Sunday, 20 August 2017

Non-Void Cube

Here's the first of my of blog posts on the puzzles which I had the pleasure of exchanging with 95 other participants at the recent IPP37 Puzzle Exchange in Paris, France.



The Non-Void Cube is from Andreas Rover- yes, the ONE who created and free-shared with the world Burr Tools; the indispensable and holy grail of puzzle design tools (no pun intended) for designers everywhere. Without Burr Tools, I am pretty certain that 99.5% of the designs on www.puzzlewouldbeplayed.com would not be in existence today, we would not have the huge number wooden and other interlocking puzzles we have now and Eric Fuller would probably still be a professional soldier in the US Army.

At first glance, the Non-Void Cube, with its plastic appearance, looks very much like an ordinary Rubiks Cube without any of the coloured stickers. In fact its a 3D printed interlocking burr designed and created by Andreas. The Cube is very nicely printed and the tolerances between the pieces sufficiently tight. Notwithstanding, the pieces move and slide smoothly and I experienced no jamming whatsoever. Size-wise, the Cube is 6cm all round, the size of a normal Rubiks Cube.



And what is unique about the Non-Void Cube is that it has got no voids (holes) within the cube, yet it has a Level 4.3.3 solution, something that is impossible to achieve with a typical burr design. Andreas managed to create this puzzle by attaching the cubes of the 4 pieces not by joining the faces of the cubes, but via their corners (see photo above). In this manner the pieces can slide in the various directions even without the voids or voxels necessary.

While it takes only 4 moves to remove the first piece (and with some effort not too difficult to figure out) and 3 moves each to remove the next two, the design is not without some trickiness. If you scramble all the pieces after disassembly, and unless you have a very good memory, you may just forget the orientation of the pieces (like I did) and find yourself in a bit of a bind trying to reassemble the thing. Again with some persistence and time, it is do-able. And Burr Tools would not help you here if you can't solve it, Haha!. Is Andreas hiding some features of the software which he is only keeping to himself? 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The (Exploding) Apple

This is a really life-like and cute puzzle I got from Vladimir Krasnoukhov during the IPP37 Puzzle Party in Paris, France a week and a half ago. Designed by Vladimir, I am told it was made by his brother.




The design is based around Vladimir's Curly Cube (or Exploding Cube) puzzle, which has seen the latter take the form of both wood and metal. The Apple is made of wood and painted primarily red with some yellow to be like the real fruit. It looks to have been carved and cut from a single block of wood with some careful gluing or pieces on the inside. It even has a plastic leaf attached to a wooden looking stem! From a far distance, if you can't really see the joint lines, it almost looks real.



Quality of build and construction is good (although like the Curly Cube), I wished the tolerances were tighter to hide the joint lines. Size wise its about 6cm across and 4.5cm tall. In the terms of the solve, unlike the Curly Cube where you have to manipulate the three pieces all about the same time to split them apart, the Apple has a much more elegant (and easier) solution, as was demonstrated to me by Vladimir. Putting it back together requires some gentle nudging of pieces back to their original positions. The puzzle behaves very much like a co-ordinate motion puzzle.



While the puzzling is not at all high level stuff, the uniqueness and cute factor makes up for the lack of it. I just simply had to spend the 20 Euros to buy and own one, given that there were only about 4 copies for sale that day (and all sold out). And if I remember correctly, only my copy (I think) had a leaf.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Hanayama Cast Dot (Prototype)

I was very fortunate to have received a prototype copy of Hanayama's newest release, the Cast Dot from their good folks during IPP37, which took place last weekend in Paris, France. 



The Dot, as far as I can tell is presently only available to the market in Japan via Japanese retailers and several (Japanese) Ebay sellers. But I am sure it will reach the other puzzle and online stores outside Japan pretty soon.

My "beta" puzzle is not the black and silver version presently in the market but sports a brassy and copper steam-punk look instead. Physically (aside from the colour scheme) I don't think there is any difference in the design between my prototype and the production version packaged under Hanayama's Huzzle brand. 


Cast Dot Production Model 
The Dot was designed by Akio Yamamoto, who was also behind the designs of a dozen or more other Cast Puzzles and the multi-coloured series of Naked Secret Boxes. My prototype is made of zinc alloy (I think). For an early version, the quality of my copy was very good and the puzzle functioned as intended. 

The object is to take apart the puzzle into two separate pieces. My initial impression was that the Dot is similar to the Cast Diamond, designed by Scott Elliot. In some ways it is, but the solve in my opinion is harder than the Diamond. It took me a bit of fiddling before I managed to split the two pieces. I tried to remember the moves for later re-assembly but the latter was a tad more difficult than I expected. 

DOT, according to one Hanayama insider familiar with the puzzle stands for (D)-Direction:(O)-Orientation:(T)-Twist...very appropriate since you need to employ all three to solve the DOT.

While the Diamond requires a "one-move" sort of motion" to "fuse" the two separate parts together once you have found the rather precise point of entry, the Dot requires a few more steps. The way the design has been carried out seems like you have to link the parts initially through a sort of mini maze with several twists and turns until you hit a certain "sweet spot"; and wah-la , the two parts suddenly come together and fit (just) so precisely and nicely. Get the orientation wrong at the start and you will remain stuck. Again, because you can see everything that you are doing, so long as you persevere, you will eventually solve it at some point.


Repeat solving becomes progressively easier as you memorise the moves but my second and third attempts at re-solving took me almost as long as my first time, even though I knew how the pieces were suppose to interact with each other. 

The parts of the Dot are very precisely cut and does look a bit delicate. While it is robustly made and can probably stand up to some rough handling, the Dot does not require any force whatsoever and you may damage the puzzle if you force any move by overly twisting or turning. This particular Cast puzzle does require a bit more delicate handling during play than some of the other Cast puzzles in the series. 

It's a nice (very pocketable) puzzle (5.7cm x 4.7cm x 1cm) and just right on the challenge scale for some quick puzzling while on the go, for example during a commute or just to pass some casual time. I played and solved mine on the flight from Paris back to Singapore. It is rated 2 stars in terms of difficulty by Hanayama but I personally think it should be at around 2.5!

Friday, 11 August 2017

IPP37 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition

IPP37 this year in Paris, France drew 66 entries from all over the world to the Puzzle Design Competition. The entries are found here. Congratulations to all the award winners and top-10 vote getters.


Below are some photos of IPP participants hard at work on the 66 entries that were laid out on tables for all to have a go at during the 3 days of the IPP.


























IPP37 - Puzzle Exchange

The Puzzle Exchange is one of the two main events during IPP, the other being the Puzzle Party. And this year's Exchange took place on 5th August at the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Centre. Unlike the Puzzle Party which is open to all participants and invitees to IPP, the Exchange is limited to the Exchangers and their Exchange Assistants. 

Typically an Exchanger will exchange up to a maximum of 99 puzzles (which no other collector has in his/her collection) with 99 other participants, hence he must prepare a minimum of 100 Exchange Puzzles (the 100th puzzle is for display for all to see during the IPP). Except for several rare occasions in the past, in practice the maximum number seldom happens and the average number of puzzles exchanged at each IPP is between 80 to 90+. This year, there were a total of 95 exchanges, which was on the higher side.

It is also worthwhile to note that the assistants play a vital role and do a great job of helping to hold the Exchange puzzles, taking photographs of the Exchanger/Exchangee, fetching bottled water/lunch etc during the Exchange (average duration of between 4 to 4.5 hours, depending on the number of people) and other sorts of tasks. And in one very unfortunate incident during this IPP, the assistant was helping the poor Exchanger glue up a substantial number of broken puzzles which were damaged in transit. Also, generally the rule is that one must be an Exchange Assistant at least once before being eligible to be an Exchanger at future IPPs.

My Exchange Puzzles all laid out and ready.
On my right is my Exchange Assistant Oli Sovary-Soos from the UK
My Exchange Puzzle SYM-353, a joint design between me and Stanislav Knot, Czech Republic

Exchange participants setting up at their assigned tables







































































































































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