Saturday, 26 November 2011


Matchbox was Peter Hajek’s IPP exchange puzzle in 2007. Peter took care of the design himself (with some technical advice from Frank Chambers on the internals) and then Ken Stevens manufactured them expertly in Corian. It’s a sturdy little puzzle that could probably do some damage if you ever hurled it at an intruder. 

It’s a little bigger than an ordinary matchbox and appears to have a drawer that refuses to slide out. There’s a little brass knob attached to the alleged drawer, and a flat brass button thingy on the top of the box. 

There are a couple of holes on the sides of the box that you might not notice at first because of the camouflage effect of the speckled Corian on the sides. Nothing else interesting strikes you about this little box made of rock … other than some gentle rattling inside – matches, perhaps?

Open the box and then reset it for the next victim. 

When Louis and I went around to Wil Strijbos’ place, Wil had placed his copy on the coffee table for us to have a bash at. 

Louis had a crack at it and made some pretty good progress fairly swiftly, releasing a tool (it’s a matchbox, I’m sure you can work out what the tool was!) – he then spent a while experimenting with what the tool might be capable of and found some interesting things to do with it, but none of them seemed ‘enough’ – it was almost as though he needed another tool – but finding the second one turned out to be a lot harder … although once you find the second tool, opening the box and then resetting it, is an absolute doddle!

The Matchbox is an excellent puzzle that uses a couple of preconceptions about what you can do and what you can’t do to tie you in absolute knots – and it will put a fat grin on your face when you crack it!

After Louis had opened it, Wil mentioned that he had a spare Matchbox if I was interested – it’s on my desk as I write this! Thanks Wil.


  1. Hey! That looks right up my street! I look forward to seeing that little beauty

  2. Beautiful! I have no idea why more people aren't making puzzles out of Corian, it just looks great!

  3. Because this puzzle exploits "preconceptions about what you can do and what you can’t do," as you said, it warrants careful reflection on puzzle-design philosophy. Some unwritten rules ought to be challenged occasionally, like the habitual expectation a burr puzzle will be solved exclusively with sliding moves, which can be challenged by requiring a rotation. (eg: Bisect Cube by Osanori Yamamoto)

    Matchbox twice poses challenges to such preconceived restrictions, but one of these challenges asks the user to perform a foreseeably-destructive action so it raises a design-philosophy issue too: how freely should a designer violate those preconceptions? Is it okay to ask the solver to make an irreversible move (Three Card Burr), to break a possible construction joint (Three Bar Cube), destroy and replace a consumable part (Magic Card Frame), or deliver a severe physical blow (Alcatraz)?

    For the discussion to be truly meaningful, however, we'd need to spoil the solution so I won't try it here. But I'd like to take it up as a discussion-with-spoilers, perhaps in the Solutions section at Renegade.

  4. @Ali & Oli - have a go at MPP in the New Year?

    @Scott - EXACTLY! - same sort of thing as magician's magic - where knowing one secret makes is harder to recognise another! I love these sort of puzzles exactly because they keep making you think about things and challenge your own assumptions - on that same trip I was given one of Wil's Evian bottles along with the solution ... :-) Similar sort of thing!! Let's chat over there...