Cast L'œuf (玉)

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The Cast L'œuf (The Egg) is another great contribution of Oskar van Deventer for Hanayama and it was released in March 2004.

The L'œuf has a similar concept of the Cast Laby and Oskar's Cube/Maze (another Oskar's creation), in that you face multiple paths and in order to solve the puzzle, you have to think of them as one single labyrinth. You may think that, because both labyrinths are made of only one continuous path, without dead-ends, that it's not really a labyrinth or a maze. Well, you'll find out soon enough that it may actually be considered a maze, after you solve the puzzle...

The goal couldn't be simpler... You have to separate both "eggs" by guiding the two pins along their paths. Now, doing this can be a bit trickier than it looks. Both paths are different, and this is where the beauty of the puzzle is: you'll need to flip the puzzle constantly to look at the paths and see where your next move takes you. The overall path (the combination of both paths) will not be linear, so there'll be occasions where you need to go backwards a little on one of them and try to move the other a bit more forward. This is what I was saying earlier about the maze classification, where you can consider these back and forth motions the dead-ends of a labyrinth. Pretty clever...

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The difficulty on the Cast L'œuf is rated by Hanayama at 4 (Fairly Hard) out of 6, although I think difficulty 3 would be more suited. The puzzle is not that easy, but when you look at it for the first time, you'll probably know  exactly what you're supposed to do in order to solve it, so it'll be just a matter of time with some trial and error. However, this is not true for other difficulty 4 puzzles, like the Cast Rattle or Cast Marble, where you need to do a more thorough close inspection, before attempting a solve.

The design of the puzzle is very elegant, and that's what distinguishes Hanayama's Cast Puzzles from other metal ones. Presentation is everything and the utmost attention for detail is superb. There are two egg-shaped metal pieces, one golden and the other silver, and on the upper side of the golden egg there's a chicken carving. In terms of size, it's a little bit bigger than most cast puzzles. Not sure if it's the bigger Cast Puzzle, but definitely the biggest I own so far (for size comparison, it's just slightly bigger than the Cast Duet).

The Cast L'œuf can be purchased at PuzzleMaster, as with most of the Cast collection.

Hanayama Curiosity (courtesy of Roxanne Wong)

Hanayama tries to release a new Cast Puzzle four times a year. Check out their website and you can get an estimate of when the next one could be out.

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Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)


Pilled Logs - Random Pick #15

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This is my fifteenth Random Pick from My Collection.

This puzzle was purchased several months ago from Georges Helm's puzzle shop, but I have no information about its designer or the year that was built.

UPDATE (22 Nov.) - Thanks to the information provided by Brett, I now know that the puzzle was designed by Jean-Claude Constantin. You can find more about his puzzles at his website.

'Pilled Logs' has nine identical wooden pieces with holes and six aluminum rods intersecting them in a symmetrical way. Each piece has two holes cut perpendicular to one another, following two distinct cutting patterns: one has six pieces with a hole in the center and another adjacent to it, and the other has the remaining three pieces with the two holes in the piece's extremities. You have to assemble a cube so that the six rods can intersect, from one end to another, the entire cube. The solution is unique and the only way to it is to get two rods, equally separated in each of the three possible directions (x y z).

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The cube is similar to the 'Albert's Cube' or Stewart Coffin's 'Corner Block', both interesting examples of the use of this nice concept. The main difference between 'Piled Logs' and 'Albert's Cube' is in the way that is solved. By having an exact way of placing the rods, contrary to the asymmetrical solution of the 'Albert's Cube', makes it a bit more easy, because you can exclude right away, any possible configuration that doesn't apply to this symmetry.

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One of the things that I most like in wooden puzzles, is the use of different wood types or colors. It gives the puzzle a more professional finish and it's much more visually pleasant. This puzzle, not only does that, but also uses two different materials: wood and aluminum - a perfect combination, indeed. In this case, the wood that was used is the same, as it seems and the pieces were only colored, but it doesn't change the fact that it looks a lot better, had it been used only one color of wood. Another cool design feature is the stand that has an oblique cut in its base, to display it in a desk or shelf with a bit more style.

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The store where I bought this doesn't have any more in stock unfortunately, but you can check regularly John Devost's Puzzle Paradise, and see if you can find it in one of the new puzzle auctions.

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Links:

Dael 'O Ring (Easy Yellow)

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Invented by Cor Vissers and Gert Santman, and on sale since September 2010, the Dael 'O Ring is a Hidden Maze puzzle with six different difficulties. From "Easy Yellow", the easiest and only version on the market right now, to "Terrible Black", the hardest. The objective of the puzzle is to guide the pin on the shaft through the hidden maze of the ring, so that you can separate both pieces.

The Dael 'O Ring is actually an improved version of the classic Dool 'O Rinth. First released fifteen years ago, also by Cor Vissers and Gert Santman, the Dool 'O Rinth had the lack of possibility to return the ring to its starting position, once it was separated from the stick. This prevented the puzzle to be easily reset in order to start over from the beginning (read this for more details about its history). I actually see a silver lining here, in that after you successfully separate the ring from the stick, you have another challenge in your hands, which is to solve the maze backwards to its starting position.

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Now, the Dael 'O Ring is presented to us with this new feature, a straight path across the maze that allows the ring to be clicked in placed to its starting position again, and a couple of nice finishing touches as well. If you own a Dool 'O Rinth, then you'll notice that the new version feels much heavier than its predecessors. The stick or shaft is now made of a single piece of hard plastic, which feels much better to hold, contrary to the hollow stick on the Dool 'O Rinth. Another cool design feature is the contrast color between the ring and the shaft, which is black in all six versions. Now, only the ring changes color according to its difficulty, emphasizing its nice glossy and shiny finish. Maybe it's just a matter of personal taste, but I actually prefer the contrasting colors, instead of a unique one for both pieces. Besides these minor tweaks in the presentation of the puzzle, its overall design remains unchanged.

With six different levels of difficulty, it's only natural to start with the easier one, to get used to the maze's features and to train for harder levels. On my first try with the "Easy Yellow", I took around 20 minutes to separate the ring from the shaft. It was more like a lucky solve, because I had encountered numerous dead-ends and after a while of going around the maze unsuccessfully, the ring was finally freed from the stick. I was far from having the maze memorized to do it in one flawless attempt, though in my second and third tries, I only needed  just a little more than 5 minutes. I have now solved the puzzle several times and although I can do it in just a minute or two, I'm yet to completely memorize the maze to solve it without running into a dead-end. The reason for this may be that you spend so little time opening it, that when you do, you're not sure of the exact path you took. This will probably change with harder levels, because you'll need more time to solve them, which allows you to get more accustomed to the right path, so by the time you succeed, you already know how you got there. It's actually great that after you complete the maze, you still have a replay value. You can solve it multiple times to try and beat your previous records, until you finally memorize it to do it in one go.

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The only version available right now is the yellow. The others are being released one at a time, with the orange being the next in line. It's understandable that the company chose not to release all versions at once, because it wouldn't be prudent after what happened with the original game fifteen years ago. They have to see if the product is widely accepted in the market first, to provide a safe release of harder levels and to create enough expectation, so that each new version can surpass its predecessors. The "Simple Orange" is just a few weeks away, and I'll be reviewing it here also once I have it, so check my Blog regularly for updates.

Closing Comments


I didn't have the opportunity to play with the original Dool 'O Rinth, but I can say that I was impressed by this new updated and improved version. To my knowledge, the Dael 'O Ring are the cheapest puzzles of the "Hidden Maze" category (by cheapest, I mean in price, as their quality is anything but cheap), and at €10 a piece you can enjoy this affordable addictive puzzle, that even a non-puzzler will find it intriguing enough to try his luck. It's the perfect puzzle for the masses, because it's the kind of puzzle that everyone knows exactly what they're supposed to do, so they'll keep trying until they manage to solve it.

UPDATE DEC./2011 - I have now a new review for the two new colors from the set (Simple Orange & Silly Green). Click here to read it.

Youtube Video

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Bicone 2 by Vinco

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The Bicone 2 is the second of ten different Bicone versions, designed and built by Vinco (Václav Obšivač). You can read a bit about him at the end of the post. It was entered at the 30th IPP Design Competition.

Perfectly crafted, the Bicone 2 is a beautifully shaped four-piece Interlocking puzzle (or Take-Apart and Put-Together), made with cherry and maple wood. Although it's built with two different wood types, you can clearly see tree different colors, which makes for a wonderful contrast on the checkerboard pattern. As a nice finishing touch, the puzzle is polished and waxed for a nice clean and smoothing surface, making it a visually stunning piece of craftsmanship.

 
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For an interlocking puzzle, the Bicone is quite difficult to take apart. It's rated as difficulty 5 out of 5 and classified as a coordinated motions puzzle, meaning that you can't use a sequence of movements to open (or close) the puzzle. You need to carefully manipulate its pieces simultaneously in a certain way, so that you can separate all the parts at the same time. There's no need to use excessive force, also because you can break the inner pieces that make the "key" of the puzzle. These key pieces are four triangular prisms that are glued into the inside structure on each of the main pieces and together, they interlock to close and maintain the puzzle in a locked state.

When you're trying to solve the puzzle, you can think about those triangular prisms to figure out how they keep the puzzle from opening. Since they're triangular, there's only one way to separate them: by sliding the four pieces together, each in an opposite direction. Once you have accomplished this "simple" task, you face another big challenge, which is to put the puzzle back together. Now that you know how the puzzle works, this should be easier, right? - Well, not quite, because as I said above, you need simultaneous movement on all four pieces and it also requires a lot of visualization and dexterity to manipulate every part of the puzzle, and slide the pieces back together.

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As mentioned before, there's six different versions for the Bicone, each with its own design. The solution is the same for every one of them, though. One cool thing about the Bicone is that a particular version may have different wood types used, giving them a slightly distinctive look. For example, the Bicone 4 has at least four of these looks, each with a different wood combination. This is great for a puzzle collector: even though the puzzle is the same, the appearance is different and therefore, highly collectible. The design you own may become rare, because they're produced in small quantities and after they become out of stock, it could be a long time before they're available again. If you really like a particular design, grab it while you can...

Closing Comments

When it comes to wooden puzzles, you can't get any better than this. Vinco's attention to detail and presentation is incredible and his craftsmanship is one of the most outstanding you'll find in the  puzzle market. For €50, you'll get a very high quality handcrafted puzzle, polished and waxed, that will look great in any collection. Vinco's puzzle offer changes quite often, so if you want more puzzles to choose from, check his site regularly, because when he has new puzzles available, they sell like hotcakes...

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A bit about Vinco:

Václav Obšivač is from the Czech Republic and started to build puzzles in 1999. He often participates in International Puzzle Parties, where you'll get a chance to see some of his exciting new works. He uses a lot of different wood types to build his puzzles, which allows him to make a lot of interesting color combinations and patterns. Some of his puzzles are available in several online stores around the world, including his own website, of course. Below is a list of such stores:





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