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Anyone that reads my blog frequently knows that I'm a big fan of Jean Claude Constantin's puzzles. However, he now has some competition for the title of prettiest puzzles, also from a manufacturer in Germany, called Siebenstein-Spiele. There's actually a lot of great puzzles coming from there recently. The latest addition to my collection is Galileo, designed by Jürgen Reiche. It's a small packing puzzle with only five pieces, but quite demanding.
The design of the puzzle is reminiscent to some of Constantin's best works, using different types of wood and adding subtle but perfect finishing touches to the overall appearance. The frame is slightly concave in its edges and is decorated with small rhombi. A sheet of acrylic completes the frame and actually adds a degree of difficulty by limiting the way you place the pieces in the puzzle. This is a small puzzle compared with regular sized packing puzzles, with a diameter of 8cm (3.2"). The pieces feel small, but it's quite easy to handle them.
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With only five pentomino pieces, you might expect this to be an easy puzzle when, in fact, it's actually pretty tricky - level 8/10. The reason for this is the odd area of the inner frame, which doesn't match the length of the pieces. It's slightly smaller than six units and the total area is larger than the total of the pieces'. The result is empty spaces when all the pieces are packed, and how the pieces are actually arranged is the key to solve it.
Since packing puzzles are my favorite kind of puzzles, it didn't take me long to figure it out. Because the pieces don't fit naturally on the squared frame, the alternative is kind of intuitive. After you discover how to pack the pieces, it's only a matter of time until you find the correct arrangement. I'm not sure if there's multiple solutions for the puzzle, but with the pentomino nature of the pieces I would assume it has at least a few more, excluding rotations. Keep in mind that you can only use the top side of the pieces for the correct solution, because the backside doesn't have the markings that indicate the square units. This constraint also makes the puzzle even harder, but ultimately more rewarding.
If you're wondering if you should get the Galileo for your collection, the answer is, definitely! The puzzle looks gorgeous, and the concept, while not being completely new, is certainly a breath of fresh air from the more generic packing puzzles. Siebenstein-Spiele is looking like a close second for my favorite manufacturers, along with Hanayama. Constantin is still number one for me...
Availability: You can get the Galileo puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $15 CAD. Click here for more Siebenstein-Spiele puzzles.