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EZ Atom by Doug Engel is a stunning looking puzzle, produced by PuzzleMaster in Canada. Doug is known for his elegant and exquisite puzzle designs, mostly in metal, as you can see here. I have a few of those in my collection.
The EZ Atom is comprised by three metal pieces coated in bronze, silver and gold, plus a blue marble, which is trapped in the middle. Looking like an impossible task at first, the object is to take all the pieces apart and free the marble.
The design principle reminds of Constantin's Sputnik Ball, also reviewed a couple of weeks ago (see this post), where you also have a trapped marble in the middle that looks impossible to get out. While in the Sputnik Ball there was a sort of trick to free the marble, the EZ Atom is not that "tricky" and the solution is as simple as using a bit of force... Actually, I want to emphasize the force part, because it does require a good amount of pressure to release the pieces just enough to disassemble it.
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This is a puzzle that is rated by PuzzleMaster as a difficulty level 6/10, but I have to disagree with this one. Should be more like a 7 or even an 8. Curiously enough its difficulty level is described as "tricky", although there's no trick involved.
When you first try to take it apart, the puzzle pieces don't have that much room to move, so you're made to believe that it must have another way to be solved other than brute force. It took me about half an hour to figure out that applying pressure on the pieces was the only way. I'm not sure if my copy was tighter than usual or if this is standard for the design, but as I see it, not everyone will assume, at least not at first, that the puzzle does needs some force to be solved. This is why I think the puzzle is actually harder than it's advertised.
Reassembly is also a bit challenging, especially if you didn't pay much attention to the order that the pieces were removed. You should be able to figure it out soon enough though, because the three pieces are all dissimilar and have different openings. Hint: the bronze piece is the first one out and last in.
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Solution: If you get stuck, you can download a solution guide here.
Despite getting harder than I was expecting, the EZ Atom is a really nice puzzle. If you like a challenge, you're in for a treat. As well as being a great-looking puzzle, it also offers some frustrating moments. Can't ask for more, now can you?