Die Welle (The Wave)

Posted on by Gabriel | 5 comments
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(Click to Enlarge)
This brilliant design from Jean Claude Constantin, Die Welle, which can be translated as The Wave, is a fascinating puzzle from the long family of n-ary puzzles (sequential movement). Goetz Schwandtner has a whole page dedicated to this type of puzzles, as well as a comprehensive analysis of them in a downloadable .pdf. Definitely worth taking a look.

Die Welle, which falls into the category of quinary puzzles (5-ary), has something about its design that makes it very original and totally different from its counterparts. Instead of the usual straight paths with 90º turns you have three wavy paths with curved turns. The principle is the same, but the execution and solving process provides a somewhat different experience.

While the straight path puzzles have you moving the balls sequentially back and forth on a stationary frame (not all of them, but the majority), it's the complete opposite with the Die Welle. The frame moves up and down to make the balls move from one end of the puzzle to the other. The goal is to take out all three balls at the same time. This is not as simple as it sounds. At first sight, the three waves appear to have the same lengths, when in reality the path traversed by the balls is longer at the bottom wave than the top one. When you're done, try to solve it backwards by returning the balls to their original positions.

The design of the puzzle is very attractive, artistic in a way. The wavy pattern adds an elegance to it. The frame is covered by an acrylic sheet with the rest being three layers of plywood. I was pleasantly surprise by its size as well. It's rather big for this kind of puzzles, with measurements of 17 x 14 x 1.6cm (6.7" x 5.5" x 0.6").

Regarding difficulty, it depends very much if you've previously solved any n-ary puzzles. I have solved a few of them before and didn't have much trouble solving this one. I reckon it took me about 10 minutes to solve it the first time, and a little less to put it back in its original state. Once you understand the sequence of the first steps, which require you to go back and forth with the first two balls to make the last one move forward, you just need to keep at it until you get all three on the other side. I should point out that the movement of the wooden frame is not very smooth, it jammed quite a bit. I got the hang of it after a while, but it's still a bit annoying.

(Click to Enlarge) - Final position
Closing Comments:

Die Welle, despite having a so-so movement, is a fantastic puzzle. The challenge, compared to others in the n-ary family, is very accessible and even beginners won't have a very hard time with it. Its strongest selling point is definitely the design, which is gorgeous and a must-have in any collection.

Availability: You can buy the Die Welle (The Wave) at Sloyd.fi for about €22.



Goetz said...

Nice analysis! ... and thanks for mentioning my page :)

In my PDF article there is also a little Python program that will print the solution sequence for this puzzle!

When you are in a hurry (to pick up the next puzzle for solving), you do not need to solve the puzzle back to the beginning: Just put the balls into the starting positions by pushing them through the corresponding holes. This is why Jean-Claude added these little contraptions in the acrylic around the starting positions;)

Gabriel said...

Thanks Goetz! That's actually a great tip. I did look at the starting holes, but ignored them. Didn't even think to reset the puzzle that way. Well, it was good in the end, because I liked to solve it backwards as well :P

John Rausch said...

Take it apart and rub some candle wax on the edges at the top and bottom. It will move very smoothly

Gabriel said...

Thanks John! Another great tip. I was a little bummed that the movement wasn't very smooth, so will happily give it a try ;-)

Unknown said...

I definitely like the design!

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