OK, back to normal programming (whatever that is!)...
I first heard about SMARTEGGs back in February when Bernhard Schweitzer posted a link and a couple of pictures of some incredible new puzzles he’d found at this year’s Nuremberg Toy Fair. The egg-shaped 3D mazes had been designed and handmade by Hungarian architect Andras Zagyvai and I think it’s fair to say that they really stood out from the crowd. Bernhard invited Andras along to his customary puzzle get-together at the Toy Fair and Andras showed off his puzzles to an appreciative audience of puzzle-cognoscenti.
A little while later I trawled through Andras’ website but couldn’t find any indication of price or availability – unless you wanted to enquire about buying the rights to SMARTEGGs – and I wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
Fast forward a couple more months and fellow MPP-er Oli – the Puzzle-Obsessed one – had managed to fit in a visit to Andras on a trip to Hungary – took lots of pictures and wrote about his visit over here. Andras and Nora sound like a wonderful pair and I really loved the idea of the 3D maze encased in a beautiful piece of woodwork. A short while later I asked Oli what the pricing looked like on the puzzles and was a bit shocked at quite how high the prices were – however, at that stage Andras was designing each puzzle individually and then making a single copy – a process that took him around 6 weeks – and with that perspective, I guess the prices seemed less unreasonable, but still awful dear (or like an antler, off a deer, if you’re from Glasgow!).
At that point I guess I gave up on owning one of these puzzles ... until Bernhard posted a rather enticing note on a puzzle forum saying that he’d convinced Andras to make a limited edition run of puzzles at a much reduced price – and that he’d have a couple available at the Dutch Cube Day, was anyone interested?
You can probably fill in the blanks yourself (or you can read how I met Bernhard at the DCD in my blog post!) and there is now a rather handsome SMARTEGG number 2L – B – 8/100 sitting on my desk. For the record, Andras has chosen three designs (A, B & C!) to make a run of 100 copies each – so the serial number pegs this one as a 2 Layer puzzle, design B, number 8 of a series of 100. The puzzle comes in a neat little bag made by Nora, complete with SMARTEGG logo embroidered around the bottom. In the bag there’s a certificate signed by Andras with some basic instructions on the back, a stand, a stick and a SMARTEGG.
The egg and the stand are made from cherry wood from Andras’ own supply so that he can use wood from the centre of the tree in order to get the fantastic effects of the grain around the egg. The stick that you have to navigate through the maze isn’t quite what it appears to be at first – it looks like a stick with a couple of balls stuck on the tips – but if you look a bit closer you’ll see that the balls on the ends aren’t stuck on and the whole thing is turned from a single piece of wood ... it’s all in the details, and Andras is clearly proud of his work!
Right, back to the egg – there’s an inner piece with some holes and slots that will line up with holes and slots on the outside. The inner bit can rotate 360 degrees and slide in and out of the outer piece by about an inch. There are a pair of dots on each of these pieces (one green, one red) and two of the larger holes on the outer shell of the egg itself are painted red and green respectively.
The aim of the puzzle is to line up the two green dots, insert one end of the stick through the green hole and then manipulate stick and egg to navigate the stick through to exit at the red hole with the two red dots lined up.
OK, so you take the plunge and pop the stick into the green hole and find it goes in about halfway – you can see a slot to the left so swing the stick along the slot, effectively trapping the stick in the puzzle. Then notice that you can rotate the inner piece and soon enough you’re able to push the stick in further so that it pops out the other side – and now the inner piece can be pulled out, and rotated a bit ... welcome to SMARTEGG!
You’ll find a series of different sorts of moves that will enable you to switch between sides of the egg, and indeed between tracks on the inside piece – you will need to wander backwards and forwards a bit in your aim of getting out of the red hole, and in fact you might notice that some of the moves you can make are a little less than orthogonal!
This particular model isn’t a staggering puzzling challenge by any means – but in fairness, remember this isn’t the hardest one available! I reckon it shouldn’t take a puzzler too long to wander through the maze the first time, and a little analysis and thought will show you how to take the most direct route possible.
It’s fun to play with – prodding and twisting while holding it at odd angles to see what’s happening to the inside track and planning a strategy for moving ‘forward’ – whatever that is!
But almost more than all that, this is an object of serious beauty – the wood is beautifully selected and turned to show off the unique characteristics of this bit of wood (look at the stand if you’re not sure why I’m saying that) – made by a serious craftsman, with a lot of pride.