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Random Pick #16 from My Collection.
It's been a while since I chose a random older puzzle from my collection to review, in part because all other previous reviews had been from recent acquisitions. Since these past two weeks, new puzzle arrivals have been kind of slow, I had to resort to my old treasures.
The lucky pick is a Jean Claude Constantin design, the Pins puzzle, or Three Pins, or Triangle Puzzle (from Hachette's "Classic Puzzles & Brainteasers" magazine), which is an Assembly/Packing problem. Honestly, I don't know why someone would call it Triangle Puzzle, because the pieces sure aren't triangles.
The puzzle consists of six identical wooden pieces with four edges, three dark toned and three light toned, and each one has a hole in a strategic spot. The goal (or goals), is to have each of the three pins go through two pieces, arranged in two layers, inside the tray. Each layer has to show three pieces of the same color tone, thus having two challenges: either solve it to show the top layer with the light pieces or the dark pieces.
Solving this puzzle is moderately difficult, although not to the point of feeling frustrated. Note that even though the pieces are identical in size, the holes at each piece tone are at different places. This way, when you have the bottom layer figured out, the top one won't be so straightforward. The pieces don't need to be a perfect fit inside the tray, but just enough so that they won't overlap each other or go out of the frame.
I saw this puzzle at Jean Claude Constantin's website and it's classified as a 6* level (the highest). I wouldn't go that far, maybe a 4* is more appropriate. A systematic approach with a bit of patience will solve this puzzle in about half an hour, so not your most difficult puzzle out there.
If you solved the puzzle with one color tone and do the second challenge right after, it will probably be easier, because you just have to swap the top layer with the bottom layer. However, if you wait a few hours or more and dump the pieces on a table without looking at the actual piece arrangement, it can be as difficult as the first challenge. Each challenge has at least, two solutions, requiring just a slight manipulation of the top three pieces. If you want to check the solution for each challenge, click here and here.
Availability on this puzzle seems to be quite scarce. I bought it in 2008 at an eBay auction, together with a whole lot of other puzzles. PuzzleMaster appears to have a version of this puzzle, but it's sold out at the moment, so if you're interested in getting one, try contacting their customer support and ask for a date on restock.
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It's always a pleasure to talk about puzzles from Jean Claude Constantin. His designs have always something different that you're not used to see in other puzzles of the same category, and The Pins puzzle illustrates that in full glory. The simple concept of having two toned pieces in order to accomplish two goals is quite extraordinary. Definitely worth a try and a must have in any collection.