Bike Shed Puzzle

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The Bike Shed Puzzle is the second of four different Picture Frame puzzles made by Jean Claude Constantin and distributed by Recent Toys.

In this Transport Arrangements series, each with a different theme, Constantin chose four transportation vehicles, and this time, it's an eco-friendly one, the bike. Five different bike models have to be arranged within the frame, which itself has the shape of a vintage bike model. The pieces have to be arranged in a way so that they can hardly move, but not overlapping and outside the frame boarders.

This type of puzzle is a little different from the usual packing puzzle, where the pieces have straight lines and geometric shapes. In a Picture Frame puzzle, however, the pieces are irregular and the thinking process is different, where you need to see how the empty spaces can be used.

For a typical Picture Frame puzzle, the Bike Shed is quite challenging. There are lots of circular shapes to maneuver around the frame, which makes it quite difficult to do in a small area. It's a level 8/10 puzzle and I believe it's an accurate rating.

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Closing Comments:

Picture Frame puzzles are quite fun to do, since the pieces are not abstract, like squares or other geometric shapes. You can actually feel the shape of the bikes in your hands and the overall experience is much more fulfilling than a regular packing puzzle.

Availability: You can find the Bike Shed Puzzle at PuzzleMaster. All four puzzles of this series are also available.


Cast Slider

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Vesa Timonen puzzles often have very ingenious solutions that require quite a lot of creative thinking. Many of his puzzles have a simple design, but still the solution will always surprise you. The latest Hanayama Cast Puzzle, called Slider falls into all these previously mentioned categories, and maybe a few of its own. Don't underestimate this one just because it's a level 3/6, as Hanayama has done it again...

The Cast Slider looks like it could be one of those sliding lock devices, which at first glance doesn't look like anything special... Until you take a closer look. The movement is surprisingly satisfying, like a fidget toy. You can keep playing with this indefinitely, even if you don't plan on solving it.

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There are two identical pieces that move in opposite directions with a central piece that rotates in a perpendicular direction. The central piece has two entrances that allow for the other two to slide back and forth, but not apparently to separate them. There's a pin in the center that prevents the pieces from moving to certain positions, and your goal is to find out how to avoid that. Even though it's challenging, the movement of the puzzle keeps it rather interesting and fun, so it's hard to ever feel frustrated.

Now, regarding Hanayama difficulty rating, it's yet again way off the mark. Level 3/6 it is not. It took me quite a while to figure out the solution for this one, and it was basically a fluke, so to speak. This is at least a level 4/6. As you fiddle with the puzzle, certain movements you do are more a reflection of your fidgeting and less a product of your logic reasoning. After a couple of follow up tries I was able to understand how exactly the solution works and it is indeed quite fascinating. It's hidden in plain sight and almost as obvious as the actual simple movement of the puzzle.

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Closing Comments:

The Cast Slider is in my opinion one of the best Hanayama puzzles of the last 5 years. It's no wonder that it took the Top 10 Vote Getter award at this year's IPP (International Puzzle Party). The simple but elegant solution and the great movement of the puzzle combines for a wonderful puzzling experience. Vesa, you did it again!

Availability: You can get a copy of the Cast Slider at PuzzleMaster. Check out other interesting puzzles in the Cast family.


Zauberseil

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Zauberseil by Jean Claude Constantin is a deceptively difficult puzzle where the goal is to remove the rope from the metal frame. Made to look like a simple and easy to solve puzzle, this one is actually quite a difficult challenge, even for the most experienced.

The name Zauberseil means "Cotton Rope" in German - it's a rather fitting name, since the rope used here is made of cotton. As you can see, the rope is also much thicker than the usual string puzzles and less malleable, so it's a little harder to maneuver it. It's also shorter than other puzzles, but here it could be considered a good thing, because it's more difficult to create undesired knots. The frame is made of thick metal, so even if you apply some force it won't easily bend and deform the puzzle.

The Zauberseil is made of three metal parts, a large ring and two identical U-shaped pieces. These pieces are entangled together with the rope to form a devilishly difficult puzzle that will surely put your skills to the test. I believe only the rope can be freed from the puzzle, but it's possible that one of the U-shaped pieces could be removed as well.

The puzzle is, in my opinion, at least a difficulty level 9/10. I couldn't solve it yet, so I believe it's as difficult as they come. Judging by the nature and design of the puzzle, I suspect that the solution is only a couple of steps, but they surely are very well hidden under the apparent simplicity of it. If you like a good and near impossible challenge, then this is a perfect puzzle for you.

Closing Comments:

The Zauberseil by Jean Claude Constantin is not a puzzle for everybody. It can become extremely frustrating to solve if you don't have any previous experience with this type of puzzles. However, if you feel courageous enough, then solving it will provide a truly rewarding experience.

Availability: You can find the Zauberseil at PuzzleMaster for just $10.99 CAD. For more Constantin puzzles, click here.


CubiKo

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CubiKo is another interesting concept from Colombian designer Nelson Robayo. A few months ago I reviewed Nelson's Boli-Loco, which was also a pleasant surprise.

CubiKo, as the name suggests, is a cube with 12 interconnected tubes that move in three directions. Each color group only moves in two directions, but when combined with the others, you can move the small sphere inside in all directions, navigating in a see-through maze. The goal is to go from A (Start) to B (Finish). Sounds simple enough, but there's a lot of planning and strategy involved.

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Each tube has at least one opening, which allows for the sphere to travel across the cube. You can look at the cube as a tall skyscraper, and the tubes as a series of elevators that can get you anywhere around the building. It's a very clever design that you will surely have lots of fun with.

The challenge in itself is a bit difficult. Even though the cube and the tubes are transparent, sometimes it's hard to find a clear path and see where exactly is the entrance to a particular tube. It's not frustrating to the point of giving up, but don't expect an easy ride. The tubes move smoothly, but the ball seems just a bit too large. At times you need to jiggle the puzzle a little to make the ball fall inside.

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Closing Comments:

These puzzles from Colombian designer Nelson Robayo are a real treat. I like his fresh ideas and the puzzles are really fun to play with. CubiKo, in particular, is a puzzle that will appeal to all ages, especially young and curious minds. Highly recommended.

Availability: CubiKo is available to purchase at PuzzleMaster, along with others by the same brand, Mind Matters Toys.


Secret Opening Box - Spring Time

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It's not Spring anymore, but that doesn't mean it's not puzzle time. PuzzleMaster has a new series of six Secret Opening Boxes, and judging from the Spring Time puzzle box, it's certainly something to look forward to.

Each of these boxes have their own design and solution, so you'll probably want to be collecting all of them to have the full experience. The boxes have really good sizes, which means more objects can be hidden inside. The Spring Time box measures 15.1 x 10 x 5.5 cm (5.9" x 3.9" x 2.2").

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The box is really well made with some good finishing touches. Although it's not hardwood, it's still looks sturdy enough and the decoration is very pretty, resembling the patterns you usually find on the Japanese Puzzle Boxes. Inside there are various hidden sections, which I think is a very clever design feature, which means that you can have more than one object hidden.

In total, there are five removable parts, following a sequence in which one part has to be removed before the other. The top lid can move somewhat freely from side to side, but it's not the first part to be removed, so a bit of thinking is necessary to overcome that first challenge.

Overall, it's not very difficult to open this puzzle box. Even though it's rated as a difficulty level 7/10, I believe this is no more than a 6. Or maybe, because I've solved many Japanese Puzzle Boxes already, this one seemed easier. Nevertheless, it's not a frustrating puzzle by a long shot.

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Closing Comments:

The new PuzzleMaster series of Secret Opening Boxes really surprised me. From the first impression I got with the Spring Time box, I can certainly recommend them, not only for their puzzle factor, but also as a beautiful decorative object.

Availability: You can find the Spring Time box and the others from the Secret Opening Box series at PuzzleMaster.


Siebenstein-Spiele

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Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

Another article, another contender for the coveted title. This time I return to the theme of wooden puzzles by the hand of one of German's leading manufacturers, Siebenstein-Spiele. The company started out as a board game developer and manufacturer over 20 years ago, and in the recent years branched out to the design and crafting of quality wooden mechanical puzzles that are both interesting items of exquisite craftsmanship as well as beautiful decorating objects.

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The company founder, Jürgen Reiche, is a jack of all trades, designing, manufacturing and distributing his work all around the world, at the same time competing in an ever-growing market full of great choices. To do that, he needs a constant stream of new ideas and fresh concepts in order to attract new customers, puzzlers that are always hungry for unique and fascinating new challenges.

Siebenstein-Spiele's puzzles are easily recognized by their laser-cut wooden pieces and natural colors. Their designs often combine various types of wood with acrylic and metal parts, giving different contrasts and textures to an otherwise bland and banal puzzle. Reiche cares a lot about presentation and that is clearly witnessed in all his creations, no matter how simple or complex a design is.

I usually say that Jürgen's designs have some resemblance with Jean Claude Constantin's, but I don't mean it in a derogatory or mean way. Quite the contrary. Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, and despite the similarities between the two craftsmen's work, I always welcome Constantin-like puzzles. The two designers are German and have been working with puzzles for many years, so it's quite possibly they've known each other for a long time and took inspiration from each other's work. Whatever the reason, puzzle fans all over the world are the ones who benefit from both craftsmen's creativity and ingenuity.

Even though Siebenstein's puzzles have this high quality, their price is anything but expensive. Yes, you may find some of their puzzles with a high price tag, but the majority of them have rather reasonable prices, considering what they offer in terms of challenge, appearance, and of course, a rewarding and satisfying experience. That's quite an impressive feat when you compare their puzzles with other, more expensive brands.

Like any good puzzle manufacturer, Siebenstein-Spiele has a wide variety of designs and puzzle types that are certain to fascinate any puzzle enthusiast. If you're a true puzzle fan, chances are you're going to find something to like from Siebenstein-Spiele, whether it's sliding puzzles, packing puzzles, entanglement puzzles, or even the most uncommon and unique designs you can think of.

Packing puzzles are my favorite type of puzzles, and Siebenstein-Spiele has some very nice examples with superb designs. Take the Bermuda puzzle, or the Mephisto puzzle, for example. So different from one another, and yet both are equally remarkable, each with its own unique characteristics that make them fascinating:

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  • The Bermuda puzzle takes a simple concept (pack the extra piece), but is complemented with a gorgeous and functional design, made in the shape of seven sea creatures. Your task is to take advantage of its curves and recesses so that extra space is freed for the seventh piece.
  • The Mephisto puzzle, on the other hand, making clever use of wood and acrylic parts, gives you a totally different challenge by combining the 10 acrylic stripes in such a way that you should see four identical shapes within each of the 25 squares in the frame.
As you can see, even within the same puzzle type, the designer managed to create two completely distinct puzzles made with different materials.

Other than packing puzzles, sliding puzzles are among my favorites, and here Jürgen Reiche almost reinvented the genre by creating very unique and unorthodox designs unlike anything you've seen before. Below are two examples of this unique approach to the sliding puzzle category, the Colour Match and the Up & Down:

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  • The Colour Match mechanism works by sliding two handles horizontally. Eight discs in four different colors comprise this intriguing puzzle, although the goal is pretty simple. All you have to do is get each disc on the top row to match the same color of its counterpart in the bottom row. Also, each disc has one of two symbols, a star or a circle. For a tougher challenge, you need to get all discs with the stars on the bottom row. You can try and create your own challenges as well, by combining different colors and symbols.
  • Up & Down is yet another completely different concept, a twist on the classic sliding piece puzzle. With numbers from 1 through 8, the goal is to rearrange them in order from the left column down and to the right. The movement is quite unusual, since the frame moves up and down. As you push it to one of its two positions, you can move one tile at a time to the available free slot at the edges of the frame. You can also attempt other number arrangements.
Fortunately for any puzzle lover, though, Siebenstein-Spiele is not just packing or sliding puzzles. The designer creates a wide variety of puzzles, many of which are sometimes hard to even put in a single category. He also ventured into other popular puzzle categories such as n-ary puzzles (sequential movement), like the Auf dem Holzweg, seen below.

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Final Thoughts:

If Jean Claude Constantin is my favorite puzzle designer, Jürgen Reiche is probably a close second, for sharing the same philosophies of puzzle design and craftsmanship. His new creations always amaze me, for his unending ability to come up with something new and bold. As a puzzle collector and enthusiast, I can only look forward with high expectations for Siebenstein-Spiele's upcoming ideas.

Availability: You can find these and many other Siebenstein-Spiele puzzles at PuzzleMaster.


The Harbour Puzzle

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It's been a while since I reviewed a Framed Picture Puzzle. I always loved these, though. It's a packing puzzle, but the pieces don't get to be all neatly packed with straight angles. Since there are empty spaces in between, you also need to carefully plan where every piece should go.

Jean Claude Constantin has a new series with Transport Arrangements as the main theme, with four puzzles like this, all distributed by Recent Toys. Each puzzle has its own theme and the one featured in this review is all about vessels you can dock at a harbour. The Harbour Puzzle has nine pieces, each with a different shape and color.

One negative side about this puzzle is that it comes in its solved state, which I completely disagree. What were they thinking? The moment you see the puzzle, you can't avoid not seeing it completed, which will surely affect the way you solve it later, since you will probably remember how some pieces were packed. You can ask someone to unpack it for you, though, which I highly recommend.

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The puzzle itself, however, is well built and despite being made from laser-cut wood, its quality is really good. The different wood colors give it a sophisticated look and elegance you can't get from using the same wood color. Compared to other Picture Frame Puzzles I have, the size is on the small side, but still quite enjoyable to play with.

As for difficulty, it's exactly how you would expect it with a puzzle of this type - quite challenging. You can't avoid being at the mercy of trial and error, but not as much as a convencional packing puzzle, since you do need to carefully think how each piece can be packed without wasting too much space inside the frame. The frame itself is irregular which will make it even more difficult.

Closing Comments:

Solving these puzzles is a quite enjoyable and rewarding. The replay value is low, since there's usually only one solution, but for less than $20, you get quite good value for your money, because it's still a rather challenging puzzle. There are four different puzzles in this series.

Availability: You can find the new Constantin puzzles and The Harbour Puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $17.99 CAD. Check out dozens of other interesting puzzles from the German designer.


Slide Elox

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Jean Claude Constantin has spoiled us over the years with his creations, with high quality puzzles and beautiful designs. As if all this wasn't already good enough, it seems this time he outdid himself. His new line of puzzles goes a step further in the quality department and the result pops out right in front of your eyes.

The Slide Elox is one of three puzzles currently being made with anodized metal. The other being the Nur 8 and the Farbenspiel 6x6. This material in contrast with the black frame makes an exquisite and unmatched striking colorful effect. Acrylic is also used for the sliding pieces, creating a perfect harmony with the metal and the laser-cut wood. The movement of the pieces is quite smooth against the wooden frame, providing a rather satisfying experience.

There are 16 small cylinders neatly placed around the perimeter of the frame, while inside, eight acrylic pieces have to be arranged so that the larger cylinders match with the same colors on the frame. With only a small gap in the frame to slide the pieces around, this will prove to be quite a challenge.

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Speaking of a challenge. There are actually eight of them for you to solve. Each challenge has a different starting position, meaning more moves as the level of difficulty increases, but they all share the same solution. This has been such an incredibly difficult puzzle that I only managed to solve one out of eight so far. I solved the level 2, while the level 1 has me stumped with only the two small squares being in a parity problem, where their positions are opposite one another.

Not surprisingly, this is rated as a difficulty level 9/10, as this is not your average sliding puzzle. One of the reasons is that the pieces have different orientations, where some move horizontally and others move vertically. The two small squares move more freely, but they still have their limitations when moving around the frame. It's truly a great challenge.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 1 - Starting and Ending Positions

Closing Comments:

I'm a big fan of sliding puzzles. And when you combine one of my favorite puzzle designers and a beautiful, close to perfect, presentation it all clicks together in a one of a kind puzzle. The Slide Elox is now one of my favorite Constantin puzzles.

Availability: The Slide Elox is available from PuzzleMaster for $54.99 CAD. Check out also other great puzzles by Constantin.


Meffert's

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Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

...The eternal question...

So far, I've been focusing on companies that make wooden and metal puzzles - my favorite - but there are other companies out there that make beautiful puzzles with other materials, for example, Plastic - such a simple and common material, used in pretty much everything you see around you, and that includes puzzles, Twisty Puzzles, to be more specific.

(Click to Enlarge) - Meffert's Puzzles in my Collection
Now, if you're an aficionado of Twisty Puzzles, chances are you've probably heard about Uwe Mèffert (or his company, Meffert's), and if not, well, you can't call yourself a true aficionado. Over the last 34 years - 1981 was the year his first-ever puzzle, the Pyraminx, was produced - Meffert's has done more for the Twisty Puzzle community than any other company, and dare I say it, it's today's most popular Twisty Puzzle brand, even more than Rubik's.

The reason why Meffert's puzzles are so popular is mostly due to his close relationship with the community's top designers and how well they all work together. He not only invents and makes his puzzles, but he also mass-produces other designer's puzzles. In turn, these top designers have themselves a close relationship with all the puzzle community, they participate in the forums, they take and give advice on puzzle making and designing, they get feedback and, ultimately, they inspire a new breed of designers that, in the long run, will be the future of the Twisty Puzzle industry. In short, there's isn't any other company with a practical and efficient business model as successful as Meffert's.

As mentioned above, Meffert's first puzzle was the Pyraminx, which is also his most popular puzzle, having sold millions of copies - only the original Rubik's Cube has sold more. Since then, Meffert's has produced more than a hundred different Twisty Puzzles - many of which essential to any starting collection - some variations, and other types of puzzles as well.

One of Meffert's most recognizable features in his puzzles is the fluorescent sticker colors. Its six-faced puzzles have a color scheme of green, blue, pale orange, bright orange, yellow and pink. Such bright colors make Meffert's puzzles stand out among other more bland-colored puzzles. It's like your Meffert's puzzles are the stars of your collection.

Fluorescent colors are nice, but Meffert's puzzles would be too generic if they'd make all their puzzles look the same. Variety is the key word for the success of Meffert's - A lot of variety. Another popular material used in Meffert's puzzles is tiles. These colorful plastic tiles are glued on the surface of the puzzles and are a nice alternative to the stickers, since they can't be peeled off. Not that their stickers peel off that easily, though.

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I have some old puzzles from Meffert's that still have their stickers in very good condition. And the tiles give the puzzles a totally different look. Some prefer stickers, others prefer tiles. Some of Meffert's recent puzzles don't have neither stickers nor tiles. They're just made using colored plastic parts. I used to prefer puzzles with tiles, but now I'm not so selective and I think it depends greatly on the puzzle it's for.

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In the subject of colored parts instead of stickers or tiles, Meffert's has gone even further and some of its puzzles now use metallized parts. These puzzles have a striking beauty, as they're coated with chromatic colors - the puzzles aren't made of actual metal - and are actually some of my favorite Twisty Puzzles. They're quite reflective and have a shiny and smooth surface, just like a mirror.

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Another rather popular type of puzzle that Meffert's brought to us, in collaboration with prolific designer Oskar van Deventer, was the gear puzzle. Ever since the introduction of the Gear Cube in 2010, dozens of other impressive designs were developed by Oskar himself and other talented designers, inspired by his original creation.

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The gear puzzles offer a completely different challenge, because when you rotate one face, it affects the movement of all the other parts in the puzzle. The first Gear Cube was relatively easy to solve, but the movement of other more complex puzzles can be extremely difficult to understand and solve. I only recommend gear puzzles for experienced cubers.

Contributing for its ever more popular brand, Meffert's created in 2010 the Jade Club - An exclusive membership that includes two very special puzzles, not available anywhere else, and discounts on recently released puzzles. These two puzzles are called Jade Pyraminx and Jade Cube, and they look absolutely gorgeous.

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No stickers have been applied. The surface of the puzzles have this soy-milky color (it's difficult to describe) and on each of their faces you can see a different type of symbol, raised and painted in pale colors. Meffert's later released another "Jade Puzzle", in 2012, called Chopsticks. It's not as good-looking as the previous two, but the design is still quite impressive and creative.

Some of Meffert's puzzles acquire over time some rarity and can even reach prices in the hundreds of dollars in auction. This is sometimes due to the limited production numbers, and when they're all gone you can't get them the regular way, hence the crazy high prices. It can also be a smart investment. If you buy several copies at the time they're released and let them gain rarity over time, you can get a nice profit.

Final Thoughts:

With the current business model Meffert's has, it will be a long while before we see the number of new puzzles dwindling. Always at the forefront of new ideas and concepts, at the same time keeping close to the people that know a thing or two about Twisty Puzzles, Meffert's has a bright future ahead, and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for what's to come.

Availability: You can find dozens of Meffert's puzzles at PuzzleMaster.

Links:

Meffert's Official Website

GearShift

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The GearShift is quite a striking puzzle. With just four gears, which complete an image of an Ouroboros, you'll be puzzled for a while trying to put it together.

Although not exactly the same, the concept is similar to Constantin's Modern Times, where you also had to spin four gears to create a pattern. The idea in these puzzles is that the cogs in the gears don't complete an entire circle. There are gaps which allow them to rotate independently from the other gears at certain positions. With these movements you'll be able to recreate the original pattern. Sounds easier than it actually is.

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Although the puzzle is made from plastic, the movement is surprisingly smooth. The hardest part is definitely the solving process, which will take some practice. You have to figure out how all the gears interact with each other and at what points they can be rotated independently. Understanding this logic is the key to solve it.

I did find it quite challenging, since you have to be very careful not to mess up what you already did while trying to get the other gears in place. Sometimes you need to undo what appears to be a half solved puzzle so that the other gears can be rotated. It might feel a bit frustrating at first, but with patience you'll eventually solve it. It has a difficulty level of 8/10, and I think it's a correct classification. It's a difficult puzzle, but by no means impossible to solve.

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Closing Comments:

This is puzzle you can solve multiple times and still have fun every time. Even if you're not attempting to solve it, just playing with it is quite stress-relieving. There's also another version with Disney characters.

Availability: You can get your GearShift at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99 CAD.


Vinco

Posted on by Gabriel | 3 comments
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Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

- Over the last few months, I've been trying to answer this question and every time I attempt to do so, I come up with several more candidates for that prestigious title. And you know what? No answer is wrong. Each one of us have our own preferences. There are many talented puzzle designers out there that fulfill our requirements of what truly makes a beautiful puzzle. My job is just to focus on one of them at a time and hope I make them justice by showcasing their fantastic work and, who knows, maybe helping you to discover a new artist you didn't know about.

My previous articles have highlighted the creations of the highly popular Hanayama's Cast Series, the magnificent Japanese Puzzle Boxes and the prolific Jean Claude Constantin. This time, I will focus on another incredibly talented puzzle designer and maker, Václav Obšivač.

Born in 1962 in the Czech Republic, Václav Obšivač - better known in the puzzle community simply as Vinco - is an avid fan of skiing and biking, but what gets him the most recognition is his exceptional craftsmanship working with local wood. His puzzle-making adventure started in 2001, and since then, he has created countless designs, many with several versions featuring different types of timber.

Vinco mainly makes two types of puzzles, each one quite impressively made: packing puzzles (2D and 3D) and coordinate-motion puzzles. He has also ventured intro other types of puzzles, but I will focus more on the two mentioned above, since they're the ones that have been fascinating more puzzle enthusiasts all over the world.

First, let's start with the coordinate-motion puzzles. The term invokes something that seems difficult to achieve, as if you needed to be extremely dexterous to solve it. Well, in fact, it's not far from reality, because you do need some dexterity skills to solve these puzzles, especially when you're reassembling them.

So what exactly are coordinate-motion puzzles? As the term might've suggested already, you need to coordinate all your moves simultaneously in order to take apart or put together all the pieces of each specific puzzle. Each move will affect all pieces in the puzzle at the same time, and any other moves will result in no progress whatsoever. The best example to explain this is a figure, seen below, where all three pieces have to be pushed in at the same time, thus locking the puzzle until an opposite move can take them apart again. (figure courtesy of John Rausch from johnrausch.com)

(How Coord. Motion Works)
From this simple example you can then move on to much more complex structures and interesting shapes, naturally with more pieces. This is exactly what Vinco excels at better than anyone, and to prove it you can see below a few extraordinary examples of some of the most impressive geometrical shapes he makes.

(Coord. Motion Puzzles)
Not only do Vinco's designs impress visually, but the texture of each puzzle is also remarkable. To get a perfect finish on his puzzles, Vinco polishes and waxes each one so the pieces slide easily on and off the puzzle and have an extra smooth surface, but also to protect the wood itself against dust and other elements.

Vinco's coordinate-motion puzzles are strikingly beautiful. What contributes most for this is the high contrast between the various types of wood used in his puzzles. Vinco does this very effectively, from two up to several different colors, depending on the design and shape of the puzzle he's working on. The contrast always helps in the solving process, as the lines that separate the colors are usually the edges of pieces that move. You just have to discover in which direction they slide away from each other.

Another popular type of puzzle Vinco excels at is packing puzzles...extremely difficult packing puzzles. Just like its coordinate-motion brethren, this type of puzzles have a very distinct way of being made. Vinco takes small oddly-shaped pieces and glues than at different angles, resulting in even odder and bigger pieces. As expected, these puzzles are very challenging, perhaps harder than his coordinate-motion range.

(Packing Puzzles)
Vinco's packing puzzles may not be as visually attractive to some as the above examples, but in my opinion they're as impressive as any of his other types of puzzles. Packing puzzles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and Vinco's are no different. Whether it's a 2D or a 3D puzzle, the design always gains from Vinco's great sense of style, with his contrasting wood colors and odd shapes. No two pieces are the same, which means that the patterns created are some of the most remarkable currently seen in the market.

There's another puzzle type by Vinco that I find quite fascinating, which is the interlocking spheres. Currently, I don't own any of these, but judging from the eye-candy designs and shapes, I can only imagine they're as extraordinary and beautiful as any other I've tried from this talented craftsman.

(Interlocking Spheres)
Final Thoughts:

Vinco is among the best puzzle makers around, and when it comes to wood puzzles it's almost impossible to find any faults or imperfections in his work. He's very passionate about what he does, and that's clearly visible with his incredible works of art, worthy of every penny they cost. If you have yet to discover the works by Vinco, please do yourself a favor and buy one, or two, or three...as many puzzles as you can and enrich your collection. You'll certainly not be disappointed.

Availability: You can find many of Vinco's puzzles at PuzzleMaster.

Links:

Vinco's Website


Cast UFO

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It's not everyday you review a puzzle from outer space. If you don't believe aliens exist, wait until you try to figure out how to understand this unknown technology and solve it. The Cast UFO by Vesa Timonen promises to keep you guessing for quite a while...

The design is really attractive, as it made in the shape of an UFO, with six pieces forming a complex structure that will surely be a test to your skills. The silver color adds to the mystery, but also gives this extra shiny and reflective appearance. It's a really beautifully made puzzle.

The pieces in the center sort of remind me of the Cast Marble mechanism, where you could rotate the sphere freely, but there was only one way to align the pieces so that they would be removed. However, the Cast UFO has four pieces in the middle, and aligning them seems to quite frustrating. Besides having to guess the correct alignment, you also need some dexterity, because it's very easy to move the pieces accidentally. It's like trying to move with suit shoes on an ice skating rink.

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The two main pieces can and will be separated, but only after you solved the problem with the pieces in the center. This mechanism could most certainly be used as a lock against burglars.

The difficulty is rated by Hanayama as a level 4/6, but since I'm yet to solve it, I'm most inclined to say it feels more like a level 5/6. I know it's a matter of time, and that by continuing to try different combinations with the pieces, I'll eventually solve it. But the guessing work is there, and that's what makes the puzzle so difficult and frustrating.

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Closing Comments:

Design-wise, the Cast UFO is among the best Hanayama Cast puzzles. The mechanism feels a bit too loose and relies too much on dexterity and trial and error, and not very much on logic, as I am accustomed to see in other Cast puzzles.

Availability: To find a copy of the Cast UFO or any other Cast Puzzle, stop by PuzzleMaster.


Euro

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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There are many puzzles out there with the theme of the Euro currency, and Jean Claude Constantin has made another one to add to the collection. This one is very simple in design, but can be a little tricky to solve. Are you ready to to tackle the Euro challenge?

There's one thing that I like more about wire-only puzzles than the string ones - You can't make knots out of the wire puzzles, and thus it's much more unlikely to get stuck in the middle of the solving process. There are ways to get stuck anyway, but you have to be very creative to accomplish that.

The Euro puzzle is made from thick wire (3mm) and measures only 8.7cm in diameter. The design is made to resemble the shape of the Euro currency symbol, and the goal is to remove the ring (or to separate all three parts). The ring seems to be trapped between the two main parts, but a clever series of movements will be enough to solve it. Finding these moves, however, will be a bit tricky.

This puzzle reminds me of the classic Horseshoe puzzle, where you also have a ring trapped between two metal parts. The Horseshoe is much harder to solve for a beginner, but the solution is a bit different in the Euro puzzle. The two main parts are attached in a similar way as a hinge works. You can easily unfold the puzzle in 180º, but after that there's not much else to do. The key lies in the hinges, so my advice is to keep trying until you finally solve it.

It took me much more time to put the puzzle together in its original form than to take it apart. Figuring out how the puzzle works is the key to understand its mechanism, and until you do you won't be able to fully solve it.

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Closing Comments:

The Euro is a great puzzle that really gets you thinking in ways that you're not usually used to. I like that its all metal and no strings, so it's less frustrating to solve. You can lend it to a beginner and have no problems afterwards without knots for you to untie.

Availability: You can find a copy of the Euro puzzle at PuzzleMaster. As usual, Constantin has a lot of interesting puzzles, so be sure to check them out as well.


Boli-Loco

Posted on by Gabriel | 0 comments
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I've been collecting puzzles for over 10 years now, and I've lost count how many countries I have puzzles from. But one thing I know for certain: up until now, I didn't have any puzzle from Colombia. Thanks to Nelson Robayo, who created the Boli-Loco puzzle, I can now add Colombia to the countries where I have puzzles from.

The Boli-Loco puzzle is a very clever design made with 19 marbles in three different colors (yellow, blue and red - the Colombian flag colors). The marbles are enclosed in a transparent box with notches on the cover that make it some sort of a labyrinth. You turn the puzzle from side to side, up and down, so that the marbles navigate the labyrinth and make the patterns you see on the bottom of the puzzle. There are six different patterns to solve, but as with any pattern puzzles, you can most certainly create your own designs, your imagination being the limit.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 2 & 4

What capture my attention in the Boli-Loco puzzle right away was the patterns you can make with the marbles. Puzzles that allow me to use my creative side are always a must-have for me, and this one is no exception. I loved it from the start.

The patterns presented all have various ways to solve except for the last one, which as you can see, you have to make the Colombian flag. The other patterns can have the marbles anywhere except for the colors marked on the challenge. For example, the pattern with the blue cross (above left). You only need to worry about the position of the blue marbles. The other colors are not important, which makes the first five challenges easier than the last one. From the patterns presented, I would say they are in sequential order from left to right, easy to difficult. Making the Colombian flag was definitely the hardest one to solve.

(Click to Enlarge) - Challenge 6
Closing Comments:

The Boli-Loco puzzle was a pleasant surprise, even more so because I didn't know the designer. It's a great design with an original and interesting concept, perfect for creative minds. Be sure to check back soon, since I have another puzzle from the same designer, which I'll be reviewing soon.

Availability: The Boli-Loco puzzle is available from PuzzleMaster for just $15.99. Check out more designs from Nelson Robayo.


Nimm 2

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(Click to Enlarge)
If packing puzzles weren't already difficult to solve, Jean Claude Constantin makes them even more challenging by always adding a twist. After all, we like challenging puzzles, don't we? My recent addition to this ever-growing collection of difficult puzzles is called Nimm 2. The name indicates that there may be a first Nimm, but in reality Nimm in German means "take", so the name can be translated as "Take 2". Read more and you'll understand the meaning.

This is a nice small puzzle, measuring only 8cm x 8cm (3.2"). It is made from laser-cut wood, so the price is more affordable. There are 7 pieces, but they can be divided by two groups: one is a group of three trominos and the other a group of four tetrominos. Each piece has one or two screws attached to it, which makes for an interesting design. The idea is to have two screws in every row (vertical and horizontal). Diagonals don't count. It sounds simple enough, but believe me, this is a fiendish one to solve.

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Solving the puzzle without worrying about the screws is very easy. That's why the designer wanted to make it as simple as possible. However, packing the pieces with the one rule mentioned above is more than just a simple exercise. It requires patience, and much trial and error. But that's what most packing puzzles require, so it's asking you anything new. If you're used to solving this kind of puzzles you know how to go about solving them, at least in principle...

As you can imagine, this is quite a difficult puzzle to solve. It's rated as a level 8/10, but I reckon it's possibly even more than that. I'm yet to find the solution, which might be a unique configuration, and thus explaining why it's so challenging.

Closing Comments:

Nimm 2 by Constantin is a hell of a challenge. If you like this type of puzzles, you're in for a treat, because it'll keep you busy for a while. I liked the originality of the design. It's different from any packing puzzle I've tried before.

Availability: The Nimm 2 puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $23.99 CAD. You can also check out other cool puzzles by the prolific puzzle designer Jean Claude Constantin.


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