Chiasma

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(Click to Enlarge)
The anodized metal puzzle family has a new member, and this time it's a VIP (Very Interesting Puzzle). Designed by Yavuz Demirhan from Turkey and produced by PuzzleMaster, the Chiasma has everything that makes a great puzzle, and some more. It's not a puzzle for novices, so be prepared for a serious challenge.

Surprisingly, the Chiasma is made from four identical pieces, which you might not notice until you disassemble it. It's made from a textured surface, which apparently is more is more resistant to markings and scratches, and from what I've seen, it is indeed much better in that department. The texture does feel more comfortable to the touch, so that's a welcome feature for future puzzles in this line.

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In its assembled state, the puzzle has this stylish and exquisite shape further enhanced by the contrasting metal pieces, which by the way come in five different color combinations that you can choose before adding it to your cart. It's indeed a beautiful design.

Given the unique design and shape of the pieces, the puzzle only allows for one solution, said to be 26 moves (16 for the first piece, 4 for the second and 6 to separate the final two pieces). I probably made way more than 26 moves to separate all the pieces, which indicate the high number of useless moves or wrong ones on my part. It's a really satisfying feeling to disassemble the puzzle, because of how the pieces move and the different moves, sometimes needing rotations. It's not just an elegant puzzle in appearance; the solution is nothing short of amazing and rewarding.

Still, any interlocking puzzle needs to be returned to its original shape, and that's when the level 10/10 comes kicking. At this stage, I always feel like those kids that have a knack to disassemble everything but then can't, for the life of them, return them to their former glory. It will take much more than 26 moves to put this back together...

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Closing Comments: 

Chiasma is a gorgeous puzzle, even more distinguished by its unique solution and overall feel of the puzzle. The different colored metal versions make justice to the original wooden version. And whichever color version you choose, you'll definitely find it very worth it of your time and money spent on it.

Availability: The Chiasma metal puzzle is available exclusively on PuzzleMaster.


Dirty Dozen

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Dirty Dozen, a fitting name for a real challenging puzzle by designer Jerry Loo. This puzzle is part of the anodized metal collection, produced by PuzzleMaster and one of the most difficult in this series. Get ready to put your solving skills to the test.

The Dirty Dozen puzzle is made from 12 identical pieces, forming a 6x6 grid, which is quite surprising seeing as the pieces interlock in such a way that they look almost impossible to take apart. Made from bright orange anodized metal, it is a sturdy puzzle that will take your frustrations without a hitch. When assembled, the puzzle measures just 6.5cm x 6.5cm x 3cm (2.6" x 1.2").

I must admit, puzzles like this are quite intimidating to solve, especially when they're so visually attractive, because part of me thinks it's a shame to take them apart and then not being able to put them together again. But since this wouldn't be a review if I didn't "dirtied" my hands, I must tackle it without fear.

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As expected, this is a very challenging puzzle, even when trying to take it apart. Don't be fooled by the identical nature of the pieces, since they are very well interlocked. This is really a superb design. I was able to take the first piece relatively easy. Maybe in the first 5 minutes or so. Still, the next pieces didn't go without a fight. You need to constantly shift the pieces up and down until you find an opening and slide the piece off the grid. I was able to solve it quicker after removing the third piece. All this took me about 20-25 minutes.

The real challenge though, is putting it back together. That is still a work in progress as of writing this review. It's always a challenge to take it apart and pay attention to how each piece was removed and then try to reverse the process. The reassembling is as difficult as you'd expect in a puzzle of this caliber. But I must keep trying to get it back to its former glory.

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Closing Comments:

The Dirty Dozen is as good as they can get, as far as challenging puzzles go. Plus, it's a gorgeous design made from high quality materials. One of the best in the anodized metal collection (along with Lattice). Well done, Jerry!

Availability: You can get a copy of the Dirty Dozen puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $24.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in the anodized metal collection as well.


Labylong

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Jean Claude Constantin makes great maze puzzles and proof of that is in some of his earlier creations, like the Two Keys, the Blumenlaby, the Scheibenlaby or even the Labynary. Each one has its own unique characteristics which make them a joy to play with. The Labylong is another interesting design, made as a double-layer maze - Double the fun.

The Labylong is made from laser-cut wood and acrylic. Even though these are cheap materials, the puzzle itself is well built and feels sturdy. Measuring 10.4cm x 6.5cm (4.1" x 2.6"), the puzzle is small enough to carry along with you anywhere, and easy enough so that anyone can try it.

In this puzzle, a small metal sphere moves inside the two mazes, navigating through small holes that connect both mazes. Not all paths will lead to the exit, but that's expected in a good maze. Before making the sphere advance you should study the path ahead and see where it leads. Starting from the exit to the current position will help to avoid dead ends. To navigate the sphere you need to tilt the puzzle back and forth, since the mazes are stationary, and sometimes you need some dexterity to get the sphere where you want it.

Difficulty-wise, I was expecting a tougher challenge, since this is rated as a level 8/10, but I was able to solve it in just a few minutes. Or maybe I'm getting better at maze puzzles... If you've solved one of these, let me know how long it took you.

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Closing Comments:

The Labylong is a nice puzzle that even casual puzzlers will like it. If you found it too easy, try to solve it in a different orientation from the one you solved it, or try to go from the exit to the start. It's a fun puzzle to play with, but don't expect a difficult challenge here. Remember, not every puzzle needs to be difficult to be fun.

Availability: The Labylong is available at PuzzleMaster for $18.99CAD. Many more interesting puzzles from Constantin are waiting for you here.


Trick Locks

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(My modest Trick Lock collection)
Over the last few months I've been writing about the most beautiful puzzles out there, made by talented craftsmen - like Jean Claude Constantin or Vinco - and respectful companies, like Hanayama or Meffert's. There are so many more to talk about, but in order to keep writing about varied topics I must change the subject to other interesting themes.

So, this time I want to focus this article on Trick Locks, a much beloved type of puzzles with very dedicated aficionados, some of them committed only to collect these puzzles and nothing more. Now, I'm no big authority on the subject of Trick Locks, but I'm a curious and informed enthusiast with many impressive designs in my collection, and I hope I can get you interested in the subject if you're not already a fan or a connoisseur.

The specific origin of Trick Locks (also called Puzzle Locks) is not exactly known, but they date back several centuries. The first ones may have been manufactured in China and Japan, which has a long history of producing furniture and other objects with secret compartments and other locking devices. India has also been a major producer of Trick Locks for a long time now and, in the process, it's also a country brimming with talented designers and avid collectors.

One of the most well-known Trick Lock collectors is Dr. Hiren Shah, a native from Ahmedabad, India, who turned his house into a museum (a Houseum) with a few thousand Trick Locks from around the world, spanning centuries of cultures and other influences. It's one of the most impressive Trick Lock collections in the world.

Trick Locks were invented more as a mean to lock other people's possessions, and not as much as a traditional puzzle. With Trick Locks it's much more difficulty to tamper with their mechanism, since many of these locks don't even need a key to be opened. To discover their solution one must find hidden clues around the lock, like a sliding part that reveals a hidden keyhole, or a well disguised button you need to push, a hidden mechanism you need to uncover...Anything out of the ordinary could just be a red herring or yet another clue to unlock the puzzle.

Other mechanisms simply work by using the force of gravity, as you need to tilt the puzzle in different directions to unlock certain elements. Everything about Trick Locks is made so the solution is always a mystery to the casual observer, as if it were impossible to open them without resorting to brute force.

Today, Trick Locks have a very dedicated following, and since their traditional use is no longer needed, or less used, curious people find them fascinating and become eager to unravel their secret, but only the most cunning and observant will succeed. Trick Locks are a type of puzzle that intrigues people, and even the non-enthusiastic about puzzles will find these objects quite interesting and will try their luck by attempting to open them.

There are so many types of designs for Trick Locks that a single article would not be enough to describe all of them. Instead I will only scratch the surface by pointing out a few of the most interesting and important mechanisms, and at the end providing you with enough information to help you make your own research.

One of main issues about many Trick Locks, if we mention the most sought and the higher quality. is their high price tag. Many of these puzzles can easily reach hundreds of dollars, due to their high quality materials and the fact that many of them are hand-made, one at a time. These are the ones serious collectors go after - The most prestigious designs. If money is no object to you, I highly recommend taking a look at a few ones.

In the high-end spectrum of Trick Locks, one of the most respected designers is Rainer Popp. His Popplock series is extremely popular among enthusiasts and collectors all over the world and, of course, the price matches the expected high quality of his creations, as each one is painstakingly turned and milled by the designer himself.

(PoppLocks (Courtesy of popplock.com))
You should also consider a couple of Trick Locks from a not so well-known designer, Splinter Spierenburgh, but just as talented as any other.

(Splinter Locks)
If you prefer a more affordable option, there's always some good choices from a different number of manufacturers. Over the years I tried many of these and, despite some disappointments, I have encountered some nice designs that I can easily recommend to any fan, like the Houdini Lock Series, a good introduction to Trick Locks.

In the mid-range of Trick Locks you can find a whole different selection, and with completely unique mechanism that require dozens of moves to be opened. I'm talking about the n-ary puzzles, and in the Trick Lock (or Puzzle Lock) category there are some really impressive designs by Jean Claude Constantin. The trick to open them is also a bit different, as it has more to do with finding the correct sequence of moves rather than finding out how the hidden mechanism works. One of such puzzles is the Generation Lock with a whopping 340 million + moves. If you find that a bit excessive, you can settle for a more modest choice, the Lock 250+ (with...you guessed it...250+ moves).
(Generation Lock & Schloss 250+)
Another type of Trick Locks and probably the most appreciated and sought after by collectors are the antique and vintage locks. These locks have the most unique and fascinating mechanisms, and were often decorated with whimsical designs. Many of these locks were clearly designed to impress rather than being practical or to keep your secrets locked, even though their mechanisms were usually quite tricky to figure out. In the end, their purpose was spot-on, because there are many enthusiasts around the world who appreciate the qualities and nature of these fascinating objects.

(Antique Trick Locks (Courtesy of liveauctioneers.com))


Final Thoughts:

Trick Locks have been around for several centuries, and judging by how much they're appreciated by collectors and aficionados alike, I bet they'll be around for many more centuries to come. This is a type of puzzle that can capture the attention of any curious-minded person and can be a great way to entertain a group of friends and family.

Availability: Many of the puzzle locks here mentioned and many more can be found at PuzzleMaster.



Quad L

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Quad L, a member of the anodized metal puzzle family, is quite an attractive visual design. Designed by Mr. Gong, this puzzle is made with four different colored L-shaped pieces that are joined together inside a black frame. A nice challenge that can keep a puzzler entertained for a while.

In its solved state, the Quad L has its four pieces joined around the center of the frame and some leeway to move the pieces about. The goal is to remove the pieces, one by one, by sliding and rotating the pieces around the frame until you can make room to remove the first piece. Once that's accomplished, the others will be easily removed.

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Although the pieces appear to be all identical, only two actually are. Because of these differences you need to carefully analyse each piece and understand how they can be moved around the frame. It's an interesting concept, akin to what you'd expect in a Cast Puzzle, for example.

Taking it apart, as usual in this kind of puzzles, is much easier than the opposite. Be sure to memorize the order in which the pieces are removed, so you can invert the process to put it back together. I did find it a little challenging, although nothing to be frustrated about. This is a difficulty level 9/10, but I'm not sure it's that difficult. It will vary from person to person.

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Closing Comments:

The Quad L is the perfect level for a nice and enjoyable time, but don't expect the hardest of challenges. Just a thought: should an enjoyable puzzle need to be extremely difficult to be fun? - Fun and difficult don't always need to be together in the same sentence.

Availability: The Quad L is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized metal puzzles.


#1 Puzzle

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The #1 Puzzle is yet another interesting member of the anodized metal puzzle family by PuzzleMaster. This shiny emerald green puzzle looks like a scary one, but it's actually not that difficult when you attempt to solve it.

Comprised of four different flat pieces, the #1 Puzzle sort of resembles the classic Gordian's Knot puzzle, one of my favorites. It's not that complex, though, because the classic version has six pieces. The pieces move in a certain direction, but only to a point, as it's blocked by the others. You have to figure out how the cuts in the pieces work and how to disentangle them.

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For its price range, the puzzle is actually quite well built. These metal puzzles are usually prone to scratches, but my copy is, so far, more or less scratch-free. Sometimes the best option for these puzzles is to get two copies - one for playing and another for displaying...

I thought this was going to be quite a challenge, as it's rated as a level 8/10, but surprisingly it wasn't that hard. Taking it apart was pretty easy and done within seconds, but like every puzzle in this category, the hard part is putting it back together. While it wasn't particularly as easy as it was to take it apart, I was able to solve it in a few minutes. Either I'm getting better at this sort of puzzles or the puzzle wasn't as challenging to begin with. I'm inclined to go for the second option, since I was never that good at solving this kind of puzzles.

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Closing comments:

I have some mixed feelings about this puzzle. On one hand, I was pleased to solve it fairly quickly, for a change, but on the other hand I can't say I'm not a bit disappointed by how easy it was. For an 8/10 puzzle you'd expect a tougher challenge than this. Nevertheless, it's still quite a great-looking puzzle.

Availability: You can find the #1 Puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Check out the other anodized puzzles in this series.


C'est la Vie!

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If you like labyrinths, this puzzle is for you. C'est la Vie! by Jean Claude Constantin is a great puzzle where the goal is to find the correct path and free the metal ring. This is much harder than it appears, so you should proceed with caution, in case you get lost.

Made with laser-cut wood, C'est la Vie! is quite a big puzzle, measuring about 13cm in diameter. The designer not only created a challenging labyrinth to navigate, but also a beautiful pattern with curved shapes. Across the entire puzzle you see many indentations in the walls of the pattern, which serve as gateways for the metal ring to go from one section to another. Not all walls have one of these gateways, so you have to plan your moves strategically.

Curiously, this puzzle reminds of the popular Cast Plate by Nob Yoshigahara. Hanayama's version is a lot smaller, but the goal is quite similar, as you try to free a ring from a metal plate. Both puzzles are rather difficult, so I recommend any of them if you like a good challenge.

As you start to solve the puzzle you see the ring in its starting position at the center of the puzzle (Indicated by the letter S). The exit point is located at the left edge of the puzzle, but to get there you'll need to wander for a while, because the path is not a straight line. To get from one point to another you have to be constantly rotating the ring back and forth. Some points will feel a bit tight, as if it wasn't possible to go through there, but if you insist with a slight push the ring will surely pass through. Don't use excessive force, though, because the wood used in this puzzle is fragile and you could end up breaking the puzzle.

This is quite a difficult puzzle to solve. As an experienced puzzler, it took me over half an hour to solve it for the first time. Returning the ring to the starting position is probably a little easier, but still challenging.

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Closing Comments:

C'est la Vie! by Constantin is indeed a great puzzle and a must-have in any collection. It has a complex shape, but it's very easy to understand, so even a beginner can try to solve it. With a big size and a beautiful design this will sure capture anyone's attention wherever you take it.

Availability: The C'est la Vie! puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $31.99 CAD. Check out other puzzles by Constantin.


Fortress

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The Fortress is one of many anodized puzzles by PuzzleMaster's own brand. This time, no special color was used, but it doesn't mean it's less special than the others. This puzzle was designed by Mr. Gong, who also designed the Phantom and Quad L from the anodized collection.

The puzzle is well built from anodized metal, which gives it a shinier and smoother appearance. I've seen some reviews about this puzzle and they seemed a bit harsh. If you really know puzzles, you must know what you're buying. This puzzle is as advertised in terms of quality. I've seen bad Hanayama puzzles myself (e.g. Cast G&G - with scratches aplenty).

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The goal is simple. Take it apart, which won't be difficult, and then reassemble it, which is a much challenging task. The puzzle has three main pieces and a small cylinder hidden inside. This cylinder will make your solving process a bit more tricky as you try to close the pieces while still trying to include the final piece. It's quite an interesting concept.

Solving it was surprisingly not as challenging as I was expecting, and that's maybe one of its flaws. The puzzle is rated as a level 9/10, but it's no more than a 7/10 in my opinion. At first this looks like it could be a coordinated motion puzzle, but the last piece has a different way of assembling, and the pieces are not fitted simultaneously. Other than that, the puzzle is fun to solve, so I would definitely recommend it.

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Closing comments:

Don't expect more than the puzzle can offer, or you will be disappointed. This was maybe what happened to those who reviewed it negatively. It's a fairly moderate challenging puzzle, and it has a nice quality for its price range. Do this and you will certainly have fun with it.

Availability: The Fortress is available at PuzzleMaster for $19.99 CAD. Be sure to check the anodized puzzle collection.


Scheibenlaby

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Scheibenlaby is yet another magnificent labyrinth puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin. This double labyrinth has a very original mechanism, unlike anything I've ever seen. It's very fun to play with and, most importantly, it gives you quite a challenge. Are you ready to guide the sphere to the exit?

This puzzle is quite big, measuring about 13.5cm in diameter, and it's made using laser-cut wood and acrylic. This is also a rather intriguing puzzle because of how its mechanism works. Between the two layers of the labyrinth there's an acrylic disc with three holes in it. These holes are placed at different distances from the disc's center, making it easier to go from one place of the labyrinth to another just by rotating the disc.

Starting from the entry hole, your goal is to guide a metal sphere through the double labyrinth until you can reach the exit hole on the opposite side of the frame. The name of the puzzle is very fitting, since its name in German means "Sliced Labyrinth". As you navigate around the maze, you'll find that each section is very short, and the only way to proceed is to rotate the disc and get the sphere through one of its holes and into another "slice" of the maze. You have to go though both mazes in order to successfully solve this puzzle.

Finding the exit is a little difficult, but I was able to solve it within five minutes. There are a few dead-ends here and there, but overall I think the difficulty is about 8/10. Some of you may spend some time going backwards or even returning to the beginning by accident - it happened to me as well - but it's not a frustrating exercise and you'll eventually find the exit if you insist and have a little determination.

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Closing Comments:

I really liked the Scheibenlaby. Constantin always finds new ways to build original and unique puzzles that give you lots of fun and are a pleasure to play. You don't need to be an experienced puzzler to enjoy this one.

Availability: You can find the Scheibenlaby puzzle at PuzzleMaster for $41.99 CAD. Check out other puzzle by Jean Claude Constantin.


Phantom

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Anodized metal puzzles have a really striking appearance, and the Phantom, with its shiny bright red, surely delivers on that front. Designed by Mr. Gong, this three-piece interlocking puzzle is tougher than it looks. It's indeed a scary phantom...

I've been reviewing several of PuzzleMaster's anodized metal puzzles, and I absolutely love them. The different colors make for a superb display of sheer beauty in any shelf. But so do their challenges, which you can experience with each and everyone of them differently.

The Phantom is simply a sphere made out of three different discs that interlock thanks to their notched cut outs. Their not put there randomly and they have a purpose, whether you're taking them apart or reassembling them.

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The first time you pick up the puzzle, it gives you the impression that it's going to fall apart on the spot, but as you soon find out, its movements are limited and blocked by the others' notches. Granted, taking it apart is way easier than putting it back, since you're not worried about carefully positioning the discs to form the original sphere. It's putting it back that will truly put your solving skills to the test.

Difficult-wise, the Phantom is rather challenging, rated as a level 8/10. After taking it apart and trying to reassemble it, I strongly agree with the rating. It will depend on how well you do with interlocking puzzles. They're definitely not my strongest suit, but I still find them quite fascinating, especially as a collector.

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Closing Comments:

The Phantom is a really fun puzzle to play with, even if you're just fidgeting with it. Together with the other anodized puzzles, the contrasting red color among others will certainly make it stand out. It's a lovely design and challenging puzzle that will not disappoint.

Availability: You can get a copy of the Phantom puzzle at PuzzleMaster for just $19.99 CAD. Check out the other puzzles in the anodized metal series.


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