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David Litwin is best known in the puzzle community for his great sequential movement designs. The Elemental puzzles and the Kilominx are just two examples of his beautiful work.
The puzzle I bought from him, though, doesn't belong in that category (sequential movement category, of course), as this is his first attempt at something different. With Packing Puzzles, especially 2D, being among my favorite type of puzzles, it's no wonder I had to get his Breadbox puzzle when I first saw it.
The original design was what caught my attention first. The concept was Bram Cohen's, with two sizes of eight rectangles each, but David added the bread theme with curves on the pieces to make the challenge a little tougher. It was David's exchange puzzle for last year's 31st IPP.
The puzzle is nicely presented in a silver tin case and inside, you can see that the frame has an elegant maple bread shape. There are eight pieces of two sizes from laser cut laminates, plus a small bread crumb piece for a second challenge. The cut pattern is very well done, resembling slices of toast. The smaller piece sizes are made of walnut and the bigger ones are made of cherry. Both sides of the pieces can be used and since they're not symmetrical, orientation matters. David has made several other combinations from those three wood types. You can find out more about them at the end of the review.
The goal is very simple to understand, even by a casual puzzler, although solving it is another whole different matter. You have two challenges: the first one is to simply place the two loaves of bread, neatly packed inside the frame. The other, which is a little more complicated, is to add the bread crumb to the already tightly packed frame. Looks almost impossible, right? - But there's enough wasted space there to find a way. You're very lucky if you can solve the second challenge in your first try. I'm saying this, because you need to understand first, how the pieces are packed and then, when you have overcome that task, you can think of a better way to pack the pieces, and find the necessary space to add the tiny piece of bread.
It took me about two hours of experimentation with the pieces to solve the first challenge. What makes this packing puzzle so special and very different from others is that it has 17 pieces, and that, in a packing puzzle is a lot. There are so many wrong ways to combine and fit the pieces together, that it's very hard to find a solution in just a few minutes of play. The pieces have these curvy lines that will waste a lot of space in the frame and in most of the attempts, the last piece on a row will stubbornly not fit in the bounds of the frame. The reason? - Probably, placing the pieces in rows or columns is not the best strategy, after all...
Spoilers Ahead - The next two italic paragraphs will describe a couple of strategies to get to the final solution. If you're not interested in reading anything about it and just find out about it for yourself, jump to the closing comments instead (just below the tin box photo).
As I hinted above, placing the pieces in a straight row won't get you anywhere. I had to give up that strategy after many failed attempts, so I started to experiment with a four piece combination. The goal is to get the best possible fit between the pieces, in order to save the most space. At first, I made these combinations in the middle of the frame, but I always ended up short of one piece to fill the first half. So, after several other attempts I was getting somewhere: The best I could come up with, was a checkered pattern between one small and one big piece in a four-piece square. When I placed another four piece combination, I saw that it fit almost perfectly and filled half of the frame, with just a very small space between the pieces. It was my best arrangement so far... I continued next with two identical combinations and to my surprise, all the pieces were finally packed, except for the bread crumb...
My first thought after I have solved the first challenge was: "Do I need to find another whole different arrangement for the pieces or do I have to make just a few adjustments?" - I found that out, approximately 10 minutes later. Dividing the pieces into four sets of four pieces each (in a square), the answer is to mirror two or all four sets, depending on your final arrangement, so that the bread crumb will fit in the middle. By mirror, I mean to flip the four pieces, as if you were turning a page and saw through the other side of it, or you can just place a small mirror beside the pieces and see the result. Do this a few times, always keeping in mind that the solution is very symmetrical. If you've read through all this and still feel the need to look at the solved puzzle, you can see an image of the two challenges, first here and second here.
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As I stated above and also in several other reviews, I just love Packing Puzzles, and this particular one by David Litwin is among my favorites now. The concept is absolutely brilliant for this category and I think it's perfectly achieved. For a first timer in this type of puzzles, David sure outdid himself. I look forward to see what he will do next.
At the time of writing this review, David still has 5 Breadbox puzzles for sale in four different wood combinations (you can also see this information on the TwistyPuzzles.com forum). This is a very unique design and after they've gone, it might be a while before you see new ones available, if ever, so be quick to get one if you're really into this type of puzzles. The price is $40 USD with free world wide shipping:
1x Cherry Frame, Walnut Large Slice, Maple Small Slice
1x Cherry Frame, Maple Large Slice, Walnut Small Slice
1x Walnut Frame, Maple Large Slice, Cherry Small Slice
2x Maple Frame, Walnut Large Slice, Cherry Small Slice
For reference, the one in the review is Maple Frame, Cherry Large Slice, Walnut Small Slice.
EDIT: They now have all been sold out.
EDIT: They now have all been sold out.