Cast Ring II (輪)

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Last week, I reviewed Hanayama's Cast Ring, which proved to be quite a frustrating experience compared to other Cast Puzzles I'd previously solved. This week, I'll write about the Cast Ring II, and surprisingly enough I had a much easier task this time around.

The Cast Ring II, as its name suggests is Hanayama's second ring puzzle. It was released four years after the first Cast Ring, in may 2004, both designed by Nob Yoshigahara. This version, which is based on an original design by Jose Grant, is significantly smaller than their previous one, measuring only 4cm in diameter (1.6"). It's still too large to fit on a normal-sized finger though, but Hanayama chose functionality over aesthetics, as this size makes it easier to handle the puzzle.

(Click to Enlarge) - Left: Cast Ring; Right: Cast Ring II
There's another noticeable difference between the first Cast Ring and this newer version, besides their size: the Cast Ring II has five bands instead of four. If the first puzzle wasn't frustrating enough already, now they added a fifth band? - I was already stressed out before attempting to solve the puzzle, given the amount of time it took me to reassemble back the other one.

Hanayama rates the Ring II as a difficulty level 5/6 (for reference, the first ring was a level 4/6). The addition of the fifth band to the ring is expected to add a higher complexity level to the puzzle, as it would be harder to reassemble the puzzle with more parts to work with. Well, as mentioned above, I actually spent much less time solving this one. I honestly don't know if it was luck, experience for solving the first one, or even a mix of both. All I know is that it took me approximately 10 minutes or so to get the ring back to its original state. Here I was, expecting to have a highly frustrating session with this puzzle, and before I knew it I had it solved. I was so glad to have taken so little time to solve it, because I didn't know if I was capable to withstand another couple of frustrating hours with a ring puzzle. Let me know if you had a similar experience with your Cast Rings.

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Closing Comments:

The design of the Cast Ring II is in my opinion less attractive than its predecessor. This time, the motif chosen was Hanayama's own logo and instead of the two contrasting colors seen in the first puzzle, silver and gold, there's only silver. In a nutshell, they made the second puzzle smaller and having only one color for the finish - It's like they were cutting back on production costs. Usually, the second version is supposed to be an improvement, not a step back. Nevertheless, I did find the second puzzle to be much less frustrating than the first one. However, if this is your first experience with a ring puzzle, you've been warned...

Availability: Sloyd, a puzzle store in Finland, sells the Cast Ring II, as well as all the others in the Hanayama Cast Series.

Links:

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)


Sonne

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I'm always impressed by the sheer variety of puzzles made and designed by Jean Claude Constantin. It's not just variety of designs, but materials as well. Many of his creations are made from wood, but today's puzzle is a wire one, except for the handle which has a wooden bead at the end for a better grip.

Sonne, German for Sun, has an interesting shape where eight sunbeams with different lengths block most of your movements, as you try to free the handle from the wire frame. To make things even more complex, there's a companion ring following your every move and prevents you from moving freely around the frame. There's a second ring as well, although this one's constrained to a single position on the frame and you can't move it. It's up to you to find a way to remove both the handle and the companion ring.

What's great about the puzzle is that its size is ideal for handling it. Measuring about 18 x 15cm in length from end to end (approx. 7" x 6"), it's large enough to maneuver it quite easily.

Difficulty-wise, the Sonne is a bit challenging at first, but soon you'll start to understand how it can be solved. PuzzleMaster rates the puzzle as a level 7/10, which I consider fair, taking into account the number of steps involved to solve it. It's not something you solve in a matter of seconds, as it takes time to figure out the best path to follow without getting blocked by the companion ring all the time.

As a puzzle friend told me recently, in order to solve puzzles like these, you need to imagine the puzzle already solved and trying to put it back as it were. It makes total sense, and looking at the puzzle with this in mind it's easy to see where you need to go and how exactly the handle should be removed. Now all you need is to find a way to get there. I was going around in circles for a little while before I was able to move the handle to where I wanted it. The different lengths of the sunbeams certainly didn't help, but after 15 minutes or so the companion ring fell off and the handle was finally free. Putting it back turned out to be easier than I thought.

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Closing Comments:

From all the wire puzzle family, the ones that don't involve strings or a rope are among my favorites, because you can't mess them up. To me, they're just less intimidating. The Sonne puzzle is a very nice challenge if you like this sort of puzzles. I didn't find it frustrating to solve in any way, and I like to just fiddle with it.

Availability: The Sonne puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for just $10 USD.

Links:




Cast Ring (環)

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Hanayama has several classic puzzles in the Cast Series that were first introduced centuries ago, and were updated to reach a wider audience. Thanks to this, we get to experience a puzzle from the 15th century Europe, the "Puzzle Ring", which is now just called Cast Ring. The first version was released by Hanayama in October 2000.

The description of the puzzle points to a couple of interesting facts, among them the mention that the style of the ring was used as real engagement and marriage rings. The size of the puzzle back then must have been small enough for a woman's finger, which is not the case in this Hanayama's modern version. The Cast Ring has a diameter of 5.2cm (about 2"), so it looks more like a bracelet than an actual ring. I believe they manufactured the puzzle in this size for easier handling, and I'm glad they did it or otherwise it would've been far trickier to solve - Not that it wasn't already tricky as it is.

The Cast Ring has a striking visual appearance with four bands, the two middle ones are golden and the outer bands are silver. The puzzle has the usual Hanayama touch with a smooth and shiny coating finish, which complements the already stunning and elegant design.

The bands show this intricate intertwined pattern between them, and just imagining having to put them back together is scary enough. When you hold the ring in your hands you have to be extremely careful and hold the four bands together, because the puzzle is highly unstable and could fall apart at any moment.

The goal is a two-part challenge, although disassembling the puzzle is the easy part, as it almost does it by itself. Reassembling it, however, is a whole different story... A very frustrating one. Hanayama rates this as a level 4/6, but to me it was more like a 5/6. I reckon this is a similar concept to the Cast Coaster, although that one was as tough to take it apart as to put it back together.

As I mentioned above, expect to have very frustrating moments trying to solve the Ring. As soon as you see the four bands moving freely around each other you'll probably realize what a huge mistake you made and just should've left it be. As I tried to make sense of how the bands should be put together again, I just kept thinking that this one was gonna stay like this for a long time. The reason for this was because no matter how I tried to recombine the bands together, they always intertwined in the wrong way, like it was impossible to get them in the right position.

After almost two straight hours, and finally put the ring back to its original state, all I can say is: It requires a high dose of trial and error and seeing which bands form a perfect match. After you get a match, slowly try to get the remaining bands in place without screwing up what you already did. It's actually not easy to do and also requires some dexterity. I'm not sure if it's true, but I found that it's easier to combine first the middle band that goes under the other golden one with an outer band, instead of the two middle ones first. I'm sure there's other methods you can try, and probably easier ones, but this one did the trick and I'm happy with it.

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Closing Comments:

To be honest, the Cast Ring is one the Cast Puzzles that I enjoyed the least. It's just not fun to play with and plain frustrating. It's not because it's too hard, but because it feels more like a chore than a fun and rewarding challenge. Nevertheless, the puzzle is indeed quite beautiful and it will look great on any collection.

If you like this type of puzzles you're in luck, though. There's a whole category for these puzzle rings and not just Hanayama. Just do a search for "puzzle ring" and you'll be surprise by the sheer variety of designs out there.

Availability: I got the Cast Ring from Sloyd.fi in Finland, as well as many others in the Cast family.

Links:

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)


Craniatics

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If you read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I've been reviewing some of the latest puzzles from Ivan Moscovich, produced by Fat Brain Toys. This week, I bring you not only one, but a collection of 10 logic puzzles and games all neatly packed into one convenient magnetic box to better enjoy your long journeys - The Craniatics.

The included brainteasers are a mix of solitaire logic puzzles and multiplayer games with difficulties ranging from fairly easy to demanding. You might already be familiar with some of the concepts presented here, even though they are given their own identity with a beautiful new colorful approach. If you're used to logic puzzles, then you won't find them extremely difficult to solve, although some of them will surely give your brain a workout. On the other hand, if you're not a puzzle buff you'll have several tough challenges to occupy your mind for a while. No need to worry, though, because there are solutions included in case you get stuck.

What's interesting about this collection of puzzles is that they're portable: the box includes a magnetic board and opens like a suitcase, eliminating the need for extra space to play. The collection is comprised by high-quality magnetic pieces, just like your regular fridge magnets, and their vibrant colorful palette is a feast for the eyes.

(Click to Enlarge) - Back of the Box
Setting up one of the 10 brainteasers is very simple: just pick any of the 5 double-sided puzzle mats and hold it in place with the four Craniatics pieces in its corners. Each puzzle mat specifies which pieces you need for that particular challenge, so it's very easy to pick them out among all the others lying in the box.

The feeling of solving the puzzles in a magnetic board is surprisingly satisfying. Placing and removing pieces  on the puzzle mat as you try to figure out a solution is my idea of fun, and it won't be long until you realize a couple of hours went by like that.

Since there are 10 different brainteasers to try, it's difficult to cover all of them in a single review without making it overly boring to read. Instead, I'm gonna give you a brief description on a few of them, to give you an idea of what to expect, and leave the rest of them for you to discover on your own.

Also, note that some of the brainteasers have multiple solutions, and even if they have a unique solution, the final arrangement of the pieces might look a bit different. I see it as a bonus, since it will expand the replay value on a few of those puzzles.

The Continuous Loop:
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You are given eight similar pieces with a gradient of colors and your task is to arrange them in such a way that they form a closed and continuous loop. The solution is unique and follows a simple logic. This one seems easy at first, but you won't get far just by randomly placing pieces. You need to look at them and find a connection between the colors. Very nice and original idea.

The Disappearing Square:
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This one's a well-known concept. See the "Missing Square" puzzle for more info on this fascinating puzzle. This version is a little more complex, in my opinion. It uses 17 pieces in 5 different groups. Your first task is to recreate the colorful pattern on the puzzle mat and then, by removing the central piece, you're asked to create a new pattern with the same exact dimensions.

Spectrix:
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This one can be played as a solitaire challenge or as a game for 2 or more players. The solitaire rules are as follows: 1. Place any of the colored tiles on the mat's grid; 2. If the next tile you place is the same color as the previous one, you can't place it next to any of its adjacent squares (diagonals included); 3. Fill the entire grid so that all colored tiles follow these rules. There's only one possible solution, but the arrangement of the colors can be different. The game rules have all players take turns to place a tile as described above, until someone has no more possible moves.

Binary Bits:
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This one's another interesting version of a known concept by Niek Neuwahl, the Crossed Crosses. It can also be played as a solitaire puzzle or a game for 2 or more players. In the solitaire puzzle you're required to place all 16 tiles so that their touching edges match in color with the surrounding tiles. There are multiple solutions for this one. In the game version, the principle is the same as the previous brainteaser. The players take turns by placing tiles following the solitaire rules, until one player has no more valid moves.

Closing Comments:

The Craniatics will delight any puzzle enthusiast and give your trips a whole new meaning. It's practical, portable and the selection of puzzles is varied enough to have something for everyone's tastes.

Availability: You can find the Craniatics at Fat Brain Toys for $25 USD.


Trick Bolt #2

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Trick Bolts is yet another interesting class of puzzles that I've recently acquired and I'm quite fascinated by them. The other type of puzzles I was referring to is the Bottle Puzzles, also recently reviewed.

I got two Trick Bolts from my latest PuzzleMaster order: Trick Bolt #1 and #2. Now, why am I reviewing #2 first instead of #1? - The answer is simple, I solved #2 first. The Trick Bolt #1 is still unsolved, so its review will come very soon, I hope...

These bolts are produced by PuzzleMaster and are made from solid metal - they're quite heavy - and look like the real thing. These are also not small, contrary to what I was expecting: the one I'm reviewing today measures 9.7 x 2.5cm (that's about 3.8" x 1"), which by the way feels much more comfortable holding it in your hands. 

The object of the Trick Bolts, as you might expect, is nothing more than one or two simple movements - that's why they're called "Trick" bolts. Discovering these exact movements is anything but simple, though. Although both trick bolts are classified as a level 7/10 (Challenging), a beginner might feel at a loss as to how to tackle this particular type of puzzles.

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I feel I got a bit lucky with the Trick Bolt #2, because I didn't take too long to figure it out. The puzzle features a a ring and a nut, and the goal is to actually remove the ring, not the nut. The bolt also has two indentations at the top where the ring appears to fit and be removed from there, but no matter how you try it, it just won't go through. To make things even more complex, the nut seems to be welded to the bolt. There must be another way...

The solution is, obviously, counterintuitive, but at the same time this particular concept doesn't have many different movements you can try, so you'll eventually solve it after some trial and error. Even for a first timer, this one can be solved within seconds. I can't say the same thing for the other trick bolt, though, as I'm still stuck trying to figure it out. Stay tuned for my next chapter...

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Closing Comments:

I love the fact that after more than 4 years of collecting, I still get to find these extremely interesting new types of puzzles. I'm really excited to add the Trick Bolts to my ever expanding collection, and if you don't already own one of these, give them a try and I'm sure you'll be "bolted" as well.

Availability: The Trick Bolt #2 is available at PuzzleMaster for just $10 CAD. If you like, you can also get the Trick Bolt #1 for the same price.


Triangle Box

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This week is dedicated to Jean Claude Constantin, and so I have another puzzle produced by him. The Triangle Box is an interesting and unusual 3D Packing Puzzle with 7 different pieces and, design-wise, it's a breath of fresh air from the all the squared boxes out there.

The Triangle Box's 7 pieces are stacked in three layers, which may difficult your task. I have in my collection this puzzle that features several of the same pieces, although it's only in 2D and much easier. The pieces themselves are a combination of two different shapes that are glued at different angles.

The design and quality of the puzzle is top-notch, just like any other Constantin's creations. I personally love the different color tones of the pieces contrasting with the beautiful reddish color of the box. The puzzle measures 11.5 x 11.5 x 6.5cm.

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Although the Triangle Box seems intimidating at first, it's actually a medium difficulty level. Sloyd, which is where the puzzle came from, classifies it as a level 3/6 and, from my experience, it's about right. The reason for the puzzle not being overly difficult may be that it has multiple solutions, although I can't prove this at the moment (maybe someone good with Burr Tools).

If you want to make the puzzle a little more challenging, just make sure to dump the pieces on the table rather than removing them one by one. If you're still able to solve it pretty fast, try to find a different solution from the one you already have - Remember that rotations don't count as a different solution.

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Closing Comments:

There are countless 3D Packing Puzzles out there, but Constantin's Triangle Box manages to stand out offering a different experience from the more common cubic-shaped puzzles. Being both a Constantin and Packing Puzzle aficionado, the Triangle Box is right up my alley - Highly recommended.

Availability: The Triangle Box came from Sloyd.fi, in Finland, and you can get a copy for €26.

Links:




Sputnik Ball (Sputnik Kugel)

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My latest order of puzzles from PuzzleMaster arrived last week and with it came several more from Jean Claude Constantin - I just can't resist to his puzzles! One of these puzzles is the Sputnik Ball, originally called Sputnik Kugel. It's a very interesting design in which you need to take the wooden pieces apart in order to free the metal sphere. Once you've succeeded, you have to put it back together.

The Sputnik Ball consists of two sizes of intercepting rings that keep a metal sphere trapped in the middle. At first sight, releasing the sphere appears to be an impossible task, because the rings intercept at a 90º angle leaving no room to move the sphere. The inner rings rotate freely in any direction and so does the sphere, but no position seems to matter, as they all have physical constraints that block any attempt to take them apart.

(Click to Enlarge) - Inner Rings Rotated
The puzzle is deceptively rated at a difficulty level 5 out of 10, which lets one believe that it's going to be a walk in the park, when it's definitely not the case. I agree that the solution is very simple and easy to perform - quite elegant actually - but getting there is a whole different matter and counterintuitive for most people. You certainly need to think outside of the box with this one.

As mentioned above, any position you align the rings seems to result in a physical impossibility: you can't slide them up, because the sphere blocks any movement in that direction; you can't get the inner rings off  either, without taking the outer rings apart first, or vice versa. Therefore, that only leaves the option of taking them apart at the same time... So how do you go about accomplishing that? - That would be revealing the solution, and the beauty of it lies in figuring it out for yourself.

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When I was trying to solve it, I came to the solution almost by accident. I believe you'll eventually get to that point by constantly attempting other strategies, so it's not really a case of luck, more like a question of time. At first, I was afraid I was going to brake the puzzle, but as I proceeded the puzzle naturally adapted to that position. Applying gentle pressure was enough to free the sphere and then separating the rings was easy.

Edit: I received the information that Constantin didn't actually designed the Sputnik Ball. Leonard M. Lyon came up with the concept in 1891, and at the time the puzzle featured 3 sizes of rings. Constantin only adapted the design to make it simpler with only two sizes of rings. Click here to take a look at the patent documents.

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Closing Comments:

Solving the Sputnik Ball is more like leaning a secret trick - Once you know it the puzzle becomes just a collectible  or a decorating object, because you can no longer attempt to solve it a second time. You already know how to do it... It's fun to see others try though, so the puzzle gains a new purpose. Another great puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin.

Availability: You can find the Sputnik Ball at PuzzleMaster for $16 CAD.

Links:

Jean Claude Constantin - Official Website



Cast Rattle (緩)

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Many of Hanayama's Cast Puzzles have been entered in the annual International Puzzle Party, and today's puzzle, the Cast Rattle, is one of them having been featured in 2010's 30th IPP. Bram Cohen, a talented puzzle designer, has created this deceptively easy brainteaser. The theme for the Rattle is "loose", although "align" would've been a good choice as well.

As mentioned above, the Cast Rattle appears to be this fairly easy puzzle at first sight, but soon you realize that whichever way you fiddle with it, you always end up in the same position. The four identical pieces comprising the puzzle are interlocked and move mostly freely, but there's a limit to that looseness, and that's when things start to become more complex.

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When it was first released, Hanayama rated the Rattle as a level 4/6, but in their most recent website overhaul they re-rated many Cast Puzzles and this one's now a level 5. In my opinion, these new ratings reflect much better the difficulty of many puzzles, not just the hard ones but the easy ones as well. As for the Rattle itself, I couldn't agree more - it was one tough nut to crack.

The first time I solved the puzzle it was more luck than skill. After so much fiddling (approximately a couple of hours), I was surprised when I saw the pieces come apart. What's more frustrating in this type of situations is that you don't pay much attention at how you did it, because it happens so fast. Suffice it to say, I was in trouble getting it back to its original state - It's like solving two challenges in one. I eventually spent less time trying to figure out how to put it back together, as the only thing to think about is how to properly align the pieces in order for them to interlock again. Although easier than to take it apart, it's doesn't mean it won't be challenging.

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Closing Comments:

Prepare to be extremely frustrated... The Cast Rattle is one hell of a challenge and only with enough patience and persistence you will be able to succeed. Bram Cohen had previously designed another brilliant Cast Puzzle, the Marble, and this one is proof that he has a knack for creating very tough puzzles. If you like a real challenge go for this one - You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Availability: I got my copy of the Cast Rattle from Sloyd.fi and if you're interested in others in the Cast Puzzle Series you can browse for more here.

Links:

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)


Bottle 2 by Ad van der Schagt

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Bottle 2, designed by the Dutch Ad van der Schagt, is the first bottle puzzle in my collection. In over four years, since I've been collecting puzzles, I remember seeing many bottle puzzle designs and thought they were really interesting, but never got around to actually get one. In my latest Brilliant Puzzles order, I saw they had a few of these and decided it was time to try one and see what I've been missing... Boy am I glad I got one!

All bottle puzzles have one interesting thing in common: At first sight they appear to be unsolvable. The trick is to study them carefully and look out for smaller details. Their solutions aren't intuitive either, so an outside of the box thinking is a requirement.

The goal of the Bottle 2 couldn't be any simpler: just free the wooden bead and then put it back as it was. Easy right? - Well, if you're experienced with bottle puzzles, this one's actually not that hard. Brilliant Puzzles has rated it as a level 2 out of 5 (Tricky). For a beginner though, like myself, it's a little tougher than that, but nothing extremely frustrating that would discourage you from solving it. It took me around 15 minutes or so to solve it.

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The design you see here is actually an updated version of the first Bottle 2, which was much taller (see this blog post), although the solution is mostly identical. At the end of the dowel you have a series of metal parts attached to each other that prevent it from being removed. Without going too much into the solution itself, I can tell you that some dexterity is needed to get the metal parts where you want them. Also, you won't get too far by holding the puzzle in its natural state, so get creative...

Once you manage to get all the metal pieces to fit inside the narrower part of the bottle, you just need to pull the dowel and it should slide off pretty easily. Getting the dowel back in the bottle is much easier, because you get to touch the metal pieces and adjust them to better fit inside that narrow tube. When you reach the bottom of the bottle just jiggle it a little and the pieces should go back their original positions and ready for the next puzzler.

(Click to Enlarge) - Solved
Closing Comments:

After solving my first bottle puzzle I am definitely ready for some more. I became an instant fan of this original concept and will look forward to getting more bottles. As for the Bottle 2 by Ad van der Schagt, it's a great way to get started on this type of puzzles. Give it a try, I promise you won't regret it.

Availability: I got my copy of the Bottle 2 at Brilliant Puzzles, but as of the time of writing the puzzle is currently out of stock. Just keep checking the site regularly, because they should restock it at any moment. They do have other bottle puzzles if you're interested, so check them out here.


Paradox Box

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A few weeks ago, I started a series of reviews for some of the latest puzzles from renowned inventor Ivan Moscovich. Ivan's Hinge and Reflection were the first two, and as my third review I'll be writing about the Paradox Box, a blind maze with a twist...

The first thing you notice when you see the puzzle for the first time is its size - it's huge compared to a standard size Rubik's cube - with a diameter of 12.5cm (about 5"). It's a large puzzle, but it feels nice in your hands, as the edges are covered with this soft rubbery material that gives a nice grip for tilting and turning the cube.

The premise of the puzzle is simple: Just drop the small metal sphere into the cube and see if you can find your way out to the exit in the cube's opposite face, by navigating through an internal blind maze. Getting the sphere out, however, is everything but simple. There's a way to solve the maze and know how it works without the need to actually see what's going on inside, but for that you have to decode the Paradox Box's secret.

Each of the cube's faces is "decorated" with helpful clues, or hints, on how to follow the maze without falling into a trap, but there's no instructions on how to read these clues. It's up to you, though, to discover what they mean and how they can help you guide your sphere through the maze unscathed.

(Click to Enlarge) - Left: Entry; Right: Exit

To my knowledge, the secret of the Paradox Box is comprised by 3 types of clues: the first is found on the plastic cover of each of the cube's faces and consists of a series of arrows pointing in four different directions, apparently in random order; the second type of clue is marked on the actual faces of the cube and consists of several different colors scattered in a 5x5 grid. This pattern of colorful small squares create a strikingly beautiful visual effect, which makes the Paradox Box stand out in the crowd of your puzzle collection; finally, the last of the three clues is a little more subtle, and it's found at the corners of the colorful squares. They're nothing more than little "plus" and "minus" symbols, but they provide important information, sort of like "maze coordinates".

From the three types of clues, the last one is the one I believe to have deciphered its true meaning. The other two are a bit trickier to make sense of, but with patience and determination I'll get there. It's also possible that the other two clues, or maybe one of them, are mere decoys and don't mean anything, but I'd like to believe they hide some useful pattern to help me solve the puzzle much faster.

The first time I tried to solve the maze, I managed to get the sphere out just within a couple of minutes, and without paying too much attention to the clues. I suspected lady luck had something to do with it, and so I immediately dropped the sphere into the cube again... Suffice it to say, until now, the sphere is still inside the cube, so that proves something.

(Click to Enlarge) - One of the other four faces
Once the sphere is inside the cube it's not easy to keep track of where exactly it is, so concentration is key. Even if you think you have deciphered all three types of clues you still have to rely on your touch and hearing as your guides. Practice makes perfect, and with the Paradox Box it's no different. Little by little you start to notice that the sphere makes different sounds as it goes through the maze, indicating that it reached higher or lower ground depending on the sound. Also, when you're holding the cube, it's possible to feel the sphere knocking the inside walls of the maze as a small thump, clearly revealing its location. These subtle sensory hints help you to locate the sphere and allow you resume where you left of if you haven't managed to solve the puzzle in one session.

Closing Comments:

The Paradox Box will delight any fan of 3D maze puzzles. The idea of having to discover the meaning of these clues, like deciphering a secret code, is a brilliant concept and it'll surely put your logic and spacial-visualization skills to the test. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a serious challenge.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Paradox Box at Fat Brain Toys for about $30 USD.


Cast Violon (弦)

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Originally designed by Joseph L. Little in 1965, the Violon puzzle depicts a violon and its strings. Nob Yoshigahara like the puzzle so much that he decided to make a version of it for Hanayama's Cast Series. The Cast Violon was released in October 2003 and the key word for it is "strings".

The puzzle looks fantastic, and due to its extremely smooth and polished finish it feels great in your hands. There are three pieces that are entangled together and the goal is to find the correct way to separate them. The way that the pieces are interlocked and look resemble the CGO puzzle (seen here), or as I like to call it the "COG" puzzle. However, the main piece (the violon), has a series of curves and grooves that make the solution quite unique.

(Click to Enlarge) - Different Angle
This is rated as a level 2/6 by Hanayama, but make no mistake, this is no level 2 puzzle. I guess Hanayama understood this and that's why the puzzle has been reclassified to a level 3/6. This is also true for many other Cast Puzzles, as you can see by their new and updated rating on Hanayama's website, since some of the puzzles were clearly misclassified.

The pieces of the Violon are removed in a sequence, and despite being harder than any other Hanayama's level 2 you should be able to solve it withing 10-15 minutes. What surprised me more in the puzzle was that I found it harder to put it back together than to take it apart. Once the three pieces are loose, it's hard to visualize the starting position and how it should look like. I had to resort to a picture of it showing the original position of the pieces to try and do the steps backwards. It took two times longer to put it back together than to take it apart. Definitely not a level 2, I reckon.

(Click to Enlarge)
Closing Comments:

With an avant-garde design and a polished clean look, the Violon has one of the most interesting shapes in the Hanayama Cast Series. It's challenging enough to get you hooked for a few moments, but even if you find it to be very easy it'll be a worthy addition to your collection.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Cast Violon at Sloyd.fi, as well as all the others from Hanayama.

Links:

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)


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