Panic Attack

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The Panic Attack puzzle is one of many puzzles produced by PuzzleMaster. The original design was made by Kirill Grebnev in 2006 and was entered in the 26th IPP (International Puzzle Party) competition, at the time by the name of Love Secret.

The puzzle looks very simple, contrary to many other wire puzzles, that look scary and complex right from the start. Nevertheless, its looks are deceiving, as it can prove to be frustratingly difficult to solve. The goal is also very simple: you try to remove the orange string from the heart-shaped frame, without breaking or use too much force on the string or the frame itself. 

The description from the designer is very interesting and clever. According to him, you have something in your heart, may be a bad feeling, a sin or even a vice and your objective is to remove it from your heart. The name he had originally for the puzzle was Love Secret, but decided later to change it to Clear Heart, as in a heart free from bad things.

The level of difficulty in PuzzleMaster's scale is an 8 out of 10, and I think it fits perfectly with its complexity, as far as solving goes. I had several tries with more than 10 minutes each and I couldn't come close to a solution. I found myself trying the same approach each time, even though I struggled to look at it from another angle to see what could be done differently to reach a resolution. I even thought at times that the solution was behing some kind of a knot trick, like those you see in Marine Knots. Finally, in my last attempt, which by the way was just over a minute, I freed the string from the heart with ease. I don't know what changed, but I guess it had something to do with the fact that I haven't touched it in more than a week, and when I returned to it for another session with a fresh mind, I had it solved in no time. Do you want to know the trick? - If no, don't look at the picture below and don't read the rest of this paragraph: the key is to move the string to the middle of the heart (around the two parallel vertical wires) and then stretch it to one of the ends of the horizontal oval shape in the middle. Now just pass it around the rest of the oval and you should see it pop right out of the heart. Make the same thing, but backwards to return the string to its original position.

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The Panic Attack is a perfect puzzle, even for those who are not crazy about wire puzzles, like me. It has a simple design, easy to comprehend and has a great level of difficulty to keep you guessing about the solution for quite a while. If you find the solution for yourself, you'll see it has that rewarding feeling and the surprise factor.

You can find the Panic Attack at PuzzleMaster for CAD $9.95

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Cast Quartet (絆)

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This is the Cast Quartet, a design made by Mineyuki Uyematsu for Hanayama and released in September 2007. 

It has 4 pieces. They seem identical, but are actually different, as each pair is the exact symmetrical of the other one. In their initial stage, the two pairs are interlocked and by the way they are entangled, it seems impossible to separate them... Well, it proved impossible for me at least, as I didn't solve it in time for this review, and this time I actually took a look at the solutions, both a .pdf file and a video, and none of them were sufficiently good to make a clear view on how to solve it.

This puzzle has the highest level of difficulty by Hanayama and PuzzleMaster's rankings, 6 out of 6 and 10 out of 10 respectively, so you can be sure to encounter a serious level of challenge. Also, judging by the comments found on the videos and review page on PuzzleMaster, even looking at the solution and solve it is trickier than it looks.

In terms of design, it resembles a bit to the Lucky Clover by Oskar van Deventer, when both pairs are also interlocked at the center. It's also a bit similar in difficulty, as it can be devilishly hard to solve it as well.

Looking at the .pdf solution, I found out that you can do a second challenge after you separate all four pieces, by  interlocking the pieces in a different way and make another shape.

The Cast Quartet is available at PuzzleMaster for CAD $12.95, along with most other Cast Puzzles.

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Links:

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

Chain Gang

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The Chain Gang, a Wire Puzzle produced by PuzzleMaster, which has three versions: the wire version was designed by Dick Hess, the rope version by Markus Goetz and the version here for review was adapted by Allan Stein.

The puzzle looks complicated just by looking at it. No wonder, it's a level 9 out of 10...
You need to free the golden oval ring from the wire and ring tangly, which proved to be an impossible task for me, at the time of writing.  The pieces can be divided into four categories. There's two small wires and two long ones, three silver rings (one smaller than the other two) and finally the bigger golden ring. 

Wire puzzles aren't usually my forte when it comes to solving. I've been trying it unsuccessfully for the past week and I think I didn't come even close to figure out its solution. You can move the oval ring freely along the silver wires, but the big golden ring keeps blocking your apparent exit, so the solution needs a bit (or a lot) of "thinking outside the box". As I was unable to find the solution in time for the review, I can't tell much more on how to solve it. If you need a solution though, that's going to be tough, because PuzzleMaster doesn't provide any in their website, although you can always try to contact them.

EDIT: If you still require a solution, you can now download one here.

If you're a Wire Puzzle fan, go for it, because it's among the harder ones you can find. And if you want this exact version, you can only find it in PuzzleMaster's website.

Cast Vortex (紋)

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The Cast Vortex, designed by Akio Yamamoto, who is also the designer of the Cast Seahorse and Cast Claw, was released by Hanayama in June 2008. The puzzle was entered at the 2008 28th IPP Design Competition, at the time by the name of Asura.

The puzzle is made of three spiral entangled pieces, all different from each other, and you have to disentangled them with a specific order.

Well, this is the most difficult puzzle from Hanayama that I've tried so far. As of now, I'm yet to completely disassemble the three pieces, having them with the ends still entangled. When you first look at the puzzle, the way that the pieces are entangled, resemble the Cast Coaster, which is also made with three parts. Disentangling the first part is not that hard: you just need to loosen the pieces one at a time until they all move freely (not that much), but still entangled. The problems start when you try to separate a piece from the trio, something I'm still struggling with. I see grooves on each piece, meaning that you need to combine or pass one of the ends of a piece to one of these grooves, although I can't seem to find an exact combination for the right groove with the right end-piece. 

Now, I could've just looked at the solution and write a completely different review, but stubborn as I am, I'm  going to keep trying until I solve it. I have been trying this puzzle for about two weeks now, a little bit each day, though the longest I've spent with a Cast Puzzle is over a month, with the Cast Elk.

The Vortex is rated by Hanayama as a 5 out of 6 level and a 9 out of 10 by PuzzleMaster, but unless I'm missing something, this has to be top difficulty in both scales, for the time it takes to separate the pieces and the level of complexity applied to the concept.

I really recommend this puzzle if you like a really tough mind boggling challenge. I think it's clear that it's not one of those puzzles you solve in minutes, so you'll have in hands something to entertain you for days, unless you lose your patience before that... If you do lose your patience, you can always try to solve it with the help of a solution sheet.

As of the time of writing this review, PuzzleMaster has the Cast Vortex sold out, but if you're really interested in buying one, check back their site often, because they restock frequently.

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Links:

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

Optimal Tumble & Peg Trap by William Waite

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William Waite is a puzzle designer from Wisconsin, USA and has been building puzzles since 1998. Most of his puzzles are wooden 2D packing problems, all laser cut with the exception of a few plastic ones. Here for review, I have two of his puzzles: the Optimal Tumble and the Peg Trap, both with many possible solutions, which means that you can always play with them and find a different solution every time.

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Built in 2009 with red alder and walnut wood, this is one of my favorite William's work, alongside the Celtic Knot, though I don't own it (yet), I love its brilliant design.

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With twelve pieces, divided into three types, you have to make shapes (preferably symmetrical) with the space unfilled by the pieces. This happens, because the area that the pieces occupy in the tray are smaller than the total area, leaving room to make all kinds of shapes with the hole left over by the piece's arrangement. All three types of pieces are symmetrical and you can use both sides of them, because they both have the same color, meaning that it's possible to have more configurations with a simple piece swap.

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The difficulty of the puzzle can vary depending on the type of shape you're trying to do. Asymmetrical shapes are much easier and there's probably many more solutions, whereas the symmetrical ones are harder to build and fewer. There's five shapes on the tray to try to get used to the solving method, but you can find many more.

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The number of solutions is unknown, so you never know if you've solved them all. A nice thing, if you think about it, because, even after you've found a handful of new solutions, there could be much more to discover. A great puzzle, indeed.

Peg Trap

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This puzzle was built in 2007, also with red alder and black walnut wood, and its goal is similar to that on the Optimal Tumble, meaning that you have multiple levels of difficulty that will suit anyone and the main challenge is to find symmetrical arrangements.

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You have nine pieces with a pattern that, when placed in the tray, they will leave six holes. Now, there's over 800.000 solutions, but most of them will be just random patterns of holes. If you want a harder challenge, you need to make a symmetrical pattern with the holes, although not all symmetrical patterns are possible. Also similar with the Optimal Tumble is the double-sided pieces that will increase greatly the number of possible arrangements. If you want to just move a hole around, you can do that by flipping a single piece.

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Overall, I noticed that the Peg Trap was a bit harder than the Optimal Tumble, mostly because it took much more time to come up with a symmetrical solution. I found that the trick is to just swap a couple of pieces at a time, instead of removing all the pieces from the tray and try again.

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Closing Comments:

William Waite's puzzles are a joy to play with. Both puzzles have a high replay level and are definitely worth their money. Even after you've played with them for many hours, you can always return to them and find new solutions. If I had to pick one of his puzzles, I would definitely go with the Optimal Tumble, for the amazing shapes it can create. All of his puzzles are original designs and you can find them only in his website, Puzzle Mist that has been a display for his great work.

As a special offer, Puzzle Mist is offering a free $10 puzzle for every 3 or more puzzles that you buy from their site, so don't waste this great opportunity. Also, shipping is free within the US for any order, and free International for 3 or more puzzles as well.
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