And we have wall space in that corridor.  The ceilings in there are 7 feet high and the length is 20 feet.  Forget the door in the middle, there is room enough for at least 75 of those puzzles.  Going against my natural need for order, I placed these puzzles rather randomly along the walls.  I first hung the largest of the frames and followed that up with progressively smaller pieces.  We end up with a rather large hodge-podge of puzzle viewing.  Sprinkled throughout the corridor are a number of symmetric shape puzzles, a few folded playing cards, and any number of old IPP table cards. 

Technically these are not Display and Play as I put each of them in a poster frame or a photo frame.   But if anyone were to want to play with them, it is easily done.  Because these puzzles are the type that need to lay flat, I added a bit of BluTack to the back of each piece and mounted them that way.  Not all of the puzzles are solved. To be honest, I don't take great pleasure from them so I lost interest after I did 12 of them this afternoon.  (I've subsequently realized that many of the puzzles which are from the same companies have exactly the same solution. Lagoon Games is especially guilty of this. If you are looking for a challenge, don't bother with them. Once you've solved one, you've quite literally solved them all.)  

The poster frames are from Walmart and run about $6 each.  The photo frames I got from the dollar store.  The floating frames are from Michaels and are rather expensive at $26 each, but thankfully we only have 3 double sided puzzles.  The shadow boxes were also bought from Michaels and I managed those for $11 each on a sale.   George wouldn't let me spend more on the frames than I did on puzzles.  Although there are 6 of them I bought in HK for less than 50 cents US so I guess I blew it on those frames.  

After the frames came in, I decided that maybe I would solve most of them after all. The smaller 9 square versions take very little time now.  I guess I've done enough of them that I can spot the similarities right away.  The larger 16 and 25 piece puzzles are a bit trickier. I'll be honest, a few of them just gave me too much gas so I left them for someone else to deal with.  As you saw from last weeks blog post, George even helped out solving that rather unique one we found.  The final puzzle to be solved was the Rubik's tangle 10x10 grid.  It combines all 4 of the 25 piece tangle puzzles.  Unfortunately, it is unsolvable.  It turns out the manufacturers printed a duplicate of the wrong piece.  It's a good story to tell though.  

I used small 3x5 and 4x6 frames to hold a number of symmetrical puzzles, IPP table puzzles, and impossible cards that we have been given. The final items to go on this wall area will be a few old Rubik's jigsaw puzzles that I got back in the 90's. It's about time I put them together.  

All in all, I am quite pleased with the way this new display method has turned out. Thank you Rob for the suggestion. You helped rescue these puzzles.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

48 Queens Puzzle-Roxanne's take

 Wow!  What a puzzle! This was found in a box of older IPP exchange puzzles.  It was probably made during the early 1990's but we can't be sure as we don't read Japanese.  On one side there is a standard edge matching puzzle with some child-like cartoon animals.  On the other side is the 8 queens puzzle that George wrote about last week.  Either puzzle is quite difficult.  

This puzzle was designed by Hisayoshi Akiyama.  He attended first at IPP 9.  Over the years, he has designed many puzzles and written a number of books on puzzles.  His puzzles can be found on Cubic Dissection as well as at

After scratching my head over this for a few days, asked George if this puzzle could be put into a solution on both sides. Sadly, the answer is no.  One side at a time only.  

My next question was can it be made using additional colors so that no square is without a colored circle and still be solved.  Again, Burrtools came up with a definitive no.  

Again, thanks to Rob, we now have an additional link that gives some information on this puzzle.  Sadly, it's in French.  "There is another solution to the superposition of six sets of eight queens each on an 8x8 board, published by Lucas (inventor of the Towers of Hanoi problem) in his 1895 book, on page 232:".

As a bit of background, edge matching puzzles were invented by E. L. Thurston in 1892.  A copy of his original patent can be found  here.  They are  puzzles which have an edge color, image, number, etc. that must match the adjacent piece.  A very detailed explanatory article can be found here.   These are readily available in stores everywhere.  Puzzlemaster sells the scrambled squares puzzles for a relatively low price.  They can also be found on many other online sellers.  As for me, I've spent the past few weeks solving this type of puzzle and have decided they just aren't for me. I eagerly await George's Burr Tools program so I can put the rest of the unfinished puzzles on the walls.  

Saturday, October 17, 2020

48 queens puzzle

George is at it again this week.  He's given us a link over here if you wish to open this as a pdf.  The pdf has a clickable .xmpuzzle files for your pleasure. The .xmpuzzle files need to be downloaded for viewing.  Hint: you'll also need Burr Tools.   

Here is a preview:  

The latest puzzle to catch my attention is one called 48 Queens on 8 Cards which was published in Japan and designed by Hisayoshi Akiyama.  It comes on 8 cards which can be laid down into an 8x8 array of colors and spaces.  Each card is a 2x4 array containing exactly 6 different colors and 2 spaces.  

Mr. Akiyama (the inventor) writes “You know of the famous ‘8 Queens Problem on a chess board’.  This puzzle is a new variety of multi-queens problem.  There are 8 cards, each one has six different color spots.  In this puzzle, I mean the same color spots as Queens to be hostile to each other, and different color spots as queens to be ignored with each other”.  

Please let us know if you prefer to read these posts online, or as a pdf.  We would appreciate any feedback on the usability of the pdf format.  The conundrum lies in the use of xmpuzzle files as a means of communicating puzzle strategies and solutions.  The blogger editor is somewhat simplistic and not user friendly for a first time blogger.  The pdf format allows George to have greater (easier) usability.  The blogger program also does not allow us to copy and paste images into it so even though I can add the entire post here, the images will not show up.  I feel like I'm learning this all over again.

Please do click on the link.  It's a great article. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Magic and more

We've been collecting puzzles for too many years to count.  During this time we have amassed a large number of puzzles that do not really get played with, or even a lot of attention.  Normally these puzzles would be tossed in a drawer or a box in the back of the closet and be forgotten.  I decided that they too had to be displayed.  To do this, we had to get creative.  I'm talking about sliding tile puzzles and folding magic type puzzles.  

First off, at one point in time I had a great fondness for magic type puzzles.  I had many custom made by my friends Cynthia and Michael in Hong Kong.  I hunted down every commercially made version I could find.  Fast forward to 2018 and we now have a house that can display these items.  The problem is, they are flat.  In Hong Kong, they were under my bed in a box marked "Magic puzzles", folded as compactly as possible and kept away from fingers that would play and the dust bunnies.  The flatness of the puzzles ended up being a good thing for us.  I spent days trying to work out how and where to display these. They take up a lot of shelf space if they are laid out flat.  On my way to the gym, I had an epiphany!  Use the walls!  And the rest as they say, is history.  

I ordered 100 Command Strip hooks and a box of BlueTac and went to work.  The Command Strips are wonderful as they can be removed and replaced at will without damaging the walls.  BlueTac has been my friend for well over 20 years now. It is beautiful in that, it too can be removed from walls without causing damage (if done right, and if your walls have good paint on them.) I designed a pattern for the magic puzzles and began placing hooks around the wall for the magics to slide into.  Where these did not work, or were too large to hold the smaller puzzles, I used BlueTac to hold them in place.  This collection is complete as far as we are concerned.  If newer versions come out, we may decide to expand but this is most likely not going to happen.  

The wall opposite the magics holds a number of sliding tile puzzles and mazes.  These too are puzzles that we are not keen to collect more of unless of course a new and innovative design comes out.  Many of these are from my daughters toys when she was younger.  This makes them just too sentimental to get rid of.  And yet, we know they will never be touched by us. Again, Command Strips and BlueTac to the rescue.  We used larger hooks to hold up the big puzzles, and BlueTac to hold the small light weight pieces.  

All in all, I'm quite pleased with the way these puzzles have been displayed.  Had it not been for 'modern hanging technology' these puzzles would still be in boxes in the back of drawers and closets.

And now for the downside.  I've discovered that over a period of two years, some of the Command Strips have lost their grip.  When this happens, not only does the puzzle fall off the wall, but there is also a chunk of paint taken off.  In hindsight, perhaps this isn't the best way to display these puzzles.  But what I've noticed is that the puzzles that this is happening to are the larger heavier puzzles.  The strips seem to work for up to 8 tiles, but more than that and it's hit and miss. As I lay here typing this, I have heard two puzzles fall.  I guess I could combine the BlueTac and the Command Strips and hope this will work.  I'd hate to have a more permanent solution.  The wall would look like swiss cheese. 

At last count the magic wall had 93 puzzles, and the sliding tile wall had 97.  That's quite a few puzzles for something we just don't collect.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Building Puzzle Palace

Collecting puzzles is a very space heavy, time consuming job.  You read that.  I wrote job.  There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining a collection as large as ours.  Maintaining is the wrong word to use.  I see myself as more of a curator of our collection.  

Each morning I log on to my computer and browse through my favorite websites in search of missing puzzles from our collection.  This usually takes me around 3 hours each morning.  I have about ten webpages I  look through each morning.  I'm always on the hunt for more pieces by Berrocal and Rick Irby.  My current obsession is to complete our Uncle's Puzzles collection.  I believe I am short by 12 more pieces.  From here I will move on to hunting down Toyo Glass puzzles.  This type of puzzle hunting is easy to do as there are a finite number of pieces produced and the collections can be finished relatively easily.  And of course, anyone who knows me will realize that I am still hunting down a few more Berrocal pieces. 

Whenever there is a specialized auction, I make sure to compare what is on offer to what we have in the collection.  There are a few pieces from days gone by that we are still looking for.  IPP puzzles are one. We are hoping to have a complete collection one of these days.  This will take us quite a while to complete as we are still missing well over 500 pieces.  

I also maintain the twisty puzzle collection by purchasing at least one copy of new mass produced puzzles as they come out.  I have made a conscious decision to not collect custom made twisty puzzles as there are just too many of them out there.  

The final thing that I've done to add to our collection is to order a number of custom puzzles.  I won't tell what they are because all are a surprise for George that I'd like to keep a surprise.  Of course George is always designing and building more puzzles so he is constantly adding to our collections.  He has always had a prototype shelf in his past homes, now he has two prototype walls.  Both are full of puzzles that he has worked on.  Where applicable, they are accompanied by the mass produced version of the puzzle.  

I know that storage is a problem for a collection that has over 10,000 pieces but not in Puzzle Palace. At least not right now.  We have 2301.15 linear feet of shelf space.  There are another 70' that have just been installed on the bridge.  Additionally, I have purchased 20 shelving units that have 4 sets of 36" x14" shelves each.  This adds another 240 linear feet.  That's a lot of storage ~1/2 mile of playable puzzles.  

When we bought this house, we wanted one that would hold our combined puzzle collections.  We found a house that has almost 10,000 square feet under air and expanded on it.  The first thing we had to do was to install shelves.  The house originally only had 204 linear feet of shelf space. We added over 2000 more feet.  This might seem like it would be enough, but each shelf we installed was purposefully made only 6 inches deep.  We did not want the classic problem of having puzzles hidden behind puzzles.  We know we have room yet for about 10 more years of IPP's but then we need to add more shelves.  

The easiest solution would be to build an addition to the house, but we are limited by zoning rules.  As it is, we are pushing the usable land space.  Our solution? Build out the attic spaces.  By doing this, we have added another 1400-1500 square feet.  George has one section of attic that he uses to store his puzzle building supplies in.  Another section holds all of our duplicate puzzles.  The largest attic is designated to hold George's printer farm that is on the way.  The final attic is used simply for normal household storage right now, but can be converted later on to hold more puzzles if we need it. 

George has always had a workshop for his puzzle building and we decided that this home would also have a workshop for him.  As it turned out, he has 3 workshops.  The Printer room where he has his 2D and paper printers, the Dormitory which will hold his 3D printers, and the main workshop which holds all of his 'dirty' machines.  Unlike his previous workshops, this one is attached to the house.  In fact, it is a section of the garage. When we bought the house, we had a three car garage.  Now we have a four car garage.  We extended the single garage to the fullest possible length allowed by zoning regulations.  George now has one very long workshop.  

People always ask me how long it takes to clean the house and dust all of the puzzles and shelves.  Everything in the house is open to the air.  There are no puzzles behind closed doors.  The entire house and workshops are all under air and this makes the cleanup very easy.  We have a wonderful HVAC system that includes UV lights which eliminate almost all dust.  The little bit of dust that does show up can be wiped away quickly with a feather duster.  We do a major clean once a week and that is all that is needed.  The other beauty of the system we have is that it has a built in de-humidifier.  The temperature is at a constant 77 degrees and the humidity level is set at 55 percent. Puzzle heaven. 

While Puzzle Palace is a private museum; it is open to visitors.  And of course, everything here is display and play.  Contact me if you are in the south Florida area and would like to visit.  You won't regret the time spent here if you love puzzles.