|(Click to Enlarge)|
It's been a while since I've reviewed a Jean Claude Constantin puzzle... Well, not that long, actually - It was about a couple of months ago, but considering he is my favorite puzzle designer, it's a long time for me.
My most recent acquisition from him came from Sloyd, in Finland, and it's now one of my favorite Constantin's designs. I'm talking about the Schieblehre. The name probably doesn't mean that much to you, and it shouldn't, because it's German for vernier caliper. I believe it's called this, because the three 'C' squares of the puzzle resemble the openings of a caliper... Or it may be because of something else. Either way, the puzzle looks absolutely gorgeous.
As a collector, besides the concept of the puzzle, I value its presentation and overall appearance very much. Constantin is a master at making his puzzles very appealing, and this is what I love most about his creations. Don't be fooled, though. His designs are as much beautiful as challenging, and the Schieblehre is no exception.
The size of the puzzle is perfect, measuring 12 x 12 x 1.5cm (4.7" x 4.7" x 0.6"), and it's made of three layers of plywood. As a nice finishing touch, a sheet of copper-like reflective paper was added; giving it a more sophisticated look, as well as a protective layer of plexiglass with four squares cut in the middle, to facilitate the sliding movements.
(Click to Enlarge) - Left: Starting Position; Right: Solved
If you haven't noticed by now, the Schieblehre is a sequential movement sliding puzzle with a twist - More complex than it looks. The puzzle is set with a classic 3x3 grid with 8 squares and one opening space to move them around. From the 8 squares, three of them have been cut so they can carry a small steel ball - I refer to them as the 'C' squares. The object is to slide the squares accordingly in order to move the ball from the starting position to the exit. This wouldn't be that much of a challenge had the criss-cross path in the bottom be slightly off-set from the 'C' squares. This causes the ball not to move freely, therefore solving the puzzle requires you to plan ahead your moves and know how the ball can get to the final step.
Maneuvering the squares might be a little frustrating at first, because sometimes you want to move just one and along comes another one. With practice, however, you will learn how to block the movements of the unwanted squares, and this is where the openings in the plexiglass come in handy.
The overall difficulty of the puzzle depends on how well you do on sliding puzzles. To my knowledge, there's not an official rating, but if I had to describe it, I'd say it's a level 7 or 8/10 - Not overly complex, but can be quite tricky, especially when you're trying to get the ball in the square aligned with the exit. It took me about 20 minutes of back and forth sliding to finally get the ball out. Resetting the puzzle is much easier, as you can slide the "Start" square back to its place without the ball inside, thus no constraints or blocked movements.
What can I say? - It's not possible to say bad things about a design from Jean Claude Constantin, even if I tried. He always amazes me with his extremely original concepts and he puts so much thought into them with high regard for appearance, it's hard to resist...
The Schieblehre is not your average sliding puzzle, but if you're a sucker for this type of puzzles, I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Give it a try. It's a must-have in any collection.
Availability: As mentioned above, the Schieblehre puzzle is available at Sloyd's for €22. To see other designs made by Constantin, click here.