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If you've been puzzling for a few years, like I've been, you've probably seen at least on one occasion a packing puzzle featuring L-shaped pieces. There are quite a few of these puzzles out there, and of all the possible tetrominos (polyomino of order 4) you can do (I J L O T S Z), the L (or J) seems to be the most chosen shape to design puzzles. The reason could be just because it's easier to visualize possible arrangements or even because it's a more elegant piece to work with. Whatever the reason used by puzzle designers, I'm fine with their choice.
My latest L puzzle is called the 5 L-Box, designed by Jürgen Reiche from Siebenstein-Spiele, and it may be the hardest of the L puzzles I've tried so far. As the name suggests, you're presented with 5 identical L-shaped pieces inside an irregular frame. The fifth piece, however, is not flat on the frame, so you have to find the correct arrangement for the five pieces.
Knowing Siebenstein-Spiele's work pretty well, I honestly expected a better work on the frame. It looks too bland, especially the wood color chosen for it. It lacks the usual stylish and elegant designs that this company has accustomed us in the past. The five pieces, though, are very well done, each in a different tone and showing the marks of individual units on the top side. Measuring 11.2cm x 9.8cm (4.4" x 3.9"), the puzzle is not very big, but it's acceptable considering it's a packing puzzle.
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Rated as a level 6/7 by the manufacturer or 9/10 by PuzzleMaster, the classification is spot on. This is, in fact, a very challenging puzzle, because the solution is very deceptive. You're led to believe the pieces should be used in a certain way, but in this case you have to think outside the box. The frame, for example, is irregular for a reason. If you take the piece's units as a measurement device you can find that the dimensions of the frame are about 4.9 units x 5.9 units. That means you can't place pieces side by side that occupy an area of neither 6 nor 5 units in length. It also means the solution must show the pieces in a tilted angle rather than parallel to the sides of the frame.
My first concern was trying to figure out if the solution was chaotic or symmetrical, or neat and organized. Well, symmetrical would be a difficult solution to achieve since there's an odd number of pieces. That leaves chaotic and organized, but because there's not much empty space left after the five pieces are packed, there's only one answer...
The 5 L-Box is far from being one of the best-looking puzzles from Siebenstein-Spiele, but...it's definitely one of the best, concept-wise. It's a very challenging puzzle that plays with your preconceived notions of what's allowed and what's not allowed in your packing puzzle solving process.
Availability: As of writing this review, the 5 L-Box is out of stock at PuzzleMaster. You can check back at a later time or you can browse other designs by Siebenstein-Spiele.