Truzzle

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(Click to Enlarge)

Truzzle is my most recent discovery from Avoudrey, France. These marvelous hardwood sculptures designed by engineer Frank Paris are some of the most beautiful puzzles I ever had the pleasure of adding to my collection. The first Truzzle puzzles were released in December 2003 and since then, a wide variety of different designs are being distributed in many stores across the world.

It's a little hard to classify in just one word the Truzzle puzzles. They are so unique and original that they should have their own category. You can think of them as some sort of Jigsaw puzzle or a 2D Packing Puzzle with raised pieces - 2D, because you solve it only on an horizontal plane or flat surface... But then again, if the pieces have raised lines and curves, it makes it more of a 3D puzzle than 2D. You can see now my uncertainty trying to classify them.

 (Click to Enlarge) - Truzzle's Leaflet

The puzzles come in two sizes (18 x 18 x 2.1cm and 12.5 x 12.5 x 2.1cm [about 7" x 7" x 1" and 5" x 5" x 1"]) and six different wavy patterns (animal, astral, atoll, mesh, spiral and wave). Within each pattern there are two types of pieces (cubes or lamellae strips) and they range from 25 to 108 pieces, depending on the size or type of piece. Their solving time can be from 30 minutes (the easiest) to 6 or 7 hours (mesh or "maille" and wave or "vague" big size, lamellae with only one type of wood and 108 pieces). Also, within each type of pieces you can choose between five different color schemes. If there's not enough variety for you already, for an additional fee, you have the option of choosing your own wooden types from a selection of sixteen species from the region.

I got two different Truzzle designs and sizes recommended by Frank himself. I'll describe below, in more detail, each one.

(Click to Enlarge) - Truzzle's Box


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This classy spiral version is my favorite from the six available patterns. It comes in a cardboard box with a maroon leather looking lining and inside, 25 cubes with extremely smooth surfaces in a checkerboard pattern, each measuring exactly 3.6cm (1.42") in a 5x5 grid, make a strikingly beautiful spiral motif. This multicolored version is described as having a minimum of three different contrasting wood types, although within a particular wood species, you will probably see a few variations in tone, creating an array of different colors, thus making each puzzle unique. This particular version however, has all kinds of woods used by Frank, except for Alder. Quite a unique puzzle.

This spiral version is rated as a 1.5/6, so it's not exactly the most difficult one they have. However, it's the recommended one to start and familiarize yourself with the concept before attempting more complex ones.

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Fooled by the apparent easiness of the puzzle, I immediately drop them on the table and scrambled them to try and solve them for the first time. Suffice it to say, it was much more difficult than I was expecting. It took me approximately, an hour and a half to completely solve it. I do have to say, once I started to solve it, I didn't look once to a solved picture. It was all from memory. I had an idea of what the finished spiral pattern looked like, but when you see a bunch of pieces lying around, all having similar wavy curves and lines, it can get pretty confusing. Your pattern recognition skills will sure be put to the test.

When you solve a jigsaw puzzle, it's common to start by separating the edge pieces and build the frame first.  The Truzzle's case is different, because you have only cubic pieces, so it's hard to see which ones are the edge pieces. Instead of starting from one corner and work my way from there, I began to join groups of two or three pieces together and after that I joined those groups in bigger groups until I had the complete puzzle.

Video: Animated video showing the puzzle being solved. Watch in Youtube. If blocked, see this one instead.


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The second Truzzle I got was a wave (or vague in French), with lamellae strips in a small size. The lamellae version is a little more complex than the cubes', mainly because you have a much larger number of pieces to work with. Also, the smaller surface area of the top of the pieces, makes it harder to recognize exactly where it belongs in the pattern. This particular design has 50 pieces divided into two contrasting wood types in an alternating light-dark strip pattern. Each strip is divided into two pieces, but to make it a little harder, they are not the same size, so each color will have three or four different sizes.

When you scramble the pieces, one of the first tasks you should do is to try and separate the pieces into groups of the same size. This way it's easier to know which pieces can be used at a certain time. Given that this puzzle is much more difficult than the previous one (3.5/6), I was already expecting it to take even more time to solve. Much to my surprise, it didn't... It took me about an hour. The reason was that I came up with a pretty good strategy, which helped me to cut down the otherwise longer time needed.

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To solve the puzzle, there two known facts that can help you: the strips have an alternating pattern and each strip is comprised of two pieces. Since there are more than two sizes of pieces, it's good to separate them in groups first. Next, you'll check one by one the pieces that have a perfect match. While at first this seems like a daunting task, it does get very simple as more and more pieces are matched together. Once you have all 25 strips done, it's time to see the ones that form the correct wavy pattern. In this case, I had to look at a solved picture to make sure which strip was the first. After that, it was an easy challenge and it was solved in no time.

Video:  Animated video showing the puzzle being solved.

Availability

The Truzzle puzzles can be purchased directly through the official website, but the only available payment methods are credit card and check, no PayPal. They do have a list of physical stores throughout the world, so it's possible that you can purchase one near you. There are a few designs available at Amazon.com and also some at Oh! Toys store, although it doesn't compare to the supply and wide design variety at Truzzle.com.

Closing Comments:

It's noted in Frank's innovative and brilliant woodworking, a very careful and utmost attention to detail, not to mention the quality of his products. Not only the Truzzle is a challenging and enjoyable puzzle in its own right, but it's also a magnificent and elegant work of art that can be displayed just for decorating purposes.

In my four years of puzzle collecting, the Truzzle was my first puzzle from France... Seeing now how fantastic they are, it was well worth the wait. The harmonious wavy curves and unmatched sheer beauty make these puzzles a wonderful collector's item. An absolute favorite in my collection, as of now. I think I just ran out of flattering adjectives...

Links:

English Translation of Truzzle's Official Website

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