Cast Arrows

Posted on Dec 18, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
St. Valentine's Day is still a couple of months away, but that doesn't mean there's not enough love to spread around at Hanayama headquarters. An original design by Russian Andrei Ivanov, the Cast Arrows will be a difficult heart to conquer.

This is quite a captivating and intriguing design, one that truly manages to puzzle even the most brilliant minds... Well, not quite that hard, but still challenging enough to scratch a few heads. This is rated as a difficulty level 3/6 by the manufacturer, but to be honest, I'm more inclined to classify it as a level 4.

The puzzle is comprised by a set of four arrows piercing the central heart-shaped piece. They all look identical, but a close inspection will show you otherwise. There's an opening in the heart that let's the arrows move in a somewhat free way, but still narrow enough to keep you guessing how the arrows should be positioned throughout the solving process.

(Click to Enlarge)
I found that this puzzle is more about dexterity than logic. There were many times where I wanted one of the arrows to move to a certain position, but trying to move one particular arrow while keeping the other three still, proved to be much more work than expected. There are four arrows, but only two hands to handle the...

This is why I think the puzzle is a little more challenging than advertised. Yes, it's not that difficult to figure out how to solve it. It's just that, the process in itself is more difficult to execute. It's not enough to make the puzzle frustrating, though. Once you solve it, it's quite a rewarding feeling. Putting it back together might also be quite challenging.

(Click to Enlarge)
Solution: You can download the solution here.

Closing Comments:

The Cast Arrows is quite a unique design. It looks a lot like one of those impossible tricks where you try to figure out how the hell did they put it that way. It's a great puzzle to show to your friends and family, and to see how they react when you solve it.

Availability: You can find a copy of the Cast Arrows at PuzzleMaster. If you like Hanayama, check out the entire collection of Cast Puzzles.

Japanese Puzzle Boxes

Posted on Dec 15, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
Which company/craftsman makes the most beautiful puzzles?

This was the question I raised on my previous article, but since there's no right or wrong answer, and each reader will have his/her own opinion on the subject, I will continue my effort to show you some of the best puzzle makers out there capable of designing truly stunning puzzles. My choice this time goes to an absolutely amazing type of puzzles, the Japanese Puzzle Boxes.

Japan is widely known for sushi, manga, robots, karaoke, sumo, samurais, bonsai...I could be here all day naming all kinds of things that make Japan so awesome. And yet, to most puzzle enthusiasts and collectors all over the world, the Japanese Puzzle Box stands as one of the most fascinating and intriguing objects ever created in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Now, if we get technical about it, these boxes are not produced by just one company or craftsman, but by many different, qualified and talented people instead, which would make answering the question above a futile attempt. Nevertheless, this is a unique type of puzzles that absolutely deserves to be in the category of most beautiful puzzles, so please bear with me...

In Japan, these boxes are simply known as Himitsu-Bako (秘密-箱)...or in plain English "Secret Box". They originated in the Hakone-Cho region, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in the Edo period (late 19th century), and started out as souvenirs from the region. Their international recognition and appreciation, however, started only a few decades later, when the first boxes were brought to the west, firstly in US, in the 1920's. Since then, enthusiasts and collectors alike from all over the world have been fascinated and attracted by these magnificent boxes, contributing to their ever-growing popularity. They've become a symbol of Japanese perfection and attention to detail.

To better understand the appearance and nature of a Japanese Puzzle Box, you must first learn about the tradition and technique of gift-wrapping called Tsutsumi (包み), which has been present in the Japanese culture since the Muromachi period (1336-1537). Usually, in the west, wrapping paper is discarded and not handled with care. However, in Japan, people take this tradition into high regard and cherish it as something with a deeper meaning. This art form uses a special type of paper or other traditional materials, and its presentation is as important as the gift itself, if not more. It involves folding the paper at different angles employing an assortment of styles reminiscent to origami, which makes no use of scissors or glue. So what's the relation between Tsutsumi and Japanese Puzzle Boxes? Well, it's all in the presentation. You see, a Japanese Puzzle Box looks just like a very well gift-wrapped box using the ancient tradition of Tsutsumi.

(Click to Enlarge)

The two most common characteristics of Japanese Puzzle Boxes are their inlaid work (the geometric patterns you see on their surface) and their unique sliding mechanism:

  • The inlaid work is hand made using traditional techniques and regional materials, and the level of perfection, only attained by extremely skillful Japanese craftsmen, is achieved by binding together contrasting wood tones in a very thin layer above the surface of each box. The patterns are usually symmetric and different types of geometric designs can be seen in a single box, giving it a more classy and exquisite touch.
  • The sliding mechanism works by concealing movable panels on the sides of the box. Because the panels are cut and put together with extremely tight tolerances, figuring out exactly where to find them becomes part of the puzzle. Subsequently, discovering the correct sequence of moves until you can fully slide apart and open the lid of the box is essentially the rest of the puzzle.
(Click to Enlarge)

There are more characteristics that define an original Japanese Puzzle Box, though, but only a select few possess them. You can find, for example, some boxes with detailed and picturesque images, mostly with charming natural landscapes or fauna from Japan. Others, seen more rarely in limited editions, instead of displaying the unique inlaid work, present a beautiful engraved image on the top side of the box.

Japanese Puzzle Boxes come in many shapes and sizes, despite the traditional rectangular ones that are more widely available. Among the also relatively common cubic boxes, you can sometimes find other shapes, like pentagons, hexagons, triangles, stars, you name it... It seems there's no limit to the Japanese craftsmanship and creativity when it comes to designing these incredible boxes.

The puzzle boxes also vary a lot in size, and generally, but not exclusively, this is closely related to the number of steps required to open them...and their price is also very much related to the size. A box can range between 2 and up to 1500+ moves, frequently in a sequential order rather than random. Too many moves doesn't necessarily mean it's more difficult than a box with slightly fewer moves. It just means that the sequence for the solution is a bit longer.

In Japan, one of the most common units of measure is the sun, used for lengths, and its origins come from the Chinese cun, also a unit to measure lengths. 1 sun is approximately 3cm (1.19"). The smallest Japanese Puzzle Boxes are called mame (miniature) and measure between 1 and 1,5 sun. The largest ones, however, it's not exactly clear how large they can get, but the biggest one I've seen so far is 12 sun, or 36cm (14.17").

Today, you can easily find on the Internet plans to build many kinds of Japanese Puzzle Boxes. This type of puzzle has become so popular that anyone with the right tools, materials and some craftsmanship skills can make them. Notwithstanding these facts, any puzzle box that isn't built by a Japanese craftsman with Japanese materials cannot be called a Japanese Puzzle Box, no matter how well it's built. There's nothing like an authentic and original Japanese Puzzle Box.

Final Thoughts:

Whether you're an avid puzzler or merely a curious mind for everything that demands creative thinking, the love and appreciation for Japanese Puzzle Boxes remains common to all of us, the respect to all the Japanese craftsmen that have made an effort in these last couple of centuries to continue the tradition of such a beautiful craft.

Availability: You can find many of these beautiful Japanese Puzzle Boxes at PuzzleMaster.

Ottawa Puzzle

Posted on Dec 4, 2018 by Gabriel | 0 comments
Labels: , ,

(Click to Enlarge)
What better way to commemorate an IPP (International Puzzle Party) than a puzzle dedicated to the city that hosted the event? Vladimir Krasnoukhov did exactly that with his unique design called Ottawa Puzzle for the IPP 35, held in Ottawa, Canada, in 2015.

This is a great puzzle for those that really like packing puzzles. It's a simple design made with only five pieces, three of them identical. The goal of the puzzle is to make the shape of the maple leaf, as seen in Canada's flag, by rearranging the pieces inside the frame.

(Click to Enlarge)

The presentation of the puzzle is flawless. Made from acrylic, in red and white, it measures 12.9cm x 7.4cm (5.1" x 2.9"). The acrylic gives the puzzle this clean and gorgeous look, much like glass, but easier to build puzzles.

The frame is odd-shaped, which at first makes it difficult to visualize how the pieces might fit inside, but soon you'll adjust to it. The shape of the pieces don't help much either, as the goal is to make an overall symmetrical shape. This will certainly put your visualization and spacial skills to the test. There's a few other challenges as well, besides creating the maple leaf. I always love when puzzles give you more than one challenge to solve. These will help you to see how the pieces interact with each other to create other designs.

(Click to Enlarge)

The solution itself is not that difficult. The challenging part is to arrange the two big pieces in the tray in order to fit the other three small ones. Rated as a level 7/10, I believe this is the correct classification. It's a bit challenging, but an experienced puzzler should solve this in less than 5 minutes. Not much playtime for a puzzle, but as mentioned, you can make other designs with the pieces. It might be even possible to create other shapes besides the ones already shown.

Closing Comments:

The Ottawa Puzzle is a nice little puzzle for most puzzlers. It's not crazy difficult, which would frustrate beginners, but still fun to solve for anyone who likes packing puzzles. This would be a great gift for a Canadian friend or relative.

Availability: The Ottawa Puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $24.99 CAD. If you like, you can check out other interesting puzzles from Vladimir Krasnoukhov.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...