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In my never-ending quest to acquire all of Jean Claude Constantin's designs, I recently got from PuzzleMaster the Centrale puzzle. I was very curious about this design, mainly because I already had two puzzles from Robrecht Louage that have this same concept - Free a coin that's trapped in a maze.
Centrale is a relatively small puzzle, measuring only 8.9 x 5.7cm (3.5" x 2.2") and, just like the designs from Robrecht, there's a sliding platform with a 5 cent euro coin that needs to be placed under the larger cut-out circle in order to free it.
The mechanism is only half-visible due to the small square cut at the bottom, which lets you see two steel balls moving around, although it's more than enough to solve it without any problems. In fact, I believe the solution is given away because of this small square. PuzzleMaster rates it as a level 7/10, but I say it's no more than a 5/10. There was absolutely no challenge after I saw how the balls moved inside the puzzle. I was able to get the coin out within a couple of minutes. The only tricky part was getting the balls where I wanted them, which was more of a dexterity-based challenge than a skill-based one.
Before attempting to solve the puzzle I read a few things about it, by fellow bloggers, who reported this as being a very tough challenge to solve. Obviously, I was a bit intimidated to try it, but it wasn't enough to put me off. Suffice it to say, I was very surprised to have solved it so fast, so I put the coin back in and tried again. I could've just got lucky, so I had to know if what I thought was the solution, was in fact the correct way to solve it. After a few more successful attempts, I was then sure that this was indeed the correct solution. Did you solve Robrecht Louage's 4 Steps Visible Lock? - Well, the solution to the Centrale is exactly the same as the first step on the Visible Lock, where you also had two spheres in the same positions.
I was a bit disappointed to find out that the puzzle was so easy, to be honest. Here I was, expecting to have a serious challenge in my hands, just to be over in a matter of minutes. I came to know that the original design was indeed very hard to solve. The reason? - The square showing the balls is not present in this version, so you have no way of knowing how the mechanism works. You can only hear the balls rattling inside. My understanding is that, because the original version was so difficult to solve, Constantin updated the design in order to appeal to a wider audience. I just wish the end result wouldn't turned out be so damn easy.
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Solution: If you need the solution you can download one from here.
After having solved the Centrale in just a couple of minutes, I was left with mixed feelings about it. Solving-wise is a pure letdown, but I do liked the design - It's a Constantin, after all. If you plan on getting a copy for yourself, I would advise you to get the harder version instead if you can, unless you don't like a challenge...
Availability: You can purchase the Centrale puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $16 CAD. Note: The picture shown at PuzzleMaster is of the harder version, but I was sent the easier one. Make sure which version you're getting before ordering to avoid disappointment.