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The Cast Star was one of the very first Cast Puzzles released by Hanayama back in 1983. The other two being the Key and the ABC. After 29 years, the company has released 51 more of them and they certainly won't be stopping any time soon.
The Star puzzle has its origins in the 19th century Britain and Akio Kamei designed this updated version. Comprised by two entangled pieces, an irregular six-pointed star and a snake-shaped loop, the object of the puzzle is self-explanatory, as the two parts are to be separated. At first, it seems impossible to get the star out of the loop, but with a close inspection, you'll notice a few particularities that make the difference and are the key to successfully solve the puzzle.
The puzzle looks like it's made from brass, and judging by the characteristic metal smell it leaves on your hands, it's very likely to be. I actually prefer a smoother and more polished feel, like the Cast S&S, or a coating finish, although I can see why they opted out of having it coated, knowing that it would come off very easily with the constant fiddling. Still, even with the actual look, the puzzle looks great. You can also make a keychain out of it by adding a chain to the small protuberance at the bottom.
This is rated by Hanayama as a level 3 out of 6, so with just a little work and observation, you should be able to solve it within 10 minutes or so. The first time I solve it, I was very surprised, as the star fell out of the loop after only a couple of minutes. Not knowing exactly what I've done, I put the star back in the loop, and much to my surprise, again, it was immediately entangled. This was going well... I didn't know how the star got out, neither how it got in. Well, you could argue, "The puzzle was solved, what more could you ask for?". See, that's the point, was it really solved? - My fellow puzzle blogger, Kevin Sadler, wrote an interesting article addressing this very issue, titled "When is a puzzle truly solved?", and to be honest, I couldn't agree more with him. Many times when we solve a puzzle for the first time, we might not fully comprehend the exact method or solving process associated with it. By solving the puzzle multiple times and returning it back to its original position, you ensure that there's not just blind luck involved, but actual skill. After three successful attempts, I can now understand how the puzzle works and solve it in a matter of seconds.
With that in mind, I proceeded to solving the puzzle a second time, and instead of just randomly fiddling with the puzzle, I paid attention to the details. One of the noticeable differences is the individual length and width of the stars' spikes. Among the irregularities in the measurements (purposely done), there's a spike significantly smaller than the others. That's the key to solve the puzzle, but there's another thing you should keep in mind: Where exactly does the smaller spike have to be placed in order to free the star? - That's up to you to find out, but I'll leave you with another tip - Pay close attention to the inclination angle of the loop. The star will exit at the bottom with the smaller spike. If you need further help to solve it, you can get the solution for free in the puzzle's page at Sloyd.
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The Star may not be my favorite in the Cast Series, but it's still a great puzzle for a level 3 and you won't be disappointed if you get one. I think it also bears a resemblance to the Cast Cage, where you find another star enclosed in a cage. Definitely worth a try.
Availability: The Cast Star is available at Sloyd for about €10 and if you're interested in others in the Cast Puzzle line up, take a look at their Hanayama dedicated page.
Hanayama Cast (in English) - Very useful website in English, with plenty of information on all things Cast.
Hanayama's Factory Visit (Many thanks to Roxanne Wong for sharing these pictures)