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Jean Claude Constantin is among a small group of elite designers that make the best n-ary puzzles currently in the market. Very popular among experienced puzzlers, n-ary puzzles are some of the hardest puzzles you can attempt to solve, especially if said puzzles require hundreds of steps to be solved.
Why are these puzzles so hard, you might be asking? Simple. You need lots of concentration, and that's very hard to do when we're talking hundreds of steps that need to be performed in a specific order. Lose your train of thought for a moment and you'll struggle to resume the solving process. Add that to the fact that most puzzles lack a simple way to be reset, and you're left with a hell of a challenge.
6 Bottles is my latest n-ary acquisition. The puzzle has a very original and interesting design. I haven't seen anything closely resembling it in the n-ary family. There are six identical bottle-shaped pieces that slide vertically and a bar that moves horizontally. The movement of the bar is restricted by the position of the steel balls that allow only one bottle at a time to move freely up and down. The bar itself has two slots, one deeper than the other, which also allow two bottles to be moved down at different lengths. The idea is to get five of the steel balls in the lower left slot of the five leftmost bottles, and the sixth ball in the special slot located at the far right. Once all the bottles can be pulled at the same length outside the frame, you'll be able to slide the bar all the way and remove it.
This puzzle belongs to the 3-ary, or ternary group. The number in the "ary" word refers to the states a puzzle has in its solving process. For example, the binary puzzles, which are the simplest - but not necessarily the easiest - have only two states (on-off). The difficulty, besides its n-ary group, is also given for the number of steps the solution has - the more steps, the more difficult it is.
Fortunately, the 6 Bottles puzzles is not that difficult because it doesn't have a large number of steps - still, 252 is challenging enough. The puzzle is rated as a level 9/10, but honestly, I don't believe it's that hard. It's an 8 at the most, and that's being generous.
Putting it back in its original state can prove to be equally challenging, if not more, since you'll have to perform all the steps backwards. This is why I'd love for this type of puzzles to have an easy way to be reset...
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6 Bottles can be a great puzzle to train for harder and demanding n-ary puzzles. It's not overly difficult, so you can easily understand how these puzzles work and know the logic behind them. As a Constantin fan, I can easily recommend this puzzle to anyone, collector or not.
Availability: The 6 Bottles puzzle can be purchased at PuzzleMaster for about $50 CAD. Click here to browse many more Constantin's interesting designs.