Chequered Cube came in a smallish nice fitting cardboard box and when I first opened the lid, I thought it was some kind of burr or interlocking puzzle made out of at most half a dozen or so pieces squeezed into a 5cm-sized package.
Little did I know that as I spilled out the contents, the burr was not actually a burr but a diminutive 3D cube packing puzzle comprising a staggering 13 separate parts made of various dark (walnut) and light (maple) pieces glued together.
The pieces are all precisely cut with sharp edges, and fit together incredibly well and the quality of the workmanship is astounding. I am truly impressed how Neil was able to produce the minimum 100 copies needed for the Exchange.
The object of the puzzle is take apart the cube and re-assemble it into a 2x2 checkerboard cube. According to the instructions, there are four ways to put together the cube but only one solution for the checkerboard pattern on the sides.
While this was a beautifully made puzzle and all those 13 pieces were lovely to touch, the difficulty quotient was totally out of my league. Even just trying to put the pieces back together to form a cube (without checkerboard pattern) proved to be too difficult for me. I simply could not handle that many pieces, the shape they are in, with all their notches and grooves made me want to faint with confusion. But lets get real here...any puzzle with over a dozen pieces (and designed by an experienced puzzler) would unlikely ever be a walk in the park, would it?
After much effort and time, I decided to find the solution via Burr Tools. For those of you puzzlers out there who have problems with this sort of puzzles or interlocking/burrs etc, trust me, its still fun, thrilling (and challenging) just to configure the puzzle in Burr Tools to find a solution. Yes....a bit of a lame consolation! Using Burr Tools with the relevant colour constraints, the programme came up with the solution on how to form the Chequered Cube with a checkerboard pattern on all six sides and I was able to put the cube back together in no time.
Chequered Cube is a fine work of art for a puzzle with great attention to detail. For those of you who are die-hard fans of 3D packing puzzles, well, this is one you should try to get from Neil. Not sure if he has any left but he can certainly be contacted via his blog site. I just wished that he had also made a matching wooden box to house the pieces...now this would have been so cool!