Posted on by Gabriel | 4 comments
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If there's one thing I dread the most in String Puzzles is their natural ability to produce knots out of nothing. Some puzzle are more prone to this than others, and the Quatro puzzle by Eureka is guilty of such crime. The puzzle was designed by the Swedish, Eric Johansson.

Quatro, coincidentally or not, is Portuguese for the number four. It's also the highest level of difficulty used by Eureka to rate their puzzles, 4/4. Quatro is comprised of four wooden rings, each with a colored string attached. The intertwined mesh forms a beautiful symmetry, although quite an intimidating one. The object is to separate the four rings and put them back together.

At first, I wasn't expecting this puzzle to be so stressful to solve. Sure, it's a level 4/4, I assumed it would be challenging, but I didn't know it'd put up such a fight. The problem with the puzzle is that the strings are too tight, and when attempting to solve it, the tension in the strings is so big that it almost tears them apart. And the funny thing is that the description on the puzzle says "No force needed".

After a couple of unsuccessful tries, before looking at any solution, I suspected my approach wasn't right. I was starting to think that making the string go around the ring wasn't the right move, but how else would the puzzle be solved? I was only seeing that option... Much to my surprise, when I finally caved in and looked for a solution, I found out that it was indeed required for the strings to go around the rings. Determined to solve it, I proceeded with the instructions, but even with the solution in front of me I didn't get far. Also, because the colors used in the solution didn't correspond to the actual colors in my puzzle. Talk about a dead end. I guess I don't need to tell you what's the current look of the puzzle, but I'll still tell you... It's full of knots impossible to untie, unless I cut the strings. This is how the puzzle should like when/if solved.

Closing Comments:

The Quatro puzzle is probably the most fiendish puzzle I ever attempted to solve. I'm bummed that I wasn't able to solve it, not by any lack of skills, but by the flawed design of it. It should have been built with bigger strings. Still, if you like a really serious challenge, and you have the patience of angels, go for it.

Availability: I received the Quatro puzzle from Sloyd, and you can get one for about €8.


George said...

There is an article in CFF about this puzzle, it is in CFF #40, June 1996. I have not seen the article or puzzle. The author Jan de Ruiter claims Quattro is related to Chinese Rings.

mhuti said...

I also have a copy of this version and failed to solve it, I agree the strings are VERY tight and the solve is compromised as a result. I have different versions of the 2 & 3 ring puzzles and have not had the same problem. I do like the symmetry of this puzzle though, it is attractive!

Gabriel said...

I have the Chinese Rings, but never got around to solve it. It's quite an intimidating puzzle, although the solution is similar to ThinkFun's Spin-Out.

mhuti, this is one of those puzzles that it's better on display and untouched ;-)

tePer said...

It took me ages and I had to buy the puzzle a total amount of three times to solve it. (I lost my first one, I cut open the scond one and I solved the third). With ages I mean ages, I tried to solve the puzzle when I first bought it, then i left it untouched for a month or so, then I tried again, and so on, and maybe half a year later I finally solved it.

Here a few spoiler free hints how to get to a solution without cheating:
1. Buy a second quatro puzzle and cut it open (what a sense of fullfillment !...) (:
2. Now: solve the puzzle first with two rings (interleave them and uninterleave them)
3. Solve the puzzle with 3 rings. Thats already hard and i'd give it a 4/4, but it is absolutely doable in a couple of hours :P
4. Now attack the 4-ring problem.
Note: You can not generalize the 3-ring approach to the 4-ring or reduce the 4-ring to the 3-ring problem, but working with 3 rings helps building a good intuition about this thing. One step in the 4-ring solution is fundamentally different from any steps in the 3-ring solution in respect to what is pulled over what..... think symmetric! (:

Enjoy the puzzle (: (: (: It's one of the best i have seen so far!

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