Mirrorkal - You and Mona Lisa

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Update (29 Feb. 2012) - In September 2010, I reviewed the Mirrorkal - You and Einstein. Since then, Recent Toys decided to discontinue that puzzle and changed it to the picture of Mona Lisa. The puzzle and its mechanism is still exactly the same, with the only change being the pictures themselves. Below, you'll find the original review with all links updated. Hope you enjoy the puzzle.

Mirrorkal - You and Mona Lisa is an invention by Ivan Moscovich, and distributed by Recent Toys since 2009.

The puzzle is a step up from the previous Mirrorkal Escher, where you have a 3x3 grid with nine cubes, each one made up of pictures and mirrors on each side (one mirror and three pictures for every cube, with different arrangements between pictures and mirror). This new version of Mirrorkal takes slide puzzles into another dimension, because it's not just a slide puzzle. You have to figure out where each cube goes before solving the final slide puzzle. There are two challenges available.

Since it's not at all, easy to photograph a puzzle full of mirrors, I'll try to explain it as clearly as possible. Like the first Mirrorkal, this one also uses a 3x3 grid with nine cubes, each one with a mirror in one of four possible orientations and three pictures on the other remaining sides. Note that the upper and bottom sides of the cubes aren't used for pictures. The puzzle comes out of the box, solved with the bigger picture of Mona Lisa. Your goal is to slide the cubes, like any other 3x3 slide puzzle, and have the same picture, but smaller at the middle cube, with the surrounding eight cubes showing a mirror to see yourself.

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Before trying to solve the final challenge, the 3x3 slide puzzle, you have to study the configuration of the cubes to figure out how the mirrors interact with each other and where each one of them goes. One tip to do this is that, you have to place each cube with its mirror facing the exact opposite in orientation. This will make each cube to reflect itself and this way, create the mirror effect around the middle picture.

After you have the correct configuration for the mirrors figured out, you still have to find the cube with the smaller picture of Mona Lisa, and place it in one of the four adjacent spots of the middle cube. When all of the cubes are identified, you're left with a classical 3x3 slide puzzle. Just slide the 3rd cube into the empty slot and solve the final challenge. It will be much easier than the previous challenges. If the middle cube has the correct mirror orientation, you'll be able to see the reflection of Mona Lisa in the middle. The puzzle is solved and now you have to return it to the original bigger picture. Not a simple task either, because you have to find all the pictures that form the bigger one and solve the slide puzzle backwards. To solve this one, you also have to think how to block every mirror from reflecting the opposite cube's mirror, so the final scheme would be to have all mirrors perpendicular to each adjacent cube. Sounds confusing, but you'll understand better once you try...

Watch out for parity problems. Since you have just four possible orientations for the mirrors, there are two possibilities for each 1-8 correspondent slide numbers. If you're having trouble to solve the slide puzzle, just switch one of the problematic cubes to another similar orientation one, until you find the solution. There's only one way to have all the cubes in the correct positions, so it may take you some time to solve it.

Closing Comments:

The Mirrorkal - You and Mona Lisa is a great improvement of the first Escher concept. It takes a simple slide puzzle and with a new approach, turns it into a wonderful brainteaser. The use of mirrors to reflect images is a clever idea and the parity problems make it much harder than it looks. The result couldn't be more spectacular. If you can, get the two versions of Mirrorkal. It's definitely worth it.


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