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Picture Frame Puzzles are always a joy to play with. These are some of my favorite packing puzzles and I'm proud to own several different designs in my collection. Dave Janelle, from Creative Crafthouse, makes some of the best puzzles in this category with such varied themes as animals or music instruments. The Cook's Cupboard, unsurprisingly, is a superbly designed puzzle with gastronomy as its main theme.
All the pieces in the puzzle are essential objects a cook must have in his cupboard, from the cleaver to the whisk. There are 11 unique objects with different sizes and shapes, all made from precision cut high-quality hardwood. All puzzles from Creative Crafthouse are quite big in comparison with other packing puzzles, measuring 17.8cm (7"). Holding and packing bigger pieces feels much nicer and more pleasant than tiny ones.
A word of advice for when you unpack your puzzle: do it upside down or ask someone to remove the pieces from the frame for you, because it comes packaged in its solved state. Since there's only one possible solution, excluding rotations, it would be a bummer if you were to see the puzzle already solved. When you have all pieces nicely scattered try to put them all back in the frame. Note that you should only use the side of the pieces that's marked or engraved.
The key to solve any Picture Frame Puzzle, as I've been saying in previous reviews, is to look out for possible matches between some of the pieces' edges. You should always try to pack them as tightly as possible so you don't waste too much space. There will always be some empty spaces between the pieces, but you'll see that once it's solved it has the most optimal arrangement for all the pieces.
These Picture Frame Puzzles are among the hardest in the packing puzzles family. Since there is no clear visual aids as to how each piece should be placed, solving them can fast become a arduous task of trial and error. The Cook's Cupboard is classified as a difficulty level 9/10, and I mostly agree with it. It actually took me less time than I was expecting - about 30 minutes - but I believe it's only because I'm more experienced in these now that I've solved several of them. I still think it's still among the hardest I've tried from Creative Crafthouse, but it's just not as frustratingly difficult as it once was...
The Cook's Cupboard may be a difficult puzzle, but it's one of the best works by Dave Janelle. There are still so many that I don't have in my collection, but if I had to recommend a couple of them this would certainly be a great choice. It's a perfect gift for a cook or gastronome.
Availability: The Cook's Cupboard puzzle is available from PuzzleMaster for $24 CAD. Check out other designs by Dave Janelle.