Trick Locks

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(My modest Trick Lock collection)
Over the last few months I've been writing about the most beautiful puzzles out there, made by talented craftsmen - like Jean Claude Constantin or Vinco - and respectful companies, like Hanayama or Meffert's. There are so many more to talk about, but in order to keep writing about varied topics I must change the subject to other interesting themes.

So, this time I want to focus this article on Trick Locks, a much beloved type of puzzles with very dedicated aficionados, some of them committed only to collect these puzzles and nothing more. Now, I'm no big authority on the subject of Trick Locks, but I'm a curious and informed enthusiast with many impressive designs in my collection, and I hope I can get you interested in the subject if you're not already a fan or a connoisseur.

The specific origin of Trick Locks (also called Puzzle Locks) is not exactly known, but they date back several centuries. The first ones may have been manufactured in China and Japan, which has a long history of producing furniture and other objects with secret compartments and other locking devices. India has also been a major producer of Trick Locks for a long time now and, in the process, it's also a country brimming with talented designers and avid collectors.

One of the most well-known Trick Lock collectors is Dr. Hiren Shah, a native from Ahmedabad, India, who turned his house into a museum (a Houseum) with a few thousand Trick Locks from around the world, spanning centuries of cultures and other influences. It's one of the most impressive Trick Lock collections in the world.

Trick Locks were invented more as a mean to lock other people's possessions, and not as much as a traditional puzzle. With Trick Locks it's much more difficulty to tamper with their mechanism, since many of these locks don't even need a key to be opened. To discover their solution one must find hidden clues around the lock, like a sliding part that reveals a hidden keyhole, or a well disguised button you need to push, a hidden mechanism you need to uncover...Anything out of the ordinary could just be a red herring or yet another clue to unlock the puzzle.

Other mechanisms simply work by using the force of gravity, as you need to tilt the puzzle in different directions to unlock certain elements. Everything about Trick Locks is made so the solution is always a mystery to the casual observer, as if it were impossible to open them without resorting to brute force.

Today, Trick Locks have a very dedicated following, and since their traditional use is no longer needed, or less used, curious people find them fascinating and become eager to unravel their secret, but only the most cunning and observant will succeed. Trick Locks are a type of puzzle that intrigues people, and even the non-enthusiastic about puzzles will find these objects quite interesting and will try their luck by attempting to open them.

There are so many types of designs for Trick Locks that a single article would not be enough to describe all of them. Instead I will only scratch the surface by pointing out a few of the most interesting and important mechanisms, and at the end providing you with enough information to help you make your own research.

One of main issues about many Trick Locks, if we mention the most sought and the higher quality. is their high price tag. Many of these puzzles can easily reach hundreds of dollars, due to their high quality materials and the fact that many of them are hand-made, one at a time. These are the ones serious collectors go after - The most prestigious designs. If money is no object to you, I highly recommend taking a look at a few ones.

In the high-end spectrum of Trick Locks, one of the most respected designers is Rainer Popp. His Popplock series is extremely popular among enthusiasts and collectors all over the world and, of course, the price matches the expected high quality of his creations, as each one is painstakingly turned and milled by the designer himself.

(PoppLocks (Courtesy of popplock.com))
You should also consider a couple of Trick Locks from a not so well-known designer, Splinter Spierenburgh, but just as talented as any other.

(Splinter Locks)
If you prefer a more affordable option, there's always some good choices from a different number of manufacturers. Over the years I tried many of these and, despite some disappointments, I have encountered some nice designs that I can easily recommend to any fan, like the Houdini Lock Series, a good introduction to Trick Locks.

In the mid-range of Trick Locks you can find a whole different selection, and with completely unique mechanism that require dozens of moves to be opened. I'm talking about the n-ary puzzles, and in the Trick Lock (or Puzzle Lock) category there are some really impressive designs by Jean Claude Constantin. The trick to open them is also a bit different, as it has more to do with finding the correct sequence of moves rather than finding out how the hidden mechanism works. One of such puzzles is the Generation Lock with a whopping 340 million + moves. If you find that a bit excessive, you can settle for a more modest choice, the Lock 250+ (with...you guessed it...250+ moves).
(Generation Lock & Schloss 250+)
Another type of Trick Locks and probably the most appreciated and sought after by collectors are the antique and vintage locks. These locks have the most unique and fascinating mechanisms, and were often decorated with whimsical designs. Many of these locks were clearly designed to impress rather than being practical or to keep your secrets locked, even though their mechanisms were usually quite tricky to figure out. In the end, their purpose was spot-on, because there are many enthusiasts around the world who appreciate the qualities and nature of these fascinating objects.

(Antique Trick Locks (Courtesy of liveauctioneers.com))


Final Thoughts:

Trick Locks have been around for several centuries, and judging by how much they're appreciated by collectors and aficionados alike, I bet they'll be around for many more centuries to come. This is a type of puzzle that can capture the attention of any curious-minded person and can be a great way to entertain a group of friends and family.

Availability: Many of the puzzle locks here mentioned and many more can be found at PuzzleMaster.



Quad L

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Quad L, a member of the anodized metal puzzle family, is quite an attractive visual design. Designed by Mr. Gong, this puzzle is made with four different colored L-shaped pieces that are joined together inside a black frame. A nice challenge that can keep a puzzler entertained for a while.

In its solved state, the Quad L has its four pieces joined around the center of the frame and some leeway to move the pieces about. The goal is to remove the pieces, one by one, by sliding and rotating the pieces around the frame until you can make room to remove the first piece. Once that's accomplished, the others will be easily removed.

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Although the pieces appear to be all identical, only two actually are. Because of these differences you need to carefully analyse each piece and understand how they can be moved around the frame. It's an interesting concept, akin to what you'd expect in a Cast Puzzle, for example.

Taking it apart, as usual in this kind of puzzles, is much easier than the opposite. Be sure to memorize the order in which the pieces are removed, so you can invert the process to put it back together. I did find it a little challenging, although nothing to be frustrated about. This is a difficulty level 9/10, but I'm not sure it's that difficult. It will vary from person to person.

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Closing Comments:

The Quad L is the perfect level for a nice and enjoyable time, but don't expect the hardest of challenges. Just a thought: should an enjoyable puzzle need to be extremely difficult to be fun? - Fun and difficult don't always need to be together in the same sentence.

Availability: The Quad L is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized metal puzzles.


#1 Puzzle

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The #1 Puzzle is yet another interesting member of the anodized metal puzzle family by PuzzleMaster. This shiny emerald green puzzle looks like a scary one, but it's actually not that difficult when you attempt to solve it.

Comprised of four different flat pieces, the #1 Puzzle sort of resembles the classic Gordian's Knot puzzle, one of my favorites. It's not that complex, though, because the classic version has six pieces. The pieces move in a certain direction, but only to a point, as it's blocked by the others. You have to figure out how the cuts in the pieces work and how to disentangle them.

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For its price range, the puzzle is actually quite well built. These metal puzzles are usually prone to scratches, but my copy is, so far, more or less scratch-free. Sometimes the best option for these puzzles is to get two copies - one for playing and another for displaying...

I thought this was going to be quite a challenge, as it's rated as a level 8/10, but surprisingly it wasn't that hard. Taking it apart was pretty easy and done within seconds, but like every puzzle in this category, the hard part is putting it back together. While it wasn't particularly as easy as it was to take it apart, I was able to solve it in a few minutes. Either I'm getting better at this sort of puzzles or the puzzle wasn't as challenging to begin with. I'm inclined to go for the second option, since I was never that good at solving this kind of puzzles.

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Closing comments:

I have some mixed feelings about this puzzle. On one hand, I was pleased to solve it fairly quickly, for a change, but on the other hand I can't say I'm not a bit disappointed by how easy it was. For an 8/10 puzzle you'd expect a tougher challenge than this. Nevertheless, it's still quite a great-looking puzzle.

Availability: You can find the #1 Puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized puzzles in this series.


C'est la Vie!

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If you like labyrinths, this puzzle is for you. C'est la Vie! by Jean Claude Constantin is a great puzzle where the goal is to find the correct path and free the metal ring. This is much harder than it appears, so you should proceed with caution, in case you get lost.

Made with laser-cut wood, C'est la Vie! is quite a big puzzle, measuring about 13cm in diameter. The designer not only created a challenging labyrinth to navigate, but also a beautiful pattern with curved shapes. Across the entire puzzle you see many indentations in the walls of the pattern, which serve as gateways for the metal ring to go from one section to another. Not all walls have one of these gateways, so you have to plan your moves strategically.

Curiously, this puzzle reminds of the popular Cast Plate by Nob Yoshigahara. Hanayama's version is a lot smaller, but the goal is quite similar, as you try to free a ring from a metal plate. Both puzzles are rather difficult, so I recommend any of them if you like a good challenge.

As you start to solve the puzzle you see the ring in its starting position at the center of the puzzle (Indicated by the letter S). The exit point is located at the left edge of the puzzle, but to get there you'll need to wander for a while, because the path is not a straight line. To get from one point to another you have to be constantly rotating the ring back and forth. Some points will feel a bit tight, as if it wasn't possible to go through there, but if you insist with a slight push the ring will surely pass through. Don't use excessive force, though, because the wood used in this puzzle is fragile and you could end up breaking the puzzle.

This is quite a difficult puzzle to solve. As an experienced puzzler, it took me over half an hour to solve it for the first time. Returning the ring to the starting position is probably a little easier, but still challenging.

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Closing Comments:

C'est la Vie! by Constantin is indeed a great puzzle and a must-have in any collection. It has a complex shape, but it's very easy to understand, so even a beginner can try to solve it. With a big size and a beautiful design this will sure capture anyone's attention wherever you take it.

Availability: The C'est la Vie! puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $31.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by Constantin.


Fortress

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The Fortress is one of many anodized puzzles by PuzzleMaster's own brand. This time, no special color was used, but it doesn't mean it's less special than the others. This puzzle was designed by Mr. Gong, who also designed the Phantom and Quad L from the anodized collection.

The puzzle is well built from anodized metal, which gives it a shinier and smoother appearance. I've seen some reviews about this puzzle and they seemed a bit harsh. If you really know puzzles, you must know what you're buying. This puzzle is as advertised in terms of quality. I've seen bad Hanayama puzzles myself (e.g. Cast G&G - with scratches aplenty).

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The goal is simple. Take it apart, which won't be difficult, and then reassemble it, which is a much challenging task. The puzzle has three main pieces and a small cylinder hidden inside. This cylinder will make your solving process a bit more tricky as you try to close the pieces while still trying to include the final piece. It's quite an interesting concept.

Solving it was surprisingly not as challenging as I was expecting, and that's maybe one of its flaws. The puzzle is rated as a level 9/10, but it's no more than a 7/10 in my opinion. At first this looks like it could be a coordinated motion puzzle, but the last piece has a different way of assembling, and the pieces are not fitted simultaneously. Other than that, the puzzle is fun to solve, so I would definitely recommend it.

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Closing comments:

Don't expect more than the puzzle can offer, or you will be disappointed. This was maybe what happened to those who reviewed it negatively. It's a fairly moderate challenging puzzle, and it has a nice quality for its price range. Do this and you will certainly have fun with it.

Availability: The Fortress is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Be sure to check the anodized puzzle collection.


Scheibenlaby

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Scheibenlaby is yet another magnificent labyrinth puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin. This double labyrinth has a very original mechanism, unlike anything I've ever seen. It's very fun to play with and, most importantly, it gives you quite a challenge. Are you ready to guide the sphere to the exit?

This puzzle is quite big, measuring about 13.5cm in diameter, and it's made using laser-cut wood and acrylic. This is also a rather intriguing puzzle because of how its mechanism works. Between the two layers of the labyrinth there's an acrylic disc with three holes in it. These holes are placed at different distances from the disc's center, making it easier to go from one place of the labyrinth to another just by rotating the disc.

Starting from the entry hole, your goal is to guide a metal sphere through the double labyrinth until you can reach the exit hole on the opposite side of the frame. The name of the puzzle is very fitting, since its name in German means "Sliced Labyrinth". As you navigate around the maze, you'll find that each section is very short, and the only way to proceed is to rotate the disc and get the sphere through one of its holes and into another "slice" of the maze. You have to go though both mazes in order to successfully solve this puzzle.

Finding the exit is a little difficult, but I was able to solve it within five minutes. There are a few dead-ends here and there, but overall I think the difficulty is about 8/10. Some of you may spend some time going backwards or even returning to the beginning by accident - it happened to me as well - but it's not a frustrating exercise and you'll eventually find the exit if you insist and have a little determination.

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Closing Comments:

I really liked the Scheibenlaby. Constantin always finds new ways to build original and unique puzzles that give you lots of fun and are a pleasure to play. You don't need to be an experienced puzzler to enjoy this one.

Availability: You can find the Scheibenlaby puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $41.99 CAD. Check out other puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin.


Phantom

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Anodized metal puzzles have a really striking appearance, and the Phantom, with its shiny bright red, surely delivers on that front. Designed by Mr. Gong, this three-piece interlocking puzzle is tougher than it looks. It's indeed a scary phantom...

I've been reviewing several of PuzzleMaster's anodized metal puzzles, and I absolutely love them. The different colors make for a superb display of sheer beauty in any shelf. But so do their challenges, which you can experience with each and everyone of them differently.

The Phantom is simply a sphere made out of three different discs that interlock thanks to their notched cut outs. Their not put there randomly and they have a purpose, whether you're taking them apart or reassembling them.

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The first time you pick up the puzzle, it gives you the impression that it's going to fall apart on the spot, but as you soon find out, its movements are limited and blocked by the others' notches. Granted, taking it apart is way easier than putting it back, since you're not worried about carefully positioning the discs to form the original sphere. It's putting it back that will truly put your solving skills to the test.

Difficult-wise, the Phantom is rather challenging, rated as a level 8/10. After taking it apart and trying to reassemble it, I strongly agree with the rating. It will depend on how well you do with interlocking puzzles. They're definitely not my strongest suit, but I still find them quite fascinating, especially as a collector.

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Closing Comments:

The Phantom is a really fun puzzle to play with, even if you're just fidgeting with it. Together with the other anodized puzzles, the contrasting red color among others will certainly make it stand out. It's a lovely design and challenging puzzle that will not disappoint.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Phantom puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in the anodized metal series.


Triad

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Triad is another stunning puzzle from the anodized metal series from PuzzleMaster. Both color and shape really stand out, but what's most interesting about it is its solving method.

Each of these puzzles have their own characteristics and solutions, so you will always have a different experience whichever one you choose. As for the Triad puzzle, it's not a particularly difficult puzzle, but the solution is quite enjoyable and can be rather fun to do many times over.

The Triad is very well made and most importantly, the coating doesn't seem to wear off that easily. With use, it might begin to appear some scratches, but nothing that will ruin the overall look of the puzzle.

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Three identical pieces are interlocked to form an equilateral triangle and by moving them in a certain way you'll be able to separate them. At first it seems like there's no way to find enough room to remove the first piece, but if you see how the pieces are cut at certain angles and make use of the internal cuts to your advantage, it's actually pretty easy to solve.

This is rated as a level 7/10, but an experienced puzzler will probably have no problems solving this. It might look that way, but this puzzle is not a coordinated motion puzzle. You have to remove the pieces one by one and reassemble them the same way.

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Closing Comments:

The Triad is certainly an interesting puzzle. Just three pieces can really create something visually appealing and at the same time challenge your solving skills - provided you're not looking for an extremely difficult puzzle. Its beautiful design and simple solution will surely capture the attention of anyone.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Triad puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in this series as well.


Supernova

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The Supernova is a classic puzzle, also known as the Ball in Cage or The Satellite. It has been made in many different versions, sizes and materials, but the main goal is always the same: remove the trapped spiked ball from the cage. It looks impossible at first glance, but like any puzzle there's always a way...

This particular version is actually very well made and it looks great. It's made entirely in metal, and the ball has a contrasting golden color. It's smaller than the previous versions I've seen, measuring only 7.5cm x 4.5cm (2.9" x 1.8"). Still, despite its small size, it's not too difficult to solve.

The ball has twelve spikes, all evenly spaced across the surface, and they seem about the same size, so nothing out of the extraordinary there. The cage has five posts and the only way to remove the ball is by passing it through the posts...somehow.

The solution does require some careful observation, but I believe that for a first timer it won't be a frustrating puzzle to solve. I've solved another version before, so I knew what to look for in order to solve it. Nevertheless, I don't think it's as difficult as a level 8/10, but more like a level 7.

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Closing Comments:

This puzzle never gets old. The solution is simple, but still clever and it's nice just fidgeting with it. I particularly liked the finishing touches and overall feel of the puzzle. This one is a must for any collector.

Availability: The Supernova is available at PuzzleMaster for just $15.99 CAD. This puzzle is also part of the Anodized Metal pack.


Slideways

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Slideways is part of the recently successful Indiegogo project, which had some beautifully-made anodized metal puzzles, each one with a different shiny color. These puzzles are now available at PuzzleMaster for anyone to purchase.

Designed by Ray Stanton, the Slideways, as the name suggests, will have a slightly different solution than your average burr puzzle. Discovering the secret move and mastering the solution will surely require some creative thinking, and some dexterity as well...

The puzzle is very well made with a stunning purple color. It's small, measuring only 6cm (2.4"), but still handles quite well. Since the pieces can slide quite well, it can happen that the puzzle will fall apart by accident if handled in a certain way. Nevertheless, taking it apart is the easy part. You will have your hands full trying to find out how to put it back together.

This is rated as a level 6/10, but by no means don't underestimate it. Taking it apart is as easy as a level 5, but reassembling it is more like a level 7, so maybe the 6 is the average between the two parts. If you're familiar with the concept of coordinated motion, then it might be easier to visualize the solution and subsequently its reassembly. In coordinated motion, all pieces must come together in a single and symmetrical sliding move, so it takes some planning and careful study of how the pieces fit together.

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Closing Comments:

The Slideways was a very interesting puzzle to play with. It has a clever solution and a great design on top of that. I did find the solution more enjoyable than a regular burr puzzle, so I definitely recommend this one. And with this beautiful color it can certainly be used as a cool decorative object.

Availability: The Slideways is available at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99. Check out other interesting metal puzzles also worth your time and money.


Anodized Aluminum Puzzles - Indiegogo Project

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As a puzzle collector and enthusiast, it's not hard for me to feel excited about new puzzles, especially when it's an entire new design. To puzzle fans, a pretty puzzle just won't be enough, it has to offer a good challenge as well, or else it will be deemed a decorative object.

This is what the PuzzleMaster's Indiegogo project wants to achieve - To offer enthusiasts around the world a new set of fascinating puzzles that not only look stunning, but also will give you the challenge you're looking for. Read on to see how you can make this project a success.

Indiegogo is a crowdfunding website where you can get support to launch all kinds of new and innovative products. If your project gets enough backers or supporters and reaches a predetermined goal, you'll have enough funds to create your vision.

PuzzleMaster's vision is to launch a new set of anodized aluminum puzzles from world-renowned designers that will surely put your best solving skills to the test and will also enrich your collection. For backers, there will be different sets to choose from depending on the puzzles that you want. Check out the official project page for more info. Below, I will make a brief introduction about each puzzle, and at a later date will also write a full review, so stay tuned.

The Main 3 Puzzles


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These are the three puzzles the Indiegogo project is based on: the Slideways, the Lattice and the Dirty Dozen. They all look and feel amazing. You can see that these are high quality puzzles.

Slideways - Level 6


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This is designed by Ray Stanton, who has designed some great coordinated motion puzzles before. The Slideways uses this concept to join together three pieces that, when solved, will be interlocked. With a gorgeous purple color, the Slideways is a bit different from the traditional three-piece burrs where no coordinated motion is used, but a set of sequential moves instead. Here, you will need to find out how the pieces come apart, which is not that difficult, but the main challenge is figuring out how to put it back together, since you have to do it simultaneously for all three pieces. It's a really interesting concept that I've had the pleasure to play with many times before.

Lattice - Level 10


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This one is a stunner and in my favorite color, no less. Both the Lattice and Dirty Dozen, below, are designed by Jerry Loo. It's comprised of eight metal plates and they interlock in such a way that you can fiddle with it without breaking them apart. That is, until you remove the first piece. It's incredible how the pieces interact with each other in a way that seems impossible to take them apart. The pieces can move back and forth and distort the original shape, but finding that first move and subsequent moves to take them all out is the real challenge.

Dirty Dozen - Level 9


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If the Lattice looks scary, this one takes it a step further with twelve metal plates. Or maybe it's just its deceiving appearance, since the Lattice is a level 10 and the Dirty Dozen is a level 9. Will have to solve try and confirm it later to see which one is actually harder. The Dirty Dozen also has a gorgeous bright orange color, and as you can see from the color choices of my blog, I definitely approve. The Dirty Dozen has the same feel of the Lattice, so it's a good combo if you like this type of puzzles.

The Reward Puzzles

The following eight puzzles are currently available on PuzzleMaster, but they will get a discount when you choose one of the three puzzle sets on the Indiegogo project. They are also made from high quality materials, so you'll get a great set of puzzles at a discount.

Triad - Level 7


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This interesting triangular design is made with just three pieces that seem to be locked in a permanent state. You can move the pieces, but only up to a certain point. Even though it has the same number of pieces as the Slideways puzzle, it's not a coordinated motion puzzle. Instead, each piece will have to be separated one by one, although it's not as difficult to put together (as long as you know how you took it apart). I really like the design of this one. It reminds me of a Cast Puzzle, only slightly bigger and more colorful.

Victory - Level 7


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Seems like anodized metal looks stunning in whichever color you choose, and green is no exception. In this puzzle, four identical S-shaped pieces are interlocked to make a cube, but with squares protruding in four directions. Taking the pieces apart will require a sequential set of movements, just like most of the puzzles mentioned above, which is what you would expect in a burr puzzle like this. It's not that difficult, since it's a level 7, but still challenging and fun to solve.

Trick Lock #7 - Level 7


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Designed by Teddy Sakamoto, this is a gorgeously designed puzzle lock that will fascinate even the non-puzzle enthusiasts. The mechanism is quite intriguing since there is a pin in the middle with two keyholes. This pin rotates and you can move it up and down. The key can easily fit inside both keyholes, but how these pieces interact with each other is up to you to find out. The solution will certainly surprise you, and even though it has little replay value, you'll be able to see how your friends and relatives will struggle with it, which is also a fun experience in itself.

Phantom - Level 8


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Made by Mr. Gong from China, the Phantom is a beautifully-made red sphere consisting of three flat and round interlocked pieces. Each piece has different shapes cut inside them, which won't make much difference when you're taking them apart, but will surely confuse you once you're trying to put it back together and deciding where each piece fits. It's a simple puzzle, but don't underestimate it. Easy to disassemble, but a pain to reassemble.

#1 Puzzle - Level 8


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A similar concept to the Lattice and Dirty Dozen, but much less complex. The #1 puzzle features only four pieces, each quite different from the others, since the cuts are all unique in each piece. The pieces are interlocked to make an octothorpe shape and the principal is similar to the Phantom in that it's super easy to take apart, but quite a challenge to put together. Remember that these puzzles have two challenges, so it's not solved until you can reassemble it to its original shape.

SuperNova - Level 8


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If you've been puzzling long enough you've certainly seen a puzzle that looks like this. A spiked ball is trapped inside a cage and at first glance it seems impossible to remove it from its enclosure. It's perfectly possible, though, and solving it is quite relaxing, at least to me. This particular version is very well built, it's pocket-sized and I really like the contrast of silver and gold between the cage and the ball. It's a must have in any collection, and a great decorative item.

Fortress - Level 9


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Just like the Phantom, the Fortress is made by Mr. Gong. This one is quite different from the usual interlocking puzzles. It uses the coordinated motion principle, so if you've seen this in other puzzles, this one will be pretty simple as well, despite its level 9 rating. In coordinated motion puzzles the challenging part is figuring out that one move that will separate all the pieces simultaneously. Putting it back together requires a bit of dexterity, since it has three identical pieces and a small cylinder trapped inside.

Quad L - Level 9


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Yet another puzzle by Mr. Gong. The Quad L, as the name suggests has four L-shaped pieces that interlock inside a frame. What's interesting about this is that the puzzle has two sides, and when the pieces are all separated they actually look much more complex than just a simple L shape. The effect of the different colors is rather beautiful and it seems like a nice challenge, although the jury is still out on that level 9 rating. Will have more info on that when I write the full review soon.

Final Thoughts:

Whatever set you choose to get on the Indiegogo project, I'm sure you will be more than satisfied with the quality and diversity of challenges of these puzzles. The project is a fantastic idea to launch new and interesting puzzles and I'm rooting for its success. So, if you can, check out PuzzleMaster's Indiegogo project and help make this a reality.


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.


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